SAHM: Did you? Would you? Regrets?

Three years ago I was at a great point in my career. 10 year experience in the area (logistics) and constant training and education had put me in a position where I got calls offering me jobs. I had a good paying job with many perks, and all they required was long hours of work, sometimes working in the weekends, being on call at all times, even during my vacations, my soul and my first child (well, not the last two, but they might as well have asked for them too). Then things went south.

Two years ago the country, finally hit rock bottom after an exceedingly bad administration. Inflation soared and our currency was devaluated; what was once an excellent salary was then only worth a third of its original value. To top that my company was also suffering badly, in part because of the economic situation and in part because my ex-boss, may he rest in peace, had no talent for administration.

And I got married, and we decided to spawn. And since my husband is a navigator that spends half of the year away from home (8 weeks of work – 8 weeks of vacation) we decided that it was best if I just quit my job. I now have a “work” on my website, something that fills me with satisfaction, administer a small business from home that pays better than my old salary and I can take care of my baby girl, who would otherwise miss her parents most of the year.

Opinions (unwanted, of course) are split 50/50 on the wisdom of this move. On one hand some people think that it was a smart decision, given the circumstances, and on the other hand some people think I am just a lazy slob, Stepford wife who took the easy way out and who has just wasted her life.

Why the vitriol against SAHMs?

I have no particular thing against SAHMs. You’re occupying yourself, it sounds like you’re happy, you’re caring for your child (at least if she doesn’t get both parents all year round, she gets one of them just about all of the time), you’re earning some money - if you’re feeling fulfilled with it all, then I think it was a good decision and I’m happy for you.

Is there some heavy social distaste for people in your position that I have managed to totally miss?

I think I could only have a problem with any (M or F) parent staying at home from work if

a)children are old enough to go to/from school alone

b)family is short of money and other parent is working all the time to try and keep up

c)said at-home parent does nothing worthwhile all day.

All three conditions must be met.*

It doesn’t sound like that applies to you.

*I’m not saying these are the only conditions on which a parent should decide to go to work as well as their spouse/SO - if it’s manageable and you want to - go for it!

With the birth of my second child in 7/04 I returned to work after my three-month maternity leave. That first day was hell. It was raining. My cow-orker was incredibly insensitive, didn’t even ask about the baby. She was just RADIATING contempt for my return.

I figured I didn’t need that sh** and the following day went promptly into my boss’s office and quit. I should mention that I was on the cusp of a HUGE promotion (+$20K). I walked away from it all. What a mistake. Being home all day with a new baby and a 3 y/o pushed me deep into PPD. After less than six weeks I was calling my old boss and saying “how much ass-kissing would I have to do for you to let me come back?” and he said “I don’t have a very big ass”!

Returning to work helped immensely with the PPD (meds, too). I didn’t, of course, get that huge promotion so I’m just a drone, working 3 days a week from 7-3. Does it get any better than that? I LOVE PETERSON POWER SYSTEMS, INC.!

I have no kids, but I have nothing but respect for SAHMs, as long as it is the womans choice to stay home. I think it is healther for the kids - the women with kids I have worked with were always having to miss work because the kids had caught something at day care.

I understand how a woman who has worked to advance herself in her career would not want to abandon it, so I really don’t have a problem with a woman going back to work. And I guess many women don’t have much of a choice - for financial reasons they have to go back to work.

The same reason any group of people who’ve made certain choices will contain some individuals who display vitriol against another group of people who’ve made different choices. You’ve got (a small subset of) Christians who believe it’s wrong to be anything but Christians, white people who believe it’s wrong to be anything but white, etc. For that very reason, there’s also a subset of SAHMs who also believe it’s wrong for moms to choose to work outside of the home. Sure, they may think it’s acceptable if the family absolutely needs your paycheck to survive. But they’re still convinced that their decision is the right one.

