Stay-at-Home Mom?

I read a lot about SAHMs. For a time, I might even have been one. It’s just an interesting term because, in my experience, one rarely stays “home.” I suppose you could, and many do, but there’s only so much to do in the house.

So how do you decide if you’re staying at home or not? Does it count if you pack up the kid and take her with you at least five days a week? Does it matter if we’re headed to the gym or a playgroup or just out grocery shopping? Yes, that would be a lot of groceries, but it’s a place to go. Don’t forget the pool and the library to mix in with the other errands that should only take 5 minutes each, right?

Some of them used to take 5 or 10 minutes, before I started dragging the munchkin with me. If it isn’t her meandering path that takes three times as many steps as we’d need, it’s someone else stopping us to talk about how cute she is or how old she is. It’s not that I mind the attention or begrudge her the exploring time, but nothing takes 5 minutes anymore. Except things that used to take a minute or less, like climbing the stairs.

Assume that it’s going to take half an hour when I stop somewhere, and I’m a lot closer to reality. I grab a diaper bag and the toddler and pack them in the car, along with my purse and keys. Still haven’t figured out the best way to keep my stuff and her stuff in one bag and have it organized and useful, so I carry two and keep the bare minimum in both. Then the garage door goes up, because she’s excited enough about going outside that I can’t open the door before I pack her in the car. So I wait, then back out. There’s five minutes or more already, depending on how cooperative she’s feeling about going wherever we’re going.

That kind of activity just keeps going, in reverse for getting her out. Sometimes I can direct her to go where she’s going, but most of the time I make sure she’s last out of the car so she doesn’t wander off without me. It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s no reason to let the first time be in traffic.

I have been thinking that not working full-time means I’m a stay-at-home mom. So I try to say that with an introduction, but then I keep addending it. I mean, I’m also a writer. While that may not be a paying gig most of the time, I do have paying jobs in tutoring math and teaching yoga. Both of these are part-time, but it still means I need to go somewhere at a specific time and place for a specified duty.

Which of those parts means I’m not a SAHM? I’m not exactly sure, but I think the answer is a little of all of them. You can find me outside the house nearly every morning (Sundays being the exception) and between two and four evenings a week. Suddenly it doesn’t feel like I’m at home that much.

I have made it a high priority to be home during naptime, or if not with me then let the little girl rest with someone I trust. She’s much less cranky when she gets her scheduled nap. I also put her to bed at a specific time and she generally wakes within a few minutes of the same time every day. I can’t say it’s the best for every kid, but I know it works for mine.

I know all mothers are full-time mothers, but I wonder if I’m not the only person who tries to define the quality of staying at home by whether or not the mother has a full-time job. There has to be a different way. What do you think defines a SAHM?

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