Stay At Home Mom With Kids in School?

If you’re a Stay At Home Mom, a.k.a. a SAHM, and your children are in school for part of the day, how do you spend your time? The hours between 9 and 2, or 9 and 3?

Comments from a recent post on female stereotypes reinforced the reality that my personal experience is just that – my own. I’ve known single mothers who juggled work for pay and caring for kids, married mothers who juggled the same, and married mothers who are more traditionally classified as Stay At Home Moms.

Clearly, around the Internet, we hear from Stay At Home Dads as well, thoroughly accustomed to caring for kids and home the way women once did, exclusively.

For purposes of discussion, let’s set aside the hybrids who, like me, earn their living while physically at home. Then there’s the issue of the single mom and the mommy track, which is also a special variation. But these are topics for another day – including how to manage that particular juggle, get creative with expectations, and set appropriate boundaries. So may we chat about what it means to stay at home? The responsibilities and tasks actually involved?

For those who are the “traditional” SAHMs, I’m interested to know how you spend the hours you aren’t with your kids.

Stay At Home Moms, Sixties Style

My own mother was a Stay At Home Mom – the norm in the 1960s – but once the kids were in school, she went back to college to earn her degree. Every hour she wasn’t pursuing a household or mothering-related duty – cooking, cleaning, caring for kids, shopping, budgeting, volunteering, planning parties, running errands for my dad… wait… that’s a rather extensive list!

Well, whatever hours were left, there were the weekend trips to go antiquing on occasion, and otherwise, she was attending classes and studying – with a vengeance.

I admired (and emulated) her dedication to learning, and her unflinching discipline. Having raised two kids alone and juggling an assortment of jobs, I appreciate her accomplishments even more at this stage. I see those 10 years of taking courses while technically a SAHM and wife as both fulfilling and trying.

And remember, this was exceptional behavior at the time.

At the end of that decade, my mother had earned herself a college degree at a well-respected major university. And she graduated with honors, at that.

Betty Draper – Are You Still Out There?

My mother’s sixties social circle? Her friends?

Those were definitely the days that resembled Betty Draper at the neighborhood cookout – pill-popping to lose weight, chain smoking to keep it off, gallons of alcohol in an assortment of cocktails. My own parents neither smoked nor drank – and my father’s free hours were spent on the golf course, while my mother’s, as I said, were devoted to her text books.

I won’t say I don’t know women who have time for manicures and pedicures, or to grab lunch with a friend. And you know what? If you’re running a household and chasing after little ones – or even big ones – aren’t you allowed a few hours off?

To be frank, the married mothers I’ve known well had no time for visits to the salon, to the gym, or to the tennis courts. They were busy assisting spouses with their careers, and if they could, they were pursuing new interests of their own. I understood the former, and envied the latter. I would have loved a few hours a day entirely to myself, without responsibilities hanging over my head.

And if you’re a divorcing or divorced mother? If you were a Stay At Home Mom, how difficult will it be to transition to your new reality – adding work-for-pay to the mix, or scaling back everything in order to continue to be at home?

Judge Not, Lest… You Know What

I will add another point of comparison. One acquaintance of mine, a professional woman in the corporate world, was raising one child. Her husband was the more hands-on parent, with a secure yet flexible professional position. They also employed domestic help.

The net? Two parents, two good jobs, one child and assistance with the house, errands, doctors, after school activities, and homework.

I didn’t want her life, but I certainly envied her situation which seemed very manageable because of the support network she had in place. Hell, it was more manageable – without question. To me, her parenting life was a day at the beach!

The fact was – three adults split the work of that one household and one child. Their family life was relatively calm, included vacations, a clean house, and yes – a really great kid, now in college.

Of course, even if I had chosen the life of the Stay At Home Mom, divorce would have dramatically altered the picture. Still –

  • So what exactly does a Stay At Home Mom – or Dad – look like, in the 21st century?
  • Your typical day?
  • Your envious moments?
  • The often overlooked “duties” of the Stay-At-Home Parent, male or female?



Image of January Jones as Betty Draper, Courtesy AMCTV.com.

© D. A. Wolf

Comments

  1. Well, I’m not going to go into detail about my day. But I have an elderly mother who is very frail and has dementia and has a medical emergency every few months. So she is the major reason right now I’m not working.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Robin. I don’t know how old your kids may be, but if anything, I don’t think we should have to justify how we spend our (long) days and nights. The dilemma I see is that many women don’t respect (or understand) what’s involved any longer in caring for others/a home/older parents. Maybe I’m wrong. If anything, I’d like for more adults to understand the work involved.

      And yes, the Sandwich generation and caring for our elders adds even more stress, duties, and challenges – not to mention financial strain.

  2. Personally, I have two kids “in school” but one is a kindergartner at a school miles away from the school my older daughter is at. When my husband asks about my day, I say, “It was full of meaningless tasks.” But he knows that they’re not meaningless, just not credited.

    If I really start to feel unappreciated, I go on “underwear strike,” which means that I don’t say a word, but will not wash his underwear until suddenly, he has none in the drawer. Passive aggressive, but effective. :)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Just laughing, TKW! Sounds very effective. But wouldn’t “meaningful AND credited” be an improvement?

      We may love caring for our kids (when they aren’t driving us to drink), and even love our homes (for the 2.5 minutes they stay semi-clean), but what’s stuck in my craw – my “feminist” craw at that, is the assumption that these tasks don’t count.

      That’s just wrong.

      They do count. They always have. How do we bring back some sort of respect/credit where credit is due – regardless of who performs these duties?

      That’s what’s bugging me. Along with the assumption that once kids are in school, SAHMs are hanging out by the pool, doing their nails, or shopping… Uh, not in my corner of the Universe.

  3. A few years back, I left my career to be a SAHM. I was amazed and appalled at how many co-workers (men & women) asked if I would be back in a few years once I got my kids into school! Um…hello?
    The Gen Xr’s (my generation and probably yours too) have it tough, we saw our own mother’s stay at home to raise a family, but we were raised to think we needed to go out and conquer the world along with the men. The fallout from Women’s Lib is a bunch of thirty to forty year olds that are trying to “have it all” all the while not being able to give home or career the attention or focus it deserves.
    And for those of us who do choose home over career, we get those “oh, you couldn’t make it in the real world” smiles and nods.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Salem, I appreciate your stopping by to read and comment. Perhaps it’s my “audience,” or the topics I write about, but it’s interesting to me how few women are weighing in on this topic.

      Is that because I’m not read by SAHMs? Could be.

      Is that because I’m read by other women who manage some sort of juggle of kids and work-for-pay? Maybe so.

      Is that because it’s “not cool” to talk about the work of being a mother – or a “good partner” for that matter? My own guess is that there’s some of that as well.

      I hear you. It’s the Superwoman Myth that we bought into, somewhat innocently I think, that we could “do it all.” The “all” is harder than it was 40 years ago, for one thing. And for another, rather than gathering around each other to support our choices of all sorts, women are – too often – divisive.

      Thank you again for stopping by. I hope you will often.

  4. Thank you for opening this discussion (even though so many seem to be quietly agreeing or disagreeing without comment). I was raised by two high achieving parents. My mother was one who, once we were all in school, went back to school herself, got a degree and started working full time. I admired her dedication to higher learning. As a result, I always thought I’d be a career woman, too, with children and a husband someday. But then I had my daughter. And I longed to give her the childhood I didn’t have.

    My husband and I have had this discussion over and over. He is self-employed and earns a solid income. But we would be “more solid” if I went back to work, especially in this economy. All my children are in school now. I used to teach high school, so the schedule would work well for us. But whenever it comes down to it, we always decide that my value is best at home.

    The amount of money spent on convenience when both of us are working (dry cleaning, care for the kids, easy meals, home maintenance, etc.) can be astronomical. If I can be home – truly maintaining the home, cooking real food instead of from a box or take-out, helping with homework in a calm state of mind, etc. etc. etc. – we are a happier, healthier, emotionally bonded family. I call repairmen less. We eat better. Our schedules are more manageable. The kids can be involved in quality activities. They have regular “down time” just playing in the woods behind our house instead of being over-scheduled out of (babysitting) necessity. For our family, the benefits are endless.

    My days are spent: cleaning, cooking, shopping, scheduling, researching the best price/program/etc. I coupon. I volunteer. I blog a little. I help my husband with the books for his office which some may call part time work but I call it free labor – just another way for us to save money. Sure, I have time in the middle of the day to read a book or take the dog for an extra long walk. But as a SAHM, I’m “on” 24/7. These breaks are crucial to my sanity and one of the perks I enjoy instead of the extra income an outside the home job would bring.

