Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent?

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? Having worked in the corporate world and been a stay at home dad, I would now say I’m pretty qualified to answer this question that has no doubt been the topic of discussion in many households.

My Corporate Life

18 months ago, I was working in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, England for one of the largest commercial property consultants in the world. I had worked my way up through various roles over the 12 years after leaving university and was doing pretty well.

My wife was a full-time teacher in the UK, but when our children came along in 2014 and 2016, she was pretty much the main caregiver, taking the whole maternity leave and then later going back to teach part-time.

My Stay at Home Life

Fast forward to the present day, I have walked away from my corporate job and now live in Malaysia, my wife is now working full time as a teacher in a nearby international school and I am a stay at home Dad to our youngest child.

Back in the UK, I’ll admit there were times when I came home from a long day at work and thought, as I walked through the door…..

  • You’ve been off all-day!
  • Why is the house such a mess?
  • Why isn’t dinner ready?
  • Why are there so many coffee shop transactions on the bank statement?
dirty kitchen

But now I know

I’ve been doing my new ‘job’ for about a year now and, I can now answer the question of Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent?

The answer…

Being a stay at home parent is so much harder than sitting in an office!

A million times harder.

Unless you’ve been on both sides of the fence, like I have, I’m afraid you’re not qualified to disagree with me.

Don’t believe me. Here’s why I’m right.

You get a break!

Office– Every so often I would look away from my computer screen, swing my chair around and have a chat with the person sitting behind me. The report I was writing was always still there two minutes later and the break had done me good. I actually read this study a while back explaining how having mini-breaks at work can boost productivity, replenish energy and improve mental health.

Staying at home – I am pretty much doing busy 100% of the time, even if my son is set away drawing, I have an ever-growing list of things I need do in that time, tidy up, do the dishes, put the washing in, take the washing out. There is literally no respite. If I turn my back for those two minutes, he has drawn on the wall…and his face.

office break

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

You have a change of scenery

Office – As boring and mundane as some offices can be (and I’ve worked in a few) it’s different to what you see all the time at home, you see different people, you talk about different things.

Staying at home – Here’s a quick rundown of my day. I wake up, I see the inside of my house,  we finish breakfast, I see the inside of my house, we have a play, I see the inside of my house, yeah we might go swimming or go to a soft play or something, but we come back, I sort dinner, we put the kids to bed, all the while…

…I see the inside of my house

…..I see the inside of my house

………I see the inside of my house

You get my point.

Who Works Harder? Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent= Stay at Home Parent

You share coffee making duties. 

Office – When someone gets up and offered to make me a cup of tea, it was sort of like having my own personal waiter, I just sat there and someone brings me a drink and if I was lucky, a biscuit. One time someone brought me some cake…what a day that was!

Staying at Home– Not only am I having to make my own drinks all the time, but I’m also having to constantly supply my son with snacks and drinks. The majority of the time, he will drink less than half and put it down on the settee, only for it then to spill everywhere a minute later.

cup of tea

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

You have adult conversation

Office – Whether you’re chatting during one of your ‘mini-breaks’ or are discussing a project with a colleague, it’s adult conversation, it’s stimulating your mind.

Stay at Home – Saying ‘Look there’s a birdy‘ can become mentally draining after you’ve said it 50 times that day

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

There are no real house-keeping expectations

I’m not talking about cleaning a bathroom or mopping etc as most people will share the duties, what I mean is the general tidying and daily upkeep

Office – Most offices will have a cleaner, yeah I was expected to put my cup in the sink but no one was about to hand me a mop and bucket and tell me to clean the floor.

Stay at Home – So we’ve already established that I’m on the clock pretty much all day trying to play with, teach, entertain and generally keep alive my child. That is a full-time job in itself, throw in clean the dishes, wash the clothes and make dinner, that’s almost two jobs in one.  


Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

You can pass the buck

Office – Being in a mid-senior position in any company is not a bad place to be. There are generally people above you and people below you. So if something goes wrong, you have the assistance of the person above you to help. If you’ve got too much on your plate (or just plain don’t want to do something) you can usually pass this on to those below you. It’s almost like cherry-picking the little jobs you want to do

Stay at Home – There is no-one above you, no-one below you. A glass of milk has just spilt everywhere and the glass has smashed? you are the one to sort out the mess. You’ve got too many jobs to do? Best get started. You don’t know how to make a dressing up day costume? Tough! Learn! Fast!

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

You get paid

Office – Pretty much the reason most people go to work. At the end of the month, you can see a difference in your bank statement. You get a feeling of satisfaction that you’re contributing.

Stay at Home – Yes parenting is much more ‘rewarding’ than an office job, I do not dispute that for one second. But dress it up as much as you like, you don’t get paid and having been the main breadwinner for a good few years, staring at a lot of outgoings and no incomings on your bank statement at the end of the month takes a bit of getting used to.


Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

You generally don’t need to be imaginative

Office – Most people (not all, but most) have been doing the same job day in day out for a while and it usually consists of pretty much doing the same task or a slight variation of it over and over again. You’ve pretty much got it all down to a fine art and as long as you keep doing the same thing, you will get through the day without too many problems.

Stay at Home – According to this article, the average two-year-old has an attention span of 4-10 minutes! I don’t want to upset myself by working out how many lots of 4-10 minutes there are in a day, but I imagine the answer will be a lot! You have to think of new things to do to entertain your child all the time. You can’t make paper crowns all day every day. (no matter how much I’ve tried)

Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent? = Stay at Home Parent

Your children are glad to see you in the evening.

Not everyone will agree with this with but I bet a lot of Stay at Home Dad’s can relate.

Office – I was out working all day. The reason I went to work is to provide for my children.  At 6 pm when I walked through the door, the children were happy to see me. They ran to me and were excited to see me. What’s that phrase, absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Staying at Home – Let’s be honest, thanks to mother nature or instinct or something, very young children tend to prefer their mothers to their fathers. Me and my son have a great time in the day but as we head into the last few hours, we’re both flagging. As soon as my wife comes home, he wants nothing to do with me, in fact, I’m public enemy #1 some days! He seems to have forgotten that in the last 10 hours he has been pushing me to my very limits! But who cares….mams home.

So, in answer to the age-old question of ‘Who Works Harder – Working Parent or Stay at Home Parent?’ The answer is…

The Stay at Home Parent

Feel free to try and prove me wrong…but I doubt you’ll be able to!


I am a stay at home Dad, from England, living in Malaysia. Talking about how we survive the heat, the cultural differences, the lifestyle changes, the travel and lots more challenges that being a stay at home Dad in a foreign country brings.

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6 Responses

  1. Kimberly says:

    I am a stay at home mom….and i can confidently say that going to an office (though with its own pressures) was way easier than staying at home full time and looking after just 1 kid. The physical & emotional drain is enormous. We recently moved from Malaysia to the UK and i am starting to consider finding a job but the RUSH life is my main concern now.

    • me@thestayabroaddad.com says:

      So I guess you’re dealing with pretty much the opposite level of heat than I am right now! Hope the move is going well, I think wherever you are in the world, looking after a child is harder than being sat in an office having drinks made for you…

  2. Alison says:

    I think you need to take the type of work into consideration. I was a primary school teacher…I left the house at 6.30, got back at 5.30 and then had 3 hours of preparation and marking to do. I would have preferred the stay at home option, I think…at least if the stroppy child is yours you can discipline her in your way. And there’s not so many of the ankle biters to deal with either…but then, I’ve not had kids, so maybe I’m wrong.

    • me@thestayabroaddad.com says:

      True, I’ve seen through Ruth how hard teachers can work, though she quite often says she’s off to work for a rest……

  3. Greg h says:

    I think it depends on the family structure and what the job situation is. There’s a lot of variables that would determine the answer to this question

    • me@thestayabroaddad.com says:

      Hi Greg, I completely agree, there’s rarely a black and white answer to anything like this and it may not be the case for some but having been on both sides of the fence, I know that sat in my old office was by far the ‘easier’ option. You’re right though, plenty of other things to take into account.

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