I made the decision to be a SAHM after I had my second child, whose time in daycare, together with daycare for my first, would have eaten up 75% of my paycheck. I understand why some moms choose to stay home. I understand why some moms choose not to stay home (even when the money they make isn’t critical to the welfare of the family). What I don’t understand is people who think their solution to any given situation is the only correct solution. This is real life, people. One size most definitely does not fit all.

I’ve been a SAHM for a long time now. My kids are older 13 and 11, but I have good reasons for not going to work.

I don’t understand the nonsense I get for being a SAHM sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who just don’t care what I do, that’s fine with me, it’s none of their business.

But then we have my sister in law, who been pissed at me for being a SAHM forever. She’s a single mother and has no other means of support except for her to work. I used babysit her kids for free, it’s not a big deal to me. She’s always bitching about me getting a job, I’m not sure why. She just told me last week “If I have to work, you should too.”

Another is the mother of one of the girls in my Girl Scout troop. She works, that’s fine, I don’t care it’s none of my business. She lives on a street I pass by on my way home from the meetings. One day the mother was complaining that she had to leave work early to pick up her daughter, I offered to give the girl a ride home, since it was on my way. This woman kind of gave me a dirty look and said something about her not having all the spare time I have to do these things becasue she had to work.

I’ve been called lazy, a slob, a gold digger, you name it. The peole who say these things don’t realize that I work, just not the same way they do. I’m the one who’s baking all the cookies for the class parties, I’m the one who organizes them. It’s me that runs the GS meetings, provides transportation for the kids that don’t have it. I also babysit for their kids in a pinch, the volunteer softball coach, all kinds of things.

After my maternity leave with my first son, I went right back to work. I didn’t stop until I moved to the US and my career wasn’t an option here. I did work in another job, but when I was 8 months pregnant with #2 I quit. I regret that I wasn’t home with #1 longer than I was, but I was a single parent and someone had to put dinner on the table. I’m home now for both of them, and I’m enjoying it.

I also work for the husband’s company on and off - but I’ll tell you, I had forgotten just how much time it really takes to run a household.

I honestly think that IF a family can swing it, and IF a woman can handle it, being a SAHM is far better for kids. That’s what I’ve been doing for almost 2 years now.

There have been a few times when my children spent the day w/other people, for whatever reason, and it surprised me how quickly we fell out of sync with each other. That was particularly true when they were infants. But I do know that studies show kids adapt pretty well to daycare; no doubt part of the disjointedness I felt was just a disruption of our routine.

I remember being a latchkey kid off and on. Having my Mom around felt much better. I just think kids need a full-time parent, if possible. Of course, they need a whole lot of other things, too, yet not having a “perfect home” doesn’t prevent them from growing up healthy and happy. Parenting requires compromises from day one; none of us can do everything right.

If I’d worked hard to get to a prestigious place in my career, was successful, and there was no way on earth I could do it other than full-time, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t envy women who face that choice. You can’t make yourself miserable in order to raise your kids, it doesn’t work.

Most of the SAHMs I know have something else going on, too. My “career” is extremely flexible, and it isn’t that big a deal to me. I’m still able to do little art fairs, which I enjoy greatly. The MOMA isn’t exactly banging my door down - I’m a better mom than artist, better at parenting than I was at any other job.

OTOH, people who’ve never been a SAHM have no idea how much work it is. Raising children is not the same as being a babysitter. It’s more like running a whole school from your house, everything from teacher to nurse to bus driver to janitor. Depending on the day, you may or may not get a potty break. I’m grateful to be in this role, but it’s a ton of (extremely gratifying) work.

I’m a hard core feminist who bought the latest issue of Ms. yesterday and who’s been working for my living since I was 16. Still, I, too, have nothing but respect for stay at home Moms. I’m not sure how good at it I’d be, but it’s every bit as reasonable a choice as going back to work if not more so, depending on each person’s circumstances. I think the contempt goes to the people like my own U.S. Senator, Rick Santorum, who think all mothers should be SAHMs. You don’t sound like one of them.

Good luck!

In my gut, I believe this, too. But my head tells me it’s not always true. If, as a mother, you would be miserable and feel unfulfilled staying home and taking care of the kids all day, no doubt you and the kids will be better off if you work outside of the home, even if it’s only a little something part-time.

