You’re A Stay-At Home Mum… What Do You Actually Do All Day?

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“You’re a stay at home mum… so what do you DO all day?”

If I had a pound for every time someone had said that to me then I would have, well, a lot of pounds. But I don’t, I just have a lot of urges to clock acquaintances who ask me annoying questions in the face. Where did the idea come from that mums who work in the home spend their days on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle? The kids won’t feed themselves and the house won’t clean itself. Shit needs to get DONE people, and very often the only person to do it is mum.

Mums wear a lot of hats. Educator, cook, cleaner, laundry maid, chauffeur, disciplinarian. But it’s not just as simple as that; not only do we have to perform in all these roles but we have to try as hard as we can at them. The pressure is on to cook well-balanced, healthy meals from scratch (tough when your kid will only eat white pasta, bananas and avocados). We have to teach them the ‘right’ things (Montessori? Phonetics? I need to Google all these words). And then, still some of us have to hold down jobs, progress in careers, keep other halves happy. It’s exhausting. 

So here it is: this is a run-down of exactly what I did one day last week. And the next time someone asks me that question I am referring them straight here… right after punching them in the face.

– Got myself and the kids up. This involves tactical negotiations over exactly what cup our milk will be drank from and intense decisions over Weetabix, Shreddies or toast. I’m not kidding, the UN’s negotiators have nothing on me.

– Prepared everyone to leave the house. Three year olds aren’t rational, they will insist on wearing a summer dress and they won’t understand when you explain why this is most definitely not possible because it’s 2 degrees outside. Oh and cardigans? Only idiots wear cardigans, apparently.

– Drive Elfie to pre-school. Do you know how many times you can listen to Katy Perry ‘Roar’ on a 10 minute car journey? Three, but it will feel like twelve.

– Took Hux to creche. Sometimes fine but mostly heartbreaking. A three year old clutching on to your leg crying ‘Mama! Mama! Cuddle!’? ARGH.

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– Went to the gym. My favourite time (I’m mental), but it’s the time I get that’s not for work, not for children, not for anyone else but me. 20 minutes on the cross trainer, 20 minutes on all the weight machine thingys then 10 stretching and admiring myself in the massive mirror ;) We all do it when we have muscles, right?

– Designed a blog. I’ve been doing a bit of blog design work recently and there’s nothing I’d rather do after the gym than a couple of hours of coding CSS. I’m not even joking here.

– Did three loads of washing. Though my two are little, one of them attracts paint like there’s no tomorrow and the other likes eating soup with his hands. I basically get through a lot of Fairy Non-Bio (which I buy and use because it reminds me of having newborns :’)

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– Cooked, photographed and wrote a recipe. I needed to eat lunch and because the light was on my side I photographed the recipe – sticky chicken cashew salad – for a new website I’m launching about my Paleo journey. Because I don’t have enough on my metaphorical plate. 

– Wrote an article about iPhone photography. I’m working with a new client (details coming soon!) and getting to do a lot of work about photography which has been fantastic.  

– The kids came home! Always a lovely time. Although today they brought cake, definitely not Paleo.

– Met a friend for a playdate. I think it’s really important to socialise – not just the children, but me as well. Because I work at home in funny snatches of time I don’t always get to see many people so I like to meet up with my friends when I can. Today we went to IKEA to meet our lovely new pre-school friend Amy: we get meatballs and the kids get to tire themselves out playing the ‘Arrow Game’! This is a genius invention (all Amy’s): the kids run from arrow to arrow throughout IKEA… they aren’t allowed to move on from one arrow to the next until we get to them so they stay within sight yet still have a good old run around. Brilliant! I buy a bath mat, loo brush and a candle, because I challenge anybody to go to IKEA and not purchase a candle.

– Get home in time for a bath. Elfie doesn’t like the bath after a busy day. She doesn’t like to get her hair wet and she is always worried that Hux is going to poo in there (a valid concern, admittedly). Sometimes I have to bring out my negotiation skills again but this day she actually managed to let me wash her hair without a fuss. Success!

