Friday, June 13, 2008

So what do stay-at-home moms DO, anyway?


I hear this question frequently: "What do you do all day?" If I try to explain what I do all day, it doesn't really sound like much. After Jamison was born, my mother cut out this article from the newspaper for me. I love it. (Thanks to the Carolyn Hax advice column!)



Question
:

Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group ...


OK. I've done Internet searches, I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners ... I do all those things, too, and I don't do them EVERY DAY. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events), I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy - not a bad thing at all - but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest ("my life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and with-out kids and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.


Answer:


Relax and enjoy. You're funny.


Or, you're lying about having friends with kids.


Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.


Internet searches?


I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.


So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.


It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.


It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.


It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well meaning and otherwise. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short term relief at everyone's long term expense.


It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything - language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy.


Everything.


It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends, or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.

4 comments:

J & H Larson said...

I am already wondering how I am going to accomplish all I need to and want to when the little one gets here- and now you have made me realize I never will :0) I don't ven have kids and I still have moments of "I don't want to make that call" Or whatever it may be. I swear I feel exhausted all the time and I don't work, am only pregnant with a kid, and usually don' have a huge to do list other then personal things I want to do- but I think I have SO MANY things that I do want to do that my mind is on overload all the time- and sometimes I just have to sleep off the brain exhaustion. Anyways, thanks for scaring me with the facts of real motherhood and knowing that things are only going to get more exhausting and difficult (and wonderful) in 3 months.

Kimberly said...

I have days where the day went by so fast that I can't remember what I did. Then, I sit back and think and I can't believe all that I did do! Motherhood is so great, but so exhausting!

The Cannons said...

That's a funny article. It's really true, I had no idea how hard it would be to take care of a tiny little baby.
Mitzi

Karen said...

Amen! I should send this to some of my family members who think that I have all the time in the world now that I don't work and just stay at home...like my mother. Sad, huh? My mom wasn't a stay at home mom. My grandma took care of me and my brother, so I don't think she quite realizes how much work it was for my grandma.