When you meet a person for the first time a common topic of conversation is what you do for a living. Or, at least, the question “Where you do work?” is asked. When Eitan was only a few months old my initial response was always “I don’t work; I stay home with my son.” Now Eitan is 14 months old and my response has changed drastically. This past year has shown me just how wrong my earlier answer was, as well as how so many people have preconceived notions about what it means to be a stay-at-home-mother (SAHM).
No, I do not sleep until all hours of the day. I do not watch soap operas or shop until I drop. I wake up when my son wakes up. Every time. No matter what the hour. I am a boo-boo healer, a chef de cuisine of baby and toddler food, a baby proofer and a child chaser, sometimes all at the same time.
This has led me to change my response when asked what I do for a living. Now I say that I am a SAHM. I am the person who my son calls “MA!” My job is taking care of his every need. I am on the clock 24/7, 365 days a year. If you were to write a job description for a SAHM, it would need to include the following responsibilities and necessary skills:
– Able to change diapers in under ten seconds (bonus points for doing it in the dark while the child is trying to roll over)
– Upper body strength (that you didn’t think you had) to lift and carry a 25 lb stroller
– Organizational skills to pack your child’s entire wardrobe for a weekend driving trip
– Able to utilize enough distractions to cut your child’s nails1
– Linguistic talents to understand the different possible meanings of “Eh!” or “Ah!”
– Intestinal fortitude to taste every type of food before giving it to your baby
– Strength of heart to be able to ignore your baby’s cries because you know they need to be napping
– Willingness to be your child’s play mate2, even if it means not shattering their musical truck against the wall
– Ability to figure out what “the pointer finger” means before tears begin
– Patience. Lots of it.
Being that this is primarily Aaron’s blog, I feel that it is necessary to give my husband a little shout out. I have an incredible husband who is always willing to help me with mundane tasks such as the laundry, cleaning the bathroom and other housekeeping chores. He doesn’t spend a lot of time at home but he helps out when he’s there.
Sure, I miss having intellectual conversations about adult topics and using my brain for something other than building block towers or playing peek-a-boo. It’s not easy hearing my husband come home and talk about the “real” issues he dealt with during his day. But I know that I should not take my “job” for granted or ever complain about the so-called intellectual conversations that I am missing. After having been home with Eitan for the past 14 months, I can’t imagine not being with him every day.
I recently completed my Masters degree in General and Special Education and I sometimes think that I wasted my money since I’m not currently teaching full-time. But then when I think about my day or about the past few months, I realize that I am my son’s personal full-time teacher. Yes, we play, but we also spend a lot of time learning. We go to classes and on shopping adventures where we explore the world. We have inside jokes. Eitan is learning to cook and clean and perform other life skills; he has already mastered flushing the toilet, throwing out garbage and sweeping the floor.3 So although I might not be contributing to the household income, I know that my contributions are much more important for our family.
I don’t mean this to be a judgment of “working moms.” If anything, I think it’s probably an even harder job to leave a child at home than it is to spend the day with them. Either way, people do what they need to in order to get by and Aaron and I have found a system that seems to work for us (most of the time, at least). The bottom line, for me, is that I wouldn’t trade a minute of being Eitan’s mom.
I have the best job ever.
2. Not to be confused with a Playboy Playmate. I am not one of those either.↩
3. Still more evidence that Eitan is clearly my child.↩