Where Does The Time Go?

Recently, a reader wrote in to an advice columnist at The Washington Post, asking about why her friend with children seemingly had no time to call her back. The author, Carolyn Hax, gave her a response I think we can all relate to:

Dear Carolyn:
My best friend has a child. Her: Exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .

OK. I've done Internet searches; I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please, no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners. . . . I do all those things, too, and I don't do them every day. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day, and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail?

I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events), and I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth?

Is this a contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids, and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.
— Tacoma, Wash.

Dear Tacoma,
Relax and enjoy. You're funny.
Or you're lying about having friends with kids.
Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.
Internet searches?

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand — while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom friends are either lying or competing with you — is disingenuous indeed.

So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.
It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.
It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family members and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting the constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.
It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy — and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, you wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend — a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends or marvel at how much more productively she uses her time.

Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.

-Carolyn Hax


  1. All I have to say is...I love it! =)

  2. AWESOME. I'll be linking if you don't mind!

  3. I have a friend who I would love to copy and send that response to. She used to get pissy with me when I would tell her I have to call her back because I needed to go because my 18 month old was doing something that required attention. Sometimes I felt like saying "I'm sorry that I can't talk to you right now, but I am busy being responsible for someone's life"

  4. Thank you, thank you! Not only did I need the laugh (in my ten minutes to myself) but I even feel validated.

  5. I soooo had to link to you for this!http://ojoyofmylife.blogspot.com/2009/02/i-wish-id-said-it.html

  6. well said! i had to link it, too! http://sweetposydesigns.blogspot.com/2009/02/well-said.html

  7. Ha!!! Reminds me of my single friend who lives alone who was complaining about having to do dishes "all the time." I wanted to explain how many dishes it takes to keep a family of 4(with no dishwasher) equipped.

  8. Oh how I love this. I saw it on a friend's blog and was so mad and then so pleased with the response. Love it.

  9. I got that question from a soon to be mom who was planning on not staying home. "What do you find to do with your time all day?" I just laughed. Hysterically.

  10. I am like a robot on manic mornings but SIMON & GARFUNKEL - THE 59TH STREET BRIDGE SONG (FEELIN' GROOVY) LYRICS help me,"Slow down you move to fast
    You got to make the morning last
    Looking for fun and feeling groovy
    Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy"

  11. Obviously the childless friend was way off base (I was a nanny to 3 kids under 5, so I know exactly where the day goes), but at the same time, I have to wonder where these women's husbands are. Don't they step in and give their wives some relief in the evenings so these women can call a friend, soak in the tub, or even, god forbid, get out of the house and go for beer and nachos? I am still childless myself, so maybe I'm a bit naive, but I have a good friend who had it arranged from the beginning with her husband that they each get one night a week off to go out of the house, do their own thing, hang with their friends, and restore their sanity. Then again, he IS the husband that other husbands hate because he's always cast up to them as an example....

  12. Love this post, read it at a friends blog, and just had to say it's spot on and then there are the mothers of special needs children. That's a complete and total ride in itself! Thanks for posting.

  13. Totally!and well said!

  14. A-freakin-men.

    I think I just developed a crush on Carolyn Hax.

    LOVIN' IT!

  15. Very very good. Thanks.

    And I'm glad that I first saw the letter on this blog with a good response so I don't have to worry about being upset about it. :)

  16. You forgot to add that since you never sleep more than a couple hours in a row, the few 'free' minutes you do manage to set aside are spent staring at the wall in a foggy daze wondering why your socks don't match and where you're going to get the energy to do something about it. Seriously. I go to bed at 7:30 with the baby and am up again at 9, 10:30 12:00, 2:30, and up for the day at 5:00. No phone call could be more important than a nap.

  17. Its crap when a parent says they don't have time for anything. I have too children one in school and one at home and I'm so bored everyday because I have nothing to do. I don't clean all day, maybe once a week, laundry done as needed usually once a week also. I cook my own meals and even have time to bake breads and cookies from scratch. My son constantly wants to be in the same room with me, but I have plenty of time to play on the computer or watch tv if I want too. We don't go to play groups because we don't know any of the people where we live so its a pretty isolated life and it stinks. Almost makes me want to go back to working, cause I think my kids had more fun in day care than they do at home cause we have nothing to do all day.

  18. To the anonymous post above .... I'm so sorry. Maybe you could find a play group in your neighborhood or nearby ....

  19. I'm with Tacoma on this one. Just reading through all these competitive, "woe is mom" one-upmanship (or should that be one-downmanship) responses confirms it for me. All these mombies that are SO BUSY saving lives (or being responsible for lives, or whatever it is - hey, billions of parents do it, YOU MUST BE SPECIAL) and yet here they all are browsing and commenting on a blog online. Let's face it: you don't phone your childfree friends because you know they won't want to talk brainlessly about your precious child at the exclusion of everything else.

  20. WOW. Wow to the last anon response. WOW! I almost have no words to explain how absurdly RUDE & RIDICULOUS your comment is right now. How much would YOU pay your babysitter to be with YOUR children for 9-10 hours a day while YOU go to work (probably whining & complaining the whole time you're there)? Then come home, take over the household, cook dinner, help the children with their homework or whatever, then clean up, & put them to bed. Do YOU have children? Do YOU know what it's like? Working or not, life with kids is unlike a single, childless life. So get over your pissy self & quit bitching about "us parents". We are NOT "all here commenting and browing on a blog online" ALL. DAY. as you are sweetly implying in that snide remark. We get a few minutes, maybe an hour AT MOST when the children take a nap, (IF we are lucky to get them to lay down still enough to have one). We're not BY THEIR SIDE, 24/7, even when they are infants, yet we have to be within a few feet of them especially when they are infants to about 2 years old when they are most prone to accidents, & even then, we must ALWAYS be present & within eyesight of each other because ACCIDENTS DO & WILL HAPPEN. THIS is our life, you snotty-ass wench. It is a burden, yes, but our "burden" is our choice & I hope that many who choose this lifestyle can agree with me as well that it is a JOY because in the long run, our children benefit from it & hopefully GROW UP TO BECOME wonderful contributors to society, unlike people such as yourself who have nothing POSITIVE to say except to comment sarcastically & unapologetically about how all us parents who have "no time" except to talk about our kids "at the exclusion of everything else"....all this coming from someone who's on a blog at what, 3 in the morning?? SOME LIFE YOU HAVE!

  21. Oh here comes the Mommy Martyr brigade. Everyone get out the violins! Everyone bow down to the almighty Mother Goddess Martyr Supreme Being of All Holiness, Selflessness, Sacrifice and Saintliness. Watch it - she's cranky today because someone dared to question her righteousness. What's wrong with you? Roll out that red carpet and bow in reverence!

  22. Used to work more then forty a week with one kid and I thought I was doing good, but I dont like my daughters behavior or attitude, huge attitude. Then I realized it's my fault not hers. I didn't raise her. She is no part of me and I decided not to make the same mistake with the next baby, so I worked part time instead, now I've been fired and am in no hurry to be employed again, if hubby approves. Two is so much more challenging than one and I hope not seeking my career dreams will pay off in their personalitys. Much respect to stay at home moms!
    I used to go to work early just to get away, thats bad, but even though work wasnt easy, I felt it was easier than dealing with the emotional tornado my daughter WAS. Theres only whats best for youre family.


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