“Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.”
On a sunny Tuesday, I took the afternoon off to pick up my two youngest at school, mostly to get an idea of what their day was like. I met my friend Rick at the school, who was a stay-at-home father. Upon arriving, I noticed a large group of other stay-at-home parents waiting for their children as well. We were fortunate to live in a town where the elementary schools were close enough that many of the children could walk home, but most parents chose to walk home with their kids.
I asked Rick why.
He explained to me that their days didn’t end with school. Many of the children had after-school activities, doctor or dentist office visits, or even tutoring. Rick’s job was to shuttle his kids off to their various post-school activities. He commented that he was “just” a bus driver for his kids every afternoon.
Rick’s wife was a very successful corporate executive and they had long ago decided Rick would be the stay-at-home parent. Each day, Rick had three children to nurture, drive, and help with homework. And, I must say, he was great at his assignment. Affable, always smiling, and very encouraging. He was this way with his kids and friends. He always had a pleasant smile and a wonderful joke to tell.
Rick would introduce himself to new people as “just” a stay-at-home parent. Rick was unusual in that, even in today’s world, most stay-at-home parents are women. Today 27 percent of women are stay-at-home parents and 7 percent of dads stay at home. These are far smaller numbers than in 1967 when, during the “Leave it to Beaver” generation, 50 percent of all households had a stay-at-home parent. Today, the blended number, including dads, has dropped to 20 percent.
The primary reason stay-at-home parents exist is for “family flexibility.” In other words, to raise the children and run the house. 90 percent of stay-at-home parents cite this as their reason.
But the words “I am ‘just’ a stay-at-home parent,” aren’t really accurate.
They are extraordinarily productive people whose workday can be fifteen hours long: rising at 6:00 am to get the family ready for their days; running errands in the morning after everyone has left; tending to the house or the family financials; being a family “bus driver” after school, and then meal preparation.
Their daily to-do list is long.
I have been lucky to know many wonderful stay-at-home parents: my mom, Connie, Rick, Emily, Amy, and Ken. In my eyes, they are more than “just” stay-at-home parents. They are kind, smart, and caring people. They are like those of us who work outside the home.
The virtual worker is on the rise as well, and since 2000 there has been a 20 percent increase in stay-at-home parents. This is a trend that is good for the family.
We have many days to honor various segments of our society. There are Mother’s, Father’s, Nurse’s, and even President’s days. I think it would be nice if we had a “Stay-at-Home Parent’s day for the invisible people who “just” stay at home.
Creating our future
These are the people who raise children who will create our future. They are the people that hear and share the joys and fears of our kids. They are financial engineers, part-time therapists, chefs, house cleaners, bus drivers, and fix-it people. There is no training for this large segment of our population—it is real on-the-job training. They are the ones who have to wait in line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or at the doctor’s office. They do their jobs invisibly and silently and they raise our children.
Proverbs 22:6 is a great verse about the importance of stay-at-home parents: “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.” How true this is! My children still repeat the words, my wife, Connie, told them many years ago. Like their mother, they are filled with grace. They admire their mother, just as I am sure Rick’s kids admire him.
There are no statistics to tell us the emotional value a stay-at-home parent has to their children, but it is large. They are the unsung heroes of our society. The wheels of life turn because of them.
Today, reach out and thank a stay-at-home parent. Perhaps send a note or flowers to thank those who gave up their careers for their children.
They are not a “just.” They all work incredibly hard for their family.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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