Tell Me About Being A Stay-at-Home Parent

Welcome to yet another ‘‘1,001 possible permutations of olives’ future’’ thread. The topic of the day is parenthood.

My husband and I are both really anxious to have kids. We have agreed to adopt, and though we haven’t quite worked out the details yet, we’re looking into adopting through the foster system which may involve becoming parents of a child or children who need a high degree of support, patience, and time. We feel we will be able to handle children with psychological problems or special needs due to abusive or neglectful backgrounds. I say ‘‘child or children’’ because many kids in the system have siblings and have been separated for quite some time. We feel it is best for siblings to live together. So adopting a younger child together with an older sibling is not out of the question.

Currently we are both students, so this is hypothetical at present. I’m graduating next year with an M.S.W. and he will have another three years to go (the third year being a paid internship but not enough to support a family) for his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. We’ve considered something like the Fost-Adopt program or looking into adoption subsidy to supplement his paltry income during internship year, but we still have a lot to work out financially before we move forward.

Anyway, whether we start the process in one year or three, it became apparent that given the range of issues any incoming kid might have, someone is probably going to need to be a full-time parent for at least a while. Despite our leeriness of falling into traditional gender role attitudes, I volunteered for this.

What a weird leap that was for me. I’ve always been a very career-oriented person. I had never even considered it until it fell out of my mouth during last week’s conversation, and I realize that is how badly I want to have kids. There is only so much you can think about only yourself and your identity and your needs and your wants before it gets tiresome. We have so much love in this house, it seems like we are just aching to expand the capacity of that love. It almost seems like a waste for us to have so much love and not share it with kids who really need it.

But I admit I have a very one-dimensional viewpoint of what it means to be a SAHM. I picture someone doing nothing all day but cooking and cleaning, socially isolated, disengaged from current events and the world at large, that old 1950s archetype of an unhappy, oppressed woman. I realize this is patently ridiculous, as some of the most happy and fulfilled people I have met were/are stay at home mothers, but I really don’t have anything concrete to replace the stereotype with.

So I ask anyone with this experience, particularly those who perceived themselves as career-driven before taking the plunge, what’s it like? Did you find a way to make time for yourself? Did you lose your sense of identity? Did you enjoy it? Was it worth it?

Also, have you ever had to defend your decision not to work to family members, friends or random people off the street? Did it affect the way you were treated by others?

Did it change your marriage?

I’m looking for any and all experiences, good or bad. I just want to get a feel for what it’s really like.

With Utmost Gratitude as Always,


I was not a career-minded woman, but I chose to stay home with the kids. It was the best decision of my life. Yes, I lost my identity for a while, but I got into play groups where I could be a person, and not just “Mommy”. When they reached age 3-4, I put them in preschool/daycare for a few hours a week, so I could volunteer and really be a PERSON. That was a life saver for me!!! Once the kids started 1st grade (all day schooling), I looked for part time work.

I also did a bit of freelance desktop publishing from home during the baby years. I got no grief from anybody about my decision. Infact, some people said I was so lucky to “be able” to do this. What I told them in reply, was that lucky had nothing to do with it. It was a decision that my husband and I made together. I CHOSE this job, and I helped form my kids into responsible caring young adults, and I wouldn’t change a single second of it. it IS a job, an endless job that doesn’t always give you instant rewards…but when they come, they just melt your heart.

I am on month 9 of being a SAHM and it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but you really have to make an effort to get out. I am not the Mommy group type of person but if you are then there are lots of groups you can join.

I have been doing some freelance work on the side to keep myself sane and I go out with friends.

Housework is a real grind for me so I really need to work myself up to do that, but I love to cook, so I have been keeping busy trying out new recipes and experimenting with food.

It is easy to get into a slump so I really have to work to keep myself busy.

So far there has been no problem with my marriage, but there are times when my husband works a few 12 hour days in a row. After day 3 or so, I start to feel like a single parent and I start to get a bit resentful. I wont lie, there has been days when I want to yell at my husband and scream that he has had to give up nothing and I have lost everything about my life. Then once I have a break, and calm down I realize that there is give and take to everything. Husband gets to have a life outside of home, and speak with adults all day, but he misses out on being with the baby. The baby is in the clinging to Mom stage, and I can see that it hurts husband when he is holding the baby and she starts screaming and grabbing for me.

