Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Just" a Stay at Home Mom

Last weekend, we were outside enjoying some beautiful fall weather. Most of the neighbors were out, too, giving me the chance to catch up with my neighbor, Tracey. She works full time and has a 10-month-old, so I don't see her as much as I'd like to. We chatted about babies, sleep, going back to work. At one point, she said, "I don't think I could ever just stay home all day doing nothing. I think I'd get bored."

She didn't mean any offense, and I didn't take any. But I realized that there's probably a gap between what working moms THINK we do all day and what we ACTUALLY do with our time. My friend Beth, who's home with her young baby, says, "Staying at home is harder than any job I've ever had. No lunch breaks to get things done, no bathroom breaks by yourself. Yeah, my career was WAY easier than this stay at home mom gig." Tiffany, whose son just started Kindergarten, says, "As if we sit around watching soaps all day!" And my single friend Bobby Jo says, "I don't even HAVE kids and I could never be bored at home. Too many things to do!"

When our kids are babies, there's so much hands-on caregiving that goes into mothering that it's easy to see where our time goes. Our houses don't need to be perfect; our kids take priority. As my friend Maria says, "I didn't give up my law practice to scrub floors. I left work to raise my kids!" Playing with them, feeding and diapering them, reading to them, convincing them that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing, and it's simply not socially acceptable to wake up happy at 5 AM - it's a full time job. We do all the things that a working mom's daycare provider does, but without the pay. Who has time for chores? But once the kids are all in school? Even I thought I'd have tons of free time once my youngest was in Kindergarten. I'd work out every day! Reclaim my pre-baby body! Get manicures! Have a spotless house! Take time for nooners! Put those baby pictures in a photo album instead of in a shoebox under my bed!

Yeah, right. In the past year, I've managed to meet my friend Jennifer for lunch only twice. We're both "home." So where does the day go?

In a typical 7-hour school day, I spend a few hours on chores and errands, volunteer in both kids' classrooms, write, take care of the pets, start dinner, and prep snacks for after school. Then I pick up my kids, and, if they don't have ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, basketball, soccer, Indian Princesses, or a playdate, we head home for a snack, homework and school projects. Once that is done, I still have to feed them, help them bathe, read to them, play with them, help them choose (age-appropriate) clothes for the next day, make lunches, pack (organic, sugar-free) snacks, clean and fill their (BPA-free, stainless steel) water bottles, sign homework and reading logs (Teachers! Listen up! NO MORE READING LOGS, PLEASE!), sort through school papers and multiple copies of school newsletters, get them to bed with prayers and songs and kisses and drinks of water and one last kiss, please Mommy please! Then my husband comes home, I make him some dinner, we spend some time together, and before I know it, it's 10 PM and I still haven't finished the dishes. Free time, my (still not a size 4) ass.

Working moms, I think you have it rough. I can't imagine working an 8-hour day and then coming home to work at your "other job." You have to run your errands and do your chores on the weekends, or you have to drag your kids around town after a full day of school and day-care. Either that, or hire someone to do it for you. (Not that I'm complaining - if I worked, you'd better believe that I'd have a cleaning service!) You probably sleep even less than I do.

But while you are working and talking to adults and eating lunch with grown-ups (without having to cut anything up for your co-workers), don't make assumptions about what "at home" moms are doing. Just know that many of us "at home" are actually at school, helping your child with reading and math, or planning the Thanksgiving feast, or rescuing lost Kindergartners on the first day of school, or stapling and gluing endless little books, or making copies for the teachers, or checking in library books, or baking 4 cakes for the PTA fundraiser, or even watching your darling kick a soccer ball during recess because budget cuts mean there are no aides for playground duty. If I were working right now, I couldn't do any of it. And when I go back to work, that's it for me. Game over. But right now, while I can be "home", I'm going to do what I can for ALL our kids.

Slacker Mom supportive of the moms in your life. Working or staying at home, we are all just moms, facing the challenges of raising a family in difficult times. Those of us who stay home choose to be home, so we won't complain about our job. Those of us who work, whether because we have to or because we want to, are doing the best we can too. Motherhood means making sacrifices, but it's also the best job in the world. Whether we work or not, we all give something up - money, time at home, job satisfaction, financial gain, sleep. Whether we work or not, we all get paid for being moms - sticky kisses, warm little hugs, unconditional love. What could be better than that?


