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Recently I met an acquaintance who is a full time nurse and a mum. The last time I met her I was still on maternity leave and I was still firmly  on the fence about whether or not I wanted to go back to work. So after a bit of chit chat she asked if I had gone back to work. I explained that I had decided to stay at home instead and luckily I was enjoying it so far.

What followed was an exaggerated version of something that I hear a lot. She was just more zealous than most.

It went a little something like this:

” Oh a stay- at-home Mum, that’s great, wow. Is it still just the one you have?”

“Yeah, he’s two and a half now”

“Wow, great. God I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t. I mean I couldn’t do it. God, no way. Staying at home all day; I’d go mad. Absolutely insane. At home ALL day, wow. There’s no way I could do it. Straight after my maternity leave I was back to work. I love working. God, there’s no way I could stay at home. Wow, I’d go off my game. I just can’t imagine it. Fair play to you though”.

The woman is lovely and I’m positive no harm was meant by what she said but the retort that was on the very tip of my tongue was:

” Yeah I know. I think it must be my low IQ that lets me be able to do it. I reckon I’m just dim enough that  I can stay at home all day so it works out really well”. ( Then I’d wander off absent-mindedly singing ABC to myself).

In real life I smiled politely and changed the subject.

Maybe I’m blessed with a fertile imagination but I can definitely imagine working full time and being a parent. I can imagine it’s bloody hard but nevertheless it’s within my realm of comprehension. But her response is typical of so many other responses I’ve heard where the mere thought of staying at home is incomprehensible. ” I really don’t know how you do it”. Surely it’s imaginable, they are parents after all. They parent daily, what’s not to get?

I will concede that there may be a bit of paranoia at play on my part and maybe I should take what she said at face value. Judging by the number of wows included in her sentences she is impressed. Maybe I should just think “I’m impressive, isn’t that great” But mostly I’m pretty confident that the subtext of our chat was ” My God, I can’t imagine staying at home, I’d lose my mind with the boredom of it. Being at home would rot my brain”.

I’m still deciding how this conversation is meant to go . Maybe I’m missing an obvious cue and we are meant leap into a self deprecating volley.

“I don’t know how you do it”

“Oh staying at home is easy.I don’t know how you do it”. “

“Oh work is nothing, I just don’t know you do it”.

Or should I go into an elaborate explanation of how exactly I do it.

“I don’t know how you do it”

” Well, Monday morning the day normally starts at about 7 and then …”

It’s funny how something that sounds like a compliment can leave you feeling like you are doing something insane with your life. I’m not walking on water I’m staying at home with my child.  Similarly working parents are working and parenting. Both are pretty simple scenarios to imagine.I would have thought. I’ve yet to nail down my response to the next unfortunate person who say “I don’t know how you do it” I might just go with a simple understated  “aaarrggghhh” and walk off. Classy and concise.