What Do You Do All Day?

The next time someone asks me, "What do you do all day?" or says, ""I can't believe you're such a stay-at-home mom these days. Don't you get bored?" I'm going to scream!

Or if they're right in front of me, instead of screaming, I'm gonna stab them with a...with a...

Well, I'm sure I'll find something nice, sharp and painful to stab with. Like my keyboard.

Do these people not know what my life used to be like? Do they not know that if I never have an office job again, I have paid my dues and then some! Last year I was taking tests to determine if I was a workaholic and if I'd answered every question honestly, (which I didn't because it was too damn depressing) I would've scored a perfect 100%. I was considering going to therapy. Have they not read my post on working 101 hours in ONE WEEK?

But the truth is also that if I wanted to get everything done at my job that I needed to, there was no possibility of not working the hours I did. It's not a good or bad thing. It's just the way it was. We all know 40 hours a week is a joke for most people these days. It's not right, but it's the way it is.

What really bugs me that more women than men say these things to me. There's always an insinuation that I was the last person they ever thought they'd see leading such a "boring" existence.

I guess they liked me better when I was working all the time. I guess that made me more exciting. I guess I had value then and now I don't. Maybe it's not status-y enough to say that your friend stays home and writes? Is that the problem?

Because yes, I write and I get paid for it. I want to write more stuff and get paid for it. I like writing. No, I love writing and I'm happier when I'm writing than when I'm doing anything else. Want to hire me to write something for you?

Sure, the money's not as much as what I was making before, but I'm not working the hours I was and I'm fine with that. Even if I decide to go back to an office job next year, I will never ever again say, "Yeah, I worked 87 hours this week." I might not even be willing to ever again say, "I worked 57 hours."

I used to pay someone thousands of dollars a year to watch my sons. She was awesome and I think a huge part of the sweet, very polite and happy boys my sons are today is owed to her. But no one would have said she wasn't working when she was taking care of them. So how come I'm not working when I'm taking care of my own kids?

I 'm writing. I'm reading. I'm on three committees at my kid's school. I'm actually cooking dinner. I bury deceased hamsters. I read to my children. I do crazy things like organize my books alphabetically and call the LAPD about drunks loitering down the hill.

But what if I did nothing but lounge on the couch and eat chocolate covered strawberries? What if I just went to a spa all day, watched the maid do the laundry and made my chauffeur drive me to Fred Segal to shop?

Whose business would that be?

Inhale. Exhale. Do a yoga pose. Repeat out loud: "Violence is a tool of the ignorant.

But seriously, whoever has a problem with what I'm doing right now, step off.


thailandchani said…
Liz, it is no one's bloody business what you do all day and you shouldn't have to justify your choices to anyone, just because it's considered more "valid" to be working for some corporation instead of working for yourself and your family.

What a crock!

I think it's wonderful what you are doing.. and I wish more women would do it.

There. Guess I just lost my feminist card but, really, I'm so sick of people making judgements about other people's lives.

Anonymous said…
You're writing at home and taking care of your kids. That's work. People really don't understand the work of being a parent. As if children raise themselves. The work you are doing is SO important because you are developing human beings that will go out into this world and affect the rest of society. It's very important for children to have someone they can come home to, who they know will always be available to them. When parents work, that's not so easy. I think a lot of people don't realize the value of stay-at-home parents because they really do not see what their stay-at-home moms (most likely) did for them. They took it for granted. Children come before work.

I really do believe that young children need a stay-at-home parent. Children are not something you schedule when they are convenient for you. Children need what they need and if that is a stay-at-home parent(s), then that's what needs to be provided if finances allow. If not, it's something to aspire to.
Jameil said…
tell em girl! DO YOU!! most of those women who say these things to you would probably love to be able to spend that time of time with their own families. 101 hours? no you should never go back to that. here here on 57 hours. i don't even have kids and i think that's ridiculous. i have ME and that means i don't want YOU (job) taking up that time.
Burying dead hamsters is a hard job but someone's got to do it.

