Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fact vs. Fiction

I have technically been a SAHM for over a year now (I was on maternity leave for six months of that, but still full-time at home with Will), and I have to say, I encounter a lot of misconceptions and myths about being in my line of work. It is frustrating and demeaning to have what I do taken so lightly and with less consideration than what someone might do outside of the home. So, I will attempt to debunk some of those myths right here and now.

MYTH: Nap times are my time for eating bon bons.

FALSE. Nap times are not my downtime. Nap times are my times to get things done. Things like laundry, cleaning the house, dishes, paying bills, etc. I might take a few minutes for myself to take a shower or have a quick bite to eat, but for the most part, I am busier during naptimes than when Will is awake.

MYTH: SAHMs just play all day.

FALSE. While I am not going to lie and say that I have never have fun and just play with Will, I will say that only a small part of my day is truly spent "playing." It is a lot of hard work. I am not trying to say that it isn't fun work, it isn't fulfilling work, it isn't important work, because it is. It's just not all fun and games. Like any job, it has its good days, its bad days, its ups, its downs.

MYTH: My husband must make a ton of money and/or we just "lucked" into my being able to stay home.

FALSE. Okay, here's the thing. My husband doesn't make a ton of money. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the country in terms of housing and grocery costs. And WE MAKE IT WORK. It took planning, saving, prioritizing, and doing without some things in the past when I was making a salary. Now that I am not bringing in any income, it takes budgeting, clipping coupons, and having discipline. I do consider myself so blessed to be able to stay home with Will, but it didn't just happen.

MYTH: SAHMs are frumpy and never shower or put on makeup.

FALSE. I encounter this one quite a bit. People are always so surpised to see me wearing makup or cute shoes or trendy clothes. Again, this does take effort, but it's important to me. I do know lots of SAHMs who don't make an effort in this area, and that's fine, but for me, it is one thing that I have never sacrificed. I do get a shower every day and have every day since Will was 5 days old. If I leave the house (and most days, I do), I make sure to have at least some makeup on and my hair in decent condition. I don't wear sweatpants unless I am working out. I put on jeans and cute shoes. My husband has never once come home to find me still in my pjs. Even moms who do stay in their sweats all day still know how to clean up for a girls night out or to work a part time job. Being a SAHM doesn't mean that you let yourself go or stop caring about your appearance. Some mothers don't seem to care as much about this, but those same women probably wouldn't care as much if they were working outside the home, either.

Look, I get it. Before I was a SAHM, I had an entirely different vision of what it would be like. I thought I would have more free time, more time to relax, but it just isn't true. Being a SAHM is a job without weekends, time off, sick days, or retirement. There are no excuses, no one else to step in and do the dirty work, no switch hitters or substitutes - just like a mom who works outside of the home - it all falls on our shoulders.

I do not judge people for working outside the home, in fact, I almost made that decision myself. There are days when I miss working outside the home, the financial security that it brought us. Although I believe that me being at home is the best thing for our family, I know it's not the same for everyone. I think that is what is bothering me most of all. The fact that other moms are the ones that seem to judge and find the role of the SAHM lacking the most.

I worked a very difficult job for 10 years before being a SAHM and you know what? Being a SAHM is just as difficult, but without the paycheck, positive feedback, and RESPECT that it deserves. I know there are challenges to being a working mother, too, and they have my respect for what they face day-to-day. I know it isn't easy, because I don't think being a parent is easy, whether you are working inside or outside of your home.

What is your greatest challenge as a SAHM or WOHM? What myths do you want to debunk about either experience?


good enough said...

AS the only health insurance carrier for our family, I never had the option of being a SAHM, even when I was married. Now, I'm divorced and receive very little child support, so...

