Tag Archives: sahm

Why I quit working

I was very lucky to be able to work at home up until just before Rachel, my third, was born. In some ways, it was the best of both worlds: I only had to put in a few hours a day, I helped with our expenses, I got the opportunity to exercise my mind and (kind of) associate with other adults (though I don’t know of blog comments “count,” especially with some of the ugly conflicts there that still bug me).

On the other hand, I almost never regret leaving the “workforce.” I liked my job and my boss, but I was spending waaay too much time on the computer. It hasn’t gotten all the way better, unfortunately, but I’m glad that I don’t have to be online for those hours a day anymore.

Over on the Power of Moms recently, I read an article about Telena Hall, who went from full-time WAHM to mostly SAHM. She still receives some resistance for her decision, but I think she has a great perspective on the working/nonworking debate:

I continue to work on a much smaller level and I still associate with the same women who were once my peers (and are now my superiors). They continue to encourage me to work more and move back into management. They often remind me of the money I can earn, or influence I’ll have in that position. I have to remind myself that I have the greatest influence over my children, and that one day they will grow up to influence the world. I came to realize that quantity time could not be replaced with quality time. My children needed BOTH.

There are many wonderful opportunities we can pursue as moms and as women. In stepping down from my position was I saying it is wrong for a woman to work? Not at all. It was simply a matter of dividing my time and prioritizing accordingly.

Telena concludes, quoting a church leader, “A woman need not sing all the verses of her song at the same time.” There are seasons in our lives, and after reviewing her priorities, she decided that this season was the time she needed to be with her young children, and maybe in another season, she might return to working—or not.

For me, it wasn’t a big change in my schedule to free up those hours—but it made a big difference in terms of my stress levels (for a while). I continue to struggle with some things I miss—like feeling valued, etc., which is kind of funny since I know my boss valued me, but we didn’t have to communicate all that often—but I know that putting my family first, above a nebulous, difficult to achieve and easy to lose “feeling,” is the best bet I can make right now.

What do you think? What are your priorities? How have you changed your schedule or life for them?

Photo by Sean Dreilinger

I’m not the boss of you

To be a mom is often to be bossy. “Don’t touch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Don’t hit her!” and, of course, “Because I said so” are among my most common phrases during the day.

So I wonder if maybe sometimes we forget that we’re not the boss of everyone—especially other mothers.

Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t easy. True, some mothers love it and thrive in this role and truly find themselves in being a mother. But there are at least as many of us who don’t—those of us who stay at home because we believe that being with our children is paramount, that raising them ourselves is the most important, noble role that we could have, even if it’s very hard for us (and/or those of us who don’t care to work just to cover the cost of daycare).

But so many times, if we dare to mention any measure of dissatisfaction with the day-in day-out diaper and dinner duty, there’s someone around to tell us how horrible we must be. How we’re obviously doing something wrong. I get this on the blog a lot, most often in the vein of “Oh, if you hate being trapped at home so much, quit whining and liberate yourself. Go get a job and start contributing to society already.”

Okay, so it’s usually not said with a dismissive attitude. In fact, the commenter usually sounds like they really think they’re trying to be helpful. But the dismissiveness is there—they’re automatically dismissing my deep belief that being with my children is the most important thing I can do in my life, even if it’s hard/boring/overwhelming. If it isn’t making me happy right this minute, it must be wrong for me. Or I’m doing something wrong. And I couldn’t possibly have chosen something that I find this hard.

I know I’m not the only one who gets this “helpful” advice. On the blog A Number of Things, Erin faces the same kind of judgments:

As usual when I bring up my dissatisfaction with being solely a Stay-At-Home-Mom, I get a variety of responses, from encouragement to pursue a career and fulfill my own dreams at whatever cost to the polar opposite philosophy that a Christian woman has no business doing anything outside the home at all and ought to be happy and content filling her role as a wife and mother.

Can we just face it? Neither of these responses is helpful. Neither is constructive. Both are dismissive: the first we already discussed, and the second dismisses our sincere struggles (and insults the depths of our religious convictions).

This is what I want to do with this blog: I want to be able to validate SAHMs that struggle. I want to remind them that this is an important, worthwhile, contributing-to-society work—and as such, yes, it is hard. Sometimes gut-wrenchingly, mind-numbingly difficult. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. It doesn’t reflect poorly on you or your children.

At the same time, I don’t want to place guilt on mothers who have to or choose to work outside the home. We can all struggle with balance and fulfillment, and we all need that help. We have to support each other—and judging each others’ choices is counterproductive.

What do you think? How can we support one another? What kind of forum (an online forum, a blog, a Facebook group, etc.) would be the best way to gather mothers for support without judgment?

Photo credits: finger wagging—Teresia; support—Dimitris Papazimouris

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The winter of our discontent

“You should go back to work.”

How many times do SAHMs get this message a day? How many times are we bombarded with images of moms that have it all—a fulfilling career, happiness as a mother, a happy marriage, a good income, a beautiful home, fabulous vacations, loving and obedient children, and basically every dream they ever wanted coming true?

I feel like I find an example of someone I should envy like that every day. But I also know that, although we’ve been told we really can have it all, and have it all right now, we can’t. As Tina Fey said in an interview with Parade Magazine:

I think my generation has been slightly tricked in that you’re really encouraged to try to have it all.

Even Oprah has admitted that we can’t really have it all right now. There are seasons in life—and many of us choose to be at home with our children during the season where they are at home all day.

As if providing for small, needy, dependent people weren’t emotionally demanding enough, we also receive these daily messages that we’re not doing enough (maybe this is why we end up with kids in eight sports, learning six different instruments, at three different summer camps . . . ). Raising our children isn’t enough: we should be “productive.” We should “contribute to society” (my rant on how nothing contributes more to society than raising children will wait for another day). We should be in a “real job” (ha!).

Perhaps most discouraging of all is when someone who appears to mean well tells us we should be working outside the home for ourselves, after we’ve made the sometimes-difficult-but-always-challenging decision to stay home with our children for their benefit. Because, implies this person trying to be helpful, stay-at-home moms do nothing for themselves and allow themselves to be devalued.

This kind of advice automatically assumes that all work in the home is demoralizing and all work outside the home is fulfilling. IT’S NOT.

The fact of the matter is that very, very, VERY few jobs are inherently fulfilling on a daily basis, motherhood included (though I believe and hope that ultimately, motherhood will be the most fulfilling occupation I could devote myself to). Most people I know, at least from time to time, feel like Sisyphus in their jobs—mothers, teachers, loan document specialists, production managers, nurses, web content developers, accountants, social workers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

While yes, some people find a measure of fulfillment in the fact that their work is rewarded verbally or monetarily, I think that in the end, fulfillment does not come from external sources.

stepping_stonesFulfillment comes from within us. That’s kind of the underlying point of a lot of the steps to fulfillment that I’ve been working on. Fulfillment is rooted in recognizing the good moments and being content with our lives.

If I can’t be content with my (already quite stressed, thank you very much) life as a stay-at-home mom, why would working outside the home, adding more stress and increasing the pressure on me to influence, appreciate, guide, discipline and most of all show my love for my children in a fraction of the time, suddenly make me more fulfilled?

Yes, I know that some mothers do truly enjoy working outside the home and do truly feel like better mothers because of this. But just like staying at home doesn’t work for every mother, another mother’s ability/need/appreciation of working outside the home doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, no, not even every mother who struggles with motherhood (and, honestly, who doesn’t struggle from time to time?).

The first step to fulfillment—as a mom, as a working mother, as a human—is learning to be content with our season in life.

What do you think?

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Mommy Wars: the truth

Dear Mothers who Work Outside the Home,

I don’t work outside the home. Sometimes, I frown upon your choice to leave your children for much of their waking hours (with exception, of course, for those who have to support their families).

But a lot of the time, I’m just jealous.

Now, I can only speak for myself. But after a long week of what feels like constant fighting with my toddler and constant feedings for my baby, I can’t help but look at the women who have a reason to get dressed every day with jealousy.

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Hayden’s self-portrait part one: messy kitchen

On any given day, the vast majority of my human interactions are with online text, people under the age of three or figments of my imagination (don’t worry, I’m not psychotic; I’m just a writer). On any given day, I will fix seven meals for my son, eight of which he will reject. I will attempt to defuse thirteen temper tantrums and only keep my own temper in check twice. I will issue four timeouts, change three outfits and eleven diapers (on a light day), and let my son watch too much television as I try to carve out a few hours to myself.

I will not be praised, unless I vacuum and/or make dinner. I will not accomplish something that looks productive (unless it falls into those hours I manage to get to myself). I will not make measurable progress toward any meaningful goals.

I will wonder whether I’m doing anything right. I will doubt my ability to fulfill the basic requirements of my job. I will try to figure out how and where to tender my resignation, only to resign myself to figuring this out—mostly because I don’t have any other choice.

That’s my day job. How’s yours?

In reality, I know that many, many women face these same kinds of challenges at work. I know that very few jobs are “fulfilling” in and of themselves. I know that working wouldn’t automatically make me happy.

I also know that working outside the home makes being a mother that much harder. Suddenly, you have to squeeze all the affection, lessons, morality, milestones, discipline, moments and love into half the time. (Oh, and don’t even think about extracurriculars, meals, homework or housework.) Quite frankly, it’s stressful. It makes it almost impossible to have real “me time.”

hayden-photog-170
Hayden’s self-portrait part two: messy mom

I’ve come to accept that as individuals (and mothers), we have different needs. Maybe you’re working because your family needs the money. Maybe you’re there because you would lose your mind at home (um, see above?). It doesn’t really matter. If that’s what you really need, that’s what you need.

And in the end, I don’t look down on that. I can’t judge that. I won’t say you’re less of a mother because you have less time to do it all in.

And I can’t say I envy that.

Love,
Me

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