Not Working

I’m not even sure if I should be talking about this, really, since I haven’t exactly figured out how to say what’s on my mind and I am probably going to horribly offend someone (unintentionally), but this is what I have been thinking about  so that’s what you get.

Anyway, yesterday Mr. E and I were sitting around the dinner table and grousing about our respective days and I said something along the lines of “Oh, please, I’ve already done two loads of dishes AND I made dinner AND I put away all the laundry” and he looked at me and said “Yeah, but that’s your job.”

I was quick to inform him that no, raising our child was my job. Feeding and changing and entertaining a two year old is my job.  All the rest of it, the laundry and the gardening and the mopping and the cooking, that’s just extra.  In my humble opinion. Mr. E just changed the subject, I think, or we went to get ice cream or Eli started screaming about trucks,  but the conversation really stuck with me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Because really, when you’re a Stay At Home Mom, who decides what your job is?  In “traditional” couples, it’s a proven fact that no matter who does what or holds what job, the woman does more housework, and I know that even if I went to an office every day, I’d do more laundry, I’d make dinner more, I’d clean up the living room more.  I just care more about that stuff.

But somehow having the cleaning and the cooking defined as my “job” rankles.

And it’s tied up with the fact that when you’re a SAHM, there’s a very real undercurrent passing all about you – a constant implication on the part of the world that you’re a slacker.  And so you begin to spend a lot of time trying to prove to the world, to yourself, that you DO work hard.  That you work JUST AS HARD if not harder as anyone else.  Before you know you’re in some kind of never ending competion with your husband –  at the end of the day you throw his cushy office job in his face and he bitches about he has to get up at 6 am EVERY SINGLE MORNING and doesn’t get to lie around in the  yard reading books, EVER.

And the truth is I don’t get up at 6 am, and I don’t want to. I don’t miss my office job because I never really liked making photo copies and taking meeting minutes that much.  On the other hand, I won’t lie, digging poop out of someone else’s scrotum three times a day doesn’t exactly light my pants on fire either.  So there’s that.

I can’t figure out where it comes from – this need to prove all the time just how damn hard I’m working, the lists I recite of all the petty shit I completed at the end of the day.   It’s a constant defensiveness, an endless competition I signed myself up for.

It’s not because of Mr. E, it’s really not – my husband never fails to tell me that he thinks I’m a great mom, that he appreciates everything I do, that he’ll do whatever he can to help.  He takes over baby duty the second he walks in the door and most nights he doesn’t relinquish it until it’s time for Senor Pants to go to bed.

And what prize am I angling, for exactly?  What do I hope Mr. E will say after I rattle off all I’ve done in a day?  Because if I ask  him to make dinner, he will.  If I ask him to bring me a glass of wine, he will.  If I ask him to let me read a book by myself and if I ask him to pick green beans while I sit and read my book and drink my wine, he will.

I tell myself that maybe I should just stop complaining about the laundry and the dishes.  Maybe I should stop listing off everything I’ve done and expecting some kind of prize at the end of the litany.  Maybe I should admit to myself that since my husband makes ALL the money, and I don’t work outside the home, that this shit IS actually kind of my job.

And yet, I can’t.  I just can’t.  And I have no idea why.

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27 Responses

  1. well, i’m not a mom in any sense of the word – SAH or otherwise – so i’m only going to say that raising little people is absolutely one of the hardest jobs on the planet and i’m forever amazed at anyone that can do it well, whether they stay at home or work in an office or have a part-time nanny or a full-time maid or whatever!

    but what i really wanted to say was that this line made me laugh out loud, and it was much needed for me today:

    “On the other hand, I won’t lie, digging poop out of someone else’s scrotum three times a day doesn’t exactly light my pants on fire either.”

    thanks 🙂

  2. Jim and I are actually kind of on the opposite of this spectrum- he probably wishes that I had a mindset more like yours, in which the dusting and mopping and vacuuming were extras and the playing on the floor with Little People was mandatory. I am very compulsive about cleaning, though, and always have been. It’s HARD for me to let go of my mental chore list and just play around with kids all day. Plus I really hate messing with housework in the evenings so I want it done when Jim gets home… But I know I should make entertaining the kids more of a priority and not worry so much about dustballs in the corners.
    And I do technically agree. Watching them is my job during the day, not the laundry. Jim has always said this too. But we both know who’s ultimately responsible for that stuff getting done…

  3. I know what you mean, and I don’t know what to do/think about it either.

  4. I never thought about it that much- possibly because I haven’t been a permanent SAHM yet. But I think that my opinion differs a little, when I am off work for whatever amount of time, I view pretty much everything that occurs under our condo roof as my job. I do delegate a few chores to my husband, like vacuuming and cleaning the cat litter boxes and cooking the occasional meal, but it’s all my responsibility overall. I think that if I just viewed my job as raising the kids, I’d lose my mind. At least with cleaning/organizing, there is a measurable effect and result, and when I look around at the end of the day, I can feel a sense of having accomplished something. Child-rearing is my main job, but it is definitely lacking in feedback and it takes a lot longer to see the results.