We don’t see as many shows as we used to, but we have some great friends who love to look after the baby. So with a good support system it can be a great thing.

PS: One of my favourite parts is not having to leave the house if it is cold or raining:p

First, if I had to describe parenthood with one word, to try to convey to people what it’s really like, I’d choose “relentless.” Because yeah, there is unspeakable love, but everyone expects that. People even expect hard work, sorting out discipline, how to teach the birds & the bees, and lots of other aspects of parenting, but IME, few people can grasp how overwhelming the constant responsibility is. For me, it is without question worth it, but it can be really hard not to have any time be my own.

Now, it gets easier as they get older, but with young children (and perhaps with special needs kids too), it can be very intense.

I worked as a lawyer for five years, but did not feel happy doing it. I have stayed home with kids for almost seven years, and I find my investment of effort and time to be well repaid. I do need to do some non-mom stuff to keep my intellectual side from going crazy - I do volunteer work and I hang out on the Dope!

Oh, and cooking and cleaning all day - don’t worry, you won’t have time to do that stuff. :wink:

The hardest thing about being an at home parent is you work your tail off all day, feel exhausted, and have “nothing” to show for it. All of your work product is intangible or consumable, or just plain gets undone again in record time. It’s also really hard to adjust from work, where you have your to-do list and can invest concentration in each item and tic it off, to home with kids, where you are constantly interrupted and have to stop and go do something else.

Right now I’m pulling my hair out with my 2yo. She is into everything, and when she’s not destroying property she’s doing things that endanger herself and others. Yesterday I went to the toilet for less than 2 minutes, and I came out to the kitchen to find she’d done this. I LOVE her to pieces though, and I’m letting all other obligations fall by the wayside when she’s awake, because she really does seem to need all my attention right now. It won’t last forever.

I hope that is somewhat coherent. I would be happy to continue a dialog on this and answer specific questions.

(P.S. - I never realized you and I have the same name!)

Ooohhh, that was painful to see.

I would imagine parenthood is particularly difficult for people who like things to be ordered and neat and manageable at all times.

Probably the best description of parenting I have ever heard is that the days are slow, but the years are fast.

Don’t you just feel like some days will never end? But does any parent look back and NOT wonder where the time has gone?

I was just looking at old pictures and musing over how what an adorable little kid my daughter was, and realized that now (at 10) she’s more pretty than cute :frowning: When did that happen?

For us, it’s quite a different scenario. I work full time and hubby is a SAHD. He gets one of two reactions: immediate respect for doing it or, “Why aren’t you working?” I get, “What? He can’t work to support you?” When we had our second child, we were both working: I was a permanent employee with benefits and everything, and he was a temp. His income would pay for child care. So we decided, financially, that I would keep my job and work some OT when I could, and he would stay home.

It can be challenging, especially trying to budget and get everything done on one income. He does so much more work than I do and doesn’t get paid for it. Both of our children having special needs adds to the fun: he spends a lot of time on homework with one, and we spend a good bit of money on the other for her medical needs. We both have to ride herd on her to keep her blood glucose under control, make sure she gives herself insulin before eating, etc. Hubby also has his mom to take care of, which adds an additional challenge. When they were younger, there were no playgroups that would accept a man coming in, so we did everything ourselves.

He has told me, despite all this, that he loves it. He especially loves the dress code. :slight_smile: I love my children, but he has so much more patience than I do, and I can’t see giving up my job to stay at home. So we’re both doing what we should be doing. I’m a neat freak, but I had to learn to let some things slide. When I come home at night, it’s my time with the kids, so I don’t care if the house is neat. I’d rather be with them. That was probably the hardest part of the whole thing for me.

