The other day I was dropping the kids off at school. They are both at school for about seven hours a week, in a good week. Seven hours sounds like a long time, doesn't it? Theoretically, I should be able to cram so much stuff into those seven hours, but by the time I spend a couple of hours driving back and forth to school (it's 30 minutes one way) and I run errands and I observe the kids through the booths with one-way mirrors that seven hours is gone in the blink of an eye. One or both kids have been sick for the last several weeks, and anyone who has had little kids knows what it's like when they're not sleeping well and they're extra fussy. And we've been trying to the get house ready to put it on the market, which is a Herculean task with two little ones underfoot.
As I was leaving the kids at school, I had yet another person ask me what I do when the kids are both in school. It wasn't meant in an ugly way, but the emphasis on "do" betrayed a bias. "What do you do?" As in, since you already have so much free time, as a stay-at-home mom, what could you possibly have to do in that huge amount of free time you get when the kids are in school.
Is it not enough that I never get enough sleep, that I've tossed aside my career, that I have very little free time, that I feel like there is never enough of me to go around? Is it not enough that at the end of very long days I wonder where I'll find the strength to get up and do it all again?
I don't mean this as a complaint, because I chose to have these kids. I looked at my options when they were tiny, and I chose to stay at home with them. I am the CEO of their therapy, their schooling, and their development, and I understand that with the luxuries that brings so also comes the stress of being squawked and screamed at by a very frustrated toddler who can't talk or walk yet. And I understand that along with all the extra hugs and kisses I get, I also have to wipe a lot of poopy bottoms and runny noses. Nothing in life is free, nothing is perfect, and every choice has upsides and downsides.
I just wish I didn't have to justify my exhaustion. I have two little kids who demand nearly every second of every day. Sometimes, my nerves are so raw at the end of the day that I can't even talk when my husband walks through the door. I just point him in the direction of the nearest fire to put out. What I do everyday is the most emotionally and physically draining job I've ever had. Because it never ends. There is always more to do. More chores, more parenting, more and more. Because if I catch up on all the things I must do, there is always a long list of things I want to do: organize my photos, finish the kids' scrapbooks, write, take the kids to the zoo, etc. And there is no day off. Everyday, I wake up to the same challenges I faced the day before.
So, all I ask is that people don't ask me what I do with the snippets of free time I get. Seriously. Do Not Ask. Because the implication is that I already have such an easy job that I couldn't possibly need a few moments to myself.
My husband, who is always incensed on my behalf at these sorts of comments, advised that I come up with a pat answer when people ask me what I do. I'm usually so caught off guard at the question that seems so loaded and so misguided that I often smile and make some sort of joke. "You need to tell them the truth," he told me. "You have more things to do each day than there are hours in the day." (I love my husband.)
So, that is my new answer. To the whole world, what do I do?
"I have more things to do than I have hours in the day in which to do them."