Every now and again you might wonder whether your family would be better off if you quit work to become a full-time stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Or perhaps you simply wonder how the other half lives and what they think about you. Today, I’ll let you in on five secrets about SAHMs:
1. We don’t envy you. Barring unusual circumstances, like raising quintuplets, SAHMs lead far less hectic lives than working moms. Running a household and doing errands may be mundane, but rarely hectic. We shop midweek when stores aren’t crowded, never on weekends when you do. Sure, we sometimes feel isolated at home with our endless piles of laundry and crying babies. But when those babies reach school age, we get to take long lunches with our friends or hit the gym in the afternoon (again, no crowds) before school lets out. We actually enjoy volunteering at our kids’ schools and taking them to the playground afterwards. We don’t see working moms interact with their kids this way and assume you’re just too busy. Oh, we’ll groan as if we’re working as hard as you. We aren’t. And, right or wrong, we still think we’re better moms than you. But you already knew that.
2. We envy each other instead. One trip to the playground and you’ll know that we segregate ourselves along socio-economic, racial, political, and other lines. Vegans. Yoga freaks. Sports moms. We bond a zillion different ways, to the exclusion of other SAHMs. Those who can’t find kindred spirits among us envy those who can. I know a tight-knit group of skinny blonde SAHMs, all named “Kristin.” I’m oddly jealous, even though I hate the name Kristin.
Needless to say, we also envy other SAHMs’ ability to maintain a spotless home and raise the smartest kids. This dates back to the cavemom era. Only today, the alpha SAHM has to do all that and be a MILF (Mom I’d Like to F#@%) too! Hence, we’re at the gym in the afternoon. That is, when we aren’t out buying flash cards for our little geniuses.
Maids and private schools are corollary sources of envy. Again, SAHMs don’t envy the working mom, who presumably can afford these things. You must work to pay for them, which theoretically leaves you less time to spend with your kids. No, we envy our wealthier sister SAHM because she doesn’t have to take a break from playing with the kids (or chatting with her girlfriends) to go mop the floor.
3. So we loathe ourselves. It happens when we fail to get the baby weight off. Or fail to get our kids into a good private school. Or can’t afford a maid, much less private school. And, even though we’re happy that we don’t“have to” work, we lament our failure to contribute financially to the household. So we try to turn our pillow/cupcake/scarf-making hobby into a home-based business and tell everyone it’s “just for fun.” I’m convinced that Etsy.com is populated exclusively by SAHMs hoping to finance our kids’ education. It never works, of course, because nobody wants to buy our stupid macaroni art, which only leads to more self-loathing.
4. We loathe our spouses even more. For not appreciating whatever we do to keep the household running, even if it's not that stressful. For not feeling the need to lift a finger around the house because, well, that’s part of the“deal.” For not asking about our day because they doubt we have anything new and interesting to tell them, particularly once the kids are old enough to speak for themselves. For saying, “Well, maybe if you went to work, we could afford it.”
5. And, naturally, we struggle with our choice. All SAHMs wonder whether we made the right decision choosing to become full-time moms. We worry about the message we’re sending to our kids, especially our daughters, whom we are grooming to one day enter the workforce. We also worry about our own lost potential income to fund nicer vacations or better retirements. Therefore, we tell ourselves that we might enter, or re-enter, the workforce one day when the kids are older. We’re delusional of course because we lack current work experience and the economy sucks.
So the SAHMs who departed the workforce are left to try to apply outdated business experiences to PTA work, while those of us who never entered the workforce try to show we are just as smart. And the school teachers, who can see all of our idiosyncrasies, just try to look the other way.
Interestingly, all things considered, I’ve never met a SAHM who regretted her decision to stay home.