I think being a neat freak would be really hard with kids. So is not wanting to be an utter slob if that’s your inclination, but you want your kids to, you know, not die of some horrible food-found-on-floor illness.
Unauthorized, I’m sorry about the wallpaper. And I’m glad that the worst things Gnat’s doing right now are eating mud and ignoring us when we talk to him.
And yeah, relentless is a very good description. Amazing, but there are a lot of boring or frustrating moments or hours. Thankfully, kids are always, always changing. Anything you royally hate they’ll probably grow out of, although maybe not fast enough.

And I have a special needs toddler (also diabetes) and a newborn. All spelling errors and grammar problems are to be attributed to this.

Juliana, thanks for sharing your perspective. I’d certainly be interested in hearing from SAHDs too.

It cetainly taught my sister in law about priorities and tolerance, and to accept (as much as she can and wants to) what she can’t change.

Are you interested only in voluntary SAHMs, or involuntary ones as well? My mother never wanted to be a “housewife”, but she couldn’t get a job from about two years before I was born. She uses lines like “housework makes me feel like the house is falling on me”…

I’m interested in anyone’s experiences, though, from what you’ve posted about your mother, I probably would take her assessment with an economy-sized chunk of salt.

I’m going to speak for my wife, who did it and has never regretted it. Our youngest is just about to graduate from college, so this is in the past a bit. We also had the kids five years apart (to not have to pay for two college tuitions) so she had to handle one at a time.

First, it is relentless but kids also sleep, and they do get older. Things pass.
Second, having a new baby is not a time to be fanatical about housework. The world will not end if the toilet doesn’t get cleaned until the weekend when your husband can do it.
Third, get adult company as soon as feasible. When we moved when my oldest daughter was about a year and a half, my wife got into a play group. Not only did she meet people, my daughter made friends who lasted for years. The playgroup for the youngest was even better. In the beginning the kids played more or less by themselves, but they soon played together. Our town had a lot of SAHMs.
Fourth, baby sitters are well worth the money.

The biggest plus of staying at home is education. In the beginning it is just speaking to the baby which helps development, but it becomes teaching math, cooking, reading, and lots of other ways of passing your knowledge on. My wife got this from her mother also, and our girls got it from my wife.
I’m not a super big fan of home schooling, but home parenting, yes.

BTW, a lot of our kids friends were adopted. The first set were from Korea, and they turned out great. The second set were from Colombia, and some of them had problems in their teenage years, despite having the most loving parents ever.
The third set were from Native American parents, and they pretty much universally had issues from bad early lives and a bad pre-natal environment. Again it wasn’t the parenting. Staying home with an adopted kid might be even more important, since you might be able to detect issues long before daycare would.

And it doesn’t last forever. Before you know it the kids will be in school. My wife started to write, and was able to ramp up as she got more time.

I have considered free-lance writing to supplement our income. Writing has always been a major passion of mine and one of my greatest talents, so maybe it would be a good opportunity for me to put that skill to work.

After I had my first child I returned to work full time and I found it very stressful. The baby cried when I left him at day-care. I worried about him. I missed his first step. But mostly it was trying to find time for everything. Finish work, rush to pick up the baby, go to the grocery store with cranky baby in tow, start dinner, etc. I felt like I was always rushing around, and not able to enjoy my baby.

When the second was born we agreed that it made sense for me to stay home. It was so much better. I had time for reading to them, going to the park, leisurely meals, trips to the library, etc. Then came a third and fourth baby. The youngest is 6 now and in Kindergarten, the oldest is 12 and in middle school. I’m still staying at home, but I’m think of going back to work part time, although this is not a great time to be looking for a job, especially when I haven’t worked for 10 years. But I still like being at home. I like that if a child is sick, it’s no big deal for them to stay home that day. I like being able to participate at their schools, in spring carnivals and helping to plan movie nights. I like having the time for my own friendships and interests.

I stayed home for 9 months with my first child. It is not for me. I can’t deal with the relentlessness of it. I also took a 6 month leave with my second child, which I loved. It was nice to stay home with my baby for a few months while knowing that I had something to go back to.

