This Is What a Stay-at-Home Mom Does All Day


kid chaosI saw red when I read a letter to an advice column from a childless woman who suspects her friend is lying about being busy all day. “I’m feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy,” she says, so “why won’t my friend tell me the truth?” She wonders what are stay-at-home-moms doing all day that they can't call or email?

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, and the advice columnist seems to physically restrain herself from reaching out to wring the letter-writer’s neck. Still, I thought I might detail a typical day alone with the kids. That way, when your friend whines at you for not answering her email about her roommate eating her potato chips (yes, that’s real), you won’t have to find the time and childcare to write her a reasoned response. You can just forward this to her.

Dear Person Who Wonders What SAHMs Do All Day:

I love my kids, and I am so happy. Also, I am very busy. Here’s what I do.

5 a.m.: Baby wakes up in crib and wants to nurse. I nurse her and she goes back to sleep, but doesn’t want to be put down. I bring her into my bed, where my sweaty toddler is already sleeping because she woke two hours earlier. Lying between them, I get only fitful sleep, because when I’m not getting a 2-year-old’s foot to my head, I am worried about rolling over on the 10-month-old, or poking my husband to make him roll over so he’ll stop snoring.

Both kids wake up for real at 6:30. This is actually nice and late for them. I change two diapers and try to get them both dressed, but the toddler wants to be naked for a while and rather than risk a tantrum I let her run off. I get the baby changed and dressed as she performs the can-can, jamming my body against the changing table as I wrestle the top of the Baby Genie open because it’s stuck again. Which means I have to change the bag. The fresh bags are in the kitchen. I take the full bag out and drag it to the front door.

I try to get food into both girls while making coffee. This involves pouring cheerios and blueberries onto the high-chair tray, making toast with cream cheese, and scrambling eggs. While I try to get the grounds out of the coffee maker, the baby climbs over to the oven and hangs off its handle. I use my foot to hold it closed. The toddler yells, “NO!” and knocks her down. The baby wails. I pick her up. This means I can’t finish the coffee grounds. I put her in the high chair. The toddler pees. I help her clean up the pee. We go back into the bedroom, because now she wants to put a diaper on and I’m not about to let that opportunity pass me by.

The baby begins wailing because she’s lonesome; I’m still trying to either convince or wrestle with the toddler, who has decided she does not like the pants she picked out. Finally we return to the kitchen, and I realize that the baby is wailing because she’s pooped in her nice clean diaper (the girl likes a clean canvas). I plop the toast onto the booster-seat tray, strap in the toddler, and proceed back to the bedroom to change the baby. The poop is a blowout; we need a total outfit change. I realize I haven’t replaced the bag in the pail. I fold the diaper into itself and bring it to the kitchen garbage. The toddler has flung her toast because she is done.

I still have not been able to make the coffee.

I turn on the TV and make the coffee and gulp it as the girls are momentarily quiet. I straighten up the kitchen, put away the clean dishes, put up a load of wash. Then I sit down with them and watch the end of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. When it’s over, the toddler asks for another one and I say no, so she shrieks at the top of her lungs for a half an hour. I bring the baby into the bathroom with me and hop in the shower, poking my head out to play peek-a-boo the whole time. Afterwards, both girls “help” me get dressed by placing items of clothes against parts of my body. This is very cute, but does not get me dressed.

The door buzzes: it’s the UPS guy with the diapers from Amazon. I run down the hall wearing one sock and a bra and pray he really is who he says he is, because I am not about to open the door to check.

I resume trying to get dressed as the toddler begins jumping on the bed. She falls off and bonks her head, and leading to about 45 minutes of soothing and crying. The baby, meanwhile, appears holding a blue crayon and displaying a matching blue tongue and teeth. I attempt to fish pieces of blue out of her mouth while the toddler continues to shriek in my ear at top volume. I put the clothes in the dryer.

It is time for ballet class.

