In this post, Emily and Victoria take on that question everyone asks, but no one really seems to want the answer to…
To read more about this series and find Victoria and Emily’s other conversations, click here.
Victoria: “What do you do all day?” Oh my goodness. This question. My first response is: “Didn’t your mama teach you to mind your business?” But I can’t respond like that, I know. “Something something… gotta be charitable and loving…” yeah OK.
I think the fact that this question is being asked in the first place reveals a fundamental flaw with how we view worth. If we’re not actively out there earning money, then the time is basically wasted.
This isn’t to say that being out in the workforce is not a worthwhile call. But I think how we measure that worth needs to be evaluated. Both a working mom and a SAHM can be living out their call to support their families and communities. The worth isn’t solely in the $$$.
So. What do you do all day?
When I ask someone what they do, and they say, “Sales,” imagine if I asked them what they did all day. “Emails.” “Spreadsheets.” “Meetings that could’ve been emails.”(Because, fun fact, I’ve been there). It sounds so boring when you have to put it that way!
So SAHMs should not be ashamed when they feel boring when they’re asked to describe EVERY MINUTE DETAIL of their day!
Emily: Yea, I loathe this question too. It presumes so much that, like you said, is hard to answer charitably. Very few people seem to ask us this because they are genuinely interested.
You mentioned to me when we first started this project that you were a “stay-at-home-wife” at the beginning of your marriage. We both laughed about how you immediately felt the need to defend yourself, even though your situation had nothing to do with you somehow being lazy. I feel the same can be said for a SAHM. We find ourselves all too often in defense-mode, being asked to account for ourselves since we’re “just” at home, to the point that it becomes a reflex response even among friendly company.
If the concern is that taking care of small children all day is boring, I will say my kids are very considerate. They figured out that mom gets bored with the same thing everyday, so they took it upon themselves to make sure I stay surprised. You know, stuff like inhaling the chicken and broccoli I made for them today, and then spitting it out in disgust tomorrow. Or taking a delightful 3-hour nap today, and then fighting it tomorrow as though it’s the most foreign concept ever.
Seriously though, what I do all day is play psychologist, therapist, chef, chauffeur, day planner, scheduler, teacher, life coach, and relational advisor to two young narcissistic hedonists.
To me, this question presumes that we need to be “free women”, and the only way to be free women is to throw off everything that makes us uniquely woman. Nurturing is somehow beneath us. We need to be men, but with female plumbing that we don’t like or use except for self-gratification. It’s nothing more than thinly veiled misogyny masquerading as … actually, can we even say that it’s “masquerading” anymore?
Society has lost respect for the art of motherhood. We only value the homemaking arts as trendy hobbies, and photo opportunities for Instagram. We’ve become incredibly cynical. We’ve lost the feminine genius of valuing people just for being alive.
Society has lost respect for the art of motherhood.
Sure, being a SAHM has made my world a whole lot smaller, but it has expanded it in so many other ways. I’m growing and changing and developing skills and talents that up to now I’ve never really tapped into – I started a dedgum blog and so did you! I have the freedom to do this because I chose to leave the workforce and clean poop off two kids’ butts all day. I had the freedom to choose, and I chose this life, and I have no regrets.
Just because the job of turning narcissistic dictators [cough cough, my children] into healthy and functional human beings, or of turning a house into a loving and nurturing home cannot be quantified does not mean it needs to be justified. Just because my world mostly revolves around two tiny humans does not make me less interesting. This job makes me absolutely woman. Why did women ever accept that being a mother and embracing that reality is degrading??
Victoria: Girl, preach. People can’t seem to handle it. Why is it that people are so overwhelmed by the fact that I’ve balked at the idea of entering the utilitarian nightmare?
Maybe — hear me out here — maybe they genuinely have our best interests at heart. Maybe they’ve watched one too many TV shows or movies where the SAHM is drinking vodka hidden in the washer and slowly decomposing from boredom. So they say, hey, no reason to martyr yourself, no reason to die in the prison of the suburban household go to work! Be fulfilled.
And hey, I appreciate that, kinda. I completely agree that a woman should not feel imprisoned being a SAHM. If you’re a SAHM, and you feel trapped, something is wrong, and I recommend talking to your husband/therapist/spiritual director/trusted friend about it.
Maybe they have our best interests at heart.
I personally don’t feel trapped, though. I genuinely enjoy helping to form my beautiful child’s life — and the way that this calling manifests for me is as a SAHM.
What do I do all day? I tend to my child’s physical needs, so that she can be strong and whole. This includes making smart choices about food, guiding her through a healthy nap routine, getting her outside and active. I foster mental and physical development, so that her brain and body can develop. This includes engaging in age-appropriate play and allowing her safe, monitored space for free play. I also do the bulk of household chores, manage family finances, take online courses, and foster community through writing blogs.
Emily: I mean, truth be told, once or twice, I have definitely been that TV mom needing a shot of booze to get through a tough moment. The only difference is I’ve got scotch in my cabinet, not vodka.
But there’s something weirdly honest (if not mildly unhealthy) about that, because we’re admitting we need help to get through our day’s work, just like anyone who works. Or lives.
The truth is without the Cross, staying home with our babies would be unbearable. The stuff we do on a day to day basis is not intellectually stimulating. But it does have the capacity to be fulfilling because we can always go back to why we do it. The law of a mother is love.
Love. That’s what we do all day.