The thing is, though...stress is subjective. If I'm in any kind of public/social situation, my stress level is already fairly high, as a rule. I don't cope well with being around large numbers of people, and it puts me on edge. I also have one child who has really unpredictable, and often odd, behaviour. I'm sure outside observers are sometimes bewildered by the way I jump on him for what seems like nothing. It's not nothing, though. I can sometimes see the signs that we're heading for a meltdown, but his behaviour still seems perfectly normal to others. I don't always handle it that well, but that's often because I'm already stressed due to the environment, existing issues with the child in question, or whatever. (By noon today, he'd taken off from the house, bitten his little sister, deliberately destroyed his other sister's drawing and kicked her, called me a couple names, and thrown things three times. By the time we left for their circus class, I was pretty burned out...and not as patient as I could have been when started climbing on the railing that he's already been warned isn't safe, or when he took off in the parking lot. I'm sure that class looked about as low stress as it gets, but it wasn't.)
I totally agree with you. I also kind of think that being a parent is a high stress condition in and of itself.
I think what I was really wondering about re high/low stress environments (but wrote in an awkward way, because I haven't really thought this through myself) is what kind of common stressors are present in an environment which "appears" to be low stress that cause nearly every parent in that environment to behave as though they are under incredibly intense scrutiny.* Maybe because they actually are? I can't tell if people are scrutinizing each other and it's stress behavior or if it's just a way that parents relate to each other in this area and no one is stressed. Or if it's all of the above.
*The immediate example that springs to mind is common in a nearby affluent suburban library during a leisurely and uncrowded playtime. There will be a child who is barely old enough to have any sort of competent fine motor skills and a parent that keeps sighing in a loud reproving fashion to everyone nearby, "Oh he's so wild," every time a block accidentally tumbles off the train table, as well as to the kid, "Stop being so wild." And the kid is like, one. And multiply that by everyone in the play area. Perhaps I don't understand the purpose of the statements being made. I've wondered if this phenomenon I've observed is actually wry or humorous in nature, and because I don't often recognize humor as humor, I have a hard time understanding what is going on. But I think I am accurate in my guess that this is about the parent (I think understandably for this regional/socioeconomic parenting culture) wanting to be perceived as a good parent and fearing to be perceived as a bad one. Because in this same strata, I always hear people apologizing for serving sugary birthday cake with color sprinkles or saying they are sorry, the food is not all organic, or something along those lines.