Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A confession of undervaluing, from an overachiever

I have a confession to make.  It's not that I thought being a stay-at-home mom was in any way wrong, or bad.  But until--oh, I don't know, about five-and-a-half months ago, I might have thought that stay-at-home moms were just a teensy wee little bit lazy.

[Oh god.  I said it.  Feeling terrified.  Also terrible].

I now feel incredibly guilty for having believed this, and I want to talk about it a little for the sake of those of you still laboring under this delusion.  Coming from someone who's something of an overachiever, and generally regards herself as being pretty good at time management, let me tell you:  parenting, and running a household, takes a lot of time.

Because unless she is blissfully asleep?  You are with baby all the time.   All The Time. And there isn't much you can accomplish in terms of chores with a baby around. (More on suggestions of what you can do in a later post).  You're sort of on the hook for keeping her entertained.  And as she becomes more mobile, for keeping her safe.

So, if you're really, really, really lucky, you might have 1 hour of nap-time in the morning, and 2 hours in the afternoon.  Most people are not that lucky.  In any case, that's a total of 3 hours, for everything.   Baby probably goes to bed a little earlier than you in the evening--but you're not going to want to do much during that time, because it's the only time you have to spend with your partner.  Nor do you necessarily want your partner doing much in the way of household work when he or she comes home at night--because that's their only time with the baby/children.

I doubt that the addition of a second child to this mix would make things any easier.  Perhaps once they all go off to school...but at that point, you have even more laundry and mess and mouths to feed, so I'm pretty sure it all balances out.  And that stay-at-home moms are incredibly, universally undervalued.  It is, really, and I'm not just saying this, a full-time job.  I hope you believe me.

[I'm having trouble finding a reputable source for an estimate of the value of unpaid household work to the economy; such work is by definition not included in GDP.  I know that there have been articles and studies on this subject, and suggestions are welcome--but the baby just woke up, so I have to go]!


  1. Can I just say THANK YOU! I have been feeling so incredibly guilty for "not doing anything" except holding the baby all day.

  2. Aw, no, that's definitely your job right now. I will say that baby carriers helped me a lot for the first couple months when she needed to be held constantly. I used a Moby wrap until she got too heavy; now I use an Ergo. Got 'em both used on craig's list!

  3. how does this not make your brain melt out of your ears? spending all day entertaining a baby, I mean. This befuddles me - but you seem to be managing it so well!

    PS - the undervaluing of female labor is an enormous crime. Anyone who says airily, "breastmilk is free!" should be punched in the nose - it's only free if a woman's time is worth nothing!

  4. avoiding brain melt is definitely a worthy topic for another post...the short answer is that I am very lucky that I have a fabulous mother and mother-in-law, and that the latter lives 5 minutes away.

  5. Rachel - Just discovered your blog! I'm excited to see someone speak frankly about some of the challenges of motherhood. I too always thought being a SAHM meant playing with baby all day and that it would be kind of easy. I now realize that it's sort of impossible to understand what it's like until you've crossed the's days are so unrecognizable from anything they looked like before. It's occasionally bewildering. I learned how incredibly strong women are -- such a cliche but shockingly apparent to me now.

  6. Phew, glad this resonated with you, G. I know that I come off sounding a bit naive...but the fact is, I really WAS pretty naive pre-baby about what post-baby life was going to be like...I simply had no idea.

  7. Me either! Not the slightest clue!!!