A friend of mine, who recently quit her job and is now staying home with her 1-year-old son, told me: "I feel that I'm so much busier at home than I was at work! I always seem to need to have something done, put something on the stove or clear something up, etc, and my son needs me all the time! I actually felt much better rested when I went out every morning to work."
Whenever I mention that I go to an evening gathering, or give some lectures, or do anything that involves being out of my home, I get a sigh of relief from my unmarried, childless friends: "Oh, I'm so glad to hear you are actually doing something, and not just staying at home!" - although I always have a ready answer to such statements, they never fail to amaze me.
As a matter of fact, we all have different standards of what it takes to keep an orderly home, but unless you are morbidly lazy and/or downright neglectful, being a stay-at-home wife/mom is a full-time - no, more than a full-time - occupation, with its own unique set of challenges.
First, we have no definition such as, work is where I work, and home is where I put my feet up and relax. We are always at our place of work; it is possible that you just brewed yourself a cup of tea and sat down after a busy morning, and then you notice crumbs on the floor and leap up to sweep them. Or just when you think everyone are nicely and quietly occupied, you hear a kid screaming from the yard: "MOOOOOM!" - which, especially if accompanied by a thud and crying, and/or suspicious silence, sends you running at top speed.
Second, there are no promotions, no employment benefits, no pay rise, no "worker-of-the-year" awards. Sometimes we get compliments for a good meal or a nice little crafty project we have done, but usually no one will say, "wow, you have folded this pile of socks so nicely!" or "I've never seen anyone wash the dishes as well as you do."
Third, our work is seemingly unproductive. It is never done, no aspect of it; we have to constantly labor just to keep a livable (and perhaps borderline presentable) home. We can spend our whole day running cleaning up messes, washing dishes, folding laundry, feeding hungry people - and at the end of the day the floor will be covered in dirt marks again, dishes will pile up in the sink, and our family will be asking "what's for dinner?" By default, sometimes we will work very hard all day, without any visible result to show for it.
On the other hand, ours is probably one of the only occupations that deals with the eternal. True, a PowerPoint presentation will last longer than a clean floor, but the benefits or having been there for our families, of having created memories, of the carefree childhood we provided for our children, will be there forever.