I’m A Stay At Home Mom Because It’s Too Costly To Not Be

I woke up this morning with a start, realizing it is November 2nd and the gas bill was due two days ago.

I’ve been so swamped lately, it just slipped my mind. This was the last of the bills to go on autopay, I just hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Fortunately, I called and the gas company said I was within the 5 day grace period. So the bill wasn’t even really late. And they set up autopay right then on the phone, too, so now I literally never have to make the effort to pay bills anymore. It just happens.

It got me thinking about the costs (financial and otherwise) of working, though, because the reality of the situation is that for about four weeks now, I have been working even though I’m really a Stay At Home Mom.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well without going into all of the emotionally exhausting and – quite frankly – mind numbing details of my husband’s attitudes with regards to me and the children, and money, I decided to try and start doing some work on the side of my full time mom gig, just so we had a little extra money so that the kids didn’t have to miss out on anything (fun or otherwise) when he gets into one of his moods.

There was a problem, though, with the whole arrangement. Well, several problems:

  1. My husband works overnight, and long hours, in film. It’s not like he can be counted on for anything with the kids. He can’t. He leaves for work at 4:30 in the afternoon, gets home when the work is done, then sleeps until it’s time to get up and go back to work. It isn’t like he comes home and takes over with the kids. I do everything. Everything. Cooking. Cleaning. Yardwork. Errands. Driving. Everything.
  2. My two oldest kids homeschool. I am their educator.
  3. I went back to school in August, after a ten year hiatus, to start working towards finishing the graduate degree I (foolishly) stopped working towards all those years ago. SO now I’m the teacher. I’m a student. I’m the only parent most of the time. And I’m working?
  4. I have no real childcare whatsoever, and no budget for said childcare. My two oldest kids had to free babysit my toddler, while I worked. Or my dad, who lives with us and is 76 did, but he’s old and has limits. (I’m sure you can all imagine how healthy that is for everyone involved after a couple hours of Grandpa time; my dad has to nap for an average of 3 hours after just an hour with my little guy…)
  5. I was already stretched thin scheduling-wise and getting only about 4 hours of sleep a night.

So for one month, I started writing part time in a freelance writing position. I used to do this before I had my third child, and was relatively successful. But things are different now, and three kids is no joke, so success isn’t exactly how it went this time.

Within a week, I stopped having time for almost anything. No more gym. I was driving my kids around town on virtually no sleep. I even started skipping meals and showers, just to keep up with the schedule.

I worked about 6 hours a day, but got only minimal work done because I was trying to juggle everything while doing the writing. The worst moments were when my toddler was running around, crying because I was on the computer. He would run up and slam the laptop screen shut. Stay up until 2 in the morning to have playtime with Mommy. Within a week, he was getting even more clingy, too. He still nurses and was suddenly nursing double what he had cut back to.

The best moments were when I turned my freelance writing profiles on “out of office.” I did this twice in the four weeks, for two days each. That means I took exactly four days off in the entire month. But it wasn’t really time off, because it’s when I had to catch up on all of my other stuff. I cleaned the house, did heavy yard work, caught up on grocery shopping.

The first two days “out of office,” I realized towards the end of the two days that I had gotten behind on planning the kid’s homeschooling. So I stayed up for 36 straight hours to make sure everything was set for the rest of the month. I literally had no other option, the clock was ticking and there was just too much for me to do.

That is the first time I considered forcing my kids into public school. When I finally went to sleep after 36 hours of working and catching up on everything, I did so crying.

In the four weeks, I made a lot of connections and got almost 100 positive 5-star reviews.

After taxes, site fees, PayPal transfer fees, and getting screwed by not one, not two, but seven people who decided not to pay their bill, but publish my work as theirs anyway, I brought home exactly $46.

Forty. Six. Fucking. Dollars.

I felt so guilty for all the time away from them and everything that had sort of fallen apart, I used it all to take my kids to the movies.