I also think that the technology age makes it easier for SAHMs to connect with other grown-ups. I know that, for me, with my hubby working out of town at least half of the week, I’d go nuts if I couldn’t interact with other adults online. I adore my five-year-old daughter, really, but I like humor that’s above the level of knock-knock jokes that involve the word ‘poop’.

Absolutely, norinew (hi!) - that old saying “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Women can’t sacrifice themselves.

I was more like Siege growing up, never thought I’d be a mom. Period. Had no respect for the domestic arts (I still can’t cook - I realized I left “cafeteria” out of my job description, but feeding them is one of my main tasks).

Since embarking on this mothering journey, I feel more and more that we’re guided and driven by our biology. Women mothering small children need a village - whether electronic or IRL. And in a village, women wouldn’t theoretically need to all be the same. I could be in charge of fun & games, someone else could feed the little buggers, and the women with business acumen could manage the whole enterprise. Makes a lot more sense than expecting each of us to wear every hat.

Jealousy, pure and simple.

I can’t see why anyone could think that in your situation it would be better for you to be at work. Once you become a parent your primary responsibility is to provide your kids with food, clothing, and shelter and make sure that they are being raised to be responsible adults. If those things are taken care of, then I think you’re free to do whatever you want to do. If your kids are properly cared for and you go to work every day, fine. If you prefer to stay at home and care for your kids, and you can afford to, fine.

I would have given my eye teeth to be a stay-at-home mom when my kids were young, but I had to return to work after only 6 weeks. I had no benefits, no sick leave, and no pay when I was off, and we were living paycheck to paycheck back then. If you’re smart and lucky enough that you can stay home with your kids, and that’s what you want to do, then go right ahead and ignore anyone that tries to tell you it’s wrong.

Some good comments have been made. I’m quite lucky, I think, in that I live in an area where being a SAHM is still considered a perfectly good thing to do. I have actually never had anyone ask me (except online) what I do all day, or treat me with thinly veiled contempt. There are many other moms and dads to meet up with and so on.

My point of wonder is–how the heck do two-income families hold everything together? I think I would find it absolutely exhausting! Being home, I do get to relax and have more of a social life than my husband, but I also work at least as hard and am often frazzled or overwhelmed with all the stuff there is to do in a day. How do you squeeze all that home-running and stuff into weekends and evenings? When do working moms ever relax or get to have a hobby? Do they ever get to go to the gym?

One thing I really like about SAHMing is that there is a lot of room for doing your own thing. It’s the most self-motivated job around. You can watch TV all day (depressing) if you want, but you can also get involved in all kinds of different things and set the focus of your family–on music, outdoorsiness, whatever. So I know moms who volunteer on model farms and do folk art, or who spend lots of time doing sports with their kids, or reading to their kids all the time…there are a lot of ways to do your own thing.

I think that the vitriol against SAHMs comes from a lot of things. I also think a lot of it is media-generated (maybe that’s because I live in a bubble?); I don’t know a whole lot of people who sit around criticizing one or the other. But there is a perception that SAHMing is ‘lazy’ (ha! you try it then!), and that only uneducated women who don’t have other opportunities do it (ha! again). Partly it may be guilt; working moms, I have often heard, have so much to do and feel pulled in both directions, as if they can never give enough attention to either work or family. I don’t mean that working moms should feel guilty; but I think some do and react defensively to SAHMs, whose choices may seem to reproach them. (Rather like the way people react to me when they ask where my kid goes to school and I tell them we homeschool; I don’t tell them they should do it too, but they often feel the need to explain why they can’t homeschool themselves, as if they think I’ve made a more heroic choice and they are inadequate somehow. I don’t care if their kids go to school–this isn’t for everyone–but I always get that reaction anyway. Did that make sense?)

