“So… what did you even do all day?"
Raise your hand if you have been asked this question as a stay-at-home mother.
Now use it to slap whomever asked it.
I have certainly asked it as a leave-the-home father.
I am guilty.
I am also guilty of mistaking mess for inactivity.
Toys strewn about are actually a sign of kid's playtime. I am guilty of mistaking dirty dishes for inactivity. Dirty dishes in the sink are a sign of well-fed children. I am guilty of mistaking a messy entrance way, scattered with school books and jackets, as inactivity. Our messy entrance way is a reminder that we have a place to call our own—one that welcomes us in day after day.
Two hours into my Saturday morning, my two-year-old had pooped under the table and my son was crying because I asked him to make his bed. Our house was a volatile arena of shrieks and cries.
I realized that this was my wife's every day.
The human interaction I was faced with was demanding and physical. The mess from our three children was made as quickly as it was cleaned. The parent was the servant, the child the menacing, yogurt-stained overlord.
The problem with stay-at-home mothers is that they are often graded on the same scale as those that work outside the home.
There are tangible results of the work I do. I can produce a spreadsheet, a check stub, a report, recount my meetings, and do it all with pride. I can say “this is what I did today." Mothers who are working in the home are often graded on the same scale, yet their work isn't always tangible. There are no spreadsheets, no reports written, and often, the results are counter-intuitive to what one would think a successful day looks like.
I must remind myself that building character is often invisible. Words read from a story book can't be seen. Compassion, hugs, reassurance, warmth, and full bellies are lost under a veil of unfolded, yet clean clothes.
The problem with stay-at-home mothers is that they get measured by superficial standards.
We often mistake money, entrepreneurship, and status as the baseline for productivity. It's time we stop grading mothers on the cleanliness of their home and start valuing them for their selfless investment in others.
Minimalism has reminded me that the most important things we do are often invisible. The most important things aren't things at all. Minimalism is realigning my priorities to understand that raising respectable people is the most important legacy we can leave. My goal is to embrace the messy results of a day well spent with a smile. Instead of, “what did you do all day" as a slight, I'll say it with a desire to learn how her day actually was.
The problem with stay-at-home mothers is how we measure them.
I really should go mop under our table.