Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What Do Stay-at-Home Moms Do All Day?

I read a letter to an advice columnist today about a kidless woman who was griping about her childed friend who never had time for anything--she was always tired, or busy, or whatever. The writer's question was "What do stay-at-home moms do all day?" Even my husband thinks he wants my job. I tell him, "Honey, y0u couldn't do my job!" And I am only half kidding about that. My husband could, but certainly wouldn't, do my job.

So what do we do? When my kids were little, before school, my days went like this: sleep until about 7:30-8:00; kiss my husband good-bye; get up and have a cup of coffee; run downstairs to do a load of laundry; Kate's up now, run back upstairs and get her out of bed; change the diaper and clothe her (wait, it was yukky gross, so drop it in the toilet and clean it after her breakfast, because she is really hungry); get her breakfast and spoon-feed her; put her in the playpen and run downstairs to change laundry; put Kate's toys back in playpen; get meat out of freezer for dinner; put Kate's toys back in playpen; unload last night's dishes from the dishwasher and clean up kitchen from breakfast dishes and make sure I have everything needed for dinner tonight (like an idea on what to fix); fold a load of laundry; put Kate's toys back in the playpen; take Kate out of the playpen and play with her for a few minutes; get her water in a sippy cup; take her upstairs so I can clean the yukky diaper still in the toilet; clean the toilet now; get my bed made; clean up the mess that Kate pulled out in her room; go downstairs and make her lunch; put her in her crib for a nap; get my shower and (finally) get dressed for the day; call my mother or my sister in the 15 minutes I have before Kate wakes up; wonder how I am going to pay for that long-distance call; get Kate out of her crib; change her diaper and her sheets, because cloth diapers really aren't that absorbent, and the plastic pants covering them don't really keep the urine inside; put her in the high chair while I put her sheets and blankets and furries in the wash; give her a snack; clean up under the high chair; switch out the laundry; get the dog and the stroller so we can go for a walk; get home and put sheets on the crib; put Kate down for nap; iron shirts that I can no longer afford to send out to the laundry; get Kate up from nap so that she will sleep tonight; change diaper; put Kate in playpen to start dinner; feed the dog; pick up the living room/den so that the house will look nice for my husband; check on dinner; put Kate's toys back in the playpen; set the table; hold dinner; feed the child; finally, my husband is home, and I have an adult to talk to. Only he is tired and had a bad day and doesn't really want to talk, just wants to veg out, so I do some more laundry and clean up the dishes, and start the dishwasher, and the last thing I want to do is hear about my friend's day at work with pretty clothes and adults, and jobs that she can hand off to someone else, and lunch breaks, and all that goes along with what I quit doing so I could stay home and raise my child.

That was when staying home was easy. Not easy, exactly, but certainly less carefree. Then I was simply teaching her how to behave to make my life easier. Now the things I teach them are to make others' lives easier, people I have (presumably) never met--their spouses, children, and in-laws, employers, dates, and college professors, roommates. Now I have 3 children (Kate, the baby above, is now 16!), who need to be driven somewhere, who need to be reminded to do their homework, who need to be reminded that they cannot make out in public with their girlfriends (my 14-year-old raging-hormone-filled son), who need to be taken to Grandma's house to mow her lawn because she shouldn't have to do that, who need to be taken to their teacher's home to help her move (simply because he likes this teacher who understood him), who need to be reminded that they should be nice to all their classmates, who need to be reminded that even the teachers who are wrong are right because they are the ones who give grades, who, in short, need to be taught to be responsible, caring adults.

I agree with what the columnist said to the writer of the letter: she told the letter-writer that she should be more supportive of her friend. I wish that she had told her that until you are a mom, especially a stay-at-home mom, you cannot know how tiring the sheer responsibility of caring for a person can be. And I know people who care for not only their children but their elderly parents, as well! When I stayed home early on, I just wanted a day free of responsibility, with an adult to talk to. More and more, I am getting that. My children are turning into responsible adults with whom I love to chat.

I love my life.

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