“So what do you do all day?” asks yet another well meaning friend who’s a working-for-pay mom. I’ve received this question at least half a dozen times.
I think we all occasionally have a hard time imagining realistically what it must be like for the “other type” of parent. While parents who go to work may be tempted to daydream about quality time with their kids and snacking on the couch, stay-at-home parents fantasize about engaging adult interaction or a low-stress break from the constant presence of children. Now, I think we can all rationally admit that neither of those are the full picture or even a realistic one of the other side of the coin. I’m sure we’d all love to enjoy these imaginary perks all of the time, but that’s just not most of our parenting realities.
One of the biggest struggles I’ve had with parenthood is that we’re constantly being bombarded with messages that none of us are good enough because of whatever type of parent we are. Sanctimommies and sanctidaddies abound, and sometimes it’s hard not to internalize the negative messages you hear, both about yourself and about others. I’ve found myself saying insensitive things about people whose parenting situation differs from my own, and I have been deeply remorseful every time I’ve come to realize the toxicity I’d accidentally internalized. It’s rough out there for parents sometimes, and we have got to build each other up, not tear each other down.
“So what do you do all day?”
I fully believe that no one has asked me that question with a judgmental mindset. They’re just curious about what the grass is like on the other side. But regardless of their intentions, the fact that they are left wondering what I can fill my hours with at home during the day really plays into some of the negative messages I’ve been fed about stay-at-home parents. I’m not very good at being nice to myself when I hear those things.
When I was a new mom, I was so torn up about the ways in which I didn’t fit into other people’s expectations. Strangers, and yes, even loving friends and family, made comments here and there that told me I was essentially supposed to be a Stepford wife. They told me that I don’t work. They told me that because I “don’t work” (yes I do), I should have a spotless house. They told me I should greet my husband with a hot meal to pay him back for bringing home the paycheck. They told me I wasn’t competent enough to raise my own child because my education degree didn’t focus on babies. They told me that I don’t pull my own weight.
Essentially, they told me that my best wasn’t good enough.
They told me I wasn’t good enough.
As a direct result, I sank into a very dark place in my depression for a long time.
When he realized what was making me so anxious, Shane was the sweet, understanding, stand-up-for-his-Angie husband he’s always been. He made it clear to me that my job, in no uncertain terms, was to take care of our child. Not to clean our house. Not to do laundry. Not to cook his dinner. My job is to take care of our child, and he goes to work every day without worrying about the baby because I’m the one taking care of her. He never wants me to give her a lesser quality of care so I can scrub the stove. He showed me that I’m fantastic at doing my actual job every single day.
“The baby may be crying, but by golly, that toilet sure is clean!” He helps me keep perspective sometimes.
So what do I do all day? I know some of you are genuinely curious, so I’ll tell you! But I also want to know the good and the bad of your mornings and afternoon, especially if your parenting life is unlike my own. We are all working moms and dads; we just do different kinds of work! So what do you do all day?
I change diapers. I nurse. I give my baby her bottle. I eat one-handed lunches. I do laundry because the baby peed on her last changing table liner. I change onesies. I play one-sided patty cake. I go for a walk because I haven’t seen the sun in three days. I read books in silly voices while the baby eats the cardboard pages. I change onesies (again). I hold my full bladder, trapped under a baby while she naps because she suddenly doesn’t want to be put down. I sing silly songs. I steam vegetables for baby to eat. I read a couple of pages of my book while the baby is calm for a minute. I put on lipstick with a baby on my lap because I just really need to feel like an actual person today. I take the baby to her impromptu appointment because she’s got an ear infection or a gunky eye. I put baby up in the carrier because my arms and patience are getting tired and thin, respectively. I turn into the Tickle Monsteeeeeerrrrr, oh no! I beg my daughter not to cry while I pee as fast as humanly possible. I beg her again not to cry because Mommy forgot to wash her pee hands. I wash my pee hands one-handed while holding a happy baby on my hip. I take her to another appointment. I start to clean something, and then I pick my randomly fussy baby back up. I look through my baby apps for the best developmentally stimulating baby activities for her age. I put the baby in her car seat against her will because Mama needs a short break and a drive-thru coffee run. I wrestle with a six-month-old who wants to roll over and grab everything on the changing table while she’s naked and covered in poop. I change onesies (yet again). I change my spit-up covered nursing tank into a different spit-up covered nursing tank. I buy groceries. I make my happy girl laugh and squeal. I cry because the baby somehow threw her last clean pacifier directly in the trash. I snuggle my sweet babe close to my heart, and I thank goodness that I’m able to share these precious moments with her.