Being A SAHM Is Just As Tedious As Working Outside The Home So Stop Romanticizing It

175969560Obligations suck – bottom line. Whether your obligation is work or kids – it’s an obligation nonetheless. If you think it’s so much better to be at home with kids all day than to work outside the home, you may be right if you had a full time nanny. If you don’t – it’s just a suckfest in its own way.

When I say things like this it sound like I hate kids. I don’t hate kids. I love kids very much, especially my own. But raising them is work. Now, maybe you are one of those people who is totally selfless and thinks that raising children is your dharma and good for you. But many of us realize that the day-to-day is as tedious as any other job, even though we are serving little beings that we love more than life itself.

I saw a post on Reddit today, by a working mom who laments that she cannot afford to stay at home with her kids. She reached out to Reddit to help her come to terms with her situation:

My fiance and I have a 2.5 year old son and we both work outside of the home full time. My fiance is 100% satisfied with working, in fact he needs it. Its good for him. I, on the other hand, absolutely hate working. There is nothing I want more than to stay at home with our child, cook, clean, do the shopping, schedule play dates and go on outings. The fact that I have to wake up every day to go to work seriously depresses me to the point where I literally feel sick to my stomach about it on the drive there. Unfortunately, we can’t afford for me not to work, especially since we are planning on moving in a few months to a more expensive place. I basically don’t have a choice.

Frankly, parenting is a little more enjoyable when you get momentary breaks from it. Maybe the reason she thinks she would be so over-the-moon with staying home with her kids all day is because she isn’t doing it right now. I know when I was still working outside the home after the birth of my first child, I hated to leave him; for about 15 minutes. Then the separation anxiety would pass, and I would enjoy being in the adult world, having adult conversations, doing things that didn’t involve children.

Basically what I’m saying is – adulthood sucks. Obligations are everywhere and swapping one obligation for another – even if it involves the things you love most in the world – may not end up being the dream you think it is.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • jane

    Eh, I think that the problem is that there’s really no one size fits all model. Yes, sometimes going to my job sucks. But I would take it any day over the suck that comes from stay at home parenting. Other people would take the suck that comes from stay at home parenting over the suck that comes from a job. Of course staying home isn’t all crafts and rainbows and playdates, but some people like that stuff a lot more than I do, so it would overall be way more gratifying for them to stay home. I don’t think it’s romanticizing staying home any more than someone who works in corporate who would genuinely be happier working for a nonprofit. Yes, they might have an idealized version of what life is going to be like, but if nonprofit more aligns with your values and interests, then that’s fine for them.

    The most important thing, though, is that wanting to stay home and have playdates and do crafts and such just doesn’t make someone a better mother than a woman who does want to go to work. It’s not a zero sum game.

    • Lilly

      yes, this x100. I think I would probably throttle my kid if I had to stay with him 24/7, I need work for the mental challenges it brings.

      It also annoys me to no end when there are certain people in my life who don’t understand why both my husband and I work. I get a lot of comments about how since we both have good stable jobs one (the implication is always me as the female) should quit and stay home. That we can adjust our finances to make it work, it isn’t the money for us and they can’t seem to understand this.

    • ted3553

      I love my job and love my little guy. I talked about it when people asked about mat leave. I truly think I’m a better mom when I get a break. Big ups to stay at home moms but it’s not for me. I don’t know why anyone would think someone is wrong for doing what works for them

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Whichever you have, you generally long for the other, I think….When we first got married we had a baby right away and I was finishing up college. So I was a stay at home mom for nearly a year until the schoolyear began again and I got my first teaching gig. We were completely broke and it was soooo hard (it might be fun if you were rich and could travel around with kids or something). I was so excited to have a job and dress up and visit with real grown ups that could talk. So I guess teaching is a good job because I do get a few months a year to be a stay at home mom….and I can tell you, on a permanent basis, stay at home mom is not for me. I’m not patient enough. I’m loving this whole snow day thing I’ve got going on right now! I’ve noticed that I’m super excited about work and dressing up and seeing people at the beginning of the year, but by February, I’m over it. I think we always assume that the other person is doing it better, having more fun, more patient with their kids, able to juggle things better…. Grass is greener.

    • jane

      As a fellow teacher, I can agree that being a SAHM during the summer, awesome. Staying home when it’s 25 degrees, grey, and no snow to play in? Not awesome.

