Embarrassed to be a stay-at-home-mom?? Yeah, me-f'ing-too

Fuckin' A.

The other day I met another woman who has three kids and runs a business, ostensibly out of her home, but also away from it a large portion of the week. Her kids are in a daycare or school, I'm not sure which, but the point is they're still small(ish), not teenagers. When she found out I was a SAHM she very emphatically said, "I could never do that."

Now, this has happened many times over the last 2 and a half years. Me, a stay-at-home-mother, rubs elbows with a working mother, and it's like we're lions and tigers: the same genus, but not compatible somehow. I don't totally get how they "do it" and vice versa. But I also feel ashamed for not feeling the same way about motherhood and my life as they do. I'm not a fulfilled adult. I am just a mommy.

I want to make it very clear: This other woman was wholly NOT judgmental. This is about me and my reaction to a working mother. I felt like a country mouse next to a chic, city mouse. Working moms, to me, are seasoned, well-balanced, intelligent, sexy, hard-working, and stimulated. They are go-getters. They are powerful and strong. They are amazing.

I see women out and about sans children and I'm jealous of their freedom and choices. I'm sure they see me with mine and wish they were with their little ones all day long fielding tantrums and kissing boo boos. It's fucking nuts.

I'm curious as to why I'm still hesitant to admit that, despite all its drawbacks, I really, really love my job as a mother.

Of course, the biggest con of being a SAHM is the isolation and lack of adult stimulation we often - nay - almost always find ourselves in. It's stifling, really. But other than that, it's a pretty bad ass gig.

And so, to seem cool to this other (working) mother I sort of scoffed at myself and said that I wasn't loving the SAHM thing so much right now and I was definitely trying to get out of the house, too. To find some part-time work so I could stay happy as an adult, and, in effect, throwing my entire happy little life under the proverbial bus so I wouldn't seem simple to my new city mouse friend. That was my goal in telling her that I was looking for work: that I really couldn't "do it," either. That I was just like her.


Who the fuck am I, anyway?? Do I not know myself?? I'm a smart, educated woman who is damned lucky enough to not be required to work and who can apply 100% of herself to tasks at hand. I'm good at being a mother. It comes naturally to me, and yet here I was playing it off like I couldn't wait to get out of my life.

The truth is, as you all know from my bitching and moaning the past several months, I do want to get the duck outta fodge a lot of the time, but that's just because my life needs more seasoning. The basic recipe can stay the same, I just need a bit more coriander to fill out the flavors, or maybe a little nutmeg, or some cumin. You get my point. Some pep.

So besides feeling like a country mouse and uncool in the powerful shadow of a working mother, I also felt suddenly like a traitor to my sisters the spectrum-over. Not just mothers, but all women who fight to be heard and respected and seen in whatever it is they do. I had just fed into the notion that women doing traditionally female things aren't as sophisticated or "sexy" as those who do traditionally male activities.

I have nothing to be embarrassed about except my shitty ass attitude and I need to work on it.

Everyone, including myself!, gives being a SAHM incredible lip service: it's the hardest, most important, most rewarding, most crucial job in the world, but I still don't feel it when I walk out my door. Am I just not seeing it? Or does it really not exist out there beyond my doorstep? Do other people really think of me as trite or is that my internal voice after a lifetime of being told that you are more important/special/intelligent/worthwhile the higher up the ladder you are? the more money you make? the more you're in charge of? that staying home with children is boring and mind-numbing?

(If you have 15 minutes to burn, read this inflammatory NY Magazine article from almost two years ago. I think it pretty much proves I'm not making this shit up.)

I feel like I'm shrouded in bullshit. I can see through it, there are gaps and holes where I can see clearly, but I'm still struggling under a male-dominated view of what a successful, meaningful life looks like. It just surprises me, that's all. I'm sick that I continue to feel embarrassed about my choice to stay home when really, I should be feeling like a goddamned goddess.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. What have your experiences been like when approaching your life in comparison to others'??


  1. I've heard a lot of SAHMs voice the same concerns. So you're not alone. But as a working mom, I feel like I get the opposite reaction. Like, "what are you doing, working 50 hours a week? Shouldn't you be home with your daughter?"

    Truth is society disparages us all. SAHMs for "sacrificing" themselves, working moms for supposedly putting their wants and needs first - and their children second.

    Truth is, I'd kill to be a SAHM, but as the primary breadwinner, that's not an option for our family.

    Be proud of your choice. At the end of the day, the investment you make in time taking care of your child will pay off way more than the dollars you could be getting paid...

