I got a message today to read the comment thread on a fellow blogger's blog post about SAHM vs. WAHM vs. Working Moms: Is It ‘taboo' to be a Stay At Home Mom?

This debate has been going on for YEARS! Before I tell you my stance on it, I want to share a little {LONG} story about how I came to the place I am today in being a “mom”.

When I was a kid, my parents both worked. They also went to college and then University and finally got their Master's Degrees while I was in elementary through high school. They went to ONE of my marching band performances – and I was the Head Percussion Captain! Boggles the mind, right? My grandma went on my band trips with us, not my parents. Everyone thought my grandma was my mom. We were latchkey kids from the age of 9. To top it off, they worked nights for many years. So, when we got home from school, after an hour's ride on the bus and a 1/2 mile walk on dirt roads home, we had to be quiet. We did yard work, played outside, rode our horses, tended to our chickens … but above all, we had to be quiet. If we were sick, we stayed home and took care of ourselves or had to do chores while home- so alot of the time we just went to school sick because it was more restful. If we forgot our lunch or a jacket, tough luck! There was no one to call to bring it to us. The more my parents worked, the less money we seemed to have, and the less time they had for us. I wasn't sure why they were working so much if they weren't at least getting some financial reward. As soon as I got my driver's license, I started having extra responsiblities of taking my sister to school, going grocery shopping, and even trailering my sister's horses to and from horse shows on the weekend. It isn't as terrible as it sounds. My parents did some stupid things. I don't know if they admit to all of them but they admit to some of them and that is good enough for me. The point here is not to talk about if my parents  were “bad” – it is to talk about WHY I made the decisions I have made as far as my own parenting.

We all make mistakes as parents. I tried to look at the things that most annoyed me about my parents and things I wanted to change about how I parented my own kids. My ideal plan looked a litle something like this:

  • Go to college and graduate with a degree in Journalism
  • Get a great job traveling the world as a music industry journalist – I'd had a pretty succesful ‘zine for the last 3 years of high school
  • Get married maybe in my late 20's, early 30's after my career is going pretty strong
  • Have kids in my 30's after we've bought a house and have some financial stability so that I can stay home with the kids
  • I would go to ALL of the kids' events, be active in the PTA, take care of the kids when they came home sick from school, take them their jacket or lunch if they forgot it, be there to pick them up and drop them off at school.
  • My parents would be retired and spend all kinds of time with my kids like I spent with my grandparents.

Well, this is what really happened:

  • Parents spent my college fund on a divorce attempt and didn't tell me until the end of my senior year in high school – I got straight As and held up my end of the bargain; they did not.
  • I tried working and putting myself through community college but my mom got me fired from my job – they made mistakes, right?
  • I ended up going in the Army to get through college that way – um, this was NEVER in my original plan.
  • I was pregnant, married, and without a job when I exited the Army 2 years later
  • 6 months later, I was filing for divorce and moving back in with my parents, going to school and working part-time to make ends meet. Luckily, my grandmother could watch my newborn daughter.
  • I graduated college with a dual major in Math and English and as a member of several honor societies. My daughter had been in day care, Head Start, and preschool, something I reconciled with myself as “educational” for her.
  • I could not find a job and I lost my job at the University when I graduated because I was no longer a student. I went on food stamps 2 months after graduating college. I had to take my daughter out of day care. I moved back in with family because I could not pay my $425 a month rent.
  • 9 months later, I got a job as a temp. It was meager pay – I want to say $10 an hour. I had to put my daughter back in day care. Most of my pay went to daycare.
  • I got hired on to another temp job, for 6 months at $25 an hour. But at that point my finances were in ruins and my school loans due. And my daughter was spending 10+ hours in day care/school a day as I had long hours and a long commute.
  • I then got hired full-time and was starting to enjoy the financial rewards. Being a single mom, I felt I had to work.
  • My husband and I got back together. 9 months later, I was fired from my job.
  • I was in school, getting my Master's and I was devastated. I thought we could not survive as I made 2/3 of our income. I worried about what people would think of me – that I was a failure!
  • We prayed about it, looked at our budget to figure out how to trim things down, anda week later, my husband got a promotion and a raise It still wasn't 50% of what I was bringing home before, but it was enough.
  • My daughter did not want to be taken out of day care so I kept paying the $350 a month to keep her in. Again, I recociled that with myself.
  • Scrapbook stores had started asking me to come back to teaching (I had stopped while I was working and going to school full time). I got a part time job with a nonprofit and got pregnant again.
  • Since 2007, neither of my kids are in day care. I stopped working at the non-profit and started teaching scrapbooking classes on the weekends to make a little extra money.
  • I now have a full-fledged BUSINESS (multiple businesses) being run out of my home. I drop off and pick up my kids from school and go to most of their events. The kids are in scouts and soccer and other extra-curricular acrtivites that I try to support.
  • My parents won't be retired until my youngest is in high school.

