Recently, a childless friend of mine said to me (with no hint of irony) that she could never be a stay-at-home mom and just "sit around eating bon-bons all day."
I guess since I work part-time she figured that I didn't qualify for membership into this extremely lazy group of women.
I sat on the other end of the phone speechless. Oh, how I wish I came back with some sarcastic and witty retort. Something like, "Today, I cleaned up five shit diapers; read 543 books; made sure They were clean and fed; practiced walking with one; practiced writing letters with the other; made sure both get enough sleep during the day so as not to avoid dinnertime meltdowns; stopped 3-year-old from strangling one-year-old; did dishes 62 times; cleaned up various and sundry juice, milk, cheerios, yogurt, etc. messes; wiped noses; gave hugs; answered 662 questions that all began with 'why'; cooked dinner for everyone; did laundry for a small army (spills equals more dirty clothes)...Wait, there's something else...Oh, I know...I always forget to add 'Eat bon bons' to the list! Thank you so much for reminding me, seriously."
But, I didn't. And, it still haunts me.
Then, on my blogosphere travels, I came across this article in the Washington Post Carolyn Hax column that just ...nailed it.
So, I know I'm a little late here, but this is my own personal valentine to all you mommies out there whether you stay at home, work part time, work full time, or whatever.
Much love and enjoy,
Tell Me About It by Carolyn Hax : Friend really doesn't get the kid thing
My best friend has a child. Her: Exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .
OK. I've done Internet searches; I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please, no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners. . . . I do all those things, too, and I don't do them every day. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day, and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail?
I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events), and I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth?
Is this a contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids, and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.
— Tacoma, Wash.
Relax and enjoy. You're funny.
Or you're lying about having friends with kids.
Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.
I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand — while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom friends are either lying or competing with you — is disingenuous indeed.
So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.
It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.
It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.
It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family members and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting the constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.
It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy. Everything.
It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy — and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, you wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend — a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends or marvel at how much more productively she uses her time.
Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.
● E-mail "Tell Me About It": firstname.lastname@example.org; fax: 1-202-334-5669; or write: "Tell Me About It," c/o The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.