Could You Be A Stay-at-Home Mom?

An accomplished working mom I know who has three children under the age of four spent the last year testing the waters of stay-at-home motherhood. She took a six-month sabbatical from her job in media production. Then, with mixed feelings, she decided to stay home for good -- or at least until her children are in full-day school. I ran into her right after we'd both gotten our preschool's emergency forms for this fall, the kind with a blank line next to EMPLOYER. "I couldn't finish the form," my friend told me. "What I do for work -- that's my identity."

Work is not necessarily every parent's identity -- first and foremost, a job means a paycheck and health insurance --but I identified with her conflict. Many women I know have spent the past 20 years or more working -- in high school and then in college and afterwards to build a reputation and resume for ourselves. Leaving everything you worked for, even for the wonderful reason of staying home with kids, can be a tremendously difficult transition.

Arvyce O'Toole Walton worked in international product development for Bath & Body Works and Dial Corp. before founding Global Image Inc., an international product development, manufacturing and distribution company. Along the way, she got married, got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter -- and was holding business meetings in her house a week after her Caesarean. While her husband cared for their daughter, Keliane, for the next three years Arvyce worked full-time with frequent trips to Asia -- 15 hours away from her husband and daughter for two weeks at a stretch. "I had a thriving business -- and a new baby," she explained. "I just figured it would all work out."

"Brien and Keliane developed a special bond, a routine that didn't include me," Arvyce explained. "I loved my work, but I was stressed out, frustrated, and I saw what I was missing at home." When Keliane was three, her husband (also an entreprenuer) ramped up his workload, and Aryvce stopped working -- cold turkey. "The change was hard," she says. "I'd worked since I was 14, put myself through college, built my business. But I've never looked back. It was the right decision for me."

Now that her daughter is 7, Arvyce says she has no desire to work, not even part-time. She keeps her business contacts active -- for the future -- and she volunteers on the board of Life Skills Workshop Inc., an organization dedicated to helping women who are homeless because of addiction, incarceration or domestic violence. "Women are pivotal in every family, so I feel really good about working to help other women. But what matters most to me right now is being with my daughter."

Looking back on her transition from a self-described workaholic to stay-at-home mom, her advice is "a lot of us follow money or family pressure. ... If you're thinking about making a change, test it out first with a leave of absence so you can go back if you want. Finding the right balance is very hard. Follow your heart. "

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 24, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I can hardly wait to see what people will write about this today, which will range from people eager to applaud the decision to stay home to appauled at the loss of careers. For me, though, this is just more interesting commentary to think about which underlines why this is an important topic. It's very hard (and very personal) to find balance, and there is no one size fits all.

Posted by: VAMom | July 24, 2006 8:12 AM

I agree with VA Mom, and would like to add my fervent wish that people play well with others today.

I've just returned to part-time work after being a SAHM for 3 1/2 years. My new job is helping me find the balance I was missing when I was at home with my children 24/7. Before, I felt like I was constantly thinking of ways to take a break from them, or counting the hours until my husband got home from work, but the breaks I did take were never enough. The fact is, I was burned out. I'm much better now. We're still transitioning, but the kids seem to be doing really well, and even though it's a bit more stressful sometimes, I think it'll be okay.

I will say one thing though -- I never met a SAHM who was dying to go back to work (or at least would admit it), but I've met a lot of working moms who were dying to stay at home. (Reminds me of something a friend of mine said about never meeting a writer who wanted to be something else but meeting a lot of people who want to be writers.) I am interested in why this is and hope that this discussion today will shed some light on the subject.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 24, 2006 8:27 AM

Why is it always portayed as one extreme or the other.....either you have to work 60+ hours a week with travel or quit entirely and stay home? Can't anyone just work a conventional full-time 40 hour week (both mom and dad)? The worst are women who quit these jobs (which are really the equavalent of one and a half or two jobs) and then talk about how bad it was for their family when they worked and how much better it is that they are home. Well, DUH, did you ever just think of working more normal hours? Yes, your career may slow down if you stop putting in all the above-and-beyond 'face time', but it won't slow nearly as much as it will if you quit altogether. Yes, yes I know that some jobs inherently have crazy hours, but let's face it, most jobs can be accomplished within a normal workweek, with rare exceptions for special projects or the occasional travel. I think some people's egos can't accept being anything short of the 'star' at work, so they would rather quit entirely (and become the star SAHM) instead of trying to work a balanced schedule.

Posted by: wls | July 24, 2006 8:27 AM

Woah-WLS!!! It is so much more than that so lay off the people who work long hours. You may be right about some but most are stuck and have no choice (e.g., their bosses won't let them work less hours and if they do they are fired), especially with commuting in this area.

I have written in this blog about how I want to stay at home but can't afford it, even with all of the cost cutting efforts we have enacted (BTW-we drive old cars, live in an older home with a small mortgage, don't go out to eat, etc.) And, I work a 40-hour work week most of the time, but my commute is so crappy that it adds 15-20 hours a week, hence a 60-hour work week.

So, again, let's all play nice and stop being so darn judgemental.

Posted by: Soon to be Mom | July 24, 2006 8:53 AM

I would LOVE to stay home with my kids (ages 11 & 14). I've never understood people who say they need to work for intellectual stimulation -- if I didn't spend my days reading policy papers and court opinions, I could read things I find more interesting (e.g. great literature). I'm also much to fried by evening to help with homework. I work because we need the money, and after years as a secretary I decided to go to law school because if I had to work, I at least wanted a job with some intellectual component, decent salary and respect. But if my husband got a big promotion or we suddenly got an unexpected inheritance, I'd be outta here in a New York minute.

Posted by: Lawyer Mom | July 24, 2006 8:55 AM

I was never a SAHM, but I will say that I was dying to go back to work during maternity leave. Even in those three months, I felt like I had lost part of myself. I was frustrated and cranky and hated being home.

I work, and I am happy that my daughter goes to daycare and gets to play and have fun and learn from people that can teach her something my husband and I can't. For example, one of her caregivers speaks nothing but spanish to her - and she understands her perfectly, as well as she understands us when we speak english to her. She would not get that at home.

I would be one of those mothers constantly watching the clock, waiting for my husband to return so I could get my break. As it is now, I go home excited to be with my daughter and I cherish the time we spend together - and so does she.

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 9:02 AM

Actually mls has a point. Maybe it could have been said more politely so that it didn't set off "Soon to be Mom". The point is, if someone has a job/career that is very time comsuming, takes you away from home for weeks at a time, etc, then an alternative could be finding a job that is less stressful/time-consuming. Some women opt to work part-time in their fields, others change from the private sector to government, others change fields. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Especially since kids eventually go to school. What do you do then? Sit at home and get fat? Reminds me of the NY Times magazine story a few years ago of NYC women who didn't work b/c they needed their 3 hour a day workouts to look good. :-) Another discussion. They had nannies so they could do the 3 hour workouts.

Working MomX says: "I never met a SAHM who was dying to go back to work (or at least would admit it), but I've met a lot of working moms who were dying to stay at home."

Actually, while some working women would say they are "dying" to stay at home, so would working men. I don't think most mean it. When you get down to it, most of these working people would go nuts being at home 24/7. It's hard work being with the kids ALL of the time. I give stay at home mothers credit. I have found that many educated stay at homes do think about and sometimes envy women who do retain their careers. It's the "grass is greener" syndrome for both "sides". It's really hard to be educated, have a career, have aspirations and then to decide to stay home. For many of us, our careers are our identities.

The only times I thought about "staying at home" was when I hated my job. When I've had a fulfilling job, I don't think about that. I'm happier, my kids are happier, etc. It was my husband who had one of those private law firm jobs who got off that track and now works a 9-5 job. He couldn't stand having to work 24/7 and much of that time was "face-time". There are better alternatives than just quitting altogether.

Posted by: working mother | July 24, 2006 9:09 AM

Hey Jolie, My husband and I argued about who got to go back to work first (kidding around). I thought he should take the maternity leave! I was ready to go back to work after a few days. Those first few months suck. The lack of sleep, the round the clock feeds. I don't miss that.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 9:13 AM

I agree. My husband is gone from 8 to 6 and I can't imagine spending that much time with two little kids day in and day out. On weekends and holidays we go to the park, go to the zoo, go to the pool, read books, do puzzles, color, and play trains, but (good lord!) I could not do that 10 hours a day every day. I get bored after 30 minutes at the park! I specifically chose a career that would let me work on lots of different projects and with different clients, because I like learning new things and variety. I don't like routines, so I don't think I'd be very successful as a SAHM. When I'm stressed because my clients are a PITA or I have to travel a lot or whatever, I never think "maybe I should stay home," which seems to be the default many women turn to. I tend to think "what other kind of job could I get" or "how can I lobby for reduced hours without getting stuck with the crummy projects."

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 9:17 AM

Whoops, that was to Jolie, not by Jolie.

Posted by: toJolie | July 24, 2006 9:19 AM

Six months ago I left a corporate career to freelance and be a part-time Mom to my autistic stepson. I have been told that I have given up "so much"...to which I say, "Thank goodness!" I gave up sleepless nights and the endless stress that comes from working in a corporate environment. I gave up having to take vacation to go to the doctor and trying to squeeze a week's worth of errands into my lunch hour. I have gained a centeredness and assurance that I am in the right place for myself and my family at this time. One of the greatest gifts I have gained from this experience is that I now think in terms of "my life" rather than "my career".

Posted by: Rebecca | July 24, 2006 9:19 AM

toJolie: I actually recently changed jobs because I found myself trying to think of a way I could quit and just stay home. But the fact is, I am not wired to be a SAHM. I worked hard to get where I am in my career AND my family life, and I don't think I should have to give either of those up. I won't say my career defines who I am, because it doesn't, but it is definitely an aspect of who I am and its a part I don't think I should have to lose just to be considered a successful mother as well. I want it all!

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 9:27 AM

I believe that you have to find the right balance for you and your family. When I grew up, everyone worked so, the thought of being a SAHM never crossed my mind. However, I have had the opportunity to be a SAHM twice and both times I returned to work. As long as I have the flexibility to take off when my kids are sick or have an early practice, out of school, etc, without having to take vacation at every turn, I will continue to work.

I don't judge, just support.

Posted by: lwa | July 24, 2006 9:31 AM

I am soooooooooo wired to be a SAHM. Working right now is sucking out my soul. Doesn't help that (a) I know I have to be here b/c my husband is out of work and the bills have to be paid somehow (b) I am NOT intellectually stimulated here (c) I don't have many close coworkers so it's not like I'd miss the company of adults if/when I quit and (d) even though my daughter is already 6 months old, it RIPS MY HEART OUT EVERY SINGLE DAY that I have to leave her to come to this job.

I say "more power to ya" to the mothers who are satisfied by their careers. And to those who feel they need to work and can't afford to stay home, I hope you can get into a job that satisfies you and isn't something you loathe despite knowing it's the only way to pay the bills.

And to those with the power careers who insist they have to work a bajillion hours a week or else they'll get fired yet still find time to complain about how much they are missing their children, to you, please find more balance in your. It's ok if you decide you want to work those hours and at that level/pace, fine. Go for it. But do not complain about missing time with your children. Its a choice we all have, in some way or another, and if you are still missing your kids and wishing you could spend more time with them, then perhaps you need to look beyond yourself (dare I say your ego?) and rethink those choices.

Posted by: j | July 24, 2006 9:39 AM

My mother-in-law read my wife the riot act this weekend when she found out my wife intends to work after having a baby. MIL was aghast that she wasn't going to be a SAHM, and told my wife in no uncertain terms she would regret that decision every day of her life as a mom.

My wife's response was that this was the only way we could afford having a child, and like Jolie said earlier, needed something more stimulating than sitting in a park watching kids play all day. Needless to say, wife and MIL aren't on good speaking terms on this subject now!