Every time I made a decision that I did not think was ideal, I reconciled it with myself. Society, feminists, my college professors all said that I SHOULD work and put my kids in daycare and there was nothing wrong with it. But I felt so much differently in my heart.

After this process, I had the experience of being:

  • A single mom attending college and working part time
  • Unemployed university graudate mom, on food stamps
  • Homeless, and living with family as a single mom
  • Full-time career mom
  • Jobless, and having to depend on my husband for our family
  • Pregnant, stay at home mom
  • Work at home mom
  • Multiple Level Marketing Business Consultant mom
  • Business Owner Mom

No one can tell me that I don't know what they are going through or have not had that experience. I HAVE. Except for a few special cases, I have been a WAHM, SAHM, single mom, and working mom and THEN SOME.

So here is where I stand on the issue:

EVERYTHING WE DO IN OUR LIVES IS A CHOICE

Yes, there are circumstances but what decisions you make lead to the outcomes. YOU CHOOSE THEM. Even me getting fired from my job the first time – it was because my mom wanted me to go to my parents' rededicaton of their vows and I could not get the time off. I made a decision that having a place to live (becasue they threatened to kick me out if I did not go) was more important that my job. I don't think I made the right decision. I still blame them! LOL But it was my decision to make. As soon as we all turn 18 years old, things are our decisions to make, 100%.

I got married before I planned.

I know the moment I got pregnant with each of my kids – it was a choice to let that happen, whether I believed that at the time or not.

I chose to go after a different career path as a result of being a mom – I knew “music journalist traveling the world” was not a practical job for a single mom.

I reconciled with myself that daycare was okay for my daughter — she went to Christian preschools or was in day care with friends who owned home-based daycares (after I had a bad experience with her early on). She loved her “teachers” and Miss Casey …. alot of the other moms I scrapbooked with had their kids with Casey. Katie would get mad if I picked her up early – she had plans to play and have snack and do her homework with Casey.

At the end of the day, every decision I have made in life was just that.

MY DECISION. 

Yes, sometimes circumstances made it diffiuclt for me to do what I knew was “right”. And society made it easy to reconcile that.

I like working. I am a busy-body. If there is nothing to do, I will make something to do. This whole idea of cleaning my house and sitting around reading magazines and eating bon-bons does nothing for me. I have stayed at home for 7 years now and I have the messiest house ever, rarely cook, and probably don't spend as much time with my kids as society would expect a WAHM or SAHM to spend. I look back at these past 7 years and things were not idyllic. It doesn't really match what I wanted as my plan for my life. I made mistakes. But when I look back, common threads emerge that tell me what is important to me. It is really difficult to be introspective and figure out what is important to you in a moment. But I can look back and see, from my actions, what manifested itself as “important”. And that doesn't match up with what I visualized or have verbalized as being important to me as a mom.

 

  • I never go home from “work”. Moms are never off “work” but I work at home and I work all the time. From the moment I roll out of bed to the moment I roll back in bed. I am working. I love working!  I am not saying I am doing household chores. I mean I am doing WORK like packing orders, answering emails, building websites (why did I get into that?!), taking phots, making tutorials. It is work work work work work work work! My husband comes home from work. I use to come home from work. That there was a stop to work each day was great! But left me unfulfilled. My house was cleaner then too. Go figure. No one was home – we are all at offices or day cares all day. IU mean, this is kind of WORSE than my parents! At least they were home sleeping. I am home working all the time.
  • I am not this patient, tender cooing mom. I have given up on that expectation of myself because it is not me. There are other ways I support my kids and between my husband and I, we give them a well-rounded, loving home.  I had the patience of a saint when I used to tutor other people's kids but my own kids – forget about it! I can't tutor them on anything!
  • If the kids are sick, I don't make them soup in bed and fawn over them. I thought that is what I wanted in a mom. I tell them to take medicine and then get in bed – they can't be here playing all day! But I do pick them up from school if they are sick, let them stay home when they are sick, and take them to the doctor WAYYYYY more often than my parents ever did for me. I am teaching them about life – you gotta go to work unless you are sick. AND if you are sick, you better be REALLY sick!
  • I take the kids their lunches and jackets unless it is time for them to learn a lesson in responsiblity. So if I told them 20 times this month to take their jacket and reminded them again that morning and they didn't do it and then they call me from the school complaining about being cold,well, that is time for a lesson to be learned.
  • I explain things to my kids. My business, my busy life, and my insane hours gives me so many opportunities to teach my kids that I never had when I worked in an office, outside of my house. They know so much about business, dealing with conflict, managing people, managing a tight schedule, working hard, dealing with problems, how to talk to people, how to address adults….so much more than they could have learned in the first year of any job. I'd hire them! Well, maybe not because I would probably expect MORE of them than anyone else! LOL
  • I am teaching my kids the value of hard work – we are the ones who put limits on ourselves!
  • There are things my parents did that I now appreciate – and I am putting my kids through the same things (the valuable things) so they can learn to be responsible, well-rounded, resourceful, and confident adults.
  • At the end of the day, they know I am here for them. They know I will drop everything to pick them up, take care of them. They KNOW they will see my car in that line waiting to pick them up. They KNOW if they have an issue at school, I will be there to deal with it (just like I was today dealing with an iPad issue at the high school – which I will count as a MOM WIN for today!). They KNOW that if they are sick, I will take them to the Doctor. They KNOW I will make sure they go on every field trip and participate in every activity they want to be in.