    • Maria Guido

      Yup – the grass is always greener, for sure. I just think it’s easy to forget what is tedious about both jobs when you are doing one or the other.

    • StarHopper

      Yes! I teach, and extended breaks always make me realize that I am NOT cut out for stay-at-home momming.

  • keelhaulrose

    I’m a SAHM who misses working. I can’t wait until my children are both in school full-time so I can get out and do something that’s not the same-old-same-old.
    But I can only speak for myself. Everyone is different, there is no ‘better’ because what works for me doesn’t work for the next mom.

  • SA

    I think that typically parents that dream of being a SAHM are like me. They feel like they are missing out on such a huge part of their children’s life. I hate the fact that I am always exhausted when I see my child and then my days off with her have to be spent running errands & cleaning. If we have family in town or go visit friends I feel like I have lost another weekend of my time with her. I know I would probably go insane being at home 24/7, but I think I will always hate the fact that I only got 8 weeks to spend with her and besides yearly vacations, it is just nights & weekends now.

  • airbones

    I spend most of my time being a WAHM and agree with the author that being in the adult world not talking about children is a nice respite from being at home with kids. Actually, for me it is an absolute sanity saver. Both “jobs” are equally tedious, though, and I can honestly say I do not think one has an advantage over the other.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I also work at home and would go insanely crazy if I didn’t have something to keep myself occupied. I am not being snarky, but I have genuinely wondered if some SAHMs truly enjoy that type of routine or are just putting on a good front for friends and family on social media?

    • MerlePerle

      My best friend has been home with her baby for a year now. She went straight from school to working 12hrs a day and supporting her boyfriend while he finished school. She knows she won’t stay home forever but really enjoys the time off from having to be somewhere everyday and just chilling with her baby. I think it’s like that for many. If you’ve worked for years, staying at home with a baby is a welcome change for while.

    • Ava

      I am PhD turned stay at home mom with my 4 year old, 2 year old and almost born #3. I will admit I have my moments of missing work, especially since I love what I do (did?). But knowing that this is temporary and that I will work again helps a lot. Yes, there are days when the routine is MUDANE and the kids are sick (like now) and we seem to be endlessly in survival mode. On these days I watch my husband leave for work with my face pressed against the glass!! But overall, there is a satisfaction in knowing that I am here for the kids now while they are little. Everyone says how quickly this early childhood phase passes (and i am already seeing it with my 4 year old! How is he 4???), so I figure I will be able to look back on this time and focus on the fond memories of being with them rather than the tedious memories of the 4pm whine fests while I am trying to prep dinner!

    • Bethany Ramos

      This is all good to know – thanks for the responses!

    • Aimee Ogden

      I know a few PhD’s who are home with the kids now – good TT academia jobs are soooo hard to come by now that it just makes sense to stay home for a lot of people; and not missing out on all those firsts (and lasts!) is a huge deal too.

    • CW

      I used to work as a nanny back in my late teens and early twenties, so yeah, I truly DO enjoy being around little kids. If nannying offered better pay and health insurance, I never would’ve left it for the miserable corporate jobs I held after I graduated college.

    • noelle 02

      I homeschool my three kids now and never have any issue with staying occupied! However, I remember when #1 was three and #2 one. We had a very detailed routine that got us out of the house every day so none of us got bored. You know, groceries Mon, library Tues, park Wed, gymnastics Thurs, and mall for lunch Fri. I loved it and miss those days of simplicity. Now, I fight to stay home long enough to make certain schoolwork is done and Pre-Algebra totally understood.

    • airbones

      No snark intended here either. My mom was a SAHM for our early years, and then my dad spent some time being a SAHD after having a freak heart attack when he was 40 (he hated not working though, much like me) and I have great respect for them both and other SAH parents. In a perfect world and If I were a better person I think I could be a SAHM, but I am competitive and restless and need to excel at a career. Plus, my husband is a business owner, so even if I didn’t want to work I still would just for financial stability. I don’t always enjoy having a never ending to do list, but I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t work, since my domestic to do list is usually under control before 10 a.m. Maybe I would finally learn Spanish.

    • Mims

      i truly enjoy it!!

    • Abbe

      I feel like all I ever do is clean and make food. Definitely get tired of that routine.

    • Maria Guido

      I work from home, too. I do miss the time away with other adults around for sure!

