As a stay at home mum I am often considered by the wider society to be a glorified nanny. On forms I even have to tick the unemployed box or homemaker box. Neither of these boxes even begin to encapsulate what it actually means to be a stay at home parent.
To be clear, I think working parents are amazing. I do not know how you manage and I have every respect for you in the world. Not only do you do your daily work, but then you come home and have to parent at a time of day when kids are tired and don’t want to be parented. You are saints.
However I think there are many people who will look at me and be very confused about how I spend my time. What it is that I actually “do”. Well, this is what I have done today:
I got out of bed early (for a Saturday) to take Eloise to ballet. This involved getting her dressed (knowing where her ballet clothes are and ensuring that they have been washed and dried in time for her ballet lesson), brushing her teeth and her hair (this is always a dramatic experience), ensured that she has extra clothes to keep her warm for the walk to ballet and prepared her for the new measures that have been brought in to make her ballet class ‘covid safe’.
We then walked to her ballet class. In order to make it covid-safe parents are no longer allowed in the building so I spent the next half hour walking around in the cold until it was pick up time. We then walked back.
Once home I got the youngest child dressed and gave everybody snacks.I then began the endless task of cleaning and tidying both the living room and kitchen – it’s still not finished, it will never be finished.
I had previously promised Eloise that she could paint my finger nails so the next 20 minutes is spent with her choosing all the colours she’s going to use and then watching as she applies it with gusto. We then do our usual nail drying routine (something we began during lockdown) where we dance crazily to songs until every nail is completely dry.
Next it was time to take a load of things to storage. This is not a normal everyday task but we’re having some work done to the house so things need be removed. This could easily be replaced with a trip to the supermarket for our weekly shop or high street to get much needed new shoes for the kids. While I was out the kids would need lunch and this would fall to Nick. However the thinking still ends up being me. As I sit on the toilet (yes, I do use the toilet – we all do, get over it) I hear the sound of my husband calling me to ask what he should give them for lunch. Of course he could figure it out for himself but it’s easier to ask me and I don’t blame him for this. This is the habit we have fallen into and it’ll take longer than a chat through a bathroom door to change it.
After I have dropped the car load of items off at the storage place, I then pop into some charity shops to drop off more things that we no longer want or need. From there I pop into Sainsbury’s to ensure we have fresh vegetables for the kids’ dinner. I am determined to get something green into them today if it kills me.
When I arrive back home everyone has had lunch so now it’s my turn. Yay! I sit for 10 minutes to shove food into my mouth and then it’s time for my next task. Online shopping! ‘Wow! Online shopping? You must be blessed with time.’ Nope. I am actually browsing for birthday presents for three different people as well as beginning the search for Christmas presents. You would be surprised how big of a job this is. On top of that I am also searching for deals on new house interiors. The work we’re having done is pretty extensive and so I am trying to save money where I can on fixtures, fittings and accessories.
It’s time for Martha’s nap, she does not want it but mostly because there is an undetected poo in her nappy. I quickly change it, give her a cuddle, sing her a special song and then down she goes for about 90 minutes.
Then I have to begin the task of house admin. Checking that the kids uniform is in the wash cycle, that their clubs are all paid up, that our energy bill is what we expect it to be (we’ve been burned before), that we have all the food essentials that this household lives on and that dinner is prepped.
After this Rufus wants me to watch his Youtube video that he has made. I don’t know what he’s talking about in it but I have to watch 20 minutes of him wittering on and then ask him about it at the end. I can not check out of his video like I know I would in a zoom call.
Martha needs to get up from her nap and wants to hang out so we have a dance and singalong to the songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’. She claps at the end of every number which is very cute and makes the dance workout worth it.
Look! It’s finally time to make dinner. We have a new oven which I haven’t 100% figured out yet so after a bit of fumbling, cursing and deep breathing the dinner is finally starting to cook. As I don’t trust the oven yet (if you knew what our last oven was like you’d understand) I stay close by and continue my search for the ‘perfect’ birthday present.
It’s now 5 mins until dinner is served so just enough time to steam the broccoli. Then serve up, makes drinks and coax all three children to stop what they’re doing and eat nicely. Once ketchup is given to Eloise, even she will eat her greens and then it’s pudding time.
We’re almost there – it’s almost bedtime. I prepare Martha’s milk, take her upstairs, get her ready for bed and then we sit and cuddle while she drinks her bottle. We then do the ‘goodnights’. Goodnight star, goodnight moon, goodnight Martha, I’ll see you soon. Give her a kiss, one last squeeze and then tuck her in for the night.
Nick joins me at this point to corral the kids into pyjamas, have them brush their teeth and negotiate story time.
Before you all start complaining about how Nick is barely mentioned here, I will say this. He is a wonderful dad and truly supportive husband but as the primary carer in the house the kids come to me and to be honest, I know their routines better than he does so it makes sense that he would come to me for advice too. Plus, he spent the day working on projects that will benefit the family long term and I respect that. On top of all that, this isn’t about him. This post is about how it can often look like I don’t do very much but in fact I spend my days thinking about everyone else. I pre-empt disasters, I put out metaphorical fires, I provide cuddles and kisses, I listen to all of the kids’ ideas and watch all of their various performances. I plan for the day, week, month and year ahead. I maintain a level of normal so that the kids feel safe and secure. I manage Rufus and his spectrum traits, I manage Eloise and her changeable emotions and I manage a toddler who is into EVERYTHING.
I’m not looking for praise and adoration and in fact I think the reason I began writing this is because I felt like I was not really adding any value but I do juggle a lot in my days and I think it’s time that stay at home parents got their own box to tick. Something more akin to what it actually feels like to be on top of all of these things, more akin to the responsibility that weighs on our shoulders, just something more.