It's 11pm and my job is not done. Little feet run in and out of bedrooms where they should be sleeping. My five-year-old repeatedly comes to tell me that she's scared and can't fall asleep, and my seven-year-old is crying because I'm upset that she's not in bed. I've been taking care of children since 7am, and apparently I have miles to go before I sleep. Anyone who tells me that what I'm doing does not qualify as work is gonna get a verbal smackdown because I'm completely exhausted.
Before you rush down to the Comments link to tell me how I can get my children to sleep and how I could do things better, I'll preemptively defend myself by mentioning that Kent has been out of town for almost 3 weeks now, and even though I have help from our Finnish friend who's staying with us, my children are SO ready to have their daddy home. And, so am I. No matter how you slice it, this mothering business is hard work. That's right...work!
In the last week a new round of the Mommy Wars has erupted over comments made by Hilary Rosen that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, "never worked a day in her life" because she chose to be a stay-at-home mother to five children. So, if taking care of children is not work what are daycare providers doing? What are nannies doing? How about teachers? Maybe this attitude towards caring for children is the underlying reason that teachers are paid so little. Or is it a career choice only when one is caring for other people's children? If you choose to care for your own children, it's a copout.
I've worked in a variety of jobs since I was 14 years old. I've been a waitress, a cashier, a customer service rep, a corporate trainer, a high school teacher, a research assistant, a computer programmer, and a doctoral student. Then I had my first baby and after a year of trying to juggle a PhD program and being a new mother, I chose to stay home full-time which I have done for six years now. Without a doubt, I have never had such a demanding and overwhelming job in all my life. It is ten times harder than being a full-time high school teacher. It's harder than getting a PhD. It's harder than waiting tables. It's harder than any other job I've had because it is unrelenting. I don't get sick days or personal days. I'm at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I know it's a choice to stay home, and I also know that many women would like to stay home but can't. I also openly acknowledge that I don't know what it's like to work full-time and raise children. Especially for single mothers, it must completely overwhelming at times. I know many amazing women who work and raise kids, and I have nothing but respect for them. But, that's just the point. I won't tell a working mother that they've never worked a day in their life because they haven't stayed home with kids. So, don't tell me that what I'm doing every day isn't work, especially at the end of a sixteen-hour-day with four children 7 years-old and younger...and I'm about to start the nightshift.