    I’m sorry to high-jack your post – but this topic is near and dear to my heart. I feel like a silent minority sometimes – especially since I feel a stay-at-home-parent is an amazing thing for a family and should be encouraged. Mom. Dad. I don’t care. If you have children, and you can find a way to afford it, you owe it to your children to be as present as you can. I taught in an affluent, private college prep school. I could pick out the kids who had been raised by two-career parents and who had a parent at home. Sure, all kids turned out OK. But more times than not I could see a marked difference in the kids who had the support of a parent at home. And I wanted to have that kind of experience with my own children. So we give up fancy vacations, new cars, even furniture in our living room to provide what we feel is best for our children.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thank you, Jane – for this incredibly thought-full and honest response. I have more to say on the matter, but… I would live to hear from more stay-at-home parents, men or women, or even some who do so part of the time or while working from home. I think we need to talk about our days so those who judge and assume might understand a little better.

    • Wow Jane said it all. I was feeling the quilt not going back to work now that the kids are older but it always goes back to like Jane said my Value was best at home. Even if it seems like I have a lot of free time , when I did try a job for a couple weeks my home fell apart . I prefer not doing my nails every week or designer pushes for the priceless amount of quality time I spend with my family.

    • What a perfect, timely response as I struggle with this decision. Thank you.

    • I know this post is several years old, however, it was good to read your encouraging words today, Jane. It is my second day with both kids in school full time and for some reason I have been depressed (I think I’m missing my boy whose been with me every morning for six years) and needed a “plan” for the day. I did a search for some guidance and motivation for this new period of life and ended up here. I, too, have struggled with, “Should I go back to work for the extra income we so desperately need?” However, it was such a joy to be home when the kids ran off the bus after their first day of school. I had made cookies, cut some flowers growing outside and set up a little tea party for when they walked in the door. They were so happy when they came inside, and we spent nearly an hour sitting and their talking about their day. They had so much to say they were interrupting each other to be heard. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

      After the age of six, my mother was never home when I came home from school and was tired when she came home from work. I honestly don’t remember sharing what happened in my day with her at all or talking to her beyond, “Did you do your homework (chores, etc.)?” that kind of thing. No, I don’t think we will have a tea party EVERY day, but, I was glad I was here to do that, not to mention other things that needed tending to throughout the day. Now, I just have to schedule my day so that I’m not frittering it away with no direction. The time goes by a lot faster than expected!! I do have a dream of writing in some form, but, I feel I need to take care of things around the house before I pursue that. Thus, my need for a real schedule! I’m off to find help with that now! Thanks again for taking time to post that, and for Ms. Wolf for the open forum. Got me over my slump today. :)

      Oh, and by the way, I have had the same guilt-inducing questions about going back to work when the kids are in school full time and have heard, “I would be so bored being at home ‘all day’!” I had my kids late in life and the idea of rushing off to work after hurrying them on the bus and rushing home to either be here when they get home, or, if not, to start dinner/homework supervision, etc. well after they are home then rushing them to bed, totally stresses me out. It can be stressful enough as it is. I can’t imagine being worth anything to them or my husband, not to mention myself if I did that. Add to that, the worries of the work day. :o (I had my first child at 39, I know about work days.) I knew when we were planning on starting a family that I wanted to be at home and would not handle both well at the same time. (Though, I do know some people can or have to do that, I’m not judging them, just talking about myself.) And as far as being bored, there is too much to do and learn to be bored!! I am a life-long learner, so, I’m always trying to improve myself, my parenting, my relationships, my home…”Only boring people are bored!” Right? Better said by Zelda Fitzgerald: “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” Whenever I feel listless during these days, I know it’s more about me, not because there is nothing to do.

      Thanks again!

      • D. A. Wolf says:

        I’m so glad you found this post, Tammy. And the comments are truly the best part – so much to share, and I think maybe we all understand a little better how many ways there are to be a parent, how much work is involved, how circumstances can differ, how different women (and men) feel more comfortable in different roles, and so on. Speaking for those of us who were “hybrids” (still working full-time or even part-time, but SAHMs as far as the kids were concerned), it can be very rewarding and also crazy-making. (Sounds like you might agree.) Sometimes, economics require it; I only wish our country made childcare more affordable and accessible to those who need it, which is a must for any single parent without family to help.

        I do wish (still) that we would all cut each other a break. Women should be supportive of each others’ choices rather than judgmental.

        As for adjusting to the kids being in school can take a little time, but with you being a life-long learner (and parenting / child extracurriculars / partnering taking a huge amount of time, as many of us are aware), I think you’ll soon find a balance that feels just right. And I seriously doubt “boredom” is going to be a problem. ;)

        One last comment – Though this was written a few years ago, it remains one of the most frequently read posts in five years of daily writing! When I look at my stats, it is consistently in the top 15, which tells me that a lot of women are looking to arrange schedules as they transition children into school, and possibly for a little support when it comes to understanding the time, care, effort and dedication that are part of being a stay at home parent.

        Good luck! Keep us posted. And stop by again if you’d like.

        • Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. Will definitely stop by again!

        • Hi Everyone,
          I just tumbled across this post and thought it was interesting. I have 3 kids, older now, 11 to 15, and have worked full-time, part-time and stayed at home during their lives. I really believe that a happy parent makes for happy kids. So what works for one parent may not work for another I was terribly unhappy working full time time when my first was born but had to do it for financial reasons. After a year, I went part-time. Once my youngest was born, I was a sahm for a couple of years. I have been working part-time ever since, ranging from 10 to 25 hours per week depending on the job, and only during school hours. For me part-time was the answer. I still contributed $, my kids didn’t miss me and I felt that my household was running smoothly enough. I loved getting my kids off the bus at the end of the day. They all have said that seeing me at the end of their day was the best part of their daily routine. My kids are older but I feel that their needs (different ones now) at the moment are such that I’m thinking of staying home for the next 2 to 3 years. I also have parents in their 80’s that need care. I have to be honest that I’m struggling with the decision; nervous that I will be lonely and bored. But my gut tells me it’s time to stay home. My kids will be off to college soon (the first in 3 years) and my parents will not be here forever. And if I find myself unhappy after a year or two–I’ll be back to work!

  5. I was a SAHM. Two children – five years apart. I home schooled both during at least part of their education. When they were younger, I took college classes. When our son (our youngest) was in high school, I volunteered. I served on our church’s Board of Directors and on the Council. I worked full-time taking care of my family and home. Rarely did I have spare time. When I could, I tried to make time for friends – an occasional coffee or lunch. I read books. I wasn’t watching the Soaps and eating bon bons :)

    As Jane said, being a SAHM is a “24/7″ job. I was usually up at 6:00 a.m. and I worked until bedtime. Only then did I have a moment to myself.

    Sadly, as a SAHM, I often felt like working women were my harshest critics. I felt like I had let down all women because I chose to be a SAHM, as though I hadn’t lived up to the “feminist” ideal. Here is the typical response when I confessed to being a SAHM: “Oh, you just stay at home? Aren’t you bored? What do you do all day?”

    BTW – I was almost never bored! But when I went to an office every day, I often was.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      What I really would like to see, Robin, is a change in language usage. “Working” moms are, in my opinion, 90% (or more) of the moms, as opposed to “Work-for-Pay” moms, who earn income from non-mothering related tasks.

      SAHMs work their butts off. But then, I don’t have to tell you that.

  6. I’m a ‘hybrid’ like you (earn my living at home) but was a traditional SAHM for the first couple of years in my son’s life. I watch videos or read my journals from that period and am AMAZED at how much I did. I don’t even recognize myself! After putting my son down for the night (~9 pm) I’d cook dinner and the next day’s lunch for my husband (he came home very late), running between the kitchen and bedroom every time my son started crying. Then I’d fold laundry after dinner was done. I remember savoring the 5 minute showers I would take once my husband was home, and believe that was my only break during the day. But the house was always a mess and so was I. Life is so much easier now that my son is in school all day and my work is quiet. But instead of switching into SAHM mode during my off-peak season I just squander the time away…I feel so lazy and unproductive now.

  7. I am not a SAHM, so I will be brief. But I wanted to echo others’ comments with something my own mother has said about being a SAHM and (now that her kids are grown) a homemaker. “You never leave the office.” Of course with BlackBerrys and the like that’s increasingly true of traditional office jobs, but not quite to the extent of SAHMotherhood. At some point in the future I will almost certainly be a SAHM, so this topic intrigues me, even if I can’t speak authoritatively about it now.

