A study recently commissioned by the juice company Welch’s concluded that the average mom works the equivalent of 2-1/2 fulltime jobs, or about 98 hours per week. Assuming eight hours per night of sleep (a generous estimate), that would leave about 14 hours per week for everything else, including eating and personal grooming.
I think most of the moms I know would be surprised to hear they have even that much time for such “luxuries.” Being a mom is a 24/7 proposition, a vocation of such import and responsibility that most moms find it difficult to enjoy “down” time even when they get it (which is hardly ever).
As one whose active child-rearing days are slipping away (I have two adult children and one entering high school), I see confirmed in the Welch’s study what I already knew from experience: being a mom, especially of young children, is one of the hardest jobs in the world. The study makes no distinction between moms who work outside the home and those who don’t. But having recently rejoined the fulltime work force after 25 years of mostly staying home, I can say without hesitation that fulltime mommying is way harder than fulltime employment.
Here are just a few of the ways working 40 hours per week outside the home is easier than spending the same 40 hours at home with children.
- When you finish a task, it actually stays done for a while instead of promptly getting eaten, dirtied, spilled, broken, smeared, walked on, torn, lost, or moved.
- You regularly get to talk to adults about things of interest to adults.
- You regularly get to eat a meal all the way through without having to attend to someone else’s needs.
- You don’t have to dig things out of the toilet that don’t belong there.
- You don’t have to hide the chocolate and scissors.
- You can go to the bathroom without worrying what disaster you’re going to find when you come out.
- Speaking of the bathroom, you don’t have to wend your way through an obstacle course to get to it.
- You get this crazy thing called a break.
- You actually get to stay in bed when you’re sick.
- I won’t even mention the salary, insurance, and retirement plan.
I realize I am oversimplifying. Certainly, many jobs are harder in various respects than the one we once called being a “housewife.” Some people’s work calls upon them to risk their very lives in the service of others, and I don’t mean to make light of that.
What I do mean to do is to encourage the moms reading who are still deep in the trenches of rearing children and tending hearth and home. There is a reason you are often tired, sometimes discouraged and occasionally at the end of your rope. The work you are doing is difficult and totalizing, mentally, physically, and emotionally. There is rarely a moment’s rest. When you find yourself on your knees in utter exhaustion and despair, you are not showing your weakness, but your strength.
As you continue to daily set aside your own needs, interests, wants, and comfort in the service of your family, you are displaying a fortitude that you may not fully realize until one day, 20 or more years hence, you look back and wonder how you ever managed.
About nine months ago, I took my dream job. I am doing work I love for an organization about which I am deeply passionate, and the days are full, demanding, and rewarding.
But as much as I love my current work, I believe that the most important work I have ever done consisted of singing a baby to sleep, chasing a diaperless toddler through the house, talking to a 7-year-old about God, consoling a 12-year-old following the death of a pet, and helping a 17-year-old pick out a college. The lion’s share of that work is done, and I’m a little sad about that.
At the same time, I don’t think I could do it all again. It was too hard, and I’m not as young or as strong as I used to be. Thankfully, each season of life tends to bring the work that is suited to that season, and there is peace in accepting what God has given you to do today.
So, to the young moms: I’m not going to tell you to “cherish these days.” They’re too hard, and sometimes it’s all you can do to survive. Just know that the day will come when it’s once again possible to read that book, pursue that passion, try for that job, go on that trip, or merely take a shower without interruption. As great as all of that is, part of you will long for the hard days that are done.
But the other part of you will quietly breathe a sigh of relief and whisper a prayer of thanks that you don’t have to do that anymore.