Posted by: John | July 24, 2006 9:41 AM

I was a SAHM for 3 years, while my husband was working 60+ weeks and we lived in a sprawling, unfriendly suburb. I was unhappy and lonely a lot of the time. Those were really hard years.

Now we've moved to an intentionally friendly neighborhood in a small town, and I'm the one working while my husband stays at home with the kids. While I am SO much happier than when I stayed home, I think I would be even happier as a SAHM in this situation. There are a lot of wonderful, interesting people around to talk to, even during the day, and the kids are easier now that they have lots of other kids to play with. Plus, I'm working 1/2 the hours that my husband did and I'm able to be much more help than he was.

Anyway, sometimes the work/at home situation is dependent on other elements of your life-- like long commutes, the community you live in, etc. For me the issue wasn't being a SAHM, but circumstances that I had that made it so hard.

Posted by: Ms L | July 24, 2006 9:44 AM

I'm a young professional woman living in DC. I've already decided that I don't want children because I love my job so much (and love working so much) that I'm not interested in having any distractions. I can't imagine staying home with children and still feeling like I'm stimulated every day -- I need adult contact, adult challenges and adult discussions. It's a shame that it has to be one or the other but I really think it does -- I'm already exhausted (but happily so) from working obscene hours and I would never want to give that up or slow it down for kids. Maybe if more men were willing to step up and stay home, or even do their fair share, it would be easier.

Posted by: DCsingle | July 24, 2006 9:46 AM

Ladies, you have no idea how helpful it is for me to read these postings! For a long time, I felt like I was *the only one* struggling with the decision to stay home, not stay home, look for a new job, etc. Staying at home is a tough decision to make no matter how much you identify or do not identify with your career path. And I have to say, there are times I thoroughly resent HAVING to make these decisions. Sexist or not, I maintain that most men do NOT have to choose between working and parenting, so why should I (or any woman) have to choose?? To me, it's like asking okay, you have to lose an arm or a leg. What will it be? And why should I be judged more because I am a woman making that choice? WHAH!!! (Whine...whine) It's not fair!

Posted by: Katherine | July 24, 2006 9:47 AM

To j -- you are right (in my humble opinion) -- if you choose to work a bizillion hours - for whatever reason (and there are people that would say I work a bizillion hours) then that is your choice, dont rip yourself apart because you miss your kids. Some people complain to hear themselves complain (we all do that sometimes and that is ok) but if you really are miserable -- do something about it -- life is too short

To John -- My MIL did the same thing (but I was 9 months pregnant and very emotional) -- my husband took her aside and explained (in a very stern waay -- but nicely) how this was unacceptable behavior -- we did not ask for her opinion (although we have since had great talks about it) and this would not be tolerated. We are all so close now its funny. I really respected my husband for doing that -- he put his family first and I needed that from him

Posted by: Maria | July 24, 2006 9:50 AM

I never met a SAHM who was dying to go back to work (or at least would admit it), but I've met a lot of working moms who were dying to stay at home."

That's because if you are SAHP who is dying to go back to work -- you probably can and will. If you are a WOHP who is dying to stay home but you aren't staying home, it's probably because you feel you can't manage it financially. Doesn't seem to be much of a mystery to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 9:50 AM

"Follow your heart." I was lucky enough to have a husband who makes enough money that I could do that, but I didn't know what my heart wanted for a year or two after we adopted our daughter -- a time when I had loads of time to think about it. I had spent 20+ years in broadcasting and the law, working my up the ladder and I was totally defined by my work. Today, having found my way back to writing, I still struggle every day with the right balance of time with my six-year-old daughter and work, and struggle with my Admiral Stockdale moments -- Who am I? What am I doing here?

Motherhood constantly encroaches on my "professional" time and vice versa. My hope is to find a definition of "me" in the not-too-distant future that doesn't completely rely on my profession or the sum of my 1099's at the end of the year. I'd like to find and talk to a woman who has found that identity that doesn't rely solely on motherhood and/or job.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: punditmom | July 24, 2006 9:52 AM

This topic retains a seemingly unbridgable gap, rather like me of the abortion debate.

Both sides have a fairly defensible position, and I suspect few minds are changed through dialogue.

My two thoughts are the need to continually seek to define meaningful work with alternative schedules, and maybe one day even reach a Holy Grail on saying that either sex could adequately be a SAH care giver.

To many even this day and age still look on a man as a little off or weird for considering such an option. The idea of SAH Dad hosting a playgroup or watching other's kids in turn is subtly looked on (never spoken out loud, of course) as a risk for being a potential child sex abuser. That is unfortunate and totally unfair, but deep down it is the feeling that many hold. Enlightened or not, many of you must admit the truth of this in society at large.

When men or women can equally be considered a SAH parent and not be viewed as suspect, then we know we will finally have made some progress...with the bonus that women will truly have more options. And men too, obviously. Because we men don't get the luxury of even having this debate.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | July 24, 2006 9:55 AM

Oops..."rather like me" should have been
"to me rather like that".

Also, thired paragrah "To" = "Too"

Sorry...in a hurry this morning.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | July 24, 2006 9:58 AM

Having been a SAHM for three years when my older two children were young and a WOHM after that and following the birth of my third child, I am on of those who needs to work. But, I still struggle to find the work-family balance. I went to law school when the first two children were small so I didn't want to give up my new independence and career when the third arrived. But, life as a litigation associate did mean lots of hours and at least one day each weekend in the office - and this wasn't in a big city environment. So, when the opportunity arose, I took a job as in house counsel and work a nice, normal 40 hour week now. Not a single weekend day since I started this job. It is my dream job? No. But it does let me balance work and family so much better. My children are now 12, 10 and 4 and life goes so fast. If I need to work more or find something else that would excite me more but require longer houses, I will. But, I can wait until the children are older - even in college. This time with them is fleeting and I love it that I can work from 7 to 4 and be home when the kids are home in the afternoons. Balance for me is an ongoing process but this feels right for now. My husband works a pretty standard 40 hour week too but he travels more. We share most of the children and household tasks almost 50/50. This works for us - but I also know that things can change and what's right now may not be right down the road. I think the important thing is to remain flexible and know that you can change things to make it work when you need to.

Posted by: SS | July 24, 2006 10:00 AM

What do you do with a cranky baby?
What do you do with a cranky baby?
What do you do with a cranky baby early in the morning?

... put him in bed with the sleeping daddy
... walk him outside to awake the neighbors

Posted by: Barnacle Bill | July 24, 2006 10:01 AM

I think too much is placed on mom in our society. My husband and I both plan to work (a normal 40-45 hours a week). We both have graduate degrees and want to work. I feel a father who is present and active in a child's life is just as important.

Plus, I feel it is very important to contribute financially to my family's well being. Personally, I feel it is unfair to men to place all of the financial burden. If I was a guy, I would resent my wife staying home while I was responsible for all the bills, including her student loan!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 10:07 AM

---Ladies, you have no idea how helpful it is for me to read these postings!---

Forgive me....that should be LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. : )

Posted by: Katherine | July 24, 2006 10:09 AM

To Texas Dad: That may be the way it is in TX (and if so, that's really too bad), but I don't see that here in the DC metro area. Or in the Raleigh area where we used to live. Maybe YOU think that way but I wouldn;t say that most people do. You'll always have the rigid, uptight (i.e., conservative) people that fall into gender streotyping, but I don't get the sense that it's widespread here.

Posted by: VA Dad | July 24, 2006 10:13 AM

to Maria:

What's odd about MIL's reaction is when my wife informed her about our intent to start a family, MIL could have cared less by the amount of interest she showed. MIL is retired and single now, and she's discussed moving to be closer to us (she's in another state), so my wife figured she would jump at the excuse to move (see daughter and grandchild more often).

Nah; total disinterest, and now this blow up. FWIW, I intend to take the maximum amount of leave time allowed by my office once we have a baby to help my wife, and since I've got the short commute time (12 minutes vs nearly an hour for my wife), figure I'll get all the baby ferrying duties later too. But hey, we discussed all these issues and agreed on them, and I'm excited about the whole thing!

Posted by: John | July 24, 2006 10:13 AM

So 3 months before my wedding, I got laid off. Since Hubby and I were taking a 10-day long delayed honeymoon 6 weeks after our wedding, I decided that questing for a new job just wasn't fair to any potential employers ("Hi! Please hire me, but even though I'm not a Bridezilla, I've got all my final fittings and catering appointments coming up and then I need 10 days off - cool?")

So we decided to try me as a SAHW, to see if I could cope with SAHM-hood. My husband had gotten a major promotion and we had lots of savings, so we knew we could try it for a year or so. And I DO realize there is a difference, but the idea was to see if I could cope with not having the intellectual stimulation. (Just to point out: as an aunt and a former paleontologist, I *have* logged much long-term babysitting time and 10-hour days working with kids. I'm not totally naive about the work involved.)

The verdict? Couldn't hack it. Just couldn't. And I am in awe of women who can. Even though I adore kids (still don't have one, but we're working on it) and know that you can actually have fun with them after a certain age, my mind is always working in technical/scientific problem-solving mode. I can't help it.

Because, as my sister (a SAHM to teenagers) put it - "There's only so clean your house can be after a while." Sure I got through all our reorganization and painting projects...after that, I was quizzing my husband hard every day when he got home, so I could discuss technology with *someone* and try and wrap my head around a problem that I'm used to solving.

As I said, I stand in awe of SAHM's, especially the ones who gave up careers to do it. It's not that I revere work or anything, it's just such a *huge* paradigm shift. Not only are you responsible for this little person, but all the responsibilities that you know well have disappeared. It's got to be confusing and doubt-causing.

So what's the plan for me? I'm building my own business, purely part-time. From the get-go, I'm taking the work that won't require me work 60-80 hour weeks (I *don't* miss those), but it's enough that I can bring some extra money into the household, and I have something other than domestic stuff (of which I'm not a huge fan) to occupy my mind.

But I'm lucky - many people don't have that choice. It's obvious to say "work less hours" or "quit your job", but in the current economic state, many people can't, so there's all sorts of working Mom's out there. I don't agree with some of them and their attitudes, but many of them do a kick-butt job of balancing life and work. Or at least they teach their kids that if they want clothes on their back and dinner on the table, that sometimes means that Mom *and* Dad can't always provide the ideal home environment that pretty much all of them would want.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 24, 2006 10:16 AM

That is so funny!

Posted by: to Barnacle Bill | July 24, 2006 10:18 AM

I would have to disagree that there are two sides, there really is not an argument. I think we need to extract the guilt from this issue and talk about what is best for individual families. I know that I love being with my girls on the weekends and evenings; I would go nuts doing that 7days, even with my supportive husband. Add the incentive of years of schooling and training and an enjoyable productive job and I will always be a WOHM. Usually on a bad work day, I do not say, "I wish I was home." Rather I say, "should I look for another job with better hours."

Posted by: Sunniday | July 24, 2006 10:18 AM

*You'll always have the rigid, uptight (i.e., conservative) people that fall into gender streotyping, but I don't get the sense that it's widespread here.* You obviously do not live in the same county I live in.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 10:20 AM

Maybe something's wrong with me, but I don't mind sitting on a park bench for an hour watching my kids play, and I even find it stimulating. There's usually someone else interesting and educated to talk with about the latest news, politics, "Lost", the weather, the kids.

It's not much different than the social conversations I had over lunch or coffee when I worked , and I don't miss endless discussions about the latest re-org, the policy on casual dress in the summer, or why timesheet codes are being mis-used.

I still get to take pride in myself when I do a good job (e.g., he was able to write his name today after 2 weeks of practice together, or I finally taught her to say please when she wanted juice).

It's more stimulating than the regulatory analyses I used to do or the meetings I arranged so that we could decide to have another meeting or the staff report I did that few people wanted to read.