Our society is really pretty awful when it comes to attitudes about moms. You can’t win. Moms should devote all their time to their kids’ well-being, but also have a career and be personally fulfilled. If they put their kids in day-care, they’re callous; if they stay home, they’re over-protective. The house should be clean all the time and a dirty house is a reflection of Mom’s character, but housework is kind of demeaning. Anything that goes wrong is blamed on the moms. The amount of guilt heaped upon all of our heads is disgusting. No wonder we fight about it and become isolated instead of working together as we should, like in fessie’s village.

I sayed home following the second child. I enjoyed my job and had not planned to be a SAHM, but events conspired to make it so.

When the first child was in daycare, I began to feel a little resentful that she was spending the bulk of her awake hours with other people. I only got her for a few hours in the evening and on weekends and those hours were busy with dinner and routine household stuff. I enjoyed her, and that didn’t seem like enough for me. When the second child came, he arrived with some unexpected and serious medical problems so the decision to stay home was made for us.

There are benfits and drawbacks to both positions.

The loss of half our income was an unpleasant hit. There is often (IMHO) little respect or value for SAHM’s, and I wind up being everyone elses “emergency” solution to child care problems (if I allow it). It is often dull.

On the other hand, I do have a luxury that working mom’s don’t have much of…spare time. So I do those extra cookie-baking, home-made meal, school volunteer, etc. types of things that many don’t have time for.

For us it was the right thing to do although we do miss having the extra money. I have tried several ‘work-at-home’ schemes that haven’t worked out all that well.

BTW, I do have a job, but am only required to work four days a month. I try to pick up extra shifts when I can but I guess I’m technically not a full-time SAHM even though I’m here almost all the time.

Absolutely. But I was one of the mothers who couldn’t handle it. I stayed home with my first one for almost four years. I went back to work the same week that I found out I was pregnant with my second one, and only took a couple of months off for him before going back. It also didn’t help that we had moved against my will when my oldest was only a year old so I was terribly isolated and dealing with abuse from the (now ex-) husband. I plunged so deeply into PPD that sometimes I’m amazed that I made it out. Going back to work was a major part of my recovery.

And I regret that for my son’s sake. That poor kid was stuck home alone with a mother who wasn’t quite incompetent, but who certainly wasn’t the person that I was while raising my second son. I feel that he missed out on a lot of socialization at an early age that being in a daycare would have given him. I just wasn’t capable of providing that.

So yeah, I do regret it, but I don’t begrudge any other women that choice if that’s what works for them. It just didn’t work for me.

I think this discussion/argument is the “next step” in feminism: we’ve proven our right to and worth in the office, now we need to get it into the general consciousness that both working outside the home and working inside the home have value, and that the true freedom and feminism is being able to choose what works for us and our families – without contempt from other parties (jealousy I can understand).

We don’t have kids yet, but I’ve known since before we were even engaged that, most likely, I would have to be the breadwinner. My husband works in theatre and would probably have the schedule and income (or lack thereof) so that it would make sense for him to stay home. I feel blessed that he doesn’t see this as an affront to his manhood or something, and that we live in a time where that is a viable option.

But as we get closer and closer to having kids, I find myself wishing for more flexibility – that I won’t have to be the breadwinner, that I might be able to quit work or go work somewhere part-time. And, luckily, Mr. Gazer is changing careers, and I might actually be able to do this!

I think that, for me, I’ll go a little nuts if I don’t work at all. My current hope is to go work part-time at a yarn store or something once we have kids, even if that only covers the cost of childcare while I’m at work – I’ll need the social interaction and an identity apart from my children. But I think I would still consider myself a SAHM then, just with a part-time job.

Of course, this all may change once we actually have kids – we’ll have to see where we are then, and what works for us. And isn’t it great that that’s an option!

