“What Do You Do All Day?” Demystifying the Daily Life of Homemaking
I’ve had a few conversations recently with parents considering making the switch from working outside the home, to being stay at home homemakers and a caregivers. Each of these conversations inevitably rolls around to some version of “Ummm, so what do you do all day?” I feel like lurking behind this question there is a slightly nervous expectation that we have a schedule of playgroups, community events, and at home enrichment activities that we cycle through each week. While all those sorts of activities can be fun, I try to practice what is known as slow parenting, which to me means above all giving my son a chance to explore our world at his own pace, giving him ample opportunities to practice the skills he is working on at the moment, and being lovingly present and observant in my time with him.
At fourteen months old, the majority of scheduled activities that are ostensibly for my child are primarily chances for me to socialize with other parents, which has its own value, but it takes the pressure off me to remember that, and know I am not depriving him by keeping our schedule spare. While the work of caregiving keeps me pretty busy, homemaking isn’t exactly just a hobby for me either; I cook three meals a day from scratch, bake all our bread and pastries, generally try to keep our house tidy, and now that spring is approaching I am ramping up for our first foray into urban homesteading. (I should add that I don’t think you need to do all that cooking and baking to be a great homemaker; in my life before being a mom I was a cook, and these are activities I really enjoy and value.) Between all that, I certainly fill a work day worth of hours. In fact, according to this handy pie chart I just created, I fill about 14.25 hours in an average day:
There are days I clean for three hours, and there are days I clean for fifteen minutes; this chart approximates averages over a whole week, just to give you a general idea. As my son and I each grow and change, so will this chart; this is just a snapshot of this moment in our lives. I feel like most of the categories are self explanatory with the exception of Tech Support; this is the time I spend Googling topics like “what to do about toddlers hitting” “how to get stains out of toilet bowl” and “what do baby chicks eat?” This time also goes to chatting online with other moms, working together to lend each of our own experiences to help each other troubleshoot problems we are each having. You can see the biggest chunk of my day is what I think of as floor time; the time I spend down on my child’s level actively listening to and observing play. This play is his work, and facilitating that time is the best activity I can provide for him at this stage.
I aim to have at least one play date a week, giving him time to work on his peer interactions. We try to get out for a few walks together each week. We go to community activities geared toward children about twice a month. We spend time with extended family on a weekly basis. For the most part our lives revolve around a quiet rhythm of meals, play, books, rest, and time outdoors. Our rhythm is certainly seasonal as well; in the summer we certainly have more outside time and make it to more community activities. In the winter we take more long baths filled with toys, bake more bread, and read more books together.
I am happy to say I have gotten to a place where I don’t have a lot of anxiety about my parenting or my productivity. That hasn’t always been the case. I see my son growing, enjoying life, making friends, and reaching new milestones. So while to a lot of people it may look from the outside like I am not getting a lot done each day, I go to bed each day feeling satisfied that I have done a full day of good work.