Posted by: Love the bench | July 24, 2006 10:22 AM

I'm a SAHM now for going on 2 years - and it is tough. I do wish I was working - it was more fulfilling than raising children (in the short term). And what I mean by this is that at work you are actually able to FINISH a project, see a success, go on to something new.

Being at home I do the same things over and over every day - (dress, feed, entertain, feed, nap, entertain, feed, bathe, sleep, repeat) there is no satisfaction since once you finish feeding the kids you know you'll have to do it again in a few hours. Aggh!

But - I know in the long term it is for the best. So I do it - and they are great to be around. But I honestly miss working, that was fun too.

And - Unfortunately, our society is not yet open to people working part-time or reduced schedules or even working from home. I talked to my employer of 5 years about it, I was a great employee, and my job was perfect for a flex time/part-time or work from home situation and they said no. Flash forward 2 years and they are allowing my old manager, someone who has 4 people reporting to her, to work from TUCSON! I was only 4 minutes from the office and could have shown up with 20 minute notice.

It's all hard, none of it is easy. But you do what you have to do, or what you can do right?

Posted by: Del Rey, VA | July 24, 2006 10:29 AM

I completely agree with Lawyer Mom. I'm also a working mother out of necessity. I don't understand the idea of work being "part of your identity." Frankly I think that's absurd. It's just a symptom of a society that values people for what they do instead of who they are. My interests outside of work are far more intellectually stimulating than anything I do at work.

I was absolutely dreading going back to work after my maternity leave. It killed me to leave my daughter every day. Now she's two and it's not as bad, but I still feel like my life is nothing but an endless hamster wheel of drudgery. Our weekends are nothing but errands and cleaning.

Posted by: This Blog Drives Me Nuts | July 24, 2006 10:34 AM

No, there's nothing wrong with you if you're happy to watch your kids at the park. Just don't get on me because I'd rather be at work and let the teachers watch the kids playing. That's all.

Posted by: To each her own | July 24, 2006 10:35 AM

I don't see work as part of my identity but rather as a means of supporting my family while also teaching them the value of hard work and responsibility.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 10:37 AM

To the poster who said "That's because if you are SAHP who is dying to go back to work -- you probably can and will. If you are a WOHP who is dying to stay home but you aren't staying home, it's probably because you feel you can't manage it financially. Doesn't seem to be much of a mystery to me."

I think it is a mystery. I know some SAHMs who are pressured by their husbands to stay home, but I know lots more who would like to go back to work at least part time but feel it is better for their children that there's a parent at home. They feel guilty for even thinking about returning to work. And I also know lots of working moms who don't have to work and who feel guilty for not being at home with their kids!

So I guess it all comes back to why does almost every mother I know, working or SAH, feel guilt about whatever choice they're making?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 24, 2006 10:39 AM

We always hear, "happy mom, happy child," but...

I just read the article "Mommy wars: Sandy Hingston" that is linked on the upper left sidebar of this blog. As someone who trying to figure out how to healthily balance career and family once we have kids, Hingston's story sounds all too familiar and very, very alarming. She offers no full explaination of how her family became so dysfunctional. She wonders if it has to do with the lack of quality time she put in at home with her kids. Everyone's family dynamic is different, and aggression and anorexia have many causes, but what happens when a happy mom does NOT equal a happy child?

Posted by: Ingrid | July 24, 2006 10:45 AM

WorkingMomX said: So I guess it all comes back to why does almost every mother I know, working or SAH, feel guilt about whatever choice they're making?

Because women feel the need to compare themselves to others and to seek other's approval about their decisions. Everyone has a unique life with unique problems so one solution doesn't fit all. I don't care if people think I am a bad mother for working. People are entitled to their opinions. It is my choice. I made it and I am happy about it. It frankly is none of their business.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 10:45 AM

Before I say anything, please note that I am only speaking about those who do have a financial choice to stay at home. I am fully aware of the situation that many parents face that precludes them from being able to make that choice, and I was in that situation for many years myself.

I don't think one can decide "staying at home isn't for me" based on a 3 month maternity leave. During that time you barely have time to recover from childbirth and hopefully get to the point where you're not up every 30 minutes all night long. You don't have any time to pursue other interests because a) you're caring for the baby all of the time and b) you know you're going back to work so what's the point?

I've said it before a million times, but "staying home with the children" can mean a lot more than doing housework and going to the park. I'm with the poster above who said she didn't understand those who needed to work for intellectual stimulation....it's not like literature, clubs, volunteer work, current events, non-fiction, etc. are off limits to SAHPs. If anything, they're more accessible to them because they aren't spending 10-12 hours working outside the home and commuting and then coming home to children who are clamoring for their attention.

And on that subject...I just finished "I Don't Know How She Does It" last night. Yes, it's fiction - but I've heard many parents say they very much identify with Kate. One of the things that drives her nuts when she does spend time at home or on short vacations is her children's relentless need for her. They clamor for her attention and suck the life out of her. Well....of course they do! They only see her for a couple of hours a day, if they're lucky - and they need her. Children who are with their parents the majority of the time generally don't act like that, because their needs are being filled. And I am *not* saying that all children of WOHPs act like that - mine didn't when I worked - but it's also pretty false to say "there's no way I could put up with this 24/7" because you likely wouldn't. They would settle into being comfortable with you being around and wouldn't be afraid you were going to leave the next minute on a plane or a commuter train.

Posted by: momof4 | July 24, 2006 10:45 AM

Speaking of guilt, did anyone read Ask Amy this morning? Am I the only one who wants to kick that guy in the shins??

(The one condemning the female soldier who left her daughter behind to serve in Iraq)

Posted by: Amy (ironically) | July 24, 2006 10:48 AM

Just another thought on this. (As someone who works part-time from home building her own business, my own balancing act.)

Being a SAHM was much harder for me initially than it is now. It takes some getting used to. But, also, my daughter is much more fun and interesting now (at 15 months) than she was at 2 months. Being a SAHM with a 2-month old, really, is not a lot of fun. Not for me, anyhow. I was wondering about my decision a lot then. But, I pressed on, and it got better. Actually, it got a lot better right after when most women's maternity leave would end.

I remember noting that at the time, and thinking that I was glad I hung on long enough to find that out.

That still doesn't mean staying at home is right for everyone, but, I do think that the first several weeks of a new baby are not the best representation of what it's like in the long-run. It's something to keep in mind when making these kind of decisions.

Posted by: VAMom | July 24, 2006 10:51 AM

In response to WorkingMomX...

I can't give you a good answer to the question of "why does almost every mother I know, working or SAH, feel guilt about whatever choice they're making?"

For me, it's because I feel like I should be doing it all even though I know it's unrealistic. I want badly to be in both worlds so I don't want to give up one entirely for another.

I work a solid part-time job. When I'm at work, I really miss my children and think about them so often throughout the day. When I'm home with them during the hours my colleagues are at work, I badly want to check voicemail and email and stay in the loop. I feel guilt during both these times and fight to stay in the moment.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 10:52 AM

John,

I think that many mothers of adult daughters react the way you describe because they see their daughters' rejection of a particular lifestyle as a rejection of them. If their daughters do motherhood the way they did, it validates their choices; if not, the mothers may feel judged and found inadequate.

I'm not defending this kind of narrow behavior. This stuff is the elder moms' baggage, and it's their problem to deal with it. Unfortunately, sometimes (often) daughters take things so much to heart that they can't shake the feeling of guilt that comes from rocking their mothers' safe and reliable world.

You can help your wife avoid this kind of guilt by letting her know that you think her choices are the right ones. It's up to her, though, to reinforce the boundaries between herself and mom.


Posted by: pittypat | July 24, 2006 10:53 AM

I adore my son, but I could not stay at home with him 24/7. Nor do I need to anymore since he is in school from 9 to 3. Frankly, what I like about my job is the adult structure and the ability to set a goal for myself and meet it. I like being able to read a report for 45 minutes without interruption. I like that I can close my door and write a memo uninterrupted. I also like the interruptions that come in, the questions and conversations that adults have with each other. But I feel like I am in control. With small children, you have to have infinite patience. It is hard to even drink a cup of coffee without a little one demanding your time and attention. It is hard for some people to make that adjustment. I found that my husband was better at this than me, so he took the SAHD route and I worked. I found I was better able to give my son the attention he deserved if I did not have to do it all the time. So going to work allowed me to come home and have the patience to sit on the floor and make block towers. And in the morning, when I had coffee before going to work, I enjoyed that he sat on my lap because I knew that later on, I would be able to have another cup by myself. Actually, now that I write about it, I realize that my biggest adjustment when my son was born was giving up some of my alone time, which I really need. When my son was a toddler, I had no privacy at all when at home. I even had to keep the bathroom door open. This was hard. So going to work was almost an escape from the constant demands of a small child that I loved dearly, but needed space from sometimes. Not all people are hardwired this way. My husband can read the paper happily as little kids climb on him, and he is not the least bit bothered by the constant demands they make. I am different.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 10:53 AM

My husband and I found the middle ground between work and family and couldn't be happier. I'll preface this by saying that neither of us ever wanted to stay home full-time with our three children. We both derive immense satisfaction from working. I tried being a SAHM for a year, but my heart wasn't in it. The novelty of being home with mom all day soon wore off for my kids. They missed their friends and all of the activities they had at their daycare center. The day my kids asked if they could go back to their "school" was the day I started looking for a new job.

I am a lawyer who quit a job in private practice for a position in a government agency near Chicago. I do not make the money I would if I had stayed in private practice, but my salary is nothing to sneeze at, plus federal employee benefits are pretty good. My office is very family friendly, so I really do work only 40 hours per week and can take time off for school activities, to stay home with sick children, etc., whenever it is necessary.

My husband used to work as an operations manager for an independent grocery chain. He loved the work and made good money, but was expected to work 6 days a week, 12+ hours per day. He barely even saw our children, and was certainly not engaged in their lives. With a bit of prodding, he too decided to switch careers and now works for the government as an operations analyst. Again, what he gave up in salary he made up many times over in time and flexibility.

Between the two of us, we make enough money to live comfortably (but not extravagantly) in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago. We can't afford to drive luxury cars or take exotic vacations like many of our neighbors, but the flip side is that between the two of us we've attended every band concert, athletic competition, play, gymnastics meet, and parent-teacher conference involving our three children, something we couldn't do while working in our previous jobs. We wouldn't trade our current lifestyle for anything -- even the higher-graded positions everyone tells us we could get if we moved to D.C.!

Posted by: MLP | July 24, 2006 10:56 AM

momof4 said: Children who are with their parents the majority of the time generally don't act like that, because their needs are being filled. And I am *not* saying that all children of WOHPs act like that - mine didn't when I worked - but it's also pretty false to say "there's no way I could put up with this 24/7" because you likely wouldn't.

Wow! What a GROSS generalization! You should read some non-fiction books sometime. Current academic research (psychology & sociology) is inconclusive over the affects of SAHM vs. working moms. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. Parenting is about consistency and boundries, one can establish these while working or being at home.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 10:57 AM

The issue with your idenity and stimulation also depends on the type of work you do. Someone who always has wanted to be a doctor and gets the instant respect that comes with the title probably has more identity issues than the receptionist. The stimulation you have doing research at NIH is different than what you get being a telemarketer. Not to say that any job has its downside or upside, but different careers have different impacts.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 24, 2006 11:02 AM

Alexandriamom:

First of all, feel free to not generalize about *me* when you do not know me. I do read nonfiction...because like I mentioned earlier, I have time for those sorts of things because I'm not working/commuting 10 hours a day and then trying to work in quality time with my children and do housework. I stated that I was aware that the book I cited was fiction but that many many working moms identify with the character's feelings and situation.

Second of all, I based my statement on how the vast majority of children whom I know with SAHPs act. I don't know anyone who has been a SAHP for any length of time who feels that their children suck the life out of them.

