Why does “Stay-at-Home Mom” (SAHM) have such a negative connotation — especially in a community where many spouses are rocking this title out of choice, necessity, and the service member’s work environment? Let’s change our mindset on what the title Stay-at-Home Mom means, recognizing the challenges and depth of this role.
Why is there a such a stigma attached to SAHMs? The military lifestyle comes with numerous challenges for moms: frequent moves, expenses for re-licensing employment in different states, and solo-parenting while simultaneously working. But what about moms who do not work outside the home? Article after article supports the fact that parenting is more work than a full-time job. That’s because parenting is never-ending! As moms, we commiserate about the lack of sleep and endless laundry and dishes that multiply like rabbits, but when a fellow military mama happily (or unhappily) shares she’s rocking-it-out as a SAHM, some grimace.
It’s Hard Work
I was ridiculously blessed to have a paying job when we lived overseas. It was a coveted position for those who live OCONUS. And then… we expanded our family. I was lucky because my amazing job allowed me to switch to part-time. Wahoo! Whenever someone asked what I did for work, I always announced my paid position title and not the one I wear with true honor: Mother. My identity was glued to my profession. I had worked hard for it, after all; lots of money, sweat, and literal tears went into obtaining my degree, license, and certification. It made sense to be proud of my paid job. But I have also spent considerably more hours, sweat, blood, and tears (and other bodily fluids) to become a mother.
Why is there shame in that?
A New Identity
Two moves later and I am now “just” a SAHM. Despite completing the tedious application process for licensing and applying for numerous positions week after week, I have not found paid employment for several reasons. This long gap of not working outside the home has led me to evaluate the purpose as a Stay-at-Home Mom.
But I am not just a SAHM! I am also…
The Chief Financial Officer
I’m a saver, couponer, and penny pincher. When my family had two paychecks versus just one, we spent more money on eating out, coffee outings, and quick runs to the grocery store. I had less time to spend couponing and finding deals. Now that we are living on one paycheck, I have to make time to budget. There is still a lack of time — because let’s face it — raising children at home doesn’t mean you are sitting at home doing nothing, but my “free” time comes after the kids are in bed. In the twenty minutes to three hours before I go to bed, I coupon, look up rebates, balance the checkbook, and budget. We are on a fixed income now. Every purchase must be budgeted to ensure we come out in the green. Because of my active duty spouse’s schedule, this position falls onto me.
The Party Planner
While not a huge adjustment, party planning does take on a new meaning. Being resourceful with kids’ parties is vital. Instead of running to the store after work to pick up supplies, I now carve out time to make decorations and price-compare supplies across multiple stores. For my child’s last birthday, I baked and decorated a multi-layer strawberry cake made from scratch, instead of buying one. Being budget-conscious takes more time and energy. One may think SAHMs have more time on their hands, but I am also…
Teaching how to tie shoes, pronouncing words, and letter and color recognition – outside the classroom — is my job. My family no longer has childcare workers and nannies to cover this task. While I was engaged in this role while working outside the home, this is now a live-in duty. In the grocery store my children and I count food items and recognize colors and textures. It makes the trip take longer, but the little smiles and giggles make it worth it. Noticing teachable moments is hard work, but I take advantage of them when I can.
The Character Shaper
No other person can parent my children like me. I shape and nurture the character of each of my children, helping them to be the best-version-of-themselves.
Every fall, loose tooth, and skinned knee that happens at home involves me. My magical kisses make invisible (and not-so-invisible) boo-boos go away. Dosing and keeping track of medicine every 4-6 hours, and determining what can be resolved with my skill level or what needs real medical attention – that’s my job.
The Assistant Errand Person
This is a legitimate paid title for some people. Maybe it falls to the intern for some, but “odd jobs” are never odd for SAHMs. Dry cleaning, groceries, library book returns, and MANY MORE! My to-do list never ends.
When my toddler breaks anything — and I mean anything — from a broken piece of pasta to a torn page in a book, she turns to me and says, “Mommy fix it.” While repetitive, it’s a job worth doing.
The Meal Planner
Planning ahead with meals (by at least two weeks) helps me minimize grocery trips and allows for massive meal prep, on occasion. When I was working outside the home, this skill was meticulous, as I only had a few days off a month to take care of it. Meal planning helps me with my next job title…
The Master of the Calendar
The party planner, the CFO, and the meal planner come to coordinate in one place: the master calendar. For some, there’s a whole command center devoted to this. While I no longer color-code what shift I have or what clinic I am working at, there are now lists of school holidays, spirit days, and volunteer shifts. Moment to moment, I keep everyone on task. The President of the United States has one person do this for his job, and while I am not running affairs of state, I am running the affairs of a household.
The Events Coordinator
Finding outings for free, the closest park, the best beach with cheap parking, and coordinating play dates — that’s on me.
I’m a mom with a smartphone most of the time, but I also try to refine my photography skills to take keepsake photos of our adventures.
Or, as of late, the Shutterfly photobook-maker. I want to preserve our memories, but I can’t keep up with printing hundreds of photos and spending hours curating scrapbooks. Remember when we had to wait for the perfect picture to capture it on film? I now have 500 pictures of my left foot because my toddler snapped them — and yes — they are still on my phone’s camera roll.
A New Four-Letter Word
As a mom who has been both a working professional and SAHM, I need to clear something up: Being a SAHM is a job. I refuse to say, “Oh, I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” I used to say the “just” stay-at-home mom role is a busy and challenging one. This isn’t to take away from working mothers who balance motherhood with a job outside the home, but when I was working outside the home I had the need and funding to delegate. With all the different job titles listed above, “just” should not be attached to stay-at-home mom. If we’re going to keep the acronym SAHM, how about we change it to Sanity And Happenings Manager.
IS BEING A SAHM STRESSFUL?
Check out this article on How To Simplify Your Life With Kids
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