  8. I’ve been an at-home mom since my first was born. I left a career to be at home, and for a while, I think I assumed that I’d go back to work part-time once the kiddos got into school. Health issues mean that instead I sleep a lot while they are gone. But even without that, I don’t think I would want to work. The longer I’m a mom, the more I treasure the role, and the less I want to be committed to someone else’s demands (e.g., a boss). Once you are working for pay, you’ve given over a lot of your life to someone else. Being an at-home mom means I’m my own boss and I have flexibility. I love that and I think it’s really good for our family.

    BTW, I’ve kept an active résumé through the years in different ways (I call it keeping my toe in the puddle…I have an MBA and have wanted to keep that part of me alive in some way). But I love what Jane said about the value of homemaking. I have run into a few people who insist that somehow being a SAHM mom is akin to being a leech on a husband. Others want to insist that the government should value motherhood more in monetary ways. And yet I am not sure that culturally, we value motherhood enough in the more intangible ways (or in bigger-picture ways that really can be tangible, in terms of the impact stable marriages/families/homes can have on society).

    Another perspective on SAHMs is the blessing we can be to each other. When I first got hit with my health issues, I was in need of a lot of help with watching my kids while I went to doctor’s appointments, etc. The women who were home and had kids in school were my LIFESAVERS. SAHMs also contribute to communities in other ways, such as helping volunteer in classrooms doing one-on-one reading or math or other things with children who are struggling.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I hear you, Michelle. And thank you for joining the conversation. That community that you speak of is something many of us no longer have, or lose when certain life events intervene. I agree that community support – however you define and construct community – goes a long way to making all of our lives more manageable and meaningful.

      Of course, the dilemma of the SAHM – even one with credentials such as you, with an MBA – is the difficulty entering or rejoining the workforce if they choose to or need to in the future. How does the divorced mother survive, following years as a SAHM? Or if her breadwinner spouse is injured or ill and can no longer work?

      It was a dilemma four decades ago, and despite considerable progress, it remains a dilemma today.

  9. I agree that community support – however you define and construct community – goes a long way to making all of our lives more manageable and meaningful.

    Very well said!

    As for SAHMs reentering the workforce, that’s actually a topic I’m pretty passionate about. I think it’s a bit of a myth that SAHMs can’t find ways to keep themselves at least a little marketable. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I think it’s possible. I’m going to be writing a post about this soon, I hope. (I have a few posts in mind, actually.)

    By the way, I hope it didn’t sound like I was trying to throw around ‘credentials’ in a snooty way. ;)

  10. Celeste says:

    :) Some of us don’t have kids. I’m a stay at home wife. I have a Master’s degree and worked as a psychotherapist for 18 years. I was really feeling burned out in that career, so I decided to stay at home instead. Because of my husband’s business, we can afford it. This is what I did today:
    1. exercised
    2. cooked meals from scratch
    3. dish washing
    4. laundry
    5. pet care
    6. gardening in the vegetable bed
    7. knitting
    8. watched one episode of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot”
    9. studied French (Rosetta Stone and various books)
    10. having shared meals at a table at the same time with my husband having actual conversation
    11. reading books
    12. reading this blog. :)

    I typically find that after people judge me harshly for now being in charge of my own time, the next thing that they ask me is, “aren’t you bored?”. No. I am never bored. And a career does not define me as a human being. It’s amazing to me that so many people spend the majority of their lives with their co-workers instead of their loved ones, and want to judge those of us who DO have the time to put towards caring for our loved ones and our family life. To me, a job is to pay the bills, period. When I die, I am not going to look back and wish I’d spent more time in the office. But I predict more than a few of the people judging me will wish they’d had more time to develop their family relationships and spend time with the ones who are truly important.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by to comment (and glad you read, too :)).

      What a wonderful comment.

      Why do any of us have to justify spending time assisting our partners, enjoying our moments, and actually appreciating it? I’m glad you listed some of the things you do during your days. (With or without kids, as you point out, we usually don’t lack for things to do, and nor are we bored.)

      When did we all become so judgmental?

  11. I love Celeste’s response. Love it. “To me, a job is to pay the bills, period. When I die, I am not going to look back and wish I’d spent more time in the office.” Amen, sister.

    And I don’t know why people keep asking those who stay home if they’re bored. How absolutely small one’s life must be to assume that without an eight-hour office job and a two-hour commute, we would just have no clue what we would do with our time.

    Looking at Celeste’s list, I’m thinking, what a wonderful way to spend the time. To be able to relish domestic work because we take pride in our home, to further my knowledge on something (I’d love to learn French and to sew)…I’d love to be able to do all of that. If only there were more hours in the day. How baffling that people would assume boredom.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I never understood the boredom issue either. Can’t imagine it. The world is much too interesting, and there’s so much to learn!

      Does this mean you’ll lobby for the 30-hour day with me, Justine? :)

  12. Absolutely! Where do I sign? :)

  13. Beatriz says:

    I’m a married working mom of 4. Our oldest is now in college and our youngest in middle school come September. My husband and I worked opposite shifts to make ends meet. We never needed a sitter, and a parent was always available. Money was and still is for the bills. I hear all this talk about SAHM is a 24/7 job. I’ve yet to hear what it is for a working mom. I too have handled all the same responsibilities of helping with homework, making meals, laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, going to the park, staying up with a sick child, running the forgotten instrument, homework, lunch money, etc over to the school office. In addition to my 45 minute commute, 8 hour day, 5 days a week.

    I only know 2 SAHMs, both are cousins of mine, one is a full time student taking her classes when her kids are in school. I applaud and can respect that. But how is that still considered a SAHM since she is at school just as if it were a job?

    The other spends countless hours at the gym, saying how “you need to make time” when I comment how I wish I had the luxury of time to work out. I just don’t understand the titles and maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think a SAHM has it any harder than a working mom.

  14. I think it’s great and all to be a SAHM…if your family can afford to do so. I know a woman who’s husband busts his butt working…all while she’s at home and does nothing to better herself (take an online class, volunteer,etc) They are so financially strapped yet she still spends, spends, spends and thinks nothing of it. Maybe it’s me…but I would feel like the biggest piece of dirt if I allowed my husband to work himself to death and I brought nothing to the table financially. I enjoy making my own money and having a sense of self reliance. Why make the husband do it all? The 1950’s were over over 50 years ago!

  15. In response to Beatriz – I don’t think the other posters were trying to say that being a SAHM is harder than a working mum, just that it is a valid choice and not the waste of time that much of society labels it. I’m sure some SAHM’s are just in it to relax and have a free ride, but then I know some working mums have no time for their kids – these are exceptions.
    Erin – try not to judge all SAHM’s by the standards of one woman you know. We’re all different people. If a woman is cooking, cleaning, organising and being there all the time for the kids then they are not ‘letting the husband do it all’, he is the one earning the money for the family to live on – she is running the family so he can focus on his job and not run around like a mad thing on evenings and weekends.

    I think what the earlier posters were trying to say is just that choosing not to go out to work for money, so that you can be there for all the kids events, clubs, assemblies etc, and keep a healthy, calm, low stress household, is a valid and VALUABLE way to live your life. Yet all to often it is portrayed as lazy, anti-feminist, pointless and a bit of a waste of time. I think this is sad and unfair. But then I would I suppose- I’m a SAHM :-)

  16. I’ve been all. A full time paid job working mom with child #1, then with child #2 it went to 20-30 hours/week, then with child #3 I became a stay-at-home mom. Wow, being a SAHM was an adjustment, and I did not like it that first year! It is being “on” 24/7. When I worked, at least I could focus on something grown-up for a bit — and I could drink coffee when it was still hot. As a SAHM, it’s 100% for the kids. I would be reheating my coffee in the microwave three times before I would dump it. I did not have “me time” at all. I volunteered a lot (kid related things), am a decent cook (we don’t eat out much — I make a mean grilled-cheese), and grew to love being a SAHM (sometimes).

    My kids are now going into 4th, 3rd, and 1st. I planned to take one year for myself once all were in school and organize, rest, and job search. Last Christmas, while my youngest was in Kindergarten, I decided to go back to school for a different degree. I was a computer programmer before, but I plan to get my BSN.

