When Nugget was about 6 months old, I had to make a difficult choice. My paycheck barely covered day care, I missed my infant son, and I was miserable at work and home. As much as I loved my job, I didn’t feel the sacrifice was worth the reward. I put in my two weeks’ notice and applied for a new job.
Pearls for pajamas. Business travel for breast pump. Beautiful penthouse office for, well, a crumby old couch.
My new title? Mary Katherine Backstrom, SAHM.
I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty excited about watching soap operas and eating Cheez-Its all day as my baby jumped happily nearby in his Einstein bouncer. I even bought a trilogy of novels to read during all of my downtime. Obviously, I was gonna keep the house clean and the baby fed, but what else was there to do?
Every SAHM I knew sat around and did nothing all day, I thought.
I’ve been on the job—or off of it, rather—for about two years. And let me tell you, the people who think that the “at home” parents do nothing all day are absolutely right. For instance…
When Nugget was teething, he would nap on and off every two hours. He was drooling, screaming, miserable, and constantly tired from lack of sleep. Sometimes he would require 30 minutes of rocking in order to successfully achieve 15 minutes of napping. The cycle was exhausting, but the bags under my 4-month-old’s eyes broke my heart. So I would wrap my baby in a blanket, pull my hair up in a bun, and go sit in the rocking chair. And for 24 hours, every two hours, I would do nothing but rock my baby all day.
Then came the toddling phase. Every edge of our house looked like a knife blade. Nugget constantly launched himself toward coffee table corners and random furniture edges. His face was peppered with black and blue injuries, but he was bound and determined to walk before 10 months of age. I was starting to worry about things like brain damage and DCF visits when, sure enough, he found a corner sharp enough to cause a bleeding wound. That was it. The only way to prevent my kid from walking into corners was to get rid of every corner in the house. And so for a week or more, from room to room and edge to edge, I would do nothing but baby-proof and hover over my toddler all day.
Oh, the terrible twos. It’s like as soon as his birthday passed, an evil little switch turned on inside of my child’s brain. My little angel who used to entertain himself with blocks and toy cars found a new hobby of climbing to the highest point of every piece of furniture and jumping from it. First was the couch—pretty harmless, especially when there were pillows on the floor. Then came the bar stools and the dining room table. Y’all, it’s not like he was unsupervised. In the 10 seconds it took to pee with the door open, the kid could have scaled Everest barefoot—not lying. So, obviously, as long as my child is in this “finding new ways to kill himself” phase, I have decided it is best for me to do nothing but watch him like a freaking hawk every second of the day.
Obviously, there are times when I snuggle in bed with my son. There are stretches of entire hours when Nugget isn’t jumping on tables or climbing the curtains, and I can do things like write or fold laundry. And oh, the glorious, heavenly hour that is nap time—sometimes I will have coffee all by myself or (gasp!) take a nap too.
But you know what? That trilogy of novels is collecting dust on the shelf. And if I open that box of Cheez-Its, I rarely get a cracker without “Mama, Mama, I want it. I want it!” The closest thing I’ve seen to a soap opera is that “sing in the shower” episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And please, try containing a toddler in an Einstein bouncer. Lemme know how that works for ya.
I’m not complaining. This is the life I chose, and for my family, it was the right choice. And sure, to the outsider, what I do during the day may appear to be a whole lot of “nothing.”
But in my world, the one that is ruled by coffee and crumbs and chaos, it’s everything.