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The One Question Every Stay-at-Home Mom Dreads

Photograph by Twenty20

There's no avoiding it.

It happens wherever we go, whenever see someone out in public who is beyond our normal circle. And even though I know the question is coming and I try my best to be prepared for it, every time it happens, I react the same way—breaking out in a cold, damp sweat.

For a stay-at-home mom, there is nothing more disheartening then a question that goes along the lines of, "So, what have you guys been up to?"


The question may take many forms, such as "What's new with you all?" or the innocent "How have you been?" but no matter what exact words leave the questioner's mouth, I hear pretty much the same thing:

"So what the hell do you do all day?"

As soon as those words hang between us in the air, I panic, stalling for a way to think of how to accurately sum up my life, which includes wiping other people's butts, considering showering an accomplishment, and basically serving people food they won't eat all day.

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I mean really, today, it took me 20 minutes just to get my toddler to let me brush her hair. How is that even remotely normal on a scale of what grown-up lives should look like?!

There's just no way to describe my life which feels like a constant, permanent exhaustion that is so overwhelming at times I literally hide from my children just to try to close my eyes for two seconds.

It's an out-of-control tornado that's spiraling towards destruction in the form of my offspring ruining everything in my house, and nearly 24/7 self-doubt if I'm really the right person for this job, all sprinkled with the belief that this is what I need to be doing at this time in my life and I truly am grateful for the chance to do it, as hard as it may be.

Because, really, how else should a stay-at-home mom answer in a way that would make sense?

But none of that really can be called up into casual conversation any more than I could regale an acquaintance with a play-by-play of my typical riveting day: wake up early to try to work before the kids, guzzle a gallon of coffee, throw children in states of undress in the minivan, roll up to school and kick half of them out, clean for what feels like 18 million hours while pulling various children off my legs/off the walls/ and trying to convince them to play toys without me, stress about what to make for dinner all day long and still have no idea what to make come dinner time.

Oh, but that's not all....

Then I do 15 loads of laundry, sprint into school with the toddler in my arms because she refuses to walk anywhere and the preschooler dragging behind picking his nose, come back home to an avalanche of school papers and lunch boxes and kids begging for a snack even though they will never actually eat the dinner I still have not decided on, and then count down the hours until my husband gets home and I am no longer the only adult. At last, bedtime comes and I'm finally off the hook but too tired to move so I go to bed too.


There's just no way to say that out loud to someone who doesn't live it every day without them:

1. Thinking I'm a lazy piece of crap who is greatly over-exaggerating how hard and tiring that all can be

2. Thinking that sounds pretty easy and I must just be pretty bad at it or

3. Having no idea what any of that means and as they just nod politely while doing that weird grimace like, "I regret even asking."

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So when I face the dreaded question, I go with the one answer I can trust. While visions of what a typical day looks like dance through my head, I just respond with a simple, "Oh, you know, not much."

Because really, how else should a stay-at-home mom answer in a way that would make sense? Unless, of course, the person asking is a fellow at-home parent, in which case, I will just silently raise my coffee mug to you, nod my messy bun your way, and smile that secret knowing smile of stay-at-home moms everywhere who get what it's like.

You know, doing the usual. Not much to see here at all, really.

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