It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted an entry and, ironically, today I’m posting a journal entry I wrote a year ago. Details have changed a bit in a year, but for the most part this still resonates with me and as I was rereading it I thought it might resonate with some of you.
March 19, 2015
I realized today that I never fully understood the statement, “being a stay at home mom is my job”. Yes, it’s a full time job, more hours even. Yes, it’s hard work, yes it’s just as important if not more so than having a career. I get all that, always have. What I never got before though was that, like a full time job, being a stay at home mom creates limitations on what I can do.
I mean, I always recognized the obvious limitations like not having the time to develop a career, not being able to put your own desires ahead of your kids’ needs (although that’s all parents, not just the stay at home ones). The limitations I am talking about are things that I feel should fall under a homemaker’s duties anyway.
For example, we have been rearranging our living room and I’m trying to find a new place for some pictures and albums. This seems like something I should have on my list of things to do since I’m home all day. I’m constantly in the living room and I don’t have to leave the house to get it done so why should I not expect to find a place for these things?
Another example, our master closet is disastrous. I need to sort some things and rearrange. It’s a mess but a completely cleanable mess. Again, I’m at our house everyday, I know what needs to be done and yet, no clean closet.
It makes it even the more frustrating because I like rearranging pictures and organizing closets. Why have I not done these things?! Every time I see the undoneness I feel guilty and criticize myself and all sorts of negative self talk arises. I would never berate myself for not pursuing a Masters degree while I have three young children at home but it seems getting a closet organized should be not only doable but a duty.
Then it hit me, the idea that being a stay at home mom is truly a full time job. As such, there is a job description that accompanies my days; duties that are a requirement. Given the day is finite there has to be a finite amount of duties that are required. Right now, my daily requirements fill up the allotted time (allotted time being 24 hours). So, it follows that I can not consider every task that needs to be done at home as one of my duties. In other words, because of my job there are some things, like cleaning out a closet, that I just can’t get to. I find this so obvious and completely acceptable for people who have a career outside of the home and yet for some reason I never connected it with what I do as a stay at home mom.
It feels weird to look at something that needs to be done at home and be able to honestly and correctly say, “that’s not my job”. Perhaps I had unknowingly fallen into the subconscious belief that if I’m home all day and did not get something done then it must have been because I was lazy, didn’t plan well enough or forgot. I have always resented the notion that choosing to be a stay at home mom is the easy way out of working and a ticket to eating bon bons while watching TV on the couch all day. Yet, it seems that I somehow took that notion and turned it into the idea that the only way to not make this a ticket to bon bon city is if I do everything that needs to be done at home. Not so.
Another realization that came along with this was that just as people who go to work outside the home everyday, there will be days when I don’t want to do my job and would rather be doing other important things. I really wanted to get the living room all arranged today. That’s an important worthwhile task. But when I realized that I can’t do that because it’s not my job my world somehow got a little smaller. Just as someone who works a nine to five job can’t just decide to stay home and play with their kids because that’s what they’d rather do that day, I can’t decide I’d rather clean out my closet instead of feeding my kids. This is not a bad thing, just something I had to realize.
The thing with the job description and duties of a stay at home mom is that they are largely self defined. What exactly do I want to have happen in my home with my children each day? What do I feel is critical for them to have, to experience and so on? This opens up an entire, potentially overwhelming, world of possibilities.
When I defined what I want to have happen in my home with my children on a daily basis then I essentially put a cork in the endless possibility bottle and created requirements that I know I need to fulfill.
Perhaps it sounds contrary to say that my job has defined duties and therefor restrictions when I am the one who sets the duties. I don’t think it is. If the most important thing for me to accomplish as a mother is to raise healthy, joyful children with the foundation in place for a strong testimony of Christ and for a successful life then I need to decide how I’m going to accomplish that. At least for me, that leads to specific things that need to be done on a daily basis. In other words, duties or my job description.
I have not overlooked those sad situations where children’s parents really don’t care or have a goal for their parenting. Perhaps things like addiction or abuse prevent this. What I’m talking about is deliberate parents who are trying to raise their kids in the best way possible.
So, this got me to thinking. What are my daily duties as a stay at home mother of a 5 year old home schooled boy, and a 3 year old and a 1 year old girl that I have created for myself? If I were creating a job description for what I think my job must entail I think it’d be this:
Plan and prepare three meals a day plus at least one snack that takes into consideration keeping sugar levels and processed food intake low while being something the kids will actually eat.
Clean up after each meal just enough so clean up won’t be necessary in order to make the next meal.
Give individual time to each child through play.
Plan, enforce and carry out an age appropriate and interesting violin practice session for the older two children.
Create, enforce and assist daily with an age appropriate chore system that will teach the children responsibility, contributing to a family and the concept of working hard to earn money.
Keep cash on hand for above mentioned chore system and pay children on a regular basis.
Initiate scripture study and attempt a discussion on the scripture passage at an age appropriate level.
Remind children to be kind to each other and possibly design and implement a reward system for keeping the family rules, one of which is to be kind.
Assist all three children in getting dressed, brushing teeth and saying morning prayers. This includes having clean laundry as well as physically helping the younger ones get their pjs off and clothes on.
Change the 1 year old’s diaper as needed throughout the day.
Clean up any accidents the 3 year old or, let’s be honest, the 5 year old may have and assist them into clean clothes.
Rock 1 year old to sleep for at least one nap a day.
Read a children’s book here and there as requested.
Break up any fights that look like they may turn violent.
Home School: research and gather material needed for homeschooling. Set aside time each day for homeschooling and after tidying up home school area, present content to the two older children. Assist them in any assignments given.
Assist 1-2 of the children (dad’s usually home for this part) in brushing teeth, saying nightly prayers, changing from clothes to pjs and getting to sleep.
Help any child that may wake up during the night in any way needed.
Keep track of needed doctor and dentist checkups and take children to those scheduled appointments as well as any other appointments needed.
These, of course, don’t mention other tasks that I find to be very important and do on a daily or weekly basis. Things like preparing a lesson plan for a class I teach on Saturdays, accomplishing tasks for my duties at church, attending to small things like emails and phone calls that may or may not apply to the kids, trying to cultivate the part of me that’s not mom with things like reading my own books, having my own scripture study and prayers, exercising, working on my own projects and connecting with friends. Nor does this list include things to help develop the relationship my husband and I have. Just like someone with a full time job outside of the home, all these things have to be found time for during non working hours.
So, the next time I feel guilty about not having the pictures arranged and the closet clean, I will refer to my job description and remind myself, “that’s not my job.”