    The Man be damned.

  2. Being a SAHM is the hardest job there is, that's why she could never do it. I've worked a professional job prior to having Joe,worked the same job from home and put Joe in daycare and now work the same job even less hours and have Joe home with me. I learned in the past year that nothing, success, money, career ladder etc is worth sacrificing your child..and YES leaving your child in a daycare is sacrificing your child. I raise my child, nobody else does. My mother-in-law commented that I'm so smart and have so much to offer that she just didn't think I'd like staying at home. My mother told me "you are all of those things, why would you waste that on someone or something else other than your child. You give that to your child." I feel I'm smarter and more competent than the hourly workers at any daycare. You are all of those things too and your child is DAMN lucky to have you as his teacher and role model. You always have the opportunity to have a job and career but you won't ever have this opportunity again to raise your child during THE MOST crucial point in his development. Yes it can be boring, unchallenging, unstimulating, lonely on some days but that is the sacrifice of a mother. So, until you can begin your career again, find other ways to find meaning and fulfillment and hold your head way up high b/c you are doing the right thing for your child and should be proud.

  3. @Alicia, I'm not trying to say one or the other is better (for mother and/or child) only that I feel apologetic for my choices and I hate that I feel that way. I know that moms want it all and we all feel the pinch when we don't get what we need, be it more time with our kids or more time by ourselves. I don't want to make this a WM vs. SAHM thing; which is better/worse, etc. Just that as a SAHM, I struggle with my own views of myself in relation to a WM and I blame myself and our current cultural mores for it.


  4. @Amber Page, I sometimes wonder if we, as a society/species, need discourse in our lives. It would be so much simpler if we disparaged no one and instead supported us all in our [different] decisions. How neat would that be!

  5. I am a working mom but I can completely sympathize. I feel like I work too much and miss so much with my young daughter yet I am pretty sure if I stayed at home, I would feel unproductive knowing there is more I can accomplish in a day. As mothers I wonder if we ever feel like we are doing it all right for our kids while also feeling whole as an adult??

    I guess we just keep going day-to-day and course correct as we find that either our kids are not getting enough of our attention OR we are not feeling fulfilled with our current situation.

  6. I can completely and totally relate. I have often found myself making excuses to my "glamorous" and "intelligent" working mom friends. I have often used the "with three young kids I can't afford to work" excuse when the reality being that, like you, I really love being at home with my kids and I am quite good at it (although that has taken, much, much practice!).

    There are definitely gender stereotypes and expectations in the world that make us feel this way - that we have to explain and excuse why we want to be at home instead of being proud of it. I have been pleased to have had some really great feedback from friends/family/school teachers lately that make me feel like my kids are turning out okay and I should be advertising on my front lawn - "Yes, I am a SAHM, and I love it and it works for our family!"

    Wonderful post - it really spoke to me.

  7. Did I write this post? Because I honestly feel like I could have - and in fact have been thinking about this a lot this week after a very similar conversation I had with another Mum the other day. I never know what to say when people ask me what "I do." I mean, yes, right now I am staying home with my daughter but that always feels like such an unworthy answer even though it is exactly what I want to be doing (most of the time at least). *sigh*

  8. I struggles with this, too. Specifically, I'm embarrassed to admit that I chose to stop school after an associates degree in order to start a family and be a SAHM. I would love to get a higher degree, but being a mom is the only thing I actually WANT to do so at 32, I still haven't decided what I would major in. I find myself thinking about my alternate life more since my brother has developed a serious relationship with a girl who has the same degree from the same school that brought me to this state years ago (which I didn't pursue in the end.)

  9. I, too, feel like I could have written this. I guess the hardest part for me is that most mothers choose to be SAHM... I didn't. Not really anyways. I was in college working towards someday having a career and the plan always was to be a working mom. But when you're 19 and having a baby, the only thing you can really do with a high school education is be a stay-at-home-mom, which I have done for 9 months now. But, come September (Sophia will be about 15 months old) I am returning to school, and Sophia's going into daycare on the days I have class. I'm going to try to only have class a couple days a week and do the 'part-time' SAHM thing. That way she gets a couple days a week in day care and I get a couple days with grown-ups, but we'll also still have our mommy & baby days. I think balance is important and I feel like the scales have been severely tipped for me towards the "socializing with your kids" side as opposed to the "socializing with the rest of the world" side. I'm aiming to fix that. Not that there's anything to fix because I know there's nothing wrong with being a SAHM... I just can't do it forever. I'll go insane.