And third of all, I was just saying that you can't assume your children (or you) will act the same as they do on the weekends when you work as they would 24/7 if you weren't working. I don't think you can take a weekend and evening parenting experience and assume that doing it 24/7 would be the same situation only for more time.

Posted by: momof4 | July 24, 2006 11:14 AM

"The issue with your idenity and stimulation also depends on the type of work you do."

Bingo. The idea of giving up my job bothers me because in a certain sphere I am well-known and yes, it is nice for the ego to have that kind of recognition. I've been tossing around my options WRT how I want to live. OTHER people get up and go to work at jobs where no one's ever heard of them, so it's certainly possible, but I have to weigh the way I think I would like to live (hard to do with this career path) against losing that recognition. Maybe I'm not yet tired enough to bow out of the game.

Posted by: Identity | July 24, 2006 11:19 AM

Momof4, I just think you should be careful with public pronouncements such as yours. As someone who grew up with a SAHM and with friends whose mom were at home, don't think you know how your child behaves outside of your house when you aren't around either. Holier than thou attitudes tend to backfire.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 11:20 AM

I agree than children are just fine in the care of a competent babysitter. (Since I've been a SAHM for 18 years, I've seen many children grow up!) Please note that many people feel it's good to have a parent at home after school during the middle school years. Kids don't want a babysitter, and they can get into all kinds of trouble between 3pm and 6pm. Another reason why meaningful part time work with benefits would help everyone.

Posted by: experienced mom | July 24, 2006 11:23 AM

I consider myself truly blessed to have the wonderful opportunity to witness the intellectual and physical growth of my two young children on a daily basis. If my husband did not make the money he does I would have to work.

As it now stands, I work one day a week to get out of the house but I have no desire to pursue actively full time employment at this juncture in my life.

This works for my family, as for intellectual stimulation enabling and encouraging a child's mind to grow through new daily experiences is such a joy.

Every day my children open a new world to be explored whether it's watching a caterpillar move or exploring the new found interests in dinosaurs whether it be with Tyrannosaurus Rex's or Diplodicus'.

Life is what you make of it, simple as that. Staying home can be mundane, boring and the same old, same old. But I chose to make my life interesting by involving my children in daily activities that are spontaneous and fun filled. It's not that hard to do.

I can teach my children what others learn in day care because I am a former child care worker and I have to say in all honesty the home environment with a consistent adult child care giver whether it be Mom or Dad is a far better situation then group care.

I am college educated and enjoyed my position as Supervisor of a child care program, but the thought of enrolling my little ones in institutionalized care so I could provide child care for others did not make one modicum of sense.

I am truly fortunate to be able to stay home, and I am blessed a million times over as I see my kids grow up.

Posted by: Mom in Canada | July 24, 2006 11:23 AM

I can't think of circumstances under which I would not work. I feel guilty when I work and I feel guilty on the weekends when I crave the "1 hour to myself". I think both feelings are normal and are not a result of comparing myself to anybody. I work full time with a commute b/c my office would not let me work part-time and I don't want to lose a good job. I keep thinking that it will get better in a couple of years when the kids are a little bit older but probably new issues will come up and I will look back at this time when they are small and "manageable" with nostalgia. Last year I had a 4-month break between jobs and I stayed home. Without a built in support network of other stay at home moms I felt miserable and lonely and isolated. Not that I come to work to socialize -- but just being in the office somehow makes me feel part of a society. My intellectual stimulation comes from friends and life outside the office but my PAYCHECK comes from here. And I like FREEDOM and CHOICES that money gives you too much.

Posted by: guilty as charged | July 24, 2006 11:24 AM

AlexandriaMom, I didn't read Momof4's comment to mean that SAHP parent better than WOHP. I read her comment to mean that when children see their parent less, they are more demanding of that parent's time, i.e. needy and clingy. Whereas, if a parent is home all day, then it becomes no big deal to the child to be in a different room or whatever.

Posted by: To AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 11:25 AM

I struggled with going back to work while home on maternity leave. Many people told me to not base the SAHM experience on the first three months as it is entirely different from when the child gets older, a very correct assumption. When talking to my sister who is a full-time working mom about my struggle to decide to go back to work she gave me another good piece of advice which was to at least try going back to work. If it doesn't work out, then quit but you will never know unitl you have tried. At the time we could have lived solely off my husband's income, that is no longer the case as he has since taken a much lower paying job. Two years into it, I am glad I went back to work but I still have moments of doubt. One thing I am very happy about is that me working has enabled my husband to take the lower paying job which will ultimately help his career and the job has him home a lot more often. The thought of me being at home all day and him working his former job's hours (law firm) scares me as I would never get a break and he would never see his child. Our working situations right now gives us both balance. Balance that will be thrown off as my daughter gets older and if we have another child!

Posted by: WOHM of 1 | July 24, 2006 11:27 AM

To WorkingMomX -- but what about the blog entry about guilt a week or two back and so many people commented that they DON'T feel guilty?!

I don't feel guilty. I don't think everyone feels guilty. Sure, some people do, but not all of us. Many people understand they are doing the best they can given the circumstances that they are dealing with, and frankly, the kids are probably going to turn out fine.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 11:29 AM

Oh, I read "clingy" and "demanding" as pejoratives. And I believed the implication of her comment was that children of SAHM were better behaved, which is not always the case.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 11:30 AM

I see a spiritual element here.

Among the reasons women work outside of the home, one is to "prove" that we can. Still. To "prove" to ourselves, families, societies, that we can be soldiers, stateswomen, teachers, CEOs. The drive behind that can be both ego and an egoless passion to our work, whatever it may be.

But at a certain point, particularly when we earn successes, we can experience the old, "Is this all there is?" Money, influence, honors, prestige, these can be great, but once we've "made it," we can sometimes look with renewed eyes and refreshed awe at the life of a child, our own child, and at our own lives, abandoning the need to prove or the drive to succeed and replacing it with subtler aims. Days building a home-life that is quieter, simpler, more focused in terms of immediate scale can feel like a daunting new challenge and comforting alternative to the paths we know---going there can open a whole new side of ourselves.

On the flipside, long-time SAHMs can feel after years of raising kids, "Is this all there is?" and the drive to prove that we're something more than nurturers, that we have ambition and talents and hunger can come alive, even late in life.

Instead of the war between each other it'd be great to see compassion for each other's stages and states, and admire both the desire for outward accomplishment and teh value of inner tending.

Posted by: Sarah S | July 24, 2006 11:37 AM

Certainly, as a sinlge mom, I have no choice but to work. However, I, too, am not wired to sit at home all day and not work. I had six months of maternity leave, and I went back to work part-time until my daughter was two years old.

In a perfect world, my ex-husband would have been more responsible and I would have built a freelance business and worked from home. I have several friends who are successful in this venture. It's a good balance for them. I also have friends who thrive as SAHMs. It's a very personal choice.

Posted by: single western mom | July 24, 2006 11:44 AM

"I didn't read Momof4's comment to mean that SAHP parent better than WOHP. I read her comment to mean that when children see their parent less, they are more demanding of that parent's time, i.e. needy and clingy. Whereas, if a parent is home all day, then it becomes no big deal to the child to be in a different room or whatever."

Thank you for explaining my words better than I could!

I was not making a statement on the general behavior of children of WOHPs.


Posted by: momof4 | July 24, 2006 11:45 AM

It is truly a personal decision that depends on financial matters and how much support (spouse, relatives, dependable babysitters, etc.) is available. I'm disappointed that so few people mentioned volunteering as a way to get some real personal satisfaction while being a stay-at-home mom. Using play-groups, mom's morning out groups and pre-schools that would take my three boys for just a couple of hours a couple of days a week gave me the opportunity to do volunteer work that put me in contact with other adults and gave me an "identity".
There are so many different kinds of volunteer groups that are crying for more help!

Posted by: PTA mom | July 24, 2006 11:50 AM

Why does everyone refer to being a SAHM as being with the children 24/7? They do take naps and you can still meet friends for lunch, shopping, or whatever. Usually Dad does spend some time with them. You can give them toys to play with by themselves while you are doing something else. I read more on maternity leave than I do now because I have to do all my home things in several hours per day rather than having all day. Just a question - don't fight over it.

I know that I could stay home because my job supports my life and is not an integral part of 'me'. I do get a certain amount of job satisfaction, but not enough to offset the level of tiredness I have felt for the past 10 years. As long as I must work, I want to do it to the best of my ability, but honestly I don't feel any special drive to leave my mark on the world. I would love to have a less demanding life.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 11:52 AM

I'm not cut out to be a SAHM. I am one of those people who works for intellectual stimulation. There's no good way to describe it unless you've experienced it yourself, but when I get so focused in on a thorny issue, time is irrelevant and the world ceases to exist; it's almost like a trance, and when I come out of it, I feel enormously satisfied and almost refreshed. That's something that just can't happen with my daughter and son there. I'm also an introvert, so quiet downtime is critical -- again, not much in evidence at home with two kids under 5!

I also don't feel guilty about working. My husband and I know from experience that kids can turn out great or troubled with either SAHP or WOHP, so we have worked on finding the balance that fits our family instead of trying to live up to some theoretical ideal. So we prioritize -- we cut what we can, and try to find a balance between what's left. More job flexibility instead of maximum salary; one or two activities for the kids instead of a bunch; outsource basic cleaning and give up any notions of being in House Beautiful; etc. Most of all, I don't beat myself up over everything I'm NOT doing -- there's always the day that daycare dropoff tugs at your heartstrings, or when client demands seem overwhelming, but overall, we know that we are living our lives in accordance with our priorities, as best as we know how. That's the best cure for guilt that I've found.

Of course, having a daughter who is incredibly social and who craves the stimulation and structure that her preschool provides helps enormously, too. But if my son has different needs (which he likely will, as they're night and day), then we'll just find a way to shift the balance somehow.

Posted by: Laura | July 24, 2006 11:56 AM

SarahS, I completely agree with your post. I think everyone asks "Is this all there is?" My male friends have certainly had this existential question as well. I think it reflects the human condition.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 11:57 AM

While I do respect women who make the decision to stay at home, not much has been discussed by those who honestly cannot stay at home.
I made the choice of having my daughter at a young age. I worked in the service industry while attending college when she was a toddler. all i can remember was being exhausted because of my work/school schedule. When I had the time to spend with my little one, I was often found at parks with my nose in a book while she played with her friends.
I was snubbed by the regular SAHM's. When I enrolled my daughter in soccer, they refused to speak to me.They even released her from the roster without notifying me. When I volunteered at her school (extending myself even more) I rarely had anyone to talk to. During PTA meetings, they hardly knew my name, even though I made an effort to be a visible part of my daughter's life while I worked part time and attained my education.
When I finished school, I had such a bad taste in my mouth from my experience that I even went as far to move out of the Affluent Howard County MD.neighborhood to a much more friendly urban environment.
My ex husband owes me almost $15,000 in back child support and the State still cannot find him. I still work with a 2 1/5 hour daily commute.
Result? My daughter is still a happy, well ajusted child. I *MAKE* the time with her because I have to work. weekends are family time and we do anything including attending fun conventions to BBQing at parks. Sure, there were times that she asked if I could be home more when she was younger, but as she got older, she started to understand that the more Mommy worked, the better her life got.
There is no other choice. Even with my second husband's income added to the mix, I still have no choice. I suspect, the way the prices of items are steadily increasing, that I never will have that choice.
There is nothing wrong with striking a balance with work and children. To do this, one must understand their own boundries and what they may or may not be able to afford. Smart parenting does come from smart parents who understand the importance of fiscal conservatism in a highly material world.

Posted by: IhaveNoChoice | July 24, 2006 11:58 AM

AlexandriaMom, Perhaps an example that has nothing to do with SAH vs. WOH parenting? When I go visit my niece and nephew, they are so happy to see me. "Aunt R, read me a book! Aunt R, see what I can do! Aunt R, let's go outside and play!" I love it for a few hours a week, but it would be exhausting if it were every day. Point being, if I saw them every day, that's not how they would be because they'd be used to me.