Here were the costs:

  1. I spent less time with my kids, and by “less time,” I mean virtually no time. I went from Stay At Home Mom to Mombie, sleeping less than 2 hours per night, and just going through the motions to get through each day.
  2. I had no time after the kids went to bed to work on my blog, and for the first month in – I don’t know, the entire time I have blogged – my blog was not self-sustaining (because my clicks and social media ticks went down).
  3. That thing about my toddler being sad.
  4. That thing about my two older kids losing their educator, and having to become almost full time babysitters.
  5. I forgot about two assignments for school, and didn’t have time for a third. So now I’m unsure that I can even do this school thing with the kids and everything else.

And then there were the risks. I was driving around town on virtually no sleep, with three children in my car. Several times I caught myself thinking I could close my eyes for just a second. On more than one occasion, I was driving faster than was safe for the conditions, because I needed to get home to get the work done so I could get school done so I could make dinner so I could finish the laundry so I could …

My blood pressure went from its normal and healthy 110/68 to an alarming 148/92

People said my older kids could pitch in more. I disagreed. They had already all but quit sports and school to help with my toddler, pick up the slack with cleaning and laundry and dinner… And while I know that kids do that all the time in a variety of situations around the world, I started to ask myself: why would I ask that of my kids when there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever? No necessity, and it’s actually costing more?

But I digress…

There are two issues, as I see it. One is that I don’t really want to work, I want to be with my kids. I know, I know…what mom doesn’t? and all that jazz. But here’s the other thing: it cost us significantly more money and other stuff for me to work last month in a semi-regular position (unlike my blog and books, which can be done here and there as I please), and I didn’t even get into childcare.

To work in any capacity for the long term, we would have to completely change the children’s lives, most importantly there would be paid childcare needed and paid help with transporting my older kids to and from school and other activities, or if they continued to homeschool we would have to pay someone else to educate them.

At a minimum, for me to work and have that help, I would have to bring home – net pay, after everything – around $30,000 a year. And that would leave nothing, not a penny. Again begging the question: why do it?

(Not to mention the fact that $46 a month is not $30,000 a year.)

And there’s also all the other stuff. I’m one person, managing a lot, and I do it all alone. Adding this was just too much. To allow myself the indulgence of a cliche: it really was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

So I notified my regular “clients” today that I just can’t keep up with this anymore, and I’m backing out. My blog and my books are sufficient; school is sufficient. Being a mom is enough.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom because it’s too costly for me to not be. Costly in terms of money. And costly in terms of who I am and what’s most important.

Yo, Privileged Guy At The Tennis Courts

This is for you.

The other day I was sitting at the tennis courts where my kids were attending a group clinic.

I was sitting in the chairs that border the courts. You know, seating for human beings.

There were two other mothers there. We were – like – just sitting. Chatting, really quietly. (And I mean really quietly, because I know how dickwads like you give the coaches everywhere around town such a hard time.)

We were pretty much minding our business.

Then you told us to shut the fuck up. Like animals.

To be clear, you interrupted the mother I was speaking to, mid-sentence, and yelled: “hey ladies, could you take your conversation over to the parent’s area?”

Um.

The other mother said “Oh, sorry, are we being too loud?” And you yelled “just go on down to the parent’s viewing area over there.”

Parent’s area? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I didn’t realize that parents were being segregated from the rest of the more civilized folk. Maybe we are and I just don’t know, but what you were referring to, which you then clarified: the parents area was a group of chairs five courts down, in the dirt.

Hey ladies, could you shut the fuck up and go sit in the dirt?

You very obviously had a hard on for misogynistic undertones, because I also heard you refer to my 15 year old daughter as “blondie.” If I were less classy of a person, I would have told you to shut the fuck up too. But being polite and not wanting to embarrass my kids or the coaches (who deal with enough shit from assbags like you on a daily basis), I returned to my book, and listened to you.

You bitched about children in tennis.

You bitched about not having courts when you want them because of children.

You bitched about children’s sports on the whole. You said children shouldn’t be allowed to play sports until they are in college.

You said the coaches shouldn’t be allowed to support children’s sports.

You griped about how a “council” should be formed to eliminate youth sports altogether from the community, because it bothers you every time you are there playing tennis, or even at the park walking your dog.

Every time a child at the group clinic even uttered the slightest noise – and I mean slightest – you stopped what you were doing (serving, playing out a point, whatever), looked over, and said “REALLY?!”

But I digress. You know what you did.

