SAHMing vs WOHMing

Stay at home mothering vs working out of the home mothering

And I don’t really mean “versus.” This has been bouncing around in my head for many weeks.

I ran into a woman I used to work with several weeks ago. She and I were pregnant at the same time, both of us with our first baby. I planned to quit at be a SAHM after the baby’s birth, she planned to return to work. But for 8 months, she said nearly daily that she really wished she could stay home. “I wish we could afford to have me stay home like you can.”

(Which, let me note in an aside here, that I find that line to be REALLY REALLY IRRITATING. We couldn’t afford to have me stay home, either. We had to cut waaaay back on nearly everything, and live partly on our savings. We still have months in which we really struggle to get all the bills paid and still eat. It’s not like we just didn’t need that second income.)

Anyway, I haven’t thought about this woman for several years. But she is currently pregnant with her third. Still working the same job. Three in daycare. (Though the oldest will be in K in the fall, he will still need before and after school care.)

So this got me thinking…I know the company we worked for would not be super generous with raises. They never have, my dad worked for them for like 10 years and always got paltry raises, and I did, too, for the 5 years I was there. They were as generous as the system allowed, and my boss always said she thought I deserved more, but her hands were tied. (and it was true, too, I was probably one of the few people in MY position who really knew that was true, lol.)

So she can’t be making much more than I was when I quit.

That won’t pay for daycare for three. She’s LOSING money every day she goes to work after this new baby.

I don’t understand that choice.

I brought it up at knitting and there was the chorus of “some people don’t like to stay home, it’s not for them” type of responses, which I agree is true. And I agree with to an extent.

But if you don’t like your kids/any kids enough to want to be home with them while they’re little, why keep having them? Why have so many that you actually LOSE money by going to work every day? I mean, aren’t there better ways to spend money than working?

I could maybe see it if it was a job you just really really loved, I guess. Maybe.

I don’t know. I’ve been puzzling over this for a while now.

I fully admit, PS, that this is none of my business, and my point here is not to be judgemental of this woman, not at all. I’m just mulling over the whole situation in a more general way.

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13 responses to “SAHMing vs WOHMing

  1. I sat back and thought on this for a while, but I am not sure that I will be able to formulate a proper response. I am going to give it a go anyways.

    It’s this line that sticks out for me.

    “But if you don’t like your kids/any kids enough to want to be home with them while they’re little, why keep having them?”

    This is a very presumptive statement. Obviously we don’t need to discuss that some parents FINANCIALLY HAVE TO go to work, and whether or not they want to go to work or not is irrelevant. But, to assert that someone who CHOOSES to work does so because they don’t like their kids is downright horrifying.

    This is where I have a disconnect with the AP style. Why is it that we have to make the choice between our children and ourselves? And what does that teach them? That they should put every waking moment of their lives on hold for their children? And what about the people who have jobs in the natural parenting community that AP parents have come to rely on, such as the Midwives and Doulas, and Lactation Consultants? We have to put our entire life on hold to help people, and our kids ‘suffer’ for it, but we do so because we love our work.

    I would rather have my daughter grow up knowing that she can still be a wonderful mother, and foster/enjoy whatever talents or desires she has. Because maintaining that balance is important to me. We want to foster these wonderful independent people, and it just feels backwards to not also tend to our own independence. Look, I am the first person to admit that I didn’t really ever leave Autumn until she was a year old, but now I FOLLOW HER CUES. And that’s what every parent should do. If, for example, Autumn reacted poorly, or was extra ‘behavioral’ after I came home from birth’s or was sad or upset, than I would choose to change what I was doing until she was more ready. So, if a parent who works outside of the home comes home to happy kids, then why is her choice wrong? That family has made a choice that EVERYONE likes, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    We have to remember that our kids will model our behavior. And if we, as adults, cannot value a balance then our kids won’t either. For some people, the choice to stay at home is easy. For others, such as myself and many others (and I do consider myself a working parent because even though I am home the vast majority of the time, the fact still remains that I might be away from my family for days on end if I am at a birth), the choice to stay at home constantly may lead to resentment or anger. And WHY is it bad to have other interests outside of your children. And what about Mom’s that work in the home? Are there times when our stay at home ventures may interfere with how much attention we pay to our children? You bet. But why is that better than working outside of the home?

