The invisible job of the non-working mom


A dad writes

“So what have you been doing all day?”

Raise your hand if you’ve been asked this question and you’re a non-working mom.

Now use it to slap the person who asked you such a thing

I certainly have as a father.

I’m guilty.

I’m guilty also that I misinterpreted the messiness of the house. The toys lying on the floor testify that children live and play in it. I am guilty of misinterpreting the unwashed dishes in the sink. Dirty dishes indicate that children are full. I am guilty of misinterpreting the messy entryway of the house that is filled with shoes, school bags and jackets. Our messy entryway is a way to remind us that we have a place to call our own—a place that welcomes us every time we put the key in the door.

I had to spend two hours with my children on Saturday morning. My two year old defecated under the table and my son was crying because I asked him to make his bed. Our home is an arena of whining and crying.

Somewhere there I realized that this is my wife’s everyday life.

I was confronted for only two hours, with my wife’s daily life and it was demanding and physically exhausting. The mess from our three kids came just minutes after I finished cleaning. The parent was the servant and the child the menacing, yogurt-stained ruler.

The problem with non-working stay-at-home moms is that they are often graded for what they do, on the same criteria that moms who go to work outside the home are graded.

There are tangible results from the work I do every day. I can write a report, describe everything that has been said in meetings, do my job in general and do it all with pride. I can at the end of the day if someone asks me “what did you do;”say “that’s what I did today.” Stay-at-home moms are often rated on the same criteria that working moms are rated. But in their case there are no written references. They don’t run out in meetings. So they can’t answer if they had a successful day or not.

I have to remind myself that building characters is often invisible. You can’t see the words you read from a fairy tale. Compassion, hugs, reassurance, warmth and full bellies are lost under a veil of unironed but clean clothes.

It’s time to stop rating mothers for the cleanliness of their house and to begin to appreciate them for their selfless investment in others.

Minimalism reminded me that the most important things we do are often invisible. The most important things are not things.

Minimalism redefined my priorities and made me realize that raising respectable people is the most important legacy I can leave.

My goal is to embrace the messy results of a day spent with a smile. Instead of a dry one “what have you been doing all day” from now on I will tell my wife with the desire to know how her day was REALLY like.

The problem with non-working stay-at-home moms is that we don’t appreciate and share everything they do every day.

Now it’s time to go mop and clean under the table. Again.