Don't ask a stay-at-home mum this question

"I am a caregiver, a chef, and a cleaner."
"I am a caregiver, a chef, and a cleaner." Photo: Shutterstock

As a stay-at-home mum, there is one thing I despise being asked. That is, of course, the dreaded question: "And what do you do?" 

I never know what to say. Where do I start? 

I work in a variety of roles. 

I am a caregiver, a chef, and a cleaner. 

I provide personal care: I help bathe and clean teeth. I help with toilet time. 

I am also an entertainer, an educator, a singer, a dancer. 

I am a personal shopper, a manager, a tour guide. The list is endless. 

I am many, many things. 

Lazy is not one of them. 

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There is an extremely misconstrued vision out there that some people have of us stay-at-home mums, though. 

It's like they imagine a woman, lounging in the sun and sipping a lovely drink, while her children play quietly around her in the yard. Maybe she's sprawled on the lounge, eating snacks and watching her favourites on Netflix, while her children play in their rooms. This woman definitely sleeps in - she is home all day after all, she has no need to get up early. 

These people imagine a woman on a holiday.

I don't know about you, but I've never met a mother who has days that are anything like that. 

I remember going to an ultrasound when I was pregnant with my first child. The technician sniped at me, "I hope you don't like to sleep." 

I looked over at my partner, confused. What did she mean? I liked sleep as much as anyone else.

It turns out, though, that woman cursed me. My son wakes each and every day at around 5am, and has done since he was a baby. 

In all my years of full time work, I never woke as early as I do everyday now, as a stay at home mum. 

Children cannot be snoozed like an alarm. 

My day no longer begins with a shower and getting nicely dressed for the day, there is usually no hot coffee for me. Instead, I sort out breakfast for two hungry, whiny (yet beautiful), children. 

While that is being eaten, I quickly race around making beds and tidying all the misplaced toys. Sometimes I squeeze in a quick coffee. 

I wash up the breakfast dishes, I vacuum the floors, and I mop the house. Given that my family are constantly home, the house is guaranteed to be messy. The floors can be freshly cleaned and no sooner will someone spill a scoop of honey, juice, or some other lovely sticky substance onto them. It's a delight. 

After all the cleaning we've done, it's probably time my children had a snack. They've been excellent helpers for the morning so far, following me around with their toy cleaning supplies. 

The washing needs to be done, so I sort that out while they eat their food. I return to find the freshly cleaned floors now littered with the pieces of my kids' snacks that didn't make it all the way into their mouths. 

Awesome! Let me just fix that all up again. 

The kids are now dressed and ready. I've managed to get them into what could be classed as an outfit, in toddler land. Not so much in my books, but it will do. I glance down at my pyjamas, and quickly throw on a t-shirt and some leggings. We head outside for a while, to hang the washing and have a play. 

Within minutes, the children are a mess. Their clean clothes are stained with grass and mud, they are coated in sand, and they seem to have found a mysterious shallow body of water somewhere in the yard, given how inexplicably wet they are.

The time is now 9:30am. I'm not sure I've even sat down this morning. 

It doesn't matter how busy my days are, though, or how frustrating some moments can be. I truly am so grateful to have had these early years with my children. I have been there for all the smiles and tears, all the first steps and first words, all the sleepless nights and winter colds. I am ever so lucky, and I appreciate that. 

My mother never had a choice. The way things turned out for her meant that she had to go back to work when I was only six months old. I grew up with a working mum, in a time when it wasn't common like it is today. 

And I'll admit it, I missed her company. 

I have a bond with my grandmother like no other, and a lot of that had to do with her looking after me daily when I was a young child. I selfishly want my children to have that same bond with me. 

I will never regret my choice to stay at home with my children. 

What I do regret, though, is the mumbled, barely intelligible response I always give to the question, "And what do you do?" 

I wish I didn't have to defend myself for choosing to raise my own children.