Thursday, October 15, 2009

The SAHM and Why I Can't Be One

They're all over Blogger: stay-at-home moms who love to cook, clean, knit, pray, etc and blog about their precious toddler's bowel movements. And the thing is they seem to be fulfilled. I'm thinking they were the little girls who could not wait to become a mommy someday. The ones who had no qualms about dropping everything to raise a family and maintain a semi-orderly household. The ones with a running list of baby names and a collection of meatloaf recipes.

That, my friends, is so not moi.

Now I'm not knocking that life choice, but I must also admit that I don't understand it one bit. When I read or hear about their life I think to myself, "But don't you want something more? Something...for you? What happens when the kids grow up and leave? Oh let me guess: grandchildren."

My mom became a SAHM after my sister was born and I really wish she hadn't. I appreciate the sacrifices she made to make sure we had what we needed around the house, but it made me realize that I want more for myself than the routine she chose. I wish she still had that passion she must have had when she first came to the States and managed to work and get around the city without knowing the language. In a way, it feels like family life came along and she just settled into it without pursuing any other interests she might have had. And when your whole life is centered around your children, letting them spread their wings and fly can be a bit...tough.

I don't want to settle and I sure don't want to put my life on the back burner for my children. Yes, I will still love and support them, but how can I encourage them to pursue their dreams if I don't go for mine? I want a change of scenery, talk to adults, challenge my mind, miss my kids and have them miss me. If I become a cooped up mom, I'd just turn into an unsatisfied ticking time bomb. Like my dad says, "First me, second me, third me and then you. If I'm not ok, then how can I help you?"

I've got things to do in this life and marriage and children are definitely a part of it, but not all. Lord knows I'm not paying back these student loans to do nothing but raise kids and bake bread all day. And if this economy doesn't pick up soon, everyone in my household is going to need to bring home some bacon. The kids can sell their artwork on eBay.



  1. I definitely hear what you're saying. Its so good to have your own goals and dreams. Me, I'm split because I do want kids and to spend a lot of time with them. At the same time, I want a promotion and to be successful in my career. I want both! If that's even a possibility. Definitely don't lose sight of your goals, I've seen women excell as mothers and career women.
    I gave you an award on my blog, btw!

  2. I have seen a lot of the transformation in the "what is possible" for women over four plus decades.

    It would be too glib to say, "You've come a long way, baby" like the old Virginia Slims ads used to say, but the truth is - the options facing women today are nearly infinite. To decide what and how and when to go whichever way you want to go - must be nearly paralysing to those that give it much thought (like you do)...

    It's hard to put a bit of trust yourself - when you see how life takes it own crazy twists and turns and leaves you wondering if you are indeed in control of your own fate. I don't know how to do that myself. I only know that you are talented, bright, and charming; and that you could do well in all those dazzling options in front of you.

  3. I am a bit torn. On one hand, I was never the career-type woman. I would be happy to be a SAHM if my husband brought home enough bacon. But on another hand, I also like to have a balance. Like you said, to do something for myself and also for the family. After all, I didn't get my masters degree for nothing either.

    On ANOTHER hand, I've been told that having a child changes EVERYTHING. It really puts things into perspective and the job that you think is so important may just not be anymore. And all you want to do is spend time with your child and watch him/her grow.

  4. Yeah, I think it takes a special spirit to be able to stay at home and put their dreams on hold for their children. It's not for everyone, me included. I love my child, but I'd probably go crazy being at home all day long. Don't get me wrong, I do occasionally think about how lucky those women (and men!) who get to stay at home. I think I'd be able to do it part time...that would be the perfect balance. :)

  5. Sugarlens hit the nail on the head - having a child changes everything.

    I have worked since I was 12 (no pay) and 13 (with pay) years old. I've always enjoyed working. I love the thrill of bringing home money I earned. I love the idea that I was helpful, that I accomplished something that day. I certainly thought I'd always be "a worker" and no matter how big the changes in life came at me (aka husband and kids), that'd still be ME. ME and MY goals.

    It's funny how, once that first baby comes along, you feel a great need to be there for the house/home you've created and that baby. Marriage becomes a team effort and while it might feel less fulfilling to only do work inside the house, I get a great sense of accomplishment of keeping clean clothes on my kids' backs, their rooms in a way they can enjoy them, and food on the table for all the people who are growing and learning in my home.