I work for a school district, so I'm a SAHM for three months every summer. I agree that there are challenges for both SAHMs and working moms. Since you asked, here are mine:

Working mom - there is NEVER, EVER enough time to get all the housework, cooking, laundry, etc. done. I often feel I'm short-changing my children in order to keep the house in minimal order and our clothes clean. I'm sometimes crabbier than I wish I were because I feel overwhelmed by the workload. And then there's the guilt... I worked part-time when my two older children were small and it was a nice compromise. But my youngest is three and in daycare full-time. And I know she would rather be home with me. One of the biggest challenges is having no time for myself. When I'm not working, my time is spent with my kids and on chores. There isn't any time for recreation that doesn't involve my kids.

SAHM - When I'm home with the kids in the summer, I'm CONSTANTLY picking up after them. I feel like I never get out of the mess and the work is never done (hmmm, this seems to be a theme with both roles). I have three kids, so I'm surrounded by their constant bickering when we're together full-time. By the end of the summer, I'm ready for some intellectual challenge and adult conversation (not that SAHMs can't have these things, but it takes more of an effort).

Tracy said...

Great post. I think it would be hard to be a working mom, too, just in different ways.

I WILL tell you, though, that I DO use naptime for "me time" on the suggestion of one of my friends who is also a SAHM to twins. Sure, I do *some* housework, but I also work out, eat lunch, take a long shower. I just have to or else I wouldn't stay sane. I figure, my hubby gets time in the morning to shower and get ready for work, but I have to leap right out of bed to start my work day...I'm entitled to a little time to take care of myself, too. It makes me a better mommy and wife, I can tell you that.

Anyway, all good points...but I wouldn't give it up for the world, and I think if I worked outside of the home that would have its own challenges.

Intrepidgirl said...

You are right on all counts, however I would also say I have learned how to do more when my baby is awake so that I can "kick back" during nap time. Often it means dragging a whining child around the house while I get stuff done (doing or folding laundry, minor food prep, dishes, cleaning), but it's worth it when he's asleep and I can nap, shower, read a magazine, or surf the net. I need "me time" and I might not be eating bon bons, but I am doing something that makes me feel good when he's down. It makes me a better parent.

HereWeGoAJen said...

Nap time is for blogs! I get dressed every single morning too. It makes me feel like a real person.

Katie said...

It sounds like I need to start doing less during naps. But when do you get all of the other stuff done? Laundry? House cleaning? Etc?

Adriane said...

Katie - I think SAHM is the hardest choice by far. I work, and most of my friends work, and we all agree that staying at home is much harder. I applaud all mothers who make that choice.

With that said, I think that you have to do a few things for yourself just to feel human! And, it sounds like you do some, and as long as there is no resentment, you probably have a good balance. I saw your question below - if you do more things for yourself during nap time, when does other stuff get done? And, I don't know! Maybe after hours? As a working Mom, I have to do things at night and on weekends. But, I also let a lot more slide because there aren't enough hours in the day.

This was a great post! Being a Mother is a huge job!

Rachel said...

I love the 'never shower' myth. This one always cracks me up because I am deeply puzzled as to exactly how the SAHMs think the working moms get time to shower every day. I'll just admit it here: I shower a couple of times a week, at most. Granted I'm single parenting at the moment (temporarily, just for say a year or so ...) but it just doesn't seem worth the effort. Either I have to dash through a shower while the baby fusses in her doorframe jumper in the morning or I land up showering between 11 pm and midnight (after finishing up the days work, dishes, laundry, cleaning the apartment, washing pump parts and bottles, cooking dinner for the next night but before the baby wakes up for her midnight snack. And yes I realize I make things a bit harder for myself by both cloth diapering and making all of her food, but I enjoy those things). And while I can't get away with sweats at work, I have been known to accidentally grabbed the exact same outfit I wore the day before and wear it to work.

Maybe all I'm trying to say is that the well-put together (and clean) working mom may just be a straw man to compare the SAHM too. Or maybe I'm just a slob.

Katie said...

Thanks for keeping all of the comments positive, Ladies! This is exactly what I was hoping for!