I mean, you are free to take offense at Momof4 and at me if you insist, I'm just saying I don't think that's how it was meant.

Posted by: To AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 11:59 AM

I don't have kids yet. However, I've been thinking that staying at home would not work for me. This is not because of how I would feel, but how that would affect my child's upbringing.

I would not want to be pretty much the only one of two adults in my child's life. For me, it comes down to how much exposure I want my child to have to life outside the house. Do I want my child to experience being without me for the first time at age 6? Do I want to pass on all the bad habits I have that can be concealed before and after work but not all day? It seems like my kid is more likely to pick up all my bad habits if she's with me 24 hours a day. And how will she react to new things if she's so used to everything staying the same at home? And I certainly don't have an educational background to teach children, but a hand-picked caregiver would have that and would be in a better position to teach my kid things I don't know.

The bottom line (for ME, not anyone else) is that I would be worried about hampering the growth of her personality and her intellect because she would be stuck with me and only me during what some would consider the most formative time of human development.

Posted by: Meesh | July 24, 2006 12:01 PM

I think that whichever life you choose, staying at home or working, it is a tough balancing act. Either way you need to try and find time for yourself and your family. I try to strike a balance at work by keeping somewhat regular hours. But when the comp-time adds up, which it occasionally does. I do not make apologies for taking some time off to fulfill my duties as room-parent, attend a school trip or volunteer in the classroom.

I currently do not have the option to stay at home, unless we cash in our primary residence and move to a less expensive part of the country. I am not sure if my children would benefit from a type A personality mother looking after them 24/7. Work gives me something else upon which to focus my nervous energy, so I am not smothering my kids with my "best intentions." I have learned to be more selective in what I commit to and always think first about the impact of my obligations upon family. I do enjoy the rewards of my career and the intellectual and social stimulation of working outside of the home.

I am happy with my child-care situation. My two sons are cared for by my mother during the work week. We pay her a modest amount which she can invest into her Roth IRA. We also reimburse her for expenses. We end up paying less than we would for full-time care for two children in a family day-care. Her care is invaluable to our family. I know that there is no perfect substitute for their own parents, but at least my children are surrounded by family members who love them. We choose to stay in the DC area, because this is where my family lives. My children get to benefit from being close to wonderful Grandparents, two Great-Grandparents, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

My children understand that both Mom and Dad work, just as they understand that it is their responsibility to go to school. It is a fact of life, and we do the best we can with our time and resources.

Posted by: dcdesigner | July 24, 2006 12:02 PM

You honestly cannot tell me that by using pejorative terms to describe the behavior of the children of working moms that she meant nothing by it. It seems to me, you cannot logically see the implications of her argument. Regardless, this thread is getting silly.

Posted by: alexandriamom | July 24, 2006 12:03 PM

My kids are grown now. I believe they are much more balanced as people because they had almost equal input between their dad and me. Over the years we had different times when we both worked and contributed equally financially, where I was the primary breadwinner, and where he was. It was not something we planned, just kind of worked out that way due to the things life threw our way. If I had been a stay at home mom, which I would have preferred, but we could not afford, he would have missed out on a lot with the kids and they with him.

Posted by: Suzy | July 24, 2006 12:08 PM

>>

Wow. No guilt like mother guilt, eh? I hope you stood up for you wife.

Posted by: Kids from A-Z | July 24, 2006 12:13 PM

I agree that it is a personal decision. I have stayed at home, I have stayed at home and run a daycare business from my home, worked a job with my children's schedule a priority, and finally "just stayed home". My husbands military career and now his consulting business sort of set the parameters for what I could do. I made choices that I could live with. Certainly everyone should do what is right for them, and finances often take precedence over desires. Eighteen years is big slice of life to put a career on hold or put it in second place, but in the age of birth control, why have kids if you are not going to enjoy them? The challenge is being comfortable with the choices you make. My identity is not wrapped up in a job or being a Mom, but the joy that my children have given me, has been far more gratifying than any work place success. Make your own choices, don't feel guilty. You can return to work, you can't return them to childhood and start over, so think about those choices.

Posted by: Amy | July 24, 2006 12:20 PM

On the issue of whether children of WOHM's are clingier/needier - I think an argument could be made that they are less so because they seem more likely to have learned how to play with other children and by themselves. Several of the young children of SAHM's I interact with are much needier and clingier than mine (in daycare 3 days a week). They prefer to play games with their parents because their parents follow their scripts as opposed to children their age who have their own ideas. They also have a tough time getting used to a different caregiver or a change in their schedule.

I have taken 2 6 month maternity leaves. At the end of each I was sure that I wanted to keep staying home and was so upset at the thought of leaving my kids and the difficulty in running a house while working. Both times I forced myself to go back and give it a try -- both times I realized within a few weeks that it was the right decision for me and for my kids. I did cut back on my hours and my husband and I adjusted our schedules so our children have shorter days in daycare. Bottom line -- I don't think you can know what's best for you and your family until you've tried it both ways.

Posted by: working mom of 2 | July 24, 2006 12:20 PM

>>>Maybe if more men were willing to step up and stay home, or even do their fair share, it would be easier (DCSingle).

>>>Sexist or not, I maintain that most men do NOT have to choose between working and parenting, so why should I (or any woman) have to choose?? (Katherine).

Some of the ladies on this board insist that this is the 1950's and ALL MEN want to be absentee fathers who just work their 8 hours and want their wife to bring them their paper and slippers.

Well, we aren't all that way. And DCSingle, you're better off single if that's the way you think. Save someone the trouble of divorcing you...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 12:27 PM

to alexandriamom,

Get over it. Kids are clingy/needy at different stages of their lives in different situations. It sounds like you are looking to take offense where none was intended.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 12:36 PM

I think the answer is just to find the correct balance. I don't think it is an all or nothing situation. The correct balance is different for every family and maybe different at different times for an individual family. I took a 4 month maternity leave when my daughter was born. When my daughter turned 1 year old, my supervisor approached me with a potential part time assignment. It took a few months for a major project to wind down before I went part time. When my daughter turned 14 months, I went to a 4 day a week (9 hour days) schedule. I took a 10% pay cut, loose 10% vacation and sick leave, and I am only accruing 90% time in service. But it is awesome. It allows me a long weekend every week with my daughter. It is also very flexible for long weekends away. It also gave me some one and one time with just my daughter. I hardly noticed the 10% pay cut. Although I am not sure why, I don't notice it but we have just adjusted. I am amazed at the different work situations that I read on this blog-6 month sabbaticals, interesting telecommuting work, and part time assignments. I really beg employeers and employees to work on flexible work schedules. I think my employer gets the greatest reward. I still do the same amount of work and get paid less. I just cut down in all the emails, net searches, and small talk in the office.

Posted by: lieu | July 24, 2006 12:36 PM

This is probably like throwing water on a grease fire, but here it goes. I am just wondering if anyone chose to either work out side of the home or stay-at-home based solely on what was good for the marriage?

Posted by: Cristina | July 24, 2006 12:40 PM

On the discussion between momof4 and alexandriamom, a couple of thoughts:

1. What about the idea that children who don't have mom around all the time actually become more independent than their friends with SAHMs. It doesn't follow that just because kids don't have mom around much they're going to turn into clinging little pills when she is there.

2. There may be a likelihood for kids with SAHMs to take mom for granted and see her as the cleanup, pickup person, especially as they get older. After all, one message (and granted, not the only one) that SAHMs convey to their kids is that their children are more important than anything. Why else would mom be home with them all the time? Yeah, this can provide the kids with security and a sense of rootedness, but it can also implant the message that they're entitled to have someone take care of them throughout their lives.

SAHMs have a big challenge here to help their kids learn self-reliance.

Posted by: pittypat | July 24, 2006 12:43 PM

to pittypat,

I find it interesting that you are assuming that the mother of the adult daughter had been SAHM. John had indicated that the MIL was now retired which implies that she had worked at some time. I actually read this with the impression that the MIL had been WOHM and regretted that the daughter was following her lead and not staying home.

Interesting that we all put our own interpretations on these postings.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 12:43 PM

Well, we aren't all that way. And DCSingle, you're better off single if that's the way you think. Save someone the trouble of divorcing you...

To the 12:27 poster, are you threatened by what these women are saying. Maybe not all men are 1950's types, I am sorry to say that most men still let women shoulder most of the home and childrearing burden, so in fact, the choice that women make to stay at home is not so much a choice but a necessity because their husbands are not stepping up and doing their fair share of home duties and women cannot to it all all by themselves. Kudos to you if you are different, but if you are, you are in the minority.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 12:44 PM

Ladies and genltemen- I think we are missing the point. How many of you have written in that you didn't want to stop working because you didn't want to lose your jobs, or that there was no alternative to working 40 hours a week? There needs to be a change in how businesses treat new mothers and fathers. Men and women who want to work after a child is born should be able to without penalty.

The fact is, some women love to work (and see their career as part of their identity, just like being a mother is part of their identity, or a soccer player/artist/pianist). Why should we prevent a motivated, contributing employer from working? For example- I work at a university as faculty member. Those who have a tenure-track position are on a strict timeline. If you don't make it, after X number of years you can no longer work at the university (similar to becoming a partner at a law firm). The point is, there is nothing factored in for a parent who wants to stay at home- the timeline doesn't change.

Until men and women are able to have a reasonable choice, we will continue to have this conversation ad nauseum.

Posted by: professor | July 24, 2006 12:47 PM

Meesh, most SAHP's are not around their kids 24 hours a day and are not their only influence. They usually have playdates, childcare swaps, parent's morning out programs, and/or preschool. While I think that having a 6-year-old separate from their parents for the first time, it's really unrelated to being a SAHP. Kids with a nanny can have much less exposure to other kids if their nanny doesn't make an effort to take them out of the house (and yes, I've seen this many times).

Posted by: Ms L | July 24, 2006 12:48 PM

12:27 Man - a little sensitive, perhaps? Don't do as much around the house as your wife would like you to? Feeling a little guilty because you get called on it?
Lots of men still feel this way, even though it's 2006. A guy in my office whines that he HAS to go to baby classes, and his wife is due in September. Boy, do I feel sorry for her. He's teeing himself up to wheedle out of all the baby work by doing a " You can do it better than me" thing. He knows NOTHING about the baby he's about to have. So sad, especially for the poor baby.
And that divorce comment.... spare all of us from marrying dopes like you!

Posted by: Glad I can support myself | July 24, 2006 12:49 PM

"The point is, there is nothing factored in for a parent who wants to stay at home- the timeline doesn't change."

Possibly because having a child is, how do you say, a choice? If you want to focus your energies on family, that's great for you - but why should you expect that you should get a more relaxed schedule than someone who chooses to have children *after* s/he reaches tenure? The vast majority of the time, you can control when you get pregnant (using this fantastic set of products known as "birth control"). Certainly there are many things society can do better for working parents. But giving you an unfair advantage/break over someone who decides to work or postpone having children is not really just.

Posted by: Obligatory Childfree Thread Hijacker | July 24, 2006 12:55 PM

Why no talk of her husband that was the stay at home dad while she worked? It seems that more and more people today want to be defined by their Job and bank account instead of their REAL contribution to society, a well raised child...

Posted by: Joe D. | July 24, 2006 12:56 PM

For my marriage going back to work was certainly better. First, the money, second, less pressure on husband to be the sole provider, and third, most importantly RESPECT. Statements like "I work as much as you do and make (nearly) as much as you do" have done wonders to get him to carry 50% of the load. And no, he is not stuck in the 1950's but he was raised by HIS working mother like a prince with no responsibilities.