    So, back to the question of what I did prior to taking classes as a SAHM (I was a SAHM for one semester with all the kids in school). Off the top of my head, I cooked, cleaned, made bread daily, finished photo albums, shopped for things (not clothes/not fancy stuff), ripped off wall paper, painted a room, job searched, organized things (love my battery organizer!), weeded/dead headed flower beds, took kids to all their events and appointments, taught Sunday School, taught the Cub Scouts Den the God and Me program, xmas shopped, planned b’day parties, and I went vegan that semester (had to learn lots of new recipes). I did not watch tv, but I did occasionally take a 30 minute nap right before getting the kids from school — my youngest STILL wakes me at night multiple times…I know I need to put my foot down. I took a night time pottery class — that was SO fun!!!! Things filled my day, and then when I became a student in January, I quit making bread, weeding, organizing, and slacked on cooking/cleaning, and gave up on vegan. The January birthday party was just 2 kids staying overnight, and I bought the cake! I would study while they were at school if I wasn’t in class. When they were home, it was like three little tornados at my feet until bedtime. Then I would study more. Poor hubby hasn’t had home made bread since December. BUT — taking classes made me feel better about myself, so I think I may be going in the right direction.

    There was still plenty for me to do when they were all in school, but perhaps if I was a more organized person to begin with I would’ve had free time. I was always wondering how my SAHM’s had time to read books and knit. They must have started off at a better more organized place than I did – or they had more money. I think it’s great if people feel satisfied as a SAHM while their kids are in school; but I just feel I need to do something else. And I am tired of volunteering…we could really use the money so I wasn’t going to increase my volunteer time. I’m hoping to use the time that they’re in school for my own class work, and then in 3 years I’ll have a rewarding career…and they’ll all be a bit older and maybe not even want me around so much. It’s too lonely being a SAHM with no one around also! I’m not a social butterfly and couldn’t afford lots of lunch dates, so I look forward to the socializing, connections, and interesting things that happen to me in a job setting.

    My mom was a SAHM until I was in about 5th grade. But, we farmed…so she had tons to do. She was too lonely during the day so she got an office job when I was in 5th (and my brothers were in school too), and it did set her up for when we kids all left the nest. But she said it was tough – the farm still demanded so much, as did we kids, but she was lonely while we were in school. I totally see why she needed a job to get out of the house.

    I hope I can remember this once I do get a job…I’ll probably just wonder why I ever wanted one! The grass is always greener on the other side!

  17. I am a SAHM and so grateful to be able to be. I have made an amazing group of also SAHM friends. Some had careers before children, some, like me did not have very important jobs and it was an easy decision to stay at home with the kids. While my children aren’t in school yet (they won’t be for 2 more years) I am working on my degree now so that when they are in school I can have my career. I long for that now. I want to have a professional life and a home life (right now it is just a home life although we don’t spend too much time at home). I want my boys to grow up with drive and I want to be able to help as much as possible with their degrees. I know my mom did not ever work and hated working outside the home (she had to a few times when I was little and my Dad was laid off) and when my Dad died she was lost (this was just recently and she is only 48). She still is, and we are not sure what she is going to do because she never bothered to try. She is an excellent mom but all her babies are grown and moved on. She needs a way to support herself and right now her kids are doing it (and we all have our own families to take care of, live 6-12 hours away and money isn’t exactly raining down on us).

    I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but she is young. I think it is important for me to not follow in the footsteps of my mom and to get a career. I think being a Stay at Home Mom is a great opportunity for me to explore the things I want to do and to be sure that my children are raised to the best of my ability, but when they go to school it is mommy career time. :)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Denise, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. (I hope you will come back again!)

      If it hasn’t been terribly long since your Dad passed away, your mom may also be struggling to find her balance in her single capacity. The change from married to single status, whatever the reason, can be far more disorienting than we imagine, until we’ve lived it.

      Yes, 48 is still young, but it can be frightening to imagine entering the workforce if you’ve little experience at it or never done it before. And the economy is treacherous even for those of us with many years of experience. If your mom hated working outside the home 20 or 25 years ago, do you know why? Was it the juggle, which can be very stressful? Was it her location and the nature of the only work available at the time? Does she have a dream of something she’d love to do – but was afraid to try?

      Some opportunities to earn a living could be explored that would be very different from the workforce of 20 years ago. For example, there are jobs that use the Internet, there is a growing market for jobs that involve helping others (caretaking of all sorts, working with elders or children). These may be jobs that would seem less foreign to her and possibly more readily eased into.

      Have you ever thought of doing your own skills inventory? Or possibly doing it with your mother? Exploring sites online to find your aptitudes? Volunteering opportunities as a way to gain experience? Might your mom be able to trade something in exchange for a small amount of Life Coach time, to help her consider some options?

      If you can Skype or Facebook or email, depending on the nature of your relationship, you might be able to share this discovery process.

      I would also suggest (for your mom) that she look into Meetup opportunities (they are interest-based), her alumni organizations (if she has one or more), and a variety of online communities she could find around the web. Women can be remarkably supportive of each other. You’re right. She’s still so young, truly! If she can connect with other women in an affirming way – perhaps other widows, perhaps other “Empty Nest moms,” perhaps in some area of interest – she may find herself encouraged in a variety of ways.

      This is all unsolicited advice – so my apologies if it’s TMI!

      And I say “brava” to you – for the time and care you are devoting to your children, and equally, for looking forward to exploring your own career potential. None of us knows what the future may bring, we all grow and change, and we need to keep our options open.

  18. I wanted to add that I don’t think one has it harder than the other, being a MOM is hard. Period. But I am taking my classes at night after the kids go to bed online, so I am a mom all day, then at bed time I become a student/mom because my youngest is still nursing all night long and I never ever get a full nights sleep. (I think this might be driving me a little insane?) :)

  19. Imagine “Ground Hog Day” only with laundry, housework, errands, and so on.
    While the kids are at school I get chores done when they are home it’s mote chores and a lot of taxing to activities.
    Then there’s making dinner, cleaning up dinner, then helping with homework or attending sporting events. Then head hits pillow, alarm goes off, time to do it all over again. Most thankless job, but upside is my kids are
    well behaved, well fed, and do very well in school. Before someone criticizes SAHM’s imagine being a
    Under appreciated servant 24/7/365, always on duty 24/7

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Melanie, One of the things I think / hope this post did was lay out just a few of those 24/7 items that mothers deal with. SAHMs get a bad rap. It is indeed a mostly thankless job and underappreciated. Likewise, mothers in general, all too often, in every variation.

      I’m glad you stopped by. I hope you will again.

  20. I am like Denise’s mom. I am 45 and just don’t know how to get out there. My kids are all in school. I don’t actually home-make, I do as little as possible because I hate that too. Someone mentioned groundhog day. Need I say more? I want out so bad but I am so afraid I won’t be able to manage the challenges and stresses of a job, being so out of practice. Having never done it for more than a couple months at a time. And even then I found I got bored and uninterested really fast. It is a lot to go from spending all day alone for years to working in a busy crazy fast food restaurant or dealing with irate callers and miserable bosses. What if I lose it? What if I get overwhelmed and start to cry. Here they have co-op for high school students. They need that for people of all ages starting out and not the slightest bit sure of what they are good at or even enjoy. I have volunteered for years and haven’t found anything there I was in love with. I’d love to make enough money I never had to do any of the domestic work again! But for now, kids are home and I need to do dishes. ;)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      So Debbi – I’m confused. Do you want to get out there? You sound a little ambivalent… (But I think I hear the sound of those footsteps at your house! They do seem to enjoy eating, clean laundry, and attention. Even when they come home from college!)

  21. How do I spend my day, between 9-2?
    9-10: cleaning breakfast, making beds, tidying the house in general.
    10-11: have my first coffee of the day, do my hair, makeup,etc. (“me time”).
    11-12: start planning dinner, if I have to run out to get grocery I do.
    12-1: exercise, indoor or go for a walk
    1-2 : clean the house some more, do a load of laundry ( I do one a day to keep on top of them), etc. 2-3 start prepping diner, get organized for picking up the kids at school and bring their stuff for after school activities.
    This is only an example, the routine is subject to change of course.

    • Florence, With all due respect, how can it possibly take you a whole hour to have one cup of coffee and put on makeup?!? Two hours just to plan and prep dinner…not even cook it?!?

      Here’s a thought: go to the grocery store with a plan and a well-thought-out list once a week. Also, please tell me it doesn’t take a whole hour to do a single load of laundry. I mean, can’t you just multitask and do the load of laundry during the go-for-a-walk hour and then just add ten minutes at the end for folding. I mean while you’re at it, can’t you also plan dinner in your head while walking and then walk right over to the store and back.