    Being a Mom, is a job. Plain and simple. And for some people, that’s enough. For others, it’s not. But I think that everyone needs to step back, evaluate that situation for themselves and their families, and decide what kind of parents we want to be without placing judgment on the choices that others make. So, if staying at home works well for some families, then PLEASE by all means they should continue to do so. But the fact remains that it won’t and doesn’t work for everyone. And rather than have everyone do things the same way, we should enjoy the diversity that we can offer each other in the AP world, and not balk at those that do things a little differently.

    Sarah, I like you. I really do. And I know that you and I will never see eye to eye on everything, and maybe that’s WHY I like you so much. So, I hope you don’t take my response here as anything other than a counterpoint to your posting. Please, don’t take it personally, but this is one area that I just, as I stated, have a total disconnect with the AP philosophy.

  2. That was more a response to the responses I heard at knitting. That some people don’t like to be around their kids that much. Not necessarily my reaction – one from the room at large.

    But I’m having a hard time taking the rest of your response seriously, since I think you have a basic misunderstanding of AP, and also since you read waaaaay more into that post than I wrote.

    You misunderstand AP if you think it says that we have to make a choice between our children and ourselves. Dr Sears, in his list of AP stuff, asserts that Balance is important. I think many parents forget this, or it just gets pushed aside in the daily grind of living, but balance – making sure EVERYONE gets their needs met – is important. AP doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s own needs (or desires) in any way, shape, or form.

    Also, this wasn’t a post that in any way said “everyone should stay home with their kids.” Though I do think that people should stay home with their kids, that’s a post for a different day and with much better reasoned arguments than “daycare is expensive.”

    But I’m still left with the question – if a person doesn’t want to be around their kids that much, why have so many of them? (And, truth be told, one of my other coworkers freely admitted that she worked – and paid more in daycare than she earned – because she didn’t want to be around her kids that much. She had four of them.) Also, it’s important to note that, while my old job was satisfying and rewarding for a while, it’s not a “for the greater good” job. It’s a job people work because they can write well, get along with others, and they need to pay bills.

    Also, I think you read too much into this – I am not saying that anybody’s choice is WRONG. What I said was that I don’t understand the choice to pay to daycare more than you make in income unless it’s a job that you really really really love.

  3. Apparently, I have pushed a button 😉

    I will say this, I completely agree that people who don’t want kids, shouldn’t have kids. I can also agree that perhaps I let our conversations at knitting and in this blog posting cross together. Perhaps if we hadn’t had an earlier conversation about it at knitting, I wouldn’t have ‘read as much’ into what you have said here.

    I’ll let this one go, since it’s fairly obvious that we won’t be seeing eye to eye on this, and that’s just fine with me. I still like ya. I DO take offense to the assumption that I don’t understand AP. That was a hurtful comment. But I am going to assume that you didn’t mean it that way.

    See you at ICAN on Tuesday!

  4. you haven’t hit a button, as I said, I’m typing fast with cranky baby. I’m not sure what I might have said at the “earlier conversatin” at knitting, other than that I wondered how much daycare cost and I didn’t see any way this woman came out ahead. I made no further comment that I recall, so I’m not sure what you’re implying.

    I’m sorry you were hurt by my comment, but to insist that AP forces parents to choose between themselves and their kids is completely false.

  5. The AP style however, as opposed to what AP actually is, isn’t terribly inviting to parents who choose to or need to work out side of the home. As a group, most AP parents are not terribly welcoming to people that do make that choice. And I have plenty of personal examples to back that up, and not just about myself.

    AP doesn’t force parents to make that choice, and in fact DOES state that balance is necessary. Do I see that often in practice? Nope. Unless of course you do happen to be one of those people who wants your children to be your primary focus (which I don’t have any issue with).

    Balance is the one area in AP parenting that I have seen most often neglected. Not just amongst my friends, but my clients as well. And my other doula friends and midwife friends clients as well. So do I think that AP forces parents to make that choice? No. But, it’s an interesting thing to observe, the natural parenting group – when they discover that ‘one of their own’ has chosen to go back to work. It’s generally an odd mix of ‘good for you’ and ‘oh I’m so sorry.’ and usually ends up being the latter.

