Friday, March 06, 2009

Stay-at-Home Mom Just a Butt on a Log

When I came across this newspaper clipping from the Washington Post's "Tell Me About It" column..., well what can I say... I wanted to both roll my eyes in perturbation, and thrust my fist clinched arm in a downward "YES!" gesture signaling a victory for all moms everywhere. I'll refrain from commenting, and leave that up to all of the quick witted mommys in the blogosphere.

****** Begin Copied and Pasted Dear Carolyn Question******
Dear Carolyn: [My] Best friend has [a] 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 . . .

Okay. 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) and 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 peeing contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.

Tacoma, Wash.
***** End Copied and Pasted Dear Carolyn Question*****

Hang on a sec. Cool your jets, and read on for Carolyn's response to Little Ms. Child-free Tacoma Washington.

*****Begin Carolyn's Reponse to Tacoma Washington *****

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.

********** End Carolyn's Response to Tacoma Washington*********

I don't know about you, but I have lots of child-free friends that get it. So, either she is actually a husband trying to figure out what his wife does all day, or the letter writer is not on the level.


Anonymous said...

Alright Dionne, this is a HOT one! I actually understand how single women with no children, AND women with children often don't get what "at home mom's do all day". There are plenty of women who until they have kids, will never fully understand what an exhausting and neverending job parenting is. Then there are those working mothers who can't figure out why the at home moms are too tired and overwhelmed to socialize or have "me time" when the working mother has worked all day,raised children, cleaned house, and can still find time.

I've been both types of mom. This article clearly describes the duties of an at home mom who's work is truly a full time job. When I didn't work and stayed at home to care for a 1 year old, 7 year old, and 28 year old (husband), I was ready to lose my mind! I had no idea how much harder it was than the job I had at that time. There were no professional lunch dates, water cooler conversations, business suits, meetings, or lunchtime shopping trips. Oh and yes, there was no 2nd income either! Instead there was constant cleaning because as soon as I cleaned up they messed it up! Round the clock laundry, trying to meet very different developmental needs, incorporate meaningful and educational activities in their lives...all the things the writer said. My working friends said the same thing "what are you doing" that makes you so tired and how is it that your day gets by you! I would just roll my eyes and think "you just don't get it."

Now I am on the other side again. A working mom with a 15 and 9 year old and while I remember what it was like...I also remember my choices and my perceptions. Now, I work 10 hour days and still parent; working hard to incorporate any extra curricular and educational activities I can at night and on weekends. I must admit I now find myself a tad edgy of a few things: 1) I don't have an option to stay at home and it's unfortunate that my kids can't have as much of my time and attention to them and our home as they would if I didn't work outside the home; 2) The at home moms who are really NOT doing all the wonderful things described in the article. Instead they are having lots of "me time" while kids are at school, afterschool care, grandma's, and they are in Nordstrom, 24 hour fitness, etc, while nannies and others are caring for the kids (I can say this because I know women who do this;) 3) I work really hard to meet needs on the job and at home, I have a list of tasks for two different and important jobs, I'm exhausted from making a difference everyday in my professional community, church and my home, and I can still find time to cultivate relationships with friends and family because it's importante. My conclusion, your life is a home mom's can choose how they set boundaries limits and priorities just as well as the working mom. It's not a pissing contest, both sides have valid arguments for being overwhelmingly busy, so making time for self-care and maintaining relationships, whether it's a midnight posting on a friends facebook/blogspot :) , or breakfast get together, it's still a choice. We just don't all choose the same. It takes all kinds...

Jewels said...

Wow interesting article! I love the mom's response. She makes great points and I think the friend has no intention of actually understanding she just sounds errogant and self righteous.

Brazenlilly said...

I read this about a month ago, and couldn't stomach reading it again. I did, however, love reading your comments when the article quoting took a break! :)

There is so much that could be said, but I'll just say Tacoma lady is correct in that she does not get it. I don't think my disgust is so much for the fact that she doesn't get it, because I don't think anyone understands parenting--working or SAH--until they are actually living it. So, of COURSE she doesn't understand. My disgust is for her patronizing disregard and disrespect of her friend's worth and work and distrust of the mom's honesty. "Carolyn" summed it up best when she said "Either make a sincere effort to understand or keep your snit to yourself." And I would add--get a new friend. No one--mothers or not--needs a friend who would devalue your life like that.

Mike and Katie said...

Yep, my kids childhood is just going by way too fast to be concerened with the thoughts or feelings of a friend like that. My husband than kids are first and that's that.

I feel sorry for single people. Their life seems so empty compared to mine.


nabz said...

all i can say is lady please come stay the day with me!!! please, really, i think just my kids running in circles around you will exhast you to the point that you won't even have the energy to write or say silly comments. yes, working moms have it rough, but don't ever suggest i do nothing but sit on a log!! :)

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