The only one you have to please is you, and it sounds as if you're finally free to do your life's work, your OTHER life's work besides raising your sons. Anyone who has the nerve to object is probably jealous or at the very least, does not have your best interests at heart.

You are contributing great writing to the world. I cannot think of any higher calling than using your God-given talents to enrich your own life and that of others.

You rock. And that's the truth, Ruth.
Jen said…
Oh, I am so with you, Liz, on every word of this post.

Every. Single. Word.

Enjoy your life. ;-)
Liz, it ticks me off that stay-at-home moms get no respect. I'm not talking about the women in Bev. Hills married to rich agents who don't actually raise their kids but moms who WORK at home.

What do people think it takes to raise happy, healthy kids?

I wish people here would stop placing so much importance on what we do and look at who we are. It's one main reason I am moving out of this country. I refused to work 80 hours a week any more. That is not living.
Jessalyn said…
Ah, you're preaching to the choir! My favorite comment is "Must be nice to stay at home all day and do nothing." Right. That's exactly what I do. Nevermind the fact that I haven't been to the bathroom all by myself in about 6 years. Nevermind the fact that I never get to eat lunch without having a 3 or 4 year old grab food from my plate, too. Nevermind the fact the my 3 year old son is a stuntman in training who requires constant supervision. Nevermind the fact that I can't schedule a doctor appointment or volunteer at my 6 year old's school without consulting my husband first to see if he's able to come home to watch the kids. Nevermind the fact that I don't get vacation or sick time or weekends "off." Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade this job for anything in the world, but I would love those who think I do nothing all day to walk in my shoes for a day and then try to tell me afterward how nice it is to be able to do nothing all day.
Liz Dwyer said…
Gosh, I want to reply but I'm headed to Disneyland. More when I get back.
PREACH! I have absolutely no problem with what you are doing for your life and for your children. Actually, truth be told, I'm jealous as all get out :). I've been so busy I haven't even taken time to read any of my beloved blogs in a couple of weeks.

As a principal of a new charter school, 7 to 7 is not unusual.
It's definitely a plus for you to be able to do what you do from the comfort of your own domain. I wish...
Jameil said…
headed to disney!?!? TAKE ME!!
Lydia said…
I love, love , love this post!! You were reading my mind and I am not a work from home mom!

Big ups to you! I empathize and understand! Check those people ( I want to say M.F's) but I am trying not to curse as a New Year''s resolution!

You go girl! Be a good mom! Work from home, (which means do ALL the house work AND earn a living), take care of your children and don't explain shit to anybody!!
Lydia said…
I love thailandchani's comment, and I have just decided that "feminist" means women who make decisions that are in the best interest of themselves and their children (if they have them). Feminist is not a moniker for those who are out there trying to be equal with men! It is a title for women who are out there doing what is BEST FOR THEM as INDIVIDUALS and fighting for equal acknowledgement, compensation and rights as such!
Anonymous said…
I work part-time so I get the same question, Liz. So what do you do with your afternoons? Only someone with no imagination and no personal interests would ask such a question. What do they think I do, sit and stare into space?
1969 said…
You know you have my back. I'd rather be at work than at home sometimes.I work harder when I'm home with the boys. I hate when people make ignant (yeah, I said IGNANT)comments. *sigh*
Ian Lidster said…
Yes, why do we equate accomplishment in life with how much time we put in at the office.
Working freelance I face the same attitudes all the time. "Gee, must be nice," is the usual sort of comment, as in I spend my day with no obligations. Try fulfilling a contract obligation, my friend, is the thought that goes through my mind. Good piece, Liz.
Liz Dwyer said…
You are so supportive, but the reality is there are a great many people who probably read this post and disagree. I get tired of the old stay at home /vs/ working mom debate because that doesn't serve women well at all, and distracts from many of the things that need to change in order for us to truly achieve gender equality. I want to respond individually to your comments but I am SO tired. I have a friend here visiting and I've been having waay too much fun with her. 16 hours at Disneyland yesterday. Ripping and running today...

