I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids. This year my youngest child started school and I amstill a stay-at-home mom. You heard me right, my kids are at school during the day and I'm at home.
And why should you care?
If you are not staying home like I do, I would wager that the first thing you thought when you read the above statement is, “What do you do all day?” And the reason I know you're thinking that is because in the last few months, dozens of people have asked me the same question. People who work part-time or full-time, people who stay home with young kids, even people who used to stay home while their kids were at school but that was so long ago they've now forgotten what exactly it was they spent all of their time on.
Why is it so interesting to other people what I spend my time on? If I said I spend whole days scrubbing the tiles in my shower with a toothbrush, would that satisfy your curiosity? What if I admitted that after dropping my kids off at school I come home, put my pyjamas back on, and sleep for six more hours? Would that answer your question? Because here's my question:
I haven't always stayed at home. I have a university degree and I spent several years working at a good full-time job that I liked. I quit after my second child was born for various reasons. I make decisions just like everyone else makes decisions, with careful thought and planning based on what I believe is best for me and my family.
But now that my youngest is in school it seems everyone thinks my ability to run my own life is seriously impaired. I know there are people who respect my choices, but they seem few and far between. And there's even other moms in the same boat as me, but presently all of them are cowering under their beds while mobs of well-meaning relatives bang on their windows, shouting “WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?!”
In my experience, there are four kinds of people who ask me this question
1) People who think I must be rich, lazy, or both. Because, really, why else would I choose to stay home when my husband is at work and the kids are at school?
2) People who are jealous. These people aren't trying to criticize me, they just really wish they had “all that free time,” too. The truth is, while my days are mostly self-directed, I don't have a lot of “free time” to relax. I get pretty stressed out with everything I have to do, just like other people (surprise!).
3) People who think they know what I should be doing all day. These people irk me the most. They are the ones who quietly judge my lifestyle and talk behind my back about how baffled they are by what I do (or don't do). They regularly suggest to my husband that he doesn't need to do things like go to the bank after work because, “Your wife can do it. She's home.” As if I'm nothing but his servant. They also drop not-so-subtle hints about what they think would be best for my family, “I'm sure your kids would love to be home-schooled.” Or who push me to volunteer for their cause, “Why don't you sign up for this? You have the time.” And sometimes they send me job ads, “Thought you'd be interested since you must get bored being home all the time!”
4) People who actually care. These are people with whom I've had a close relationship for years. Friends who are truly interested in my life and have respect for my choices, regardless of what I choose. If you're one of these people then feel free to ask me what I'm up to because I know, based on our history, that you are not judging me but are just trying to be supportive. The truth is, I'm actually a very busy person and if you sincerely care about me I will gladly fill you in on all the stuff that's going on in my life.
If you are not in the last group, don't bother asking me what I do all day because I know you don't genuinely care. Your question is steeped in judgement or expectation and I have no obligation to satisfy your curiosity. I don't ask you to account for how you spent your workday or what activities you did with your children today and you don't need to express false interest in whatever it is I'm up to, either.
But if you are one of those close friends who actually cares, let's have coffee one morning next week! After all, I probably have nothing else to do anyway.
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