  10. I have been on all sides of this particular question. When I worked outside the home I constantly felt pulled in two different directions all the time. I felt as if I wasn't able to give my full attention to work or my kid and that wasn't fun.

    When I have tried working at home I have felt like a woman without a country. On the one hand, I am still kind of pulled all over the place. On the other hand, I didn't have the luxury of actual kid-free time to do anything. And I also didn't have the societal stamp of approval that comes with a regular job.

    When I'm at home full-time I definitely feel at a loss to explain what I do. I dread that question. I feel like I have to justify my existence, prove that I am smart and worthwhile. I also have to work harder to overcome my own issues surrounding money and independence as a child of divorce.

    I don't think there's any winning this particular debate. And that sucks. Moms aren't valued, period, no matter what we do. :(

  11. I loved being a SAHM and loved telling people I was a SAHM. I was proud. Maybe for me it's because I started out as a working mom and HATED it, and SO envied my SAHM friends. SAHM was a goal that I accomplished.
    You will never regret it...I loved every minute of it, even though it cost me a lot. It's one of the things I'm most proud of in life.

  12. If you need to work coz one pay cheque isnt enough that is fine but if you can stay at home I think its the best thing you can ever do in life. Maybe you can take a day or two off to dedicate to yourself and that would be good but you know SAHM is the ultimate and most important job of a woman i believe

  13. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: what you are feeling, what you have written above, is something we all feel. Maybe not all - but the good majority of us. It doesn't mean you're not a good mother. I know some moms who love being SAHM's, and do a great job of it, always happy, cooking, cleaning, playing, never yelling. And I am not that person. I love the weekends, because I can be with my kids all the time, but I also LOVE Monday's, for the most part, because I get to go to work, and for 7.5 hours, do my own thing. On my own. ME TIME! I love it. I can't complain. At lunch, though, when I see the moms with the strollers, I miss my boys and feel a bit guilty that I am not with them. They do grow up sooo fast, you know? I don't know. Maybe a part-time job would be awesome for you, maybe it would rejuvinate you, make you happier in some aspect? Totally possible. I would work even if I had 10 million dollars in the bank, just because I like getting out on my own. And you know that I love my children with my heart and soul and that they are my life. It's just, I need this.

  14. I understand how you feel, but I'm on the other side of the fence. I thought, like that woman you met, "Oh, I could never do that." But now being away all week is... ugh. I still love my job (and financially need the income) but both sides of the fence are hard. I think if I were at home all the time I would probably react the same way you did, but now working full time I ache to spend more time with the boy.

    I went to a gallery opening over the weekend that lots of my former teachers and classmates were also attending got the stink eye the entire time for even having a baby at all- I can't imagine the looks of horror if I also told them I wasn't working. Lots of days I still wish I could make the trade. Such is life.

  15. Wow. This is such a fiery subject for sure. I skimmed the article, too. I definitely have a strong opinion about "a" parent being at home (mom or dad) but I certainly would never judge a working mom straight out of the gate. That's just not fair and it doesn't acknowledge how hard it is to be a mom period.

    I do feel fulfilled with my life and self but, regardless, I sometimes still feel just the way you do. I think it's easy to see that when most work outside the home has a little more, uhm, tangible or visual results? I'm not sure if that's the way to explain it. I mean you can see the work you are getting done if you're eliminating piles of paper off your desk or turning in reports or getting feedback from your boss. With kids it's longer term and it's not always so obvious what we've accomplished. It's not like you're kids are giving you promotions and positive reports every quarter.

    My bit is always with impacting a larger population. This wonderful life I am impacting at home may be the most important thing in my life to impact, but I always have the desire to impact more. How the hell do you feel like you're capable of doing that when you're at home all the time? I wouldn't change what I'm doing, but it sure can be tough sometimes.

  16. Don't be embarrassed or feel any less. Do you know how many working Moms would give their left hand to be stay at home Moms. I am one of those working Moms, I wish with all my heart that I could afford to stay at home with my baby girl and baby number two whenever he/she comes along. Being a stay at home Mom makes you no less better than a working Mom. Being home with the kids is an extremely hard, hard job. Being away from your kid all day and only getting 2 - 2.5 hours with your kid a night sucks really badly. You are blessed to be able to spend time with your little boy, enjoy him and when he gets a little bigger then go back to work if that is what you long to do. Hope this helps you. No need to feel less superior to anyone. Be proud of what you do. Hugs

  17. let's try this. let's all throw the "stay at home mom" phrase away and fancy it up because often times home is the last place i like to stay with my children. just the phrase itself seems so belittiling and antiquated. might sound ridiculous but if SAHMs had another title that resonated, maybe we wouldn't be so quick to make excuses...or feel ashamed for wanting to. how about calling it, "freelance nurturer"(works for momming and blogging) or "life coordinator."