I’m in a pretty good place parenting-wise right now. I’m in grad school, so my hours are flexible. I spend less time than the average grad student on school work, so I’ll take a little longer to complete my program, but the end is in sight and I’ll be able to find a good (enough) job. So, I drop the kids off at school/daycare around 9:30 and pick them up around 5:00. That’s not so much time in daycare that I feel like I’ve abandoned them there, but I get plenty of time to do my own stuff. It’s a good balance. I’m a little bummed about having to work full time next year! But personally, I would be very reluctant to be a SAHM.

It’s startling to me how maligned the role of SAHM has become.

A good SAHM is a
nurse practitioner
activities director
perhaps seamstress
perhaps spiritual guide
field trip organizer and leader
behavior modification specialist
library resource person
physical education instructor

And a lot of other things which don’t come immediately to mind.

It’s a guarantee that not only will it be an enormous learning experience for you, but if done dilligently can prepare your children for lives which are useful and meaningful.

As much as our budget would allow I was a stay at home mom during the early formative years. Later in their teens I once terminated a job to guide them through a rough patch.

Because of my choices I never reached the level I had aspired to in my chosen field. In the long run having my children living fairly normal lives and knowing that they have the support of their parents has become more satisfying than financial and professional achievement would have been I am guessing.

And, of course, there are some women who seem to have both.

I’m a SAHM for my daughter, who’ll be two in June. We decided I’d stay home when I was about 6 months pregnant. I was in NO way career minded and my salary would have been eaten up in childcare. I love it and have never seriously regretted it. We’re planning to get pregnant again next year and would like to foster someday.

Relentless is a good word for it. There is no “time off.” Life with a toddler is different then with an older child, of course, but I imagine you get the same feeling. I’m an introvert and not particularly social with strangers, but I’ve had to change that being home. I STRONGLY recommended joining playgroups, sports, classes etc. Interaction with other grown ups is essential. All day with a kid and talking to no one but your husband and maybe the mail man is maddening. We go to a playgroup once a week, hit the park and I meet up with another nearby mom with a similarly aged daughter. We’re starting mommy and me preschool in the fall.

It has changed my marriage a bit, but for the better. It helped us define our roles. I shop, cook, do laundry and the majority of childcare. He handles the finances, cleans the living areas and, you know, makes money :wink: It works really well for us. When he’s home he helps me with the Gothlette and is great at giving me a break on weekends. She loves her Daddy and they have a great relationship.

Probably my biggest complaint is that you can feel tied to the child and I get a sense of guilt if I want to do anything for myself. It’s entirely in my head, of course, but there it is. Last Sunday we were throwing a party and I was busy cooking and getting stuff set up. My girl was a wreck, trying to physically push me out of the kitchen and get my attention. Her dad was playing with her and trying to keep her entertained, but dammit she was used to having Mama around and she wanted MAMA! I imagine that can happen with working parents, too, of course.

I really commend you for looking into foster/adoption. My husband’s grandmother did it for years and we hope to look into it once our bio kid(s) are older.

I was working construction and really loving it when I got pregnant with Bella. She was a surprise, I was single but my boyfriend and I were madly in love so we decided to make ourselves a family.
At the time I wasn’t poor, but I wasn’t making great money. Thing is, I LOVED it. I was the only woman working for the company so it seemed like I was always the center of attention…and I learned so much! It was fun hanging out with the guys all day. I had to quit because we worked with a lot of chemicals and solvents, plus I did a lot on tall ladders. Not good for a mama-to-be. I’d planned to go back to work soon after she was born, but she was not an easy baby. I figured after she turned a year old I’d go back. Money got tighter but we learned to make do. She still wasn’t talking and had a lot of anxiety and hyperactivity at three so I thought, just a while longer.

