• Fri, Nov 9 2012

SAHM No More: I Don’t Envy Stay-At-Home Parents As Much As I Suspected

stay at home mom vs working momSAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

Lately, it’s been feeling like I’m crawling toward the weekends. By the end of the week, after five straight days of waking up early to walk the dog, making school lunches, getting the kids to school on time, rushing off to work, rushing home from work, picking up the kids, making dinner, supervising homework, forcing showers on grubby, unwilling children, and then getting them into bed, the weekends always come as a huge relief. A relief, but not exactly a time of rest. This is because a good deal of my job is dependent on me going out and doing and seeing things that are happening around my city. So, I wind up going out to concerts and readings and new restaurants and bars. All of which are great things to do, but don’t exactly contribute to relaxation or, frankly, my mental health.

What I’m trying to say is that the state of my undereye circles is not good. And sometimes, when I am hustling my younger son to school and see other moms in their yoga gear or I run into them at a local cafe as I grab a cup of coffee to take on my morning commute while they settle in to a good conversation with a friend, I get a little wistful. Is wistful the right word? Is it more like flat-out jealousy? At times, it’s kind of felt like that.

The whole “grass is greener” mentality isn’t groundbreaking, but my feelings were only made clearer to me by a conversation that I recently had with a friend who is a stay-at-home mother. This conversation followed a long period of time when we just hadn’t had the opportunity to see each other. We had made plans here and there, for lunch or coffee, but the plans had been broken after I had to take care of stuff at work. I had always apologized profusely and we had finally managed to reschedule, but we hadn’t had any face-to-face communication in a while.

But still I was surprised when she flat out asked me, “Are you sure that you’re not bored of me?”

I immediately assured her that, of course, I wasn’t bored of her. I tried to explain that I envied that she had more time to do things for herself and that it might sound like I was doing exciting things but that, really, I was just the same old person. How could I be bored of something that had been remarkably similar to my old life?

You can reach this post's author, Kristin Iversen, on twitter.
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  • CW

    Well, to be honest, I get bored hearing endlessly about office politics from my friends who are employed FT. Sure, I can sympathize because I remember what it was like from my years in the corporate rat race but if you’re going to be criticizing people for droning on and on about a topic, then the career-obsessed are just as guilty as the kid-obsessed.

    • Beth

      I don’t think she is criticizing SAHM’s. I think she is saying that she has a new sense of appreciation for her own working mom status after struggling with feelings of jealousy of SAHM’s once she returned to work. Conversations with her SAHM friend just helped put things into perspective for her. I didn’t see this as a slam on her friend, but rather an awakening for herself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.bregel Sarah Bregel

    this piece totally sums up why i started working more from home more than i once was. i think that’s the biggest challenge about staying at home, focusing on why you are doing it, how your kids are benefiting from it bc it can be so monotonous and exhausting, the same as going to an office everyday. no matter what we chose to do, finding a balance between your needs as a person and how much your kids need you is SO hard. we have to try and not lose ourselves. i love what the author is saying here and how that’s an important message to show to her kids, that she is capable of great things.

  • http://twitter.com/DuchessCadbury The Right Honourable

    Since I’m not a SAHM (or a mom for that matter) I have a serious question for those that are: Once your kids are in school full-time, what do you do? My Granny was a SAHM, but my grandfather worked from home and by the time their youngest child went to high school, he was retired. The times I stayed with Granny during the day (sick, skipping) she’d just sit around, talk on the phone, watch tv, do some puzzles and I thought that was the most mind numbing existence…it was from watching her that I said to myself that I’d never be a SAHM because I just couldn’t do nothing when everyone else in the house was doing something. I don’t mean it as an insult, but I just wonder what goes on during the day when the kids are older.

    • kw

      Volunteer!! Recently returned to WOH full-time after being a SAHM for many years, and I find that what I miss is all of my volunteer work. I’m still a GS leader but I can’t put the kind of hours into it that I used to, or help at the school, or go help a friend get ready for her fundraiser garage sale, or be on the PTA board, etc… I also took care of the errands and chores (other than the ones that my kids were in charge of) so that our nights and weekends were free for activities or relaxing – now those things need to happen on the weekend. Same with socializing – I see my friends WAY less, since nights/weekends are for family and activities, not hanging with your friends. Maybe your grandmother changed her normal schedule to care for you, and on regular days she volunteered at her church or did things with friends? Retired is a little different from SAHM.

