Do SAHM's Give Up Too Much?

Katherine - posted on 01/12/2011 ( 20 moms have responded )

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There is no one right way to raise a family, even though "experts" (and commenters on websites) will tell you differently. Every family is different and every mother makes different choices.

There are a few constants, of course. Children need love and supervision, and mommy needs some time both with and away from her children. Beyond that, we can all make different choices and, like we said in "Working Moms Finally Get an Edge on the Stay at Homes," we can all be correct at the same time and it will be OK.

For the first 3.5 years of my children's lives, I was a stay at home mom. I had some freelance work, but by and large, my days were spent catering to my babies, nursing them, taking them to museums and classes, and generally making them my world. They are still my world now. Only now I also have a full-time job. And a recent piece that ran in Salon reminded me of why. Says writer Katy Read:

We had wonderful times together, my sons and I. The parks. The beaches. The swing set moments when I would realize, watching the boys swoop back and forth, that someday these afternoons would seem to have rushed past in nanoseconds, and I would pause, mid-push, to savor the experience while it lasted. Now I lie awake at 3 a.m., terrified that as a result I am permanently financially screwed.

Having had my feet in both worlds for so long, I would never say one choice is superior to another. Both have their good points and bad points, and in the end, all things being equal, it's really up to you what makes you happiest. That said, I do prefer being a working mother. And this article reminds me just why and how much.

There are many times I second guess my decision to rejoin the full-time workforce. It was not an easy decision and not one my husband initially supported. Our original plan had been for me to stay home until both of our children (now 4 and 2.5 years old) were in school full-time. But I became itchy and antsy, and as the economy tanked and my freelance opportunities dried up, I started to miss the working world.

And then a job -- one I could do completely from home with a salary and benefits -- fell into my lap. It didn't work out. But the next one did and it has enriched my life in ways I never could've imagined. Even though my salary is largely eaten up by the costs of our quality (but expensive) preschool and our sitter, the double options for health insurance and the retirement savings that I now contribute are worth it. Should my husband ever lose his job, we will be covered.

Also, much as I adore my husband -- and I do -- when I was at home with the children, there was always the nagging feeling that he called all the financial shots and that if he left me, I would have nothing. This is something Katy Read addresses in her piece:

Salary experts estimate the market value of a stay-at-home parent's labor (child care, housecleaning, cooking, laundry, driving, etc.) at about $118,000. This hollowly cheerful calculation has always struck me as patronizing, with the effect, if not the intention, of further diminishing our status. Moms -- aren't they the greatest? ... They'll happily accept payment in the form of adorable gap-toothed smiles. An implied, faintly sinister coercion -- a good mom doesn't want money -- fuels a system that relies on our unpaid childcare, household chores, and volunteer work but offers no safety net.

"A safety net." Is it depressing to talk about our marriages like they may crumble beneath us at any moment? Absolutely. But it's also the truth. No one goes into a marriage thinking they will divorce. But 50 percent of marriages do end and then women who gave it all up for babies can find themselves at a scary crossroads.

In this economy, many moms are getting the message, too.

Between 2008 and 2010, the number of stay-at-home mothers fell from 5.3 million to 5 million. (Stay-at-home dads held steady at around 150,000.) Who knows how many others are frantically sending out résumés? Whether they have paying jobs or not, mothers still handle most of the country’s child care, but that "feels like the last gasp of a dying age," journalist Hanna Rosin wrote last year in Atlantic Monthly. The image of a mother pushing a stroller down the street at midday may come to seem as quaint as that of a 1950s housewife pushing a vacuum in stockings and pumps.

It's sad, but it's true, and for me, working is a necessary part of my personal happiness equation. I know I am lucky to be home while working and have a flexible job. These are the kinds of perks that could end this dilemma for many women. It allowed me to nurse my toddler as long as he wanted while also maintaining my career. It allows me to see my kids play in the middle of the day at school or fix her lunch before her nap while she is at home with the sitter. I don't pretend to know what it's like for a lawyer mom who works 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. each day and can barely make it home before bed most nights.

But I do know that women need more options than just work like that or stay at home, and that if we don't talk about these things and acknowledge what can happen financially to stay at home moms, then we aren't really being honest. I don't regret the time I spent home solely focused on my children. But I'm glad it ended when it did.

Most of the time, anyway.

How do you feel about your decision to stay home (or not stay home)?

http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/114762/d...

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Sarah - posted on 01/12/2011

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I love LOVE being a SAHM. BUT, unfortunately things are reeeeally tight financially right now and it SUCKS. Next month I'm going to be starting up my Medical Transcription program again & hopefully in the next 8 months I will be done & applying for work-at-home jobs. Working at home seems to be the better option for me & my family and I hope it works out.

Kerri - posted on 01/12/2011

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I was a SAHM until ex husband left us, my youngest was 2. Having been out of the work force for several years, with no savings, no work history, I know the feeling of being financially screwed.
I initially had to go back to work more then full time, often working 12 hour days and on call weekends just to make ends meet. I hated it. I hated dropping my children off at daycare at 6am and having to call them on my dinner break to say goodnight. I hated not being able to make real plans on the weekends for fear that I would yet again have to dissapoint my children when I got the call that I had to go in.
Now 10 years later (and a better man by my side) I am finally able to work a mostly full time job close to my home and kids schools, with a wondful boss that understood from the start that my kids needs came first, without hesitation, or recrimionation for putting something other then the company first. Would my husband prefer that I not work at all?? Hell yes. Is it finanically possible? Nope, not a chance.

[deleted account]

I love being a SAHM but there are days when I know that getting a little part time job would do me a world of good mentally, emotionally, socially. As much as I would sometimes like to go back to work, just for me, I look at the bigger picture and it just isn't feasible. Steve works nights so I can't work then. He sleeps days and if we found a daycare we could afford, it would cost us more money for me to work, than to stay home. So I've been thinking after Jacob starts preschool next year, I'll go look for work. Just something to do for the 6ish hours a day he's gone during the week. My only problem will be finding something in this tiny little town that is willing to work with those specific limited hours.

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[deleted account]

I love being a SAHM even though I work nights I still am there for my kids whenever they need me and all day everyday. They are my world, however, I do have myself. I know who I am, I have likes and dislikes, etc. I have not given up my life for my kids though I have put somethings on hold and done them at a later time or just flat out grown up. (i.e. parties and such.)

[deleted account]

I have never regretted my latest decision to become a sahm....granted it was slow going to get here: I worked full time, quit twice only to return to work because I felt I could not handle being with my child alone, then eventually began gradually cutting back until I was no longer working at all.

I realized the first 2 times I tried it, I was doing it wrong. Once I learned the ropes, I have never had the desire to go back to work. I held on to my company thinking I would go back to working at least part time once J started school, but he started this past August and I have not yet felt the desire to return to work.

That said, I am far from "financially screwed." I have a small income of my own, and some savings. Our home and cars are paid for, my husband and I both have life insurance should something happen to either of us. If we were to divorce, I would probably have to get a part time job, but I'm sure I could manage without much difficulty. I have kept myself busy and involved with volunteer work and would be a well qualified applicant should I need a job.

Stifler's - posted on 01/12/2011

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I sometimes want to get a weekend job making time and a half at the hospital or nursing home but then I'd never see my husband lol he's gone to work before night shifts are over in the morning and he's not here yet when evening shift starts on normal days :( And none of our family live here so it's frustrating. I do wish I could work but it's hard when he works most of the day.

Lady Heather - posted on 01/12/2011

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This time of year when we don't get out much and cabin fever sets in - I get a little longing for something else. But there are other bonuses to home life. All those sunny days in the summer that I used to spend indoors at work I now spend at the park. It sounds like a small thing, but it's a big deal to me. I hate being cooped up, regardless of where it is.

I've seen many women go through divorce and be left with nothing and no education and job prospects because they stayed home. It happened to my own mother. But you know what? She's finishing up her PhD right now. So I've seen the down side and then I've seen how a strong woman can create good out of that bad. I'm not very worried. I already have my BA. My mother didn't have even that.

I feel really good about our decision for me to stay home. I had lots of life experience before this so I don't think I'm missing anything that way. I get to see every new thing my daughter does. I won't miss her first steps. I don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars a month for daycare so I can go to a job that doesn't make me as happy as being at home does. Not for everyone, but definitely for me.

