Every time I hear that question I feel compelled by the conventions of society to say, “No.” But then I immediately say, “Well, I don’t get PAID, but I work really hard!” Like most stay-at-home moms, I have this compulsion to justify my existence and validate my own contribution to my family and society. As if I need to explain myself to anyone anyway! (But I do)
Every year, some genius organization, and I forget which, publishes a breakdown of what a stay-at-home mom’s (or dad’s) compensation would be if each component of my “job” (see…I put it in quotes!) were compensated according to fair market salaries for various functions. For instance, to hire a personal chef it would cost $X and to hire a nanny it would cost $X, to hire a cleaning service it would cost $X, to hire a tutor would cost $X, a life coach costs another $X, etc. I wonder if they calculate what it would cost to “buy” a year’s worth of “affection”? It usually works out to a 6 figure salary that I should be earning, but I’m not actually working. (eye roll)
Every morning I chant the following mantra between 8:00 and 8:15: “Eat your vitamins, let me do your hair, did you brush your teeth, do you have your shoes on, did you pack a snack, what do you want for lunch today?” By the time both kids are out the door I feel like a shell-shocked soldier with PTSD. There are days when it seems we will never make it out on time. But we do. It is an act of will and determination.
Some days I log more miles in my minivan than some long-haul truckers. And unlike the truckers who get to listen to music or maybe even share the companionship of a sweet mutt who rides shotgun, I get to ride along with kids fighting in the back seat, blaring music not of my choosing, and occasionally a faint whisper from the back of the car that cannot be discerned above the din of the car. The third time I say, “What did you say? I can’t hear you!” I get an exasperated and attitudinal, “Nevermind” from a precocious 4 yr old. And when there is no one else with me and I’m not driving to or from a practice, school, play date or other such activity, I get to make a trip to the grocery store, the drug store, the cleaners, or other store to pick up the supplies required by the locomotive called “Our Life.”
I prepare dinners and lunches and breakfasts. My children, fortunately, eat well-balanced meals no less than twice a day. My husband comes home to a hot, home-cooked and delicious meal at least 5 nights a week. Dinner in our house, and I acknowledge that this is my doing, is a culinary trip around the world. I prepare Indian, Moroccan, Mexican, Italian…this is good food prepared with skill and love. I do get the night off at least once or twice a week. It makes me feel appreciated.
Here’s the thing about being a stay-at-home parent, as opposed to being a “working” parent; no sick days, no vacation days. You live your job, immersed in your family 24-7-365. I don’t lament this, I actually enjoy it. Some days though, it would be nice to be able to call in sick. If you’re smart and lucky, you build a village. I have a village, it has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I treasure my village.
So, my life takes on the pace of a NASCAR race sometimes while I attempt to meet the varied needs of 2 children and a husband. I live in a community where the Stepford Wives could have learned a thing or two, and where the “good moms” keep immaculate homes, plant rows of perfect tulips, decorate their homes according to seasons, raise well-mannered and high achieving children, and still have time to get to the salon to make sure their roots are covered.
But I don’t actually work.