    • http://twitter.com/DuchessCadbury The Right Honourable

      Granny was not the volunteering or friendly type. LOL. And she never worked. Now the grandmother that worked…she had a busy schedule. So much so that I was more like her assistant than granddaughter. But I loved them equally for different reasons and wouldn’t change their personalities for the world.

    • Julie

      Yea, it’s obvious you don’t have kids. ;)

      I’m very busy and both my kids are at school. I volunteer. I spend a lot of time in the school volunteering as well. Which benefits EVERYONE’s children. There are a million things for me to be doing. There are constant PD days, summer vacations, early dismissals. I’m certainly not sitting my butt watching The View and eating bon bons. Please. I’m very happy and fulfilled.

      I have a masters in political science. I volunteer for the political campaigns I’m interested in. I get to the gym. It’s never stressful when my kids get sick and need to stay home.

      My life certainly isn’t mind numbing or boring.

      I hate stuff like this. Just say you prefer to be a working mom. Don’t insinuate stay at home mothers are boring or not intellectually stimulated. It’s patronizing and arrogant. And while you’re at your exciting career this stay at home boring mother with a numb mind is spending a few days at week at your kid’s school doing one on one reading with your kid.

    • lee

      sanctimommy alert!

    • Julie

      I didn’t mean to sound sanctimonious. I just get enraged by the insinuation that stay at home parents don’t do anything, aren’t intellectually stimulated and don’t contribute anything of value to the world. I do plenty. Everyone makes the choices that work for them. As long as everyone is happy and looked after it’s all good. I don’t judge working moms so please don’t judge me for staying home.

      I also strongly believe that life is what you make it. You don’t have to be bored staying home. Your life doesn’t have to be 24/7 all kids all the time. Bored people are often boring.

    • http://twitter.com/MissColeman3 Miss Coleman

      How unfair you’re being! The poster you’re responding to was very careful to say that she is not a mother and that she had an honest question. She didn’t imply that YOU aren’t doing anything; she said quite honestly that HER GRANDMOTHER didn’t do anything and that this has colored her idea of what a SAHM is. She was opening herself up to further education and instead of taking the opportunity to teach, you chose to take offense and slam her for daring to ask a question. Do you think this is going to make her more open to the idea? Now that her only models are her grandmother and someone who snapped on her for nothing? Way to go.

    • Julie

      I wasn’t just responding to The Right Honourable. She asked what we do. I answered. I certainly didn’t “snap” pr slam her. When you’re a SAHM of kids in school you get the “what do you do all day” question ALL THE TIME. When someone can’t figure out what on earth you do all day it’s pretty easy to get the impression they figure you must not do much.

      The rest was fairly general comments about the article in general.

      Anyhow, this is my first experience interacting here at Mommyish and I get the sense that’s it’s not for me. It seems quite hostile. So since I’m so horrible I’ll go elsewhere I suppose.

    • http://twitter.com/DuchessCadbury The Right Honourable

      Calm down. And don’t be upset that people ask SAHM what you do all day because we genuinely don’t know. Hence me asking the question. I’m sorry that you’re the only person in the world getting asked the same question repeatedly.

      And yes, my Granny is the only SAHM mother I can fully remember being around. She’s 94 and her other 4 sisters worked. My other grandmother was a school teacher and my mom only took off the first year of my birth and after that she went to being a teacher.

      Until a few weeks ago I was a full time graduate student and people asked me often what I did all day and I never acted like what I did was likened to dying on the cross. What you do is great, but let’s not act like we’re the only ones doing it. It’s the choices that my grandparents and parents made that afforded me the opportunity to pursue my dreams without a financial burden and I can guess so can you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      Is that supposed to cause us to burn with shame; if so, it’s not working. RH asked a valid questions which you really did not answer beyond some volunteering and going to the gym. Yes you did “slam” her, perhaps that was not clear to your self-admited “numb” brain.

      And guess what some SAHMs really do almost nothing. I could give you a giant list of what my mom did when at home, including going back to school evenings to her get her masters, like you, in Poly Sci. My best friend’s mom spend afternoons watching soap operas and never could volunteer at school (like my mom) because she was “too busy.” We both still wonder what she did.

