How Productive Are Stay-at-Home Moms?

by Erica Layne on September 24, 2013

It came at the bottom of an email. One well-intended parting line that—I’m guessing—would make mothers everywhere cringe. I had emailed her in relation to another venture I’m pursuing. And even though I manage my apartment building, write a blog, and am starting another website, I still introduced myself as a stay-at-home mom. It’s who I am. Her closing words:

stay at home mom productivity

“Kudos to you for being productive as a stay at home mom.”

Now this isn’t a post to highlight how different my life and hers may be. This certainly isn’t a post to lament how misunderstood we stay-at-home moms are or a post that makes any comment on the choice to stay home or to work. But stay with me, and I’ll show you what this post is.

 

I barely sit down during the course of a day. Pedometers are afraid of me. :) I cycle toys around the house and sweep floors that will instantly be dirty again. I have (excuse my language) wiped up more pee than anyone should in a lifetime. In four and a half years, I produced three children from my womb.

But it goes deeper.

I’m there whenever my daughter wakes from a nap in her crib. She looks at me as if she’s surprised every. time. my face appears above hers. (Don’t worry, Baby. I’ll always come.)

I agree in solemnity with my three-year-old when he tells me that superheroes don’t have to scoot their bums back when their moms are trying to buckle them into car seats. (We take superheroes seriously around here.)

I celebrate with my kindergartener over every new friend he makes. We’re three weeks in, and he is apparently up to “six friends!”

But it goes deeper still.

stay at home mom productivity

When my child wants to wear the robot shirt day after day, because it gives him confidence at school, I will let go of my controlling tendencies and wash that shirt as much as he needs.

As my children grow, I’ll get interested in their interests. I’ll take away their phones. I’ll do my best to draw out the good, and I’ll dust them off when they fall.

I’ll watch with open eyes and an open heart so that I can know them. I will try to let go of whom I think they should be and embrace whomever they become.

I am raising children who will grow into people with the potential to cure a disease or write legislation or bring a village water. I am raising children who will grow into adults who may do me the greatest honor by choosing to raise children themselves.

We may get to take the occasional power nap in the middle of the day, and I’m quite sure we spend more time at parks than the average adult. Sometimes, when the kids are finally snug in their beds and the remnants of dinner are piled in the sink, we look around and wonder what in the world we got done that day.

But we are raising human beings.

So someone tell me—tell all of us moms—does it get more productive than that?

stay at home mom productivity

 This post was republished by the Deseret News.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah September 24, 2013 at 5:53 am

I so needed this today!

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Erica {let why lead} September 24, 2013 at 5:57 am

I know that kind of day all too well! Wish we lived nextdoor to each other and could just ignore the dishes and spend all of tomorrow hanging out at the park with the kiddos! Love you!

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Danielle September 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Thank you. Just thanks. I feel pretty confident in my choice to be a stay-at-home mom, but encouragement is always appreciated as well as reminders of my reasons for doing what I”m doing. Kudos to you for giving both so simply and freely!

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Lori September 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Well said!

Something I’ve realized after spending time in the workforce and then leaving to be a stay-at-home mother is that no matter how high-powered or interesting your career is, you’re still going to spend a lot of time doing mundane, routine things that just have to be done. (These things may not involve cleaning up bodily fluids, but still . . .) It is just the nature of mortality!

The great thing about being a mom is that, like you said, the everyday things we do are part of nurturing God’s children and raising them to be productive citizens and parents themselves. I love President Faust’s talk on this subject (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/09/a-message-to-my-granddaughters-becoming-great-women?lang=eng). He emphasizes both the value of motherhood and the great potential that women have to contribute to the world’s work and recognizes that there needs to be balance between them.

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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 5:32 am

Lori – thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciated your perspective as one who fairly recently left the work place to stay home with kids. The mundane IS the nature of any job – of mortality itself. And it IS a tremendous blessing to be a part of something this big, particularly when I’m paying enough attention to realize it. :) I’m printing President Faust’s talk right now!

