Is Parenting a Real Job?

Quick link: Get a Real Job

This month Brain Child published my essay about my encounter with a strange, angry woman sixteen years ago. I have never forgotten what this woman shouted at me or the bizarre circumstances in which we met.

Officially I am a stay-at-home mom. Meaning, I am a mom and I don’t have a ‘real job’ in which a salary comes every month from a boss or in which I have to report to anyone. At the same time, whenever I call myself a SAHM my family protests.


I am a freelance writer. I have been an English teacher, a manager of micro-enterprise projects, a language tutor, personnel manager (basically meaning I am responsible for making sure staff who come to Djibouti to work with us learn how to function and thrive), cultural consultant, small business developer…I could spin the many things I’ve done any number of ways.

But, when the twins were born, I really was a SAHM and mostly what I did was: stay at home. Anyone with twins knows how in those early weeks and months you are lucky if you shower or eat or sleep. Here’s what one lady thought about my choice.

Minnesota winters are brutal on stay-at-home mothers with young children. It is so hard to get outside. Slippery sidewalks, slushy roads, kids who take twenty minutes to get bundled up and only then announce, “I have to pee!”

The winter my twins were infants, I felt nearly suffocated by the early darkness, the cold, the isolation. I needed to exercise and to get out of the house. I started taking the twins to the Mall of America. It was a thirty minute drive on a non-snowy day and the mall had four floors, each an entire mile in circumference.

I never shopped, we couldn’t afford anything but diapers and the basic groceries that supplemented our WIC coupons. I walked. The mall was free, warm, and not my house. It had that white noise background that can (sometimes) soothe anxious babies. In the middle of the day it was filled with two kinds of people: other stay at home moms who were empathetic and equally desperate, and elderly people also out for a non-slippery walk. The elderly were my favorite because they loved seeing infant twins. Their comments and smiles would remind me, in the haze of those sleepless months, that my children were precious and cute and treasures.

So we walked…

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