    • Avodah

      It seems like they write nasty comments all day. Question answered, thank you.

    • Justme

      Your last statement of your original response to the OP was totally sanctimonious. God help those poor children whose mother’s work and therefore can’t possibly ever find the time to read to them.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/Y43G2GBLYWFPOIKU76DGRXPOSQ Parvati Lynn

      You do sound sanctimonious and rude. If you don’t like people insinuating that stay at home mothers are boring or not intellectually stimulated – the OP did not insinuate that btw – then it’s pretty rich of you to turn around and insinuate that working parents have kids that need one on one reading time*.

      *at my local school, one on one reading time with the volunteers is for kids who need extra help or are below grade level,that is how Im understanding it here.

    • Julie

      Now you’re reading into what I said. ALL the kids get one on one time through our reading program.

      Working parents = below grade level reading. Ridiculous and not at all what I said.

      Anyhow, I’m done at mommyish. The articles are drivel and it’s quite hostile here. Adios.

    • CW

      You’re assuming that the mom outsources her children’s education. The SAHM’s I know who only have school-aged children all homeschool like me.

    • Sort of SAHM

      I think what a SAHM does varies a lot by individual. Some SAHMs have nannies, some don’t. Some hire housecleaning services, some don’t. It depends on the person, the individual’s level of interest, goals, ambitions, etc. I will say, SAHMs with kids at home all day do have MORE housework. If everyone leaves your house at 7 am, and stays away until 5 pm or later, then no one is there to mess up the house. (i.e. the janitor at your office or your kids’ school is the one responsible for scrubbing the toilets, haha) As for SAHMs with no kids at home, again, it varies. I really don’t like the SAHM label that much because it encompasses so many things. For me, calling myself a SAHM simply means I’m not the primary wage earner because even though I’m “at home” and not a full time employee of another entity, I still cram a lot into the day. I’ve worked at home on part time basis (5-20 hrs a week since my oldest was 3) and now I’m launching my own business, so I work even more than that now, but I’m not at the point of profitability yet. So, am I “working?” I feel I am, even though the financial payoff is in the near future and hasn’t materialized yet. In addition, I’m a competitive athlete (taken up partly to get the most bang for my buck-stay physically fit and also have an “identity” as a SAHM). On top of that we homeschool, we’re not big outsourcers, and that happens to extend over into our kids’ education. Ultimately, I think it varies by individual. I know some people who are employed full time and do nothing above and beyond that. Others spend time in a way I rarely could-socializing just for its’ own sake. While I would love to volunteer to a variety of causes that touch my heart as another commentor does, I simply at the present time can’t find the time to do so. Which is how my entrepreneurial endeavors play into my goals- stimulate myself intellectually and profit so I can $$$ contribute to those causes. Then perhaps in the future volunteer for those causes alongside my kids as a family activity.

      Sorry that was long! In short, I don’t doubt that there are SAHMs who do near nothing all day, but I don’t think that the proportion of those SAHMs who are lazy exceeds or is any different than the general population (people who put in the bare minimum number of hours for their employers by showing up, and then not having much desire or ambition to do anything in their downtime.)

    • http://twitter.com/DuchessCadbury The Right Honourable

      Thanks. I just wanted to know. What kind of athlete are you? I know SAHM are not lazy, I used to be a grad student and I know on the outside it looked like I wasn’t doing much…again, thanks.

  • K.

    A good mom is a happy mom. Some women are happy working FT, some are happy working PT, some are happy as SAHMs.

    We’re all lucky if you are able to choose your happy.

  • Katie

    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://mi.momsprovide.com.

  • Stacy Shain

    I am a SAHM with a three year old and preg with one due in July. I plan on staying with the kids everyday until they go to kindergarten. I have a masters in counseling, and a teaching degree and plan on going to work when they are in school. I cant imagine sitting in the house or not being productive without my kids there. I am very happy being with my son all day, and I don’t want to miss a thing. Since I have a teaching backround I have taught my son things here and there in a fun way, and he is very smart. I enjoy being with him, and being around kids. My choice wouldn’t be good for everyone, that is what makes the world go round, and why everyone should do what works for them, and not judge people.