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Andrea September 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Most important job in the entire world. Thanks for this post. -Andrea
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Lisa September 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

It’s interesting to me that the world tries (and often succeeds) to make us feel unproductive even though there may not be a group of more productive people on Earth. The other day Chad looked at me (while I was doing something mundane) and in wonder asked how I did it all. It took me by surprise, but at the same time was recognition from one of the most important people in my life. I guess not everyone sees those small moments.
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Misty September 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm

As usual, another gem of a post. I have to wonder if her comment was meant as a huge compliment. Her idea of productive is writing a blog, managing an apartment building, and starting another website. To be ABLE to do that with 3 active children is amazing. And that’s not the “mundane” either. It is possible that her reference to your productivity had more to do with the things you are accomplishing BEYOND the everyday human being raising.

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Erica {let why lead} September 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I completely agree, Misty! I like the girl who said it, so I’m pretty sure it was intended along those lines. I didn’t take offense at all – just considered it a great starting point for a post about what a big thing we’re doing by raising kids. (Even though most of the time it doesn’t feel very big!) Great to hear from you on here, girl!
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rachel September 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

i’m with misty on this one. i think too often stay-at-home moms get too sensitive about the “work” or “productivity” aspect of their lives. yes, we know raising a child (or children) is a full time job (24-7) with no breaks and so get to get anything else accomplished other than tending to the kiddos is “productive” outside the realm of the most important part of our lives. i feel accomplished if i can just get the laundry put away….forget doing anything else like creating websites!

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Erica {let why lead} September 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Definitely, Rachel! Like I said at the beginning of the post, this wasn’t a comment on any misunderstandings between women about their roles. (We’re all on the same team!) And her comment didn’t bother me in the least. I just took it as an opportunity to remind myself and other women that our work matters. I’m sure the writer of the “kudos” comment would agree.

And yes, getting the laundry folded is no doubt productive! (I have two loads waiting for me right now, and they’ve been there for a couple days. :) Sometimes it just can be hard, for me at least, to see the forest for the trees. Best to you!

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Michelle September 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm

This post was great! It actually made me tear up! So many days I feel unproductive – you know, when the day ends and the dishes are in the sink, the laundry didn’t get done, the toys are still scattered all over the living room floor like land mines. Then there are the phone calls that didn’t get made and the bills that didn’t get paid. On those days, I have to stop and think about the day, and more often than not, those are the days that I spend most of the day really present with my 22 month old little girl and 3 month old little boy. So the laundry didn’t get done, but when I got a big hug and smile from my daughter as we danced around the kitchen while dinner was cooking, I think is was the most productive day in the world!
As for SAHM vs. WM, I think the problem is that everyone wants to label us as one or the other. So many times I am asked “Do you work?” Heck yeah! I’ve never worked so hard in my life! :)

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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 5:26 am

Michelle – oh yes, the land mines! Just today I stepped in an errant piece of park dragged in from the park and ended up with a bloody heel! The house was also pretty cluttered by the end of the day, but we read stories on my bed and had an impromptu photo shoot of three kiddos being silly. Even after having JUST written this, I still had to remind myself today that it was much more productive than it felt.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment! Your little ones are so lucky to have you!

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Ashley September 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I think the unproductive feelings- at least for me- come from the fact that everything I do get done has to be done again the next day (or sooner!) and the fact that my mile long to do list has barely shrunk at all. It’s the days that I can sit down at the end and think of the giggles and loves that I remember and am truly grateful for the chance I have to be “just” a stay at home mom. Love this, Erica!

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Cathy September 24, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I love the way you described part of your day here. One of my favorite things about being a stay at home mom was being there when my babies woke up from a nap too. My kids are almost all grown now and I wouldn’t trade any of those days of cleaning peepee, endless laundry, and the mundane of doing the same thing day after day.

My kids have made my life so much richer and being at home gave me the ability to really get to know them well. I love them so much, what a gift they are. God is good. : )
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Erica {let why lead} September 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Cathy! Oh my, yes, seeing Quinn when she wakes up is the best part of my days. A three of my boys and I fight over who gets to go see her first, and usually, she has quite the audience when she starts stirring. :)

I so appreciate the reminder from women whose children are grown that it is all worth it. It makes me so excited to see who my children become and to foster relationships with them that I will cherish forever.

