Is parenting harder than a job? Read several reasons being a parent is often harder than your day job, no matter your career.
I had always believed taking care of kids is not for the faint of heart. I read statistics in the past that claimed a stay-at-home parent’s salary, if paid, would be worth at least $100,000. Such is the testament of the work and dedication we put into this job.
I agree—taking care of kids has been harder than my own day job. Yes, I have perks—during maternity leave, I got to nap or veg out when the kids did. I didn’t get ready, pack a lunch or drive anywhere. And I could run errands and tend to whatever tasks I needed to do. Plus I’m free to have fun with my kids.
Is parenting harder than a job?
But let’s be honest. I take some days off here and there to hang out with my kids at home, and I am exhausted by the end of the day, more so than when I go to work. Weekends are equally tiring, even with my husband home. Taking care of my kids has always felt much harder than my day job.
Taking care of kids is physically more exhausting
While I get more exercise this way, caring for kids is more exhausting than my day job. I sit at a desk all day, so I don’t do much heavy lifting or carrying the way I do when I tote my babies around or push their gigantic stroller everywhere.
I’m playing games, chasing after my kids and otherwise are on my feet more often with them than at work. This doesn’t even count getting smacked in the face from an unintended elbow or sleeping in two-hour increments at night.
Caring for kids is more stressful
My day job isn’t stressful. It’s got the right balance of drive without feeling drained. Especially compared to following through with consequences or trying not to get upset when the baby won’t nap. Dealing with irritating coworkers is nothing compared to staying calm in the middle of a tantrum.
It seems I’m not alone, either. A study found that women feel more stressed at home than at work. Perhaps a finding not too shocking to many working moms.
You can’t find “flow” with kids
In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (affiliate link), he describes flow as when people are so absorbed and concentrated on a project that time flies by. He credits this focus as one of the tenets of happiness: Do concentrated work, and you will leave feeling fulfilled and challenged.
The catch? It takes time to enter this flow. Uninterrupted time. Yeah… not gonna happen with kids in tow.
You can’t call in sick
I don’t know what I hate more—when the kids are sick, or when I am (I’m not even going to think about when we’re all sick… shudder). But those times when I’m the one unwell are some of the hardest days.
As much as the kids understand I don’t feel well, they still need me to tend to their needs. I can’t just tell them to cook their own meals or put themselves to sleep for the night. Just as your body is yearning to rest in bed, the kids need a diaper changed or a snack on the table.
You work round the clock
For many working moms, our jobs end once we leave the premises. Sure, we might check email at night or even bring some work home, but there’s a definite time when work ends.
Not so with kids.
We work round the clock, 24/7. If your child needs you in the middle of the night, you get up. Very few jobs need you to do the same. Forget weekends—I look forward to Mondays after a tiring weekend with no one to pass the kids off to.
At my day job, I know exactly when I’m done and can shut my mind off. But parenting means you’re always on call.
You get no training
Nothing can prepare you completely for parenting. Even if you worked with kids, or have been a nanny, or even cared for a newborn at nights. Not until you become the parent do you then experience what it’s like to be one.
In other jobs, you can dabble and dip your toe in the industry. You might intern for a company or start working while in college. And while the first day at your first “real” job felt overwhelming, you eventually caught on, perhaps within a few weeks’ time.
Ask any newborn mom how she’s doing and she’ll tell you it takes more than a few weeks to adjust. And even then, you still don’t feel like you have the hang of it.
You can’t quit
I’ll admit: I was one of those moms who Googled “I don’t like being a mom” in the middle of the night as I held my fussy baby, trying to soothe him to sleep.
I felt desperate. Like all the preparation I made didn’t even come close to how overwhelmed I felt. How much harder it really was compared to what I imagined (and I imagined the worst). And perhaps the most daunting—that I couldn’t quit.
Parenting isn’t a job you can turn your resignation in after a few months of realizing it’s hard. You stick with it. You have no choice but to.
Even in the hardest of days, you plug on through.
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We may not get paid, hear feedback or receive training. Our days are more physically and mentally exhausting, often interrupted with little time to pursue our interests. We work round the clock, often even when we’re sick.
And there’s the startling reminder—especially on those hard days—that we can’t just quit. That our kids need us, no matter how hard, how exhausting, how incompetent we may feel raising them.
No day job I’ve ever had has drawn so much emotion and effort from me as being a parent has.
Tell me in the comments: What’s your day job? Is it harder or easier than taking care of kids?
Get more tips:
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- When is Parenting Hard?
- Parenting Tip: Be More Carefree
- Why We Need to Ask Dads about Their Work Life Balance
- These Are the Things Your Kids Will Remember About You
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