    Adult interaction is a necessity, and growing as an individual is still pertinent. But HOW you grow might change its course a bit. You might still love the path you were on, and as Date Girl says, plenty of women are able to manage both a successful home AND a career. But for others, the priority changes and the job just begins to a job. The dynamics of the job also play a HUGE part. Some companies really strive to encourage women to split time. Others do not. Some companies find people expendible at the drop of a hat and the job you slaved at for 5-10 years suddenly decides you're "part of the cut" when they trim fat. That instantly makes you rethink how important a job is for a company that doesn't find "you" important, but only their bottom line.

    This is very rambling, I am aware. While I work outside the home and would certainly never end up being a "knitting nanny" at home, even if I STAYED at home....the idea of being at home instead of in a job has become more appealing as the years stretch on. For ten hours a day, my boys are being raised by "teachers" at their school. I see them awake, Monday through Friday, for 3-4 hours. That ratio pulls at my heart every single day.

    I certainly think my feelings could be (not would be, but COULD be) different if I was in a career that I truly enjoyed. But then again....who knows. I have known women who truly enjoyed their careers, stopped working to stay at home, and love every single minute of it. It's all a guessing game, in my opinion. :)

  6. lol...amazing I just had a similar post about the debate...crazy...that it is I wrote SAHM status was one more out of necessity than desire..*okay there was both*...I definitely don't plan on being a SAHM forever...but until the day comes where I don't have to shell out 800 a month in daycare..and my husband doesn't have to go fight a I am....but I do love it....never thought I'd be one to say it...but I do!

  7. Wow, all I can say is that I don't have any children and I assume that when I do I will continue to work at least part time. But who knows, only time will tell.

    There is no shame in staying home and taking care of a family. Many women stay home for a while and when their children are old enough they go back to work. It's all about where your passion is.

    My mother always worked, she did it because she had to help pay the bills, but I know for a fact that she would have loved to stay home with me and watch after me.

    Looking back I remember my mother as a hardworking woman but at the end of the day my real memories of her are about how much she loved me and all the support she gave me. Not of how she had a job.

  8. I think you see so many SAHM mom's blogging because it is hard at times and we do miss some of the other things. So we blog to make connections, to realize we are not the only ones and just to make friends.

  9. I really think I was ment to come to your blog today! WOW... I just started back to work this week. For me- I always knew I would go back to work not because I really wanted to but because I had to. (DANG $$) I always thought I would be fine with it and it would be pretty easy. OKAY NO. I had horrible anxiety attacks for the 2 weeks before I went back. This last week has been extremely hard. Knowing my baby is being cared for by someone else. Someone that is not her Mom. I have struggled so much thinking to myself- I just abandoned my baby! Last night I watched Dr. Phil (yeah i know :) and it was about this same topic. Today I read your blog. Its really helped me realize there is more out there and its okay for me to continue with my career and my dreams and I shouldnt feel guilty that I need to work to care for my child. I loved being home with her but I did go a little nuts because I have to always be doing something. Moving- getting out. Really- your house can only get soo clean and you can only make sooo many cakes and cookies :) I loved where you said you wished your mom was not a SAHM- It made me realize my baby will be okay and I am her Mom. She is away from me for a little bit and with me A LOT. I love that and I love your post! Thanks girlie. I have missed your blog. So glad im back in the working grove...

  10. I never ever thought that I would stay home with my kids, but that was before I had kids. I was rising through the ranks of corporate marketing and I had just gotten my MBA in an evening program that my company had paid for when I was expecting my first baby.

    Once those pregnancy hormones started kicking in, working seemed much less important. I stayed home with my kids for 10 years before starting my own business and having my own identity again. Believe me, I never thought I'd stay at home for more than a year, but then came baby number 2, and they really do grow up so quickly. I guess my point is never say never, because it's hard to predict the effect that motherhood will have on you.

  11. First off, I'm really loving the input from BOTH sides. I know there are pros and cons to both and when my turn comes I'm going to need to find some balance. Or maybe I'll completely change my mind on the matter. Who knows? The good thing is we get a choice and it's personal for everyone.

    date girl, I wonder how many women stay at home because of guilt? Are moms who dedicate all their time to their children better moms than those who have a career? I hope we both find a way to do what makes us happy while giving our children the best we can do for them. Though I think parenting is a learn-while-you're-on-the-job type of thing. You do what you can and pray you don't mess up the kids too badly.