    Again. I don’t see us agreeing, but what it boils down to is that in this community, and in every other one I have worked in and been a part of, the general concencus that you should stay home or you aren’t ‘AP enough’. And honestly? I find that offensive and hurtful. So, I’m sorry if I have reacted strongly to your posting. Again, I will see you on Tuesday.

  6. *shrug* then maybe you know different people than I do.
    Plenty of people who come to the CD and BW meetings are headed back to work and I’ve never seen/heard a single negative thing said or implied. I don’t go to many of the evening meetings which working moms are likely to attend, so maybe that’s where all the judging happens, and I just miss it.

    Very rarely has any comment been made about anyone’s life choices in BW or CD or informally among the people I choose to hang out with. (I could say a few things here that are unrelated about comments made about life choices and when things are cheered on by the “natural” community and when they are not, but as those comments are unrelated and hurtful to ME, I’ll refrain.)

    I have a LOT of customers (with whom I typically spend several hours) who go back to work. I don’t ever say “good for you” when people decide to go back to work out of their own choosing (and when I say “work,” I am talking about your regular 5 days in the office full time job), but I don’t really usually make any sort of comment, whether they are a customer or not. It’s usually none of my business. If the person says something about regretting having to go back, or not wanting to go back, or whatever, I will offer a supportive statement like “yeah, it’s hard to leave them,” or “I’m sorry.” That’s not being judgemental, it’s being supportive and reflecting their own stated emotions back to them.

    At the same time, I don’t know too many working moms who don’t express regret themselves about “having” to go back to work. It would be odd to be talking to someone who is expressing regret about returning to work and not say something supportive to them.

    And this is COMPLETELY unrelated to what I was talking about, but it really goes back to what I post about a lot, and that’s owning your choices. I think a lot of working moms don’t own their choice, just like sometimes formula feeding moms don’t own that choice. So they lie, perhaps even to themselves, and do the “oh, i wish I could stay home” whining, when they don’t really mean it.

    But at any rate, I’m no closer to understanding the choice to pay to go to work. There’s no job in the world worth PAYING for the chance to do, in my book. I don’t understand why anyone would choose to pay for the privilege of working. Like I said, and back on topic, there are surely better things to spend one’s money on.

  7. But perhaps she doesn’t pay. My sister will have my psycho mom watch her future children for free. A lot of people have cheap or free arrangements that allow them to work and not be in the red.

    Personally, I don’t understand either. There are a lot of WAH jobs and when matched with lack of daycare costs, shifting wardrobe and travel costs, food savings ect…… there are just so many lost opportunities for people to stay home and raise their children AND pursue their own passions.

  8. This particular woman does pay, I happen to know that. (She was with her mom, who I knew from when we were working together, and she had made some sort of comment about grandkids that led me to wonder if she got to watch them during the day, so I asked, intending to say something about how much my MIL loved watching her grandkids, and my former coworker said no they go to daycare.)

  9. Sorry, I wish I had coherent chunks of time instead of little snatches here and there.

    ““But if you don’t like your kids/any kids enough to want to be home with them while they’re little, why keep having them?”

    I want to reiterate that I was speaking here ONLY of people who don’t want to be around their kids so much that they’re willing to PAY to be away from them and work full time. There’s NO financial gain from working, there is a financial loss.

    They make $500 a week in salary, they spend $800 a week in daycare. They are paying money out of their pocket – losing money – every day they go to work.

    I don’t understand WHY someone would do that. It even perhaps has less to do with kids than it does to do with work. Or maybe math?

