I suppose there may be a more thankless job than being a stay-at-home mother, but if there is, it’s escaping me right now. It’s an occupation that is borne by love in its truest sense. It requires the mother to put herself faaaaaar onto the back burner as she puts the care of others first – children needing to be cared for, endless housework to do, personal hygiene that takes a backseat until later in the day (if it happens at all), dinner to be purchased and/or prepared, etc. Sometimes her efforts are recognized by her spouse, children, or people who visit (if she dares to invite anyone inside), but all too often the hard work goes unnoticed. Who observes the dirty diapers that have been changed, the school lunches prepared in a flurry before the kids head off to the bus stop, the laundry that is folded and put away? Who, upon entering a room, pays attention to the tops of the ceiling fan blades being dust-free or the crevices between the cabinets and appliances being scrubbed clean? And all of this, ALL of it, is done while forsaking oneself and for no monetary benefit.
My wife is a stay-at-home mom to seven children. During the school year she drops down to having two kids at home for the bulk of the weekdays. But don’t kid yourself, it’s still a ton of work. She loves her children, and she pours herself into them. She also adores her home as only a woman can, making it warm and inviting. As such, she’s always trying to keep it clean and neat (a losing proposition with a two- and four-year-old at home, taking things out as quickly as she puts them away). My wife also enjoys making healthy, home-cooked meals. You will not find Hot Pockets or Velveeta cheese in our home. The most processed thing she makes is the occasional chicken nugget. Otherwise, it’s soup and stir fry and meat-and-potatoes and all manner of food that takes significant time to prepare (keeping in mind the meals are for nine total people each night, so she has to be creative). And, with little-to-no adult interaction throughout the day, it’s amazing she keeps her sanity. I swear she must talk to herself just to have some same-aged company.
And those are the “quiet” times. When school ends and summer vacation rolls around, she has all seven children in the house. The kids are usually quite excited about their newfound freedom and keep busy…for two or three days, anyway. Then they all stand around like zombies, looking at mom and, I don’t know, hoping she breaks out in song and dance or something?! It’s the most fascinating/troubling thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember seeing my parents when I was young. I would have been outside, chasing around with neighborhood kids and having a grand old time. These days, if there isn’t something entertaining on the little screen they’re looking at or – God have mercy on us – the Internet is down in the house, the kids don’t know what to do with themselves. My wife tries to find solutions, but has varying degrees of success.
And, as if that’s not enough, eventually my dumb ass comes through the door. While my day isn’t necessarily a picnic either, my wife sees it as a vacation because I *gasp* was out of the house that day! The act of driving a few hours round trip and spending eight hours in the office isn’t seen as a drag, but rather an oasis akin to walking through the pearly gates and communing with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So if I said something about being tired or needing a break, I’m liable to get a response like this (and rightfully so).
If I were to rely on my wife to tell me about how tiring and difficult her days were, I’d never get the full picture. She charges straight ahead each and every day, undoubtedly enjoying her time with the children and making special meals for the family (she’s a budding cook, and thoroughly enjoys trying new recipes), but also undoubtedly getting frustrated when days take dramatic U-turns from the direction she was anticipating. She handles these tangents with the patience of Job, for the most part. And how do I know this? Because as a computer programmer I have the ability to work from home a couple days a week. I see how much goes into her days. I see the laughter she shares with the children or the excitement over pulling off a particularly difficult recipe or the joy she gets tending the flowers and plants in her gardens. I also see the tears she sheds when a child is sick and the frustration she feels if a teacher calls to say there was a problem with one of the kids at school and the exhaustion she tries to keep under wraps after not getting enough sleep the night before.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea…I don’t stand by and put all of this work on her. When I’m home I do my very best to take on half of the household work. I fold laundry, do dishes, clean the “boys” bathroom, sweep floors, clean up toys, cook meals, etc. I also plug into kids during the evenings, help people who have homework, etc. But, again, these are things I do when I’m home. I’m not always there, and during those times the tasks fall to her – both the good and the bad.
My wife is strong. She’s stunningly beautiful. She’s highly intelligent. She has a degree in psychology. She’s worked as a teacher, commercial real estate agent, and started her own daycare center before her own kids required more of her attention. She’s charming and personable, making the people she comes in contact with feel special. As I’ve already stated, she’s self-sacrificing and would do anything for anybody. She’s one helluva mother. She’s my spouse and my best friend. God knows how I was lucky enough to snag her, but I just hush up and say my silent thank-yous. She makes me a better man with her unique points of view, her desire to form strong methods of communication, her willpower when it comes to being healthy (a strength I would not have without her help), and her huge, HUGE heart. And, perhaps most important of all, she does everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – in her power to provide the best life possible for her children. She celebrates their victories as any parent would, and she loves them unconditionally when they act like complete pricks (and what kid doesn’t at some point?). She devotes herself wholeheartedly to them, wanting nothing more than to see them happy, to see them succeed at whatever they put their minds to, to lift them up when they fall down, to protect them from a harsh world full of bullies and letdowns and outright failure.
My wife is special to me, but there are lots of other women (and some men, who are stay-at-home dads) who do this same job and largely go unnoticed. It’s easy to be pulled into the fast-flowing current of life and get too busy to notice all the little things our significant others do in our absence. I’m guilty of it myself as I become absorbed in my own stress, tiredness, wants and desires, etc. But it’s important to take your loved one aside and say thank you for their hard work, to surprise them with a hand-written note or small gift, to whisk them away on a date they didn’t know anything about, to send them to the bathtub or out to coffee with a friend or whatever method he or she uses to relax. It’s all too easy to take people for granted, so pump the brakes, slow down a little, and convey your appreciation to them. Trust me, they deserve it.
Until we meet again…