I am so sick and tired of people thinking I do nothing. That because I don’t go to an office or a factory and clock in for a 9 to 5 job – that therefore I have oodles of time on my hands and I’m oh-so-lucky-to-be-idle-me. Indeed, if one more person asks me what I do allllllll daaaaaay long, I shall beat them senseless with a roasting pan. I also hate the assumption that because I have chosen to stay at home with my children – therefore I am braindead and need to be liberated from my patriarchal shackles.
To all those who have enough time on their own hands to wonder what I do, let me tell you instead what I DON’T do. I don’t meet a variety of friends for long lunches at different cafes each day. (I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of the delightful eateries around about town – since I’ve yet to go to any of them.) I don’t go for Happy Hour drinks after work to network/chit chat/ gossip/compare notes at any of the local watering holes. Ladies Nite at the V-Bar? What’s that? I don’t dream up 101 reasons why I must sit at a desk, filing my nails/picking my nose/checking my email/playing solitaire and ignoring annoying customers who are waiting at the counter with annoying questions about taxes and tariffs. And I don’t meet co workers for after hours sports or cocktails. One busy career woman told me about a wonderful tradition her and her girl buddies have…”we have a mothers nite out every week because we really need it you know? We really need that break from our work and our children. Can you babysit for me?
Ummmm…excuuuuse me?! ARE YOU STUPID? Oh yes, let me see if babysitting YOUR child while you have a lovely wine and dine evening break from all YOUR stress fits in with MY schedule ( I do actually have a schedule you know) In between ferrying five children to school,muay thai, soccer, ballet, jazz, church youth activities, making dinner, supervising homework, reading bedtime stories and scriptures, cleaning house, grocery shopping, baking for lunchboxes that kids will actually want to eat, oh AND trying to squeeze in some exercise so I can stop looking like a slug. Somewhere in there is a few minutes of “couple time”. That’s where you and your spouse pass each other like ships in the night – he coming home home from work and going to athletics training and you coming from a church leadership meeting and on your way to a school Board of Trustees meeting..”Hi have we met? Do you come here often?” And let’s not forget that I’m supposed to be writing that amazing novel in between it all. In there somewhere.
But all that doesn’t seem to qualify as real work with real demands on my time. My father calls me at 8am and asks with surprise in his voice, ‘Oh are you out of bed?!’
‘No dad’ I mutter. ‘I just laze in luxury all day eating strawberries and cream while my kids take themselves to school and my baby somersaults herself to the kitchen and whips up her own bottle. OF COURSE I’M AWAKE. I’VE BEEN AWAKE FOR HOURS. AND I THINK I SHUT MY EYES FOR A COMBINED TOTAL OF 3 HOURS AND 25 MINUTES LAST NITE…Because the baby was teething…and little daughter was having a nightmare…and little son fell out bed and freaked me out thinking his skull was cracked…and it wasn’t and then I felt like cracking it for him…. So what can I do for you today Dad?
People ask me to ‘come and look after their stores’ so they can pop out somewhere or go on a shopping trip to NZ. They ask me to pick their children up from school. They ask me if I mind having one extra child to take to sports or come to play ALLLLLLL DAAAAAY because they really have to work in the weekend again. They call me to help with their writing assignments. They call and ask “Are you busy?” (No – I’m sitting here with my feet up watching ‘Sex and the City’ reruns) One woman even asked me once to help her son with his homework because “I’m just too busy everyday and I don’t have time like you do.”
Now let me get this straight once and for all. JUST because I chose to have five children doesn’t mean that I love ALL children and want ALL of your children to come to my house so I can look after them because you can’t. I am just as busy as the next working woman is. Like you I have work and home and church and school stuff that all needs to be balanced. I respect your busyness. So please respect mine!
My family is my life. At this stage in my life, I have made a choice to put their learning and their care above all else. They are my career. I am very proud of what i have achieved so far. I help Big son prep for his debate and when he comes home with a big smile and a hug for me all excited because his team won – I get paid. Big daughter is struggling with a mean boy in her class. We talk about it, we brainstorm ideas of how to handle it and when she comes home thrilled that the plan worked and the mean boy is now ‘actually really nice” – I get paid. Little Daughter wants to know “who created God?” and “how did you and Dad make a baby get in your tummy anyway?” Satisfied with my answers she then tells me I must be the cleverest mother in the world. I get paid. LIttle Son tells me I have the prettiest hair and he doesnt think Im fat at all…and can he eat more cookies now? I get paid. Everyday I am making investments of time and effort that will have eternal dividends. It wont always be this way. All too quickly these fantastic five are growing up. And growing away. One day I will see them hopefully choose good people to love, pursue rewarding careers ( maybe as rewarding as mine) My hope is for them to one day raise families of their own. Because nothing else they do will ever be as hard, teach them as much, or give them as much heartache and joy.
And then I shall phone them up at 8am while they battle the stress of getting a family ready for the day. And ask with surprise in my voice, languidly from the comfort of my luxurious bed where I am reclining with a bowl of strawberries and cream…”Oh are you awake?!”