  10. I definitely know moms who work because they do not enjoy time with their kids. They put on that they do. Then they talk to you and it becomes very clear that they would really rather just say they are a parent, but not have to act on it. My SIL is a prime example. They are the types who pay more to have their kids in care than if she just stayed home. But, then, she would have to wrangle kids all day, kids whom she most conveniently would rather shove off on her mother to care for. I have rarely seen her with all four of her children at once. She even has arrangements with her ex husband which leaves her with only her newest child every other weekend. After a week at work, I would look forward to seeing my kids on the weekends. She will send the girls off to her mom’s on the weekends she has them, and send her son off to some grandparent’s on the weekends she has only him, while she and my BIL go out drinking or see a movie. All weekend. Not just one night. Seriously? I think there is a very real point being made here by Sarah-why pay more to have them in someone else’s care. I think one major reason here is most people are not willing to really take the time to sit down and look at what it costs them to work, especially the little things like lunch and clothing costs. That alone often would make staying at home more profitible. It doesn’t look that way outright because there is no “money” coming in, but if other money is not going out, then that is more in the pocket. I often think that the actual “sacrifices” people must make are not as big a deal as they make them. We can’t have cable. Less tv never hurt anyone. We have to buy clothes secondhand. My children are often dressed beautifully, and most of my clothing comes from garage sales and thrift stores, but you wouldn’t know it. We can’t eat out as much-if you’re staying home this is less of an issue as you have a little more time to make things, though you don’t need much. Less name brand and processed food often=better food as you have to buy whole foods and actually learn how to cook. I agree that one has the choice, but I disagree that those who choose to have a number of children and then leave them with others are making wise choices. If your job is *that* important to you, which it may well be which is awesome, you will find a way to do it part time, or from home, or will be willing to wait a couple years for you kids to start school (if you choose to send them to school, which you may not) to pursue it. I maintain all of my previous hobbies and interests, just in a different schedule or a different way. I am still me. My ap parenting style has not affected my loves. But, before I CHOSE to be a mother, and choice that I took very seriously, that I think a lot of people DO NOT take as seriously as they should, I knew that my kids would be priority. Not all parents are Christians, but adding that perspective to my own, there is a hierarchy spelled out in the Bible which gives more direction to parents, that being that God, then one’s spouse, then one’s children take priority. One’s job is not in there, and studies show that the home environment and a child’s parents are highly important in the development of the child. I have seen people on tight budgets, I have looked at those budgets nad seen ways for them to make one income work. If the sacrifice is made of the money, then the reasoning just never works for me. If the sacrifice is of the job which one loves, then the parent needs to look at why they decided to become a parent in the first place. I encounter many parents who are not parents to be parents but because society or family or friends say that it is the “right” progression after marriage.
    This is all in a rambling form as I keep walking away to take care of kids and housework, but I do think that there is not all that valid an argument in leaving a child in daycare if it is costing you money, unless you do not enjoy being with your children, in which case, why did you have them.

  11. I used to work with a woman, childless by choice, in her 50s. She was so happy, she and her husband. They just never wanted to be parents. She said that from time to time they wondered if it was the wrong decision, but they both love to work, they like to travel, they had their life and they were happy, and they knew kids would mean changing some priorities and they didn’t want to.

    She said she’s been called selfish, and def. felt pressure from society. But I don’t think that’s selfish. That’s honesty. That’s owning your choices, your decisions, and also knowing yourself. And being responsible. She was an awesome person to talk to, really. I actually really miss her.

  12. I’ve heard this time and time again….”you have to have two incomes in this day in age”. However, there are two groups: those who are struggling and have to have two incomes just to get by all while making sacrifices and wishing desperately that you could be there more for your kids….and those who “have” to have two incomes in order to live in lifestyle in which they are accustomed. The second disgusts me and is offensive to the first. Then to think that there are people out there actually paying out more than their second income to get away from their kids…that’s horrifying! There are people out there who would give anything to be able to stay home with their children! It just goes to show how truly selfish our society is…and how foolish. Children are being treated as nothing more than a cute little accessory. They are nothing more than pets to some people….you have them because that’s the thing to do, they’re cute and people give you attention because of them. Then when they get bigger and are trouble, you pawn them off on someone else because you don’t actually want to put the time and energy into them. All the while people praise you for being a working mom who works so hard for her family! Look at all the “sacrifice”! Ugh. Yet if you stay home with your children, that’s a waste and isn’t important. Apparently I do nothing all day.

    Sure, everyone needs a little me-time…mothers too. However, I don’t have to get rid of my kid 8 to 10 hours a day to get that. I’m relaxing right now while Bear takes a nap. When her father gets home I might be able to grab an hour to do something I want to do like sew. Being a parent is hard…but the little things make it worth it. I get to watch her learn and grow…but if I miss that because I’m working outside the home to get my fulfillment, what was the point in having her? If you choose to be a parent, you should be getting your fulfillment from that.

    And yes, I’m a little “grr. argh.” about it at the moment. Please pardon the ranty comment.

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