    And thanks for the award!

    intense guy, and isn't it lovely? That we're no longer expected to choose one over the other. And that both men and women are expected to put time and effort into raising a family, not just the women. Both can opt to raise the kids and both can opt to follow their career goals. At the same time, having choices can make things a bit confusing/difficult. Now that you have different options before you, how do you know which one leads to the best outcome?

    sugarlens, I've heard the same countless times over. A coworker went on maternity leave earlier this year...and then decided to not come back and stay home with the baby instead. I'm sure it's hard to let go in the beginning. You probably want to protect this new being from anything and everything. You want to watch every little breath it takes, hold it, cradle it, etc. I'm not necessarily talking about taking a break in the beginning. I'm talking about focusing on family and home for 10+ years.

    Like I said, maybe it'll change for me once I'm in that position myself. I know I grew up saying, "I'm never cooking or cleaning for NO man!" and yet I loved making Mr. First's bed and folding his laundry before traveling back home so he'd find it made once he got home from work. I understand that you want to do little things like that when you care about the other person. I'm just trying to understand what makes a person become so selfless and so full of love that they're happy doing nothing but such acts.

    I'm really eager to read/see how your world changes once you meet your little baby!

  12. allyson, part-time I could probably handle. To know there was some sort of escape from work AND from home. But I'm sure that desire to do both is better accomplished depending on the career chosen. I mean I'm sure teachers with their paid vacations, convenient school hours allows for more time with your own children. I'm just baffled by any mom lawyers/surgeons out there who manage to make it work somehow!!

    Also, if I stayed home all day, I'd probably become so unproductive and gradually fall into a major rut.

    tooj, maybe it's because I didn't really start working til I was in college then? I love earning a paycheck and fending for myself. I love that I don't need to depend on anyone to get food in my mouth and clothes on my back. I love the independence that comes from accomplishing a tough assignment and contributing to society (yes, apart from raising upstanding citizens). And maybe that's at the root of it all: my fear of becoming dependent on someone else and not contributing to my own retirement fund. God forbid something happens down the line. I can't go ask my well-raised children to support me in my old days. And then that would lead to trust. Trust that what my husband brings home is for both and will continue to be for both til death do us part.

    Also, I know that my own experiences have shaped my views. My own mom was ALWAYS home. ALWAYS. And I know that my siblings and I have taken her for granted. She is always around and it's made her moody and always ready to nag and snap at us. I know it's just her personality and she'd probably be this way no matter what, but I want my kids to fend for themselves a bit. As much as I'll love them, I can see how having it too easy all the time can be a detriment.

    Luckily, I'm in a career that can provide some leniency in terms of scheduling. I could always freelance and write during spare moments if I chose to spend more time at home.

    There are a couple moms around work and I often overhear their frantic phone calls when a family member forgets to pick their child up from school. Or when the kid needs to get picked up early. Or just listening to them juggle it all and it sounds so unbelievably stressful! I know you've been in that position before so I'm always in awe that you guys can pull it off. More so by single working parents who rely on friends and family to pitch in.

    But apparently it can be done.

    lesley, yup, cost and convenience are two more factors to consider. Either stay home and save yourself the expense of child care while cutting down the household earned income OR earn more money for the extra costs.

    heidi, yeah I agree passion plays a big part and regardless of what you choose to do it should be something that brings you joy. Perhaps some of us are preprogrammed to be better caretakers, to have more patience, to give off that motherly vibe. I totally get that from you. Shoot, you've been practicing with your dog all this time!

    And I love mami, as tough as she may be, but I just get this feeling that she's just not happy there with us and I'm scared of becoming that way 30 years from now.

    emmy, I get it. It's your way of reaching out. I think this just made me wonder about it and ask myself some questions about what I'd want once children came into the picture. I love that blogging has become an outlet that brings together all these different life choices and thoughts to the table.

  13. kendra, oh good luck getting back into the working world! How'd your first week go? I hope it wasn't too rough.

    And I feel you. Times are TOUGH! It's just me and the dog right now and it's still not easy. Imagine with a family on top of that. Maybe if I found a well-paid husband I could take it a bit easy.

    And hellooo! You did not abandon your baby. Think about the countless kids out there whose parent work and they turned out just fine. It does suck that even though we might have different options to choose from, sometimes those choices are made for us depending on the circumstances.

    Maybe that's the key. Those who are happy chillin at home CHOSE to do so and are perfectly content with their decision because they weren't forced into it. And those who are unhappy saying goodbye to the kiddies every day are unsatisfied with how they spend their 9-5s.

    Tina T, oh wow, thanks so much for sharing this. I guess those hormones do kick that nesting instinct into high gear. Did you completely drop what you used to do or did you ease into SAHM status? I'm curious to know just how easy it is to switch from one frame of mind to the other once you bring a child into the world. Is it something inside you that just shifts?

