After someone learns that I am a stay-at-home-mother they typically respond with something along the lines of, “That is so nice. What a luxury!”
It doesn’t really bother me. I’ve heard it countless times and, frankly, I feel quite blessed and lucky to be home with my children during these years. But what I do every day as a stay-at-home-mom certainly doesn’t feel luxurious.
In my book luxury involves messages, wine, smooth jazz and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
On the whole my normal day with the kids at home involves none of these things–if you exclude the chocolate I inhale in secret during nap-time.
And seriously, whose definition of luxury includes an endless line of dirty diapers, piles of laundry, wild tantrums, picky eaters and floors that never stay clean?
I used to think that the problem stemmed from the largely hidden life of a stay-at-home mother. Before I was at home with the kids even I used to wonder, “what do those moms do all day long?”
After I had my first baby, and was navigating the treacherous waters of sleep deprivation and postpartum depression, a friend of mine who as still single causally asked, “Seriously Nancy, what do you do all day? If I was just home with a baby and didn’t have to work I think I’d just sit around and eat Bon Bons all day!”
She’s lucky she got out of my house alive.
And so I continue on as a stay-at-home-mother, grateful for this time, but still confused by the “luxury” comment.
Then, the other day while doing the dishes, I had a revelation.
You see, I insist on doing the dishes every night. Insist! And, it’s not because I’m a clean-freak (ha!) or my husband does a lousy job cleaning the kitchen.
I insist on doing the dishes because while I do the dishes my husband gets the kids in and out of the bath and into their pajamas. They have a mini dance party and wrestle and do all the wild things I’m no good at. In other words, my husband manages the circus while I get to take a break and do the dishes in the quiet kitchen.
It just might be my favorite time of the day.
I was doing the dishes one night and listening to the sounds from the upstairs bathroom. My husband was singing, “I knew an old lady that swallowed a fly” and I could hear all 3 kids giggle and sing with him when he tickled their tummies during the spider verse. There were a few splashing and hitting issues that my husband handled well, just as we had agreed we would handle things like that. By the time I was finished with the dishes I knew the kids would be clean and happy and ready for bed…or if not quite ready for bed at least happy. I trusted completely that the kids were safe and happy while I cleaned up the kitchen because they were with my husband.
And then it hit me–this must be what it’s like for my husband at work. He is free to do his work knowing that his kids are being cared for by a parent that he trusts and loves.
Each morning he leaves the house before the kids are fed or dressed or pottied or anything. He leaves trusting that I will take care of it. That I will do things as we’ve agreed is best. That while he is gone they will be getting cared for by someone that loves them as much as he does.
And that, my friends is why being a stay-at-home-mom really is a luxury.
It is a luxury to know that one of us is always with the kids and that all of the precious moments are being seen by one of us, and gathered into the collective memory of the family.
It is a luxury for my husband to wake up each morning confident he can leave his children with the best possible caregiver–their mother.
I wiped down the messy table and counters in our kitchen, picked up all the bits of food the baby had pitched to the ground and began to scrub the pots. My husband was getting the kids out of the tub and the two older ones were running through the upstairs hall naked and screaming with joy. And I thought, this really is a luxury. That we get to keep these kids all to ourselves. That he gets to support his family without a shadow of worry about who is caring for his children.
And I get to do the dishes with the same confidence.
So, I get it.
My life really is a luxury, as is my husband’s. Even if there is oatmeal smeared on my walls, poop stains on my son’s clothes and dirt under my finger nails.
It’s not what I thought luxury would look like. But nothing ever is.