Great (WAHM) expectations: myth vs. reality

NOT!

I ventured out of my lair last week for the ASJA conference in New York City, a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the business of writing, meet many of my freelance friends and network with editors and agents. Anybody who saw me, polished and professional-looking (one hopes)  in suits, heels and actual accessories, might never have guessed the flurry of craziness it took to get me there.

Even though my kids are a bit older now, I essentially still need to replace myself when I leave for any longer than one day. If I was to go to the conference, I knew I’d need someone to put the kids on their respective buses Friday morning and be there when they came home. And, just to make things more interesting, my husband had already planned a Boy Scout weekend away for himself — and only one of our sons. To take care of the other two until I returned Saturday night, my best friend and my sister-in-law were called to duty, each keeping one kid.

It took a village to keep everything afloat when this WAHM, for a change, stepped out of the house to work. But really, it takes a village to stay home and get it all done anyway. Whether we delegate chores to family members, hire help or choose some combination thereof, very few of us can expect to actually work and take care of the kids and house even if we are at home all day.

One of my favorite bloggers, Meagan Francis, has been knocking around this issue lately on The Happiest Mom. When she divulged that she hires a cleaning lady twice a month to keep her digs in order (and mind you, Meagan has 5 kids), some of the comments on her blog were less than understanding.

“I think working-at-home moms walk a difficult line sometimes,” she wrote. “We’re expected to occupy both worlds: working to support our families financially without ever admitting that we can’t, in actuality, earn an income plus raise the kids plus do every bit of housecleaning by ourselves.”

Full disclosure: I hire a posse of cleaning ladies twice a month to make my house sparkle, too. At this point I honestly don’t know how I’d manage without them. But I won’t apologize for deciding I needed the help and I don’t think any other WAHM should either, whether it’s child care, cleaning, a laundry service or grocery delivery. (I’d definitely be getting my groceries delivered if that service were available nearby.)

Just who do people think we are? But here’s a better question: Who do we think we are? I may bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, but my teenagers are darn well going to clean that pan when I’m done. And do their own laundry. And take out the garbage. And whatever else I ask (grumbling expected).

I always laugh at the Staples commercial featuring their signature gimmick, the Easy Button. If only the WAHM juggle were really as easy as pushing a button. But we need to forgive ourselves when the world pushes ours.

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About writearounditall

Welcome to Write Around It All. I’m Maureen Salamon, a freelance health & lifestyle writer who was a WAHM before WAHM was part of the vernacular. Four kids later, my days are a crazy cocktail of research, laundry, interviews, carpools, writing, errands and deadlines. I have it all, do it all and appreciate it all — most days. View all posts by writearounditall

6 responses to “Great (WAHM) expectations: myth vs. reality

  • Tracey

    As another WAHM, I can attest to the disaster area that is my house most of the time because I don’t hire a cleaning lady, ever! I know. People wonder how I do it, and manage my sanity. It’s tough. I eat a lot of chocolate. Only nobody picks up the wrappers…

    • writearounditall

      Thanks for visiting, Tracey! One thing most people without cleaning help forget is that you pretty much have to make sure the house is spotless — all wrappers cleaned up, that is — before they can do their job with the spit and polish. It’s good motivation to keep clutter at bay. Less than two weeks after Easter, there are still quite a few wrappers here, too!

  • Connie Abbott

    I have never gotten that thing about the easy button. Maybe the batteries are dead on mine…I’ve never gotten one to work! You ladies go! Hire those maids and don’t feel accountable to everyone who benefits from your bloggings for approval. If I could hire one housecleaner (or more desirably, 20), you wouldn’t have to twist my arm!

    • writearounditall

      My easy button is on the fritz too, Connie! This topic seems to have taken on a life of its own this week — Meagan Francis’ original blog post is mentioned in The New York Times on the Motherlode blog [http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/never-mention-the-housekeeper/]. Had no idea there was so much dissension out there about getting some help. Like you, I think most people would hire some cleaning help if they could afford it. Thanks for your comments!

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