Sunday, November 15, 2009

SAHM Myths...

Stay-at-Home Mommy Myths
November 1, 2009
by Katrina J. Cummins, MEd

It was 5:00pm, which we like to call “happy hour” in our household, and my husband walked in the front door after a long day at work. As he walked through the toy obstacle course, saw the mountain of laundry on the couch, and dirty dishes in the sink he smiled and asked that one question that pushed my mommy button, “What did you do all day?” Smiling, I replied “It must be nice to have a lunch break and get a paycheck for your hard work”. At that time we had a five and a three year old home and I was a stay-at-home-mom.

I had been previously working as a professional and choose to cut and paste my schedule from working full time, down to part time, then to SAHM. I learned to navigate this landscape where there was no set job description, no 9 – 5 schedule, no evaluation, no thirty minute lunch break and no paycheck deposited into our bank account.

Two Camps
Reading and talking to lots of different moms, whether at the park, work or classroom, there seems to be two main camps that mommies hang out in. Either “Stay-at-Home Mommy” camp or “Work-Outside-the-House Mommy” camp.

There seems to be some tension between these two camps with an “us” verses “them” mentality. But as moms we need to be on the same team, camping out together, supporting and encouraging each other because mothering is tough on a good day.

I have camped out in both areas and have found that both have rewards and challenges. Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether a woman should be at home raising children or working outside the home. There seems to be a value judgment placed on those moms who stay at home raising their children.

Why is it that sometimes when we meet women and find out that they stay at home raising their children, we instantly assume things about them without really knowing them? I remember meeting a mom at a social function and chatting about our lives. I asked her a few questions and she said that she was a teacher. I asked her what school she worked at and found out she hadn’t worked as a teacher in over five years. I’ll never forget how this woman expressed her feeling that she would be accepted and valued more if she worked in a paid job. I have consistently run into different ideas about SAHMs. Some of these thoughts are myths which need to be addressed and openly discussed.

Some common myths about SAHMs suggest that they are:

* uneducated
* throwing away their education
* not really working as they are not in a real paid job
* lucky to be wealthy to stay home
* have the luxury of all this free time
* not using their brains
* unproductive
* not using their gifts or talents
* not able to handle the many pressures that working mom’s encounter.

Integrating Life
Every woman is different and each family has their own unique needs to be addressed. Being a SAHM is tough work and even though they may not pack up their brief case and walk out the front door to go to a paid job, nevertheless it is still work 24/7. From the physical work of cleaning to emotional work of handling the many different emotions of a toddler.

One of the biggest myths is that SAHM are wealthy and have the luxury to stay home. This myth needs to be kicked out of our neighborhoods and challenged. So many SAHM are struggling financially and make personal sacrifices to stay at home. They are skilled at finding a bargain and inexpensive activities, showing a kind of money savvy that should be welcomed in any business board room. SAHMs have to be money savvy working out how they can manage a tight budget so they can continue to be at home.

They use their education in different ways, such as working in their child’s classroom or volunteering in the community. Nowadays many more moms are running their own business from home with a creative schedule. They handle complex schedules from play dates, naps, carpooling to classroom volunteering. Their mommy brain and cell phone is always “on”, giving new meaning to multitasking with an ability to handle the many pressures placed on them.

Interestingly enough, research is finding that many woman are leaving their high paying jobs and careers to be at home with their kids (CBS News, 2004). With the many demands placed on them, SAHMs have very little free time and are highly productive in raising children, the future of our society.

Life is a Journey
Working as a counselor I have found a common thread woven between all of us; none of us are perfect or have perfect kids. We all have struggles along this journey called ‘life’. Maybe your journey is to be a SAHM mom right now. When the journey gets bumpy I encourage you to take time out for yourself. Maybe have coffee with a girlfriend or treat your self to a pedicure. When you are living on your last nerve, remind yourself that your kids are at home for such a short amount of time, pretty soon they will be packing up and walking out your front door to explore their own adventure.

At the end of the day other people’s opinions and judgments really don’t matter. What matters is that what you are doing, you are doing to the best of your ability with a right attitude, finding fulfillment along the way using your gifts and abilities.

Suggested Reading:
Stay at Home Survival Guide (2008)
Melissa Stanton The Mommy Brain (2005), Katherine Ellison

Katrina J. Cummins MEd lives near Portland, Oregon and balances her time between speaking, counseling and working full time as a wife and mother.


Anonymous said...

I was a work-out-of-hte-house-mom. My children are grown now and starting their own families. Looking back now, I wish I could have managed my family life more like a stay-at-home-mom, in that I could have scheduled more personal time for class room time with the kids etc.... I never-ever wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom, my mother was and I saw first hand how hard it was...not for me. Today, I am out of work due to a relocation for hubby, being a stay at home wife is driving me crazy... I need work to help me retain my sanity. I have always fully respected any woman who can stay in the home all day in any roll. My hat off to you ladies! Keep on keepin' on.

Laura said...

Very sweet comment- thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts...

kaylee gotreau said...

Thanks so much for posting this about SAHM's, I'm one myself, and it nearly brought me to tears reading this... It's hard for people to understand how hard it is to do this day in and day out, I've completely lost myself in the 8 yrs. I've done this. My youngest in finally in school now, and I finally have the beautiful "ME" time, and I value it greatly, and now I am looking for work part time, and I am seeing how hard many working moms have it on a daily basis, having to leave their children with strangers to make ends meet. I love the idea of all moms standing together, we have the same challenges, we should be a team, not divided...