working and staying home.

by Liz on 07.18

Maggie shared this post a few weeks back and I read it with interest.

I never know what to call myself, so it makes the situation a little more complex (probably only to me). You know how people ask, “What do you do?” when they meet you? When people ask me, I usually end up telling them my entire life story, ending it with, “And then I quit my job. But I still consider myself a teacher! But I’m staying home for now. But I also paint sometimes. And I write. Or at least I blog. Is blogging the same thing as writing?”

So I often wonder about the difference between being a “stay at home mom” and “working from home + kids.” Is it in the wardrobe? Power suits versus mom jeans? (Nevermind, I’m talking about blogging. Sailor stripes versus mom jeans.)

I spend a lot of time working. More than eight hours, I’d guess, though I don’t exactly have a timecard. But I don’t think Little J is neglected. He’s fed, clean and happy for the majority of the day. I stop working if it looks like he needs me to kiss a boo-boo or incite a spur of the moment Eddie Money dance party (the kid loves 80′s music. Such a hipster). So if both the business and the baby are fine, what’s the missing piece?

The house goes to shit.

That probably sounds like a not-big deal. Whatever, lady, he makes a mess. Clean it up and stop whining.


Those people who say “motherhood is a full-time job”? What they really mean is, “Cleaning the house after that tornado of destruction sweeps through is a full-time job.”

It’s kind of a choice among several evils. Either I cage him in his room or that godforsaken play pen, or I put baby locks and gates all over the drawers and shelves, or I let him explore and deal with a constant mess. Literally. Constant.

I think if I were at home all day but not working, I’d be able to pick things up as he pulls them down. He tears through the bookshelf, I scurry behind and replace the books. But, now, I just sit at my desk and just keep a watchful eye to make sure no giant, heavy books are ready to land on his tiny toes, and otherwise let them fall where they may.

I plan to set aside days to catch up on housework- there’s always a sink full of dishes, a basket of laundry that hasn’t been folded- but catching up is impossible, because there’s so much daily maintenance. Each meal and snack leaves a sticky smear on the highchair or a pile of crumbs on the coffee table, often so much food on him that I just dunk him in the bathtub.  I’ve contemplated running a garden hose through the kitchen window and cleaning up after meals that way. Still trying to talk Josh into that one.

I remember my mom saying something about housework being like stringing beads onto a thread with no knot at the end and that’s the most accurate description. It’s endless. The mess I just cleaned already needs to be cleaned again, and I haven’t even tackled the rest of what’s been spilled, emptied, or scattered from yesterday. He’s already started on messes for today.

So that’s my story. You can work from home while being a stay at home mom. Just be ready for a disgusting mess of a house.

you may also like::

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  3. lately.

Your Comments | Add a Comment

Erin says:
Jul 18, 2012 9:14 am

Spotless houses are a full-time job. No joke. Joe and I can hardly keep up with our tiny apartment, and that’s just two of us. If we added kids/dogs to the mix, we’d be plowing our way through the stuff with snow shovels just to make it to the bathroom. So, the fact that you work as hard as you do, keep Little J happy and content, and manage to get to the laundry at all means you’re aces in my book. And thanks for being honest about it, because lord knows we need a little dose of reality when it comes to balancing what we think we should do with what we’re capable of doing while also maintaining sanity.


Beth says:
Jul 18, 2012 9:41 am

There is dog hair in my house ALL the time. I kick Sprocket outside while I’m cleaning so he’s not undoing my work AS I’m cleaning.

Which is why I don’t have kids. I don’t think CPS would look as lovingly on my kid banging on the door as my dog running his head into it hoping it would open.


Kristin says:
Jul 18, 2012 11:19 am

Yeah, our apartment would be in a constant state of mess if it weren’t for Roger, who was raised by a woman who quit her job as a housekeeper so that she could focus more on cleaning her own house. (Yeah. Seriously.)

And even with him trailing me and the cat with pine-sol and pledge, the place still gets crazy messy – piles of dirty clothes, unfinished work, and seemingly endless mountains of paper. I don’t remember ever having this problem before, either with roommates or when I lived by myself, but for whatever reason, if we skip cleaning for even two days, the house goes to hell.


Laura says:
Jul 18, 2012 12:16 pm

I stop to write between washing dishes & wrapping a shower gift ( people get cranky when you through Ross bag in Dollar Store gift bag). I stop because the kitty decided to give me my 15 minutes of affection for the day. Mornings I read, pray, do laundry & dishes while coffee filters through my veins. Some days, I keep a yellow tablet on my desk in case I need to keep a To Do List to reprimand me for my deficiencies or to prove to myself I did something that was required today. Unlike in my early career, this list can be a combination of “pay xyz bill” and “write course syllabus,” as well as “nap.” In 17 years of being home as mom & provider, I find your mother’s analogy fitting. The beads sometimes change & sometimes the same ones get restrung. Some take more time & attention, some just stick on that cord. In the end, I pray that it may be said I did what was most important daily and over my careers, and especially, that I left a pile of dishes for my son to clean up.


Sheryl says:
Jul 18, 2012 6:10 pm

Even without kids, it’s pretty impossible to keep a house constantly clean. With kids? I don’t know how anyone does it.


Morgan says:
Jul 19, 2012 2:12 am

I just announced to David that when I go back to work at the end of my mat leave, we’re splurging for a once a month house cleaning service. I can handle the tidying, but HATE the cleaning part. Sweeping floors, ugh. I can’t imagine working on top of the baby care on top of the cleaning.


Ashleigh says:
Jul 19, 2012 4:32 am

Eurgh I hate housework and we don’t even have kids. And don’t get me started on the washing even when I do 3 loads the wash basket is still full – how is that possible? xox


Cate S says:
Jul 23, 2012 5:52 am

All of this is so true.

(It does get better, though. Little J is probably in the peak of pull-everything-out destruction right now. Play becomes a little more constructive and contained with age, in most cases.)


Tally says:
Jul 23, 2012 2:25 pm

I struggle with this too. What do I call myself? Am I different ‘titles’ on different days, because I’m doing different roles? Why do we have to ‘define’ every mom’s role (working mom, stay at home mom, work from home mom…etc)?

In my experience, the effect is definitely multiplied as you add kids. At least I have a dog that licks the floor around the highchair clean. Though I’m not entirely sure if the time I save mopping makes up for all the time I spend vacuuming dog hair…

I tell myself that it’s good for my kids to see things un-perfect. I don’t want them to think the house is supposed to be spotless, or that every free minute must be spent turning the baby into a genius. And as they’re getting older, it’s a great time to teach them about picking up after themselves and helping a little because, as a family, our house is a little of everyone’s responsibility.


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