We pile into the car and I drive to my friend’s house, where I put her car-seat into my back seat, then drive all the girls to the studio. I put the baby in a sling and hold both girls’ hands. One toddler likes to run fast, the other ambles slowly. One toddler has to pee before class, the other is still in diapers. Helping the toddler pee involves holding her over the toilet with both hands; the baby is still in the sling; the other toddler is literally running in circles yelling, “bal-LET! Bal-LET!” We go upstairs; the ballet teacher asks me to put the girls’ hair up and I punch her in the face. Sike! I laugh and say I did my best, and she says it’s all right. The big girls go into the studio. The baby crawls directly to the top of the metal stairs. I pick her up and return her to the play area (train table, plastic kitchen, LOTS OF FUN STUFF). I sit down to read my phone. She crawls back to the stairs. I then spend 45 minutes dragging her back to the play area repeatedly, though I do manage to answer some emails.


A woman gives me the stink-eye for checking my phone when I'm with the baby. "Shouldn't you be paying attention to your child?" she asks. I run through several snappy responses. By the time I have come up with the perfect one, she has moved on.

The ballet class is over all too soon. I drive through McDonald's, hoping nobody sees me, because I am addicted to their smoothies and also starving. We head back to my friend’s house where I unload the big girls, then the car seat, then the baby. The girls run off to play and the baby stares at the other baby dubiously. I "help" my friend make lunch, mostly just eating everything she tries to put on the toddlers’ plates. We feed the toddlers, then the babies. Then we clean up the floor under the high chairs. The toddlers fight over who gets to go in the bouncy swing, then fall apart emotionally. It is nap time.

We head home. My toddler has dropped her nap, so instead, she throws a tantrum because she is disappointed at having to leave her friend’s house. I pull over, open the windows, and sit five feet away on the curb, waiting for her to calm down. If I had a cigarette, I would smoke it. I dream fondly of cigarettes. I come back to the car and ask, “Are you done?” She blinks and says, “Yeah. I done. I sowwy I scweaming and scweaming.” The baby is asleep!

At home, I let the toddler watch two shows while I whisk the baby into bed without waking her. This is when I get a little bit of emailing done, though I do not have the energy to call anyone. I pay several bills and finally, finally make out a form to change something with the kids’ medical coverage. I realize the bank has charged me fees for something and I spend 45 minutes arguing with them on the phone. I start marinating meat for dinner and realize we are out of rice and pasta.

The baby wakes. I nurse her. Then we're off to the grocery store. After returning eight bottles of ponzu sauce to the shelves, I wise up and give the toddler a pack of brightly-colored hair clips and she spends the rest of the trip placing them carefully all over her head.

A woman gives me the stink-eye because I have the toddler in the basket of the shopping cart while the baby rides in the baby seat. “That’s unsafe,” she tells me. “Well, I forgot my leash,” I respond wearily, tucking a pack of toilet paper next to the toddler and taking a plastic bag out of the baby’s mouth.

When we are paying, the toddler asks to “boop this,” and the checkout woman is remarkably patient about letting her push various buttons, then gives us some stickers. “Where are the rest of these hair clips?” she asks, as she rings them up. “Oh, you’re wearing them all!” My toddler is proud.

I put the baby into the car first, and notice people looking with alarm at my toddler, alone in the cart. I hurry back and put her in the car before they call CPS on me. I load the groceries into the car. I roll the cart back to the corral, car-doors open, again worrying that someone will yell at me for leaving the girls alone.

I get a text from another friend -- can the toddler have a post-nap playdate? Sure! I drive to his house, which is stunningly beautiful and remarkably un-childproofed. I spend the next hour assisting the baby in walking up and down, up and down, up and down their wooden staircase as the older kids whip each other into a frenzied crescendo. I worry about the groceries in the car and when it’s time to leave, I have to carry the toddler out because she’s again upset about leaving her friend. More screaming ensues.

We arrive home. I unload the groceries. I set the baby at the foot of the stairs and watch her start up. I get the toddler, who agrees (for once) that she does not need uppies up the stairs. I unload the groceries. My husband texts: he is home and can carry them up. Thank effing god. I arrive at my door and am greeted by the dirty diaper bag. I do not even care.

Do you have friends who think you eat bon-bons and relax all day? Do you even bother trying to make them understand?