After you finished your friendly match with a guy who seemed much more decent of a human being than you (though not – clearly – decent enough to call out that “blondie” comment), you guys went in to the clubhouse and ordered beers. Sitting outside, still on the chairs for humans versus the spots in the dirt for the parents, I heard you loudly yelling at the guy serving you that you couldn’t believe he did not know your account number. That of all the people that frequent the place, he couldn’t remember yours.

Yeah, so.

What is so disturbing about this is your sense of privilege. It isn’t that you are more privileged than others – with more wealth or better health, greater opportunities, or whatever. It’s that you believe – like actually believe – that the world is all for you.

That it is actually OK to refer to a child as “blondie.” Ever, in any situation.

That people should be segregated based on their “status” or usefulness? I don’t know, what exactly is it segregating by to separate parents from non-parents?

I read a meme the other day that said “privilege is thinking something is not a problem because it has never personally affected you.”

That’s true. But I think in your case, I would take that a little further.

Privilege is thinking that the whole world is set up specifically for you, and that in your case the rules do not apply. That you can actually say and behave in the way you did that day and get away with it.

Why? I guess because for now you do.

For myself, I’m going to start putting my kids in situations where people like that don’t rule the world. It may be hard to find. Or maybe I will just start speaking up, and speaking out. How else will I teach my kids to stand up to that shit and make a change, instead of quietly turning back to their books and do what the privileged motherfuckers like you demand, just to avoid conflict?

We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

Just Call a Cab (Mom)

Imagine one day you wake up to discover you are an Uber driver. It’s not what you want to do, and definitely not your career path. It takes away from your other responsibilities. And you don’t get paid.

But you have to do it anyway. There’s no way around it.

You put 200 miles on your car per day, 7 days a week. Sometimes more, never less. That 200 miles is spread out between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM. 

You never have the time to go in and see what is going on that you are driving people to…because you have to go drive someone else somewhere else. Or someone forgot something. Or someone has to go to the bathroom. Or someone is hungry. Or you were so strapped with everyone’s schedules that you have to run home to brush your teeth still, or shower.

Of course no one outside of your situation understands that. In fact, you routinely find out that people say terrible things about how unsupportive you are for not always going in to see what’s going on.

You have a 2 year old who has to ride with you. He is miserable after 1 hour. He wants to play, instead he has to just keep riding and playing with what he can from his seat. If you do happen to go in and take him in with you, he bothers everyone with his noise and his playing and his toddler-ness, so you just don’t. You stay in the car, or he stays home (if someone is there to watch him and you had better believe you’ll be asked where he is with a disapproving look). Sometimes you take him to a nearby park, or other place he’d enjoy; but usually you have to be somewhere else to drive someone elsewhere and there isn’t time. Or you have to run home to take care of other stuff there that needs to be taken care of, like getting dinner in the oven or cleaning the toilets, because you already only get 4 hours of sleep a night. If that.

Also, remember, you are still missing out on what is going on where you dropped the other people/person off.

Your toddler has to usually eat at least one meal in the car. And did I mention he gets carsick? Also, he’s still breastfeeding, so that has to be done in between car trips, smashed in the backseat in some dingy parking lot too.

Your spouse drives 100 miles a day, roundtrip, in their commute to work at their dream job. Andd while others recognize you are busy, they regularly tell you that you are lying when you say you are driving 200 miles a day, even if you offer to show them your odometer. “Poor him he has it so hard… you?  …well you’re making it up stop telling stories HAHAHA” has actually come out of people’s mouths to your face.

People tell you all the time that they would love to help – JUST CALL! That ends up in one of three scenarios: 1. occasional help, which is awesome; though, more often it’s 2. the few times you ask, they are not able to 3. you get help, a little bit…just a smidge…but you feel SO GUILTY and have SO MUCH SELF-DOUBT about it all, that you feel bad asking again.

And you just know that if you were to write something like this, the single mothers of the world would be waiting on bated breath to pounce in the comments section with “…at least you have a…”

You should be able to handle all of this, right? If only you were managing the schedules better. Or had a tougher mentality about it all. Maybe you are going in a circuitous, illogical way.