    I also wonder, if men could have babies, would they be just as willing to drop their previous lifestyle and stay home with their child?

  14. I think the hardest thing for a lot of women to deal with is that no matter which you choose-- SAHM, working mom, working non-mom-- someone is going to slam your choices. Someone is going to try to convince you that you are failing society/your family/yourself/the world. We may have made a lot of progress in terms of what choices are open to women, but I don't think we've come as far in being content to let them make those choices.

  15. same here. i'm so domestically challenged its not even funny. my mom (who's very traditional) used to say that my husband will return me to them because i can't cook or sew. haha. and truth be told, i've been working with kids for 7 yrs now and i don't even know if i want children of my own. maybe that will change in the future, but for now i'm loving my independence and solitude too much.

  16. Loved this topic and your take on it because I felt the EXACT same way BEFORE I had my son. I didn't have ANY maternal instinct at all and wasn't around kids much. Then I gave birth....and the sense of responsibility and a real chance to raise an individual to be better than myself hit me hard! If I could stay at home, I WOULD! But I do agree that I would need to still fulfill my dreams and goals at the same time. Doing so, also sets an example for your kids not to "settle" on only one thing in life. I am working towards being a WAHM and being able to do both in a fabulous way.
    Thanks for opening this up for discussion.

  17. My mom was a SAHM, until my brother and I were grown up enough to care for ourselves for a few hours in the afternoon. Then she got herself a job just so she could be out of the house every now and again.

  18. Well written post!

    Putting yourself first is important. Going for your dreams, doing the things that make you happy and achieving the goals you set for yourself are keys to being fulfilled. Your kids will benefit from seeing their mom be a go getter.

    BUT......balance is also an important component of happiness.

    Some of these SAHMs you describe may have been just like you. If fact we know quite a few who swore when they had kids they would continue to work, etc. But once they had their kids they didn't want to leave them. A complete 180!! It surprised us at first, but after happening over and over we thought it must be legit.

    But there is a balance somewhere in that new paradigm.

    Thanks for visiting us. Hope we see you around!

  19. I LOVE your attitude. I felt the same way growing up, seeing my mom stay at home to raise me and my brother without ever really pursuing any interests of her own. I knew it's not what I want. I really can't tell you how nice it is to see a mom who clearly wants to be more than just a mom, who wants to be her own person too. I so appreciate that.

    Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

    (I love your blog and will be back!)

  20. I watched Revolutionary Road this week and it reminded me ALOT about this blog... go check it out.

  21. Thank you!! Thank you!! Sometimes I feel a bit alone on SITS with all the SAHMs. I often joke that I'd love to be a stay-at-home-wife, not working could obviously be quite fun, but I have no desire to be a SAHM. A lot of women I know who are SAHM's claim they chose to stay at home - but really, they all detested their jobs and a baby gave them an excuse to stop working. I don't know anyone who has liked their job who chooses to stay at home. And I don't like this idea that our children are going to be awful b.c. I wasn't there... wasn't there to watch them play while I blog? I've been a nanny before (during summers in college) - and I in no way felt I was replacing the parents or that the children were worse off because I made their meals and drove them to activities. I don't want to spend 24-7 with my husband (or my sister, or anyone) and I don't want to with my future kids either. I get very bothered by women who choose one identity - mother - and that takes precedent over all other identities, including being a sexual being, a woman, a wife, a friend, a child, a sister, an employee... There was a SAHM blog where the woman talked about how she thought it was selfish to spend time putting on makeup when that is 30 minutes she should be spending with her kid. WTF?! How unhealthy for a child to have their family revolve around them. I'm an advocate of family focused (not child focused) parenting - and that includes having interests and obligations (including work) outside of the children.

    Enjoy your SITS day!!

  22. I think it is great that you have your own goals in life and know what is right for you. However, please do not assume that just because stays at home with their child, that they do not have dreams or aspirations or can be compared to the funny cartoons posted with your article. I was a later first time mom at almost 38 (did not meet Mr. Right until later in life). I had the career and a six figure salary, master's degree, my own house, etc...for 15 years AFTER college. I supported myself this entire time with no help from any man or person. Well, you can't always keep a high pressure job that requires long hours and lots of travel when your husband has a similar schedule. It only made sense for one of us to quit and stay home or to I suppose hire a fully time nanny. That was not something I wanted to do as when you have to wait as long as I did to marry and have a kid, certain priorities have more weight. Please lose the attitude toward us out is very insulting.


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