Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SAHM does not equal luxury; an essay

Recently, I saw a post on the Facebook asking me if I consider it a luxury to be a stay at home mom. Truth be told, I don't even remember what page I like that asked that, but I certainly remember the emotions (anger) that boiled in my blood as I responded; "Being a SAHM is a choice, not a luxury."

Bam. Take that whoever you are, insinuating that being a SAHM might even come close to luxurious. For a good part of the afternoon I thought of reasons why being a paid-working mom is more of a luxury than being a SAHM. I compiled a list of things that make staying at home anti-luxury, and I thought of how I would write a blog about it.

Then my husband came home and I told him about the "SAHM = luxury" preposterous proposition over dinner. He sided with the whoever they ares and said that a lot of people can't afford to stay at home, so that's how it can be considered a luxury.

Ugh. Of course I knew he was right about how some families can't afford to have a stay at home parent. I was just mad at the terminology and the semantics of the whole thing.

Luxury has 7 definitions on dictionary.com & none of them fit what I am. 

Luxuries are not necessities. I consider myself necessary to G and my husband. If you want to get technical, neither of them would die without me, but their lives would not go on in the same manner if I weren't around.

Maybe the whoevers meant that some mothers MUST work to provide for their families, while others do not. Okay, that's fine, I don't have to work because my husband and I are good at living on a one-income budget and we don't have a lot of luxuries (in the actual sense of the word). I believe, then, one could argue that if I had a job... IT would be a luxury. We don't absolutely need additional money, so it would be luxurious for me to work for pay.

We could, however, surely use the extra money because we have student loans and want to buy a house some day (so saving for a down payment would be a lot easier if we had an additional income). We aren't living super poorly, and we do enjoy our life, but we certainly think twice before buying anything.

For example, we just bought a grill last weekend after talking about it for months. We shopped around, we read reviews, we browsed online, and hashed out the finances. No decision involving more than a few bucks is taken lightly around our house. We had been wanting to go on a little Memorial Day trip, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards for us right now. Traveling is expensive. If I had a job, we'd surely be able to afford a little weekend getaway. We'd also be paying down our student loans faster and we'd be a lot closer to a down payment. Those things are luxuries. Staying at home with my daughter is not...it's a choice I've made.

So...why don't I have a job?

When I graduated college with a teaching degree, I did, in fact, want to teach for several years. I never considered putting my future kids in day care, though, so I knew I would eventually be a SAHM, regardless of finances. I love teaching and I wanted to work for a few years, but G was very unplanned, though not completely unexpected. I never got the chance to have a full-time job before she came into our life. We had 1.5 years of marriage in college, half a year of my husband working full-time & me working part-time (as a substitute teacher), and a few months of me being a stay-at-home wife before G was born. Our family has never really known 2 salaries. Because of that fact, we didn't take a financial 'hit' when I became a SAHM. We are actually doing better now, financially, with me staying home with a baby, than we were doing in college. I don't feel that getting a college degree was wasted, because I matured in mind and heart through my education. Perhaps I might go back to work when G and our future kids are school age, although I may home-school them until middle school (depending on where we live).

I know there are some families who need both incomes to still fall short of $40,000/yr and they thankfully get some assistance with childcare. I also know there are families who have free childcare through various relatives, so the parents can both feel more comfortable going to work, knowing a family member is half-raising their kid instead of a daycare center.

But.... there are those families who make a decent enough living but aren't willing to give up a few real luxuries to stay at home with their young kids. Maybe they don't want to downsize, or neither parent wants to stay home... that's fine, I'm certainly not judging you because I know being a stay at home mom is NOT easy. I clean every day. I do laundry on a regular basis (especially with cloth diapers). I make a comparative grocery list and do budget shopping. I teach G a variety of things, most recently how to clean out a dishwasher ;-). I read her the same book 15 times a day and give her plenty of cuddles no matter how tired I am. I handle her tantrums with patience and love. I keep her entertained throughout the day. I am on full mom duty 24/7. No one else will help teach my kid to use the potty, or clean up her messes as she learns. No one else takes her to the park every day. I'm the one who taught her to fall asleep on her own, and endured the crying that came with it. I'm the one who prepares her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I love staying at home with her because I'm not missing a single milestone, and I'm raising her better than anyone else could because she is my responsibility.

 So don't look at me being a SAHM and deem it a luxury.


  1. I think a lot of this might stem from sexism, actually. Since parenting and domestic life are traditionally female activities and working outside the home is traditionally male, there is less respect for "women's work," and it is somehow seen as even less than work--or "luxury" as the person called.

    I few years ago I met this scholar named Riane Eisler that writes a lot about how sexism plays into the way we value things. You might check out some of her articles about family and caregiving here: http://www.rianeeisler.com/books.htm

    While there are some families who can't afford to have a stay-at-home parent, that doesn't make being a stay-at-home parent a luxury---it makes the CHOICE a privilege (I wouldn't even call it a luxury). I think we should value caregiving and family more in our society and value having "stuff" less.

    End. rant.