So now that I'm actually tired and wanting to go to sleep, this insomniac is going to do so. I'm so sorry. I'll respond individually in the morning!
Sundry said…
Okay, wait a sec. The questions you you quoted aren't necessarily a put down...they read to me like an admission of a complete lack of imagination on the part of the questioner.

Bored? Are you kidding? I've been mostly a stay-at-home not-mom for the past month and bored is the last thing I'd call myself. Every day fills up pretty quickly, and I always have something I don't quite get to. I can't imagine how I used to get anything done and work 40-50 hours a week.

Oh yeah, and when and if you go back to a day job, just don't accept more than a certain amount of hours. Some folks where I work work a lot more hours and the result is that the boss will not hire another person when another person is needed. It always amazes me how non-profits are some of the worst offenders regarding abusing their workers' time. (Not that my company is a nonprofit.)
Sundry said…
Oops, hit the wrong key.

Also wanted to acknowledge that you are working both a paying job and a child-rearing job (which you so eloquently pointed out could be someone else's day job.)

Other people's ignorance sure isn't bliss.
Mamita Umita said…
I love this post. Can I tell you how many times I felt so worthless because I was a stay at home mom? My ex husband being an actor, we used to go to a lot of parties and shindigs where I had to socialize with a lot of people - whenever I was asked those awful words, "So what do you do?" I would cringe on the inside. Whenever I replied that "I stay at home with our baby.", they would smile and say "how nice", and focus their attention on someone else. It made me felt very small, even though what I was doing was something big. When I had to go back to work after being at home for 3 years, I actually found out that some people were impressed with the fact that I stayed home and raised my daughter. Now it seems like forever ago, but if I had the choice to do it again, I would.
Oh...me too. My sisters loved me so much more when I was working 100 hours a week. I had plenty of money to throw at them and their children. They only give me vague - "are you coming out to spend Christmas eve with us?" questions, never realizing the cost of working 100 hours a week every week for five years.

I get a lot of "you're so lucky" and my husband hears a lot of "I'd do what she's doing if I...."

And I know, I'm damn lucky. He rolls his eyes at people because he knows that writing is work. Some days you cut yourself open so others can feel.

Good for you for following your bliss. I want to hear more about your writing -

Oh, and I gave you an award this morning! ;)
Dena said…
that's right, liz. i commend you for leaving your job.....staying at home...doing what you love....and raising your kids.
you know better than anybody else.
Keith said…
I'm green with envy. You are living the life that I would love: full-time parent, spouse, writer. Who gives a rats patootie what other people say? The people that are not supportive are haters and they want what you have. Good for you for doing it your way!
Liz Dwyer said…
But why do some folks seem to think it is their business and how do we change the belief that working for a company adds value in a way that "working" for your family does not? I don't know if I qualify but can I reinstate your feminist card?

You mean children don't raise themselves? LOL! Folks act like they do though. They will on the one hand talk about how black boys are such statistics and how there needs to be better parenting in the black community, and then in the next breath, I get the haterade. Makes no sense.

I know that's right! The weird thing is that when I wrote down no more 57 hour weeks, my mind still thought, "Oh, 57 hours, that's not too much!" I still think of that as being somewhat reasonable. I wonder how long it'll take for me to get out of that mindset.

I am queen of the hamster burials! And I can once again rock now that my new iPod finally came!

In all seriousness though, thank you for saying all that you did. It's nice to feel so supported by the community I have here in blog-world, even if I don't always feel that way here in my real life.

I'm trying! I think I've been enjoying it a little too much over the past couple of days. Whew!

No, it's not a living at all to be working like that. And the thing is, if my husband has those hours and I do too, who spends time with the kids? It just isn't worth it. And all those hours for what? So we can afford some fancier clothes and a flashier car? (Or in LA, afford to pay our rent? LOL!) None of it makes any sense.