The house, the housework, the grocery shopping, the schoolwork, the bath times, the bedtimes, meals, snacks, scheduling doctor’s appointments, holidays, the bill paying – you should be able to do it all plus take everyone to everything they need to and want to be at, on time every time, with a smile on your face.

Your budget for gas is $200 a month. You are using $120 a week (that’s $480 a month for those that cannot math). 

You don’t get paid for any of your time driving (duh). And you have to figure out that extra gas budget on your own with absolutely no help from anyone. Including the people getting rides from you.

OH ALSO: this free driving labor that has turned you into a terrible mother and a resentful person is giving you lower back problems to such a degree that you think you may need to see an orthopedic. (PS, just for fun let’s add in that you had back surgery for scoliosis when you were 13 years old, have Herrington rods on your spine, and definitely do not need back problems because they WILL result in surgeries.)

But wait…you can’t make it to any of your own appointments because someone else has to be somewhere else, and their thing is much more important. Always.

This is my life right now.

Every, single detail of it.

I completely understand that a large part of parenting kids over 10 is driving them from thing to thing.

However, a lot of people have a partner that helps them. I don’t.

And I know that will make a lot of single mothers angry, because I am married. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a partner, though. He’s just my husband. He works all the time, overnight, in his dream job. When he isn’t working, he’s sleeping. On weekends, he sleeps or works too. Last Saturday, he slept until 7 pm. If he can, he sleeps between 10 and 13 hours a night. He is working on Easter. He worked during our 11 year old’s birthday party last year. After I had major abdominal surgery (a c-section), he went to work two days afterwards, the day I came home from the hospital. With three kids to wrangle myself, stomach staples and all. He is, for the sake of discussion, not involved at all. When I hear other parents talking about how they “tag team” their multiple kids – split up events and such – I seethe in bitterness and resentment. It kills me to hear it.

A big big BIG factor in this is that I ALSO have a 76 year old man that I have to drive from place to place. That would be my dad, who lives with us. At the present time, he is unable to drive, leaving me the lone Uber driver. I had no idea how much work it was being retired and old.

A lot of people have SOMETHING – some sort of a break from it all. I don’t.

I think to myself regularly about how stressed out and tired and overworked and sick of being in the car I am, and I think that one day I will look back on this and wonder how I made it through it all. Originally I thought talking about it to people was the answer. I was wrong.

When I try to define what is going on for others, I inevitably offend people. I’m not a single mom. A solo mom? That pissed off a few people, so I stopped with that too. Absolutely no one wants to hear that my husband is absent in daily life.

This leaves me a bit of a Debbie Downer. Debbie Downer the Uber Driver.

I hate driving. When my kids are older and my dad doesn’t need rides places anymore, I’m going to move somewhere urban and never drive another car again.


To The Mom That Doesn’t Want To Be Told She’s “Lucky” For Having a Husband That Helps Out Around The House

Alternative Title: To The Mom That Doesn’t Want What Her Husband Does To Be Called “Helping”

Third Rendition: To The Guy Who Feels He Should Receive Zero Praise For Changing Diapers (Yet Still Posts About It Incessantly On Social Media)

I added those alternative titles in there just so we don’t get hung up on any semantics and lose our critical audience.

Sometimes when I read things on the Internet, I worry for my own health. Like: can you hurt yourself when your eyes roll so far back into your head that you see your brain?

Is it possible to have a stroke from just looking at dumb things that show up in your Facebook feed?

Last week I saw a doozy of an article, written by a woman that had just had it UP TO HERE with people telling her she’s “lucky” for having a husband that helps out around the house.

Upon reading it, I almost swallowed my tongue in disgust.

Her premise, which does make sense on some level, was that their home is equally his home, just as their children are equally theirs. So taking care of all of it is, presumably, just as much of a responsibility of his as it is hers.

It sounded, frankly, like the most entitled and ungrateful thing I had ever read.

I constantly see people rally behind that sentiment among my own, personal friend’s list. Every Sarah, Janet, and Cindy that I know has – at one time or another – posted a lengthy Facebook rant about how it isn’t “helping” when it’s your own child’s laundry you are folding. [Insert another brain-viewing eye roll].

Joining with them are the handful of men I know from high school and college that now pat themselves high key hard on their own backs for doing the most basic of things, while hard core lecturing everyone else for acknowledging it.

