I need to vent about something that’s been driving me crazy for a long time. Motherhood has so many labels! And none of them accurately describe the challenges of parenting. From the moment we see the blue plus sign, the labels begin. Expecting Mom, New Mom, Stay At Home Mom, Working Mom, Single Mom, but none of these titles tell the whole story, and most of them are misleading. (Do only working moms do any work? And single moms do everything alone? I don’t think so!)
None of these labels give mothers the recognition they deserve. As I get close to completing three years as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM), the title and conventional wisdom of the job description drives me crazy. Case in point: This conversation I had with a cruise ship spa attendant during my 2017 Momcation. When she heard I was there without the kids she blurted out, “Don’t you miss them?” Internal eye roll. Of course I do. It got worse from there:
“What do you do?"
“I stay at home with my two kids."
“Oh, so you don't work?"
Yeah, I thought. I don’t work. My kids dress and feed themselves, change their own diapers, and take Uber to the baby gym and music class by themselves. At the end of the treatment she was giving me her hard sell on skincare products to be used under foundation, but stopped halfway through as she realized: “I don’t know if you wear makeup, since you stay home.” I resisted the urge to inform her that “staying home” was not meant to be taken literally.
Which brings us to…
Don’t Call Me a Stay At Home Mom!
Let’s start with the wording of the phase. Stay at home? Are you kidding me? No matter the age of your kids, this title makes no sense. First of all, how do you think my preschooler gets to class every day? And then how does she get from school to ballet? How do moms get to dropoffs, pickups, and practice when we are staying at home, as the phrase suggests?
I would love to be a literal Stay At Home mom, but instead I’m busting my butt to get two kids ready for the day and secured tightly in their car seats by 7:45 every weekday morning to drive my oldest to school. And then it’s back in the car at 2:30pm to pick her up. That’s ten trips out of the house already!
And what do they think my 2-year-old does all day? Like every other active kid, he’s got music, baby gym, and visits to the playground at the very least. That’s 3 to 5 more trips out a week. Do you see the problem with “Staying At Home”? With this schedule I don’t get to stay anywhere for too long.
And have you ever met a mom with young kids who didn’t have errands? Between the trips to the dry cleaners, drugstore, and grocery store (and anyone who lives in Westchester knows when you grocery shop you need to stop by at least two different places to get what you need.) That’s easily 5 more outings a week for this SAHM.
And we haven’t even touched on random shopping errands. Picking up something at Bed Bath & Beyond, returning something to Bed Bath & Beyond (an endless cycle!), rushing out to use Old Navy Cash or Gymboree Bucks, Target runs (Okay, those are totally fun!), hitting up three different stores to get that thing for school they HAVE to have. And let’s not forget restocking the wine, hunting for winter coats and snow boots, and the entire category of doctor/dentist visits … the list goes on and on.
Do you still think we Stay At Home?
If my 2-year-old didn’t need to come back to his crib for a daily nap, we might be out of the house as much as my husband who commutes to the city. So, yes, I am at home for at least two hours a day. But the stereotype suggests that time is spent parked on the couch on social media, updating my status about whether or not it’s “wine o’clock.”
Any mom will tell you nothing is more stressful than the 90 minutes during your kid’s nap. As soon as I shut the door to his bedroom, I’m racing downstairs to get the 8 hours of housework that my husband is picturing I have time for done in one hour. I clean up the living room for the 1000th time or sort the mail I threw onto the dining room table in haste because when I walked through the front door I was also carrying a 32-pound wriggling child who managed to lose his shoes in the mobile hoarder pile that is my minivan.
It can’t be like that every day though, right?
Every once in a while there’s a moment when the older one is in school and the younger one is napping, chores are done(ish), and I get some time to spend any way I’d like. I should get a golden sand hourglass to count down that precious time, and every mom I know wrestles with the age-old problem of what to do with that short moment. It’s a game we call Eat, Sleep or Shower?
On the rare occasion we moms aren’t lacking food, rest, or hygiene, we’ll use that hour to prep for dinner, get organized, or return phone calls. (Contrary to popular belief, moms can not have an actual phone conversation when kids are around, as they will undoubtedly start screaming and pulling on your arm the instant the call connects.)
Since I have this blog and other freelance writing side gigs, that precious nap time is when I hop on my laptop and TCOB (Take Care of Business). Then at 2:30pm sharp it’s off to pick up the older one and start my second shift, the majority of which occurs outside the house. Are you seeing a theme here?
What do I mean by second shift? While most average working folks have one shift, say, 9-5 or 10-6, we SAHMs have two distinct shifts: Before Naps and After Naps. Both have their unique challenges and require creativity, planning, and time spent in the car. For most SAHMs, After Naps is worse because for some reason the hours of 3pm to 5pm are twice as long as the hours of 9am to 11am. Trust me, it’s some Twilight Zone crazy stuff.
So that is our day. Despite all this running around, for some reason the title and stereotypical image of Stay At Home Mom persists. I’d like to give back this passive and frankly incorrect phrase and give it a new title. Ready?
Meet your new CPO
That’s right! I am a CPO: Chief Parenting Officer. This title reflects the managerial, active work that I do. I’m a Child Advancement Supervisor as well as the Homecare Director. Your CPO is someone with tasks, not someone who hangs inside all day, who “stays” at “home”. This title update also helps to remove gender labels and the insinuation that a SAHM has no other source of income.
That being said, we don’t get the same perks as other C-something-O’s. No paid vacation, no sick days, no room for advancement. We can’t fire our employees or change companies. And show me a CEO who eats most of her meals standing up at the kitchen counter while trying to remain out of their direct reports’ sight lines? She doesn’t exist.
I think we SAHMs should call for a revolution. Let’s take on the world as CPOs! When we re-enter the traditional workforce, let’s embolden our resumes with this strong language about what we’ve been doing since we left our 9 to 5. If we as a society can reject other outdated and insulting terminology that’s been used in the past, then “Stay At Home Mom” can go away, too.
It starts with you! When someone asks you what you do, instead of stammering, “Well, I stay home with Junior,” proudly proclaim “I work both shifts as a CPO. The 12-hour workdays are draining, but there is a lot of satisfaction when people compliment my kids or residence.” If they laugh, just say “Oh what did you think I do? Stay at home? I’m out here with you right now, aren’t I?”
Then maybe next we can eradicate MILF…
That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to read our list of upcoming kids Halloween events! There’s lots of free and cheap stuff around the county.
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See you next time!