Stay-at-home parenting – what every CV needs

Sometimes I get to the end of the day and feel like I’ve been through a mangle. Having two boys makes for a very physical life, and taken alongside the mental challenges of being a stay-at-home mother (yes, there are quite a few, despite those well-meaning questions from others along the lines of ‘wouldn’t you like to get a [paid] job so you can use your brain?’), I can feel utterly drained by tea-time.

The physical exertions of parenthood are manifold. A stay-at-home parent generally does a lot more moving around than any office worker; they walk their children from one activity to another, carry their babies and toddlers around in their arms, and battle with them over the smallest mundane task. Just getting sun screen onto my two can finish me off for the morning.

The mental challenges might be less obvious to the childless bystander, but I would argue they are more tiring than the physical. This reminds me of advice doled out by some ‘parenting experts’ who say you shouldn’t treat being a parent as a job. I have never quite understood this. I might not be being paid for what I do, but if looking after my boys isn’t a job, then that makes me unemployed, and that is the last adjective I would use to describe me and my fellow stay-at-home parents.

Surely not treating full-time childcare as a job is a fast route to lounging about in front of daytime TV and staying in pyjamas until two in the afternoon (only permissable for students and mothers of newborns, surely). Besides, if it isn’t a job, how can we feel confident enough to prove our worth to future employers? There are many parallels to be drawn between my former job and my newer one as a mother, and I’ll be sure to point out these transferable skills (to some horrified employer) when I re-enter the world of paid work:

Multi-tasking: If I can cook a meal, sing a song, wipe faces, take Bigger to the bathroom, put the washing on and serve the meal all within five minutes, then writing a report while having my lunch and answering the phone will be a doddle.

Negotiation: Well, if ever there were a skill more essential to parenthood…I spend hours a day striking deals with toddlers to get them to do what they don’t want to. ‘Ok, I know you want to watch Dino Dan but let’s eat our lunch now and then we can watch it’; ‘just have a nap now and I’ll give you some chocolate when you wake up’; ‘five more minutes playing with trains in the toy shop and then we’ll get Daddy to bring you back for a good half hour at the weekend’ (good old Daddy not being there to argue).

Mediation: A more advanced form of the above, this demonstrates my ability (or lack thereof) to negotiate with one child plus a sibling or playmate. ‘Take it in turns’ and ‘share’ are key phrases here.

Decision-making: Do I serve up spaghetti bolognese again because I know they will wolf it down, or do I try them on beef tartare in the hope of broadening their gastronomic horizons? Is that bump on the head bad enough to take them to ER?

Strategic Thinking: Should I wake Littler up from his nap after two hours, or leave him and jeopardise tonight’s sleep?

Troubleshooting and Damage Limitation: Scrub crayon off the skirting boards, doors and chairs. Alternatively, remove all crayons from Littler’s reach when I’m not in the room with him.

Dressing up the bad news: All mothers quickly become adept at pitching an unappealing idea to children. ‘Brush your teeth now – the dentist will be so impressed when he sees your clean teeth!’ is one I employ most days.

Blagging: ‘Mummy, you said there wasn’t any chocolate left but there’s some right here in the fridge!’ Damn. Should have hidden it better. ‘Really darling? Oh, but that’s Daddy’s chocolate and he’ll be upset if we eat it so let’s be kind and leave it for him, hey?’ (Note how useful Daddy is, even when he’s nowhere to be seen).

Stamina: I can get up at 6am and still be alert enough to make a meal from scratch at 7pm. Never mind that having finished the meal, the only activity I can engage in is watching Mad Men (and even then I have been known to fall asleep. Even Don Draper can’t always hold my attention).

Really, running through the above list, stay-at-home parents should be the first port of call on the UN peacekeepers’ recruitment drive. Alternatively, we could join the circus, with all the juggling, balancing and entertaining we do.

I know plenty of mothers who also work, and the thing I hear time and again is that work is a break for them. I can understand why. Yes, clients can be tricky, but they don’t follow you into the bathroom, interrupt you every time you speak, or throw their lunch at the wall and then eat half of yours. If they ever do, I’ll know how to deal with them.

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9 Responses to Stay-at-home parenting – what every CV needs

  1. Simon Riley says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I look back on those (fairly recent) pre-school years for Tomislav like I survived a war. I don’t envy you dealing with two, I’ve only had to deal with one very demanding one. But it has got easier in our case at least, with school and all that. We have a very sociable only-child on our hands. Now he has friends to interact with, it’s a different ball game. But I do miss us being the only things in his life! It was draining but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Btw, freelancing from home makes parenting a whole lot easier to manage too!
    Btw part 2, Not sure if you do twitter, but if so I’m SimonCatRiley, another good way of getting things off one’s chest I find. Today it’s been cricket and Colonel Gadaffi.

    • applepip says:

      Simon, I find it hard enough to keep up with facebook but I am a bit of a Twitter follower, if not an active participant, so I will take a look. Sounds like your range of subject matters is broad. Glad to hear this post is resonating…and interesting to hear a note of nostalgia in your comment for those days when it was just the three of you. I am acutely aware that I will look back on these days as the special years when they rely on us for everything, so although I find it all-consuming at times, I treasure the time with my boys so much. As they get a little older I am intending to fit some freelancing in…hopefully more writing-orientated than returning fully to my old job. How’s the freelancing going by the way – interesting clients?

  2. judith says:

    Oh, how I can relate to all of the above! Week 5 of the school holidays, and I am surviving, just! Roll on September……. x

    • applepip says:

      Glad to hear you identify (I think…! It’s a comfort to know we’re all in the same boat, anyway!). Any tips for things to do with two lively boys, having two of those yourself? Thanks very much for subscribing to the blog, too!x

  3. livingitlittle says:

    I love the idea of having a CV based on parenting skills – how clever! I’ve been a stay at home mum for almost six years. We have two girls, the eldest is now at school, but the little one is only 17 months so I’m expereincing that pre school thing all over again. I’ll look forward to reading more of your blog.

    • applepip says:

      Thanks citymother! Hope you’re finding plenty of things to do over the summer break and that you aren’t mentally exhausted yet. I’ll go and visit your blog now to see what you’re up to…

  4. TottWriter says:

    I have essentially just nodded my head through this blog – especially the work being a break thing, because that is truer than any non-parent can appreciate.

    It does also highlight how particularly ironic it is that people are hesitant to employ parents. Okay, there are times when you have to put the job to one side and focus on your family, but most of the time, people with children are very productive.

    • applepip says:

      I agree, TottWriter. Many ‘working’ parents I know make clearer distinctions between their home and working life, because they have to. They report being much more efficient at their jobs because they have to leave by a certain time to pick the kids up, too. I know they can feel like they are squeezing too much work into fewer days (if they are working part-time), but that’s always the way with any job – and when I didn’t have children, my work spilled into my leisure time far too frequently because there weren’t any children taking up that time!

      Thanks for commenting! I’ll stop by your blog…

  5. Unsey says:

    I am SO going to be stealing your transferable skills CV. Not only is it accurate it’s bloody funny.

    I will be showing your blog post to my dear husband who can’t understand how there is no time to do certain jobs (although he is very grateful and admits he would never be able to do the ‘job’ himself.

    Another thing to add to the list ‘entertainment’ be it for children or clients. If you can manage to entertain your children (especially in extreme climates) day and night (sing, dance, draw, paint, kick a ball, swim) then you can sit and have a drink and talk shit to a client. Easy peasy.
    I have taken to running and gyming to release some of the daily tension. My nights off the gym then vino does hit the spot.
    I can’t believe you have time to blog. You are a true super mum.

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