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– Put the kids to bed. Bedtime is one of my favourite times of all. The children are clean, cuddly and smell delicious and everyone is happy after a busy day. We read a book (usually Hairy McLairy) and then Hux is the first to get tucked in with his muslin and RaaRaa the lion while Elfie and I have fifteen minutes alone for a cuddle on the sofa.

– Write a blog post. The evenings I have dinner with the kids are brilliant because it means I can spend an extra half an hour or so working rather than cooking. I’m sometimes too tired to sit down and write a blog post but I like to try and get some ideas down at least. Plus if I’ve poured myself a glass of wine I suddenly start to find my own writing rather hilarious.

– Go through my emails. The one thing I’m really bad at is not replying to emails that aren’t urgent. I’m trying to make myself spend an hour on them each evening but it’s hard. I’ll get there.

– Fall into bed. I usually remember I have a washing machine full of wet clothes waiting to go in the tumble dryer AFTER I’ve gone to bed. It’s good it keeps me on my toes.

So, Mr ‘What do you do all day’…  This is what I do. What did YOU get done today?

51 Comments
  1. Hi Alice, I look after my little one while juggling my work from home, the house tasks, cooking and more work on the evening, O and getting up in the middle of night attending to my toddler. The next time someone asks me what I do all day (the bf) I will show them this post as an example to say up yours!- the truth is us mums rule!

  2. Ha ;) I hate that question and it’s judgemental patronising undertones… My LG does two mornings at nursery now, but the rest of the time it’s me, her, and all the general toddler related debauchery that keeps me going until I pass out some time around midnight! I actually get bored justifying myself and tend to just smile and say ‘If only you knew…’ lol x

  3. Ha. Love it. May have to do one of these myself. I get into bed every day saying to myself, I wish I could be LESS productive! I hate it! All I ever want to do in life is lie around reading, yet I usually do 87987 things per day…

    touching the screen in consolidation.

    x

  4. I get this question a lot at the moment. Since I handed my notice in and started working for myself I get a lot of people questioning what I do. It’s almost like it is ‘pocket money’ that I fit around the kids rather than an actual job just because I do it around their schedules. Drives me mad. Ok so I am not earning a fortune but I am contributing. So there. ;) And anyone who wonders what its like looking after a three year old and a one year old- well I can give them my children for a day so they can experience it for themselves. They would soon change their tune. ;)

    1. Ugh I hate that idea, that we’re just earning ‘pin money’. It’s not true at all. We are in charge of the wellbeing of our kids and also earning a living, we’re basically superwomen!! I also love it when someone childless spends time with the two kids and me, because although I think they’re angelic (and they are!) it’s still such hard work to parent children of this age. Again – superwomen ;) x

  5. Brilliant post lady and you are looking FINE-I’m tired of explaining that my blog is my job and well paid to boot (which I’m very grateful for) but it takes a whole lot of time and often feels like more than a full time job. Loved every word of this post and cannot wait to see your Paleo blog xx

  6. Oh how I find the “what do you do all day?” question tedious. Although thankfully I don’t get asked it much.
    The thing is no one asked someone who works as a nanny or a childminder what they do all day and essentially it’s the same as a SAHM – keep the children safe all day. Except there is more to it for a SAHM. They also have the housework to do, the pack lunches to make, the school run to do, the homework to help with, the doctors appointments, the toddler groups, the after school classes, the groceries to buy, the meals to cook etc. Plus we also have to deal with all the mother’s guilt and worry etc. There is no switching off from all of the emotional side of it which to be honest is the most tiring bit of it all.
    Still the best job in the world though!

    1. Of course they do… but I don’t work outside the home so nobody has asked me recently, “you’re a working mother, what do you do all day?”.

