If anyone has ever said to you, “What did YOU do all day,” you probably weren’t sure how to respond (or even if you should). Those 5 little words seem to somehow insinuate that whatever it was you DID do, just wasn’t enough. For instance, if your husband walks in at 6:15 pm and sees all the couch cushions intricately designed into a fort on the living room floor, dishes in the sink, the absence of dinner, and 5 loads of clean laundry scattered about the dining room – “What did you do all day,” means….’holy crap while I was out working hard to earn money you were home goofing off, messing up the house in the meantime and didn’t even bother to fix something for dinner!’ Essentially, it insinuates that HE did more than you did. Funny part is when you are too tired for sex later (from doing nothing all day), he will be even more baffled.
Such is the life of many stay at home moms (and dads). Note that I didn’t say ALL stay at home moms. The truth is that there are many dads out there who openly admit they couldn’t stay home with the kids, and if they did…they certainly would not be able to accomplish the multitude of behind the scenes chores and duties that go along with wiping other people’s butts all day. And today, there are also many stay at home dads who run daddy day care with the affluence of a, well…mom! And lots more brave men that realize just how hard it is to deal with people under 4 foot tall all day (and night), every day (and night) and wouldn’t dare question what you have done all day. Because for one thing, the fact that you accomplish anything (at all) is sometimes a miracle in and of itself.
But what does exist in many homes with a stay at home parent, is a lack of understanding and perhaps appreciation for what the other spouse does do. Married with Children, and tons of other sitcoms have pretty much demoralized the role of a stay at home parent, making it look like the day is filled with nothing but silliness, laughter, hugs and plenty of free time to watch soap operas and shop. From the outside looking in, splashing around in a pool all day with littles at your side does seem easier than board meetings and deadlines, right? And who cares if you don’t have time to shower, no one is going to see you all day anyway. And what can be more fun than sleeping in, and spending all your time with your children that you love and adore beyond words? In case you haven’t figured out, the latter statements are sarcasm in bloom.
The truth is that if you are a stay at home spouse and your partner works outside the home he or she really doesn’t know what you do all day. In fact, few of us parents who stay at home to take care of our families realized what it would really entail to be a stay at home parent. And lots of moms and dads, staying home – lose themselves completely which is a very difficult thing to get over. And while they do a lot of big and little things all day long, from the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning, most of these ‘things’ aren’t seen as exemplary, notorious, worthy, or important. Or seen at all. In fact, having clean clothes, food in the pantry, a fairly clean house, happy children, a routine, bills paid on time, and a constant supply of toilet paper are things people don’t really notice until THEY ARENT DONE.
If you have ever been asked, “What did you do ALL day,” your best response is to offer to switch places for a few days. Rather than get your feathers ruffled or feel like you have to perform more, or are being undermined – explain your day through having your spouse do it. You can be guaranteed that the ‘work outside of the home parent’ will begin appreciating what you do all day within the confines of a day or so. And suddenly, their quiet desk job or time AWAY from the family, lunch hours with colleagues (rather than children) and most importantly PAYCHECK….will feel like blessings.
Raising a family and deciding what you want for your children takes a lot of compromise. Both parents that work, whether at home or away, are giving up something. Neither really gives up more, or should be praised over the other for being a stellar parent. This is simply a lifestyle choice that the two of you must agree upon, even if at first you don’t understand one another’s role. And sure, sometimes it means that you will do 100 more things per day in and around the home, for your family than your spouse does that works outside of the home. For one thing, you are the one present. And for another, it is your job. Even though, your job description is such that you don’t get time off, vacation days, lunch hours or even expense accounts – you can rest assured that your children sure are getting a lot of benefits. And as for your spouse, have him or her take a walk in your shoes and you might be surprised how much they appreciate you.
Bottom line, understanding is essential. So next time you are asked what in the world you did all day, tell them what you did – every single little last nook and granny detail. And then tell them that you did it all without a pat on the back, a raise, a paycheck or even a shadow of doubt that you were perhaps wasting your time. Chances are it will put an end to that conversation pretty quickly!