Jenn - posted on 01/12/2011

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We have life insurance as well. He's lost a job once, and while it did set us back, we made it through in one piece. If for some strange reason he ever left me, he'd be paying child support and I'd also get way more from CCTB, so I'd be OK. I pay all of the bills and try to keep him under control with the spending -not that he's that bad anyway, but I'm more stingy than he is. For me to work would be pointless. By the time I paid for daycare or a babysitter, gas, car payment (I'd have to buy another vehicle since we only have 1 right now), insurance, etc. I would be worse off than I am now! Unless I could somehow get a job making an ass-load of money but the chances of that ever happening is pretty slim. Once the kids are all in school full time then I'll get a full time job again.

User - posted on 01/12/2011

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I love being a sahm. Although I don't contribute financially what I do contribute assists my husband in lessening his stress. I don't know if I'll go back to paid work when both my children are in full time school. I currently do various voluntary roles and would like to go into.school to help in class. It's a shame that only paid work is valued.

Also I don't need to work financially. With the economy being as it is, I wouldn't want to take a job, if it meant that someone who needed it more missed out.

[deleted account]

That's the exact reason I'm looking for work in the evening when we don't have to afford daycare.

Stifler's - posted on 01/12/2011

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i feel grateful and lucky that i can stay home. it's unlucky that if i went back to work i'd make what daycare costs. it's actually quite nice to be able to watch tv, have cuppas, have time to catch up with friends. i didn't have time for that when i worked. i was too tired. money has never been that much of an issue, we live within our means. if i want my hair done or something my husband has never been like WE CAN'T AFFORD IT he's just like go get it done then, don't whinge to me. but we trust each other to only do what we can afford that's why he's always like JUST GO DO IT THEN. i have always managed our finances, even before we had kids. i paid rent out of his account, bills etc. and saved all of mine or bought things with it like a new bed and tv and some other stuff. and the agreement was that if we broke up he gets half of the savings. we've always had a copy of each others atm card so we were never a 'his money my money' couple.

Shauna - posted on 01/12/2011

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I have worked full time and also been a SAHM-which i am currently. They both have highs and lows. I do love being home but finacialy it SUCKS. I dont like having to ask my husband for money, i used to go shopping all the time with MY money... now i have none. And it gets quite lonely around here, and i hate seeing my husband work so hard just so i can stay home when he hardly gets to see the baby just so i can stay home. So i dunno. After i pulled my son out of childcare i can really tell he misses it. And the mommy play groups dont do it justice. So i will most likely find work again soon.

[deleted account]

I am currently looking for a job in the evenings after Chad is home and Roxanne is bed. It's a means to an end. If I can avoid working during the day, then I will.

Melissa - posted on 01/12/2011

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As much as I like being a stay at home mum I am looking forward to at least working evenings or saturdays. Will be a nice change again. I havent worked in over 2 years now my kids are under 3. I worked up until the end of my first pregnancy full time then had maternity leave for 5 months.

In some ways I would like to get back to work now but I am breast feeding and have a very busy life. I am just starting to wean my 6 month old. I also get asked what I do for work now and feel shame when I have to say I dont work right now

Jocelyn - posted on 01/12/2011

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I HATED being a SAHM. Absolutely HATED it.
Now I work 3 days (well nights) a week and I am soo much happier. I was really bitter about having to stay home (I would only come out $100 ahead after daycare costs and gas etc working full time) So for 3 years, I worked only 6 hours a week, one half day.
I am a bartender now (not my ideal job but pretty darn good). I get to talk to adults, I am doing something with a purpose, (hey getting ppl drunk is a purpose...right?...) contributing to society. I am no longer starved for adult interaction and attention focused on ME (drunks are THE BEST ego boosters :P LOL) We are no longer struggling financially (I worked it out, on an average night, including tips, I make about $22 an hour). But the biggest thing is that I am happy :)
I love my kids, but my oldest is special needs, and he needs my CONSTANT attention and therapy. It is draining (physically, emotionally and mentally) and by being able to have nights away from my kids, gives me time to recharge (even if I'm only getting 4 hours of sleep those nights :P)
So needless to say, being a SAHM was NOT for me lol

Bonnie - posted on 01/12/2011

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Sara, my husband is a nurse as well :-) and I feel the same way you do about staying at home.
Ilove being at home. I definitely don't miss working, but I miss having a bit of extra money for myself like I did before where I didn't have to make sure I didn't need it for something else first. Although, even if I did have the extra money now, it would probably end up going towards something anyways as we didn't have kids beforehand. With a mother's life being as busy as it is, I appreciate the fact that if I don't feel like going out that day I don't have to. A stay at home mom's life is way more than just staying home and watching the kids. I am never bored. Honestly there is no one in our family that can watch the kids full time and we don't believe in daycare.