      The point is, this is a question that gets asked of a lot of women who work – for money or not – in the home, and it’s ironic how much needs doing.

      1. Working from outside the home…can only assume you don’t have to cook, photograph and write a recipe as well as write a blog post and article in one day.
        I’m not even a mother and I work away from home, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have 2 kids to look after, I barely have enough time to get the house work done before its bed!
        Alice, you have accomplished so much and I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts and your new paleo posts!

  7. There is nothing more annoying than this question. I have done many many jobs in my life as a worker bee and nothing, literally NO THING is as full on as mothering. Brilliant yes. But bloody full on.

  8. I now just laugh in the face of anyone who asks me what I do all day or ‘aren’t I bored at home all day’. It really un-nerves people and makes them think that they are missing something – which of course, they are ;)

  9. Oh yes! This this and this some more.

    Elliot is totally obsessed with Katy Perry too. I could have accurately answered your question! Ha!

    Xx

  10. I love this post! I have the same issues and can empathise fully. My timetable is not dissimilar to yours. I dread people asking me what I do, because when I say ‘I’m a freelance writer and work from home around the children’, you just know what they’re thinking. Well, I think you demonstrated it takes hard work and good organisation to work from home and balance work life and home life. :)

  11. omg that is so funny! love this post! my other half used to say that he’d much rather stay at home with the kids than go to work implying that i don’t really do anything… until we recently spent an intense family holiday and he got to see what looking after two young children actually entails. he hasn’t said it since, ha!

  12. The thing that strikes me from your post is that while it’s a busy and tiring day, it’s not even close to the craziest days we get, is it?
    Days full of sickness, carting them to the doctor, stopping the other child jumping on the scales and going through the yellow needle bin whilst you try to listen to what you should be doing to care for the ill child….days of potty training where 5 outfits are hand washed within one day, puddles are mopped off the floors, journeys are halted for toilet breaks, which in fact where not necessary after all, and with all this, we have to keep smiling and telling them they’re doing so well… And then the darker days when all we want to do is shut ourselves away whilst we deal with feeling ill/morning sickness/miscarriage…and yet we don’t, we carry on dealing with it whilst being mum and attending to our children.
    It amazes me that the question you addressed gets asked so much. We are so blessed though to be with our children and time passes so quickly, so let’s make the most of it while they’re home with us and still wanting cuddles and stories!

    1. You’re so right! The sickness days are the worst because quite often you’ve also been up all night making friends with the washing machine. And then you get ill too and you have to deal with ill children when all you want to do is curl up into a ball and die.

      Ahh, motherhood :) x

  13. Not much then *jokes* You must be super organised to fit all that into one day. I’m at home with Amy and there’s no chance, I’d get all that done with her at home x

  14. Love love LOVE your blog – it has helped retain my sanity through the early months of motherhood!
    More info on the paleo site please – when will it be ready? You’ve inspired me!
    Thank you xxx

  15. Why do people ask that question?
    When I had a proper job, no one ever asked me what I did all day, some of it wasn’t worth repeating, some of it was interesting and some of it was very dull. But no on ever said…. “oh you’ve been to work… what did you do all day?”
    Can I say I admire your un-self conscious selfie at the gym. Or maybe everyone at gyms does selfies these days.

    Blimey you fit a lot of stuff in.

  16. After 8 years at home, I now have two kids at school and I’ve started an office job. And I can tell you I don’t get half as much done at work than I achieved when I was at home (not that I don’t do all my work – I’m just not as busy).
    I know what you do all day – I just wish I looked that good at the gym!

  17. Ahhh I fecking love you for this post!
    I just read it on my break (working til midnight) and it’s put the spring back in my step especially after breaking down last week feeling worthless as a stay at home work night’s mum

  18. Sounds like a wonderful day! Slightly jealous of your ability to squeeze in a session at the gym (this will happen to me one day soon, when baby is a bit bigger and all childcare time is not taken up with having to do mounds of work, I promise!)

