Stay-at-home mom or dad: damned if you do

Whenever someone asks me, “What do you do for a living?” at weddings, parties, reunions, etc. I cringe a little inside. Someone’s asking me that damn question again.

Recently I was at the gynecologist and the receptionist greeted me with:  “Hello. Are you currently employed?”

Is there anything worse than going to the gynecologist? Oh wait, I know. Getting asked your employment status as you frantically rifle through your satchel in search of a photo ID and health insurance card.

I felt like my examination already started. It was as if the receptionist and everyone in the waiting room was scrutinizing me. (Of course, no one was judging me. I was the only one doing the judging.) But I was overcome with that awkward feeling you get while laying on a table, feet in stirrups, legs (and resumé) spread wide for all to see.

Why can’t I say “homemaker”, “stay-at-home mom” (SAHM) with pride or, at the very least, declare my status with a matter-of-fact tone? Instead, I end up feeling slightly embarrassed or as if I’m a disappointment to the person asking the question.

woman carrying baby boy wearing white tank top infront of white curtain inside the room
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

It’s always the same. I sheepishly answer, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a high school English teacher,” my voice galvanized. I explain (and over explain) that in my former life I had a career. “I was offered a full time teaching job, but it didn’t make financial sense to continue working after calculating the costs of daycare for two children. My husband generally travels for work Mondays through Thursdays, so I didn’t want two parents away from home.” The person who asked me the question really doesn’t care. His or her eyes are already glazed over by the time I start droning on about my future work plans.

Why do I feel the need to explain myself or justify my life (and my family’s) choices to anyone?

Why am I ashamed to be a stay-at-home mom? (I don’t look down on other stay-at-home moms.)

A motivational speaker once said something that really stuck with me. Everything you say before the “but” doesn’t really matter. Remember when I said, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a high school English teacher.” Why then does being a stay-at-home mom not matter to me, to critics, to society at large?

Somewhere along the line, someone or something (e.g. society?) made me feel ashamed about where I’m at in life. My experience at the gynecologist’s office made me wonder where some of my self loathing comes from. For the record, I loathe my self loafing. I hate feeling bad, but I admit many of my sentences begin with, “I feel bad…” or “I feel guilty…”

Some reasons I feel ashamed

  • I feel bad some parents work eight or more hours a day and still have to complete the very tasks I do in my “work day” when they get home (e.g. cleaning, cooking, learning and enrichment activities/schoolwork, bringing kids to after school activities, bath times, bedtimes, etc.).
  • I feel bad complaining about staying at home when other parents would love to switch places with me. I had the choice to stay at home. Not everyone is so lucky. (My mom worked full time and would’ve loved to be a homemaker.)
  • I feed bad I’m not contributing to the household with a salary, which makes it difficult to spend money on personal needs and wants.
  • I feel bad not being “busy” every moment of every day. Yes, most days are busy – from the first kid waking up until the last kid going to bed. But some days are slow and boring. (Our American society places such a premium on being “busy” and especially values individuals who have busy jobs and busy lives.)
  • People will think I have no education or skills. (I have a Master’s. See look at me trying to prove my value to you.)
  • People will think I’m not hirable on account of the big gap on my resumé.
  • People will think I’m selfish for having me-me-me time during the work day, e.g. taking an exercise class, grabbing a coffee, getting my hair done, reading a book, etc. (As kids get older and attend full time school, there’ll be more pockets of free time – no doubt.)

We should all be encouraging one another whether we work inside or outside of the home. At the end of the day, we’re all doing the most important work of all: raising our children to be good people.

woman in gray sweater carrying toddler in white button up shirt
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

A Final Thought – From the Pillow

Who you are is enough. What you do is enough.

So don’t be ashamed of who or what you are. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you’re living your life if that life makes you happy.

Stop mom and dad damning/shaming. Maybe the shamer is you. Enough is enough.

Why is being a SAHM/stay-at-home dad (SAHD) not considered a “real job”, especially since you’d be paying for childcare if you had to/wanted to be a working parent? Does a nanny, an au pair, a daycare worker, a preschool teacher, etc. not have value? (They absolutely do!)

15 thoughts on “Stay-at-home mom or dad: damned if you do

Add yours

  1. “Who you are is enough. What you do is enough.” Very well written! Good read! I especially live the part about what you say, about when you interject the word (but) into the sentence. Must remember that. I too am a stay at home home and find myself justifying what my career was prior to being a stay at home mom. Not that is necessary but because I feel I need to add something if value. But why? Great blog read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and give me such thoughtful feedback. I so appreciate it and having you visit my site! I especially love hearing from other stay-at-home moms. We’re in this together.

      I totally feel like I need to prove myself to others. I know people in other jobs feel the same. It’s not a good way to feel, that’s for sure! As a SAHM/SAHD, there’s definitely pressure from within and without to feel like you’re a value-add.

      Like

  2. Very well written and identifies with so many who go through these thoughts and experiences everyday and simply let it pass only to disturb their inner peace. Your article definitely stands out to strongly voice the opinions of similar SAHM/SAHD and inspires them to remain happy and feel proud of “who they are and what they do is enough”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading the post and taking the time to write such a thoughtful review – it means so much. I’ve been a victim of negative self talk for years – that pesky inner voice only getting amplified when I became a stay-at-home mom. It’s my hope to heal myself with these posts and hopefully make someone else feel a little bit better too. We are mom/dad enough! We are enough, enough! Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You articulated exactly what I feel all the time. Those days when I lay down with my toddler to take a nap with him, while his mom is at work and his brother in kindergarten, I feel so lazy (and GUILTY). Even though it makes more financial sense to stay at home, I have all those worries and fears that you do. Our culture is what makes us value making money more than we do raising our children, and I think it’s always been that way. Love the post! I’m going to read some more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Your note made me feel so good today!

      I too have felt like a layabout when I nap (that was even before I had kids). But my past physicians and psychiatrists have all urged me to stay in bed and take a nap every day for optimal overall health. People from many countries build naps into their daily regiment! Why can’t we?

      You’re so right; our culture puts too much value on being busy and making money. If you’re not working or “being productive”, then you’re not contributing to society. This thinking is flawed and even harmful.

      For me some of my guilt comes from the fact that not every mom or dad gets this luxury. But me feeling guilty doesn’t change anything for the tired parents out there. So do what makes you and your baby happy. If naps are healthful for your household, then enjoy!

      What’s more valuable and beautiful than raising your kids yourself and sharing a day with them, and all parts of that day which includes napping. I say our kids won’t want to nap with us forever, so let’s savor this sweet time.

      Like

  4. Great discussion. It is so true and so difficult as a stay at home parent facing those questions. I’m a stay at home dad myself. It’s even wilder for people to hear that, because people forget we live in an equal world now. My wife was making more, it made financial sense, and I get to be at home raising our boys while my wife gets to pursue her career goals. I think we just have to remember, we’re not doing this for the people outside our home, we do it for the beautiful babies inside our home. Keep it up my fellow SAHD’s/SAHM’s!

    Liked by 1 person

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