The point is well taken at this juncture: men and women are supposed to be equals, the result of which is that the work should be divided just as that. Equally.

But it’s like we can’t just do things for or with each other and be grateful anymore without offending people.

Or lament your own situation without getting a lecture from some hippy carrying a Dude Bag (the hallmark of fragile masculinity, as I see it…carry the diapers in a Vons bag in the fucking glove compartment like the rest of us).

Now we have to ban words from our vocabulary when it comes to adult-y type things like cleaning the house and changing poopie diapers.

Proponents of this current trend towards word fascism argue that to say that a woman is “lucky” or “fortunate” because her husband “helps” is to say that the work is not just as much a responsibility his as it is hers.

Hives are breaking out on my arms just thinking about this.

Expressing gratitude or acknowledgement of a person’s given fortune does not in turn deny anything.

Initially – like years ago – I agreed with the sentiment. I thought for sure it would begin a change in paradigm when it comes to household responsibility if we start to reframe the way we say things. I would say things to my husband like “no, you aren’t helping me with the dishes, those are just as much your dishes as they are mine to wash.” Or at family parties I would say: “it isn’t babysitting when they are your own children.”

I can feel my stomach churning every time my Facebook soap box sermons show up in my “on this day” memories posts.

Guess what happened? Very little in the way of a paradigm shift.

Also, I sounded like a pretentious and ungrateful bitch.

This isn’t to say that my husband does much in the way of anything when it comes to our home and raising the kids worthy of praise anyway (there I go being an ungrateful bitch again, but really now…). You could call it helping or you could call it doing his fair share, the bottom line is he doesn’t do it.

And he would be in the statistical majority of men that just don’t. Banning words from the colloquial vocabulary doesn’t change that.

It is because I fly the ship solo when it comes to our home and kids that I feel I can say with some authority that women whose husbands do stuff around the house AND help with the kids, ALL while bringing in a decent salary AND also being good husbands (because these things are not, and will never be, mutually exclusive), need to accept the praise from others, and be grateful.

Honestly.

Be grateful.

Be grateful that you have a partner in life, not a roommate. A lot of women in this world have roommates and it fucking sucks. They would give anything to have a man that does dishes or picks the kids up from soccer practice, reliably, and with no consequences.

Recognize how fortunate you are that a man didn’t skate town when the pregnancy test came up positive, or that your husband didn’t come into hard times and now finds himself in prison, with you holding the bag for everything.

Be grateful that you didn’t wake up one day to a stranger in your bed. You woke up to the same man he’s always been, and he’s downstairs vacuuming.

Thank. You. Goes. A. Long. Way. In both directions.

Be grateful that you aren’t in the statistical majority of women who, even if you work full time and bring in an equal or greater income, still come home and do the majority of the house work and child rearing.

Be grateful if you are a stay at home mom and your husband still recognizes how much you really do every day, above and beyond what anyone could ever imagine.

And if you are a man that is taking on his equal share of the responsibility, take the compliment. You earned it. It does not hurt your ego or your place in the world one bit to smile and remember that you are a statistical anomaly.

It also does not change that statistic to lecture people about your role as Dad or post video after video after video with captions a mile long about how you do your part and don’t appreciate people implying that you shouldn’t be when they say you are a “good man.”

I guess the critical part of the equation is that this isn’t really a part of feeling like you really hit the jack pot as a woman, or like you are taking a stand as a man in the 21st century, so much as it is just being a good person in a mutually respecting relationship. Wife does laundry, husband thanks her. Husband changes diapers, wife say she’s fortunate to have a man like him.

Seems pretty basic.

Women unequivocally continue to be the main providers of care to the home and children, in spite of the word fascism growing over the years.

To deny the anomaly of a man that does his fair share is not only factually wrong, it is taking the situation and fortune of it for granted.

We live in a weird time. I say that for many many, many …many reasons. But this time it is because somehow we seem to have misunderstood what it is to change the way people view responsibility.

Banning words won’t change who our culture believes should run the household. Modeling it for our children over an incredibly long time, and acknowledging the ones who are doing things right along the way, will.

