Working hard as stay-at-home
Updated: February 5, 2013 4:44PM
Do you work?
Irene hates that question. She’s hated it since she quit her job processing pensions for grocery store employees.
That was 20 years ago. Since then she’s been a married mother of three.
These days her children are gone a lot. Her oldest is away at college. Her middle child is a high school senior. Her youngest is in junior high.
“Do you work?” a La Grange banker asked her recently. Irene and her husband sat before his big desk seeking advice on their children’s college funds.
“Yes,” Irene replied. “I’m the family slave.”
Her husband rolled his eyes. “Don’t go there again,” he muttered. “Remember what happened when you signed up our boys for Babe Ruth baseball?”
Irene remembered. As a joke, she’d printed “family slave” on the line for MOTHER’S OCCUPATION on the baseball registration form for their two boys. Who knew the Babe Ruth guys published a directory every year? Who knew some wise guy would print “family slave” next to Irene’s name in the directory?
The banker chuckled. “I’m in awe of you stay-at-home gals,” he said. “I was just reading in The Wall Street Journal that the annual financial value of your hard work is over 100K. You know, the cooking, cleaning, child caring, chauffeuring, shopping. . .”
Irene sighed. Yes, she knew.
She sighed again when she ran into her neighbor at Jewel.
“So,” the neighbor asked, “you’ll be going back to work now that your kids are older?”
The neighbor’s red leather briefcase was on top of fresh veggies in her grocery cart. Her 3-year-old, whom Irene sometimes babysat when the regular nanny was sick, smiled at Irene from his perch in the cart.
Irene thought about her mom who has early-stage dementia. Irene and her sister are their mom’s primary caregivers. Irene thought about the beef stew she would make her family for dinner, the sweater she was knitting for her husband’s birthday, the lesson she had to plan for her volunteer work helping immigrants learn English.
Was Irene going back to work, the neighbor wanted to know.
“You betcha,” Irene replied. “As soon as I finish buying these groceries.”
Marie Anderson is a resident of La Grange.