Posted by: to christina: | July 24, 2006 1:00 PM

I think the whole discussion about the neediness of children of SAHP v WOHP needs a little nuance. Children are different and will react differently to the same situation. I think Momof4 made a good point that children may behave differently with a SAHM than they do on the weekends with a WOHM; also, as many have said, the early months are a much more demanding time than later. But a lot of kids also need time away from parents as they get older.

My experience is that my son and I seem to have a sort of threshold. When I started working full time and my husband part-time, we put my son in 1/2 day daycare. I see him at lunch most days as I work from home, and we still get a lot of time together. He was less clingy and mommy-focused after we started this arrangement, and became a lot more able to play on his own, accept help from dad or other adults, etc. It's been really nice. HOwever, when I started studying for the bar exam and have been away on weekends and not home for a lot of lunches, he has become much more clingy and demanding of my time when I'm home because he's just not getting enough of me. It's really sucked. But I am sure once the exam is over and we get through a few weeks of getting back into our previous routine, things will even out again.

What I've taken from this is that my son needs some time away from me, but not this much. When we pass some threshold of time away from each other, it really negatively affects him (and me). But under that, it seems to be a neutral or even positive thing.

Posted by: Megan | July 24, 2006 1:00 PM

>>>Maybe if more men were willing to step up and stay home, or even do their fair share, it would be easier (DCSingle).

I think that is an oversimplified and too-easy way to think about the problem. Men are often just as constrained in their choices as women by traditional gender roles. I do believe that the benefits of sexist stereotypes tend inure to the benefit of men, while women get most of the downsides, but it's just not fair to generalize to the same degree on parenting issues.

I am a recently married professional with a wonderful husband who is as perplexed and conflicted about how to balance family and career as I am. We are planning to have kids in the near future. My husband is excited to be a father, and to raise a family together. Both of us agree that he would probably be better at staying home, particularly when our kids are younger. (He's infinitely more patient than I am, and has less of his self-image and identity tied to his occupation.) My earning potential also exceeds his by several multiples. We could certainly manage on his salary (and I know we are fortunate to have these choices), but we can live a lot more comfortably on mine.

We've talked a lot about our hopes and expectations tied to parenting, and I've come to realize that my husband feels the social pressures to conform to gendered stereotypes as much as I do. In many ways, it's harder for him. Luckily, he's pretty self-assured and self-aware, enough to ignore his buddies when they give him a hard time, or his family when they express confusion about our choices. It amazes me that he is able to do this, when I can see that there is even less support for him to make the choice to be a stay-at-home dad than there would be for me to be a working mom.

We've agreed that we will not make any permanent decisions about who works and who stays at home until we have a child and see how we feel about it. But it shouldn't be this hard to make the decision. For either of us.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:02 PM

>>>Kudos to you if you are different, but if you are, you are in the minority.


And you know this HOW??

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:03 PM

This is probably like throwing water on a grease fire, but here it goes. I am just wondering if anyone chose to either work out side of the home or stay-at-home based solely on what was good for the marriage?

Cristina, I have only heard of a few women who did that and no men that did that. I still can't figure out why a grown man can't take care of himself. After all, single men seem to work and take care of their home business. But I suppose if you can afford it and you both desire that situation there is nothing wrong with it.

Plus, I feel it is very important to contribute financially to my family's well being. Personally, I feel it is unfair to men to place all of the financial burden. If I was a guy, I would resent my wife staying home while I was responsible for all the bills, including her student loan!

I think it only works if the WOHP feels that the SAHP is contributing to the family by taking care of the home and family. Otherwise, I do think it would breed resentment. Although, I think that stinks because the SAHP is certainly doing more then his or her fair shared.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:03 PM

Professor said, "Until men and women are able to have a reasonable choice, we will continue to have this conversation ad nauseum."

Completely agree with you. However, I would add that women who drop out of the workplace don't help the case for changing workplace policies.

Posted by: AlexandriaMom | July 24, 2006 1:04 PM

Obligatory Childfree Thread Hijacker,

If someone works their butts off from college straight through the PhD and professorship with absolutely no breaks or other professional career, the earliest s/he could get tenure would be 32 or 33. Fertility drops precipitously starting at this age and it is possible that many women would not be able to get pregnant at this point. Of course it would be even harder if she took a year or two to work between college and grad school.

There has been a lot of discussion on women not having as many professorships as men, particularly in the sciences, and I think this may be one of the reasons.

Posted by: Ms L | July 24, 2006 1:04 PM

Problem about forced timelines they usually apply to people in their twenties and thirties - the time that is best from a biological standpoint to have children. So you are asked to choose between the career you want and possibly having children. Something men have not traditionally had to do. Also, if you look closely many of these time lines are arbitary. Finally flexibility works for all of us. If you can't take three months for maternity leave you can't take three months of FML to take care of an ill parent.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 24, 2006 1:05 PM

Becoming tenured is a very long process. Most individuals reach tenure after the age of 35. This is important because the risk of difficult pregnancies and birth defects increases dramatically once a woman reaches this age.

I am all for choices. I'm not saying you should have a relaxed schedule to get things done when you feel like it. All I'm recommending is that there should be an option to have a postponment. Is it fair that a women should have to weigh her health (or her baby's health) over her career? No. I also feel that this should apply to someone who needs to stay home to take care of a sick family member. Life happens, and when employers are too rigid, you lose out on a lot of people who would otherwise be happy.

I do not appriciate your tone. I am aware of the fantastic set of products known as birth control. But most women can't have children after they achieve tenure, or don't want to risk the potential (very significant) health issues that may occur. Having children IS a choice, but let it be an equitable choice.

Posted by: Professor | July 24, 2006 1:05 PM

Many of us are managing to have a job, a bank account, AND a well raised child. Not mutually exclusive. To add my own personal anecdote, which I expect all readers to accept as universal...the other night I took my 3-year-old to a party where one of the other guests was also 3. What a contrast. My son, who is in daycare during the week, was noticably more friendly towards the other guests (adults and kids), much more talkative--would answer questions, have whole conversations with adults, and was more polite (said 'please' and 'thank you', etc.) than the other 3-year-old, who is home with mom all day and was alternately clingly and bratty during the party. SAHPs don't hold the monopoly on good kids.

Posted by: Actually, Joe... | July 24, 2006 1:09 PM

I thought some colleges do give you some time off. My friend's wife is a tenure track professor. She took two years of no pay off to have her twins. I think the tenure track time clock just stopped during her time off and started back when she went back.

Posted by: lieu | July 24, 2006 1:10 PM

>>>12:27 Man - a little sensitive, perhaps? Don't do as much around the house as your wife would like you to? Feeling a little guilty because you get called on it?
Lots of men still feel this way, even though it's 2006.

Yes, I'm sensitive about it, b/c I absolutely bust my butt to be a good Dad, and I'm tired of the low expecations and the damning with faint praise that the Dads often get. Dads absolutely should do their fair share. Totally valid point there. But how about trying a little positive reinforcement instead of harping on how bad "most men" are, given that you probably have never had contact with "most men." Why not start with generating a positive dialogue with the guy sharing a bed with you every night, so that your kids feel balanced parenting, and connect with Dad just as much as Mom.

We don't want to be strangers or foreign appendages in our own homes, and "most of us" are tortured about how to fix that while still bringing in the $$$ that society expects us to do as head of household.

Yes, I'm ticked about this, because I get sick of seeing the "parenting would be easier if men would participate" message every friggin day. It's insulting.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:12 PM

Amy said: "Eighteen years is big slice of life to put a career on hold or put it in second place, but in the age of birth control, why have kids if you are not going to enjoy them? "

There is a HUGE difference in staying home with an infant versus a toddler versus a school-aged child, and certainly as compared to an 18 year old high school senior.

It interests me that people on this blog describe intervals in their own life of working, then staying home, then working part time, making conclusions about which was better and worse, when each of these intervals necessarily took place at a different time in the children's lives. That is, people who claim that "raising" their children is as much interpersonal interaction and intellectual stimulation as anyone should need can't possibly be reflecting accurately the life of a SAHM with a newborn, which can be a very isolating experience. Likewise, people who say that SAHM's have plenty of time for book clubs and lunch with friends can't be reflecting the life of the average SAHM with an active toddler.

Conversely, and perhaps controversially, what bothers me in my personal experience is the SAHM's of school-age children that live on my block and go on about how they made the choice to stay home because they can't bear the idea of someone else raising their children. Well, those kids are now in school and organized sports and 5 other activities a week, and those moms are still neither working outside the home (and in the case of my neighbors, they have cleaning lady, lawn service, and frequent pizza deliveries) nor "enjoying the kids" all the time. Maybe after a point, staying home full-time is not just because you're saving the kids from the tragedy of being raised by someone else...

Posted by: YWA | July 24, 2006 1:13 PM

Actually there was a WSJ article on the president of Princeton who happens to be a woman (Shirley Tilgham). She has ensured that the tenure track is increased by a year for every child an assistant professor has. Hopefully the tide is also turning at more universities.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 24, 2006 1:15 PM

To "Actually, Joe..." you just jinxed yourself. Next party you go to YOUR 3 year old will be the brat. It's a universal given. I'm not saying your child is not good -- I'm sure he is -- but every 3 year old has their moment ;-)

Posted by: Momof3yo | July 24, 2006 1:15 PM

It saddens me to read all these posts from women and men who have sent their children to daycare. Why do you have kids if you are going to send them away to be treates like animals all day long?

The biggest problem in this country is that moms, or dads, do not stay home to raise a child. Shame on everyone who works only to keep your McMansion and Lexus. If you cannot put your children first you have no business having children.

Posted by: Troy | July 24, 2006 1:17 PM

Kudos to you if you are different, but if you are, you are in the minority.
And you know this HOW??

Check out US Census Bureau statistics:
According to the US Census Bureau, there are 66.3 million fathers in the United States today. US Census Bureau
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/001792.html

There are an estimated 105,000 "stay-at-home" dads. These are married fathers with children under 15 who are not in the labor force primarily so they can care for family members while their wives work outside the home. Stay-at-home dads care for 189,000 children.
US Census Bureau
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/children/001125.html

However you slice it, from these figures, you can see that the overwhelming majority of parents who stay at home to raise their kids are women. There are a few men who do it, but just a few. There is no balance here. Women are doing most of the stay at home parenting, and this is where the generalizations come from.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:18 PM

I understand the frustration of the blank poster (obviously a dad who tried to do his fair share). My husband also does his fair share and I try as much as I can to give him positive reinforcement. However, even though I don't know "most men" I know he is in the minority. Most guys I know believe it is the responsibility of the woman to do the lion share of child raising and won't even consider the idea of staying home to take care of a child. I believe that is changing but very slowly.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 24, 2006 1:19 PM

I agree completely with professor. I don't have children nor do I want them, but I am a feminist, and I think women get saddled with the "balancing act" business more than men because we (men *and* women) don't insist that our places of work give both men and women the flexibility and options needed for children, and of course continue to try to change social ideas about these things. This flexibility, incidentally, should extend to other family obligations as well, like parent care, etc.

Posted by: justsomethoughts | July 24, 2006 1:19 PM

We don't want to be strangers or foreign appendages in our own homes, and "most of us" are tortured about how to fix that while still bringing in the $$$ that society expects us to do as head of household.
Yes, I'm ticked about this, because I get sick of seeing the "parenting would be easier if men would participate" message every friggin day. It's insulting.

Why do you care so much about what society expects you to do. Do what is right for you and your family and forget society. If you care more about what your wife and kids feel and less about what society expects, you might be happier.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:24 PM

Dear 1:03: I am not espousing any particular view, to work or not to work. I am just curious as to how much importance people place on improving their relationship with their spouse when making these life decisions. We seem to always talk about what is "best for the kids." Isn't a healthy marriage important for the welfare of the children? A healthy marriage can be achieved in a two-wage earner family or a family with a SAHP. One view is that with a two-wage earner family, there is less financial burden and both parents have to step-up to the plate when it comes to raising the children. Another view is that having one spouse in the home frees up the working parent to focus on the demands of their career, and provides a less stressful environment for all family members.

