Every day at 5 o’clock, I want to clock out. I want to grab my purse, shut down my computer, push in my office chair, and make a fast beeline to the door and GTFO of work.
There’s just one problem: I live at work. Literally. I. Live. At. Work. because I’m a stay-at-home mom.
I’ve been a SAHM for 19 years now — 19 long, exhausting, rewarding, often resentful, never boring, sometimes mind-numbing, occasionally soul-sucking nineteen years of being an at-home mom. After having my first son, I quit my “real” job and never returned to the workforce in a full-time capacity again. In lieu of pursuing my career, I chose a new and much less lucrative vocation — that of full-time motherhood — and I’ve never, ever looked back.
For myself and my family, it was the right choice at the right time. Then as more babies came along, returning to work seemed implausible because of child care costs. We actually saved money by me being home. True story.
And then all the kids started school, and I immediately felt a silent societal pressure to go back to work full-time. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Expensive daycare was no longer required, I had my days to spend how I pleased, and what was I going to actually be doing all day at home alone?
On occasion over the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to have the chance to work very part-time, and enjoy a position that offered unbelievable flexibility and an option to work as little as five hours a week in my field. So when I wanted to work, I did, but more than not, I just didn’t. Period. Personally, the emotional draw to not return to the workforce was and remains much stronger than the one to return to it. And yet…
And yet I still get asked, “What do you do all day?” and “Are you ever going to go back to work?” and also “How do you manage on one paycheck?” and my personal favorite, “Don’t you want to earn a paycheck, use your degree, and give back to society?” Sadly, for so many years I never had the balls to reply with “Why is it your business anyway?” but I do now.
But more than the fact that not only is it none of their damn business, there’s also the truth that I am busier than hell as a SAHM. Yes, even with all my kids in school.
So busy, in fact, just the thought of working full-time and taking care of four children and a home sends me into sheer panic mode and has me wanting to throw mad respect at all the full-time working mothers I know. Trust me, doing all sorts of nothing at home keeps me very, very busy.
I am busy saving our household money by outsourcing pretty much nothing around here. If it’s broke, dirty, empty, old, overgrown, disorganized, or just about anything else involved in home ownership, I’m the one who takes care of it or fixes it.
I am busy picking up the slack doing thankless volunteering at my kids’ schools during times when working mothers can’t, and it’s something I feel privileged to do for them. I am glad to help when I can and when they can’t. It takes a village.
I am busy in my local community and neighborhood, jumping in to serve and help plan functions, fundraisers, bake sales, and anything else I can do to give back to the people around me. It’s a good kind of busy.
I am busy helping out a working mom when her child care fails, when her kid is sick, or when a fellow SAHM decides to go back to college and needs some extra help a few hours a week. It’s the right thing to do, and I enjoy it, so I do it.
I am busy cooking, keeping a large family in clean underwear, and bringing everyone to all their damn appointments and sports practices. Enough said.
I am busy taking care of all the things that my husband doesn’t have time to take care of because he travels often for work.
But guess what? Sometimes I am busy doing absolutely jack shit. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Like, “cannot get up off the couch and stop watching Bravo until the kids come in the door after school” kind of nothing. And I am way done feeling one ounce of guilt about that. Hey, I may even do it two, three, eight days in a row! And because I’m the boss, nobody writes me up for shitty job performance.
Bottom line? I’ve earned that type of freedom. I do what I want.
There is something to be said for a SAHM who knows when to give zero fucks about explaining to others what she does (or doesn’t do) all day, or one who knows she owes no explanation to anyone about how she chooses to spend her days or run her household. We shall call them trailblazers.
And one last thing, as soon as you show me a SAHM mom who gets to clock out at 5 p.m. M–F, I will explain to you what the fuck I do all day.