I have found that there are many misconceptions about mothers, especially when it comes to the stay-at-home variety. One question we often get, and hate immensely, is... "So, what do you do all day?" Just thinking about that question makes my blood boil, because anyone who has to ask, clearly has no idea what the job entails.
Now, I could wax poetic about this particular topic until I'm blue in the face, but not today. Today, I'm going to talk about one very specific part of parenting that will help answer this dreaded question. Much of what we do all day is pretty straightforward. We clean constantly, cook and prepare endlessly, teach, play, groom, discipline, nurture, chauffeur, soothe, and then, wipe up a few thousand spills. But we also go out and do normal things; however, doing them with children, often means that they take longer and require a lot more patience, creativity, and humility.
For example, this morning I had to go to the bank. This is normally not one of my favorite tasks, but today, it was even less desirable, because I was trying to handle matters involving my mom's estate. As the fiduciary of the estate, I have had to deal with three lawyers, credit card companies, banks, debt collectors, and lots of formal paperwork. I have found all of this to be highly confusing, not to mention, emotionally draining.
I had my daughter with me, while I stood in line talking to the bank manager. I've tried to do most of this leg-work without my kids around, but sometimes, I need to bring them along. As I stood at the counter, trying to get my questions answered, my daughter helped herself to a complimentary lollipop and proceeded to jump repeatedly up to the counter. She's short, obviously, so she couldn't see over the counter, which was clearly driving her crazy! But her efforts to climb the counter, with lollipop in mouth, while interrupting my conversation with the bank manager was driving me crazy!
As always, I do my best to remain calm. I don't waste time, I get straight to my questions, because I know that four-year-olds have a delicate threshold when it comes to good behavior in boring settings. I politely ask her to stop jumping, because I don't want her to hurt herself or choke on her lollipop. Eventually she moves away from the counter, and decides to stand behind me.
I thought I was in the clear, I was wrapping things up with the manager, almost ready to walk away.... But as I was reaching over to get the paperwork, my little stinker decided to start pulling on my purse, while jumping into the air. I trust that most, if not all, mothers can relate to this. Here you are, desperately attempting to have a professional, adult conversation, while pretending that you don't have a small child, pulling on your hair, ripping off your clothes, or screaming in your ear.
So, here I am, still maintaining eye contact with the gentleman across the counter, while my daughter jumps into the air and then yanks down with her full weight onto my purse. In a split second, I feel my feet go out from under me, and before I know it, I'm flat on my back with my screaming daughter underneath me. Oh, and I mustn't forget to mention, the lovely long line that had formed behind us. Oh, I should also add, that the bank is housed within the supermarket, so I had a nice audience of shoppers, too!
This is the kind of stuff that people without children simply do not understand. Seemingly mundane tasks become insurmountable, boring endeavors become adventures, and simple outings often end with you leaving places with your tail between your legs.
The next time you find yourself wondering what a stay-at-home mom does all day, remember this little story. There are many of us out there attempting to food shop during a temper tantrum, or struggling to tackle the laundry, while our children proceed to make three more loads. We may be making a dinner that no one will want to eat, or you may even see us at the coffee shop, desperately trying to suck down some caffeine before it inevitably gets spilled into our lap.
So when you see a harried looking mom, trudging though the store with a wailing toddler, or falling on her rear in the bank, don't judge her, simply offer her some compassion. Most likely, she hasn't slept a full night, finished a cup of coffee while it's still hot, or went to the bathroom undisturbed in a month, or maybe a year. She's working damn hard, so respect her just as much, if not more, than your peers who collect a paycheck at the end of the week.
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