After being a full-time SAHM for nearly four years (holyfuckingshit. are you serious??), I can assure those of you who aren't "lucky" enough to get to spend your entire day, week after week, covered in food, spit, poop and vomit, cleaning incessantly but never really cleaning anything, weighed down on one side by a toddler that weighs forty pounds (just ten less than his senior-by-four-years brother), that there is a secret world behind this door.
It's not evil. It's not bad at all. It's not about forcing kids to do chores. Or beating them. It's not better or worse than the way the house functions when Dad is home or when you replace me with a mom who goes to work.
It's just different.
I can easily spend what amounts to every single waking hour (and quite a few non-waking hours, as well) with the kids, taking care of housework, homework and busy-work; running errands, grocery shopping, coupon clipping; wiping faces, noses, and hands, kissing boo-boos and fixing broken Legos. -- They supposed to come apart, son. Then you put them back together. THEY ARE LEGOS. Yes, they are pretty awesome.-- and I get into this flow.
We have routines that only I know.
I go shopping at this time because Kid 1 is in school & Kid 2 will still be moderately well-behaved for another hour or two. As long as you don't give him sugar. At all. PERIOD. NO SUGAR. Then Kid 2 takes a nap at exactly this time to ensure maximum nap-age while maintaining enough of an energy drain to guarantee a decent bed time. VERY tricking math to pull off when your dealing with a two year old. I start cooking dinner right now because if dinner's not done in x minutes, I'm going to be bombarded with hungry children, crying for yogurt and chips and cereal. I just find ways to make life easier because when life is more pleasant, and less stressful, Mom never even starts to think about all the places she could hides bodies.
I can't speak for all SAHMs but when I find something that works, something that makes my days easier, I use it. So these rituals are born and viola! life is more pleasant and a little less stressful. For a little while.
It's not that Dad is incapable of re-creating these weird little rituals (does that sound too cult-y? I swear, I don't make them chant incantations. That's just how they talk. Ear problems, you know.), it's the simple fact that taking the time to explain the how and why would be just enough time to make me sound bat-shit crazy. And because, well, what works for me isn't guaranteed to work for Dad. Or anyone else.
These are my tricks, the things I've learned through experience, trial and error, and found to be effective. They work for me because the relationship I have with these kids is special. And it's special because I'm here with them every day. I see them at their worst & at their best and they see me in all my raging glory too. They might not understand me the way I'm able to understand them but they see and they help define the rituals we have together. They want to be a part of what is happening. They want to be included in everything.
These boys are becoming themselves more and more, every day, and they now have some responsibility for our relationship. Their actions and emotions impact how we interact and get along and they are now building relationships with everyone they come in contact with.
They are why we have these rituals and they're starting rituals of their own with all the people in their lives.
They are letting me, and everyone else, know what will work for them, what they are willing to accept from us. They are setting boundaries and learning the limitations we're setting for them.
Of course they act differently for Dad and Grandma and every other person. They have different, unique, relationships with each person they meet so it makes sense that they would act differently & enjoy different things with each of us, uniquely, and it makes me aware of the incredible relationship I'm able to build with with them because I can be at home.
Any parent who stays at home gets to have this kind of interaction, this closeness and sense of intimacy with their kids. If you're aware enough to grasp what's happening, right in front of your face. Really good parents can have this and still work.
And it can just as easily be over looked by any parent in times of stress and when life gets busy with the day-to-day stuff. You have to pay attention to appreciate what's really happening as our kids get older.
And you might find yourself feeling like the world you share with your kids is a secret world too. A world just for you & them.