Non-parents often ask stay-at-homers like myself what we do all day. At least the considerate ones do. Others, like the young woman I once met at a convention, ask, "But what do you really do?" as if parenting (and face it, the whole of society believes this) is not a vocation worth pursuing. A vocation without any kind of reward, let alone a monetary one.
While it is true that for many people raising kids cannot fill all one's aspirations, desires, avenues of interest, that doesn't mean that it still isn't hard work. Would you ask a paid childcare worker what she did all day? A home-parenter (still testing for satisfactory terminology) does everything a qualified teacher does, only without the training, structured support networks, specified breaks or paycheck.
A full time parent fills the requirements of educator, nutritionist, nurse, social organiser, chaperone and chauffeur. And that's before any household tasks are taken into account - washing, cleaning, meal-planning, shopping, cooking, maintenance, gardening...
Some cope better than others. Some do a better job than others.
Most take the job seriously, embarking on rigorous self-education courses, endlessly reading on the varied topics. Unfortunately this can often lead to spiraling guilt as the more you read, the more you think your child might be missing out on, so you try and fit more in, but then the Prime Minister thinks you're slacking anyway and you should get a Real Job. Because you know the rest of society is just carrying you while you indulge in your child-raising fantasies and you're not, in fact, actually holding the whole of society together.
I'm one of the people who take the job seriously, I also believe it's supposed to be fun. But I recognise in myself the need to do something that is entirely unrelated to being a mother. The answer, I have recently discovered, is to treat every waking moment as equal work. From getting up in the morning until Abbey goes to sleep at night. It's a new attitude for me, but it seems to be working. I'm getting "more done" and feeling less guilty and burnt out by the end of the day. By giving myself the evenings off I can fool around and watch Buffy episodes for the umpteenth time without feeling guilty for not having done any "real work".
So this is what we did today.
Watched Playschool together - singing and doing all the actions
Began digging out a new sandpit
Pasting with torn up tissue paper
Played with toy dump trucks
Abbey slept for two hours - I had a coffee then wrote for my paid job.
More digging outside, played with the cat on the lawn
Threw balloons around in the loungeroom
Zoomed a toy aeroplane up and down the dining room
And now I'm blogging.
I'm not sure when, but we also did two loads of washing and hung them out, swept the floor and changed the sheets.
A whole day at home isn't the norm. Other days might be broken up with a trip to the supermarket, a plant nursery, a playgroup of friends, or I might be in a lousy mood and we watch too much TV. I only hope that by writing all this down I haven't jinxed my new found attitude.