Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mama IQ

The other day I happen to have a conversation with a complete stranger that quickly turned into a battle of intelligences when they asked me what I, "did for a living." I quickly responded that I was a stay at home mother (excuse me, domestic goddess of course) to two adorable and well behaved boys that always keep their clothes on. I then began to clarify that I was an art teacher and would return to the working world when the boys were in school, how I worked in the mornings at a coffee shop, did house cleaning and art on the side, blah blah blah....but by this time they had completely glazed over. Our conversation, which happened to be quite academic in nature, had taken a turn for the worse. I could tell as soon as I uttered those four little words (stay-at-home-mom) that my IQ had dropped significantly in their eyes. I read their facial expression and it said no, it screamed, "Is that ALL you do?" Even the way they talked to me changed, like I was suddenly unable to understand English and needed drool wiped from my chin. Our exchanges went from discussing foreign policy and psychological disorders to gummy bears and Sesame Street. Don't get me wrong, I am a genius when it comes to Big Bird.
Why is it that we (some, but not all) are so quickly to define and judge an individual by their job, status or educational background? We judge a person who makes the choice to sacrifice time, energy and sanity to the proper care and raising of our children. Apparently when you make that choice to stay at home with your children your intelligence level plummets. I would like to think that I have become more brilliant, make better choices and can multi-task like a pro simply from staying at home. I don't know about anyone else but in college I never learned how to hold a baby with one hand, flip an egg with the other all while talking on the phone to the pediatrician. Just because we have put our careers, education and life on hold while we raise our children doesn't make us idiots. When we aren't coloring with crayons, making grilled cheese or cleaning pee off of the floor we frequently engage in activities that do better ourselves and the people around us. That or we are passed out from exhaustion on the floor.
My favorite question is, "So what do you do all day?" I often have to restrain myself from socking them in jaw or pulling out a piece of paper and giving them a bulleted 123 point list of what EXACTLY we do all day. I have many friends who now stay at home with their children who have Masters or are working on second degrees or were teachers, nurses, accountants, dietitians you name it, and very educated and strong women. Didn't your mother always tell you that you can't judge a book by it's cover? So just because a person has decided to stay at home and raise their children doesn't mean they can't carry on a lively conversation about current events, pro football teams and kick your butt in Trivial Pursuit. Of course our jobs are so easy though, right? We sit around all day watching Oprah and eating bon bons.
It also goes for mothers who chose to work or have to work. They are often judged if the don't stay at home with their children, becoming somehow unloving and unable to nurture. It just goes to show that your family, no matter what occupational path you chose to follow, will always be under fire. You are no less of a woman if you chose to stay at home with your children, work outside the home or even have children at all.
I may not know what day it is and venture out in spandex and a sweatshirt, but I certainly am able to hold my own in an intelligent conversation. I am certain that I have the most amazing and meaningful job in the world right now and can't imagine doing anything else. Just don't ask me to spell.....we might have a problem.


Kelly Byrn said...

This is how I respond to that question "what do you do all day?"

Brianna said...

You should try explaining when you stay at home and do not have children (SHOCK)! Actually I don't try to "justify" it anymore. It has been a challenge to smile in the face of contempt or confusion, but remember you only have to answer to God and your husband about your choices concerning your sweet family :)

P.S. I'm laughing as I write this because I secretly still get really frustrated with people when I am in this type of situation. Pray for me to be encouraged and I'll do the same for you!

Julie L. said...

My friend recently sent me this, I thought it summed up the stay at home job well.

By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .

Okay. I've done Internet searches, I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners . . . I do all those things, too, and I don't do them EVERY DAY. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events) and I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy -- not a bad thing at all -- but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a peeing contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.

Tacoma, Wash.

Relax and enjoy. You're funny.

Or you're lying about having friends with kids.

Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.

Internet searches?

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.

So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything -- language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends, or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand or keep your snit to yourself.

Allison said...

I think I would have answered "I nap most of the time. When I'm not napping I enjoy concocting new and exciting margarita recipes."

I only get to be a stay-at-home mom for 12 weeks worth of maternity leave and I get the same question. Even better: "Are you bored stiff yet?" Because obviously my GIANT working girl brain must be desperate for stimulation shrinking daily at an exponential rate. I can only imagine what would happen if we made the numbers work and I could stay home full time. Presumably, I'd turn into some sort of root vegetable.

In reality, running on little to no sleep and trying to puzzle out what the yelling baby wants at any given point in the day (as well as attempting to be a functional human being with clean dishes) is more challenging than 90% of my work days and my job can be a hassle. You've got two of 'em, and yours are mobile. I think people are just jealous cause you can go to work in your pajamas (I'm jealous of nurses for the same reason). :)

Anonymous said...

I remember us talking about this in school! I totally understand trying NOT to punch people in the face. I also sit around eating bon bons and watching soaps. I just get massages and facials and pedicures every day also, it's why my kids don't eat and the house is messy and I'm tired. All that relaxing is really tough on a person!

I don't think people truely understand how lively/sprirted/horrible raising 2 boys is!.

Crazy Mom said...

If someone asks me what I do all day I'm answering I do poo checks for metal balls. That's a good conversation starter.

Anonymous said...

You Go my little girl !!! Strong woman!! Tell them that you have the most important job in the world," I happen to be raising the next Senior,Congressman, or maybe the next President." I can tell you that I think both Baylor and Brody would do a better job and not spend all the American peoples money.