A friend called me the other day. She said, “My little girl asked me this morning, why do I stay at home when everyone else has to go to school or work. I didn’t know what to say to her.”
“What did you say to her?”, I asked.
“I said nothing. What do you answer to such a question?”
“Nothing? You said nothing?” I wondered.
And then I gave her the speech.
Homemakers of the world – male or female – this post is for you.
First, who’s a “Homemaker”?
Another friend of mine defined it perfectly. She said that when she needs to fill out forms with personal information, she puts “Occupation: Stay at home mom; Employer: My children”.
That’s a good way to put it. I just want to emphasis the no salary, no 401K, no health benefits, and no vacation part.
It doesn’t matter how the question in being asked – What do you do for a living? Where do you work? Who is your employer? – it always makes me pause and hesitate before I answer. After years of academic studies, career, and a job, and then, a few years later having my own business as a personal chef, I stopped working. In the last 2-1/2 years, I’m still in my pajama when the kids and suburban cowboy leave the house in the morning.
Although I still hesitate about how I define myself work-wise – am I a “Blogger”? A “Writer?” A “part-time stay at home mom”? – it used to be much worse.
I used to feel embarrassed, useless, a money-spender, a time-waster, a compulsive shopper, and all that good stuff because I didn’t have an official job; The kind that makes you get dressed in the morning and drive somewhere, spend hours in an office, and get a pay check and hopefully benefits and a bonus for a job well done.
Our society worships money – it sure feels good to earn money – and if I don’t make any, well… I used to think that because I didn’t get a salary, I didn’t contribute enough to our family. Or that what I did contribute didn’t count because… let’s be honest, any idiot can do the laundry and load the dishwasher.
The most frustrating part about being a homemaker is that it is an invisible job. Most of the time no one sees what you do.
But, hey, I’m multi-tasking like crazy over here.
I’m a hair stylist.
I’m a gardener.
I’m a home decorator.
I’m a cook.
I’m a teacher.
I’m the family photographer.
I’m a personal shopper and a goods’ returner.
I’m a fashion consultant.
I’m the party thrower.
The person in charge of our social life.
I’m the collector of memories.
I take care of all the minor, seemingly insignificant things that make a difference.
I notice the little details.
(What’s the value in the job market for the combination of all these skills?)
When I understood that, I had to make sure my family understands too 😉
But this post is about homemakers.
Two years ago, while Junior was on summer break from school, I schlepped him along with me on the many errands I needed to do. I made it a point to point out all the tasks and chores I was doing that week. “Do you see how many things I have to do every day? We went to the grocery store, to the library, the post office…” yada yada yada… “Do you understand now what is my job?” I asked. And I probably added something like, “Without me there will most likely won’t be too many parties, play dates, birthdays… books, toys, ice creams, going to the movies…” just to add some extra drama.
Like a gigantic puzzle, my job is combined of many tiny pieces. All those minor, insignificant cardboard pieces don’t make much sense when they are scattered; they need a magic hand to turn them into a beautiful picture; into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
So I told my friend, “You know, even if you think, as an example, about a simple thing that you do for your children, like taking them to a friend’s birthday party, there’s a lot involved in that. From remembering to RSVP (to send a card back or e-mail or call), buy a gift, write a card, wrap the gift, (attach the gift certificate), remembering to bring it, driving, spending time there, chatting with other parents… It’s a job. It takes hours and a lot of attention. You enjoy it so you don’t see it as a job, but it is. I know your husband enjoys his work, so why shouldn’t you?”
Although I’m not the perfect homemaker – we have piles of laundry, dinner is unexciting sometimes, the house is a mess, the plants are dying… I do get to it at some point – I think I do a fine job as a homemaker, and it’s mostly fun.
So does it mean I deserve a bonus for a job well done????
Happy Homemakers’ day!
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