“Isn’t sitting around every day boring?”
“Your poor husband must be so tired from work at the end of the day, and you’re probably ready to go out and party every night.”
“Why don’t you get a job and do something?”
“I wish I got to relax all day.”
“WHAT… DO YOU… DO… ALL… DAY?”
I’ve had to answer all of the above questions/statements during my time as an at home mother. The very last of which, I recently answered in a court room when my ex-husband’s attorney cross examined me. I wasn’t fully prepared to defend my role as a mother, because, while some life choices require a defense from time to time, being a mother isn’t a choice a person expects to need defending. I stumbled through my response. It’s nerve wracking being on a witness stand. Throw in a patronizing attorney, who looks at you with disdain as you answer his questions… and please add “testifying in court” to my list of least favorite pastimes.
I prefer not to be in court… but the thing about court is that you have to go every time someone wants to take you there. And since I will be in court another time soon, I should prepare my answer for the inevitable moment when I am again asked to describe and justify what I do all day. (“I am a mother of four” not being a sufficient answer.)
So here goes…
It’s Monday morning. I barely slept last night. I was up until after midnight working on my blog, paying bills, answering emails, and inputting everyone’s schedules for this week into Google Calendar. The baby wouldn’t sleep anyway, so I held him and nursed him as I worked on my laptop. Earlier in the evening, I discussed school events, extracurriculars, and school assignments for the upcoming week with my older two boys, then put them to bed and listened to their prayers. Thankfully, my husband read to our toddler, got her into her jammies, and put her to bed. He had to go to sleep after that. He works a 40 to 45+ hour week and has 15 hours of commute time on top of it. At 12:30am, I tried to go to sleep, but the baby kept waking up each hour wanting to eat. This morning — on a few hours of broken sleep – I got 4 kids (including a toddler and an infant) up, dressed, fed and loaded into the car to drive Devin across town to his middle school and then drove to the opposite side of town to drop Wesley off at grade school. (There is no bus for where we live). After arriving back home this morning, I haven’t done much besides clean up poop. On the baby’s clothes… on the baby’s swing… on the toddler’s hand when she stuck it in the baby’s diaper as I changed him… so lots of stain treating laundry, baths for babies… I had to take the whole infant swing apart to be able to put the cloth part in the washing machine. Our family went out of town for a wedding shower over the weekend and our packed bags were sitting in the living room because there wasn’t time to unpack last night. While I was getting poop stains out of laundry, my toddler pulled every article of clothing, every toy, and every toiletry item out of the bags and strew them across the living room. She also dumped the 3 loads of laundry I had folded (but not yet put away) out of the baskets. I tried to put her in her high chair with a crayon and some paper to entertain her. She ate the crayon. I have to pack the baby and toddler into the car again shortly to take Devin out of school and to the orthodontist. Later this afternoon, both boys have doctor’s appointments. There’s a school fundraiser tonight, and Wesley is reading at mass this week so I’ll be helping him practice, and then I’ll attend the mass (with an infant and toddler) on Wednesday morning to watch him read. Band, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, swim lessons, piano lessons, play dates, trips to the library, parent teacher conferences… Wesley’s first reconciliation and first communion events… oh, and there’s also this time consuming thing called snowboarding that the kids have been involved in since they were very young. They practice locally many days a week and twice per week (and up to 4 times per week when they have competitions) I drive them from Iowa to Madison, Wisconsin for snowboard team practice and/or to competitions. Sometimes their competitions are on the other side of the state of Wisconsin, in northern Minnesota, or even in Colorado. And I pack up an 18 month old and a 3 month old (and everything that goes with…i.e. please reread the above morning of cleaning up poop) and take them along. Snowboarding (and traveling for it) is ridiculously expensive, so I spend a good deal of time soliciting sponsors, running a web page to promote/advertise what the kids do, negotiating sponsor contracts, etc. I also have spent hundreds of hours on the hill or mountain filming the kids snowboarding, and putting raw footage into the incredibly time consuming process that video editing is, in order for the kids to get more exposure and more sponsors. Without sponsor assistance, the kids would never be able to do what they do in snowboarding. They are not from a wealthy family, nor are they “only” children; and while they are talented, much of what they have the opportunity to do, comes from a lot of time and effort their mother puts in on their behalf. Of course, I like the kids to have all the credit, so the only reason I even mention what I do behind the scenes is because I feel like crap when I’m treated like I do nothing.
I want to make sure I don’t forget to list anything that I do all day, so that other people can add these things up, judge them, and decide if I do anything worthwhile with my life.
Here’s the rest of my list…
I sort, wash, dry, iron, fold and put away 6 people’s laundry… on most days. I plan, shop, cook and serve 3 meals per day to 6 people 7 days a week. I pack lunches. I help with homework. I organize. I multitask. I’m a taxi service. I help with bad days. I listen. I console. I read to kids and teach them how to read to themselves. I snuggle. I help small people learn big life lessons. I take them to church. I volunteer as a soccer and baseball coach; I volunteer at school; I teach snowboarding lessons; I take the kids to volunteer at a nursing home. I am present at every school function, every game, every competition, cheering my kids on. I clip coupons, I learn to make new recipes, I shop at second hand stores, I find ways to save money.
What else? I homeschooled my kids for 3 years, I hand sew Halloween costumes and pajamas, I make baby scrapbooks, I go running with my 11 year old, I take my 7 year old and toddler swimming, I push 80 pounds (jogging stroller + toddler + infant) around while I run to stay healthy and fit enough to keep up with 4 kids. I jump on the trampoline with them.
I vacuum, dust, sweep the floor multiple times a day (kids prefer to eat over floors rather than tables), clean dishes… and then I teach kids how to do these chores, how to do their part, how to be part of a family. I blog and run my own website. I’m writing a book series. I officiate soccer games for extra money some evenings and weekends. I take classes. I breastfeed an infant every 3 hours. I get minimal sleep and then must choose between a nap and a shower — if I’m able to get my infant and toddler to nap at the same time. Most days they don’t. Most days my vanity is sacrificed for yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and no makeup.
I’m an at home mother. And this is what I have done. All day. Every day. For 12 years. And no steady pay check. (Prior to being an at home mom, I had almost a full scholarship to college, where I was making straight A’s and working toward a career as an engineer.)
I love it. I choose it. I choose to be creative in saving money, making money, and managing time and resources so that I CAN choose it. It is far from the “nothing” others assume I spend my day on. The extent of what I do for my kids has even involved being on a snowboard, on a mountain, on 4 hours sleep, 15 hours from home… while 5 months pregnant, puking, and nursing an infant… so my kid wouldn’t have to miss his competition. “Nothing” it is not.
One quarter of American families have a stay at home parent. So why does our culture perpetuate the myth that at home parents live a lazy life of leisure? (Even if not said in words, it is said in tones, attitudes, and perpetuated stereotypes.) No one is more taken for granted… even looked down upon… for the work he or she does in a day than a stay at home parent.
Borrowing from another blog…
“We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.” — Matt Walsh
Of all the reasons to be criticized, I would rather be criticized for ANYTHING ELSE — than for 12 years devoted to the care and well-being of others.
Who wants to be in constant defense of what they do all day? I don’t have the patience for it (and my patience is a resource that belongs to my children)… so if you are one of those people who just has to ask what I do all day… please don’t be surprised or offended when my response to your inquiry is… “What do YOU do all day?”
I’m proud of what I do. We all should be.