    • airbones

      It’s actually really nice to hear this from other WAHMs! I don’t know any others in the real world.

  • aCongaLine

    For me, the hard part of staying home is the change that it’s had on my marriage. We used to be professional equals, but now that I’m not working outside the home, and Hubs is the only one bringing home the paychecks, we’ve found ourselves at odds with each other. We can’t afford to send our littles to daycare- it’s not in the budget, even if I was to go back to work. It’s a rough season in our lives. We have different expectations of each other, and our expectations don’t necessarily align with our realities, and it makes for some tension. I dream of the day that I go back to work, so that perhaps the tension in my marriage will diminish… though, I dread it, too, because I’d genuinely miss my kids, so, personally, I’d have a tough time.

    I think it’s a give and take type thing. No situation is perfect- but the grass is greener where you fertilize it.

    • Frances Locke

      I can totally relate to this. The power dynamic definitely changed when I was out of work and staying home. Even now, since my schedule is more flexible and I make less money, I get the feeling that my husband feels like this gives me an out when it comes to cleaning up after himself or pitching in around the house.

    • aCongaLine

      I’m so glad that I’m not alone in feeling like this. It’s such a strange thing, and it’s definitely made me doubt myself.

    • Abbe

      I agree. I feel like I need to ask permission to purchase things, basic things, because I’m not making the money.
      The reality is, even if I could work right now my take home pay after putting three kids in daycare would be so ridiculously small it wouldn’t be worth it.
      I love being home but I don’t like the feeling of being codependent or being 100% responsible for house maintenance.

    • aCongaLine

      It’s a weird 1950s time warp- and it doesn’t sit well with me at all. It has to be done, so it’ll be done, and I love hanging out with my kiddos. It’s just that no one tells you about the shift in the marriage. It’s taken me by surprise.

    • Natasha B

      This was a biiiig deal and change in dynamic when I became a SAHM. The first year was rough, and it has gotten soooo much better since then. I don’t have any ‘advice’, just communication. It’s def a hard shift in dynamic though.

  • etbmm

    I don’t know… I am not the reddit poster, but I relate 100% to her feelings. And I don’t think I romanticize being a SAHM. I fully recognize that there are HUGE benefits to working outside the home, and if I were to give them up I would miss them a ton. That doesn’t mean I want the benefits of working outside the home “more than to stay at home with [my] child, cook, clean, do the shopping, schedule play dates and go on outings.” After all, I still have to cook, clean, do the shopping and go on outings regardless of whether I am a WOHM or SAHM. I wish wish wish I could at least be getting more time with my kid while he’s little than I do, and not have that come at the expense of the slightest bit of me-time, couple-time or family-time.

    • Lee

      ” . . .and not have that come at the expense of the slightest bit of me-time, couple-time or family-time”

      This so much!

  • EnglishSarah

    Am I allowed to love being a SAHM? All the time? Even when the child is being three? I don’t long to go back to work, I’m looking after my son and I love it. Why do I always feel like this is something I shouldn’t be allowed to feel, why can’t I feel thrilled everyday that I stay with my child and I’m shaping the man I hope him to be? Do we always have to be striving for something else? I’m happy, it’s not tedious…. it’s my life. Soon my life will be different as he starts school and I will work and life will change but mostly I hope to remain happy.

    • Natasha B

      You are :) SAHM to 3 going on 4 kiddos, ages 9,4,18mos and due in June. And I do, actually, love it. I worked full time when oldest was a baby, and while I enjoyed the fast pace and high pressure in my job, I hated the whirlwind of life with her, and the fact that even when I was ‘off’ work, I was still reachable and expected to be in touch.
      There are dreary, boring moments, yes. But the good generally outweighs the drear.

    • ZomboGil

      It’s refreshing and lovely to hear you say that. There’s no shame in loving what you do, whether it’s a job outside the home or taking care of your family full time.

    • noelle 02

      I’m with you. I never question my decision to stay home with my kids. Only bad part of being a SAHM is being constantly available to my mother! A job where she would know I couldn’t be interrupted sounds like heaven somedays.

    • whiteroses

      You can feel thrilled about it, and since you’re doing it then it’s a good thing that you are. But other people don’t necessarily feel that way.
      The “grass is always greener” attitude will always lead to disappointments, because it’s a fantasy. A fantasy unfulfilled will always be amazing because it’s never had to be tested by real life.

    • Kay_Sue

      I am a working mom turned stay at home mom this year, and I could have written this (right down to the being three part). I hope you remain happy too. So far, I’m enjoying this gig myself. ;)

    • K.

      Of course! Why would anyone think it’s a good thing for a child to be raised in a household with an unhappy mother?

      Incidentally, that’s why I work OUTSIDE the home–because that’s what makes me happy.

  • Margie

    I just went back to work after being home full time for 4 years. I was really excited to go back, especially since it was part time so I could be with the kids some of the time and it was doing something I loved. Two weeks later, I realize what a pain in the ass it is drive 2 kids to 2 different day cares 36 km apart, plus dropping off the dog with the sitter. It takes 1 hr 20 min from the time I leave the house to when I get to work. Then I pack up 5-6 hours later and do it again. It’s exhausting, but I think going back to work saved my sanity.

  • Lee

    I used to dream about being at SAHM until a really bad 3 day weekend. I adjusted my dream to be working part time. Still have income coming, get out of the house, have more time with the boy, more time to get shit done, and maybe even see my husband more than 6 hours a week. That would be the life. Unfortunately it isn’t in the cards at the moment.

  • CW

    I’ve done both, and no question, I enjoy being a SAHM a MILLION times better than being an employed mom. Are there tedious parts? Sure. But I was downright miserable in the corporate rat race and missing out on my oldest’s toddlerhood. Frankly, I would advise the mom in question to stay in her tiny apartment and make whatever other sacrifices necessary if that meant she could be home with her son while he’s small.

  • Aimee Ogden

    I just let my work know today that I wouldn’t be coming back after leave … it was a really hard choice that I wasn’t going to be totally happy with either way, but that’s real life. I think it’ll be easier maintaining breastfeeding for twins, and not having to shove them into outfits and out the door to daycare in the mornings; but I’ll miss my cool job and great coworkers. :( It’s a tradeoff either way but c’est la vie, right? It would be boring if life were all easy choices.

    Now back to sniffing around for freelance work so momma can still buy wine …

  • Remember Me, or else!

    We need to have a battle royale between the SAHMs, WAHMs and HAHMs

  • Mims

    I love being a SAHM. I think I’ve never been happier. I feel like my home is stable and whole when I’m home. I think the reddit poster was correct to think that going to work sucks vs staying home with your kids. It does. We live on a serious budget and take advantage of federal benefits, because frankly, that’s what you have to do in the US to be able to have more than a measly 6-12 weeks with your loved one.

  • Frances Locke

    Does anyone else get the impression that the Reddit lady might just really hate her job. I felt that way too, when my oldest was a baby, but the feeling was definitely tempered once I landed a job I actually enjoyed and felt fulfilled at. I might be totally off base, but I wonder if having a job she loves would make a difference.

    • JessK

      Yes! I definitely think you’re on track here – that’s the impression I got too!

    • Guest

      Very true. I have found when I was at a horrible job I dreamed of getting away anyway anyhow. Anything would seem amazing compared to going to a place you hate to do something you hate every day.

    • CW

      I don’t know too many people who love their jobs, especially in this economy where companies overwork and underpay…

  • pineapplegrasss

    I’ve done both. Back and forth. I always try to stay home for the first year at least. I think its nicer to stay home when you have some money to get out of the house. It truly sucked the years when I was broke. I’ve been back working for a about a yr and a half this time and am so tired all of the time. And all the prep work and logistics of packing up babies and toddlers and schoolage kids and finding childcare etc, it’s become a bit too much, and so tiring and stressful that when the workdays all said and done, I don’t feel like there’s much of anything left of me for the kids. Once I get to work, works not so bad, I like the job and the people fair enough. But, I do really wish I was home. 4 more weeks til my next maternity leave. Sounds almost like I’m having another baby to avoid work lol

  • ShanLea

    My situation is an odd one-I am a stay-at-home single mom. Long story short, if I was to go to work, all the money I could make would go to daycare. (The kids and I get social security benefits due to my husband’s passing, and they limit the amount you can make before they cut your amount) My attitude changes from day to day. Some days I love the fact that I can be with my little one, and available for the older one in case of days off school or illness or whatever. Other days, I miss adult company, I can only clean my house and do laundry so many times in a week, and with the cold weather and lack of indoor kids entertainment in our small town we get cabin fever pretty easily. There’s always going to be pros and cons of either, so my own personal mantra is “it is what it is right now, but that’s not how it will always be”

    • Tinyfaeri

      I’m sorry for your loss, and you have a very good attitude.