WORD! What is it about little kids and the bathroom? My eldest is going to be seven in two days and it's only been the past year that he's "got" not to walk in on me in the bathroom. The 4 Y.O. is still hopeless in that regard -- and insists on scaling the kitchen cabinets in search of "black cookies". You're so right, no vacation. No time off and no 401K unless I decide to make my own. So yeah, I am done with the perception that I do nothing all day but sit in cafes and lounge on the couch.

I know you have got to be working a ton. One of my girlfriends runs KIPP KAO out here and she has been doing those kinds of hours for years now. I really admire it because what you do for kids is outstanding. A lot of people have tried to get me to go down the path of being a principal, but I don't think I have what it takes, mostly because it's not 100% where my heart is.

I wore myself OUT! Got there at 9 Am. Left at 12. Insanity. I'm still recovering.

I was really having a moment when I wrote this post where I finally processed some things that had been said to me by various folks and I was just like, "Wait a hot damn minute!" You see I need to adopt that no cussing resolution as well! And I agree with your definition of feminist. I can't even wrap my head around half of what it is that a feminist woman is supposed to be these days. Is it supposed to be Carrie Bradshaw? Condi Rice? None of the above?

So it's not just a woman-directed question then? Sometimes I respond with the response my mom always used to use, "Only boring people get bored."

Oh yes, if you are at the office, you don't have to worry about kids coming up and asking you to get them something to eat, put together their train set, rub their tummy...none of that. And when I'm on the phone, sometimes I want to muzzle them! But when I was working the crazy hours, my youngest was really distant, so I'm glad to get to do those things now.

I don't know why we do that either. I wouldn't be a good manager at a lot of places because I'd be inclined to tell my employees to go home, enjoy life, get a sense of perspective and that it can wait till tomorrow. Oh, and then there's the phony "work-life balance" crap that places throw you. They give examples of how their managers go play soccer once a week. Um, that's not balance!

I think folks think there's some sort of magic wand that wafts over writers to make the words emerge in 30 seconds -- and then we just chill for hours on end the rest of the time. Hmph!

I think you could be right. We're sort of trained to be these drones that go to work, drink coffee, go home and watch TV all night. There's probably a comfort in that familiar routine so folks probably wonder what they'd do if they didn't have that. The day does fill up really quickly.

And I will never do those kinds of hours again. I've promised myself and it's one promise I'm definitely sticking to. It's just not worth it.

Oh I can only imagine. It's like you're nothing unless you say, "I'm the blah blah manager of blah blah and I make beaucoup dollars and drive blah blah car!" You make me think about how Elarryo always hated going to work stuff with me because everyone would be sitting around with their ivy league degrees and ask him, "So, where'd you go to school?" and he'd be like, "Oakton!" And then they'd say, "So what do you do?" Since he wasn't saying he was a doctor or lawyer, it was like it was never good enough for our status seeking society.

Working those kids of hours takes such a toll on you emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Everything just gets thrown out of whack. You're totally right in that I am lucky to be doing what I'm doing. It's work but I love it so it doesn't really feel like work sometimes. I want and need to do more of it, that's for sure. I've been being a writing slacker lately. And hooray for awards! I'll come over and check it out.

Sometimes I feel like this is my life five years too late, but I'm trying to make up for lost time. And I'm so darned excited you're coming.

I was thinking today that if I was someone else and met myself I'd probably be jealous. But I think I also wasn't raised to get my value off of my job title or salary. I do feel a lot of pressure to keep the writing going and line some more stuff that pays up. That definitely stresses me out.
Anonymous said…
Sing it!

Ignore the haters.

Women and men need to start supporting every work/family model that works for THEM and THEIR INDIVIDUAL FAMILIES.

Live your bliss--your writing and family.
Anonymous said…
As an aspiring writer, hating the corporate gig more everyday, I say kudos to you! Never mind the naysayers, they're jealous that you can actually do something you love.

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