    Honestly though, I did almost all the cleaning and household stuff when I was working full-time too. Not because my husband isn’t willing, but because I want it done in my time and my way, which means I need to do it.

    Interesting post!

  5. I gotta tell ya, women who work outside the home can’t stop “competing” either. And that competition, the need to WIN at whatever stupid contest I entered myself in (you know, THE ONE THAT DOESN’T EXIST) is going to hurt me, my marriage, MY KID if I don’t quit it. It’s the root of all our fights, all my feelings of inadequacy and anger. Yeah but I DID THIS… I say it all the time. I HAVE GOT TO STOP.

    No one wins at marriage or motherhood or life. You do the best you can with your own lot.

    It’s impossibly hard to remember, to keep in mind when the resentment starts to build or the insecurities start to eat away at us.

    And you’re RIGHT, when I ask Mike to do ANYTHING, he does it. So, why don’t I do what I can and ask him to help when I can’t. Why isn’t it just that simple?

    I’m working on it. But, just so you know, you’re not alone.

  6. I am exactly in this place right now. I yell at Jason about it constantly, it feels like. He was a SAHD for awhile, and managed to do all the housework. But that was with one kid, and now we have two. And I ALWAYS gave him a break…the last time I had all to myself, I had to go to Target to get diapers. not exactly me time.
    I think that is my biggest problem. Sure, I whine about the dishes, the vaccuming, etc…but it is really the ME time I miss…and he doesn’t get that for some reason. He gets 8 hours a day to be away at work.
    And I am pretty sure I DO do more work than he does. 🙂

  7. I consider all that crap my job but the fact that it’s going to be something we fight over when I go back to work, hacks me off. It shouldn’t be something that is taken for granted. it shouldn’t be something that he has no concept of how much I do, how much doesn’t get done or the fact that even though all this IS my job, there is one thing I can’t do (the dusting because of my allergies) and yet he still flakes on it. UGH. It grates.

  8. I don’t know who’s job the cleaning is at my place but whoever’s job it is totally sucks at it. HA!

    …interesting stuff nonetheless.

  9. I don’t mind being the chore person, because most of the time, I like things done my way. THAT SAID, I do not pick up socks because you threw them down. I do not wipe your toothpaste off the countertop. I do not spend my morning chiseling dried cereal off the sink because you were too lazy to rinse it down the drain. The things that tend to bother me are the little things he could do without a second thought, but when he doesn’t, it feels like I’m being taken advantage of. I don’t mind doing laundry – after all, I’m already doing my own plus the laundry of two kids. But when you take off your socks and leave them on the floor for me to pick up for you? RUDE. Just RUDE. And I don’t do rude.

  10. Oh wow, I can really relate to this. I work part time but usually get stuck with the dishes and the laundry as well as entertaining a very mobile baby 10+ hours a day, on the days I’m not working. Why? Because I’m not the one working full time. But it’s like a contest to see who is working harder. Why are we competing?

    Motherhood is largely a thankless job. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But I need to hear that my “work” is valuable. Just a little personality quirk, there…

  11. My mom was a SAHM for my entire life. I realize now it was the most precious gift she ever gave my siblings and I. Cherish your life with Senor Pants…trust me, he will remember it when he grows up.

  12. I am right there with you, and my god I struggle with it every, single day.

  13. The thing that I struggle with is that it never ends. If it’s a job then when is it quitting time? If being a SAHM is an 8 hour a day job, then where are the 8 hours to actually get stuff done?

    I think you totally have it right – keeping the child happy and healthy is the job and if you can fit in other stuff? BONUS. But not required.

    I work outside the home and while I am still struggling with it conceptually I KNOW that it would just be a different set of frustrations and problems if I was a SAHM. Being a SAHM is not easy.

    Being a mother/runner-of-the-household is tough and nobody gets enough credit for it. This is why day spas were invented; so husbands could have a child-free, quiet and happy place to send wives as a thank you.

  14. Sorry, but if you are a stay at home mom, running the household is part of raising a child (clean, organized nutruring environment, nutiriton, clean clothes, etc, etc.). No need to feel like you have to justify the importance of the work you do or feel put upon. It’s just part of the package.

  15. I work, as a lawyer no less. I make $120,000 less than my husband. I’m not comfortable with it. So I’m perpetually trying to prove my worth to Aaron even though he doesn’t ask me to do that.

