Not working at the hardest job there is

Not working at the hardest job there is

I looked at their Facebook page with wonder. It was as if I were teleported back 28 years to when I was a young mother with two little ones of my own; only this time there were three children.

Evelyn and Violet were dressed in matching pink ensembles with halos of blonde hair. In between those little dolls sat my nephew’s lovely 30-something wife Dani. In her arms lay her precious newborn son Augustus. Dani looked radiant, but I’m sure she was exhausted after wrestling those babies into their duds. Dani is what I was many years ago: a stay-at-home mother. And she is greatly outnumbered with three kids under the age of 4.

Many years ago I decided I wanted to be a full-time mom. I was a late bloomer, having already taught high school for 13 years, and I wanted to raise my own babies. I remember turning in my resignation letter to the superintendent tearfully. With one baby on each knee, one at nearly 2 years old and the other newborn, I knew that with no family nearby to help me, I needed to be present for my own children.

I was lucky to be able to do it, but many of my working friends assured me it was much easier to leave each morning than to stay home with two toddlers. In truth those were the happiest days of my life. Now my niece Dani has made the same choice.

Recently, I was discussing my someday retirement with my sister, who was a principal for 40 years. She was quick to remind me I spent over 10 years at home with my kids as if I were leading a life of leisure. Instead, I was raising my children while also serving as perpetual room mother, directing plays for the fifth- and sixth-graders each fall at their elementary school, being the transportation engineer, running a daunting calendar of appointments for each child, and making sure they made each soccer or baseball practice, music or ballet lesson.

I also served a full-scale from-scratch meal each evening, did the laundry, packed lunches, stripped beds and cleaned a huge house. In addition, I did all the shopping, party planning, arranging of plumbers, raking leaves and picking weeds. I had Easter egg hunts for 75 kids with 2,500 stuffed eggs. I put up two giant Christmas trees, served on parish council and soloed in choir. I was a one-woman show.

Of course, back then I also was teaching several drama classes at the arts center and writing for the local newspaper. But repeatedly, I was told I was “not working.” I learned early on when my preemie son had colic for five straight months that this was indeed the hardest job on Earth. Meanwhile, I was scrubbing the floor of my triple garage and cleaning my husband’s car for Father’s Day. And let’s not talk about the basement.

When my children grew up enough to not need so much care, I went back to work. I began teaching full-time for OSU in the communications department. It was a relief to eat my lunch without also overseeing children doing their homework or cutting someone’s meat.

I couldn’t believe the quiet of this new life: No “SpongeBob SquarePants” blared on the TV as I tried to write. No guitar was echoing from the basement. I was heartbroken my boy’s rock band was silent when he went off to music school. And then my daughter left, and there was complete silence.

So this message is for all those mothers out there who are home with children, perhaps unappreciated by the world for their hard work and toil.

I want you to remember the noses you’ve cleaned and the bottoms you’ve wiped, the knees you’ve bandaged, and the nights without sleep while doing the hardest job on Earth: being a mom.

I want you to be proud of the hard work you’ve done, often daunting and perhaps without support. And I assure you the world may not remember what you’ve done, but you will. And if you’re lucky, your kids will too — some day.

I wish I could tell Dani in some meaningful way she will never forget what it felt like to nurse her baby in the middle of the night, or how sweet those first sloppy kisses were, or how happy she will be when her children make those first clumsy Mother’s Day cards in preschool. But she will remember — every bit of it. I know she will — just like I do and you too.

Because being a mom matters. It really matters.

Leslie Pearce-Keating can be emailed at

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