The Playroom: Grossology

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

At 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, I am sitting on a bench in a children’s museum listening to an exhibit ask what the difference is between boogers and snot. I think the answer is obvious.

My son picks up a rubber model of a heart and bounces it around like a basketball. I’m not sure that’s allowed, but I let him do it anyway. As I am deliberating the correctness of using the model heart for a basketball, a machine startles me with a loud belch. My older daughter pulls me off the bench toward an exhibit where I can smell the bacteria that causes body odor. She wants me to smell it. I don’t think it’s as funny as she does.

I notice a young woman, an employee of the museum, assisting my 3-year-old at a video game about urine. I think she would make a good babysitter.

Why am I here? Listening to a machine belch loudly enough to hear from the parking lot and smelling fabricated body odor? I could be in an office adding to the equity section of our family financial statements, contributing to GDP. Surely the woman at the urine game would do a better job than I do at taking kids to children’s museums.

I’m here because this is where I want to be. Even if it doesn’t seem like much, sitting on a bench in a museum, making sure nobody gets abducted, I believe in what I am doing. It’s the right decision for me, for our family.

Still, I miss working, and I wonder sometimes if maybe I’m being lazy. I didn’t like having to focus my brain on work, my clients and my child — it was too draining, too exhausting, too much of everything.

Today I’m not drained or exhausted. I’m sitting here, and I’m bored. Maybe this stay-at-home mom thing is just a cop-out, a lazy way to continue along without contributing something quantifiable or reaching my potential.

Louis MacNeice wrote a poem to his son called “Ode.” A line in that poem reads: “and for every act determined on and won, there is a possible world denied and lost.”

And from a friend, the advice that, "It is ‘the possible world denied and lost’ that haunts us through life, but the joys and sorrows of the one we’ve chosen are what sustain us.”

I have chosen to be here, where I am, in a grossology exhibit on a Tuesday afternoon. My youngest puts her arms around me. “A big squishy hug for Mommy.”

My older daughter laughs at body odor, the machine belches and my son slam dunks a liver.

I punch my fist in the air, “Yes, two points!”

My son looks at me, gives me a high five and smiles. This joy is my beginning and my end, it defines me and completes me. I am happy. Is that enough?

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at