  16. I work full time outside the home, and I do most of the housework and laundry. I’m constantly listing what I did, and how much I’ve accomplished because I want to convince *someone* that I’m doing a good job. I think I’m going to try to stop that. It can’t be good role-modeling for our daughter.

  17. I read your posts like this and think, “we are SO much alike.” I know I will come back and read this in a few years and think it again.

  18. Definitely given me food for thought. I love to hear all the opinions accross the board – SAHM’s and working moms alike. I’m currently cooking baby number 1 for us and because of my age, it looks like we’ll jump right into numbers 2 and 3 if all hell doesn’t break loose with number 1, and leave me traumatized for life. That said, I’m looking at at least a couple of years as a SAHM who’s worked all her life. I actually DO like my job for numerous reasons, so I do find myself wondering what life will be like on the other side. Thanks for the honesty.

  19. There are days I am so thankful for the ability to drop my daughter off at the daycare, just for the reasons you’ve listed. For whatever reason, I do make the housework MY job. It is overwhelming. I think I would crack if I spent all day, everyday picking up the same things over and over and over again.

  20. Questions – You were home before your son was born, weren’t you? So I guess my opinions would be based around what you did for the home back then – was cooking, cleaning, home maintenance “your job” then? If so, then I would dare say it still is, although dividing things more now that there’s the kiddo to care for…

  21. I have to say, SAHM’s work harder than anyone I know. Even if all you do is take care of your kids that’s A LOT. I work part time this time of year so I’m home an awful lot raising my offspring and it’s hard work!

  22. I have the same problem. I tried going back to work which helped only because my husband keeps begging me to quit.
    So we have clearly established that digging poo out is the ‘shittier’ job and getting to go to work and have no one puke on you means you get to listen to the sah person complain. Then get them wine with their medal.

  23. As a fellow stay at home Mom this IS our job description: Play with kids, feed kids, do not put kids in harms way. I feel that if they are not pissing themselves cranky by the time my husband gets home then I have done my job,

    My husband will also do anything I ASK him to. Why am I bitter? Because I have to ask him to DO IT.

    Ugh, If men came with mind reading capabilities we would all be happier.

  24. My husband helps out a lot too, and has often told me that his job is easier than mine. The biggest issue I have with being a SAHM is the fact that the world thinks I’m being lazy by not having a career on top of having kids. SAHM’s don’t get thanked by their kids, they sometimes don’t get thanked by their husbands, and they never get thanked by American society. AND, we don’t get paid. We work our butts off 24 hours a day, and the woman who says she gets “paid in hugs and kisses and wouldn’t have it any other way” has been sniffing bleach a little too long.

    I love being a SAHM. I’ve always hated office work. I have no desire whatsoever to go out and find a job. But I wouldn’t mind a little recognition from socitey, either.

    On the other hand, I’ve always thought cleaning, laundry, and making dinner was part of the job description. I call myself a “Homemaker” and part of making my home a safe and happy place for my kids is making sure it is picked up and we have clean dishes to eat off of and healthy meals to eat on them. This does not mean that I clean incessently. On days when I’m especially tired or my kids are driving me nuts, I don’t do jack. And my husband understands and doesn’t care. If I’m behind on laundry, he runs a few loads for me. He takes over dish duty on the weekends. Being a man, he doesn’t notice or care when every toy we own is on the floor, so I don’t even bother asking him to help pick up, be he helps out everywhere else I need it. Also, we agreed years ago that when he is in the house, he has diaper duty. I encourage my kids to hold their poop until after 6 pm.

  25. I once read an article that stay at home dads out source everything, the cooking, the cleaning, but stay at home moms feel they have to do it all.

    I have no idea why I’m telling you this, but I felt it was relevant.

    I work part-time, but I’m the say way. Since I work part-time, I feel like I have to make up the part-time by doing EVERYTHING ELSE. It’s annoying. Oh, and since I work part-time, I’m the one who stays home with the 4 year old when he gets sick, yet I still work.

    Sorry, maybe I should post this on my own blog.

  26. OMG, I could have written this post myself. I cook, clean, do laundry, keep up with a 2 1/2 year old, take care of a 3 month old, run errands, coupon clip, buy groceries, handle all of the doctor/vet/pest control appointments and its all MY job. 24/7/365. I’ve even been sleeping in a seperate bedroom since the baby was born so we don’t wake my husband in the night since he has a JOB and needs his sleep. I love being a SAHM but I didn’t sign up to be slave labor.

  27. What an absolutely fascinating and well written post.

    I had to forward the poop-scrotum line to several of my working mom friends (I’m a working mom too).

    Truthfully, I don’t know what kind of a stay at home mother I would be, although I could definitely write from home (I’m a writer/editor). I consider myself a homebody, but I just don’t know. And that—the questioning myself—is something I can’t just let go of.

    (Here via She Likes Purple, by the way)

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