So, not sure if you are aware of it or not, but I'm an SAHM (as I'm called in the blogosphere or on the Internet). To those of you not technically plugged in all the time, I'm a stay-at-home-mom.
Recently a friend of mine asked me about my experience as a SAHM (I swear I didn't forget Nora). She asked me about "my" experience because hers was a little different than mine. She started out as a SAHM and decided to go back to work. And I thought this might be a good post topic since I've run into people with so many different thoughts and ideas about it.
But, before you read on, let me give some information about this post. This is not a post that will decide which is a better option for a mother. I believe there are pros to being a SAHM and pros to being a mom that works outside the home (just to be fair, let's give them an acronym too - MWOH). I believe there are cons to being a SAHM and cons to being a MWOH. And I believe that the choice is personal to the individual and the family (for those where being a SAHM is actually a choice - for many people, sadly, it is not).
And another point, before you read on, if you are someone who comes to this post with the pre-conceived notion that being a SAHM is a cakewalk and the easy choice made by lazy people (and I have been told this) then you will not enjoy this post. For me, and remember this is my story, well because, it's my blog and I can do whatever I want, being a SAHM is not an easy choice at all.
Let's start with how I got here. When Brian and I met, one of our pre-marriage conversations was about children and whether or not I should stay home. I wanted to stay home. At that point in my life I had a job, not a career, and felt I could walk away from it easily. My mom was a SAHM, my sister is a SAHM, and it just seemed to be the choice I wanted to make. Brian agreed that he would prefer me to be a SAHM (I secretly think he chose this because he had images of Donna Reed - that I would cook, clean, set up parties, always have my hair done and make-up perfect, etc, etc, etc... poor delusional man). So, when I finally got pregnant we revisited this topic and found out that we weren't as black and white as before.
First off, I had a job I actually liked and wasn't sure how I felt about leaving it. Secondly, we had more bills than we did when we first met and even though Brian was making more money there would be a lot of sacrifices. We talked about it a lot and honestly, the deciding factor was my salary. Because, while I liked my job, I wasn't making tons-o-money at it and it turned out that if I continued to work then most of my salary would go towards daycare. This didn't make a lot of financial sense and it pushed us to the decision for me to stay at home.
Me staying home meant we had to look very closely at our finances and figure out how we were going to make it happen. We made changes in our eating out lifestyle (Chili's and their promotion of eating 2 for $20 became our splurge), we cut out any miscellaneous bills (bye-bye phone... we only used our cell phones), I became the one who did the ironing, cooking, and anything else we used to pay for. And out of this emerged my #1 fear of being a SAHM: Money (specifically having enough). I spend a lot of time looking at our finances, figuring out where to cut corners, and basically just worrying about money. This makes Brian insane because about once a month I turn to him and tell him we need to cut back on spending. I probably have a little obsession but I think it's a normal obsession when you're a SAHM.
Now, let's look at my responsibilities as a SAHM. To put it blankly, I take care of the house and all its contents. My responsibilities include: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, decorating, organizing, ironing, running errands, finances, and taking care of Monkey. As a sub-set, the responsibilities of taking care of Monkey include: feeding him three meals and two snacks a day, changing his diapers, bathing him, dressing him, getting up in the middle of the night with him, soothing him, teaching him, disciplining him, etc. Now, Brian does help me with the running errands, decorating and taking care of Monkey, but everything else is pretty much me. My day begins at 7:00 PM and if Monkey sleeps through the night, it usually ends around 8:00 PM when I've completed my last chore. But I'm on call all through the night if Monkey needs me. Now, none of the above should sound shocking to any mom, whether a SAHM or a MWOH. Sadly, the responsibilities don't change for moms and in fact, they've probably been the same responsibilities of moms over the last few centuries.
For me, what makes being a SAHM a difficult choice, was the realization that I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. Turns out I don't know a lot about children. I don't know how to balance being a mom to Monkey, a wife to Brian, and the keeper of the house. More often than not, the cleaning and the laundry fall to the wayside while I tend to one of my men, little or big. There have been many days where I've fantasized about going back to work. In my fantasy, I would drop Monkey off at a daycare and he would spend his day with people who are fully equipped to take care of a 14-month old. He would be stimulated by the professional childcare providers, he would be socialized with all the other children (another of my fears, that I'm raising a child who has no idea how to socialize with other children his age), and I would be in a job where there would be clear indications of success and failure. And then I remember that financially it wouldn't be worth it and that the daycare wouldn't have pants hangers for Monkey to play with and that wouldn't be fair to deprive Monkey of that.
This fantasy usually comes on the days where I lose my cool. When Monkey is being a typical 14-month old and I react irrationally to him. The day care fantasy is often followed by the fantasy where my children are in school and I can clean the toilet without being interrupted. That fantasy is followed by the one where my children are in college and I can do weekend trips with my husband again. And then Monkey does something cute and I'm back to my reality and I remind myself to enjoy this time because all the fantasies, except for the daycare one, will come true. And sometimes, this day turns into a week. But so far the week is the longest it's lasted.
Because, for me, being a SAHM is extremes. Some days I can't imagine how lucky I am to be able to do this. And other days I wonder why I hate myself so much that I would choose this every day. Some days I love spending time with Monkey and other days I go to the grocery store just to be able to talk to people who use more words than grunts. And here is the most amazing part, to me, I'm not yet at the point where I would say that no matter what I've made the only choice right for me. I think I have, today at least, but ask me tomorrow, it could be a whole different answer.
So, Nora, to respond to your question, I'm still not sure what is my experience of being a SAHM. It changes weekly, daily, and minute-by-minute. It hinges on how I'm feeling physically and emotionally, how Brian is feeling, and how Monkey is acting. So far, I can't think of a job that would make me want to leave my current one, but that doesn't mean that the job isn't out there. For right now, I'm content with where I am and each day I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing. But who knows, maybe I'll figure it all out someday, get bored, and need a new challenge (although I highly doubt that). The only definite I can tell you is that I'm learning more about myself as a SAHM than I have at any other point in my life and I'm intrigued by what I'll learn next.