Thursday, May 31, 2007

What do you do all day?

I don't know if Carolyn Hax has kids, but she gets it.

"It" being the stay-at-home mom thing.

Carolyn Hax writes an advice column -- kind of like "Dear Abby" with an attitude -- for the Washington Post. In her column that ran in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a reader asks the age-old question, complete with the expected suspicious and condescending tone, "What do stay-at-home moms do all day?"

Hax's response is ingenious. I think I love her.

I don't want to be guilty of copyright infringement or anything, so I'll have to refer you to the Washington Post's web site to read her column. You have to register, but it's free and only takes a second.

This got me to thinking about my pre-stay-at-home days. Did I ever think that moms who stayed home did nothing? That they were enjoying some sort of secret vacation that only other SAHMs where in on?

It's hard for me to remember back that far, but I do remember what it was like when Julia was a baby and I was still having to work. I knew being a mom of any kind was a lot of work. I don't remember wondering what SAHMs did all day, but, based on my experience, I knew what they DIDN'T do. They didn't, at 7:30 on cold and windy West Texas winter mornings, buckle their infants into a car seat and drive them to daycare in order to be at work by 8 a.m. They didn't hear about the first time their child stood up from a daycare worker. They didn't lock themselves in an office several times a day, knowing all their co-workers could hear the hum of the breast pump.

That stuff was not fun for me. What made it worse was that I really did want to be a stay-at-home mom. And I was secretly envious of the women who were. But Chad was still in grad school and someone had to make money for us to live on.

Then he graduated, got a job, we moved, and I finally got to be a SAHM. And it was the most difficult adjustment of my life. I went from structure to no structure, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each workday to a wrecked house, mountains of laundry and still being exhausted to the point of tears even though I wasn't sure what *I* had done all day. I went from having a reason to wear suits and a little nametag stating my job title to wearing the same pair of jeans and one of Chad's shirts just about every day. I just couldn't seem to get it together. One day, Chad came home to find me sobbing and picking up pieces of macaroni and cheese off the floor. When I told my BFF Carol about this, we decided to call those kinds of days "macaroni days." Those days when no one thing sets you off, but you feel yourself crumbling under the pressure of constantly being needed.

Which brings me back to Carolyn Hax. She hits the "constantly being needed" thing square on the head.

I think what the "Mommy Wars" issue comes down to is the fact that all of us moms want to feel as though what we are doing is important. And when some of us do that a different way than others, others of us can get bent out of shape. The truth is that it's all hard. Staying home, working outside the home, or -- the category I fit into now -- working at home, it's all really hard. So if someone doesn't get it, please don't ask what we do all day. Ask who we are all day. You'll get a better answer.

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  • At Thu May 31, 07:48:00 PM, Blogger Kelly said…

    Wow, this hit a nerve with me. Thanks for sharing. Still going through my own transition of the former days of suits, Blackberry, meetings, and conference calls to how much spit up is on me and how long has Tate been on tummy time today.

    I love being at home with him and wouldn't change it, but have had very similar thoughts and feelings that you mention. I'm sure I've got a blog posting about it all coming soon. :) Thanks Deana!

  • At Fri Jun 01, 10:44:00 AM, Blogger ~ Stephanie. said…

    Brilliant. I love the term "macaroni days"! I have been blessed immensely to be a SAHM for most of the last 20 years. What helped me most, day to day, was remembering that I had made a commitment to parent each of my children as though THAT DAY was the only day I would ever have with them. Every hug, every book, every act of discipline has meaning and value. (Whew - I'm not generally this sappy, but I feel so strongly about raising my kids!)

  • At Tue Jun 05, 03:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When I hear SAHM talk about how hard their life is, I think about when my two children were babies/youth. I worked the 11-7 shift as a nurse and then came home to be mommy, not using day-care much. I don't know how I did it.

  • At Tue Jun 05, 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said…

    Deana, thanks for sharing this. My friends who are stay at home moms get very frustrated with those of us who don't have kids, who are sometimes not very understanding of the pressures that are involved in staying home with little ones all day.

    I know there are a lot of rewards when you are home with the kids, but it is not the paradise that a lot of folks think it is.

  • At Wed Jun 06, 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous weenie mom with identity crisis said…

    Another challenge is going back to work after being a SAHM mom for 9+ years.. I am a weenie - I was not always a weenie, but I am one now!! How did I work, nurse a baby for 13 months(pumping breast milk in the office kitchen), take her to daycare, have a husband in school, etc.? When I went back to work JUST PART TIME last year, it was so hard to let go of all those things that cluttered my day as a SAHM - I wanted them back! SAHM world & working world are two completely different universes... combining them is more difficult than I imagined. I think this is because when I worked the first time around, I was not a SAHM at heart, but I am now. And now I REALLY can't tell you what I do all day... but I'm glad I get to!


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