Monday, November 2, 2009

Stay at Home Mom vs. Housewife

I take on so few freelance writing or marketing assignments lately that I have stopped bothering to say I either work part time or work from home. I always used to point that out when I introduced myself to people. Lately, I'm too tired to care that my career is fading before my eyes while I focus on my kids.

I think I originally stayed home with them (or decided to work part time from home) out of some misguided belief that having me around all the time would be more beneficial to my kids than going to daycare or having a nanny.

As the dishes and laundry piled up, I realized that staying home with my kids came with an understanding from my husband that I would also do the housework?

Wait, I never agreed to that!

I was busy nurturing their minds! We were attending music classes, playdates, co-op parent involvement preschool, and structured activities at the children's museums. We were building blocks, forts, and stacks of toilet paper tubes. Add to that the 30-minutes of reading (double the recommendation), classical music, art, and fresh air nature hikes, and there simply was NO TIME to clean. If we had hired a nanny, I wouldn't expect her to clean the house for us, so why were these chores being put on me?

It was important to me that I clarify the difference between a Stay at Home Mom (which I was) versus a Housewife (which I was not).

As the years have passed since my first child was born, I have realized that staying home with them is more for me than them. My kids both thrive with other people. My son relishes playdates that don't involve me (there are two people who I have trusted to do this) and casually waves at me when I drop him off at his unaccompanied two-morning-a-week preschool. Kids I know that have been exposed to daycare settings or nannies are thriving and learning so much - and seem very happy. Just as happy and maybe even more educated than my kids.

I think I wanted to stay home with my kids because then I would at least know the damage that was done to them rather than wondering if they had been harmed by someone else. I raise my voice at my son more often than I care to admit. My expectations of him are more in line with a 10 year old rather than a three year old. Today, I was feeling sick, and we watched movie after movie after movie. These things wouldn't happen if he was in daycare, but the unknown scares me. What exactly would happen.

More than that fear, though, I cherish my moments with my kids. We laugh. We dance. We cuddle. Then, we cuddle some more. I wouldn't trade our days for anything.

When my daughter was born and my husband went on a long deployment, I realized that I couldn't let the housework pile up - at ALL. Since my baby is a horrible sleeper, I have no time in the evenings to do anything, and that means I have to spend a good part of each day with household drudgery. I miss the times I neglected the chores and just focused on the kids.

My husband will be horrified to read this.

But, the reality of it is that the cleaner my house is, the worse I feel as a parent. It's just not the reason I chose to stay home.

I applaud the women who are able to do it all, but I am a focus on one thing at a time kind of a girl. And this moment in time is about my kids. Even though it may not be the best thing for them. It's the best thing for me. I do hope they're enjoying the ride, though.


Leah Rubin said...

You are very wise-- your kids don't care (and won't remember) how clean the house was, or how many times a day you did dishes, but they will remember AND BENEFIT FROM the time they spent dancing, singing, reading, and cuddling with YOU! Keep it up-- I say you're on the right track!

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Diane J. said...

It's all smoke and mirrors. I was impressed with a gal that I once believed did it all. She had a maid service. I don't have a maid service and my house doesn't look like a showroom. It may have a bit of dust and books on either side of the couch, but it's comfortable and welcoming. And, as the kids get older there's more helpers so the house gets a bit cleaner each year. I agree with Leah, you're right on track!

marion said...

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jb said...

Honestly, I think youre lazy and you are making excuses for your lack of responsibility. Yes, its very important to give the kids what they need but it is equally [maybe more] important to give your spouse and bread winner what they need too. You would not have the opportunity to do the things you are doing and have the freedom to move about at will, if it werent for your spouse. Does your spouse work part time? If not, why is it ok for you to work part time as Homemaker? I think your vision is skewed...

Anonymous said...

@jb -- Are you serious? If you are, I assume you've never stayed at home with two small children for any length of time. If you had, you'd recognize you ARE supporting your spouse and "breadwinner." Go ahead and tally up what a mother could charge for everything she does every day as a stay at home mom, and determine whether you can afford to pay her the wage she deserves.

"The freedom to move about at will"? Really? Again, have you stayed at home with two small children? Have you ever had to schedule ALL you do around naptimes, meal times, snack times. Have you ever tried loading two small children into the car, trying carefully not to forget the ever important toy without which your child can't survive, and the blankie that, if missing, will send your other child into a frenetic mess?

You can call me lazy because I decided I couldn't do that and I work outside the home full time.

I assume you must be joking.

Nell said...

I have and I been and didnt find it that difficult. I think it is personality type because I handled up to 6 kids mine and those I babysat for with ease. I was organized, house was clean, kids were happy, and nurtured with very low stress. I know its not every moms strength but the folks who dont do this well make a lot of noise about it. Some of us enjoyed it.

Nell said...

I actually do remember how clean my mother and grandmothers houses were and how comforable and safe we felt as they found time for us too. Its not such a task unless you are trying to fit too much me time into your day.