[deleted account]

Yup, I echo what Sara said too! I LOVE LOVE LOVE being at home and I'm not only a stay at home mom....I do everything including managing our finances.

Jodi - posted on 01/12/2011

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Like Becky, I would be better off if my husband died, even if only for a temporary period. Our house insurance has a part of it that if he died, our house is paid off entirely, same with both of our new vehicles. He has a very hefty life insurance policy as well. We even have insurance on ME, if something happens to me and I can't watch the kids (or heaven forbid I die), we're covered so that it would pay for daycare for our soon to be 3 children. 3 children would easily eat half his paycheck in daycare costs. For a small fee, I can re-enlist myself as a daycare providor if we find outselves tight on money.

I run the finances, I pay the bills, I know the passwords to all of our online banking/bill paying options, I created and run our budget. I know how much we can afford to spend on extras each month, how much we and each of our children have in savings, and which bills comes on which days and by which day they need to be paid. I have a roth IRA from before we were married which has grown by leaps and bounds (I got it when I was 18, so I've put quite a chunk of change into it), he's got a 401K that his company matches what he puts in (up to a certain percent anyways) that is growing nicely. Our daughter has the Gerber grow up plan and so will our twins.

Money is kind of tight for us, but with how much we're putting into savings funds like 401K's, roth IRA's, life insurances etc etc, so worth it. If anything ever happens to either of us, we are set.

So, I don't really agree with what the author is saying, because it doesn't *have* to be that way for a SAHM. My relationship, my job, my life...all evidence of that.

Becky - posted on 01/12/2011

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A lot of what Sara said rings true for me as well. I don't regret staying home for a second. I don't miss working, at all. Financially, yes, things are tighter, but we do okay and we're able to give our children both their wants and needs.
With our life insurance policies and mortgage insurance, the boys and I would actually be better off financially if my husband died than we are now! Not that I want him to die...! If he loses his job, he has other options. They don't pay as well, but they'd get us by. And as a social worker, it wouldn't be hard for me to find work if I needed to go to work until things stabilized. Same thing if he left me, but we're in this for life, so that's not going to happen. We make financial decisions together, but he's really never restricted my spending or told me I couldn't have something I or the kids wanted or needed. There are times - like right now -when his work is slow - that we need to wait on unneccessary purchases, but that's okay. We don't need anything right now either.
I love being at home with my kids. I love being the one to witness all their firsts. I love the freedom of being able to do what we want to when we want to do it. And, should things become too tight financially, we have options that would allow me to continue to stay at home. I'm already doing adoption home assessments on contract. I could pick up more of those, or take in a couple of kids to babysit. This is definitely the best decision for our family.

[deleted account]

I disagree with the financial aspects of the article.

1. If my husband were to die....life insurance and social security
2. If my husband were to loose his job...we have savings for that (which saved us last time he lost his job) Plus he's a nurses and nurses are always needed somewhere.
3. If my husband were to leave me, I could easily get a teaching job. But the possibility of him leaving me is pretty close to zero percent.
4. I'm actually the one that handles the finances and budget in our household. I feel like I have just as much (and sometimes more) control over it than my husband does.

In fact, going to work would be the opposite of a good financial decision for us. The cost of quality childcare would be half my salary. The other half my salary would go towards gas, work and daycare clothes, eating out more, higher grocery bills (not as much time to coupon and shop sales or cook from scratch), etc. Plus I'd be constantly tired and stressed...all for about $10,000/year after we pay childcare and the extra costs I just listed. Plus that'd put us in a hire tax bracket and we'd lose what little I have left to Uncle Sam.

I don't regret my decision to stay home. I love taking care of my family. I love teaching my daughter and doing craft projects with her. I love cooking supper every night. I love being available to my friends and family at a moment's notice.

I understand it's not for everyone. Some people NEED to work or LIKE to work. But honestly, this lady seems to be justifying her decision to work, when she really wants to be home, and her family can afford it. Maybe I'm misinterpreting it. But that's the way it struck me.

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