Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Do SAHMs of School-Agers Do All Day?

So I recently got a blog comment by an aliased reader who wanted to know what we lazy stay-at-home moms of school-agers do all day. I immediately deleted the comment, because it was verbally abusive and rude to all stay-at-home moms, and perhaps worst of all, beset with spelling and grammar errors (sigh).

But then after the comment was gone, I thought to myself, You know, I feel really sorry for angry, jealous, bitter Aliased Commenter. (Sorry, I can't even remember what her alias was. What do they call that when truckers talk to each other over the radio and have silly names? Her "handle"? Right. That.) She seemed honestly clueless as to a.) what a SAHM would do all day long and b.) why anyone would arrange her life (sometimes making large financial sacrifices) to make it possible to be at home all day even when the kids are at school.

the very first day of both children in all-day school!

So I decided to use this as an opportunity to educate. I don't know how all the rest of you--those of you who are also SAHMs of school-agers, of which I know there are many, because my social circle in my own town is largely populated by them, and none of us are special, rich, celebrities, or out of the ordinary in any way--spend your days, but at least I can inform Aliased Commenter about one example--i.e., my own.

An introductory note: Some SAHMs of school-agers are still SAHMs because they cannot find, or have not yet found, a job. Not all of us plan on, want to, or mean to be home with school-aged kids forever. Some of us have kids who have just become old enough for school, so recently that there has not been time enough yet to reconstitute a career. Some of us work part-time from home. Some of us work evenings and weekends but are still home during the day. Some of us would not be able to earn enough money at our jobs to justify the expense of before-school and after-school childcare for our children. (In some areas of the country, childcare is exorbitantly expensive.) Some of us are waiting to return to work until our children are old enough to supervise themselves before and after school. Please keep all that in mind, Aliased Commenter.

Another thing: Aliased Commenter said that working moms are expected to work all day and then also do all the work that SAHMs do as well, implying that the world is horribly unfair. To that I say, Exactly. And that is why my husband and I have chosen for me to be an at-home mom: Because neither of us wants to have all our evenings and weekends taken up by the numerous chores and errands no one was around during the day to do. Because we prefer to use our evenings and weekends to RELAX. It's not easy, because living on one income is tenuous at best, but it's worth it to us to have more free time to enjoy family, friends, and recreation.

It sounds as if A.C. is pretty envious of this set-up, so I encourage her to look into it for herself, if at all possible. Of course, perhaps it is not possible given the economics of her family, not even by making large financial sacrifices. And if that is the case, I am truly sorry for her situation, because she seems horribly unhappy. But the difference between her and me is that I would never send her a disrespectful, childish note condemning her work/home situation just because it was something I didn't, or couldn't, have.

OK! So! Here's a very quick, rough list of what I do on a typical day as an at-home mom to school-agers. It's not very exciting, so those of you who already know all this are free to stop reading.

*Wake up at five a.m. and get myself largely ready for the day; feed the cat; make coffee; start breakfast; check e-mail, Facebook, and the news online; update my personal blog, professional website, and book's Facebook fan page; respond to author-appearance request messages, sometimes throw in some laundry.

*Kids get up around 6-6:15 a.m. Feed them breakfast, then once husband is up, make bed (the kids do their own), finish getting myself ready for the day, straighten the house; put away any errant laundry; do daughters' hair for school, check backpacks, finish getting school lunches ready to go, correspond via e-mail with teachers and/or fellow moms re: school issues and/or plans for the day.

*Bring kids to bus stop at 7:55. Back home around 8:10. (*Note: if it is Wednesday, school begins an hour late, so I am at home with my daughters until 8:55, and back home from the bus stop at 9:10.)

Most days, between 8:10 (or 9:10) and 3:20 when the afternoon school bus comes, I am "free" for about half an hour while I eat my lunch; otherwise I am generally busy the entire time. I do get to exercise during the day, which is a huge luxury to me (I just spent 8 years running after dark every time, no matter how cold and scary it was out there!). But then again, my full-time-working husband works out every day on his lunch hour, so I dare say this isn't exactly an unreasonable way to spend an hour of my time a few days a week.

The rest of my day is spent doing some combination of the following:

Housecleaning (a category that, of course, includes scores of tasks that I won't list out here but that could potentially take up multiple hours a day just on their own); doing, folding, and putting away laundry; ironing; changing bedding; meal planning; grocery shopping and cutting coupons; cooking; baking; volunteering at my daughters' schools; going to the bank, drugstore, post office, gas station, library, Target, or any other place where my family needs something done; going to the dentist, veterinarian, doctor, etc.; checking on my elderly next-door neighbor; birthday-party-planning; shopping for all gifts for any and all occasions; freelance-writing and writing books (for pay) from home; arranging and supervising all home-upkeep appointments such as window-washers, housepainters, furnace tune-up technicians, carpet-cleaners, etc.; scheduling daughters' pediatrician, dentist, and haircut appointments; cleaning up after and tending to our pet; preparing for, planning, shopping for, and doing all tasks related to all holidays; arranging plans for travel or hosting relatives for visits; helping out friends with childcare or favors during the day if needed (because they do the same for me in other circumstances); routinely going through and sorting children's toys, clothes, shoes, and outdoor gear to purge what is outgrown, rotate what needs to be out, hand down appropriate items, and plan for giving away other items; conduct book readings and other speaking engagements around the state for the promotion of my published book; take care of any home updating, redecorating, rearranging, repainting, or other jobs that need doing at particular times; shop for my daughters' necessary clothes, shoes, outerwear, and the like...

...and quite possibly many, many other things (including, as mentioned previously, exercise on some days).

And then, of course, my kids come home at 3:20 and I feed them a snack; supervise homework; go through their school bags and paperwork; pack the next day's lunches, snacks, and water bottles; supervise after-school backyard play or take them to the park, on a walk or hike, or to meet friends to play as a group; host a friend for a playdate at our house or run any kid-included errands; cook dinner; feed them dinner; read together; pack backpacks for the next day; supervise bath if husband is not; supervise bedtime preparations if husband is not; say goodnight.

After all that, I'm typically so tired I could go to sleep myself at 7:30 p.m.!  Fortunately, because I've taken care of every family and household task imaginable and necessary between 5:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., I'm free to do that if I want! Or, you know, free to take a bubble bath, watch TV or a movie, read, or do anything else I find fun and relaxing.

Does that clear things up a bit, Aliased Commenter? I hope so, and I hope you get to be a SAHM of school-agers too sometime, if that is what your heart truly desires, as it seems to. Cheers, and have a good day.



dkgp said...

Well said, Shan.

dkgp said...

Well said, Shan. I just wrote my Christmas letter, and noted that as a SAHM, I am rarely actually home. It's still a decent gig, if not very lucrative. ;) There are days where I envy "working moms", but given my husband's work requirements, I would have a hard time finding a job in my field with adequate flexibility. That said, with both in school now, I do have my eyes open for a workable opportunity, but I'm also being realistic about feasibility. Merry Christmas!