      Most good cooks know how to cook without recipes and should be able to plan a meal without a whole hour of critical thinking. With some careful planning these activities could probably be accomplished in about 2.5 hours.

      Then you could read a book or take a class or learn to paint or play the piano or speak french or play tennis or something.

  22. Wow. I’m a sahm too. I have a 6yo in school, and a week ago my 4yo started longer kindergarten hours (she used to go 2 1/2 hrs, 3 days a week….now she goes 6 hrs, 3 days a week). So for the first time in over 6 yrs, I have time. Between drop offs and pickups, I have 15 hours a week, spread over 3 days. My husband earns a good income, we have bills but we’re comfortable. He is in a very pressured job and is out of the house from about 7.30am to 7.00pm each day. He earns the money, I do everything else. And I mean everything – even get his breakfast and lunch ready. I’m currently way behind, everything piled up around the house as we just had our big 7wk school holidays and we had family staying for 3 months. We have monthly gardeners, and weekly cleaners.

    I am just really struggling with the guilt of being a sahm when I have these 15 hours. My husband is always talking about “when you go back to work”. I do small amounts of casual work from home, but that’s it. And do you know what? That’s all I want to do. I hated the corporate world, I feel like it was a toxic environment, nothing but bad for me, so why on earth would I go back? I want to be here for my children when they need me (after school, holidays, times of illness), so even with both at school I will only ever have 20hrs a week available, and only in term time. I need to clear my backlog of huge tasks too, and get my house running smoothly to take more pressure off my husband so he can feel happier (rather than getting home to a huge mess and no I still haven’t washed his gym towel or ironed his whatever). I need to sack my cleaners too, because I really can’t justify that extra help, and the money could go to the mortgage.

    Being at home, I feel I have to justify my entire day. Like I have to be rushing around until bedtime. Like I have to be as stressed and crazy as the working mums. And I don’t want to do what they do. I don’t want to be late to pick up my kids. I don’t want to “dump and run” at school in the mornings. I don’t want them to buy lunch or eat fast food. I don’t want my kids to be bursting at the seams with “fun activities” in their holidays and I don’t want them to go to after school care. I would love to go on overseas holidays, but it’s not that important to me.

    I put my kids first. And I would like to confidently say I put me first, but that’s the thing I’m struggling with. I want to be calm, organised, happy and – well – I just want to be here for them and my husband. I know that’s the right thing for me, but damn it, I just can’t shift this peer pressure.

    One mum at school, she’s such a warm, happy lady. All her kids are school age, and a while back I asked what job she has now they’re all at school. She gave me a big smile and said “actually I don’t work”. Proud, happy, and with no offer of explanation, just the way I should be. How ?????

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      That other Mum you mentioned? Actually, she works… she may work at something she loves – caring for her family and the house… she may work at something for which she is not paid (directly)… she may work at something which does not give her any power (in several senses of the word)… but she finally has some time off from that.

      Your husband who works 12 hours/day… He has “time off” at home, doesn’t he?

      We have ceased to recognize the “work” in staying home and raising children, though we purport to see its value – but mostly, we give that lip service, in my opinion. That doesn’t mean that it should be the only option for women (or men, for that matter), and nor does it mean it’s a viable option for many women as we need two incomes to raise our families.

      But I wouldn’t feel guilty about those 15 hours. I’d breathe for a bit. And when you feel ready, make sure you have marketable skills – in case, for some reason, you need to go back into the workforce.

      The dilemma for anyone out of the workforce now is the difficulty getting back in, and earning a living should their situation change.

      So glad you stopped by to read and comment.

  23. My oldest daughter who is now 4 was born a micro preemie. I left the working world due to long term bedrest while I was pregnant with both her and her twin brother. I wanted to be a SAHM because I felt that she may need me due to special needs. In the beginning my days were filled with NICU visits and then, when she came home, she was in early intervention for the first 2 years of her life. For the first year she was home we were told to stay indoors and she was on an apnea monitor. I did all of the household duties you can think of, as well as attend her PT OT and Speech therapy sessions, and carry over in “homework” for her. I rarely had visitors and never had any help. My husband has a long commute and works off hours during the week, weekends, and all major holidays. Everything is on me all the time.

    Even with all of this going on I found that many people looked down on me for being home, and I was asked over and over again “when are you going to get a real job?”. it annoyed me to no end! A few of my friends who are working moms admitted that they did not envy me, and could never stay home to do the things that daycare helps them with (sleep schedules, feeding, potty training, just to name a few!) My daughter is now a healthy and happy 4 year old and I also have a 3 month old baby.

    I’m still a SAHM and although I feel isolated all the time I am glad I choose this route. I am 41 years old so I spent several years of my life working, sometimes 2 jobs at a time, and this is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, although the most rewarding in my eyes. I just wish society would respect what we do instead of sneering at us and believing all of us to be Peg Bundy. My 4 year old just started a nursery program this year so she attends 3x a week for 2 hours at a time, mainly for socializing. When she is at school I do some light chores and devote plenty of time to the baby who takes the back seat when the older one is home. My husband is gone from 1pm to 2am so I do everything involving the house and the kids completely on my own. The only downside is the isolation has heightened my panic disorder.

    I wish I could find a local SAHM group but they do not seem to exist around here. At this point I wouldn’t be able to go to work even if I wanted to since my salary would barely cover the daycare so I would actually have to PAY to go to work! Makes me wonder why I ever slaved through college!

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Marie, Thank you for sharing your story. For the isolation and panic, which some of us understand, can you connect to any groups in your area – even if they are online? People you could then pick up a phone and call and talk to?

      Please let us know if we can help in any way.

  24. Wow.. interesting reading all the posts. I too, a SAHM for now 5 yrs. Both children is in school a preteen and elementary age. My husband works nonstop for utility co, around the clock. We have discussed before taking this job. Possibilities we may have and obligations on my part. We totally agreed for myself to carry it ALL. Don’t get me wrong. Husband is our accountant. He totally loves doing things for us at our home, which has me feel i’m slipping on my end. However husband Always encourages and praises how Wonderful wife and mother i am. More than a yr ago we have also had husbands, baby sis and her two small children move in with us. Still SAHM i feel now towards our extended household lol. Loving every minute of it.

    I get So tired of ?’s why i stay home. An what do i do all day!!! This is the first time in Long Lonng time i sat down before starting my … Glad i ran across this blog. It’s encouragement to me. I’m a Taxi driver for house of 7. Daily. Housecleaner a laundromat a nutritionist a counselor a veterinarian an organizer a comedian a ministry assistant from our home a nurse.

    Everyone from time to time steps up and volunteers. I encourage it. And knowing its not how i would do it. They are learning so most of all i consider my role mostly a teacher in our Home.

  25. Hi,
    I just discovered your wonderful blog from a reference in the NY Times, and have put it on my must-read toolbar!

    I’m commenting a year after the article, as this topic has been the center of my life for years. I worked for a while when my first child was born, but with the second, any work outside the home threw the home into chaos. Also, my paycheck was roughly equivalent to the cost of daycare. All things considered, my income was negative! Then, my little son turned out to be a terror who was thrown out of three daycare places. (Happy ending: he’s now a kind, empathetic, morally centered person.)

    It was a shock to be without a paycheck, of course, in a culture which defines you by the cash you earn. It was also a shock to find out that women who still “did it all” now considered me a few rungs below a cow. It was my husband whose support and belief in my work helped me keep my self-esteem from crashing. I really enjoyed the time which allowed me to keep a pleasant home, cook good meals, read. I did things to keep my mind sharp: I learned HTML/Photoshop well enough to eventually be paid for making web sites, and did miscellaneous paralegal work from home, but mostly was a SAHM.

    I did think that as the kids grew older, it would be easier to return to outside work. Nope. With activities, schedules, play dates, and then the need to really watch pre-teen and adolescent children in a dangerous environment, it got much harder. It was obvious to me by this time that if I was running a household, raising kids hands-on, and carving out a small world just for me, that this is very full-time. I remember many times fitting in my grocery shopping at 1 a.m., and freezing a large quantity of spaghetti sauce for many fast meals. Laundries were done daily.
    Frequently other kids were left with me, which I considered a chance for my kids to have a new playmate. The women who left them were very glad to have that free time, and I didn’t mind the extra kids.

    Fast forward to the present, with two twenty-somethings. I’m still busier than I expected to be, but have the time to return to my old dream of being a working artist. I had been a printmaker when I got married, which I quit the moment we decided have kids due to the toxicity of the materials used. A bad case of arthritis precludes some forms of art, but jewelry design is possible. I’ve started a very small business creating art jewelry, and am slowly getting into metal forging. I’ve had decent sales.

