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Hideously long hours worth just £12k? No!

Talking Point | Published:

Talking Point Anouska Knight says being a stay-at-home parent is a tough gig

Tough gig for a stay-at-home parent

When I read the Office for National Statistics had released a statement this week pitching the value of the average stay-at-home parent at a meagre £12k a year, I felt my eye twitch.

I know I’m lucky to have been able to be a stay-at-home parent three times over. To have had that time with my boys, never needing to haggle time off when my offspring generously brought fortnight-long vomiting bugs into the house, or chickenpox or scarlet fever.

Lucky to sleep easy knowing that aside from a few runs to A&E they were safe and sound in my care rather than that of adults I barely knew.

And yes, all the special breakfasts at school and sports days I’ve made it to and, more so, the thousands of extra slobbery kisses and cuddles I’ve been around to receive, have all been reward enough that there probably isn’t a monetary equivalent that could’ve really competed, even when that monetary equivalent would’ve meant not forfeiting all the big holidays and better brands of biscuits we once waved goodbye to in order to live off one income.

I have indeed been lucky. And I believe, for all the basic brand biscuits, my children have been lucky too. Let’s just get that one out there from the off.

However. Slobbery kisses aside I can tell you now, being a stay-at-home parent is a tough gig.

Let’s start with the lack of sleep. This does not ever end. There will always be a nightmare, 3am thirst, vomiting bug, hot summer, wetted bed, blocked nose or school anxiety to deprive you of a five-hour straight snooze. But you don’t have to go to work so the night shift, and perpetual exhaustion, is yours to shoulder. Forever.

As is the food shopping, cooking, cleaning, taxiing, ironing if you can bear it, doctor/hospital/dental/optical appointments, school meetings, school packed-lunches (carrots, not crisps) homework, uniforms and trips.

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Then there’s the monotony of picking mushed food from unsalvageable soft-furnishings 300 times a day. Swimming. Duck-feeding. Happy-clapping baby groups. And we haven’t even touched on the critical stuff, like sitting down and talking to the children, playing, reading, expanding their horizons.

Staying home with your child is an unattainable luxury for many, I know this. Nevertheless it’s mostly hard graft, often thankless, monotonous and for much of the time no matter how much you love your kid, utterly lonely.

Add to that a complete loss of identity for anyone who’d once enjoyed the buzz of a career and it’s easy to see why one misplaced suggestion of daytime TV being recompense floats the risk of getting a carrot stick up the nostril.

It’s an important, demanding, wonderful, horrendous job with hideously long hours. And someone decided all this equates to £12k per annum? Do you know anyone providing that kind of service for £12k? If so, please send them to our house.

  • Anouska is a bestselling author, currently writing for Harper Collins.

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