I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom, mostly because I grew up with a mother I seldom saw because she was a career woman. And though I have made my peace with my childhood and her parenting, I still chose to be a SAHM and absolutely looked for a man who will support this dream. Thankfully, he was also raised by one.
Parenting in itself is an everyday test of courage, creativity and patience. But being a SAHM has unique challenges that not everyone will get. Sometimes, not even the husband.
First, there is the lack of funds.
Aside from having to make do with one income and stretching it to accommodate a growing family, there is that sad fact that you will think twice about getting that massage or buying that nice pair of shoes. The massage money could buy more food treats for the family and you’re not really going anywhere nice to wear the nice shoes to. Plus, where do you get money to buy your husband a gift? From him?
What works: Agree early in the relationship how money will be spent and always allocate some, however little, for your own needs and some of your wants. It may not be practical to get a mani and pedi but the cost to the family of a depressed mother is higher. Be resourceful about finding good bargains so you can save more money. And consider things you can do to generate some income, even if it’s only selling things you’re going to throw out anyway on Ebay.
Then, there’s the low self-esteem from not earning and lack of titles.
We don’t really have grand titles. Even if we say we’re Operations Manager of Arevalo Industries, our rewards will still generally be intangible ones that not many can appreciate. Tied to this is the limited purchasing power. I think most SAHMs get depressed about this at least once a month. We’re only human enough to get jealous of friends getting promoted, awarded and paid ridiculously high especially if we know that we’re smarter than said friend.
What works: It’s hard work but SAHMs really have to submit to a paradigm shift where they learn to put value in other things. While other moms are rushing to finish presentations, we dawdle in bed, waking up to kisses from our tot. While other moms are making sales pitches, we get our child excited over vegetables. Celebrate milestones only you and your family can appreciate and you will remember better why you made the sacrifice.
And what of adult company?
Adult company and conversations were something I really, really missed when I first became a SAHM, especially since it took my child a year before he started talking. SAHMs do not stop being social animals just because they quit their job and having to stay at home all the time may grate on one’s nerves.
What works: Have regular date nights with the husband. And by all means, keep meeting with friends. If you can’t relate with them anymore, find other parents, especially mothers like you. Go on play dates, do volunteer work or take up short courses. You can also go online for adult conversations, even if it’s only exchanging bubble solution recipes.
And you do feel redundant.
It’s not that there aren’t enough challenges in a day for SAHMs but the routines and the same environment and company can make anyone feel redundant. You get scared that you will not be able to contribute to conversations anymore and that your brain will somehow lose connections because you’re not doing complex mathematical equations.
What works: Keep reading, not just for leisure but to be educated as well. Go back to University or pursue higher learning by getting a Master’s Degree. Take up a new hobby or pursue other passions. Keep abreast of the news and what’s new. Consider working from home as well. And learn along with your child because you will always learn something new. For instance, I can now name dinosaurs for each letter of the alphabet. Can you?
And everybody takes you for granted, even you!
Neighbors ask you for favors. Your children keep forgetting things which you then bring to them. The PTA delegates all the organizing to you. Your husband stops doing chores around the house. What’s worse, when you delegate storytelling time to him, he tells you he’s tired from working all day. He also insists on weekends off and nights out with the boys. And your mother assumes you can also accompany her to wherever because you don’t work. And you start feeling guilty about wanting to cuddle up with a good book when there are so many other things to be done. Makes you wonder why not enough SAHMs aren’t in asylums, yes?
What works: Delegation of work and duties as well as expectation setting is a must for the setup to work. Husbands have to appreciate that you also work and therefore need to rest as well, or have your own ME time. Husbands also have to know that they do not stop being parents to your kids so activities with them have to be fairly divided as well. Fairly divided meaning, he will be unable to drive them to and fro during the day but he can take over bath and story time at night. Children also have to be taught that as members of the family, they have to contribute to the chores, either by helping clean up or by not adding to the messes. Make house rules your friend. And don’t feel guilty about putting age-appropriate responsibilities on your children’s shoulders. They will thank you when they grow up and you will not go insane. Also, learn to say NO to other people’s chores. Keep in mind that you stayed home to be a better parent to your growing kids, not to be the community’s errand girl. And if they keep on asking, bring up the possibility of getting paid. After all, time spent for them is time away from your kids and your chores.
Being a SAHM is not for every woman nor is a single-income setup not for every family. But if the decision was made with clear goals in mind and communication between everyone involved is kept open, cooperation is easier to come by and rewards of such a setup are more readily enjoyed.