    Some things my kids had because of all my time were: read to daily, homework checked, weekly trips to museums and parks, a costume box which they and their friends used to create dramas, watching Mom cook from scratch (now both of them can, too).

    We were economically very fortunate and I have no illusions that my life would have been possible with lesser income. My daughter has drunk the Kool-Aid of feminist culture, thinks of me as our Betty Draper (don’t drink, smoke, hate horses) and wants to be nothing like me. This is very hurtful. I hope she wakes up.

    Thank you for your blog: it’s wonderful, fresh water in a contaminated culture.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      BarbL, Thank you for your incredibly gracious words, and your thoughtful approach to this subject. (Both are more appreciated than you know.) There’s so much in your comment that begs for more discussion. And the fact that mothers continue to read and comment attests to how much there remains to be discussed.

      By the way, there was an interesting piece by Frank Bruni in the Sunday NY Times on parenting – essentially concluding that kids will turn out (more or less) the way their nature determines as long as we let them know they’re loved.

      I understand the premise, and even find truth in it, but it’s a gross simplification in a very challenging world – one in which we (the adults) are all competing, our children are competing (and much too young), and our cultural values have gone a little wacko.

      And what comprises “letting a child know they’re loved?” Isn’t it the quality of the time we spend – or someone spends – listening when they need it, reprimanding when they need it, holding them when they need it, and stepping back as well? Isn’t it the day-in-day-out consistency that teaches reliance and discipline? Isn’t it the challenges we present to them (or allow them to face) that serve their imaginations, their creative problem-solving skills, their resilience? Isn’t it a matter of the choices we make – as solo parents (whether we wish to be or not), or in partnership – that set the stage for presence, absence, and everything in between that forms the models of adulthood they will see and we hope – practice?

      Sure, some kids survive terrible things in their childhoods and do well. Others don’t. Some mothers want to stay at home as parents and be actively engaged. Others don’t. Some of us want it in a partial fashion, at certain developmental stages, or prefer (if possible) to engage help.

      But there’s nothing simple in any of it, and nor do SAHMs negate feminist principles (reproductive rights, equal pay, better childcare options, as examples).

      The shame of it is our black and white approach, our tendency to label, and our inability to view individual preferences, life changes over time, and likewise, changing needs.

      I’d be curious to know what you think of the entire “Feminist Housewife” discussion (originating from NY Magazine) which, I think, could likely have been handled better.

      As for your daughter, ask her to pop by here ;) and read about feminism and women’s issues and sexual politics, not to mention the realities of parenting. She may see that nothing is quite so cut and dry. Then again, when we were 23 or 25, what did we know – really? We were just beginning to taste our own adult lives.

      Thank you again, sincerely, for the encouraging words. I hope you stop by often and join the conversation.

  26. I’d already read the article, and then read the discussion, just went back to scan the highlights of both, and am not going to read the discussion again because it will throw me into a depression. The never-ending judgment, resentment, authoritarian thinking, having to prove the value of a choice that you are entitled to, drains the life out of me. I’ve learned to avoid drains.

    At this juncture in our culture, I’m not sure the discussion could have been handled better. Attitudes and beliefs are what they are. It seems that women have really built walls against understanding lifestyles which would they perceive diminish their individual freedom, which is the prime value for some. Personally, I have trouble understanding why women have any affinity for corporations at all. Some reasons: the poisoning of the American food supply. Read any labels on a prepared “meal”, think of the food kids have been led to crave, think of the fact that the Obama administration has just ratified the Monsanto Genetic Food Protection act. Al Jazeera has an article about the whole disaster: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2013/04/2013428059717911.html

    One more reason: the fact that wages drop and drop, which seem to correlate with the two-income family. Business has figured out that with two earners, less has to be paid to each. At the same time, the power of workers to organize has been eviscerated.

    On and on it could go. What we need to do in America is to stop permitting the same old “divide and conquer” games to be played against us. The discussion after “The Retro Wife” shows how divided and conquered we still are. I do hope that things will improve.

    My daughter got in with quite a group of women, who have influenced her thinking a great deal. Right now she is traveling all over Europe with a backpack and her bike for several months. When she was three or four, once she turned to me and said, “When I grow up I am going to travel all over the world and have exciting adventures.” I guess she meant it! She is very high-spirited and energetic, and raising her has been one wild ride.

  27. marissa says:

    I loved reading this article and the responses! I have been debating for a few months now whether being a sahm would make me happier. I feel my kids are being raised by their babysitter and not the well behaved kids I would like them to be. I work 40 hours a week along with pick up drop off at daycare. Cook dinner when we get home, bath and bed. I get maybe 3 hours a day with my kids that just isn’t enough! It is hard missing so much of them growing up. My husband always says go ahead quit and stay home… however I feel that he will hold it over my head and not like the decision I made to stay home. His salary is plenty to cover our needs and wants so that shouldn’t be a problem… There is just so many what ifs.

    I really would like to enjoy my time with them because boy do they grow up too fast :(… Any help from someone to push me forward and make me feel like in doing the right thing be staying home?

  28. To Marissa – I hope you do it! It is scary…to be a SAHM when you’ve been working. It is an adjustment that whole first year too. I was laid off right before child #3 came so was actually forced into the decision. I’m so glad for it though. Would there be any way for you to ease into it? Maybe reduce your days working, ie work 2-3 days rather than 5? It (hopefully) doesn’t hurt to ask your employer. Please don’t burn bridges with them…you may want to work for them again someday though. Good luck with your decision. I think if you’re able to be a SAHM financially, do it with pride. You have a great summer of fun ahead of you! And it will be tiring, but they’ll love being with you. For your children’s sake, being a SAHM is always a wonderful choice.

    I have the opposite problem of you right now. For seven years I have been a SAHM. I love some parts of being a SAHM, but I feel I want a career too. I tried to find a job when my youngest started kindergarten. Getting back into the workforce has not been easy since I’m now a diva and need flexibility with fair pay…and seven years as a SAHM has hurt my resume as I was a computer programmer and have not stayed current. I had no luck getting back into the career I had prior. So, this past year while the kids are all in school (first, third, and fourth grades), I’m back in school too. And once I finish my BSN (in 2.5 years), I don’t want a full-time job! I just want a part-time nursing job. Wishful thinking I’m sure. I may need to work a couple years full-time until I’m able to go part-time, but my big plan is part-time work at a meaningful job.

    My biggest fear — what has been driving me to go back to school — is having an empty nest with no meaningful career. So I’m trying to get the education now so that in 12 years when my children are moved away and in college (perhaps), I’ll have a great career. I’m hoping I’m making the right choices. I’m scared myself because I KNOW being a SAHM is great for my children and my family. You cannot go wrong being a SAHM for their sake. It’s finding out what is best for YOU. If you are happy and fulfilled being a SAHM, that is what you should do. And you’ll never know unless you try it for a few years (one year is too early to tell as it’s such an adjustment!)

    Please try it since you mentioned financially you can…you’ll love yourself for giving it a chance. If it doesn’t suit you after a couple years or so, you may be able to find a job again (hence the “don’t burn bridges”). In my situation, we moved far away so I couldn’t go back to my old job — though I am sure they would’ve taken me back because I was a hard working, honest employee.

  29. Candice says:

    I just found this blog and I’m glad I did. I could use some advice. I have always been a work-for-pay Mom and recently my hours have been cut drastically at work and I am facing a lay off. I have gone from working outside of the home 40 hours a week, coming home to cook dinner, take care of the kids and husband to barely working outside the house at all and having all this time on my hands at home. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to do around my house I just don’t really know how to be a SAHM if that makes sense. My daughter is in 1st grade so she is gone from 8-3 and aside from laundry and cleaning (as well as field trips and volunteering in her class) I don’t really know what to do with myself. I feel out of my element but at the same time it’s what I want more then anything is to transition into a SAHM for the long run as we are planning on having another child soon. I want to be good at it and make sure I’m contributing enough to the house because my husband works long hours and works so hard to provide for us. Any ideas, advice or other resources would be greatly appreciated.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Candice, Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. In regard to your questions, I can only offer my own experience and welcome others to chime in with theirs. I was surprised to find all the things I was required to do as a parent when I was home, even after my children were in school. (I had two, very close in age, and very different in what they needed and how they responded to everything. I also had a spouse who was gone much of the time, so there was little “unfilled” time on any given day of the week.)

