The conversation begins with typical chit-chat. Do you have kids? How many? How old are they? Once those basic facts are established, the focus turns to me. “And what do you do?”
My answer is simple. “I’m a full-time mom.”
Sometimes that answer is sufficient. Other times, it’s not. I can always tell by the look on their face if I should brace myself for the follow-up question.
“So, what do you do at home all day while your kids are in school?”
I usually respond with the first thing that pops into my head. “Oh, you know … the typical stuff. I do laundry. Clean the house. Cook dinner.”
Hearing myself makes me cringe. Ugh. I sound like Little Suzy Homemaker, fresh out of the fifties. That’s not me at all. I try another approach.
“I’m actually not home much. I get groceries. Return stuff to the library. Run errands. Buy birthday and Christmas gifts …” Now I sounded like a delivery service. I’ll tell them about my favorite part of being at home. I’m a freelance writer. I write articles for Guideposts Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Sometimes I interview people and ghostwrite their stories. I also write for the Quad Cities Moms Blog as well as my own blog.”
Then a twinge of guilt creeps in as I recall a few days recently that were not so productive. My situation is a little unique because I have multiple sclerosis. Truth be told, if I’m having a bad MS day, I may not accomplish much more than a shower and a nap.
But no matter how I respond to the question, it never feels right. I do a million little things every day to keep things running in our family. How do I explain that?
Honestly, I had never planned to stay home once the kids started school. But when my last daughter headed off to kindergarten, I felt it was time to reevaluate my life. I had spent ten years at home with my kids. Maybe it was time to pursue my hopes and dreams.
In the midst of figuring that out, I felt pressured to “get a real job.” Not from friends or family. This pressure came from myself. I mean, it’s one thing to stay home and chase after a busy toddler or care for a newborn all day. It’s quite another to stay home while your kids are at school.
I’ll admit, there were perks to being at home without kids. A more flexible schedule gave me time to meet my husband for lunch every week. Our evenings were always busy with the kids’ activities. Sometimes lunch was our only chance to catch up and connect.
Being home during the day allowed for more time and energy for my kids when they were home. Making time for conversation is a major deal with teenaged girls. I was glad to have some flexibility during the day, because I ran my tail off every night between 3:30 and 9 PM as I took girls to sports practices, after school activities, and appointments. My being home allowed my kids opportunities to be in activities they loved.
Today, my husband and I agree that staying home is right for our family. His career often requires long hours and a fair amount of travel. I’m happy to be a consistent asset amongst the chaos in our home. Everything runs more smoothly with me at home.
As a side note … I like to think my husband’s successful career is directly related to my help and support at home. He can do his job to the best of his ability because I’m taking care of all the details of life at home. Marriage is a partnership. We are both necessary parts of this team. I do my part and he does his.
I used to think that by working outside the home, I would be contributing to a better life for my family. Turns out, that wasn’t necessarily so.
What do I do all day? It’s an awkward question with no perfect answer. But it can only make me cringe if I let it. Instead of scrambling to defend myself, I can answer that question with one simple word: “Enough.”
At the end of the day, I can attest. What I do is enough.