A couple of years ago we visited a long time friend of my husband and stayed for dinner.
The friend is married with five children. The oldest two were in high school, the younger three similar aged as mine, early tween.
My husband’s friend works full time in finance. The mom is an elementary school teacher but was supplying on and off while a SAHM when the kids were young.
They have a very active life through their church, volunteering, and with extended family. She also volunteers at a variety of different organizations. They sing in choirs, act on movie sets and in theatres, play sports and travel.
They have a very exciting, busy life.
While sitting together after dinner, the kids off playing downstairs, we touched on a lot of different topics.
The conversations started out about work first as is often typical at these types of gatherings, then merged into parenting and kids activities. Soon the mom was telling us about all the things she was spearheading, and then, suddenly, they all looked at me.
“What do you do with your time?” they asked politely.
“Nothing, I stay home”, I responded.
I actually said those words out loud.
To this day I cannot let this comment go. Every time I sit on my couch, phone in hand, I hear my voice say those words again.
I do nothing.
Why would I undervalue myself this way? Why would I remark my days at home as a SAHM as unimportant nothings?
If I feel this way, by saying those words out loud, how can I expect others to feel differently?
Aside note: I don’t remember if my husband said something to rescue me out of this awkward situation. I suspect not since I would probably remember something this important. But this isn’t on him. It’s on me. I’m the one who devalued myself.
Instinctively I know I don’t do ‘nothing’. There may be periods of time when I ignore the mayhem and chaos around me (house work is so boring and it’s never done anyway), but on some level I feel like I’ve earned those periods of nothing.
My days of endlessly tending to nursing infants, active toddlers and athletically inclined preschoolers are long behind me. Yet the elementary school age hasn’t been relaxing exactly, either. Homework, kids’ anxieties, and emerging multiple sports interest have added a new dimension to parenting. Now, in the tween years, they’re in rep sports, often year round.
Life is busy. But then, it’s always been this way…
There aren’t many periods of downtime, although they do appear more frequently these days than when the kids were little. For a SAHM or stay-at-home dad, some downtime may occur during the school day. (Like, right after they leave the house for school and you sip your second coffee…am I right? Bliss!)
But downtime doesn’t mean doing ‘nothing’, even if you want to stare at the TV, or close your eyes momentarily. Call it introspection, or meditation if you prefer.
You are allowed to relax a little. I’m allowed to relax a little…
What I’m saying is, I want to take those words I spoke back. I want to change my answer as if justification is required. (It isn’t. But it feels like it…)
I look at my life now and see all of the responsibility I have to keep this ship afloat, and I do not take this lightly. I may not have a full-time job outside the house but I have ambitions nonetheless. Just because I don’t advertise those doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I do much more than nothing:
- I handle 95% of the household budget including paying bills, registering kids for stuff and managing debt
- I deal with about 75% of the housework which includes the delegation of the kids’ chores and requires supervision and/or inspection afterwards
- I do 50% of the parenting (correction, discipline)
- I do 80% of the tending of sick kids
- I do half or more of the endless chauffeuring
I also manage a girl’s baseball team, co-manage a ringette team, help with fundraising and attend most games whenever there is no conflict. (I like the games, even though I don’t always like the drives to and fro.)
I do homework with my kids. Even if it’s only supervising or encouraging, it’s still homework. 🙄
I also do 100% of the cooking and grocery shopping.
Sometimes I seek out challenges to keep my pre-baby skills active. I’m a certified technical writer with experience. So one day, I created from scratch, of my own free will, a brand new registration form for the Junior Tennis program at the little private club where my kids whack balls after school in the spring. The old form was atrocious and it bothered me for a long time. I finally realized no one will take on creating a better form, so I offered. Got me a discount toward their lessons out of that initiative. 😊
I ask myself when I sit on my couch during bouts of depression, mental fatigue or irritability, why do the kids have clothes that fit? Or shoes? Who remembers to fill out school permission forms? If a kid requires a stack of change for some school event, do they realize it’s my foresight that allows them to reach for a jar full of coins?
‘Nothing’ is not what I do, even if it looks that way. Like right now, when my husband stood in front of me to update me on some schedule change, it may have appeared to him that I am currently doing nothing. The laundry I’m planning on folding remains sitting in front of me in the basket, untouched, and the Olympics are broadcast on the TV in front of me. For all intents and purposes, it looks like I’m doing nothing at the moment.
But I’m not doing nothing. As a matter of fact, I’m doing something very important (to me).