RachaelRachael Rachael is mom to Megan and Abigail and wife to Josh. She is the managing editor for Mumbling Mommy and worked as a newspaper editor in her life before kids. Rachael enjoys playing piano, reading Charlotte Bronte novels, and gardening, and she dreams of keeping backyard chickens. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. She and her family live in the St. Louis area with their xenophobic cat, Hildegard. You can contact Rachael by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

My mom recently survived a life-threatening ruptured brain aneurysm. After she spent two weeks in the hospital under close monitoring and heavily medicated, she was released to go home but was weak, suffered daily headaches, and had trouble walking to the bathroom without holding someone’s arm. I packed bags for myself and my preschool-aged daughter and the two of us made the six-hour drive to my parents’ house, where I spent eight days cleaning, cooking, and tending to my mom.

My decision to pack up and leave town for a week was worth every minute I got to spend with my mom and dad, but it meant some adjustments for my own family — for my husband and two daughters. I have always championed the important work stay-at-home moms do, but I recently realized just how much I do.

So, stay-at-home moms: do not feel discouraged because you don’t have high-profile careers. Some of your tasks may be tedious or thankless or gross (I’m looking at you, bathroom mirror with dried toothpaste splatters), but someone’s got to do them. When these things don’t get done, everyone in the family feels it. Here are just a few things we stay-at-home moms (or dads) do.

What Stay-at-Home Moms Really Do:

We get the kids to school every day. I took my preschool-aged daughter with me to my parents’ house. She missed three mornings of preschool over a span of eight days, which isn’t a big deal at that age. However, I left my elementary school-aged daughter at home with my husband so she wouldn’t miss a week of classes. I made arrangements for a friend to watch her and drive her to school in the mornings. My husband gets off work early enough that he could pick her up at the end of the school day, but I am hard to replace during those few hours every morning. I get the kids up, make sure they get dressed, feed them breakfast, and supervise teeth brushing before we head out the door.

We provide child care. I am responsible for both of my children when they aren’t at preschool or elementary school, and I’m the sole caregiver when my husband is at work. I provide the child care so my husband can be our family’s primary breadwinner and we don’t have to pay a sitter or day care.

We fetch sick kids from school. I worried about a few scenarios that could have happened with my school-aged daughter while I was gone. She could have gotten sick and thrown up at school (it’s happened to us before) or been diagnosed with head lice at school (also happened before, and the creepy crawlies were going around school at the time of my trip). With me out of the state, my husband would have to take off work to pick up our daughter from school. We would have been in extra-deep doo-doo if my husband had to tackle a head lice outbreak, not because I doubt his abilities but because eradicating lice and holding down a full-time job don’t easily mix.

We shuttle kids to extracurriculars. I am the taxi driver for Girl Scouts, gymnastics, preschool, birthday parties and play dates. I make these things happen, and I know the ins and out of the calendar and how much we owe the gymnastics teacher each week.

We keep the house filled with groceries. I do the grocery shopping while everyone is at school or work, so most of the time, groceries seem to magically appear in the house. To make life easier while I was gone, I did stock the freezer before I left.

We plan meals and cook healthy dinners every night, or close to it. We eat a lot of home-cooked, from-scratch meals because they’re healthier and less expensive than eating out, and preparing those meals takes thought and time. My husband is not helpless in the kitchen. He was a bachelor for years before we met and learned to do for himself, and he makes a mean breakfast spread for our family every weekend. Still, nightly dinner is a task he hasn’t had to think about much in recent years because I take care of it most nights.

We do dishes and other house work. That includes laundry, scrubbing bathrooms, scooping the cat litter, sweeping the kitchen floor, and a million other things.

We take care of necessities and minor emergencies. I call and let in the repairman if we have a leaky pipe or our furnace is broken. I come to the rescue if my kid falls in a mud puddle during recess and needs a change of clothes brought to school. I clean up cat puke before it dries to a crust on the rug. I schedule doctor and orthodontist appointments. I take the car to the dealership when the windshield wiper motor is recalled, like it was a few weeks ago, so our car will not spontaneously catch on fire while we’re on the interstate. Yes, stay-at-home parents save lives and prevent fires.

Kudos to my husband because when I arrived home after just over a week at my parents’ house, our own house was tidy, our daughter had made it to school every day, no one went hungry, and the bathrooms had toilet paper.

To be fair, these are tasks all parents do whether they clock in with an employer or stay home, but labor is divided differently in a family with a stay-at-home parent. My family benefits from a more relaxed pace and less stress because I’m not trying to fit full-time work in alongside everything else.

During the week I was gone, no one was more aware of this than my husband, who served as parent, house maid and income earner all in one. My absence was felt. While it was not an easy or light decision for me to leave for a week, it was nice to be missed. It’s one of the surest signs we stay-at-home moms (or dads) are doing something right.

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