      I also continued to work for pay but from a home office. That was more than a dozen years ago, and in a corporate position. It was exceptional at the time. Technology and our assorted communication devices make that much easier to accomplish now, though I’m unconvinced that managers are particularly good at handling remote work or workers.

      My suggestion, if it’s possible, and you genuinely have that time free, is to learn something – new skills in your previous career or one you’d like to pick up again in the future, or other areas of interest that would also serve you in the marketplace if possible (social media, a new language, graphic design… just a few examples off the top of my head).

      If you’re tired and planning on another child, I might also say take a few months to breathe and rest! We forget that we are allowed to “enjoy” our lives, to take a walk, to have coffee with a friend, to join a book club and read.

      Personally, I think we need to bring full selves to our partners. That doesn’t preclude making some money and pursuing interests of our own. Being a SAHM can be grueling, being supportive of a traditional working spouse has its own set of challenges and trade-offs. In my own experience as a post-divorce mother of a certain age, I also tend to caution women not to lose their marketability. Should you need additional income at some point, you want to be able to get back into the game.

      Do any SAHMs and work-for-pay moms or those doing some of both have more input for Candice in her situation?

    • chickenmum says:

      Hi Candice, I have been both a paid-for-work 40 hrs a week mum and a SAHM. I posted on 21 May so you might like to read that. It is a conflicting change to make in that you feel so much pressure to be able to do EVERYTHING. Once you start to FEEL how much more organised and relaxed the entire household is on a day to day basis with you being there then you will start to understand that you are contributing enormous amounts of value but that it is more like a silent partner contribution and you have to let go of any need you have for others to praise you, admire your work etc.
      I get some satisfaction by testing my cooking skills and sending delicious biscuits, cookies and cakes to work with my husband. At his work they all wait for him each day to see if he brings something yummy in. The feedback I get from that is satisfying and my efforts are rewarded not by his work colleagues praising me but by his work mates telling him weekly how damn lucky he is to have a wife that can cook and make such good food (including outstanding lunches in his pack). I love my husband asking me what goodies I have made or will make for his work or asking me specifically to cook something that he wants for dinner and knowing that he really does appreciate it.
      There are many way to find value in your day. I also do simple scrapbooking so that my sons can have memory photo albums to look back on when they have their own families. I spend a few hours each week budgeting and finding best buys for food items. I have our son bathed and ready for bed when dad gets home as well as fed. Having the time to do this lets my husband and I have an enjoyable conversation over dinner and gives hubby time to chill out before games and ‘dad, dad, dad’ starts. The biggest secret is to not start allowing yourself to become complacent. Your time at home and such duties is a job. You should take some time during the day for you but not a whole day, there are SAHMs that become trapped in the boredom and sometimes lonely state of being a SAHM. Good luck and believe in what you are doing. : ) Chickenmum

  30. I found a great company that focuses on green living and being able earn an income staying home with your kids. Take a look at http://momsprovide.com.

  31. ChickenMum says:

    I am a SAHM. I am 49 with a 6 yo at school. This week I am so grateful that I am a SAHM and have been able to care for my son (stress free) while he as been very sick. No worries about loss of income, work colleague friction because of dropped workloads, no juggling between carers and dragging a sick child from place to place.
    Other days I look after our 10 acre farm and animals.
    I cook all our food including bread and biscuits. I cook multiple dishes during a cooking session and manage the cooking to within minute timelines so that the oven doesn’t need to be heated/reheated and cost more money. I manage the household finances and make the decisions regarding budgets and outlay when maintenance work is required.
    I have a 20 year old with whom I am only now developing a truly healthy relationship. I worked for most of his young life and while I provided all of the right things; healthy food, taxi service, clean clothes etc, I never really had a full relationship with him. I didn’t realise this ‘missing something’ until my second son came along at my age 42 and we decided that this time we would let me stay home and manage our finances as best we could. While the boys are different there is a vast difference in how a can sustain a milder temperament and steady pace since being a SAHM. I wish I could have given my first son this SAHM mum. The hard part of it all was letting go of the status quo. The sense that I am not contributing enough. I have learned that there is nothing more important than the home, being available for my children, being able to take pressure off my husband by attending to maintenance/household tasks and by greeting him happily each afternoon and wanting to hear about his day and his thoughts on life. I would not change this life I have now for all the money, holidays, cars or clothes in the world.
    I have also for the first time not tried to get my son back to school before he is 100% healthy and ready. I don’t need to. I don’t have to report to work and feel the pressure of responsibility that a paid job pushes onto your shoulders. This is parenting at its most natural and fullest.

  32. Hello,
    I just wanted to share that I am not judging SAHM, I just feel that I work full time and have to do everything SAHM have to do. I greatly enjoy my work, being busy, hanging out with my children.

    • Shannon says:

      I was googling this topic when I came across this post and it’s because of people’s perceptions that a lot of SAHMs feel judged for their choice to stay home. (Read some of the above comments). Honestly, after having read all of them I think that whatever you are it’s your personal choice and if you choose to work instead of SAH then don’t judge those who choose differently and vise versa! I am a SAHM of three. I could totally work or plan to do it in the future, especially since my husband is a teacher and we could always use the income. But I’d rather make the dollar stretch and live a very modest life-style instead. This is not easy. More money would most definitely help, but then I’d be juggling the same things you are, which of course is also not easy. (And trust me living on less, takes time! More from scratch, yard-saling/craigslist for most of the clothes, and household items including toys! It’s simply what you choose to do. There are of course exceptions, but usually it’s about wanting the bigger house or the family vacation. Just choices. And when we talk about personal choices we can easily feel defensive or our choices. But that’s just it. It’s personal. And at the end of the day, it’s what you feel is best for your family :)

  33. Where do I begin with this topic of SAHMs? When I was younger, I skipped the college experience and went straight to work. I worked for 17 years before leaving work and staying home with my five and two year old children. I left a great paying job but since my oldest was getting ready to go to Kindergarten, and we had no one to be with him before and after school, I left work and honestly never regretted it.

    I’ll be honest, I did not like my job. It paid well but it was very stressful and when added to the fact that someone else was spending their days raising my children, the ‘mom-guilt’ was too much to bear. My husband got a great job and finally we were able to afford life with one income. I will add though, my husband never brought up the topic of me staying home…I did. I fought fiercely for it.

    I have been home for about seven years now and both of my kids are in school but I still stay home. During this time, I finished by Bachelor’s degree and now I am trying to figure out what I can do with that degree BUT still be here for my kids. I feel as though I’ve been fighting a battle for years, with people who think I do nothing and now that my kids are both in school, they can’t understand why I am not going back to work.

    Someone once told me that staying home with your children is the most wonderful thing you can do for your family, and it is. But, it is also the most thankless and unappreciated job in the world. Our families love us but sometimes even I can’t find appreciation at home for what I do. My kids often ask me when I am going back to work and the deepest part of me wants to curl up in a ball and cry. I am far from lazy and I worked tirelessly in the workplace for 17 years, but most people in my small town do not embrace the idea that being a SAHM is a career. I have used my ‘free’ time to volunteer in the public school and to substitute teach. I have not been sitting on the couch eating bon-bons like people imagine. Since finishing my degree, I feel ten times more pressure and scrutiny about finding work. Even though my husband never pressures me to get a job, he also has never validated my decision to stay home. He has remained ‘neutral’, which has sometimes been just as painful as someone opposing my decision.

    I no longer focus on how people feel about SAHMs, if I did I would’ve left the home three years ago. I have always prayed that the right opportunity come my way, when it’s time. I’m open to a great part-time or flexible job opportunity but unless it works around my children’s needs, it simply isn’t for me. The pressures and stresses of today’s world only add to the weight of uncertainty that I feel at times. I know how hard I have worked these past seven years and I know that no one else will quite understand the sacrifices (and rewards) that have come from my decision to be at home.

    It’s just sad how negatively our society views SAHMs. We have value and we are working our butts off. We have no paycheck and no closing time. A top-notch female executive bringing home six figures is viewed as successful and valued, but a woman who chooses to raise her own children and take care of all the minute details at home, AND who has numerous jobs (secretary, nurse, cleaner, plumber, etc.) is not given half of the respect she deserves. I think both jobs are equally tough and each one has many rewards. We are all women who should support each other, no matter what profession. It’s all about respect.

    • D. A. Wolf says:

      @Kim, I’m so glad you stopped by and took the time to express all this. You’ve captured so much of what a mother’s life (in our culture) is about – whether “working” (for pay) or working as a SAHM, which is never (rarely) viewed as the work it is. In fact, being a parent is rarely appreciated for the many skills and the extraordinary demands and compromises it can mean.