I was fortunate enough to have the option of being a SAHM for 10 years. I married quite young, finished college, and held a job for 5 years first. We did a lot of travelling, going out a lot, furnishing the house, saving, basic DINK lifestyle. After the kids were here, we almost never took a vacation unless it was really cheap, and going out to dinner was a rare luxury. Cost saving measures were really in effect. I used cloth diapers that I washed in hot water, soap and bleach, and hung them out on the clothesline to dry. I made baby food. I baked our own bread and sewed our own curtains. It was nice. After a while, I also got involved in some community activites, which turned into 9 years on my local school board. By the end of this time, we were pretty much broke, and the household appliances ALL needed replacement. Despite the school board, PTA, Mensa and other things, I really was antsy to be out of the house and welcomed returning to the work force. But I never, ever, regretted being home for those 10 years.

Once, at someone’s party, a very stuffy and self-important person asked me what I did. I claimed to be a Domestic Engineer. “Really?” “Oh, yes,” I insisted. “I run an 8-room facility.” I claimed to have one part-time assistant and two junior engineers just starting out. Played him along for quite a while. Don’t know if he ever realized what I was really saying.

bolding mine.

I’m a guy, but just the part I bolded would be enough justification for me to work from home. If your home business generates more than you were making on salary, why would you work at an office.

This is long - so try to bear with me -

I have had a hard time with this choice – and I know I am not the only one. I was brought up to never be “dependent” and for me, being a SAHM meant dependency on my husband. When our daughter was first born I had to stay home because I had been laid off after I told my boss that I was pregnant. Obviously being preggers did not make it easy to find work (mat leave is a year here). So I went on EI and stayed home. The first year was really rough, but I think that was a combination of financial problems, normal first year problems and not having a choice. I went back to work last October. It was fine but it really used to irk me when Darby would come home with painted toenails (I was supposed to be the one to do that) or after the first time swimming (I was supposed to do that). Plain old jealousy - of my babysitter.
Then, in August, my boss came to me and explained that although I would only be getting paid for forty hours (salaried) she would require 55 hours a week minimum (two evenings a week, every other weekend and the entire last week of the month). I realized that if I stayed I would never see my child. It made my choice easy. I quit.
Now that I am at home I love it. I clean house, make wonderful suppers and am currently renovating the house a little. Above all, I am enjoying my daughter. My husband makes enough that it is not a problem to stay home. I am going to start freelance writing and maybe even actually finish a novel!
Choice is the difference. I think that is what feminism was all about anyway, having the choice to work or not. People get angry when they don’t have a choice and feel forced into anything, either work or staying at home.
Here is a poem I wrote about it–

Modern Woman

I am a modern woman.
I am educated, assertive and focused.
Don’t look at me with pity and condescending stares and ask me how
I can be at home all day, everyday with my child.
After all, don’t I miss work?
Don’t I miss the feelings of strength, power, independence and ambition?

I can only smile and know a secret you may never know.
I feel strength when I hold my baby and stop her tears and fear with only my presence.
I feel power when my body alone creates her nourishment.
I feel independence when I am separated from the pursuit of corporate success and gossip.
I feel ambition when I help prepare my child for life.

I am a modern woman.
I have made the choice to have a family.
I am not trapped, nor do I regret or miss the deadlines and meetings. I awake everyday to the sound of my child’s cooing and chatter.
I meet her first sight gummy grins with my own wide smiles.
I enjoy the quiet time cuddling her as she nurses, her hand resting on my breast.
I stroke her soft hair and hold her fingers rather than a phone or a cup of coffee.
I sing songs and play games to bring the giggles to her sweet face.
I marvel at her rosy cheeks and know my true purpose in this life.

I am a modern woman.
I am strong, powerful, independent and ambitious.
I am a modern woman, and I am a mother.

Sorry for the looooong post. I never realized I was so long winded!

While 10 years in a career is nothing to laugh about it is only less than half-way to retirement; which means that, given that I am reasonably smart (if I may say so) and that I knew my stuff, I was on the way to a “brilliant future”, or something. Although my new venture pays quite well (minus perks and health insurance) it means that my knowledge of my previous profession is getting rusty. Furthermore, as I age it is going to be even harder to land a job, especially since a two-year hiatus in my curriculum will not help. This may be an irreversible step.

But… I make more money than I did, have a super-flexible schedule and have the cutest boss. :smiley: