I got a question from a reader asking me what a typical day looks like for me, and I’m kind of stuck on ideas for new blog posts here…so…here’s what a typical day looks like for me as a stay at home parent, homemaker, and writer…
I wake up when J’s alarm goes off, and to ease him out the door for work in the morning, I make him breakfast and pack him a lunch. Then when he leaves, The Boy wakes up to his alarm (and is generally a grump) and I make him breakfast and pack his lunch and drive him to school. And then I come home and do some housework…laundry, dusting, vacuuming, recycling sorting, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen…that type of stuff. I go to the grocery store once a week (sometimes twice). I cook dinner after picking The Boy up from school and going over any school management/homework type stuff with him and then J gets home and we all eat together.
I know. It’s very Donna Reed.
But I am not an oppressed, repressed, depressed housewife. I enjoy the work I do, and just because it’s ‘traditional’ and I don’t get paid a salary for doing it doesn’t make it without value. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when my home is orderly and comfortable and knowing that J and The Boy are happy and well taken care of and that me doing some of these things makes their lives easier. That being said…J and The Boy each know how to do laundry and clean up after themselves and can shop for and feed themselves and they are both happy to help me whenever I need help getting things done. But I don’t normally need that help…because I’m privileged to make homemaking and parenting my full time career. I know there are many people…of all genders…who would love to have the option to manage their home and family full time, but HAVE to work to survive, and there are many women who are working full time outside the home and coming home to manage a household on top of it. Google ‘mental load’ or ‘invisible workload’ if you want to read up on this from someone other than me, but I’m aware that many women, even women with husbands who DO the practical chores like folding laundry and cooking dinner are *managing their homes and families.* It’s up to women to remember to buy milk and toilet paper and shampoo…it’s up to women to know the schedules of dance practice and soccer games and when school projects are due for the kids…that Susie needs new shoes…that Billy is due for his booster shots and an orthodontist appointment. Men will gladly and without complaint GO to the soccer game or the doctor’s appointment or pick up the milk or toilet paper or shampoo…they’ll gladly help complete that school project and drive to dance practice and sit and wait until it’s over…but women are *telling them what needs to be done* which means women are worrying, checking, measuring, remembering, noticing, supervising what needs to be done, even when they aren’t actually doing it (and they are often also actually doing it). Which means many women are directing their careers outside the home AND *directing their home lives.* Think about how a workplace outside home is typically structured…normally there is a team of waiters/salespeople/office clerks/nurses/soldiers/teachers/trauma surgeons/whatever and at least one team lead/supervisor/commander/principal/chief *who manages the team.* A home also needs the same type of management to run, and that management, which in the working world is a whole separate job that ONLY manages and delegates and troubleshoots and doesn’t actually DO the work the team does and this is normal, isn’t shared equally in the home. It largely falls to many women, who are expected to not only 1. manage the home and 2. work full time outside the home but also 3. also do at least 50% of the home team’s work themselves.
Somehow, this topic is controversial, and again…I’m not here for debate. I’m just here to express myself and talk about my life, particularly when I’ve been asked a direct question about it from a reader. So that’s what I’m doing here. I think the mental load is real, and I know how lucky I am that it’s the only job I have to work. I’d like to make two points about the mental load…
The first one is that I often find myself in the middle of getting shit done during the week and wondering how I ever accomplished anything at home or was happy at all ever when I was also working full time outside home. The Boy wasn’t around and all the additional worries and tasks his presence has added to my life weren’t there when I worked full time, but even still. Sometimes, just from managing our home and parenting, I am EXHAUSTED at the end of the day, and I know I DID cook dinner every night after I came home from an outside job and it never bothered me, but wow. Thinking about doing that now, I think…I’d always feel behind on something and anxious about something. I know if I worked full time now, I wouldn’t have time to write (I honestly haven’t made time to write new things for the past couple of weeks anyway) or work out to maintain my physical health the way I do now. I know I’d get less sleep. I’d get ZERO alone time. So the things that improve my physical and mental health and increase my joy that I currently do would be what got sacrificed. I know that.
And second…I am wholly confident that J wouldn’t be a man that had to be managed like a child to get things done and nagged to chip in and take care of himself if I worked outside home. He is a man who notices and worries and cares by nature. I’ve written posts about this before. I know I’m blessed with J on a lot of levels, and I’m blessed with my life on a lot of levels. And I guess I just wanted to say that again.
Anyway…’A Day In the Life’ for me looks like…wake up…get boys out the door for school and work…make my house look and feel clean and comfy…work out…write…feed everyone dinner…go to bed happy. But I get to do these things and feel happy doing them because I freely chose to do them (I know staying at home and homemaking is not for everyone…not only because of necessity, but by choice) and because I’m fortunate my home is the only management job I need to work.