It's a Full Time Job

It seems to me like there has been an epidemic lately (epidemic meaning two) of people asking me what I do all day and why I'm not working at a paying job.  It took me aback, actually, because, A) the question seemed a throw-back to a less enlightened time when few people saw the value in a person staying home to raise children and B) I didn't really have a clear, concise answer.

I confess that the question is still bugging me --making me feel a little defensive, as if I need to justify why my choice to stay out of the paying work force is the best choice for my family. Which speaks to my own insecurities and narrowly defined work ethic, I guess.  If there's no pay check, can it be considered work?

It IS work, though.  In fact, if you add up my hours per day, I often work longer than an eight-hour day, despite the fact that my children are in school for seven hours.  (No, seriously --I sat down with a pencil and counted the hours up.) AND, I don't get weekends off.  It's not very glamorous--laundry, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, acting as doorman to the pets --but there are also things I do that call on my creativity, like pretending I understand fourth grade math. I stay busy.

So, anyway, I started thinking about pulling a résumé together and starting a job search.  After thirteen years away from the work force (except for a stint as Editor of Austin Family Magazine, which was a dream job except it was A) part time and B) impossible for ME to do part-time and C) impossible for me to do AND care for my family), it was hard to know where to begin.

I studied Journalism in college and clearly, there is no huge demand for true journalists today.  Plus, I didn't ever work as a reporter anyway.  In my life before children, I was a Development Director for various non-profit organizations. I couldn't return to work in that field because I don't have the contacts anymore to raise the kind of money I used to raise, plus I don't think I ever worked less than a 60-hour week in my entire career which would make it a little hard to pick up my kids from school.

So, okay, what skills do I use now that might be marketable in today's job market?

  • I am an excellent laundress.  I'm not sure there's a CAREER in it, exactly.  But I can wash me some clothes, sure 'nuff. I guess I could work in a hotel if I could learn how to fold sheets.
  • I am used to cooking three separate meals at a time and having no luck getting anyone to eat anything.  Again, I'm not sure there's an actual CAREER in this, since most of the meals I make consist of plain, dry sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, tacos and spaghetti, but at least I am immune to complaints.  (Mostly.) Maybe a Diner for the Culinarily Challenged would hire me as a cook.
  • I am a truly fantastic Car Singer.  I can't write music nor play an instrument, but if you want me to belt out some Ruthie Foster for you as I am driving you to your Tae Kwon Do lesson, all you have to do is ask.  Of course, my KIDS don't really appreciate this talent... (Small-minded of them, don't you think?) I guess there's no career in THIS, either, unless I could start some kind of Singing Cabbie service.
  • I am an excellent house cleaner.  Maybe I could start a housecleaning service! Except the thought of cleaning OTHER PEOPLE'S toilets makes me want to barf.  Actually, that's why I have cleaners to come clean my own house--I don't want to clean OUR toilets, either.
  • I am really good at being Doorman (Door Person?) for our pets. I'm not sure that I could work as a REAL Doorman (Person), though, because I find it impossible not to comment every. Single. Time.  "Didn't I just let you out?" "Oh, you don't really WANT to go out?  You're just checking the weather?" "Why yes, it's raining in the front of the house AND the back."  I think Real Doormen (People) are probably the strong silent types.  (Of course,  THEIR clients probably tip better than mine.)
Okay, I guess the reality is that I have no marketable skills.  I guess I should just stick to doing what I already do, which is making myself happy.  

It's a full-time job.


Jo Ashcroft said…
What an excellent post. Know what you mean about being a mom being a full time job. My kids are 11 and 13 but need their mom more than ever ( except that I definitely don't understand their maths). I teach one day a week (and plan for that one day on another day) and then do all those glamorous jobs you talk about... and my husband still says, 'what do you do all day?" Arrrgggggghhhhh!
Georgi said…
I cannot believe anyone was rude enough to ask you that! People can be so careless with what they say and how they say it.
Barb Matijevich said…
You know, Georgi, I don't think they meant it rudely at all. I think they were genuinely interested. One of the questioners is a working single mom --my life must sound like heaven to her! She does all I do PLUS works full-time!

I think it's very interesting that I didn't have an answer, even though when I sat down with my pencil, I could list forty things I do every day. Usually I learn a lot more about myself from these sorts of exchanges than I do about the other person. I think maybe my OWN value system needs an update. After 13 years, maybe it's time to accept that being a full-time mom IS a REAL JOB!
Melissa said…
I totally admire you! I'm home for 2 hours after work and all I want to do is get the heck out of here!
Marion Gropen said…
I may have a consulting practice, but these days, I spend far more time being a mother and the support of my family than I do helping people publish profitably! And I have only one child.

So, I totally "get" this issue.

On the other hand, if you actually WANT to get back to work, there's always that old classic What Color Is Your Parachute?
Lynn said…
Mmm, Ruthie Foster. Heard her live in Sundance Square two or three years ago. Wow!