  18. Last week I went to a Soroptomist (a club for women) dinner with my mother-in-law. Everyone there was either working or retired from a fantastic job and to be quite honest, I felt useless. When someone asked me what I was planning on doing when I graduate after this semester, I said I wanted to go back to school and be a lawyer and blah blah blah. All of the stuff I used to say before Peanut came along. Really, what I want to do it finally get this degree over and stay at home with Peanut more because even part-time school feels like too much time away. It's ridiculous that I felt like I couldn't just say I'm a stay-at-home mom. Gah!

  19. I think it's been said about 10 times above, but... yes, I could have written that too. I habitually equate money and job status with success, and then I stop myself and remind myself that I'm happy doing what I'm doing - happier than I ever have been working. And I think I'm good at it, too! I think that when we're old ladies, we'll be so glad that we were able to have these years with our children.

  20. I have a lot of friends who stay home with their kids. I've always been on the other side of the fence, as an office mother, envious of their ability to spend so much time with their children.

    In either situation, there is loss of self. My days feel like one big block of hustle from the time we wake up until the kids are off to bed, at which point I get about an hour to relax until I hie myself to bed.

    Parenthood is hard, so hard, so worthwhile, regardless of how we walk the walk.

  21. All moms struggle with who they are to some extent, don't they? We're put in an awkward position -- whether we are SAHMs or 9 to 5'ers -- where serving our own needs just seems selfish. At the same time, we have an obligation to take care of ourselves and find happiness. Genuinely happy moms help build happy environments for happy babies, right? I say, do what you can do bring yourself joy and your children will know what it is to be joyful. Working an office gig just happens to be rewarding to me in a way I cannot deny. It's a part of who I am, good or bad. But, I tell ya...most days, I run out of that office at 5 o'clock and squeeze those kiddos like there's no tomorrow. There's no job important enough to outshine your mom smile.

  22. I am a working mother because I make more money and have health insureance whereas my husband did not. He is staying at home with our children. But this is something I stuggle with EVERYDAY! I would give my eye teeth to be a stay at home mom and love the days when I am able to be there. I am less stressed and work gets done at home. I love my job and am thankful my husband does such a great job with the children and know this is how it works best for my family. I am thankful that God has blessed us, but if I could turn back time I would want to do things differently.

  23. such a well written take on this conundrum. i've been writing a post (in my head) on the marketing of the sahm position. :)

    i also tend to glamorize the "other side", but of course, they have their struggles too.

  24. I worked. We had a child. I worked more. We had another child. I quit my job. Couldn't stand someone raising my 2 month old baby. Couldn't stand paying $1600 month childcare. Thought I would have the cleanest house, my books in order by topic, then author, our cd's alphabetical, our children reading by age three, become an earth mother, make fresh bread, grow a garden, and raise those kids with compassion. Reality: my house was messier, I was angrier, frustrated. It wasn't always like that, but I remember the trapped feeling. I became invisible. God, I love my kids more than life, but could not be at home with them. I do feel bad about that, like it is a huge character deficiency on my part. I ended up going back to school and getting a part-time position. I am overall, happier.
    But how can we support the work or stayhome decision...either decision? We are not cookie cutter women, we have different sparks that get us going. Let's give grace to whatever choice is made. We think moms are wasting themselves or stupid if not working, and selfish or (god forbid) a Bad Mother for working. Let it go.
    Good post. Good comments all.

  25. For me its all about the image. The perceptions of others when I tel them I'm a SAHM. Im nothing like the stereotype. I have some very cool hobbies and interests and being a SAHM gives me time for them, but I HATE, HATE, HATE that people assume I love to mall hop, watch soaps, and Oprah, and am sexless. Hate shopping unless its online- I work on cars, the house, anything DIY, computers, I am a musician, participate in motorsports and sex is probably a higher priority for me than it is for most men. So why do I care what people think? Its lonely. Thats why. Not fitting the typical SAHM profile means I have very few female friends. Being a SAHM I also have very few male friends probably because of their perceptions of that as well. For me i could give a rat's ass if people think what I'm doing is worthwhile or not. What I care about is how my identity is viewed.