So, to the mom that doesn’t want to be told she’s “lucky” for having a husband that helps out around the house: suck it up. Stop being ungrateful, and take the comment in stride. You are fortunate. You are a rarity. Your husband is a real man. It’s OK to acknowledge that. I’m certain he will still put the dishes away and maybe change all the diapers that night too; do more than his half of the work because sometimes that’s just what people do.






An Open Letter To Single Mothers, Everywhere

Suck it up.

Yep, I said it. Suck it up.

I mean this with the utmost understanding of the struggles you are experiencing.

Suck. It. Up.

That’s what I read over and over and over again in the comments section of an article this morning on Scary Mommy, although it was the single mothers, everywhere, that were screeching it in what I can only imagine the shrillest of tones.

Nobody has it as bad as you, right?

UGH.

Suck it up.

So I woke up this morning, and as I always do, checked all the notifications on my phone. Then, after clearing them, scrolled through my Facebook feed and ran across this:

Single mothers everywhere, came to this post in particular, just to tell a woman (women, because others had empathized in the comments and were being directly addressed as well) to suck it up.

To the writer of this article: I identify. Big time.

My husband doesn’t travel for work, but he is never around either. He works the nightshift, extra hours, and takes extra jobs on weekends as side projects to further his career. When he is home, he is sleeping or sitting on his phone or answering emails from work.

He is not and he has never been an extra set of hands.

I am the lone ranger of our home. I do all the cooking. All the cleaning. All the driving. The baths, the bedtimes, the runny noses and endless doctor’s appointments – you guys get it, I do it all. There is no me time, no self care. No “I do the cooking, you do the dishes.” I do all of it, and then I make my husband a plate of food to eat the next day and many times he just throws it in the trash because “work catered this morning.”

Most days it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. And all for the income of barely above a livable wage, because not only does my husband sacrifice his time for his career, he sacrifices good wages. I cut my own hair, I cook every meal at home, and I go without basic necessities time after time after time to give my kids opportunity and my husband the chance to achieve his dreams.

This isn’t about my struggles, though; or my husband’s clear lack of participation in our family dynamic. Let me be clear: IT IS NOT. I’m just attempting to clarify why I am qualifying my own right to say to single moms, everywhere:

You. Need. To. Stop.

If I or someone else, like the writer of “This Is What Parenting Feels Like When Your Spouse Travels For Work,” ever dares to open our mouths and lament a particularly difficult aspect of our own situation – which certainly a lot of people can identify with, and benefit from hearing about – the army of single mothers, everywhere, come in on their high horses, spewing hate and venom about how no situation can ever be as bad as theirs.

Give me a break.

The defining comment on that article this morning was one of the first I read. It had over 600 reactions, and over 100 replies in unison:

“So, like single parenting but with an extra income? Asking for 13.7 million people.”

You can feel the ire radiating from the screen.

Comment after comment from there agreed and told the writer to suck it up. To “man up” and deal with her situation.

“At least you have that extra income.”

“Suck it up, at least you have an extra pair of hands when he’s in town.”

The ballsiest:

“No one’s situation will ever be as hard as mine.”

OH. MY. GOD.

We get it. Your life sucks too. The operative word there is “too.” Shockingly, misery in adulthood is not mutually exclusive. A lot of people experience it, in a lot of different ways.

You had a failed marriage. You told a man you were pregnant and he fled town. You don’t get child support. You do get child support, but it’s insufficient. You never get a break. You get a break, but you have to fight incessantly as coparents. Your kids will never know what it’s like to have two parents in one home. Your kids will and remember, but they will always have the trauma of a home, broken. You have to work two jobs to survive. You have to work one job, but long hours.

None of that is sufficient to invalidate the experiences of others.

There are a lot of people in the world that have it much worse than all of us. There are refugees. People on the street. People in abusive situations that feel they can’t get out. People with terminal illness. I could go on.

The point is that a lot of people in this world, dare I say most people, are struggling in one way or another. Other people are allowed to have a hard time with their situation while you have a hard time with yours. Moreover, it doesn’t make your experience any less valid to validate that of others.

I’m sorry, it doesn’t.

It sucks to have your struggles shit on. To the single moms, everywhere: just stop.

The point is: we get it. I get it. I hear you. Now it’s your turn to hear me.

