Over the past few days a lot of people have been telling me to “calm down”. Actually, not a lot of people. Just grandparents. The grandparents of my children. All four of them to be precise. And it’s really getting on my nerves.
The thing of it is, I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposedly so uptight about. I’m rather even-keel, even pleasant given my status as a stay at home mother to two rambunctious, bossy boys ages 4 and 1. With a husband travelling for work this past week I was especially kind to grandparents who offered to help keep the boys’ minds off of their dad being away. Yet, somehow the very act of being a responsible mother who expects her children to say thank you and not fall (or jump) off furniture warrants the advice to, “calm down”.
For instance, cocking my head to listen to the obstinate four year old taking a bath with grandma while remarking, “Hm, the baby hasn’t eaten much fruit today,” warranted a “calm down” from one grandparent who hasn’t so much as changed a diaper in their entire life. This comment was given after I’d made dinner to celebrate grandma’s birthday. Who needs dessert when you get such vital life advice to chew on?
When I dared to discipline the older son during a family outing, I was met with concerned looks from grandparents who whispered, “Are you all right?” My discipline was so harsh that the other parents around me didn’t even take notice, but yes, please, would you take my blood pressure to be sure? This time the advice to calm down was given after I was greeted at the door by two grandparents who felt it was more important to criticize the cobwebs the spiders had spun on my porch overnight before bothering to say hello. But, I digress. After all, it was my fault that I did not take after my Great-Grandmother and get my aproned-ass out on the porch at the crack of dawn to shoo the bugs away and scrub down.
What makes people, especially the people closest to you, think they have the right to tell you to calm down when you’re going along, doing your job and minding your own business? Is it because I’m a stay at home mom? Every time I do anything but smile I get a wary look that reads, “Donna Reed never had a bad day, what’s your problem?” Women who work are allowed to be miserable. They’re allowed to grumble (like their male counterparts) about work stress and bad days. Stay at home moms, however, are still expected to be the emotional equivalent of June Cleaver: As emotionally affected by life as a robot designed to find satisfaction in a clean home, a three-course meal and kids who clean behind their ears. After all, why are we uptight anyway? Don’t we stay at home all day? Gee, let me ask you this: Why are you uptight anyway? Don’t you go to work all day?
The other day a mom-friend called me. My hello was met with an exasperated, “How do you do this every day?” Her 2 year old was home with strep throat. Screaming in the background, I asked if he napped and when she said no, I advised her that the car was a mother’s best friend. Then I had to run, because my two kids were tearing up their great-grandparents house and all their grandmother could keep asking me was, “Didn’t you bring a toy bag?” as if somehow more crap all over the floor would’ve solved every problem in the universe.
How do we do it, us stay at home moms with no emotion but pure joy in our hearts as reflected by the tight-lipped smiles on our faces? (June Cleaver never showed teeth.) We improvise. We ask great-grandma if older son can play with automatic card shuffler used for weekly canasta games, and we let younger son clutch our finger until it turns blue, because who doesn’t take joy in a toddler running wild around a strange house? We improvise. We sacrifice. We stay on top of our game, just like the women who leave the house to go to work, because being a mother is our job and we take it just as seriously as we would if we earned a paycheck every two weeks doing it.
And if money is what it takes to justify that kind of diligence and hard work, and all the emotion that comes with it, well next time you feel like telling the stay at home mom in your life to “calm down” just pull out your checkbook and put your money where your mouth is instead. Our going rate is $77.88/hour, based on a 40 hour workweek. If your complaint comes before or after the hours of 9–5, and since we work 90 hour weeks it probably will, the answer is yes, we do charge overtime.