The other day, I was talking to my seven-year-old about why Mommy and Daddy needed some time to sit down and rest (and watch TV). Our kids had already had time to watch what they wanted to after school and now that it was post-dinner, my husband and I wanted a turn. Of course, my seven-year-old wanted to know why he couldn’t watch more TV and why Mommy and Daddy wanted a turn. I said something to the effect of, “You know how you’re tired after a long, hard day at school? Well, me and Daddy are tired after a long hard day of working.” My seven-year-old replied with this: “But you don’t work.” And what did I say to that? I was able to fumble these words out of my mouth: “Well, it takes a lot of work to keep things straight around here.”
Yes, being a stay-at-home mom or a stay-at-home dad isn’t an income bearing job. But we who do it know full well that it is a job unto itself and, if done well, provides more than enough work for the severest of work-a-holics. (There’s work-a-plenty, you could say.) I think I’m rather proud of myself for honestly not being offended to hear my seven-year-old say what he said so nonchalantly. It was an innocent remark and a correct-on-the-surface observation. Because I’ve already wrestled with the ins and outs of what I do and why I do it, I was able to give a one-sentence informative retort without blowing things out of proportion.
If and when one of your children say such a thing to you (about how your job as a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad isn’t really a job) and you find yourself more heated about it than I was (since, I posit, the comment came at a more serene time of the month for me, enabling me to not be as triggered by it as I maybe would have been), hold fast to the knowledge that you have built of the work that you do. Own your work. You know what you do day in and day out (even though it might not be measurable by money or spreadsheets). You know how early you’ve been up and how late you go to bed. You know the challenges of the life-at-home work. And you know that what you do is important—vital—to the health and happiness of your family.
And, yes, we know that our children know that if they didn’t have us staying at home, life would be very, very different for them. And we know that our children know that they are glad that we don’t “work”—they need us as their stay-at-home parent to be the stay-at-home parent that we are. It’s what makes our family what it is. And all of the unseen things that we do remain unseen because we are doing our job well! Let this be our quiet confidence. We don’t have to be combative. Just consistent and unconditionally loving and accepting (even when our kids make comments that have the potential to offend us!).