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So what do you do for a living?

This is the question I dread being asked the most. I used to answer, “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” (SAHM), to which the reactions have ranged from a slow confused nod, to a fleeting expression of distaste.

I stopped responding “stay-at-home mom,” and instead say, “I’m at home with my kids.”

The responses range from “Oh, that’s nice…” (patronizing yet understanding nothing)

To perplexed: “So…what do you do all day?”

To: “You’re so lucky! I wish I could sit at home instead of going to work every day!”

The emotions I feel are mixed— exasperation that they have no clue that it is work, to a kind of unhappiness and frustration, in that no matter how much I explain it, it really takes one to know one.

Let’s compare a typical day as a SAHM to how it might translate in an office setting:

You’re asleep in bed. It’s around 7 am, and your phone suddenly rings. When you pick it up, it’s one of the 2 bosses you directly report to, screaming that you should have been at work already. You leap out of bed–no time to shower or dress up–and dash to the office. On the way, Boss B calls and yells at you to stop by Starbucks and get her favorite croissant and latte. You pick up her order and the same thing for Boss A and arrive at the office.

Boss A is glaring angrily, while Boss B slowly empties paperwork from the file cabinet onto the floor. You shove their breakfast in their hands, hoping they will eat. Boss A shouts, “This isn’t what I wanted! I want what she has!” and throws the food on the floor, screaming obscenities. Boss B clings to her food, shouting ” You can’t have mine. IT’S MINE!”

You’re confused. They each have the same order. What gives? Boss A refuses to eat, but decides to sip on some bottled water at his desk. Boss B finishes her croissant and latte, but spills crumbs everywhere. She changes her shirt and gives you the dirty one, saying, “Dry clean this after work, will you?” and throws it onto your desk.

Once your bosses are situated, you sit at your desk. You forage in your drawers and find a half-eaten granola bar, wolfing it down.

You’ve barely swallowed, when Boss A calls out, “Where are the files for the Henderson account?”

You frantically search your desk drawers, only vaguely sure of where they might be. Waking up so suddenly and rushing in the morning is affecting your memory. You can’t find the file, so you proceed to print it from your computer.


There is a crash! behind you. Boss B has knocked over your picture frame and broken the glass. You suppress an inner urge to scream, saying its OK, even though it isn’t. You stop what you’re doing to sweep up the glass, so Boss B won’t cut herself.

She has happily moved on to opening your drawers and dropping paperclips onto the floor.

“Stop it!” you say firmly, and her eyes fill with tears.

“I was just playing with your stuff. You have such cool stuff!” she says and walks off. You feel awful.

Where is the Henderson account?” Another scream from Boss A. Why is the printer taking so long?

“Where is the Henderson account?!”

As the printer spits out sheet after sheet, Boss B returns with a smile. “I just went to the bathroom!”

“OK.” You give a thin smile. “I just went to the bathroom!” she says again, waiting. You slowly clap and she smiles and walks away.

After giving Boss A  the file, you run down to the cafeteria to grab some lunch for the three of you. Lunch goes similarly to breakfast, but this time both bosses manage to eat most of their meals. You still haven’t eaten but are glad theirs is over.

Boss A seems happy now after receiving his file and having lunch, and Boss B  seems bored. You convince them to take a LONG coffee break and to return when they feel relaxed and refreshed. You plan to eat your lunch quickly and maybe check your mail or sleep for a few minutes while they’re gone.

No sooner do the bosses leave than your phone rings. It’s a friend you haven’t spoken to in months, because you’re always too busy to call her back. You take the call, deciding to end it quickly in order to have some alone time. Your friend is taking classes to complete her Masters.

“Hey!” she cries. “It’s been so long! Why didn’t you return my call?”

You are too exhausted to explain, and you know she won’t understand anyway. “I’ve been busy,” you answer.


“Come on, you sit in front of a computer all day. I wish I had a job like that! What do you do all day, scroll through Pinterest? That’s what I would do!”

“I have to go now,” you say. “My boss is coming.” You hang up.

You want to check your email, but feel yourself nodding off. After a couple of minutes, Boss A returns, saying he’s done with his coffee break. He is grumpy but refuses to go back. Boss B returns soon after, and both demand donuts from the break room. While they are munching away, you gather your things and slip quietly out. You are mentally and physically drained and just want to sit down somewhere without interruption.

You’ve wondered many times why you took this job in the first place, knowing the conditions when you started—you could never be fired or ever quit. While it’s true that every day isn’t this difficult, days like this are common. Your bosses are behaving better as time goes on—sure, you even have days where they are nice to you and each other—but, as you debate whether you should hire a personal assistant to help you down the road, ultimately you are the one responsible for keeping your bosses happy, a HUGE responsibility.

