It begins in pre-school.
For some reason unknown to me teachers love to ask their kids about their families. It's a touchy subject in my opinion because some kids' family lives are not so hunky dory. I usually dread this interrogation because one of the questions always asked is what do your mommy and daddy do? Even as four year old my kids knew what this meant. What do your parents do for a living? Their stock answer for me is nothing. Once in a blue moon a stay at home dad gets the same response. However, the child will also add, mower of lawns, fixer of cars and raker of leaves.
Nothing? I know I should just brush it off. Childrens' brains aren't fully developed. My God my pre-schooler could barely wipe herself yet! Overreacting is my specialty so instead I make a federal case out of it. As Sara's teacher read her answer I interjected. With a smile and a gentle tone I go on to say the I don't do nothing. I stay home with my children and take care of the house. My response is met with blank stares by the other kids and a chuckle from the teacher who seemed irritated by the interruption. Lucky me! I was surrounded my mothers who had to take a half or personal day to attend this charming presentation.
I gulp down a few more juice boxes and stuff my face with pretzels and try to blank out the rest of the ceremony. Despite my attempts to day dream about Channing Tatum I listen to the rest of the answers. Apparently occupations like doctors, dentists, farmers and teachers are popular with the dads. According to my daughter, her father is a computer man. It seems he is in charge of all them them at his office. He is in fact an IT Manager. Resisting the attempt to lock myself in the bathroom I hear the teacher rattle off some more information about my fellow mothers. I was surrounded by lawyers, professors, business owners and for Pete's sake even an actress!
Sara is my youngest of three. This is the last time I'll ever have to hear that I do nothing. My kids are not malicious. They simply don't understand the a stay at home mother is a profession. That term is foreign to them. I know in my heart that they love me and appreciate what I do for them. Most of the time anyway. I wouldn't trade being home for my children for any promotion, pay raise or employee of the month award. I will stay or work from home for as long as I can.
I shared my feelings on this topic with my husband. He fully supported my decision to leave my career. I am not jealous of him. Quite the opposite. I am grateful that he has a well paying job that affords me the "luxury" to not work. I'm grateful for the benefits and insurance that comes with his job. He's said to me a million times he couldn't do what I do every day. So I share my concern with him. As a couple I want to explain to our children that each of their parents roles are invaluable. I honestly don't think the kids dwell on the topic. If we speak to them they'll probably be relieved that they're not in trouble. For my sake, we agreed to talk to them. We'd tell them that being a stay at home mom is equally important as their father's profession.
Typically I am the spouse that gets the first word. After dinner and before dessert I'm surprised that my husband initiates the conversation. The kids remain at the table transfixed; the thought of ice cream cast out their minds. Not! They grumble. Then they wait to find out who did what wrong and what will be the consequences. Relieved that no one is going to solitary they listen. Sara is still very young and impressionable and the boys are almost teens. As teenagers I want impress upon them that having their mother "unemployed" does not mean I don't work.
My husband is eloquent. I expected a lecture. Through some questions and answers the kids themselves came to understand that their parents' jobs were equally honorable.
- How do you get to school in the morning and who picks you up?
- Who helps you with your homework? Who asks your teachers to give you extra help?
- How do you always have clean clothes to wear? How do those grass stains disappear?
- Who seats freezing in the bleachers at your hockey practices?
- Why do you always have your favorite dinners to eat?
- Who is it that sleeps on the floor next to your bed when you're sick? Who's caught every cold or stomach virus you've ever had?
- Tell me, who let's you stay home from school when you're just having a bad day?
- Jake, Scott and Sara, who defends you when you're falsely accused?
- Who is there to listen to your worries, forgive you for things you've done wrong and answers questions you have as you grow up?
Being a mother who stays at home cannot be defined in a few sentences. My role, your roles as a SAHM are endless; they are worthy of an essay. Gainful employment is just as important. Where would we be if not for the ER doctor to treat my sick child at three in the morning? How can we stay safe without law enforcement? Who can we thank except for teachers to educate and enrich our kids? I'm simply stating that being a mom without a paycheck entails some of the responsibilities of the professions I mentioned. We comfort our sick kids, we protect them from bullies and we teach them by example. We teach them to be respectful and responsible people.
I understand that SAHMs are not on the proverbial list of professions. I am proud to be a SAHM. I am proud to be in a community of women like myself. I support women in any profession they choose and might I add that on top of working outside the home they're never off the clock. No mother is every off duty.
Being a mother at home is a complex undertaking. I think children, my own as well, say mom does nothing but in their hearts believes she does everything.