At a recent dentist appointment, the receptionist smiled kindly when she discovered I was a stay-at-home mom.
“I could never do that,” she said. “I just couldn’t sit around all day.”
The irony that she was, in fact, sitting was apparently lost on her. As was the fact that for a SAHM, getting your teeth scraped is like a fricking trip to the spa.
But I get it. Before I became a member of SAHMs (Stay-At-Home Moms) Club, I too thought life without paid employment would be a breeze.
No more monster bosses or psychotic co-workers. No office politics, boring meetings, deadlines or demanding clients.
Instead, as a mom I would sit at home with my children all day in a euphoric maternal bliss, reading books, sharing cuddles and occasionally baking s—t.
And don’t get me wrong: SAHMhood has those moments. But they tend to be lumped in between unclogging toilets, killing silverfish, sniffing various pieces of furniture to pinpoint the source of the urine smell and attempting to fix appliances my daughter thought would run better with the help of glue sticks.
I’m not complaining. This was my choice and an option I am lucky to have. Although this idea that all working mothers would be SAHMs if they could afford it is ridiculous. I know many moms who flat out knew they didn’t want to do the stay-at-home thing and more power to them.
I’m only a SAHM because my kids need me to drive them places. Once they hit 16, I’m thinking of getting my own place.
As for this, “It’s the hardest job in the world” riff, I don’t know. Being a parent is hard, full stop. Staying at home with your kids doesn’t somehow up the ante. The most challenging parts of having kids — the sleepless nights, the constant concern, the anxiety over whether you’re getting it wrong — are there whether you escape to an office every day or not.
And “escape” is probably the wrong word. It’s not really escaping if you’re heading to a job. Unless you are whooping it up with three-martini lunches. In that case I want in.
But just as working parents are actually working, so are SAHMs. I laugh at the term “ladies who lunch” because I hardly ever eat sitting down, let alone in a restaurant. (Also because it sounds vaguely dirty. Amiright?) If you have the time to take a mid-day meal that lasts long enough to become a verb, then you are obviously one of those SAHMs who gets a lot of help around the house, so, you know, f—k you.
Even if most people get that taking care of kids is work, they assume that the days when they are in school are somehow days “off.” I’m not sure why, as I get a grand total of four hours between dropping off the second kid and picking up the first.
I know what working parents are thinking: DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD GET DONE WITH FOUR HOURS? The answer is yes, because that’s exactly what I’m doing.
The SAHM of school-age children is like a well-oiled machine, primed to attack a list of chores with the speed and determination of a puma, racing against the clock because she knows there’s no way she’ll be able to scrub cat poop off the shower tiles once her kids get home because she’ll be too busy refereeing a fight over a crayon that’s really not about the crayon but about her offspring’s need for reassurance that she loves them equally even though she has at various times considered listing them both on eBay.
Occasionally I have an abbreviated lunch with a friend. I diligently go to the gym every month. But for the most part my day is spent checking off a to-do list that includes scraping boogers off the couch and killing the roach I promised my son I would capture and rehabilitate so he could keep it as a pet and call it “Cocky.” (“Cocky already had a family,” I’ll explain later, having flushed the f—ker down the toilet.)
And while it’s not easy, I think it’s easier than having to get all those things done and handling the stress of paid employment. Maybe when I’m less sleep deprived the challenge of holding down the home front and dealing with a crazy boss won’t seem so difficult. I doubt it.
What I don’t get is why people think it is such a glamorous position. I never once went the office with peanut butter on my clothes, something I can’t say about my life as a SAHM.
But I’ve decided not to fight the stereotype of the pampered SAHM. Instead I’m going to play up to it, making loud announcements in public such as “I’ve been sleeping until noon every single day and I’m still tired!” or “Now that I get my bon-bons delivered, I no longer have to DVR ‘Days of Our Lives’ while I run to the store!”
Ha-ha! If only. The cat just puked. Gotta go.