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  2. Of course, I feel compelled to share a story!

    I was at the store this past weekend with my girls. Suddenly, I felt these arms around my waist giving me a huge squeeze. I looked down at the child who gave me a big smile and said "I'm so glad to see you Mrs. Resio". In turn, I gave her a big hug and greeted her by name. I caught the Mother's eye and she looked shocked. She immediately called for her daughter to come back to her side. I realized that this mother had NO clue who I was and how I knew her daughter. She didn't know that I have spent 2-3 days a week helping her daughter in the classroom with reading and writing. Once I introduced myself, she remembered that I am the Room Mom. (which most people think that the Room Mom helps give a party twice a year) She had NO idea that I am in and out the classroom giving additional support to the teacher by reading to them, helping with classwork, teaching them, encouraging them, praising them, and sharing well-spent time with these precious children. Don't get me wrong ... I didn't need any thanks from the Mom - Jasmine's hug and smile made it worthwhile.

    I guess SOME working moms forget that it takes all of us to help raise these wonderful children.

  3. That is so true! We should all be grateful for moms like you - yet another person to love and care for our children! Keep up the good work!

  4. I just returned to work after my 2nd child. I had 4 months off, and yes, it sucked not being able to pee by myself, or take a lunch break, or watch anything other than Disney Channel before 8pm.

    Now that I'm back at work, I get adult conversation, and projects where coworkers ooo and ah over my designs. You know what else I get? Gut-wrenching pain of driving away from the preschool and daycare center. Every day. Knowing I won't get those sticky kisses and "LOOK MOM! A dead bug!!" for the next 8 hours. They will be happy, and well taken care of. But not by me, and I hate that.

    I think a lot of stay at home moms focus on what positive things a working mom gets - privacy to pee, validation of their work, lunch that doesn't involve peanut butter or juice boxes. And then focus on that they DONT get that. But stay at homers, remember. You get time with your kids. And us working moms DO appreciate all the work you put into the schools. Often we don't know the extent, but how would we? We aren't there. :)

    And no offense intended here moms, but stay at homers with school age kids DO have more free time. The thing is, you spend your free time at school. Feel blessed that you have that choice. :)

    Moms need to stop judging each other and just support each other!!

  5. It's ALWAYS a bad idea to judge other moms, as Slacker Mom has always said. But life is about choices. I CHOSE to have kids a bit later in life so that I could afford to quit working. And I'd chosen a job that would make it easier to work with young kids, should that have been necessary. I gave up some things so that I could stay home, just like working moms give something up, too.

    Stay at home moms aren't complaining about being home, just pointing out that until you've done it, working moms, don't assume you know what it's all about. Don't assume we have a lot of free time that you don't - my working hours are spent working, just like yours.

    Nina says there are 2 kinds of moms, and they aren't "working" or "at home" - they are "involved" and "uninvolved". I feel a Slacker Mom rant coming on...

  6. Erin, read this again when you quit your job and have been home for oh, 8 years or so. It will mean something different to you! And didn't you take off work today to go to Disneyland, without your kids???? There's no "day off" if you don't go to work! When I'm sick, I still have to be mom, I can't drive them to daycare and then go home and sleep. They go to the dentist and the gynecologist with me, to the store, to the bank, everywhere.

    Readers, I should point out that Erin is my sister :) and we often disagree but still love each other!

  7. Hahaha, yeah, I did, for my best friend's birthday. First time! As you always say, take advantage of the ONE good thing about daycare, right?

    And honestly, I would have rather been home with my kids playing Princess "Go Fish".

    Looking forward to the "involved" and "uninvolved" slacker mom rant!

  8. Don't mind me, I'm just jealous. Wish I'd been with you and Amy today. (Of course, then I'd have made you bring the kids so I could get my hands on them.)

    And honestly, I WOULDN'T have rather been playing Go Fish! I freakin' hate that game.

    I feel another rant coming on...

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