  2. I find it interesting how terminology can get us all riled up, because when I saw your post on Facebook I got offended and riled up, but because of terminology, and then I read your blog and this constant battle between working moms and stay at home moms is killing me. I don't normally respond to blog articles, but I've read a few via facebook and couldn't not respond.

    I am a mom, who out of necessity, has to work full time. I would LOVE the ability to stay at home with my daughter. To not have to drop her off at a sitter and miss her entire day, to not cry on my way to work because the one thing I want to do with all my heart is something I can't do. But I don't have that privilege or luxury. Yes, it is a luxury that many can't afford and I say luxury because nothing in this life is necessary except clothing, food, and shelter (1 Timothy 6:8). Therefore everything else is a luxury. Having a decent house to live in, having more than enough food to eat, being able to afford a grill or trip. I don't work because I want other luxuries in my life. I work because even giving up all of the extra luxuries of society, I still need to work to put food on the table and provide a roof over my daughters head and while i have a husband who works really hard, his salary alone is not enough for us to live the frugal life we lead.

    I also budget and meal plan. I read Hannah the same story 15 times in a row because she loves it.. I do laundry almost everyday. I clean my house. I don't take a trip because I can't afford it, I don't buy everything I wan.t I also work full time, sometimes more than full time because I have a demanding job, not because my career is more important to me or because my daughter is not important enough.

    We are all moms who are doing the best we can to love and support and provide for our children.

    The battle and defenses that each type of mom throws out there are causing more problems than good. Being a mom is hard work, working at home and at a job is hard work. If we spent as much time supporting each other as we did defending our choices and standing on a soapbox to ensure everyone knows how much harder we work, then we might actually all feel better and supported and have more love to give to everyone around us.

    1. I really appreciate your comment, and I do agree that terminology is frustrating. I also mentioned in my post that I agreed with my husband that staying at home is a "luxury" of sorts because, "Of course I knew he was right about how some families can't afford to have a stay at home parent. I was just mad at the terminology and the semantics of the whole thing."

      I know being a working mom who would prefer to stay home but honestly cannot must be really hard. I said in my post that what I was getting at is the people who *could* stay home but don't are the ones giving people the ability to term SAHM a 'luxury' terminology. It's not a luxury, sorry, but it's not. It is a choice. As Sarah said above... "While there are some families who can't afford to have a stay-at-home parent, that doesn't make being a stay-at-home parent a luxury---it makes the CHOICE a privilege (I wouldn't even call it a luxury)"

      I'm not asking you to defend your position if you truly have to work, it's those who don't have to work, but choose to, and then look at SAHMs and call them 'a luxury.'

      A few decades ago being a SAHM would never have been considered a luxury, a second income would have been.

      To all the single parents out there.... this obviously cannot apply to you because one income is absolutely necessary, so being the sole provider and sole parent is a whole different situation.

  3. Kaylene - I started reading your blog today and have really enjoyed your honesty and forthrightness--despite that others might not agree. I am also glad that liveoutloud posted her comment. I would not use the word "luxury" for being a SAHM either--you spend your entire day talking baby language, doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, organizing, trying to come up with creative things to do with your children, going to the park, etc. In fact, Mitt Romney said last night in his address that he feels his wife's job taking care of their house, supporting him and their children is not only harder but more important than any job of his ever was. If we're being specific about terminology, I think "privilege" is a great word. Like liveoutlove, I would give ANYTHING to be able to be at home--even a few hours more each day. I work an hour or more away (depending on which office I'm in that day) and still handle most of the cleaning and nearly all of the kid stuff at home (I have two sons--6 years old and 8 months). I get help from the rest of the family, for sure, with minor chores, some cleaning, cooking (I do the least of it), etc., but I by far take care of most of the family's needs and work full-time (with the higher income...not by much, but it's higher). To stay at home MIGHT be possible, but it would put my family in a position to have absolutely no extra money to spend, less money going to my son's school, no vacations, longer time before we can buy a house (next year is our goal) and, likely, significantly less options for meals and everything else. I won't ever consider SAHMs any of the things that judgmental people say, and it is absolutely a choice, but I do consider it at the very least a privilege. I totally understand what you meant in your post, but I also understand why it could be slightly offensive...because like liveoutlove, I cry to work or back because I had to leave my son at an amazing lady's house, their dad gets to work two minutes away and pick our other son up from school sometimes, I have an evening meeting/function and know I won't see them even more that night, I won't have as much time with them that weekend because grandma and grandpa think they "deserve" "alone time" with them (don't even get me started). I guess I wholeheartedly agree with you that there's this huge battle between working moms and SAHMs, and the reality is we should support one another no matter what we have to do or choose to do. People choose to work just like you choose to stay home, and others of us don't have that choice right now. I'm glad you spoke up about it because SAHMs deserve support and recognition for being amazing moms and setting their lives and careers aside to raise amazing children. But for those of us that don't have that choice to make right now, consider that it's really really hard for us too--and that we do consider it an amazing thing (luxury, privilege, whatever) to be able to stay at home. Your job (and it really is a job) is extremely difficult, but you are also so blessed to be able to be there with your kids every single day!


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