On the way to the dry cleaner, you pass by the bank, and remember that, oh yeah, you don’t receive a dime for the work you do either.

 The term stay-at-home mom is outdated and misleading. Even work-from-home mom gets more respect, because work comes before the word home. Instead, let’s start using the term full-time mom.

 If you are reading this and have never taken care of children, please do not judge the ones that do. Whether they chose this lifestyle or it chose them, keep in mind that you were young once, and if you had a working mother, somebody was taking care of you. Somebody had to. The same applies to all children.

How do you explain what you do all day to your friends who work outside the home?



  1. Sandhya says

    Jen, well said!
    I have faced this so much of this as a stay at home mother and heard so many snide remarks and still do. I am just happy that my children appreciate it and it is what I wanted to do.

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  4. This is freaking hilarious…… And sadly, too accurate. You need to submit this somewhere for publication. Have you tried a parenting blog like ScaryMommy?

  5. This is the best analogy I’ve read yet. I’ve been a full-time mom since my kids came home & it’s EXHAUSTING. It’s better (sometimes) now that they’re older, but we still have those days…
    I usually avoid the topic with friends b/c they don’t or won’t understand. My dad really makes me crazy, though. He doesn’t get why I’m not at his beck & call — the man truly believes I do nothing all day long. Aaarrgghh!

    • I’ve seriously contemplated putting up a camera to capture how my day goes for those who just don’t get it. And about what your dad believes…it REALLY takes a mom to know a mom…I’ve resigned myself to that fact! Maybe you should try the camera idea and show him how busy you really are…;)

  6. Loved this one. Awesome depiction. You just nailed it in a hilarious way. No one after reading this blog, would ask a full time mom, ‘What do you do all day at home?”. I too hate the very word, SAHM. When people ask me what do you do, I couldn’t stop feeling nervous. But, I started working on it, to get rid of that ‘feeling inferior’ part. I wanted to tell the world, what it takes to leave everything behind and be a full time mom. The result of that is what you see in my blog below.

    Thank you, together, we can change the mindset of people forever.

  7. Oh My Goodness Jen!!! This is HIL-ar-I-ous!!!!!!!! I wish there was a LOVE IT! Button, but I guess ‘like’ will have to do!!!! 😉 I am so with you girl! I have been a full-time Mama for 18 years, and I still hate the question, ‘What do you do for a living?’ LOL! I love being a mama, but it is the hardest job on the planet, no doubt, but also the most blessed!!! Thanks for stopping by the homestead for a visit, I am glad to ‘meet’ you!!!!
    ❤ Wendy

    • Hi Wendy, I’m so happy you enjoyed my post! I guess I just got tired of people asking me that question, and frustrated with myself for not being able to respond effectively. You are so strong to have been a full-time mom for so long, and your family is so lucky to have you 🙂 I will be stopping by again, and glad to meet you too!

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  9. This is a great idea! Although I’m afraid to use the term “full term mum”! I read a long rant recently from a working mother who objected to the implication that working mums aren’t mums full time… What annoyed me about her rant was that I consider being a SAHM my job and I REALLY do it full time – all the time. This doesn’t make me a better mum, it just means I currently see it as my career. I have lots of respect for working mums, with three kids myself I just couldn’t do it. Having said that, lots of working mums I know couldn’t be a SAHM either, so let’s all just give respect for each other and the hard work we all do! Great post!

    • Thank you for your awesome comment! I totally agree!

      I’m not really sure why working mothers object; they also have another title, i.e. full-time employee of XYZ Company. We’re not taking anything away from them—like you said, this is what WE do full-time. They don’t stop being mothers–emotionally–during the work day, but physically others are taking care of their children. It’s just a fact. Taking care of children is very demanding, and all mothers ideally would support each others’ situations instead of arguing over who has it worse. Every mommy scenario has its pros and cons.

  10. You really nailed it with this analogy! I’m currently a work-at-home-mom and when I tell people that I always get this response “omg!! You’re so lucky!! I WISH I could work from home!!!” And then I kind of want to punch them in the throat. Some (most?) people have such a knack for saying the first idiotic thing that jumps into their minds. Drives me nuts. Great post, I loved it!!

    • Thanks so much! 🙂 I love when I get to connect with other moms, especially when it feels like I’m the only one dealing with this.

      Thanks also for giving the working mom’s perspective. I really don’t know HOW you do it! Keep your head up, Mama.

  11. My mom was a stay at mom too all her life and I know that it is so much work and stress. It’s sad that some people are perplexed or even look down on it. I think this is an incredible article and I hope more doubters and people who are simply uninformed will read it and even try to understand.


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