  19. Good for you! Such truths..I’ve been a stay at home Mom for 5 yearz(2kids, 8 AND 4). I went back to work last year.. I found the time at work calm. I could go to the loo without an entourage. I finally had time to drink warm tea. Obviously it’s carnage when I put the key in the door after work with two whining hungry kids en tow. The bigger problem is society places v little value on childrearing/house keepin etc. What was I doing during all those years at home all day??? I was raising the generation of children whose tax will pay for the pensions and the healthcare and the subsidized drugs that’ll keep yu alive. Challenge anyone who talks that shit to come and spend 24 hours with you!,you’re doing great. X.

  20. Love this post! I think sometimes it actually needs to be written down before you can actually see how much you do yourself, it all just seems like a blur each day. Keep up the good work ;)

  21. I work 3 days a week which is actually a rest compared to the days spent looking after my one year old. When my husbands refers to ‘my days off’ I want to smack him in the face.. day off from what?

  22. So true *bookmarks post for future reference*. When I used to work in an office I had the most chilled of lives – lunch out with colleagues, drinks after work – easy life! Whilst this new life is oh so different….

  23. Hi Alice,
    I have always been a fan of your blog, it’s interesting, inspiring and well written. However, I feel compelled to comment on this post as frankly, I feel a little put out from reading it. As a non stay at home working mum – I work a mixture of shifts – your list of daily activities are written in a way that can be read as slightly insulting to those of us who are working elsewhere and still having these duties of care at home. For example, going to the gym and socialising are activities often seen as a treat for many mothers who are on their days off from work and can arrange childcare.
    Thank you

  24. Hi Alice looks like you’ve got the work/life balance working for you!! My kids are 13 and 10 and I am still not working full time but I do run my own portrait painting business which keeps me on my toes. I spend a lot of time cleaning or at least thinking about cleaning. Dusting is a nightmare isn’t it? When are they going to invent those robots that Tomorrow’s World promised us that would get to grips with our dust bunnies?

  25. People actually have the nerves to ask you this to your face? WTF??!! Please tell me they are people with no kids that have no clue about children in general – this question from another parent would be just incredibly rude.
    Going back to an office and leaving your kids in external care would be so much easier in a multitude of ways. Of course, not from the guilt perspective, but physically and emotionally, it would. No office job, no matter how exhausting and shitty it was, has been as tiring and taxing as my own children. And no, sometimes it’s not rewarding, sometimes it’s just shitty. Because you don’t get paid and you don’t get vacation and nope, you don’t even get a lunch break. I clearly am feeling sorry for full-time working mothers who have their jobs PLUS the housework etc. But at the end of the day, I personally feel that during those hours that are reserved for my part-time job, I relax the most. Deadlines and demanding clients do not scare me anymore since I had kids.
    Much love, Dxx
    PS: You work out in a bra? Tststs, those young things… ;-)

  26. Such a great post! Not that you have to justify it at all but good for you sharing this. So many people don’t get how hard it truly is. I’ve only got the one just now (he’s six months) and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep on top of my to-do list. I’m also juggling my freelance work, blog etc. and though it doesn’t earn masses it does help out and contribute. Above all I love looking after my son, he’ll only be little once and I don’t want to miss it. It’s so hard, you get judged left right and center as a mum, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to do what’s right for you and your own family :) x

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  28. brilliant post! I actually laughed and choked on some wine (ok tea – I’m drinking tea!) as I read it. I can’t believe you get all that done in a day! and go to the gym and make a great lunch! I have one daughter and can barly do half that stuff (must do better). One think I swear though is I am not watching Mr Kyle (prefer Everybody loves Raymond!) – I am racing around trying to tidy/make lunch/iron/blog/ freelance/hoover/playdates?reply to emails/play on twitter… and and yes get the washing out for the machine! which reminds me…

    x
    mamasVIB

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