Have a great day, Cathy!

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Britni September 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I’m a new SAHM and have started to blog and get more involved in social media lately, not because I need to be productive, but because I need adult interaction every once in a while. I just read your post and got goose bumps reading it because I started thinking about going in and getting my little guy and seeing his big smile as I sing him his favorite “who’s the best baby ever,” song. That is all I need during the day, yep that’s it. http://talenttoplay.blogspot.com
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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 4:59 am

Isn’t it the best? I think getting the baby up from naps is the best part of my whole life right now. :) Your little guy sounds lucky to have you, singing him his favorite song. :)

Btw, blogging is such a great outlet for moms! I will stop by yours soon!

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Desirae September 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Your posts are always amazing…but this one hit it out of the ballpark. I needed every word that you said. Thank you!

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Lisa- The Domestic Life Stylist September 25, 2013 at 1:05 am

Sometimes, folks just don’t know what to say or how to say it. Moms have the “privilege” of finding out just how much this is the case, each day. Thanks for using your experience to get this dialogue going.
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Katie E September 25, 2013 at 2:06 am

Older and wiser moms always told me that motherhood is the toughest yet most rewarding job in the world. I did not understand that until I became a mother, but it is so true. I came to realize that the reason why is because we are *forming people* – every word, every action, every moment we spend with them all contribute to their understanding of the world and their place in it. Their sense of spirituality, success, and self all stem from what we give them – ourselves.

So kudos to you, Erica, not for “being productive” but for *being a mom through and through.*
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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 5:02 am

You said it so beautifully, Katie. “Their sense of spirituality, success, and self all stem from what we give them.” What an honor that is. (Kind of a scary honor, but incredibly beautiful nonetheless!)

Kudos to you as well, girl!

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Liz September 25, 2013 at 3:46 am

Another great one! You have a real knack for explaining the real life situation and yet keeping it uplifting and positive. We all could use a reminder.

Some days I work hard cleaning and Dan comes home and can’t even tell what I did. I did this the other day and was real disappointed when I couldn’t even tell either!

We were talking the other day and I told him that I thought my job was much harder/more demanding than his. And he totally agreed. Its definitely a challenge but comes with its perks too!

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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 5:30 am

Doesn’t that acknowledgement make such a difference? I love it when Ryan says the same thing. Or when he is completely beat after a weekend and ready to go back to work? I kinda take a perverse pleasure in that because I know it makes him appreciate my role even more. :)

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Evanthia of merelymothers September 25, 2013 at 5:07 am

Your words ring so true, Erica! I find it easy to feel “unproductive” when I look around at the end of a long day with the kids to find that I’ve basically only been able to maintain the status quo in terms of housework and nothing *extra* was accomplished. But we can’t underestimate the value of our efforts to raise well-adjusted, conscientious, kind children who will be the next generation of “productive” adults. Thanks for the reminder!!

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Erica {let why lead} September 25, 2013 at 5:28 am

Thank you, Evanthia! Today was a status quo kind of day around here, but that’s okay! Your comment description of “children who will be the next generation of ‘productive’ adults” gave me the shivers. :) What a privilege it is to be a part of something so big.

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Sharman September 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

You totally nailed it, Erica! The fact that the daily work of raising little humans can’t be quantified makes it challenging to measure the value. Especially during the day-to-day, in-the-trenches moments. But when my little man stood on the coffee table with his Robin Hood cape on, raised his arms wide and said, with genuine authority, “Ladies and Gemelen!!!” I was so glad I didn’t miss that moment. Because it was priceless.

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Erica {let why lead} September 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Thank you, Sharman! I hope I can remember those specific little moments, with Robin Hood on the coffee table, someday!

