My friend wanted to know what stay-at-home-moms with kids in school did on a daily basis.
On the surface, a very unpolitically correct question. It oozzes of swarm. But, I love this woman, and I know that she was sincere. It's not a life that she leads, and to her, it looks very good. Managable. Satisfying. She wondered why it was considered so hard.
I didn't write out the answer to her question in that post for a couple of reasons:
1-It would have distracted from my point, and I was already way long on my wordcount.
2- It is a very public forum frequented by, mostly, women and I did not want trolls to attack them in their own home. THAT would have been a paradox: the antithesis of my point AND proving my point.
This page is also a public forum. But it's my house. And I have control of what comments get posted and what ones do not. ( Oh yeah, I will. I have.)
So here I shall answer her question because I know that it is an honest question for a lot of people. The life of a SAHM with pre-school aged children is well documented elsewhere. It's crazy and chaotic and boring and wild and energy-sapping and hard. Really hard. I'm not going to talk about that SAHM, I'm going to talk about the one who has made it through those years and is now faced with time home. Alone. Ish.
This is not a contest about which is harder, to be a working mom or a SAHM. And it's not a debate about politically correct terminology. Here in my house a working mom gets a paycheck, a SAHM does not. BOTH work. yeesh. Move on about that, k?
I'm answering one question from ONE point of view. To compare the different days of women would be futile. ALL OF THEM ARE HARD. Some are less and some are more hard, but it's like an argument about the best fruit.
Most of the former SAHMs that I know took on paying jobs or went back to school themselves as the children headed off. The ones who did not either homeschool their children, or their children have medical needs and are home because they are frequently shuttling them to appointments. The rest (which are very much in the minority) fill their days. That is the SAHM I am talking about here. (And I'm going to call her Sam, the acronym is impersonal).
But I know this: when we have time to fill we have more than enough things to fill it with. Sam is cleaning her house, paying her bills, and running errands.She is volunteering. She is writing a blog, or a book or scrapbooking or making quilts for hospitals and homeless. She is helping her husband out in his business. She is running the Band Boosters or Room Moming or Driving for Meals on Wheels.She is organizing and maintaining the County Public Gardens. She fills her time with a cobbled together job that has no income but requires a great deal of energy and time.
"But", say you (and said my friend) "I do all those things AND work from 8-5. I never take a lunch, and I manage to volunteer at my kid's school, I shop, I clean, I run errands, I am a room mom, I do all of that, too!"
(And this is where the piss you off part comes in.)
No, you don't. Not the same way.
When Sam left the corporate world her standards changed. The usable portion of her corporate skillset and drive were put towards her new duties. She is always looking for ways to improve, and does more of the same thing volunteer activities. She isn't a better Room Mom, but she may be Room Mom for two classes, library volunteer on Mondays and copier room volunteer on Wednesdays. (And if she is trying to make you feel bad about the time, and the methods that you use to volunteer, send her my way. We'll have coffee and I will make sure you and she are on the same page, because
For instance, if my friend were to go to Sam's house right now, she would think it pretty tidy. But Sam sees a mess. She see things that she wants to clean, or tidy or repaint or change. She sees her house as much of a mess as you see yours. She knows that her list of To-do's is unending and she has deadlines for herself. Her day is just as task oriented as yours, even if you don't think that her tasks are all that important. And, you know what? This is a sore spot for Sam- she might not either. Because ('nother piss off moment) she doesn't get paid for them.
This pay thing is a big deal. It most likely has created a power-struggle between Sam and her breadwinner. His expectations are high because he works hard, too, and now her "excuse" of having the kids underfoot and requiring 24/7 supervision have all gone to school. He wants proof that she is working as hard as he is, and if he doesn't say it, she knows he is thinking it. They fight about this a lot.
But Sam does have free time to schedule as she sees fit. And that is nice. Maybe she has lunch out or sees a movie with a friend in the middle of the week. It's a perk. (I do this maybe once a month. Never more, usually less) Although she wonders if the money that she is spending at lunch could go to something more worthwhile for the family. Sometimes she buys something that she knows her husband would not approve of. She knew that, but it was just a little FU moment for her. A moment where she had all the power and exercised it to her advantage. Selfishly.
See, Sam is no saint. Sure, she took some time to organize a bunch of Pinterest boards that make her look like an Interiordesigningmasterbakerfahionista, and she *may* have overdone it at the last birthday party when they took 15 OPKs ( Other People's Kids) to the amusement park and bought them all matching shirts. But she decided that this was important. For whatever reasons. And for Sam,one of those reasons is what is impeding her saint status: Sam is grasping for some sort of measurable success. She wants some type of tangible proof that she is worthwhile and contributing something to the family and society. And she likes to hear,"I don't know how you do it!" which, to her, means she appears to have her shit together and someone noticed.
Here is her average day:
6:00 Wake up, shower, get kids up and fed, make lunches
7:00 First kids out the door,(may require trip through drop off lane)/organize day/maybe get her daily chores started
8:30-9:00 Last kids out the door, eat breakfast, clean kitchen
9:15 One blissful cup of coffee in silence, read social media/paper
9:30 -12:00 Laundry/clean a kid's closet/clean whatever gets cleaned on that day of the cleaning schedule/get ready for next week's garage sale/volunteer obligations/tackle that list the husband left for her/maybe she goes to the gym or works out for an hour in there.
12:00-12:05 Lunch of leftovers or something that she can eat in the car
12:00-2:30: Car based errands. Maybe visiting grandparents and cleaning their toilets, maybe it's her day to laminate at the elementary school, or grocery shopping or any number of scheduled volunteer jobs
3:00 Home to meet the bus as the first kids come home/ computer based tasks (yes, this may be when she screws around on pinterest or facebook or some message board)/work on projects from morning
4:00 Last kid comes home
4:00-5:30 Spending time with kids, helping with homework, making several runs for after school activity shuttling,cleaning out backpacks/ kids in and out, OPKs in and out/ iron or fold laundry or something domestic while yelling,"close the front door!" or " Who is in the fridge NOW?"
5:30- Make dinner/empty dishwasher. Maybe dinner went into the crockpot earlier, but now it's Get That Supper on the Table time.
6:00 Dinner. Husband comes home.
6:15 Dinner over, clean kitchen.
7:00-9: Drive kids to evening activities/ do something as a family/have a gullywasher of a fight about something stupid.
9:00 Wrestle kids into bed/ watch the showtime series you DVR'd that has a lot of boobs in it so you have to wait until the kids are in bed to watch/ clean the house if spent day out at other obligations
10:00 Bed. Maybe. Or maybe stay up and work on a hobby, or a newsletter or blog.
Because, like all working moms, every one is different. There is no typical day. And we can't say what should be important to another person. We might not share, but to say it isn't important is critical. And we can't be critical because it serves no purpose. It does nothing to support our friends.
This Sam is not me. On paper, I suppose I am a SAHM,- I don't make a lot of money from my work. But I fill my non-kid at home time writing, or researching topics to write about, or reading writers who write better than I do. That is my important thing.This post took up most of my Saturday morning hours. Oh sure, I stopped to take one kid to ball practice, then the other two to the library and to get a present for a birthday party tonight. Now I have to go clean the bathrooms and dust the house because I neglected that all week in favor of the aforementioned work. Just like a lot of other women I know.