    • ShanLea

      Thank you. I try to keep positive about it all, but then I have those days where little man ends up eating goldfish crackers for breakfast, because I’m just tired of arguing!

    • Tinyfaeri

      *Everyone* has those days. Well, no, sometimes it’s lunch, not breakfast. Or dinner. :)

    • pineapplegrasss

      and sometimes I let my little guy pick all the m&m’s out of the trail mix :)

  • jendra_berri

    I’m on the last month of my maternity leave. My son is now 10 months old and soon I’ll be working again, my son will be in daycare and I’ll have to readjust…
    I know a few things about staying at home:
    1. The best days are the ones when you can get out and do things, where naps happen often and long enough, and you can talk to other people.
    2. I get days like the above maybe once a week.
    3. I am a shit homemaker. I take care of the baby, not the house. Why? Because all my downtime is spent charging my batteries for round two.
    4. I’m totally not meant for this SAHM thing, yet I feel conflicted about resuming my job. I’m sure it’ll pass; I’m just facing change.
    5. For those with the talent for homemaking, I can see the appeal. The good days are great. If I was skilled enough/organized enough/more energetic/less lazy, I’d have more of them.
    6. Love mat leave or hate it, it’s still an excellent opportunity and I’m grateful I had the choice.

  • K.

    This was a fine enough column, except for this Reddit excerpt:

    “Unfortunately, we can’t afford for me not to work, especially since we are planning on moving in a few months to a more expensive place. I basically don’t have a choice.”

    …Come again??

    Did this Reddit woman just say her family is moving into a more expensive place and in the same breath say that she doesn’t have choices? And fine–yes, I get that in the realm of infinite possibilities, she could presumably HAVE to move into a more expensive place, but I’m going to bet that this is an elective move…and I would bet that if she is moving to a more expensive place, that a less expensive place is an option as well, which, if she chose it, would allow her to stay home.

    Stay at home, work–I don’t think that either choice is superior; the choice alone is superior, and it really bothers me when people fail to see that privilege.

    • AP

      She might not have the choice, though, especially if she lives in an urban area or is smushing in an apartment. She might be choosing between a safe neighborhood and an unsafe one, or be admitting that no, “the baby” is outgrowing his bed and they finally need a two-bedroom apartment. Or perhaps their landlord doesn’t raise the rate on existing tenants as much as market rate drives up the price of newly listed places.

    • Kat

      Well, that’s true, but K did say she realized this. I don’t, however, think that the good neighborhood / bad neighborhood thing is an argument. That’s still a choice, not an obligation.

    • K.

      Right–I’m sure that there are scenarios in which it’s *possible* that there is absolutely no other choice, but in my experience when people who have economic flexibility (which is required if you’re going to move at all) say things like, ‘I have not choice!!’ what they really mean is ‘I can’t have everything I want and have to choose between things I don’t like!’

      So case in point–the idea that the family “couldn’t” live in a one-bedroom apartment is a falsehood–that IS a choice. I have friends who have made that EXACT choice in order to stay in certain neighborhoods within Brooklyn–one with TWO kids. It’s just not an *ideal* choice. This mother, if she were deciding between bad/good neighborhood, could still make the choice to live in a ‘bad’ neighborhood and stay at home. There are, mind you, plenty of parents who live in ‘bad’ neighborhoods and would LOVE to stay home in order to ensure the safety of their children, but can’t.

      The people who truly have NO choice are people who don’t talk about moving and certainly don’t talk about moving upscale–they don’t have the economic flexibility to do so.

  • val97

    I’ve done both, and there are ups and downs on each side. I loved staying home with my kids when they were younger. Most of the time, I felt incredibly lucky. But the author is right – it can be tedious, boring, gross. Sometimes you just want someone else to change a diaper.

    In the end, the need to have my own paycheck kind of outweighed everything. I think I have deeply rooted issues with money and security – I never really allowed myself to even think that I was a SAHM. In my head, I was just taking a little break.

  • Andrew Cole

    I don’t understand people who say they can’t afford not to work when they have kids. Who the fuck is watching your kids? I don’t know about you, but we can’t afford a nanny, even if I worked, and daycare you can actually trust is expensive as hell.

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