Posted by: Cristina | July 24, 2006 1:27 PM

For Troy: Children in daycare are not treated like animals. Do you exaggerate everything?
As an aside: I have a dear friend who is a single dad who has to work and puts his 2yo daughter in daycare - he has no choice - his wife died when his daughter was 3 days old. She is a wonderful child and is the light of his life. He would love to date again and remarry but between work and his daughter he doesn't have much spare time.

Posted by: DC | July 24, 2006 1:31 PM

Cristina, I completely agree with you. I think the issue of one- or two-wage earners (when a couple is fortunate enough to have the choice) should be decided with the marriage in mind as one of the variables. It's a lot harder to be a family when your marriage is disintegrating.

Posted by: Sarah | July 24, 2006 1:31 PM

Troy is not worth the trouble

Posted by: Don't take the bait! | July 24, 2006 1:36 PM

My husband was the SAHP for 3 months when the boys were 4 and 6. He never questioned my desire to return to work after our third! We both have the same degree (JD) and similar careers and income. We share childcare still but we both work. One drops off, one picks up, we stagger our schedules to minimize time at daycare. But, our kids have loved childcare and are more social, better able to communicate with peers and with other adults, and very confident in new situations. They are also better behaved than their cousins with SAHMs - one on my side and one on my husband's side, both of whom are terrible. In spite of the criticism from both SILs regarding my return to work, they have recognized that our "disadvantaged" kids are thriving while they have struggles with their children who have benefitted from their SAHPs. In our family, having two working parents who share household and childcare has worked for us and provided the example we chose to provide for both boys and our girl. They see equality, respect, communication, and sharing every day.

Posted by: SS | July 24, 2006 1:37 PM

The generalization that daycares treat kids like animals is ridiculous. There are great daycares, so so daycares, and bad ones. There are also great stay at home parents, so so ones, and bad ones. Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean that you are taking better care of them than a daycare could. It depends on the daycare and the parent.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 1:39 PM

To professor: you working on that doctorate in the field New To This Blog, are you? Or possibly in the field Taking The Interwebs Too Seriously? You have fun with that, then.

Posted by: Obligatory Childfree Thread Hijacker | July 24, 2006 1:42 PM

let's all agree to ignore Troy.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:45 PM

"Why do you have kids if you are going to send them away to be treates like animals all day long? "

Clearly, because we are hoping to raise a pack of savage criminals who will bring down society! Why else would you have kids? ;)

Posted by: Megan | July 24, 2006 1:45 PM

Cristina asked if anyone made a work decision because of the marriage. Well, I did. I stopped working after our second child because it was better for our marriage. My husband was in a high pressure job and we found that he was struggling to keep up with the juggle of day care schedules, meeting schedules and work demands for both of us. So, I quit my job to stay home after number 2 arrived. It wasn't an easy decision for me, myself and I - I loved my job and was very good at it and would have loved to stay on. But, for the betterment of our marriage - which, of course, ultimately is the betterment of our children and each of us - I became a SAHM. In the long run am I sorry I made that decision? No, because I love my husband, my children and our family. Was it an easy adjustment? No, because we had moved into our neighborhood after the first child was born and while I was still working full time so I never got a chance to meet my neighbors. And, again, no, because we lost my salary entirely. But, I poked around and found a play group and started to meet people. When I got restless from constant child care, I started a book group (which is still going almost 20 years later, by the way). And in that way I built a very nice life, filled with interesting people and exchange of ideas. I stayed home until my youngest entered first grade, then went to work part-time. Now I work full-time in an area I would never have imagined several decades ago and at which I would never have arrived if I hadn't become a SAHM.
So...For our marriage, it was the right decision. Was it easy for me or for our budget - not on your life! But it took me on a new path and on adventures I would otherwise never have had.

Posted by: Pam | July 24, 2006 1:46 PM

Yup, the behavior of any 3yo inside or outstide the home is a roll of the dice. You could have the sweetest child who will turn into a tantrum monster because of so many different reasons, not all predictable. Sometimes it is a reflection of SAHP or WOHP, but most of the time, it is a reflection of the social situation and the temperament of the child. Hard to draw conclusions about parents staying home or not.

We have plenty of clingy, needy children of SAHP in our neighborhood and some very articulate and polite kids who go to day care.(and some of the reverse as well)

My older daughter is very shy. We had in-home day care until recently and it has been a relief and joy to see how she has bloomed in her excellent day care center, from the stimulation, contact and care.

Posted by: Sunniday | July 24, 2006 1:46 PM

>>To "Actually, Joe..." you just jinxed yourself. Next party you go to YOUR 3 year old will be the brat. It's a universal given. I'm not saying your child is not good -- I'm sure he is -- but every 3 year old has their moment ;-)>>

Ha! I know, never say never with a toddler. Although that was kind of the point. We're talking about human beings, and, without discussing the individual human beings involved, people are making pronoucements about what is best. My kid might be great if I stayed home. He might be a brat if I keep sending him to preschool. My second might be a holy terror no matter what I do. It's just why I hate these comments about "this way of doing things is best" (especially since 9 times out of 10 the comment is "staying at home is best.") A statement like that is WAY too general to apply to the uniqueness of every child, parent, and family. If you like your life, fine--it's YOUR life. Let me like mine, and don't tell me what's best when you don't know a thing about me.

Posted by: Actually, Joe... | July 24, 2006 1:48 PM

"There is a HUGE difference in staying home with an infant versus a toddler versus a school-aged child, and certainly as compared to an 18 year old high school senior."

There is a huge difference. Infants and toddlers require a tremendous amount of hands-on care and attention. Don't underestimate the needs of older children, though. I have a son who's going to college this fall, and we've been dealing with some very important emotional, social and eating issues with him over the last 18 months. That's taken a great deal of time (as well as a good bit of professional help). The ability of my wife to be at home has aided this immensely.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:48 PM

"If I was a guy, I would resent my wife staying home while I was responsible for all the bills, including her student loan!" Unfornately I've met some men who have felt this way, but they are few and far between. Men who don't mind the financial responsibilities of raising a family far outnumber the half-men who do (at least the ones who actually get married anyway). However, this is an important discussion that needs to take place before any vows are exchanged or children produced. I would never consider marrying a man with a less than generous/sacrificial disposition towards marriage and family. I don't necessarily consider it justifiable to saddle a groom with thousands in debt that he did not create, but I would never link up with a man who thought taking care of me while I raised OUR children was an undue burden.

Posted by: dcp | July 24, 2006 1:49 PM

"This is probably like throwing water on a grease fire, but here it goes. I am just wondering if anyone chose to either work out side of the home or stay-at-home based solely on what was good for the marriage?"

That's me. Though we got into that situation largely through my own mistakes. At my urging, we bought a house that required two salaries before we had kids and I knew I'd want to stay home. I hated going back to work. I hounded and hounded my husband to agree to trade in our single-family home for a townhome after our first child was born. I was sure we could get by on just his income. Words can't describe how difficult this has been on our marriage. We recently rehashed it all again, and I finally believe that he honestly thought he could not support us on his income alone at his current salary and the cost of selling our house so soon after buying it (before the housing market went out of control), not that he just wanted to maintain our standard of living. Anyway, it occurred to me that the situation wasn't entirely out of my hands. I needed his agreement to put the house on the market, but I didn't need his agreement to quit my job. But I decided that quitting my job without his okay might be the straw that broke the camel's back, and would have made us too financially vulnerable given that we would be living way beyond our means until we could sell the house.

One more child and a three or four years later, my husband finally appeared ready to give in. I had a few concerns about quitting my job when my children were getting close to school age (when I'd be thinking about going back to work anyway had I been able to quit when I wanted), but happily started researching school districts and going to open houses. Finally we went to a house that appeared to be in the price range we could afford assuming we could get what we wanted for our house. I was planning away, when that night I noticed my husband was in very serious, physical pain. Stress affects him that way. Not only the stress of being able to both sell and buy, but the stress of being the sole bread winner. I knew he was miserable at the thought of us all depending on him. I looked at how miserable he was, looked at how happy the kids were in their day care and how much they didn't appear to mind my working. I realized that causing everyone to pick up and move would mainly benefit me at the expense of my husband's happiness, with it being unclear whether the kids would really benefit in the few years they had left before going to school all day. So I dropped it. In our particular situation, it seemed like pushing ahead would have been the selfish thing to do. But I do not think that would have been the case had my children still been babies. Had my husband showed some sign of giving in then, I would have jumped at the chance because I would have thought it the best thing to do for both them and me.

Posted by: Sam | July 24, 2006 1:51 PM

I was a stay-at-home mom for 2 1/2 years and have been back to a paid job for 2 years.

The first year was hard because my child
only slept between 4-6 hours a day including naps and had to be nursed about
14 times a day. Despite that we enjoyed
our time together and playing more as she got older. The doctor said she had colic which would disappear about age 1 and he was correct.

Now she loves her daycare and spending time
with me. She likes to know what we are doing at night and if we are seeing any of
her friends and relatives. If I did not
go back to work it would have been just her and me.

I sit on park benches now. When she little
I needed to run after her because the bigger kids would push her. Now she can swing herself and is proud of her accomplishment.

Posted by: shdd | July 24, 2006 1:52 PM

my husband and i are hoping to start a family next year, and we've both agreed that i'll stay home. for me, it's a no-brainer, but i get questioned on it a lot. people don't understand why i'm willing to give up my "career." it's easy, because the job i currently have is NOT one i'd like to be in for the next 20-odd years and i've been miserable while i've had it. it's not a career for me, it's a paycheck. so while i may miss the paycheck, i won't miss any other part of it - and instead of a 3 hour round-trip commute, i'll have time with my family. i'm looking forward to it (the good and the bad!)

Posted by: dlm | July 24, 2006 1:52 PM

" I am just wondering if anyone chose to either work out side of the home or stay-at-home based solely on what was good for the marriage?"

Yes. I quit my job for the sake of my sanity and my marriage, and we don't even have kids yet (although are trying). My husband can absolutely take care of himself, that wasn't the issue, but I was an overworked, unhappy, unbalanced, stressed out b*tch in that job (80 plus hours a week), and this almost destroyed the only thing that truly matters to me. Never again! I quit at the beginning of the year and I feel like a whole, sane, happy person again. I'm going back to school in a year, part-time, for something that I am excited to do and will fulfill me and allow for balance and flexibility, with my husband's complete support. Aside from marrying him, choosing not to work for the first time in my life is the best decision I've ever made! We might be on a tighter budger, but for us it's worth it right now. We're stronger than ever and having tons of fun.

Posted by: AnonToday | July 24, 2006 1:53 PM

There seems to be a thread about how clingy or social a young child is based on whether they are at home or in daycare. Noone seems to mention the child's personality. My daughter is a natural introvert as are both her parents. So someone seeing her at age three would have said see how clingy she is and might have blamed it on our situation. Now in her teens she knows how to handle social situations, does well in school, has a few close friends and has even been elected a team captain, but she admits she is an introvert and some of this has taken a conscience effort. So I guess my point is don't be so quick to judge.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 1:54 PM

I LOVE my job and feel fortunate to have a flexible schedule that allows me to spend most afternoons with the children after school. I'm not working for a Lexus or a big house, but I AM glad that my salary is putting my children through a good private school and (hopefully) good universities in the future.

I'm curious about those stay-at-home moms who experience interesting conversations whilst at the playground. That never happens here in my suburban Atlanta neighborhood. Instead it's constant boasting: little Johnny or Tiffany's extensive number of play dates, their grades, athletic abilities soccer (basketball, tennis, scuba diving) etc. Another fun topic: gossiping about the neighbors (particularly those bad bad working moms), or shopping, or complaining about husbands. Women in my neighborhood bring bottles of wine to the playground in the afternoons when they've "had a bad day." Just TRY to start a conversation about politics or current events - they look at you like you're from outer space!

