So, I like to say that I work 24-7, which amounts to a 168 hour work week, and there's truth in that statement. I mean, I never stop being a mom -- defined for these purposes as the most responsible party for the care of my children, regardless of whose company they are in, both because it feels that way and because society (however much more enlightened we are than we were 50 years ago) says so.
But I've been thinking about it and when I define my job as a "stay-at-home" parent, my actual on-duty and on-call hours add up to something closer to 150. Eighteen hours a week both of my daughters are physically in someone else's immediate care, either my husband's (their father), or my mom's. And of the 150 hours that one or both of them are directly in my care, approximately two-thirds of that time they are also "directly" in the care of their father, and thus I am assisted. This includes nighttime, of course.
If the time my husband and I sleep, and/or our children sleep (including during the day), can be subtracted from that total then it comes out to something more like 80-90 hours a week (depending on much they sleep). And, if only the time that I am alone with one or both of them while they are awake can be counted then my workweek is really closer to 30 hours a week. However, I'm going to argue that anytime I am alone with them, whether they are awake or asleep should count, because I am still the primary person on-duty -- which puts me safely over 40 hours a week.
It's a full-time job.
That arithmetic is so wholly unsatisfying. But why? Why is it more satisfying to believe or suggest that I work a longer work week than other people do? Since when did the number of hours a person works become the measure of their contribution to the world, the measure of their worth? Or more pertinently, since when did I start believing it?
It is a weird thing to choose to be a stay-at-home mom, as a progressive feminist. I am alternately defensive and proud of my decision, alternately convinced it is proof of how far women have come that I am welcome to choose it and worried it is a personal failure to claim my "liberation." And then, to have two daughters! I frequently worry about what I am teaching them about what they should do as women -- my goal being to teach them that what they should do is whatever makes them happy.
And that's the nub right there. This makes me happy. And isn't that what I believe really matters? Whether I work 24-7 or really something more like 30 hours a week, who cares? I have found my right place for right now. I'd like to think that's what we're all aiming for -- that it is the only kind of success that ultimately matters. I think it is.
That said, you'll note, that I'm not changing my description of this blog. 24-7, that's my story, people. Because it sounds so good.