I am not as perfect as I wanted to be but I am working on it. It took some hard falls, hard lessons for me to finally get to this place.

And I think that is all that any of this debate is about.

I think the world wants to know that we are working on it.

We are working on being better moms.

We are working on spending our time with our kids wisely.

We are working on balancing our wants and needs with those of our kids and families.

 

We would all rather be home with the kids than working a 40 hour work week and driving back and forth to day care to deposit and withdraw our kids every day.

And if that is not what you want – you don't want to work towards being a better mom, improving … then you are either kidding yourself or you're a narcissist who should probably not have had kids. I fell into BOTH of those categories several times during my life. It is HARD! We are not perfect!! And if you find yourself feeling defensive and angry about my post, then turn that inwards – what are you doing that YOU can change? How are you reconciling your life that is different from what your true vision of your life and your role of a parent was? What things can you change and what things can you accept that will help you feel that you are “working on it” and being the best mom you can be?

If you want to work becuase you love nice things and taking trips to Paris and buying a boat, aka financial freedom, then that is your CHOICE. You don't need anyone else to tell you if that is right or wrong. It has to be right for you. But you have to be really honest with yourself. No one's kid loves day care. They love the ATTENTION they get there. Even mine. Stop kidding yourself. Stop reconciling.

Is that right for me personally? No. It would be alot easier for me to take this pile of college degrees I have and get a job working in management somewhere, collecting a fat paycheck (it was pretty fat, about $40 an hour 2 years outta college when I stopped working!) than to be an entrepreneuer. But being an entrepreneuer is my choice. Because I know I would be miserable in that high-paying job and it would be MORE detrimental to my family than being an entrepreneuer is.

And for some people, what I am doing is not right for them. They would rather stay home and have a toe in the workplace — maybe they make a few handmade aprons and sell at a local boutique or sell refinished furniture on Craig's List or sell Mary Kay or work part time at their local book store. And then for other people, the only thing that is right for them right now is staying home with the kids, being on PTA, and coaching all the sports teams because they have the whole rest of their lives to do and work and play.

So before you write that nasty, mean comment that is boiling over, consider why you are so upset. And think instead of how you can change what you are doing so you can be okay with your life, and okay with other people's decisions in their lives. How will you be “working on it”?

Thanks for stopping by!

Author: Jennifer Priest

It started with jewelry, beading, sewing, home decor, painting, basket weaving, pottery, and cross-stitch. Marry that to an entrepreneurial spirit & at 9 years old a girl is selling her wares at craft fairs as far as her parents and grandparents would drive her. These days, Jennifer enjoys crafts of all genres from sewing to scrapbooking to jewelry with a little dabbling in the mixed media world. Her style is approachable and she wants everyone who sees her work to feel that they too can embrace creativity and make their home and life beautiful.

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4 thoughts on “A response to “Is It ‘taboo’ to be a Stay At Home Mom?”

  1. Wow! I would’ve never known you had such a background–you really do understand all angles. It kind of bothers me that so many people took offense to my post–like I’m stirring the pot and letting the working moms vs. sahm debate continue on. I’m not. Just sharing what is MY truth and My reality.

    I’m working toward being more financially stable–it’s rough with 6 kids! I would love to make more money doing what I love doing but it’s always the juggle of family. The more I work and the longer my hours are, the more time away from my kids…means less time with them. it’s such a catch-22!!

    Posted on August 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm
    1. I hear ya Denise. It is sad that they could not see the value in your post but only put themselves on the defensive in response to it. I can imagine it is rough with 6 kidlets! Having 2 can be a challenge. I am not where I want to be financially but I am working towards getting there. The reality that my daughter only has 3 more years of high school is scary! College is expensive! We do what we gotta do…

      Posted on August 29, 2013 at 1:50 am
  2. Great article! I think the working mom vs stay at home mom debate is a silly one that only hurts both sides. We are all moms and doing the best we can for ourselves and our children.

    Posted on August 30, 2013 at 8:45 am
  3. What an awesome response! I didn’t read the original response, but it’s a discussion that has been going on forever. All we can do as mothers is be the best we can be, whatever that means for our families. Some enjoy working, some enjoy working from home, some enjoy just being home. Whatever option you choose, should be what works best for your family. You’re doing a great job!!

    Posted on September 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm