The End of the Stay-at-Home Parent

Remember the stay-at-home mom, otherwise known by the job title of SAHM? If you haven’t heard it before, it’s really a word—a noun, to be specific, with the descriptor of, “A woman who is engaged in the full-time care of her child or children and does not go out to work.”

That morphed, appropriately, into the stay-at-home parent. It all came out of an era when either parent was the one who took on the massive job of daily care and feeding of children.

And now, in the COVID era? All parents are SAHPs. It doesn’t matter if you are a single parent, or how many children live under your roof. You’ve been home with the family, home with the children, and, with schools still debating the rules of re-engagement, you may be home with them for some time to come.

Once everyone becomes a SAHP, it kind of takes the distinctive of the job away. It’s no longer just you who is trading the acquisition of job fulfillment, insurance and retirement benefits, and interesting coworkers for, well, constant questions, no benefits, and coworkers who won’t nap. We’re all in the same boat, as the commercials repeatedly tell us.

The bright side for SAHMs is that never again will anyone—male or female—question what it is that you do all day when you are home with the kids. The darker side is that everyone will question how you get any “work” work done.

While it seems to be the end of an era, there is another way to look at it: as the beginning of a new way of educating and parenting and working. For years, parents have had the opportunity to basically abdicate their role as the first line teacher of their children, happily sending them to daycare and then school as a way of ensuring they get the best education possible. It’s now becoming a partnership—forced, perhaps, by districts who are offering a mix of in-school and online instruction for the fall semester, but an interesting evolution.

Within that partnership, the employee’s business has to reside as well. Rules around flex time have to give—in some cases, a lot—to accommodate working from home, educating from home, and living at home.

Obviously, we don’t live in an ideal world. Not every parent is ready to teach; not every parent even has the option to stay at home. But, for many, it’s worth considering that the pandemic may be nullifying the concept of the stay at home parent.

Put it this way:

We have redefined what the workplace looks like, with home offices and remote working conditions now the norm. We are redefining school in much the same way. With it comes a new level of exhaustion, but maybe accomplishment as well.

You’ll know your kids better, perhaps.

You’ll appreciate teachers more, definitely.

You’ll figure it out, most likely.

If school districts can move to flexible schedules as a proactive response to COVID, then parents and their businesses can do the same. It’s inevitable that the SAHPs are going to find ways to innovate education in conjunction with the schools.

All this to say: More innovation is ahead. Be prepared.