On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

I struggled for a long time with what I thought being a stay-at-home mom meant.  I visualized a day full of baking, putting together puzzles, reading story after story, and, of course, creating art and making crafts.  As many of you know, I detest baking and abhor having to participate in making arts and crafts.  And, with my recent health problems, floor time is very challenging.

In my mind, this makes me atypical; which, in turn, makes me feel highly uncomfortable with my new profession.

It doesn’t help that I don’t fit into any mold.  We live in an apartment, my husband works two full-time jobs, we have one very old vehicle, and our food budget is meager.  I struggle with chronic anxiety and depression and can barely keep our tiny space from imploding from the chaos of two kids.  Not the suburban bliss most people picture (or at least I pictured) when thinking of moms staying home with their kids.

So, when I hear women saying “I’m not the stay-at-home type” I can relate.  At least if their definition is the same one I’ve always used.

What am I to do?

Change the definition.

As with parenting, there are all sorts of moms who decide to stay-at-home.  I have to believe that not every mother delights in the typical homemaking (a word I really dislike) pursuits.  We all have talents and interests, outside of mothering, that spice up our résumé.

Some of my interests include helping the low income, minority, and mentally ill populations find the healthcare they need, continue on to higher education, and apply for jobs directly related to their individual talents;  fitness and helping women and men find their inner beauty and perfect their own healthy body image; and pursuing life long education by obtaining a masters, followed by Ph.D, in some area of expertise and conducting and publishing research in premier journals.

My talents include reading to and teaching my kids all sorts of things beyond picture books; incorporating exercise–whether it’s walking or aerobics on DVD–into our daily schedule; and managing our finances so we do not go over our budget.

These talents and interests make me, me.  Even if it makes me an untraditional SAHM (another term I dislike).  I’d much rather do what I always wanted to do (stay at home with my kids) my way than stay within some defined boundary and feel miserable by not staying true to myself.

What about you?  (I’m sure you can relate this to your own life and whatever profession you have. You don’t have to be a mom to feel as if you are an outlier.)

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31 Comments

Filed under Reflections

31 responses to “On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

  1. Homemaker makes my blood boil. Seriously. I have many jobs these days, keeping my children alive and growing tops my priorities. But, I am chief cook and bottle washer here. I budget, I fix the house, I clean, I cook, I bake (but only because I enjoy it), I entertain (my kids), I am a laundromat, a counselor, a tutor, support my husband (as he does for me), nurse sick kids, run well kids,…….

    My interests and abilities are many. Not all are up there. I am a mom. I stay home. Both are part of who I am, but neither defines me.

    • admin

      The big reason I wrote this post is for me to explore my feelings. A big factor in my anxiety and depression issues comes from what I think I should do/be rather than changing the role to suit who I am. I also wish to debunk certain myths about what a SAHM (can we come up with a better term, please?) really is–an intelligent woman that chose to stay at home. Please don't let our choice overshadow (or define) who we really are.

  2. For awhile there, I felt so guilty for working full time and being away from my daughter for so long throughout the day that I thought being a SAHM would make me happier. Then I took some time off and stayed home with her during the holidays and it made me realize – nope…that's just not for me. I think I'm a better mom when I'm away for a bit because I feel I'm more patient, forgiving and even fun when I'm not immersed in and consumed by my daughter's needs and wants. Hopefully I'll find a good middle ground because working full time is still not ideal. Wish me luck?

    • admin

      Thank you for commenting, Justine, as I think you offer balance to this perspective. I didn't write this to submit that staying-at-home or working is better, only to inform people that there is no stereotypical stay-at-home mom–just a bunch of mothers who are doing what they think is right for their family and for themselves. As for your position, I believe that you must find that balance yourself while being supported for whatever conclusion you decide on by other mothers (I know I support you!). It really comes down to how can we prioritize our children the best? Ben often compliments working mothers on doing so much for their children while still working. He works for a teacher that has had to take quite a few sick days because her kids were sick and she needed to be with them. As he put it, "She is doing the same thing you (Amber) are but in a different framework." And he is right. That is how I see you, Justine. Being the best mom is hard whether or not you are working or staying-at-home!

  3. I don't think staying at home is anything like anyone pictures it. You get a big old slap in the face when your first is born and you realize the TIME that goes into every day. And then a second comes along and you realize the time and work and stress.

    Some aspects of staying home are hard for me. I worked for 2-ish years before I had kids, and I honestly do miss the adult interaction every day and the feeling of accomplishment when I got projects/meetings done. I also find it hard to get down and play with Camie when she asks me every 10 minutes throughout every day to "come play with me!" I am trying. But man, it's hard to be a stay at home mom.

    • admin

      It's hard because you are balancing your own quirks and raising your children. For instance, I cannot relax if my house is dirty. Really, I CANNOT RELAX. Thus, I have to clean the house if I want to spend anytime with the kids.

      Being a mom, whether you are working or at home, is difficult. It's a matter of figuring out who you are and determining how best to fit that into your new role as mother.

  4. I think we can define what SAHM means to us, and I believe it to be a valuable job. A job of the heart and mind and spirit. But if you check the numbers, they are certainly dwindling.

    Yesterday there was a provocative article that touches on this issue in Politics Daily. I mention it because it applies (not because there were links to some of my posts!). I found the stats referenced to be disheartening, and you will read a variety of conclusions around marriage and parenting that are referenced. Ultimately, I guess we go with what seems the best at the time, but I think we need to do so with our eyes open.

    There is the potential for problems in later years if you need to get back into the workforce. I think that's where some of us feel or felt very torn, fearing that once we have left the ranks of the employed, we might have little ability to re-enter. And we balance that against the very real desire to parent our own children.

    And someone has to raise the children. A mother, a father, a grandparent, a paid provider, a combination of two parents, ideally. These are the decisions (and in some cases, non-decisions) that we all are faced with at some point. And it's never what we think it will be, or even, necessarily, when.

    The article – if you're interested. http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/10/are-women

    • admin

      You are right, Wolf, in the intricacies that go into choosing to stay at home and working. Each of them requires a choice and saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. It gets more complicated because sometimes you are choosing between two great things.

      Thank you for the article link. I am going to read it right now! (I might just send you an e-mail later, be warned.)

  5. I don't know what will happen when we have kids. I've always assumed I would work at least part time, but who knows?

  6. Yes, I tend to step outside the box. But only about once a day. Sometimes I feel lonely as a result. Sometimes I feel empowered. Your daily pursuits sound spiffy to me in that get-your-hands-dirty sort of way. Just the combination I adore.

    • admin

      I believe that hardest part of staying-at-home, for me, is the loneliness. I'm not referring to being without adult interaction, as I have quite a few friends I see and talk with regularly, but sometimes feeling so alone in some of these battles. I believe that certain technologies have lessened this (like blogging) but I still feel as if the only person who I can really talk with is, well, me. Not too many passionate discussions occur in my head.

  7. I felt/feel that way about being a 'housewife' – cooking, cleaning, etc, are not my areas of expertise, and oftentimes trying just makes me feel like a failure. I can't manage to keep my house clean when there are only two of us, so I shudder to think of what my house will look like if I ever have kids…
    But, Amber, even tho you may not be good at arts and crafts or abhor baking, your kids will remember and appreciate that you stayed home with them – that you made the sacrifices to spend as much time as possible with them… Especially when they grow up and have kids of their own.

    • admin

      I must admit, "housewife" is another noun I really dislike. I am not a housewife. In fact, my husband and I often laugh because based on the popular definition of housewife he is more that way than I am.

      Thank you for your kind words. I do hope my kids treasure the sacrifices I made for them and don't look down on me. (Such a silly thing to think but I have heard a few people make condescending remarks about their mother's choice to be at home.)

  8. I like it…change the definition. 🙂

  9. I work outside of the home. Before I started reading blogs, I really thought I knew what it meant to be a SAHM. And I frequently said "I could NEVER be a stay-at-home-mom!". In my mind, that meant that I would have to be the perfect cook, perfect cleaner, perfect playmate and craft maker, and I would thoroughly enjoy spending every waking minute at home alone with my children. Um, no thanks. But I understand now that women who stay home with their kids have all sorts of reasons for doing it. And many (most? all?) are not perfect at any of the things I mentioned. They are human, afterall! I think it's awesome that there are things that you are passionate about and your contribute to them in ways that you are able to. Your kids are lucky to have you, to teach them things they probably wouldn't learn in a daycare environment. And balancing a tight budget? Not an easy task, my friend! Keep doing what you're doing. Keep being YOU. You don't need a title, I think Amber (or Mommy!) works just fine! 🙂

    PS: No, I'm not back to writing. Just reading and commenting for now, anyway! 😉

    • admin

      Thank goodness I don't have to be any of those things you listed! I would fail, completely. I am sure you also observe the opposite effect with working moms–misguided perceptions of how you do things and why you chose that direction. (Maybe you could write about that!) I am glad that I have been able to stay home with my kids but now I need to enjoy it!