Image via P Pogo/Flickr

baby activities, time for mom, work


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nonmember avatar Louise

that exact mentality from my daughter's father caused us to split. he felt i was doing "nothing" all day, altho his daughter was very happy, very healthy and very smart...bon bons & soap operas were apparently what he thought i did all day. i don't even like bon bons or soap operas! =/ we aren't together now and that was a huge part of it, sadly to say. wish i coulda had him read this. i did start documenting my day, but he would say "why did u sit down & relax while she was napping instead of doing MY laundry". UGH! glad to hear im not alone!!

nonmember avatar t

It doesn't just depend on the mom. One of my friends has three kids one of which is a high needs child. It bugs me that so many people are so quick to jump on moms.

JessicaLee McCart

your amazing thank you for the laugh :)
and just think you left out half the day (like dinner, baths, and DUN DUN DUNNNN bedtime) a 9-5 would be like a vacation to somedays

Karen Beckner

I have an almost five year old girl and a 21/2 yr old boy and I can say the first 9-15 months of my boys life I had these days at least 4 days a week or sometimes more. I really appreciate that you have posted this because it some how has helped me. I am going to put myself out there and admit that I didn't grow up in a typical home I was moved from family to family so I thought these hectic days I was having as a mother was my lack of "normal" upbringing, but now I know we can all go through the overwhelming feelings. Thanks:)

nonmember avatar Marion

I'm a full-time PhD student and I have never ever questioned the busy lives of stay-at-home moms. Going to work and leaving baby behind is difficult for so many reasons, and yes, we are very busy when we have to go to work and manage the house, but staying at home requires a whole different set of aptitudes, strengths and stamina that I look up to. No need to validate your work, some will get it, some won't. It's the same with those of us who "leave our kids for our careers"...yeah, that's it. We don't love our kids enough, right? Being a woman is kinda tough...

nonmember avatar Shelly

I've been a single parent before so I know that when you're in that situation you have to do it but I have yet to meet a person with a 2 parent household who truly had to live off of 2 incomes

Oh really? You know that much about all of your friends' and aquaintances' finances? You know for a fact none of them have debt which exceeds their income, and none of them have medical issues? Gotta love SAHM's who think they know what will work for everyone's situation. If you have financial difficulties, that isn't something you let everyone know. No one, not even my parents, know that my husband and I owe $100,000 in student loans, credit card payments, and medical bills. That is nearly $50,000 more than what we make together yearly. I don't my son in daycare either, I work 3rd shift so someone is always home. We pay only $800 in rent, both cars are paid off, and we don't take nice vacations. And we STILL could not afford for me to stay home, despite the fact we are supposedly saving all this money from not using daycare, because it all goes to pay off our debt. But according to you, there is no reason you can't live off of one income. Problems with debt are make believe, and this country has fantastic affordable healthcare. It must be nice to live off of one income and not have to worry about being taken to court and getting your husband's wages garnished. If I quit, we would probably end up in a homeless shelter.

Shelly Bertrand

This was pretty good. I was a SAHM for 6 years while I finished graduate school, with two under two for a while. It was a challenge, but so very rewarding! Now that my kids are out of high school, I'm back to being a SAHM, and they seem to like it as much as they did back then!

nonmember avatar Karen

I don't know. I am a single mom of a 3 and 1 year old and work full time as a teacher and am going to grad school. It is not easy but it is not that crazy either. I feel as if this person needs some serious organizational advice. Also, I know it politically incorrect but, I am tired of stay at home moms complaining. I do everything you do and work full time, enough with the exaggerating. I get to be a stay at home mom every summer and its fantastic. I have more time then ever and my house is clean!

nonmember avatar Candyce Holland

OH MY GOSH!!!! Finally a dose of reality!!! ANd people think that I am being rude when I dont answer the phone - I just simply dont have the mental capacity to talk to other human beings sometimes.

Deloris Hardin

honey you have had a rough day I know the feeling im 60 raised 4 children .now I help a grand child my body is growing old and tired.being parents isn't easy its a hard task .you never stop being a mom no matter how old they get .if you parent them and they don't listen when they get old you,ve done your job its time for the elderly to my house im a slave .no body offers a helping hand my son 28 and has a girl friend living with us she is pregnant by my son .I work my self to death and no body appreciates it .

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