I looked at her, as she sat at my computer, finishing up work that she had not done (due to a computer problem) nor found a different way (than coming to my place on her schedule) to do and mentioned that I generally go to class during the day and that I was sitting there, available to her, because I have two weeks of vacation.
She had wondered why I couldn't join her on a walk starting in a different section of Berlin the following day, at 9 am: I pointed out that, after getting up at 6:15 , getting myself and the kids and their schoolwork and boxes read, driving them to school and returning, that I get home at between 8:40 and 9, on a good day, without traffic, and therefore couldn't be in a different section of Berlin ready to start walking at 9 am. Something that I thought she might know considering that I don't call her before 10 am because she is generally asleep.
This is a friend, and someone that I respect and I wonder: if she wonders what I do during the day, does she wonder what she does during the day?
I start at 6:15 am, as above. At 9 am I am in German class. At 1 pm I am generally home. At 3 pm I need to leave to get the children. After school we have tennis, art school, math nach-hilfe, swimming and going to playgrounds. Then I need to have a meal on the table, follow up on homework, read books, bathe children, set clothes and rucksacks out for the next day, put the kids to bed.
In the interstices I:
- wash clothes and bedding for 4 (including sports classes and swim classes),
- shop for 4 and cook for 3 (with the German here 3 nights a week being 4),
- bake for the children and their classes,
- make occasional visits to the drugstore/Apotheke for all the items not at a German store,
- tidy our apartment (daily, with two kids),
- go through clothes and switch them out/buy more if needed,
- visit doctors (which generally requires missing class),
- take care of our (pia) tenants in NY and the other (non-pia) rental in upstate (this week leakage in both houses due to Irene, luckily nothing worse),
- manage the children's drs' appointments (5 in these three weeks, two being emergency orthodontist appointments)
- try to deal with as much insurance interaction as I can, especially as we are in the process of switching over to German insurance and need to handle "the long tail", or deciding what we want to retain from the American side. On average, every doctor's visit here has required at least one interaction with the American insurance company beyond submitting a claim. Some have required multiple calls and submissions. The best thing we ever did was get an unlimited calling plan to the US, or we would lose money on our claims!
- work on our taxes, consider legal action against a former tenant, think about doing German HW?
In this case, my friend's husband has been traveling: she is alone, with no mess or responsibilities for weeks at a time. Does she mean to imply that I use my time poorly or frivolously? Does she believe that this two week period, when the kids are in school and when I am not yet in class, is too long a period not to require a scheduled activity? Most of the expat spouses I know (including this one) take a 4-8 week vacation over the summer with relatives in their home countries.
In this two week period, I took 5 days of cooking courses, had a birthday, went to the doctor, had an MRI, cared for my children alone for half of each week, spoke to teachers, went through a season's worth of clothes for three people, went shopping, cooked meals and cakes, edited a newsletter, wrote an apa, did all the ordinary things I always do— but had an extra 4 hours a day when I was not in class. I really enjoyed it: sitting on the ground, watching my way through Bones, working through paperwork and organizing the kids' last two years of paperwork, filling out applications for things and setting up vereins and classes. My apartment is a lot tidier than it is when I am in class.
But I wonder: does no one respect the work that the stay at home parent does? Speaking for myself, it's a lot more mind-numbing and harder than when I worked 10 hours a day out of the home and got both respect and a fat paycheck for it. I expect those who go out to work to, perhaps, not respect being a stay at home mom, but when those who don't work out of the home also disrespect the homemaker and parent, it's pretty depressing. And if my husband had to replace my work, it would cost him a pretty penny.
(edit: and now I am defiantly off to bake a Molasses Spice cake- what a frivolous use of my time- perhaps I should instead be doing something more meaningful?)