Not long ago, there was a “What My Friends Think I Do” Facebook craze. This trend involved posting photos of how others might perceive your line of work. For example, if you were an ad exec, your friends might picture Don Draper and your mom might picture you creating clever magazine ads, versus what you really do (Excel spreadsheets, anyone?). These career-focused memes with their snarky pictorial depictions went viral. So I, of course, had to find the stay-at-home-mom meme.
After all, we all think we know what stay-at-home-moms do; we’re experts in that field. I know what I thought moms did before I became one, because I witnessed them at the mall during my lunch breaks. Clearly, being a stay-at-home mom entailed pushing an elegant stroller while meeting your other mommy friends, enjoying your latte or lunch and collecting bags of cutesy clothes from Baby Gap and Gymboree. I sort of wonder why I’ve never done this. Hmm.
The “What My Friends Think I Do” piece for the stay-at-home-mom was both expected and enlightening. Society thinks I sit around with curlers in my hair eating bon-bons – pretty cliche by now. My kids think I yell at them, and – sigh – some days that’s probably true. And I had to chuckle that my husband might hope I just fry up steaks clad in nothing more than a bikini.
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I was a little disappointed that housekeeping images crept so prominently into the pictures, with someone else’s interpretation of what I think I do revolving around roast chicken. I am a stay-at-home mom, thank you very much, not housekeeper (with the exception of laundry … and dinner … and grocery shopping … ), and I’d like to think of myself as engaging my children in age-appropriate play and books. Turns out, that’s what stay-at-home dads think they are doing. Men.
What gave me pause, however, was the image of what my mom thought I was doing: namely, sitting at my laptop while my little ones crawl about. I think the creators of this meme got it wrong, or at least partly wrong. To my mother, a computer is still a relatively new-fangled device, one she likely doesn’t associate with mothers. (In case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure my mom thinks I keep hand-written charts of all my kids’ chores and activities, or at least she thinks I should.)
But they were onto something. Sitting at my computer is what my daughter thinks I do. (Ah-ha! So I’m not yelling at my kids all day!) And a friend, a working mom who doesn’t quite understand how moms find time to be mommy bloggers, might think this is the case. Let’s not even start about Facebook.
I was a little embarrassed by this, because it’s true: I’ll sneak off to the computer like an alcoholic mom sips chardonnay under the stairwell. I know, I know: I should be thoroughly engaged in, I don’t know, Tiger Mom antics like dismantling doll houses, so my little ones perfect Eine kleine Nachtmusik on their violins, but it’s so much more fun to go online and read comments about Tiger Moms instead of actually acting like one.
And for a mom of my, well, demographic, the rise of social networking couldn’t be more perfect for aiding in something called denial. I still remember an era in which sitting at a computer clearly meant you were doing something, like accounting. Or rocket science.
Truth is, stay-at-home parenting is a lot of things: challenging and fun, frustrating and rewarding. Some days I rock; some days I barely get by. With stay-at-home parenting, there is no co-worker a few cubes down with whom to spontaneously vent. It’s during these moments that I might just go check out a blog to see if I’m not alone. Or peek in on Facebook, to see if any of my friends have left a witty, adult-like comment. From their computer. Doing whatever it is they do all day.
Illustration by Mino Watanabe