I do want to add that I realize that being able to have one parents stay at home isn't always possible depending on the circumstances.

And I agree, working moms do not have any more time for showers and personal time than SAHMs do. It's just that the myth of a SAHM never showering seems more pervasive than a working mom.

Mr. Thompson and Me said...

Well said! Never judge someone unless you walk a mile in their shoes...

Anonymous said...

As a working mom, I think my biggest challenge is juggling my time and roles. Essentially I feel like I work 3 fulltime jobs--when I'm home I'm fulltime mommy and fulltime wife and when I'm at work I'm a fulltime teacher. There are never any breaks for me. There is no downtime. All I get each day are my 10 minutes in the shower.

I knew this was what it would be like having a child and I honestly love all the time I have with her and my husband, but it's hard. I've got a job where I always have to be on and ready and I've always got to be that way at home too. It gets exhausting after a while...

Joy@WDDCH said...

Amen and amen! I'm so sick of the reaction I get from people (mostly singles/childless people) when I am asked what I do.

As another commenter said, I do use naptime as ME time. Mommas need to have time to themselves and I try to work it into naptime. Most of the time I just take a nap, too.

Joy@WDDCH said...

Katie- I saw your comment asking how we get laundry and other chores done at times other than naptime.

For me, laundry isn't something that takes up a lot of my time. I throw a load in and then wash the dishes with some kid music playing (so my toddler stays in there with me and she dances around).

Vacuuming is usually reserved for after the kids go to bed because my 2-yr-old is terrified of it.

Tidy as we go. I don't mind the toys being dragged out (my kids pick them up at the end of the day). If there is a spill in the fridge, I wipe it up when I see it.

I clean the bathroom while my kids take a bath. Since Will is still too little for you to focus on cleaning the bathroom while he bathes you could clean the bathroom in spurts. I love the Clorox disinfecting wipes because if I notice the sink is gross, I grab one of the wipes and clean the fridge. Next time I go into the bathroom I might wipe out the tub. And I may leave some toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet to clean on my next visit to the restroom.

Phew, that was long! But it's all about finding those little bits of time to do a little cleaning (5 minutes or less) and then spend time with the baby.

Joy@WDDCH said...

*I meant toilet, not fridge, in my last paragraph... oy!

Laura said...

I work part-time in my pre-baby corporate finance job. I was surprised to find judgment from both sides when I came back part-time (after a month stint back full-time). The worst does seem to be from other woman.

I will say that the majority of woman I meet/know are very supportive, there are just a few who aren't..and they seem to be the most vocal! :)

By the way, I know I haven't commented in a long time but I have been following you and Will. You are doing an awesome job with him!

Beth said...

Great post!

now I'm curious...

how do you & your husband make it work? (where do you cut back, what do you do without, how are you disciplined?)

I am a SAHM for a short while (and loving every second of it!), as I'm on maternity leave with my third son. And I don't want to go back to work, so I'm seeking input!! Details, from you or anybody else that has ideas ;)

Feel free to comment on my blog or send me an email to



Tracy said...

Hey Katie, just linked here from your recent post (still need to read that one) and saw your question about getting it all done. I agree with the comment about grabbing a few minutes here or there. I seem to get my housework done in quick spurts. Laundry doesn't take me long either, I throw it in, and when it comes time to fold it, I fold it in the room where the kids are playing (this may not work so well for me as the kids get older and decide they want to "help.") I set goals for myself every day - one day it may be cleaning bathrooms, or floors, or random tasks that need to be done, and I work on it a few minutes at a time in a mad frenzy while the kids are occupied with toys or watching an episode of Dora or Sesame Street. They don't watch TV all day, I try to limit it to no more than an hour or so each day, and it's all educational so I think it's fine.

Anyway, I clean as I go, too, EXCEPT for toys. Those all get picked up at the end of the day. No sense in picking the same thing up over and over again!

Now I gotta go read what the hoopla is all about. :)

GibsonTwins said...
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