  10. How I love this post! We need to talk more like this, about the truth of motherhood and how it's okay that we all do it differently. Trying to measure up to the standards of others, or our own expectations as they relate to how we perceive others is impossible and unhealthy. I am my own worst critic when it comes to parenting my children. Mostly because I had an idea of what it meant to be a mother, and then when I became one I realized that wasn't me. It through me for a big loop, and I've struggled to recover from it. Honest sharing like this could be so helpful to moms! Thank you Amber.

    • admin

      These kind words mean so much to me, Christine. (I wonder how much depression has interacted with our difficulties in overcoming unrealistic expectations in motherhood?) One thing I want so much for this year is to be comfortable with my own way of parenting–and being a stay-at-home mom. It is hard because, as you said, "I am my own worst critic." Perhaps you and I, together, can achieve this.

  11. I do love arts and crafts. But I hate playing games, baking, going outside, and countless other "fun" mom things. I struggle with trying to figure out what we can all do together and all enjoy, too. And honestly, some days it's the older kids doing their own thing and me doing my own thing.

    I also think kids being able to entertain/occupy themselves is a good skill to have. Mine are juuuuuust now able to play by themselves without constant fights, tantrums, or meltdowns, and it's helped so much. I hope you find the same to be true for you when yours are a little older!

    • admin

      Oh, Stacia, my kids are already masters of independent play. Thank goodness. Most of my concerns come with how much I avoid playing with them and how I need to just relax and let their fun and beauty embrace me. This is so hard for me. Perhaps this year?

  12. Your honesty just gets me right in the heart. Being a mom means being the main and most powerful influence in the lives of your children. It can be spending all day at the library, in the kitchen, walking at the park. As long as you know you are supposed to be there for them, then you are totally on track.

    • admin

      Thank you, Kazzy, for this wonderful compliment. A mom's identity stretches and changes over the years, I suppose, it's learning to stretch and change with it that's important.

  13. You know that I'm a reluctant but determined go-to-work mom. I used to dream of working from home, but on the occasional day that I have to do that, I know by mid-morning that it would be much, much harder than it seems. Just as doing the work of most stay-at-home moms takes much more than many assume. I have no idea, between the bills and the shopping and the laundry, stories, dishes and games and exercise, how anyone really has time for the crafting and sewing and exquisite birthday parties. While I actually love the idea of the creative parts of maintaining a home, I don't know how I'll ever have time for it. And more and more, I wonder if I should even look. I had a great conversation about the Martha Stewart-y life with my aunt over the holidays, and she called it "a certain kind of insanity." 🙂

    • admin

      I do know your reluctance and appreciate your comment even more. I believe that mother's choose what they feel is best for their families, even when it is hard and done so with reluctance. I believe we both feel we are fighting against stigmas and myths surrounding our decisions. So we do our best and try not to let it get to us.

      (I think Martha Stewart is a wonderful resource; however, I can't watch those types of shows because the guilt I feel over not making my house like hers. Silly, huh!)

  14. I've always detested labels and I am always intrigued at the reactions I garner depending on how I introduce myself, whether it be stay at home mom, writer or former lawyer. People are great at making judgments without understanding the implications of their statements. I appreciate your honesty in this post Amber. I think it is necessary and the comments and your replies serve as a great discussion.

    • admin

      Rudri, I detest labels as well. I think it comes down to my aversion to anything regarding authority. (Such a teen thing to say.) Thank you for this response.

  15. I think being a Mom (SAHM or working Mom) automatically earns you the title of saint. Period. You are creating people! Like a mad scientist you made them, grew them and continue to keep them alive. That in itself is amazing!!
    The `perfect`homemaker myth was created by men who wanted, fresh baked bread, clean laundry, a peck on the cheek and a slap on the rear as they headed off to their dream job. Only to come home to an ìn the mood wife“ eight polite children who call them sir as they recite their periodic table and practice on their baby grand. This one man`s dream turned into some type of advertising scheme to sell cleaning products and voila the myth of perfect home maker was created! Making 99% of moms look and feel bad.
    Not only are super models photo shopped but so are Martha Stewart`s creations.
    To a kid, if their Mom has a warm hug and killer smile, they`ll remember you as the best Mom ever!

  16. Oh how I wish I could be a stay at home mom. I would take it under any definition!