I am a stay-at-home mom, and I like it. I feel fortunate that I was able to decide to do this. I work part-time from home as a writer. I left my full-time job in an office 17 (yes, 17!) years ago right before my first baby was born. So that’s me. Every mom is specific and has a unique set of circumstances. Now my youngest child is in second grade. All of my kids are in school for most of the day.
So you might be wondering, what do I do all day?
Here’s the answer: A lot. Nothing. Whatever I want. Whatever I have to. It varies.
When my daughter entered first grade, I thought, I’m free! I can be generous with my time — volunteer, say “yes” to everything, run errands, do favors — because I’m no longer a slave to nursing and napping schedules.
I quickly found out that saying “yes” to everything could easily fill my whole day. In fact, volunteering in each of my kids’ schools would be the equivalent of a full-time job. To say nothing of babysitting for friends, serving in my church, helping family members, and — oh yes! writing the great American novel like I always planned to do when my kids were in school.
Because stay-at-home moms seem endlessly available, you’d be surprised how many people ask you to do stuff. I am not complaining. Obviously I have more daytime hours than my working-mother friends. I’m just saying that you’d be surprised at how much time you don’t have. And the awkward thing about it is that you don’t really have an excuse that anyone considers valid. Why shouldn’t I be the room mom for all my kids? I don’t “work.” Why shouldn’t I chaperone all the second grade field trips? I’ve got nothing else to do!
You can’t say, “I don’t want to do that because I spent the last 10 years soaked in spit up, sleep-deprived, having opted out of a career path to raise babies, which I feel good about, but if there’s any upside to my choice, it is this: Now I can have an afternoon to myself doing whatever I want, and if it’s serving lunch at a homeless shelter (I’ve done that), writing a solicited book proposal that was subsequently rejected (I’ve done that), or spending a whole day in bed watching episodes — nay, SEASONS — of Bob’s Burgers because I feel like it, I kind of think I should get to do that.” You can’t say that. It’s TMI and a little bit rude. So don’t say that.
When you tell someone you are a stay-at-home mom, you sometimes have to endure the judgement that you are old-fashioned — an archaic throwback, a “kept” women, dependent on your husband, not a feminist. I can certainly handle that. I know that working moms sometimes have to face the flip side of those judgements: That they are “selfish” or uncaring. I think the upside of withstanding that kind of judgement should be that when my kids are finally all in school for the day, I should get to do whatever I want, no questions asked. I can chaperone a field trip if and when I feel like it. I don’t think my leisure time should be scrutinized any more than a working mother’s should be. I don’t think anyone should be judging or making assumptions about women who stay home with their kids or about women who work.
I think, generally, people should congratulate mothers and tell them they are doing a great job, and maybe even suggest that they take a break. People don’t have to be so worried about and scrutinizing of mothers. Believe me, we are aware of our personal shortcomings and have agonized over them. No one one has to point them out to us.