Then we started going through diagnosis process with her. At first everyone said “autism” but with three different types of therapy after a year or so her dx changed to a language disorder with sensory processing issues. Five years later I’m still saying “maybe just a while longer”. But honestly I love it. I love being the one that gets things done around here, I love having time to make decent meals and add to the therapy my daughter still needs. She’s in special ed. pre-school now but summer vacation is in two weeks. Maybe next school year I’ll look into a part-time job but as long as we make enough to pay the bills with just one of us working I will always be there for my daughter when she comes home. I wish I could have done the same for my oldest daughter, who, by the way is the one person who gives me hell about staying home. Mostly because she thinks we need to be bringing in more money. She’s right, but really it wouldn’t be that much more after day care, gas, lunches and other convenience foods I always picked up when I worked full-time.

I feel like my she has lost some respect for me. She makes cracks about me being the housewife a lot. It bugs me but I guess she isn’t old enough to understand. She might be a tiny bit jealous too. With her I was a single parent who worked one and sometimes two jobs. Back then I had family who stepped in and helped out, but most of them are gone now.

It’s been fine for me and Mig, but our entire relationship has had me here just about. We were only a couple for a few months before I got pregnant. He’s a pretty traditional guy but he wouldn’t mind at all if I worked. He’s happy for me to be home too though. He claims it makes him feel like he can take care of his family. I think that’s a little cheezy but it’s okay.

Money is tight, but we learn to make do. I don’t get out much but I don’t LIKE to get out much. On therapy days I gossip with the other moms and dads while we sit in the waiting room. I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted but I like being at home a LOT. I have old friends who make time for me, but I’m the only one of them who stays at home with a child. I do feel kind of lonely sometimes but I think it’s been worth it.

I’ve found that there are two kinds of women is this world- those that can stay home with kids, and those that can’t. You just have to figure out which kind you are.

Relentless, terrifying, also wonderful. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with gratitude that I’ve been able to stay home with our girls–those years are just gone now but I was there for them, so totally worth it. Also it’s been hard work and often very frustrating–I think I’ve grown a lot in patience. Still pretty selfish though…

OK, so I’m a librarian, always planned to stay home for at least a while. At first I figured I’d go back once both kids were in school all day, but then I got hooked on this homeschooling thing, so now it’s pretty up in the air. That’s OK.

What I like about staying home is that it’s the most self-directed job in existence. As long as you cover the basics like food and shelter, you can focus your life wherever you want–music, athletics, books, DIY, green living, whatever. Housework comes about 40th down the list, so my house is always on the edge of wrecked (see prior SDMB Slob Reform threads), but as long as your family is happy, functioning, and comfortable and no one is tempted to call CPS, it’s all good.

What I would really like to do that I don’t get to do is go out to lunch with friends. But these days that’s a function of homeschooling (I can do it on Saturdays or go out evenings, but weekday lunch is out). Otherwise, I can do pretty much what I want as long as I can fit it in.

I don’t know that it’s changed our marriage much. We got married at 22 and I have never been on a ‘full-time career’ path like he has–I worked, he put me through grad school, I worked some more but was still in the substitute librarian realm when I got pregnant with DangerGirl, so I was never in the position of having a permanent full-time position in my field that I had to leave. We are equal partners, and his paycheck is ours–he’s never tried to exert power based on money, and I have almost never earned as much as he has (hm, librarian vs. software engineer–never gonna happen).

I think I’ll list what some of my various SAH friends specialize in besides childcare (and often homeschooling), so that you have an idea of what people do. Some of these people are men.

Eco-mommy, running small organic backyard farm (in LA!)
Dance, theater (manage shows, teach dance)
Textile artist (edgy variety), member of art collective with shows and etc.
Specialist in non-violent communication
Several nurses
Mad Photoshop skillz
Master gardener (in Las Vegas!!)
Re-enactment, sewing antique-style clothing
PTA president/school volunteery stuff
Marathon runners
Music–in local musical productions, learning dulcimer and tin whistle
Really yummy homemade food everything, plus telecommuting to job at mortgage co.
5-acre farm with organic egg delivery business, etc.
Clothing design–selling patterns (also, goats)
Livestock of various types
Cake decoration
Website editing
Quilter, running after-school crafty fun programs
And me: sewing and embroidery of all kinds
And of course, many of us like to read and have various self-education endeavors.
I can’t think of anything else right now, but that’s a pretty good variety for you. :slight_smile: