Lately there has been a lot of to-do over an attack on women here in the United States…mostly aimed at Stay-at-Home Moms like me. The “liberated” women feel we don’t really do anything, and don’t consider what we do as “work”. In the same way many Stay-at-home moms feel that these liberated moms need to spend more time being a mom and wife at home. In the middle are those moms who do both, or have done both…this is where I have fallen in the past. Truth be told, I’ve been in all 3 areas now. I’ve been that stay-at-home mom, the mom who stayed home that worked part time or worked full time from home, and I’ve been that mom who works full time outside the home. Of the 3 the two that are the hardest to do are to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, or a stay-at-home mom who has to work part time or work from home at the same time.
When I only worked outside the home and didn’t have to do all the housework, deal with children’s needs all day because they were in school while I worked, or do all the cooking, I had only a third of the responsibility that I have now. I was able to come home and cook every 3rd night since my husband and 2nd oldest daughter took turns cooking the other 2 nights, or because there was more money in the budget we could eat out more often. We cleaned house on Saturdays as a family, each carrying an equal share. With my youngest in preschool while I worked I didn’t have to deal with half the day of her needs, and when we were all home, my husband, older daughter, and I were able to split the time she needed in the evening and on weekends. Things were a lot easier, and that made working easier. The downside was I missed many of my youngest daughter’s milestones. Before this time I had been a single mom, who worked sometimes 3 jobs to support my daughters, and that was hard because I had to do all the cleaning, cooking, and still work while my daughters were either in school or at a babysitter. I missed even more than.
As a stay-at-home mom, working part-time or full-time work-at-home jobs I carried both my work load and all the normal mom and wife responsibilities. I worked either in theater and had to take my daughters with me so I could keep an eye on them, or for a while I worked as a home reader for Focus on the Family, which meant getting my daughter off to school, walking to the office, picking up mail, then walking to the office and dropping it off when I was done coding it to go to the proper office, walk home and pick up my daughter at the bus stop, then spend the rest of the day, cooking and cleaning, doing homework with my daughter, sewing, and whatever else was necessary for each day. I didn’t have a dryer, so I often had to sneak in a load or two of laundry, and hang them on the clothesline to dry. I often ate no breakfast and snuck in a light lunch of fruit and a salad just to get through the day. My ex husband didn’t think what I did counted as work, so when he came home he expected me to carry all the house chores including mowing, weeding, caring for the garden, and dealing with my oldest daughter’s need. He would just come home and sleep or watch sports on television. I often went to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning when my house work was done, and rose at 6 to get breakfast for the two of them and prepare my daughter for school. I really never had time to read a book, relax, and I can’t even tell you of one television show or movie that I watched back then.
As a stay-at-home mom now, my cup is full and overflowing! My to-do list for just this week and next is unbelievable. Here is what that list looks like…
1. Do laundry…this is a daily thing with my daughter and husband, even more when my granddaughter is here.
2. Clean the top floor of the house which includes the home office that I don’t use, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, the hallway and staircase, and my sewing room. This means dusting, wiping down glass, picking up toys, clothes, school things, trash that doesn’t seem to make it to the trash cans, cleaning the toilets, showers, tubs, mirrors windows, sweeping and mopping.
3. Clean the main floor, which includes the kitchen, livingroom, a bathroom, and formal diningroom. With this there is sweeping, mopping, cleaning the fans and lights, vacumning both the floor and furniture, carpet cleaning, dusting, window cleaning, glass cleaning, counter cleaning, appliance cleaning, cleaning the refrigerator, cleaning out cupboards and the pantry, besides the normal routine of doing dishes, and clearing counters and tables off.
4.Clean the basement, the staircase down to it, and organize the basement closet. This entails me to do more sweeping, mopping, clearing out things, dusting, cleaning windows, and straightening up all the things that Jk and my granddaughter have played with. The storage closet has to be organized to make room for emergency supplies, and I have shelves to fix in there that the kids have broken.
5. Clean the front porch, which entails me to sweep it, wash it down, water the herb garden and cut some of these herbs to dry for use. No one likes to do this job because of the bugs and spiders that collect on it. Since I’m not afraid of spiders this has fallen on me.
6. Sew culottes and shirts for my daughter to wear to camp next week. I have 6 outfits and a one piece bathing suit to make.
7. Sew summer clothes for my granddaughter. Her mom is a single mom, who doesn’t sew, and can’t afford to replenish her clothes for summer and for school next year. So grandma said I’ll do the summer clothes so that my daughter could concentrate on getting her school clothes. This is what happens when a father isn’t involved in helping with his child, physically, emotionally, or financially.
8. I have a stack of books to read and review for 3 different sites, and they need to be done this month. I’m talking like 20 books.
9. Cook meals.
10. Work on crocheted and sewn Christmas gifts for family this year. This includes about 8 prayer shawls, a couple of ponchos, a couple afghans, 2 quilts, and some fabric books and crayon holders.
11. Make a couple of dresses for a friend’s granddaughter.
12. Sew 2 new shirts for my husband.
13. Homeschool Jk through the summer for things she has struggled with this year.
14. Shop for groceries, and put them away.
15. Do Ironing.
16. Do all the mending for the family, tears, buttons, and hemming.
17. Clean and organize closets.
18. Write reviews for two books I’ve finished reading, and submit to 3 sites to publish online.
19. Watch my granddaughter, entertain her while Jk is at camp.
20. Get Jk ready to go to church camp next week. Clean her clothes, sew her clothes, and pack her clothes.
I could go on and on. This list doesn’t include my blogging, writing poetry, practicing my guitar and singing, tring to get a prayer shawl ministry at the church, or doctor’s appointments for the family including my own for my health issues. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in. In the past I would have conquered this list in no time flat. I had health, energy, and youth on my side. But now it is impossible and I have to decide what to put aside. The house cleaning seems to take the most loss. My health issues make it difficult for me to do certain things like wiping the floor boards, bending down to clean lower cabinets, and anything else that means bending near the floor or sitting on the floor to do. No one likes to clean toilets so I have to do that. I have to keep the fans clean because of my allergies, so that has to be done. Tubs and shower cleaning are split between Jk and I. She does her bathroom and I do the other 2 in the house. Jk tries to help, but she is more apt to make messes, than to clean them up. She likes to do it quick, but not right, which means I have to go back over what she has done. I find this easier than getting upset with her all the time. She has really become better at it. She likes to cook, and so does breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner for us, but she is still learning to cook so I often have to help and guide her through dinner. She has taken over the dishes for me, so that helps. She does help with the laundry, often changing them over because it hurts my back to bend over to do it. I fold the clothes, and everyone is responsible for putting their own up. My husband will help with dinner sometimes and usually makes sure Jk does her chores right. If I ask he will do some of the cleaning, but usually just gets in my way because he wants to do the things I can do. But I appreciate his wanting to be helpful, just as I appreciate Jk’s help.
Everyone wants a perfect home, and thinks you should be able to keep it perfectly clean, and that is the way I used to be. I was almost obsessive compulsive about it. But with Fibromyalgia and Arthritis I have had to change the way I think about cleaning. I’ve had to accept that I can’t do all the things I use to. I’ve had to decide to be happy with a lived in house that is free of germs. If a magazine or book is left somewhere, I have to be happy with that as long as the table below it is dusted. If the dog is laying on the carpet, I have to not be annoyed by the thought of it shedding and be happy that I have a new vacumn cleaner made to deal with dog hair, and that Lady is a good family dog who seems to sense when any of us are sick, and who loves to just be loved by the family. You see I’ve had to learn to give and take, to compromise in my feelings on what is done and how it is done. I have to take one day at a time, and do what I can in it. I have had to learn to work on something until my back hurts unbearably, then sit with my feet up and a heating pad on my back until I can get up and work again. There are a lot of things I need to get done, and very little time to do them in, but I will do what health and time allow me to do.
Being a stay-at-home mom is far harder than any of the others. I didn’t even include all the things that most stay-at-home moms have to do that I no longer do. They are taxi drivers for their kids…We have only 1 car so that has been crossed off my list for now. They are usually changing diapers, caring for babies, toddlers and school age kids at the same time. They are pulled in a myriad of directions, as they deal with homework for different aged children, cook dinner, deal with sibling rivalry, getting kids to do chores, disciplining, consoling, and loving their children, while dealing with a mental list of things to do to prepare for their husband coming home. A lot is said about them sitting home eating Bon-Bons and watching soap operas. I can tell you from experience that this isn’t so. Most women turn the television on to hear adult voices to keep them sane, since most of the time they are communicating with children and teens who have their own forms of language. They may eat Bon-bons or other candy, but it isn’t constant, but for that sugar rush that will help them get things done, or because they have no time to stop for lunch or breakfast. Moms of toddlers are often stopping to be the playmate for their child, to remind those little ones of safety issues with a “don’t do that”, and dealing with naptimes for these little energetic children. They are rocking babies to sleep, feeding them, and it never stops.
One thing that it is hard to make people understand. When you work outside the home, you are working 9 to 5, then going home. Your “work” is done for the day, and you don’t have to deal with it until the next day, and you get paid for it. Stay-at-home moms don’t get paid a cent for what they do. Their job never ends even after their kids grow up and leave the house. A stay-at-home mom doesn’t win rewards, bonuses, or promotions for what she does, and rarely even gets a thank you or any form of gratitude for what they do…SACRIFICIALLY, every day. They don’t get me time, not even when they are in the bathtub. I can tell you, children do not care when a mom is in the bathroom for any purpose. They will not walk in on dad, but don’t think twice about walking in on mom. I know, because in my house my daughters think that when I’m in the bathroom for any reason, they believe this is the time to talk about their wants, needs, problems, and so much more. I often say to them…”Does this look like a conference room?” It’s like they have you cornered at that moment, and they know it is the best time to ask for anything, because all you are thinking about is being alone. If you add to all this the nursing and doctoring moms have to do, and being the family receptionist, scheduler, and therapist, a stay-at-home mom’s life is pretty full to the point of overflowing. She is an amazing woman who can change a diaper, repair simple plumbing problems, build shelving, do room design and fashion design, along with a myriad of other jobs at the same time. She is a chef, an entertainer, a multi-tasker, a personal assistant, and Wonder Woman, all wrapped up in one. When she goes out in the Job World, most employers don’t even consider what the Stay-At-Home mom has been capable of doing. They just consider her to be the stereo type of a housewife. and never consider the talent it took to do all she does daily. The thing is she will be all these things the rest of her life, without notice, without pay, and without thanks. So the next time you ask your mother or your wife, to do something…think about all the things she is already doing for you, and show her some appreciation for it daily. The best way to show you appreciate her…HELP! Do some of the things on her list and do them right without being asked. Make a mom night, where she can sit and watch television, while other members of the family cook and clean without her help. Send her out for a spa day once in a while. Husbands, take on the kids when you get home, whether outside to play, or inside playing a game, just give mom a break from them. Also husbands, realize that when you get home and your wife wants to vent, it is because she needs to hear an adult voice, or needs to feel adult love and compassion from you. She needs to feel that she is loved and appreciated.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, realize your potential, your gifts and talents, and realize what a special woman you are. The world could not turn without you there in it!