      I’m also glad you raise the “mom guilt” issue, which is huge in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” approach to motherhood and work, to size of family, to parenting style and so much other scrutiny. And sadly, in any configuration of mothering, I think this is too often true:

      “Our families love us but sometimes even I can’t find appreciation at home for what I do. My kids often ask me when I am going back to work and the deepest part of me wants to curl up in a ball and cry.”

      Our own children can’t grasp what we do because they are children. But the fact that they compare us to other seemingly “working / successful” mothers is hurtful and frustrating.

      You also mention part-time and flexible work, and childcare – two critical areas of family concern we’ve been talking about for 30 years or more. And we are where, exactly, on that score? Having been a mom-guilting work-for-pay-at-office mom, a work-from-home-office-corporate-mom, and a work-from-home-office freelance mom, may I say that it’s all a bit of a battlefield – especially if there’s more than one child to juggle / raise?

      I wish for you the knowledge that what you are doing is important, that your children will value the presence of the “village” when they are older, and your focal role as the primary provider of that village, and may we all stop judging other women’s choices, and starting creating more by way of family-friendlier structures, health care systems, childcare options, and speaking out about all of it.

      Please stop by again and read and share. Thank you so much for your comments.

      • Janet Reifsteck says:

        I was a teacher for about 13 years when my husband and I were blessed with our first child. After 41/2 years of more infertility treatment number 2 followed. Number 3 arrived 2 weeks after my 43rd birthday and will be starting Kindergarten this month, while my oldest is starting her Senior year of high school. I have an older mother who lives on her own but needs someone to go with her to her Dr. appts. etc. I have been a sahm since my oldest was about 9 mos. old. I have never regretted it and in fact consider it a great gift that I was able to be home with all three of my children. But, I don’t feel my job as a sahm is over now. I am 49 and too high on the pay scale to get a job as a teacher and my age makes me even less appealing. My job at home starts feverishly at 3:15 p.m. where I run everyone where they need to be. Often times their schedules don’t fit on the calendar and add in my obligations to my mom, I’m not sure where I’d find the time nor the inclination to work outside my home. The last thing I want to do is leave my teen and preteen to their own devices after school. They are very good kids, but I know we always gathered at the one house that had a working mom in high school to smoke, hang out with the boys and some drinking went on. I know that my house is the hang out place for my kids and I also know they are well supervised. It may not seem glamorous but, I find it very rewarding and if I sneak in a lunch date or a little shopping, I don’t feel guilty, there will be plenty waiting for me later in the day. I am also available for my friends who work outside the home, if their kids need to be picked up in an emergency or if they need a place to hang out after school. I don’t judge moms who work and I would hope they give me that same respect.

        • I am a working mom. I work out of necessity not necessarily because I am a career woman. I live around a lot of sahms. My issue is how they are constantly talking about how busy there are and implying through comments that they are better mothers because they are home. I teach so I am home all summer with my kids all day. I have the best if both worlds. In my experience staying home is so much less stressful that wirking divert day full time. It’s a lot easier to manage the house and kids without having to do it around a busy work schedule.

  34. My mother was a full-time working teacher Mon-Fri, played tennis all day Saturday and had other hobbies and meetings some weekday evenings, as well as all the outside work required to be a teacher. She was always too busy for us, and simply just wasn’t there. If she was at home, she was generally tired, grumpy and short with us. The house was always a mess, as there were 4 kids. She dumped a lot of childcare and household duties onto others as it is basically impossible for an individual to do all those things. Dad was just as self-focused. It was not a happy home and we are not close.

    I have consequently decided to be a SAHM, as I am not sure it really is possible to ‘have it all’, and if any area has to suffer, I sure don’t want it to be my kids.

  35. When I was a little kid, my mother was at home, and then worked part time. By the time I was in high-school, she was more than full time, trying to run her own business. This was fine for me. I was proud of her, and I was a responsible kid. My younger brother and sister seemed to be just fine too. Then I left for college, and my sister started jr. high. With neither my mother nor me at home, my sister went right off the rails. She drank, ran around, and ultimately dropped out of school and left home early. (She’s since figured herself out, and has a life to be proud of.)

    When I and my husband first planned to have children, I knew right away that I wanted to be home for them — for their development when they were young, and for their teenage years, when it is all too easy to not realize that things are going awry. I don’t know that either of my kids would follow my sister’s path, but I don’t even want the option in front of them. It was a terrible time for my mother, and I think also for my sister. I know it took her some time to come back to us, and some longer time to let go of the chip she had placed so squarely on her shoulder. When I spoke to my husband about my thinking, he initially was confused, and then he thought about his own teen-aged years, and how important his mother had been for him, and he agreed. His job makes enough for us to live on, though not extravagantly.

    And then I had my first child. As it turned out, he is autistic, with some behavioral challenges. Raising an autistic child is more than a full time career, and you are ON, even when your child is at school. Those behavioral challenges mean that every time the phone rings during the day, your heart clutches with fear. And 90% of the time, with good cause.

    When my child was still in the public school system, a phone call meant a walk of shame through the corridors of learning, glares, stares, and anger. I was really grateful to be at home though — I could come rescue him from those people and their well-meant child-abuse.

    When we left and started private school (which is hideously expensive and we cannot afford at all), I found something unexpected: community. If you are a SAHM and you’re looking for others, you might try the autism community. There are a fair few SAHMS there. For some, it is really a necessity. Autistic kids can spend more time being driven around than you can imagine: OT/PT, speech, social skills groups, ABA, tutoring, school, not to mention the regular after-school activities that so many of us want to offer our kids — soccer and so on.

    So, how do I spend my day? A lot of it in the car. Our school has a volunteer requirement, and I do a fair amount of volunteering. Tuesdays last year, I just stayed at school all day, plus meetings, field trip driving, etc.

    I have a second child, and I need to make sure to spend enough time on him that he doesn’t feel pushed aside by the neediness of his older brother. I make a monthly menu, and I shop on Mondays (unless there is no school on Monday, in which case things get crazy around here.) I shop again on Thursday or Friday, for the items that wouldn’t keep till the end of the week. I garden, and put up food. September is crazy busy around here between school functions and harvesting our little plot of land. I do laundry mid-week, and on the week-end. I try to make sure that there is some time set aside nearly every day to spend with other moms, having coffee or going for a walk. I have to take care of my needs, or everything just gets worse for everyone. Being at home means not interacting with other adults in a meaningful way, and isolation just isn’t good for me. I run the house, which is very much like running any other organization, except that you can’t fire anyone. Every few weeks, I’ll read a book for hours at a time. I feel really guilty about it, but compelled nonetheless. I am not a great housekeeper, and that’s as it should be. When my living quarters are spotless, it’s a sign I am really alone. I cook for my family, not every dinner, but most. (My husband does a few.) I’m not baking my own bread or anything, but I am serving up nutritious meals that my family (for the most part) likes. Friday mornings, I go to a mom’s group, which has really helped my sense of self-worth!

    No one has ever asked me if I got bored staying at home with the kids. What a question! Who are these people who are so easily bored? Actually, I’ve had friends who confessed that they were bored staying at home, as they were switching back to their careers. And they SHOULD go to work — because it makes them happier, and a happy mom is good for everyone. None of us should feel guilty for staying at home, or for going to work. None of this you must DO IT ALL or “Rabenmutter” nonsense.

    I should add that I AM a feminist, and I was raised by a feminist, and really so was my mother raised by a feminist (though I don’t think they used that word back then). I am raising my sons to be feminists too (and you should hear them!). We all must make our own choices, and we all deserve respect for them, and an equal paycheck for paid work. It’d be nice if Mother was a paid job… But until that pie in the sky day, I’ll settle for respected. And that goes for Stay at Home Dads too. I know a couple of those also.

    • D. A. Wolf says:

      What an incredibly thoughtful and articulate response, LR. I’m so glad you stopped by to join the conversation. I am in awe of everything you do each day and each week, and I’m so glad you emphasize that women exercising choices, including “staying home” to raise their children, is not incongruous with believing in feminist principles. It really is about respect, as you so say so clearly.

      One other bit of feedback – you remind us how important community is. Whatever our family configuration and challenges, finding others with whom we can be ourselves and feel welcome is critical. I worry that many of us have lost that, whether we work for pay full-time (at an office or home), part-time, or parenting is our full-time gig. (You might find this of interest, on the “profession” of parenting.)

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge