My youngest child is now 4 and she goes to all-day preschool, every day. This prompts such questions as, “What are you going to do with your time now that your kids are in school all day?”
Well, uh, exactly the same stuff I did when my kids weren’t “in school all day.” It doesn’t matter if I have a 2-year-old in diapers or a 4-year-old in preschool, as a stay-at-home mom I still have to run the same errands, pay the same bills and do all the other stuff you do with kids in tow, like be insulted by a dad at school pick-up on a Thursday afternoon who can’t believe I’ve got an MBA and I’m a stay-at-home mom. After pick-up, it’s 3 in the afternoon, and my kids are no longer “in school all day.”
“In school all day” is a complete misnomer. For starters, my kids aren’t in school “all day.” I drop them off at 8:30 and have to pick them up at 3. And the average number of days that all three of my kids are “in school all day” until 3 p.m. in any given week is only slightly higher than three, if you don’t factor in summer vacation, and then we drop below three days. Most of the time, my kids are still here, with me.
Turns out there are things called Institute Days, which we never had when I was a kid and I’m told have something to do with continuing education for the teachers, who all have more education than I do. There are half-days to torment the unorganized mother, like me, who never sees them coming. There are holidays like President’s Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, this day, that day, the-first-Monday-in-every-March Casimir Pulaski day and in the winter we sometimes get the dreaded “snow day.” There are holidays at Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving, and then they get a break because it’s spring?
Despite all the holidays and days off that are part of the school year, the average number of hours a week I am at home without parenting might present me with some amount of “all that time” if I ignore the laundry and don’t renew the dishwasher warranty, but someone always gets sick. If one of my three kids isn’t sick, then I’m sick or the dog is sick or my friend’s kid is sick and I’m the one watching him because she’s got this other thing she’s got to do. And even if they aren’t sick, there seems to be a litany of health-care professionals my kids need to go see, from pediatricians to dentists, orthodontists to orthopedic surgeons, all lined up to take a look at their limbs and crooked teeth.
I get it that people who aren’t at home with their kids have trouble understanding just how busy you can be when you don’t have a career, even my kids sometimes ask what I do all day. I tell them I soak the poop stains out of their underpants. I also tell them that what I do all day is something I love doing: I support our family.
What I don’t tell them, because they are too young to understand, is how much I also miss having a career and how hard it is not to feel valued or respected by others at pick-up on a Thursday afternoon. I don’t mention how hard it is sometimes to give back to them, their father, our home, our family, because I’m actually not that great of a person. I’m not that good at being selfless, especially on Casimir Pulaski day.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is marayasteadman.com/. Email her at email@example.com.