I have been asked several times lately for contacts for stay at home parents by the media. But what is a stay at home parent? I was working under the illusion that it was someone who was a full-time carer, but it appears, for media purposes and particularly when it comes to dads, a stay at home parent is someone who is just mainly based at home. They may do paid work for 22 hours of the day at home, but they are still stay at home parents – the assumption being that working from home is not really working at all; it’s a kind of side thing.
While some people who do some paid work at home may be just keeping their hand in, there are many homeworkers who are doing essentially the same as people who work in other locations. For the last few years I have worked mainly from home and I don’t think I have ever worked longer hours or delivered more. I just don’t get seen doing it, except by my family, next door’s kids and the postman. I’m also the main earner in the family.
I don’t want to get into the whole working vs non-working parents thing. It’s not helpful to pitch paid working parents against unpaid parents. What I am interested in is the stereotypes about homeworking in paid jobs which seem to persist – particularly for parents.
Yes, I want to be around to do the school run – in fact, there is no other way where we live until daughter one passes her driving test, but I essentially work around the clock, mainly from home but also going to meetings here, there and everywhere, stopping only for the school run and, in the evening, to make dinner/chat/pick stuff up/wash up/get people to bed etc.
A past acquaintance rang the other day. He is also a journalist, but is training to be a teacher. “You see, the thing is I have been very busy over the last year training,” he said. I told him I had considered teaching when the kids were younger so am aware of the demands, which are huge, but the practicalities of early morning childcare where we live with three young kids [at the time] had made it impossible. “It’s really hard work,” said the acquaintance. “That’s what will have put you off.”
Yes, that is exactly what put me off. I am afraid of hard work. That’s why I loll around at home, being “a stay at home parent”, while my partner “goes to work” where he has a lunch break and the odd casual conversation about things like holidays and tv programmes before returning home to do a bit of cooking and watch Masterchef.
So if media people mean the main carer by stay at home parent, could they actually spell that out instead of making assumptions that stay at home parents just do a bit of work on the side.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.