I can’t remember exactly where I was, or why, but I remember what happened, in that sort of tunneled, special effect, zoom-in-swirl-around thing you might see in a horror movie. An official-looking, blue suited man asked me my occupation, and when I said, “Stay-At-Home-Mom,” he checked off a little box that read, “Homemaker.”
NOT June Cleaver
Homemaker? I think I spent a few moments looking for the “Mom” box. I didn’t see one. There isn’t one. There’s only “Homemaker”.
“No, no, no,” I wanted to tell him. “June Cleaver was a Homemaker. Her hair was always neat. Her clothes were clean. She wore an apron. What I do is entirely different.”
And it is different. I usually forget to brush my hair. My clothes are covered with food stains and spit-up. I don’t even own an apron. Besides that, I consider myself more a Home-Un-maker. My house looks like it’s been in some kind of natural disaster of the volcanic kind. Cheerios are strewn everywhere. Some of them are fossilized–or they will be. Crayons have melted, lava-like, under the radiator. Several layers of dust have coated everything that doesn’t move on a daily basis.
I tried to articulate this to the man in the suit, but he just gave me a blank look. Like most people, he didn’t understand what I was protesting. To many, moms that stay at home just–well–stay at home. Sort of lying around on the couch or wearing aprons or doing something nebulous that involves anything but real work, just–making a home. And cookies, I think.
Around Christmastime, a group of my stay-at-home mom friends and I talked about this misconception. It would happen at spouses’ or significant others’ office parties. Someone would ask one of us, “What do you do?”, and as soon as they heard, “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” their eyes glazed over. Then they excused themselves and wandered away. Probably to eat cookies.
It was pretty upsetting to all of us, and very demeaning. Because we know our job one of the most important jobs in the world. It is also one of the most demanding. In response to The Glaze, we decided to create a new way to describe ourselves. Our new title: “Human Development Specialists.”
The title of HDS sounds fairly impressive. And when you look at our job description, it is impressive:
Human Development Specialist. Cares for children, ages zero to forever, with love and patience, tolerance and endurance. Must be able to sing babies to sleep, and hug toddlers out of tantrums. Must possess magic lips that kiss away bruises and boo-boos. Must be able to tune out Barney and be willing to sing, ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’ repeatedly, until throat is raw. Must also be able to hold back mirth when child mispronounces “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”.
No personal vacation time (without worry) available. Meals are sporadic and never undisturbed. Must be willing to share all foods, especially personal favorites. Must be willing to eat all yucky foods like burned toast, french fries accidentally sprinkled with sugar, or anything that might taste good but looks ‘weird’. Occasional bathroom breaks are allowed, but HDS must be ready to leave door open and leave bathroom immediately upon crisis. No personal phone calls allowed. Conversation with other adults is occasional. Neat hair is sometimes available. Showering without toys or toddlers is not. Dress may range from casual to splattered.
Hours are twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. No sick days are allowed. HDS may expect to be needed constantly during early childhood, rejected and loathed (but no less needed) during adolescent years. The HDS is responsible for all issues of self-esteem, personal growth, interpersonal skills and intellectual capacity during early childhood; must be prepared to answer to lack of responsiveness for any and all of these in child’s later years (when child is in psychotherapy).
Salary: An occasional hug or kiss; sometimes an “I love you, Mommy”.
I think the salary is ample compensation for all the duties of an HDS, though I’m sure that some people who give The Glaze might disagree. And no where in the description does it mention anything about home-making. Or cookie-making. It doesn’t matter. The duties of Mommy — and Human Developement Specialist — are infinite and varied. Perhaps there are too many of them. Especially to be checked off in a little box.