I don't regret the years I spent as a stay at home mom. My kids don't regret the years I spent as a stay at home mom. We all wish I could have continued to stay there.

In a perfect world, everyone who wanted to be a mom, could be one, and every mom who wanted to stay home with her kids, could do so. My mom had to go to work when I was 12. I wish she had been home when I was a teenager; I might have started being nicer to her, sooner. (Thankfully I did wise up eventually, and before it was too late to be kind to her.)

Cherish every moment at home with those precious kids. They may not know how blessed they are, but you do.

You are doing the work of the angels. Doesn't matter what anybody else says.
Katie said…
Amen sistah! Staying home IS a full time job.
Kathy Ireland said…
My vote is for singing cabbie. That would be freakin' awesome!
Damsel said…
I totally get you. Yes, yes, yes on the continuing to do what works for your family, with NO guilt! We are planning for me to be a SAHM after we move this summer, and I CAN'T WAIT. Yipee!
Ei said…
While *I* get defensive when people talk about mothering being a full time job thankyouverymuch (because, hey, I work full time and I think I still manage to be a pretty good mom! Er, well I hope I am!) I realize that for me and for you and for all of us that's just that stupid shame thing rearing it's head and who needs more of that. It's your life, you like it, it's good. If someone is having a hard time defining you it seems like that would be their problem.

Now, I don't need a singing cabbie, but I'd love a duet partner, baby...
Unknown said…
Barb, you could always get with a local paper, and ask if you could write a feature column--sort of like Erma Bombeck and Ann Landers have done over the years. Our country could use another syndicated columnist that makes us smile!
Attie's Mom said…
I have a mom friend who has the most wonderful job title that she gave herself.
This is from her blog...
"What do you call your field of expertise, if you don't care for the term "homemaker", or "stay-at-home mother", or "domestic engineer"...? During a particularly bleak moment, I christened it Crap Management."
Isn't that just wonderful!!!! =)
momwhoknits said…
Love this post - I love being around for my kids. Sometimes the job of a parent is just to be there and listen to their litany of joy (or woes) at the end of the day. I worked full-time when they were little - because we could afford excellent child care and they learned so much at their day care - more, I think, than they would have staying home with me. But these last 10 years have been crucial to their development into reasonably sane teenagers and mine as a parent and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Perhaps you could develop a singing version of Cash Cab (see I'd watch it!!
Maggie said…
And your other job is Entertainer to those of use who subscribe to your blog. Which you do very well.
Unknown said…
my pets don't go out but I do spend a lot of time escorting them out of the bathroom.
Barb Matijevich said…
I just have to tell you all what my husband said when he read this blog post. Because, well... wow.

"That is very well written and you make great points. There seems to be another element that you don’t really talk about which is the “glue” of holding everything together. It doesn’t really appear in a task vs. task comparison of working at home vs. outside the home, but maybe it is the most important part."

I think we'll just file that one under MAKES BARB VERY HAPPY, shall we?
Sheila said…

You made me laugh out loud. Loudly, even.

You're a wonderful writer, and, as I wrote you recently, a catalyst, on so many topics. Is it our age? Is it the age of our kids? Do they suddenly hit 4th grade, and up and we start thinking "What are we doing with our lives?" Correct that - are we doing all the *right* things with our lives? In business speak, when you are your own CEO, how does one measure one's effectiveness in the "How well are we managing our business"?

I love your husband's response. That is some great lovin' and supportin' going on there - it must be all those socks you knit keeping everybody's feet warm. ;) (Which reminds me, where does one learn how to do that, anyway?)

Anyway, he's a great guy to have that figured out about his wife, whether she's working or whether she's SAHM.

Thank you for the thought provoking post. Although you've handled it with your usual deft touch of humor, I get the undercurrent of worry, (or maybe I'm just projecting!)

I definitely wonder about next steps. With kids, you get the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" manuals. With yourself, it's pretty much "A Gift From the Sea", and O Magazine, neither of which are exactly game plan manuals.

However, because you're brave to share your thoughts, you prompt me to consider more deeply my own.

Have a wonderful day! I enjoy your writing.
Donna said…
One job you haven't done in a really long time is go out for tea/coffee with me!
That skill really needs to be worked on. When we are drinking our tea/coffee we could figurer out how to answer this what do we do all day question?
Kathy Ireland said…
Love what Coop wrote. And he's right. You know, being a full-time working mom often makes me feel the opposite of "glue" (turpentine?? dried up glue that doesn't work anymore??). Sigh.
Susan said…
Thus why I with a graduate degree - after 16 years as an at home mom it took me 2 years to find a job paying $11.00 an hour checking people into their hotel rooms. If I didn't need the benefits, I would stay home and make myself happy, too, because all that stuff you do, I pretty much still do all that and work full time.
The answer to that question abo0ut why you don't work is : "Well, I really don't have to, you know. Maybe I will someday." LOL. That, or "I'm retired."