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Emily Smith // The Best of this Life September 25, 2013 at 10:09 pm

It’s definitely something that I’ve heard through different channels before – but in one ear, out the other. My days are filled to the brim with adventure. There is mundane, whether it’s being stuck in traffic for 2 hours each day going to work full time or being with your kids and cleaning the floor and toys more times than you can count. For this season of my life, I have chosen to stay at home and not miss a moment of this treasured period in life. To be there to see my son (and soon daughter) take his first steps, learn his alphabet, develop his imagination. It’s a blessing.You can always make time to give yourself to “meet other people’s social contract standards” – but choosing to give yourself to meet the needs of your children has a limited time frame… they will one day grow up.
Such a beautifully written post.
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Sarah September 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I am productive. I am a mother to 6 children (5 of whom are under 6 years old) and I run all day. I limit activities outside of the house and am often told that I need to get out more, which I have to agree with, but the household chores that it takes to maintain a home with 6 children is all consuming. Not to mention the efforts it takes to keep after multiple little ones and really BE there for them while doing it. I would consider myself a bit old fashioned as I don’t spend my whole day doting on my kids and have raised them to be fairly independent, but still… having worked myself before becoming a mother, I can honestly say I have NEVER been so busy in all of my life. I don’t get paid (in money anyways) for my work and I don’t look nearly as nice as I once did- but my life is as full and productive as a life cold be and while every second isn’t necessarily a pleasure now, I know that when I’m old a grey I will look back and have nothing but joy in my heart as I think about the life that my husband and I carved out for ourselves. I loved your post and look forward to reading more!

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Erica {let why lead} September 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Hi Sarah! Thank you sincerely for commenting, and ohmygoodness, I am wiped out just thinking about raising six kids! You are amazing! I love your realistic (or as you called it, a bit old fashioned) approach in raising kids who are fairly independent. With six kids and a house to maintain, I imagine that is imperative! I only have three, and I’m still going the same route that you are. :) And yes, I have never worked this hard either, and I can’t wait for the day when I can sit back and see how worth it it all was.

Have a great day, and thanks again!

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Christina September 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I loved this. Thank you for writing it. My husband is an EM resident and sometimes when we get together with his co-workers I feel like I don’t belong, like my “job” is irrelevant- I’m just a Mom. I know it’s not on purpose, but it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes! My husband always tells me how hard it is and doesn’ t know how I do it day after day. He knows it’s a tough job, thankfully. At least I have his support, and the support of my family and friends.
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Jelli September 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm

As a mainly SAHM I can definitely agree with all your words here, especially looking around the house after dinnertime, with my littles tucked in bed, wondering what I got done each day. Thanks for sharing this gem with us at the mixer, Erica.
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Erica {let why lead} September 30, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Thank you, Jelli! It was sweet of you to pop over! I bet you have tons of visits to make each week, thanks to the linkup! I love how universal that feeling (of wondering what we did that day) is.

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Emily October 2, 2013 at 2:38 am

Erica, you and I went to London in what seems ages ago now. I also have 3 kids birthed 4 1/2 years the same ages as yours. And as I am sitting in my messy living room avoiding doing the mountain of dishes by my sink after putting my kids to bed, I saw a link our mutual friend Amy posted. Finding your blog and this post couldn’t have been more timely. Thanks for your words and insights. I hope all is well – Emily Egbert Stubbs

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Erica {let why lead} October 2, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi Emily! It is SO great to hear from you! And how sweet of you to take a minute to tell me that you were here. Thank you! I see glimpses of your cute little family every now and then on facebook. I love that we’ve both had three kids in the same time span! Do you ever think of those London days and just balk at how incredibly commitment free we were? I had no idea. :) I wouldn’t trade anything, but it is fun to remember nonetheless!

Your comment made my day. Have a great night!

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Sharon February 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

There are still a few offs that would talk to children. I am always talking to church who are waiting in line or being held by their parents. I am a teacher and a mom of one living son, Caleb. Our first son, Nathaniel is a heavenly being again. He died at birth.

I often wonder how the parents must feel about my chatting with their child. I hope they are not offended but also like it. They usually just smile.

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Heather February 12, 2014 at 8:37 am

Yes, being there is the most important thing.
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