Suck it up.

Not suck it up to your situation; rather, suck it up to the fact that you are not alone and you do not have it particularly worse than any given person.

Something magical happens when we stop shitting on each other and start working together: things get easier. I am much more inclined to carpool with a single mother that recognizes my own struggles, than to carpool with one who responds to everything I say with “at least you don’t…” In exchange, I am a listener, and will listen to you as long as you need me to.

It isn’t a pissing contest. We can both be miserable, and in acknowledging that, we can also both get some happiness, together.

Please Stop Telling Me I Should Do Things For A Living

The title, alone, sounds ridiculous. Please stop telling me I should do things for a living? What do I expect – to sit around and do nothing as a grown ass adult?

No. That’s not what I mean at all.

A couple weeks ago, we had a little family and friend get together for my toddler’s second birthday. It wasn’t too extravagant. About 20 people came by. We had burgers and broccoli cheese soup, a cake, and a donut display. Truth be told, he slept for 75% of it, having started his nap that day a little late.

As I always do: I made the party set up a little on the extra side. The table of desserts and foods looked Pinterest-perfect, which truth be told I always do. Not because I feel that I have to, but simply because I want to. It’s what I do to feel alive.

Yes. I want to have personalized water bottles and theme-specific drink glasses. Yes, DIY tables cape projects actually make me feel like I’m living my best life. This is just something that’s important to me as a parent, to give my kids some of these fun picturesque memories that I didn’t have as a child.

Sue me.

Just as with all parties I throw, meals I cook, or hostess gifts I bring, the comments almost immediately rolled in:

 Oh Heather, you should do this for a living! Seriously you should get into event planning, think of how much money you could make if you did this for a real job!

You are doing too much for someone that doesn’t get paid!

Imagine how nice this party would be if you were getting a paycheck to throw it!

[Insert drawn out eye roll]

I completely get that this is meant to be a compliment, and isn’t it just so late-stage millennial of me to be offended by something someone said that was meant to be nice?

But honestly: is there ever going to come a point when a woman can be a mom and have that be enough?

As in this is just what mom does – she throws parties, and those parties are extra.

Or when a woman, who is a mom, does something nice and it’s just a part of what she does as a mom – not something she should do in another sphere for a financial payoff; will that ever just be enough? That Mom did something really nice for us?

And really, when did we fall into this black hole of equating the things people do solely by how much money they bring in?

When people tell me that I should event plan or personalize shop or bake for a living, they are telling me that what I am actually doing for a living – raising and educating three human beings while running a household so my husband can pursue his dream job – is of little or no value to them. Like it’s temporary, or just something I do for fun while figuring out what I’ll do when I become a real adult.

Every time I am told that I should do something else for a living than what I am actually doing, a little piece inside of me breaks in half and turns on itself. What if what I do has no value?

Moreover: what if my children heard someone say that to me (which they have)? Will they begin to find no value in anything I do? If they want to do what I do when they grow up, will they feel as worthless as this makes me feel?

And the big one: what in the hell am I doing spending all this time with people who share values I don’t espouse, or want to raise my kids to learn?

There’s a folly to it all because it is meant to be a compliment: that I do something so well I could make money by doing it professionally. But does it really teach our children the value we want to teach them – that something is only really valuable if it brings home a paycheck? And, taking it a step further, that if someone does something for free they are either wasting their time and energy, or not contributing to some grander vision?

I’ve asked so many questions, to which I have one answer: a mother’s contribution is not defined by how much money she does or does not contribute to the household budget.

As I said, I do these parties, the Sunday dinners, the homemade gifts because I want to. The things I do that I do not get paid for as a stay at home mom go well beyond that, too. It’s the homeschooling, the Mom Therapist Mode. The extra curricular activity taxi cab driver. The scheduler-medication administrator-personal chef- laundry woman-housekeeper. It’s all of it.

Becoming a stay at home mom was the most valuable decision I ever made, and one even my husband continues to believe is not what I really want. Women have come so far, how could I ever want to define my life as just a mom? You could do so much more if you did something for a living.

Please stop telling me to do things for a living. As I see it, I am. I’m doing a lot of things for a living – not for a paycheck or a promotion. But to live.