So What Do You Do?

“So, do you work Monday through Friday?” the new girl cutting my hair asked me.


“Oh, I don’t work actually.”




And that was the end of that conversation.


She may have wondered whether I lived off a trust fund. Or a wealthy husband. Or my lottery jackpot.


I quickly changed the subject to hair and tinting and skin tones and other things I know nothing about, but which, it turns out, she is very passionate about. We never returned to the topic of “me,” but I started to wonder: What exactly do I do?


And I don’t want to get into the argument about whether stay-at-home moms work harder than working moms or vice versa because I don’t feel that that’s a fair debate.  It’s not the job that defines how hard someone works; it’s the character of the person. Every person’s situation is different, and I can’t judge that. Some days, I don’t think I work very hard at certain tasks. Unless you determine that trying not to lock Sam in a cage is hard work. Because I do that. Every day.


I also drink coffee every morning.


I also toast frozen waffles in the morning. And bagels with cream cheese. And toast with butter. And peel clementines and bananas, most of which go uneaten. About half the food I make in the morning gets sent back to the kitchen. Sometimes angrily. And I completely understand why restaurant chefs may spit on the food of picky customers.


I load the dishwasher. I do laundry.


I present thoughtful, rational arguments to impulsive, irrational little minds.


I justify buying fruit snacks. And Ninja Turtle yogurt.


I rationalize exceeding our weekly grocery budget. Just this once.


I drag my two-year old to story time and try to convince him to sit still. And that the art project that week is really cool.


I remind that same two-year old that markers and crayons and pens are for “paper only.” And so are scissors.


Then I convince him to stop stabbing me. And to “give me those damn scissors.”


I dispense gum.


I struggle to find the balance between performing tasks for them and encouraging self-sufficiency.


I clean up baby carrots that have been hammered—yes, hammered—into the Oriental rug in the dining room.


I order my groceries online so I don’t have to deny junk food requests in public.


I try to explain why there are no triangle-shaped pretzels in Chex Mix.


I persuade Nate that raspberry yogurt is basically the same as strawberry.


I sit on benches at playgrounds and check my email—and sometimes Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—on my phone.


I encourage them to climb up the slide—as long as no one is at the top, waiting to climb down, of course. I’m not a psycho.


I tiptoe and whisper and curse the creaky floorboards during naptime.


From a safe distance, I coax sharp objects away from Sam and persuade him not to drink the cup of water he just scooped from the toilet.


I remind Nate that he needs to flush the toilet every time he poops.


I cringe as Sam tries to shovel yogurt into his mouth without any plopping onto the table or the floor.


I worry about whether they’re stimulated enough. Or over-scheduled. Or watching too much TV. Or eating too much sugar. And getting enough protein. And whether a headache is just dehydration or the sign of something more serious, like a tumor.


I envy a napping husband.


I tell Nate that butt and fart jokes aren’t funny even though they kind of are.


I eat leftover PB & J crusts and untouched apple slices for lunch.


I cry on the inside when my favorite babysitter is already booked with another family.


I get excited to point out school busses and trash trucks and cement mixers to Sam.


I play Ninja Turtles. Very, very reluctantly.


I build sofa cushion forts. And do puzzles. And color. And play Go Fish. And build Lego castles.


I sit on the bottom step—my designated bleacher seat—while Sam shows me how well he golfs. And kicks a soccer ball. And hits a wiffle ball on a tee.  And dunks a basketball. And swings a tennis racket.


I search for missing socks. And lost lovies and beloved Ninja Turtles and matchbox cars.


I wonder how Sam got the scrapes and bruises on his face and limbs. Should he be wearing a helmet? Knee pads?


I celebrate happy hour—with a piece of hard candy. Or a mug of tea.


I worry that Sam’s greatest role model is a Minion.


I get excited to find a TMNT book at the library. Only to hate myself for it later when I have to read it at bedtime.


I ponder how much cheese is too much.


I remind them to get their shoes and butts off the dining room table.


I explain abstract concepts like war and death and indecent exposure.


I throw kickass living room dance parties.


I am mindful that I constantly have eyes on me—I have to set a good example. And teach them how to treat girls.


I scramble for answers about nudity and sex and religion and police protocol and poverty and race.


And that’s just my Tuesday. Wednesday is pretty much exactly the same but also completely different.