A few weeks ago, maybe even as more as a few months ago, I had to set the record straight with someone about what it is I do all day. This is not the first time that I’d had a conversation of this nature. I doubt it will be the last time. It was, however, the first time, I found myself explaining in precise detail the make-up of my day to an unlikely audience: my children.
The four of us were in my bathroom, the girls in various stages of having their hair done (what else is new). C was sitting on the vanity, balancing precariously on her tiny heinie so as not to fall into the sink. V was sitting on the floor, rifling through one of the three containers full of hair care products and tools, pausing every few minutes to insert a clip, a hair tie or a dollop of product into her hair. M was sitting on the stool in front of the mirror, her head flopping around on her neck with each pull of the brush through her hair. When it comes to blowing her hair dry, she gives me as much tension in her neck as a newborn bird. When she’s catching an attitude with me, that neck is so tight and her is on swivel like she was born to it. Lord, to be 10 years old. . .but that’s another story.
We ladies are in this tableau of hair care and Mommy/Daughter time, discussing this, that, and a third, when C says (and forgive me for forgetting what prompted this declaration), “Well, Daddy works much harder than you do, Mom.”
*insert record scratch*
Even M knew that C had crossed some kind of line because she sat up a little straighter, her neck got a little stiffer and she shook her head just one small, slight time in her sister’s direction like, “You done did it now.”
C’s eyes flitted from me, who had turned off the hairdryer to make sure I had heard her correctly, to M to had pursed her lips together to prevent anything from coming out, to V who was completely oblivious, before finally resting on me.
Me: I’m sorry, can you repeat that?
C: Um, well. I said that Daddy worked much harder than you?
Me: Yeah, that’s what I thought you said. What makes you say that? I’m asking because I truly want to know (and because I’m about to use everything you say against you so that you nevah evah evah EVAH string those words together in that order again).
C: Well. . .
and she proceeded to list all the ways that my husband worked harder than me.
- He works in an office.
- He travels for work. A lot.
- He works long hours.
That was it.
I put the hairdryer down on the vanity, took a deep breath and in about three seconds, ran about a dozen scenarios in my mind on how best to respond. My first thought was, “Really, little girl? You really want to dance this with me?” I may have even said that out loud — but with a smile so she knew that I wasn’t truly going to dig in her can.
“Let me tell you something,” I began, settling myself against the vanity so that I could look each of my girls in the eye as I spoke. “What I do makes it possible for Daddy to do what he does.”
And then I proceeded schooled them on the ins and outs of what it takes to keep this ship upright and on course. The list was detailed and exhaustive; I should have had them take notes. I blew up every bullet point C used as evidence, lifting the corner of the curtain for a peek at what I do that enables their father to work in an office that requires considerable travel and long hours. Not to mention, what enables them to have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as well kept hair, clean clothes, books to read, toys to play with, and the thousand other little things that make up their lives.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m a writer and photographer? I really should have made them take notes.
Me: Just because I don’t work in an office, or travel overnight, or work “long hours” (ha! and I did use air quotes because it was totes appropes), doesn’t mean Daddy works harder than I do. We do different types of work and we work hard at whatever we put our minds to. Do you understand? Do all of you understand?
M: Yes, Mom.
C: Yes, Mom.
V: Can I have dessert?
Please don’t mistake what I have written as dissatisfaction with or ennui from being a SAHM — we all know, rarely does the SAHM stay at home. Please don’t mistake this post as a diatribe against being the parent who keeps the home fires burning. This is not a display of lack of gratitude. I am fortunate to be able to be at home with my children. I am fortunate that I can pursue areas that interest me and that I have a husband who not only encourages me to do so, but also helps me find avenues in which to do it.
He works hard.
I work hard.
It’s not a competition. There’s no me vs. him. He’s my biggest cheerleader and I’m his. It’s Team Us, and teamwork makes the dream work. Now that’s crystal clear to our girls.
I really should have made them take some notes.