What Does a Stay At Home Parent Do All Day?

What’s the result of my work? It’s tucked inside their heads and hearts, hidden in little bodies and minds.

If you look at the floors after a long day of play… Yes. Sometimes I can sweep them clean after a day of eating, play, and the traffic of many little feet moving from outside in through the house. Sometimes I can’t.

If you look in the sink sometimes it will be empty, and sometimes it will be full of the dishes that I used to feed them healthy meals.

If you look at the beds unmade.
If you look at the toys not put away.
The books in piles or scattered across the floor.
The Legos that may be underfoot.

You might mistake my job for that of a mess-maker.
A laze-about.
A do nothing.

But look at them, those children that you love. That is where you will see my work. If you wonder, you can ask what we are working on and I will tell you all the details. I will tell you what I am teaching them. What they are struggling with. How we are practicing things together all day.

I could turn on the TV and leave it on so that no messes are made. I could feed them only the things not easily scattered across the floor.

But then these children would not be who they are.

There are people out there that try to guess what kind of salary a stay at home parent would earn for all of the things we do all day. There are people that say we should be grateful. (And indeed we should be.) There are people that say we do nothing. That we do everything. That we deserve more recognition or that we are doing nothing special.

And at the end of the day, when other people come home or when people visit. When you to go a parent teacher conference and guesses are made about your life at home. When you pass by strangers on the street or in a waiting room at the doctors.

Guesses are often made based on all of those things. We speculate. We gossip. We learn to try and pretend to be SuperHuman. Often we lose sight of what matters.

The truth is. I don’t need to know my projected salary. I don’t need to know that what I do is valuable. I know that already. I know how overworked and under appreciated I am. Those articles aren’t really for me. They’re for me to try and share with everyone else in my life that has questions about my value.

For me? This is something that has a value all of its own. Not a “better” value or a “worse” value or a quantifiable value. Not a value to bicker over and bargain with. It. Just. Is.

I understand that this world is obsessed with a standardized test and with punishing people out of any tendency to be lazy. About assuming that a child’s behavior is the perfect indicator of their parents abilities. That a clean house is the litmus test. That it is even something that can be tested.

I guess when someone goes to work we take it on faith that they are doing their job otherwise they would be fired. But why in the world would a stay at home parent do their job without risk of being replaced, judged harshly or losing their job?

Where is the end product of my work? What do I have to show for the days I spend here at home? What do I /do/ all day? Why should I keep my job? Why should I evade lazy-worker penalties?

Bright blue eyes pop up from behind a mountain of pillows as I am cleaning. “Would you like to help me put this in the laundry basket?” I say. I make a game of picking up the room and as she helps me she learns to clean. My four year old is not interested in the game. He is in the other room playing with Legos by dumping them out on the floor to look for a particular piece. My seven year old is practicing making a snack for all of us that meets the criteria of “healthy”. He will leave the kitchen a wreck, and while he will help me clean up some of it as he learns, there is not enough time or attention crammed in the day for all of everything to be done while still allowing these children the freedom to move and to learn and to play and to grow.

Why would I do this job as best as I can?

Why do you wake up every day and go to work? To provide what you can for this family of ours.

Why do I wake up every day and do the work that I do  here? To provide what I can for this family of ours.

Do you do less than you can at work all day? Do you risk providing less than you can for your family? Or do you try your hardest? I don’t ask you that.  That would be rude.

So why does everyone ask the stay at home parent exactly that? Why do we need to compare our job to other “real” jobs? Why is it that what we do.. Seems to have no intrinsic value in this society? Because it can’t buy us another large screen LCD TV or pay off a fancy new car?

These. Are. Our. Children.

Of course what I do has value. Value worth working for.

That is what a Stay at Home parent does all day. They work for the most important thing in their lives. Their children.

Why do we even feel that it is okay to ask that question? To think it?

  5 comments for “What Does a Stay At Home Parent Do All Day?

  1. Carole
    October 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    I too was a stay at home parent, before the term was coined. I have four children who are grown and raising my grandchildren. My children are not stay at home parents. My advice to others trying to decide what to do as they have children is–think! Think long and hard! Ask yourself hard questions about your own personality. What we all want for our children is an environment that nurtures them, keeps them safe, healthy, and helps them develop into the adults we hope will love life, enjoy their environment, be proud of themselves, and find someone to share that life, and — just maybe want to do as you did and have children. Do I think that being a stay at home parent is better? YES and NO. There are advantages and disadvantages, the real question is the parent. Is being a stay at home parent a good fit for YOUR personality. Do what is best for you and your family.

    • sarah
      October 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Exactly!

      Some parents have to work.
      Some parents have to stay home.
      Some parents can work but choose to stay home.
      Some parents can stay home but choose to work.

  2. October 19, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Your words give me pause for thought every time you write them; for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I tend to little ones whose parents have to work and so I am blessed with the babies; I am the luckiest woman alive.

  3. neuroticia
    October 23, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I do think it’s okay to ask the questions. Questions beget discussion. Discussion begets education. Education is growth.

    • sarah
      October 23, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Indeed.

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