Thursday, June 28, 2012

Employed at home

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. 


Peggy Lorenz said...

Thank you, Anna! As one of those mothers who is very much employed at home, your words are balm to my heart. :)

Robin said...

Thank you for putting a voice to this lifestyle! I get the same kinds of comments, with people assuming that I need to get out of the house to be productive. You've said exactly what I feel!

Anonymous said...

I am an older children are grown. So am I just "sitting around the house eating bonbons" now? No. The past several years I have been care-giving my ill father, my ill mother in law and father in law, and being beside them as all three came to the end of their earthly lives. I am still caring for my mother, and I help with my youngest nephews. I am there for my husband as both of us age and experience the changes that come with that. I am still there for my children, who come to me for advice from time to time. I still keep a household, make dinner every day, and when my husband retires soon, I will be making three meals a day, just as I did when I was a SAHM with little ones. My "homemaker career" is lifelong and touches every generation of my family. Sitting on the couch eating bonbons was never in the picture. My work will live on long after I am gone, in the lives of those I loved.


Heidi VH said...

I have been reading your blog for some time now and have never left a comment, so I just decided to tell you I am very grateful for your faithful encouragement! Thank you so much for your posts about homemaking. It's so nice to hear another young mother say, "No, the work is never done, but it has incredible value, nonetheless!" I also really appreciate how you point out 1)How hard mothers work, 2)The value of their work - especially when compared to the "working woman". It's good to hear someone say, "Being a mother has value; being a stay-at-home mother has tremendous value." You don't hear that very much in today's world. Thank you for looking at homemaking from God's perspective and encouraging us to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! Even after 20 years of being a stay-at-home mom, I needed to hear this message and be reminded of the eternal value of my job.
Diana in Seattle

Joluise said...

It's important to remember that every woman who works outside the home also does what you do, they also work at home. All the tasks a SAHMS does, I do likewise even though I work full time. I just do it at different times. Keeping ones home, cooking from scratch, caring for ones family and husband are done by ALL women and not only by those at home.

Now that my sons are adults and there is only 2 of us at home, keeping house is so much easier and when I am at home from work, it is much easier than being at work, it's a breeze. We mustn't mystify the tasks of keeping a home, women have been doing it for centuries.

Kim said...

Thank You. I needed this post today. I am in the middle of an ugly seperation and I needed to hear that being a stay at home mom is NOT being a parasite.

Anonymous said...

I have two children under two at home. The other day, someone asked me 'so you're nothing at the moment...' i.e. no paid employment. I was flabbergasted and didn't know how to respond. I put it down to the fact that she was childless. Being at home is definitely WAAAY more hectic than being in an office. I remember an acquaintance posting on facebook how 'blissful' it was to be back in the office on a Monday morning, after having been on 'mommy duty' the entire weekend.

Melanie said...

I just wanted to say that your past few posts have really been what I needed to hear.

I've been struggling with illness and depression ever since I got pregnant with my ten month old son. Some days are better than others, but I never completed all that I want to get done.

Many people seem to be pushing me out the door, and while I see the wisdom in their advice (since my agoraphobia has been acting up and it'll only get worse if I give into it), the stress of trying to get anything done during the day when I spend hours outside of the home only seems to aggravate my depression. I just wish I knew more people who stayed at home and could help me find a balance (all of the pushers work outside the house and do have the bias that "at home" is "unproductive").

I don't think the people who categorize housekeeping as "nothing" or "easy" realize how that makes someone who is struggling just to get through the day... It sure doesn't do anything for my self esteem when someone acts like the house could be spotless if only I would exert myself! And being depressed makes me extra sensitive to those kinds of comments.

Overall, thank you. It's so nice to see that someone who seems to have it all together has those moments when nothing concrete was finished in the day, or the dreaded thuds and tears! It makes me feel so much more... normal :)

Heidels said...

Being a stay at home mum or housewife, I think, must be one of the hardest (yet rewarding) occupations. I'm married and work full time, but I have got to the stage where my nesting instinct has kicked in - much to the bemusement and, I think, horror, of my husband. I find myself organising my home, in preparation for later and even without children, there is always constantly something that needs to be done. Definitely more than a full-time job if children are in the picture.
Thank you for a great blog. I've been reading for some time now, and find your blog posts very inspirational.

Anonymous said...

Being with and raising your children every day from sunup to sundown and beyond, instead of three or four hours a day after work until their bedtime, is a whole different experience. And a lot more challenging. And definitely not simple.

I don't "mystify" SAH work. I tell it like it is.

Mara Ranae said...

Great post! I'm a new SAHW... no kids yet, but I'm making the best of this time before they get here!

Katie B. of said...

Thank you. It's so easy to forget the true goal of our work, and that due to its eternal nature we'll never really be done. The laundry, the cooking, all of the other housework we do can mentally wear us down. I'm so grateful for this dose of perspective you gave us this morning.