With the hugest of respect to whatever choice a parent makes, asking what you do all day is one question that makes some stay-at-home-parents want to scream. Here’s the answer…
Disclaimer: I’ve been both a working-parent and stay-at-home parent. Now I’m a hybrid creature involving both. I work from home in the mornings while the children are at school, and I do whatever needs doing with the childer in the afternoons.
However, rather than a part-time parenting, part-time working gig, I've landed myself in the parenting purgatory of juggling both gigs full-time, with pretty questionable results.
Having the best of both worlds is an understatement. Yes, I have flexibility and plenty of time with my children, but it isn’t the easy pass some might imagine.
But the question that makes me and many of the stay-at-home mums I spoke to want to gouge our tired eyeballs out, is when people ask you if you get bored?
Yes, it is pretty boring telling a seven-year-old not to jump on the couch 15 times a day, every day.
Snoozefest equals cooking 27 meals a day because they are hungry beasts that digest in seconds. But nobody said this was going to be a fiesta. Working outside the home can be boring too. There are only so many cupcakes for Helen’s birthday one can eat in a day. Writing reports, completing paperwork, finishing projects, washing pets… whatever it is that someone might work at, it can also make you die a little on the inside sometimes.
My specialist subject on Mastermind would be farts
How do you keep them amused all day?
While I often enjoy a flurry of meal-planning, recipe designing and activity planning, let's just say that I am no Mary Fitzgerald when it comes to crafting pipe cleaners.
I am a Spaghetti-Lasagne-Casserole-and-Repeat kind of mum, and although we reserve screens for weekends, I'm that person that sometimes cheats mid-week just to get 15 minutes without questions about space or god or recycling or dinosaur history (ask Alexa) or the human anatomy (with particular emphasis on bums).
My specialist subject on Mastermind would be farts. I can locate the nearest playground to me at any time in seconds. I do my own reading homework for book club sitting in the driver's seat outside gymnastics, piano, ballet, or whatever whimsical four-week-long fancy my offspring decide they want to try out.
How did you get those muscles, you ask?
Well, physically this gig is a lot more demanding than anyone expects.
The seatbelt nail-crack; the shin bruises from the buggy; the dragging of schoolbags and kit bats and ballet bags; the lifting in and out of the bath; the constant up and down, placating little demands for another drink, another poo, another beat-mummy-in-the-face-with-a-balloon-game. It is all simply part of the job.
It is either a breeze or a battle – depending on the day, the blood sugar levels, patience levels, days til the weekend.
It is back-breakingly exhausting. And who can refuse that cute ‘uppy, uppy' request in their squeaky little voices? Hips are shot, lower back's a mess, and stomach… well, let’s not even go there, shall we?
Of course, every parent experiences all such joys, but when you are at home with them all day, it definitely tends to multiply.
What do you do all day?
Well, apart from the keeping-them-clean part – the nit checks, the face wipes, the bum wipes, bathtime, cutting nails, wiping sticky hands, teaching them about hygiene and chasing them around with a toothbrush, then there is the homework.
It is either a breeze or a battle — depending on the day, the blood sugar levels, the patience levels and the number of days until the weekend.
How do you stay sane?
"Don’t do that. Stop hitting your brother. Put that down. I said NOW. Put it away IMMEDIATELY. No. No. No. Ask Alexa. Ask your father. Careful you don’t spill that. GRAB THE KITCHEN ROLL. I'll turn this car around. I'm not going to say this again. No. Stop. I said stop. Three, Two, One… one and a half…"
It is what it is.
I wanted to hop on the Luas and ride to Adult-land with them, where people didn't wipe their hands on your legs or mush banana into your face while laughing hysterically.
When I worked in an office all week, I felt guilty I was outsourcing a lot of this mayhem to our minder. I felt like it was my responsibility, especially at this early stage of their lives to be there, to answer the questions, to discipline the way I wanted to, to simply be there with them, to share as many moments as possible.
Then, when I was at home with my guys, knee-deep in laundry, frying mince, and wiping in-between fingers (you know, the part that the dads of the world tend to miss), I’d look with envy at those parents suited and booted with their fabulous careers and I’d want to join them too.
I wanted to hop on the Luas and ride to adult-land with them where people didn't wipe their hands on your legs or mush banana into your face.
The bottom line is that like everything in life, the grass always seems greener.
But nobody asks working outside the home parents to justify what they did all day, as if it is some kind of unimaginable situation. Imagine asking Cian’s mum from school, a solicitor, what do you DO all day? Isn't it BORING? God, I could never do that.
What stay-at-home-parents do all day is work, just in a different way. Without pay.
And while it isn’t for everyone, I'm sure we can all respect each other's choices, decisions, sacrifices. This isn't about right or wrong, harder or easier, it is about the life we want to make for those utterly amazing beautiful children we all adore.
That's something we all do every day. Ask me about that some more.
Image via Incredibles 2, Pixar
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