I’ve been at home for more than 13 years now, since I was put on bedrest with my first pregnancy. I’ve eased from being a stay-at-home mom to a work-at-home mom, then added homeschooling one of my kids to the mix.
In one way or another, I’m basically always at home.
However, this knowledge is, apparently, an invitation to everyone that I know to ask me for hundreds of favors.
I’ve been asked – more than once – if I could nanny someone else’s children… for free.
I’ve been asked – more than once – if someone could bring their sick children to my home since they couldn’t go to school.
I’ve been asked – more than once – if I could somehow magically fit more children into my own bursting-with-car-seats SUV and somehow juggle the same pick-up times at 3 different schools in 3 different parts of the city.
Friends who know I work from home ask me for things that take hours.
Friends who know I homeschool one child (and still have to be done by 3 to pick up the others) ask me to take them places counties away.
Some friends who are not at home have a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be a SAHM, a WAHM, or just at home in any capacity.
Yes, I am at home, but no, I will not do these things for you. Here’s why:
I am at home because I’m working, on a lot of things.
I’m desperately trying to squeeze laundry in between lessons and dishes in between deadlines. I’m working on math, working on dinner, working on emails.
I am at home and it is busy.
I’m busy breaking up fights, prepping dinner, checking homework, shuttling to practice. When my children were small I was potty training, nursing, and at the doctor every other month. Now that they’re older they have after-school clubs, practice logs, dance class, class parties, class projects, class trips.
The fact that it took me 10 months to see Endgame should really drive it home – I am busy.
I am at home and I have worth.
My time and attention are worth something. Even when I wasn’t working from home and bringing in a paycheck, my time was still worth plenty – it was worth so much I’d chosen to offer it to my family.
My time is not a nebulous concept, it’s not a free-for-all snack bowl for you to grab from when you run out of your own. You’re a busy parent, too, so understand that though my time is not spent it an office, it is as finite as yours, and worth just as much.
When you ask me to nanny for free, you are assigning a value of zero dollars to my time. You are making the statement that a service you require is necessary, important, and that since I’m “already at home” I should just toss it on top of whatever else I’m doing.
When you ask me to keep your sick children, you are dismissing the health of my own.
Your children are not allowed at school because of the potential to infect other children, so please don’t ask if you can infect mine since I’m “already at home”.
The attitude of me being “already at home” is so dismissive and devaluing to parents who are at home for any number of reasons.
As though being peed on at home were luxurious, as though working until three A.M. allowed for so much leisure time that I’d surely be thrilled to take more on. Imagine if an office manager off-handedly remarked that since an employee was “already” doing their job, they should be asked to do an additional job… for free.
They’re “already at work”, so what’s the harm?
Friends, I love y’all, I do. I’m not against helping you when I can.
I understand that while we have the same amount of time, sometimes it’s spoken for and broken up in different ways, and you just need a hand. I really do get it. But when I say I’m at home, that’s not an invitation.
Me being at home – whether working for pay or raising my kids – does not make me a commodity or an account that can be drawn upon. Being at home doesn’t magically make my time elastic, it doesn’t stretch to meet more needs. My time is fixed, spoken for, and the amount I can loan out is limited.
Being at home, it’s a real place. There are real things that happen here, real things that I do.
I’m not waiting in the wings. My value has not decreased because I work in sweatpants instead of stilettos. Please stop thinking of me as your emergency fund and instead view me as a peer. If you need help, ask for it.
Just remember that what you’re asking for is something that requires more of me, and adjust your request accordingly.
If you have a friend who stays home, please don’t ask her to pick you up at the airport since she’s “already at home” – ask her if she’s available to.
If you have a friend who works from home, don’t ask him to take you to the mechanic two hours away since he’s “already at home” – offer to pay for his gas and find out what hours work best for his schedule. If you have a friend who is homeschooling her children, please, for the love of everything, don’t ask her if she can just homeschool yours, too.
Being at home is not subjecting ourselves to a lifetime of being ready-to-go assistants. We’re not supporting characters in our days. We work and we’re tired and we have things to get done… and we really, really don’t want your kids’ germs. Even if you ask nicely.