*disclaimer* I really struggled with writing this post. I read a very thought provoking article and accompanying comments, which could fill a book or two. I was inspired to write my own thoughts about what I read. When I played the voice memo I had used to capture my talking points, I realized that I was simultaneously supporting and contradicting the author. I agreed in some areas and disagreed in others. I couldn’t find the balance of what I wanted to say. I almost wrote, “Hey here’s an article that I think you all should read!” and just posted that. . .which in hindsight may not have been such a bad idea.
Normally, a loaded headline like that and I’m clicking onto the next article. This particular day, however, I was deep into my feelings of angst and all but stood up in my chair, like a guest on Jerry Springer, “Yeah, that’s right! That’s right!” jabbing my index finger in the air to some unseen perpetrator of injustice.
Let me back up.
Like many married people with children, my husband and I have fallen into certain roles in our homes. He is the primary financial provider. I am the primary domestic provider. We didn’t sit down and assign tasks to one another; we slipped into these roles as we grew in our marriage and into parenthood.
The aforementioned article begans by the author, Chaunie Brusie, commenting on an article that she read discussing the trouble stay-at-home parents have when asked “What do you do all day?” This questions raises hackles for a number of stay-at-home moms (myself included) — and before I go any further, I know that that are stay-at-home dads as well. For the sake of this post, I’m using SAHM for brevity, but it does includes SAHDs. In any event, Brusie read on through the article, sifting through comments until she found one that read:
“I work full time, and my husband is a stay at home dad. We have two kids in school full day (8 to 3). Don’t you realize how much easier it is to hold a full time job when you have someone home with the kids? I can work late and travel when I need to and not worry about the kids. Our weekends are spent relaxing, instead of racing around to get errands and chores done. I can go back to work on Mondays having actually recharged over the weekend. It feels like such a luxury to ME to have a stay at home spouse.” (Brusie’s emphasis).
Brusie says was “flabbergasted” that anyone would think that. For a split second, so was I. Why would anyone consider having a stay at home spouse a luxury? Despite it being well into the 2000s, there is still an undercurrent of disdain for moms who work in the home. I know that I’m not alone in this feeling; I’ve talked with countless women who have turned themselves inside out in order to merit not having a 9 to 5. Just last week, a friend from the gym was saying that she was girding herself against the inveitable lack of interest she was sure to experience when she went to a function for her husband’s job. She, too, has been party to the deflation of conversation that occurs when she remarks about how she’s a SAHM. Never mind the fact that she did work in the past, works part time now, and is an all around amazing individual.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost a decade and let me tell you, there is only a small part of that that involves “staying home” — that’s another topic for another day, though. Like several of my friends, I have tried to justify my existence as such by taking on Herculean tasks inside and outside of the home just so when asked, “What do you do all day?”, I could rattle off any number of things:
I made gluten-free, peanut-free, dairy-free cupcakes for the student bake sale!
I hand addressed 150 envelopes for the PTA fundraiser!
I read the entire collection of Shel Silverstein Poems to the first grade and then taught them how to write sestinas!
I stitched Girls Scout badges onto sashes for the entire troop so that they’re ready in time for to deliver cookies that I ordered, sorted alphabetically by type and bagged up in hand crocheted delivery bags!
It was vital to me that other people knew I wasn’t lounging around, catching up on the early 2000 equivalent of #TGIT and eating Chex Mix. Again, I was worshiping at the Idol of Busyness because I had something to prove. I had to have an answer when met with a question that is inherently designed to create tension. I nkow that “What do you do all day?” is a pretty beningn question, but raise your hand if you read “What do you do all day?” in your regular voice? Raise your hand if you read “What do you do all day?” in a more judgmental tone. Right.
The Brusie article acknowledged that being at home was a luxury for her. After some consideration, she realized that being at home was a luxury for her husband.
When I’m in the weeds of daily life, wishing I had a clone, what I really want are words of affirmation — it’s one of my love languages (so is receiving gifts, are we surprised?). I do my best to remind the Hubs that I’m thankful for him and this life we have created together. I know that he does the same for me. Recognition that we are in this together, we’re both doing the best that we can and there’s no one else we’d rather be doing it with — that’s what I’m looking for. It’s the acknowledgement that who I am to him and to our family is paramount.
I’m having a hard time with the word luxury. I hear that word and think crushed velvet, mink coats, high count thread sheets, and flossing my teeth with freshwater pearls. It’s a state of extravagance. Having a second home is a luxury. Having a cleaning lady is a luxury. Having a spouse who is an exceptional partner and parent who can remove the worry, provide security in knowing that your children are well taken care of , and provide peace of mind in knowing that if there is an unexpected earache, forgotten bake sale items, and overdue library books, all of those knotted snafus will be untangled and laid straight — that’s not an extravagance, that’s blessing.