Thank goodness for my (academic) office!

Posted by: ATL Mom | July 24, 2006 1:56 PM

I think I hear Troy's knuckles dragging the ground...

Posted by: single western mom | July 24, 2006 1:59 PM

To Anonymous 1:48:
Yes, of course you're right...I tried to hedge by referring to "averages" but obviously kids with special needs whether temporary or permanent are exceptions (and I'm very wise to the wiles of an utterly unsupervised 14-year-old, so I actually count "social precociousness" in that category). Still, in my own family, I have seen a couple of cases where parents of kids with chronic and overwhelming special needs were able to glean some sanity from a part-time job.

Posted by: YWA | July 24, 2006 2:00 PM

There seems to be a thread about how clingy or social a young child is based on whether they are at home or in daycare. Noone seems to mention the child's personality.
How right you are on the personality point. My son has twin friends who both had a SAHM. One of them is a complete extrovert, and the other is very very shy.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 2:00 PM

No, only one of Troy's knuckles is dragging, he is carrying his daily kill with the other.

Posted by: KB | July 24, 2006 2:01 PM

In some colleges/universities extra time can be wangled before the tenure decision, but unfortunately extra time isn't given by granting agencies for the grants upon which all the work (and the tenure decision) depends. This isn't under the control of the universities, but under that of the granting agencies: NIH, etc. I don't think it is fair to say that women should just delay having children until after they get tenure because by doing so they may outrun their fertility and be unable to have their own children at all. In addition, children of older moms are more likely to be born with special needs that occupy mom's time and attention and cancel out (or more) the delay in childbearing. In addition, men don't have the issue because they don't have to take maternity leave, breastfeed, etc. One thing I noticed is that although paid maternity leaves are normally 6 weeks (or less), babies don't sleep through the night until 3 months (and breastfed babies even later). So breastfeeding moms are coming in to work exhausted, but the dads of such young kids are well-rested and can be productive!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:01 PM

If you aren't going to use your education in the work force, then why should women go to university? I guess it is just a dating service..? I would think that a man who marries a woman with a degree and a career would want a woman who is a peer or an equal, not someone to support.

Posted by: To dcp | July 24, 2006 2:02 PM

By the waym, who are these lucky stayathome moms whose kids don't cling to them all day. Mine is like glue and I've been home for months...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:02 PM

>>>However you slice it, from these figures, you can see that the overwhelming majority of parents who stay at home to raise their kids are women. There are a few men who do it, but just a few.

We were talking about men doing their fair share.

Can men (as a gender) only be seen as doing their fair share if 50% of SAHPs are men? Can't be. We need to start deducting percentage points for every percentage point of women who marry for money or want to be taken care of or who thinks that if one person stays at home it should be them.

There are women who think this, it isn't just men. (Though I'm not going to sit there and hit you with a "most women" statement.)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:04 PM

My wife is a SAHM and very happy. She is well educated and was very driven and did not think being home would be good for her. Boy was she wrong. She realized she was working for social affirmation, not because she wanted to. Now she in content in her role as a SAHM and happier than she ever was working.

I wish more moms and dads had the same opportunity to really enjoy their children's lives. I certainly wish I didn't have to work and could do so. It makes going to work easier when I know my children are home with their mother receiving the love and nurturing they need and deserve rather than stuck in a playpen in a daycare center. I envy the bond she has created with our children.

Posted by: Envious Dad | July 24, 2006 2:08 PM

I was a stay at home mom for years, my husband even took a turn staying home with our oldest child. We felt that it was our responsibility to raise our children. It was difficult financially but I would do the same thing over again today. Neither of our children attended daycare until they entered school. I was surprised when I visited the daycare with my son so that he could meet his "teacher" that she quit and was replaces several times with other "teachers" without the parents being made aware of the changes. The first day he attended both school and daycare I recieved letters from both stating that there was a head lice outbreak. I wanted to stay home with him again!

Posted by: LouAnn | July 24, 2006 2:10 PM

RE:To DCP
how many people are working in the field that their degree is? Be it man or woman?
How many people to to College, because it's expected of them by their parents and Society's deeming that you can only be successful IF you go to College.

A Man who marries a woman, wants someone as their life companion. I could care what my wife did before me. She could be a homeless bag lady for all I care. I didnt marry her for her degree or what she could bring to the table monatary wise. Hell, we could both be living in a one room shack in BFE for all I care, as long as I was with her...Ok, I take that back, I need Cable, HDTV, Computer and Internet Access in the shack too...

And for all the SAHM's on here right now...Just proves a point that you dont spend all of your day watching the child. There are breaks here and there where you can have your time...Just dont plan on it being the same time everyday.

Posted by: Joe D. | July 24, 2006 2:11 PM

We need to start deducting percentage points for every percentage point of women who marry for money or want to be taken care of or who thinks that if one person stays at home it should be them.

This is counterbalanced by deducting a percentage point for every man who marries a trophy wife and wants her to cook, clean, and run his errands for him so that he can devote himself to his career and watch the football game on Sunday.

Like it or not, the fact that men are not SAHPs in the same proportion of women does show that they are not doing their fair share of domesitic work. So women are left holding the bag, and many opt to stay at home not because the want to, but because they have to in order to run a functioning household. If men and women stayed at home to raise kids in roughly equal proportions, then the choice to stay home would be a choice and not a socially imposed obligation, as it is now.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 2:18 PM

"I would think that a man who marries a woman with a degree and a career would want a woman who is a peer or an equal, not someone to support."

I am my husband's equal and peer regardless of my employment status. We support one another, regardless of who brings home the (most) money.

Once we have children, my income will certainly go down because I want to continue to freelance from home, part-time -- at most. By devoting more time to my children, I will not be "wasting my degree" (a phrase I loathe). Rather, I will be putting my degree to use by raising my children in a house filled with books where intelligence, education, and knowledge are valued.

Measuring contribution to the marriage and a person's worth as a human being by how much money they bring home is a sad, sad value system. There is so much more to the equation.

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 2:24 PM

To Rockville:
Most Trophy wives dont do anything except maybe 1-2x a week or month...

Posted by: Joe D. | July 24, 2006 2:24 PM

To Rockville:
Most Trophy wives dont do anything except maybe 1-2x a week or month...

Maybe so. But somehow, men still seem to want them, no?

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 2:25 PM

>>I was a stay at home mom for years, my husband even took a turn staying home with our oldest child. We felt that it was our responsibility to raise our children.>>

Let's say it together, people: all parents raise their children, whether they stay home with them or work outside the home. (If you split on your spouse and kids, you don't deserve to be called a parent.)

I would be a lot more likely to listen to the "other side" if they could ever manage to stop insulting women who work outside the house by implying that we are not raising our kids. Daycare workers don't raise kids. They care for them during working hours. Big difference.

Posted by: Once again, with feeling | July 24, 2006 2:28 PM

Measuring contribution to the marriage and a person's worth as a human being by how much money they bring home is a sad, sad value system. There is so much more to the equation.

I agree with you completely, but it seems to me that men still value their contribution in terms of the money they bring in. And some women value them in terms of that also. If raising children were really viewed as wonderful, more men would be doing it. The way it is now, we think that raising kids is wonderful for women, but somehow demeaning for men. Sad.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 2:28 PM

ATLmom, you can find good conversations at the right neighborhood. If you live in a neighborhood where people are keeping up with the Joneses, you'll hear this kind of conversation you're talking about. If you live in a neighborhood with different values (like cultural creatives) you will find more interesting conversations.

In the past week, I talked with SAHMs about Lebanon, body image problems (adults and children), local politics, the land trust one of them is on the board of, etc. And I'm not a SAHM.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:30 PM

SAHM? If only they would! In my town, they're participating in the Suburban Olympics all day. That's where you cruise up and down Main Street in an SUV, yakking on a cell phone. The Gold Medal thus far goes to one gal who was driving a van full of kids. Her right hand held a cell phone to her ear and with the left hand she waved out the window to another SO "competitor", all while making a left turn at an intersection! Makes me think some kids might be better off in day care.

Posted by: Texas mom | July 24, 2006 2:33 PM

When I stay at home with my kids, let's say like at Christmas, I call it "vacation".

For all you persons that have the opportunity to "stay at home" to "raise your kids", since I'm such a positive kind of guy, I have something to say to you: "Have a great vacation!"

And as much as you Stay at Homers try to make it out to be "hard work", vacationing is simply not that way.

I think we should change the term from "Stay at Home Parents" to "Vacation Parents". The term "vacation" is simply a more accurate description of what someone is doing when the aren't working.

Hope this helps to further the discussion and present a fresh perspective on Home/Life balance!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 2:34 PM

I wasted money on my degree. I went to Art school.......

Posted by: Duuuhhhhhh | July 24, 2006 2:36 PM

Father of 4, you are being very bad and will be given a time out if your behavior does not improve.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:37 PM

Thanks Rockville, you got my point. Women expect to have a double standard but men aren't allowed the same. Also men aren't the only one's who value their contribution in terms of money either (I am sure their wives do too).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 2:38 PM

I don't get it - when women say they aren't "wasting their degree" because they love to read, are raising their kids to read, etc. - wouldn't you be doing that regardless of whether or not you got a degree?

Posted by: Erin | July 24, 2006 2:43 PM

Rockville said: "Like it or not, the fact that men are not SAHPs in the same proportion of women does show that they are not doing their fair share of domesitic work."

Rockville, that seems to ignore tons of potential variables, doesn't it? What is implicit in your statement is that SAHP=Domestic Work. Is there any domestic work that is outside Parenting? Of course there is. What if one parent is doing 90% of the non-parenting domestic work, plus some proportion of the parenting (a reasonable proportion given that they work, say 20%). Is that WOH parent then doing their "fair share"?

Really, IF men can never be seen as doing their fair share until 50% of the SAHP population are men, then I think we will never get anywhere. Because, it's not as simple as 30 million men just electing to SAH one day. It really isn't.

I think that there are very strong, very smart, very independent-minded women on this board who are loathe to admit that there are some less-urban sections of America where it is still the social norm that men are expected to go work outside the home and the women are expected to work primarily inside the home. And you are considered a less-atractive or inappropriate spouse if you don't conform to this. And the underlying tenor of today's posts seems to be that men are actively working to maintain this notion of conservative traditionalism. Need I remind everyone that Ann Coulter, Bay Buchanan, Elizabeth Dole, Michele Malkin et. al. are not men??

So unless those rural folks about-face, we are left for the majority of urban men to stay at home to balance out the majority of rural women who stay at home in order to achieve societal "fairness" in some people's minds. The fact that this would generate an ideological civil war notwithstanding.

If this scenario sounds ridiculous, its because it is. Each family doing what's best for them sounds like the answer. However, that would also mean that all the men-aren't-doing-their-fair-share comments would be immediately discarded as meaningless blather....

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 2:48 PM

To the anonymous poster at 2:38. I'm not sure I get your point, or that you get mine. Look. When one parent works and one stays at home, they are both contributing to the overall situation of the family. No one (not even me) is saying that men who work are not contributing to their families. They are. But most men work outside the home and contribute to their families in terms of money, and SAHMs contribute in terms of raising the kids and keeping the household functioning. And the disparity between SAHDs and SAHDs in terms of proportion shows that men are not as willing to contribute in terms of the DOMESTIC work, even though they may be ponying up the money. So women don't really get the chance to CHOOSE to stay at home because if women don't choose it, who will (men don't seem to be choosing it in great numbers). Plus, in a lot of households where both parents work outside the home, women also do the lion's share of the domestic work because it is seen as women's work. And men also are hurt by these imposed gender roles because they can't CHOOSE to stay at home because they may feel like it is demeaning or not manly.

What's your point? Sometimes, I think we talk past each other and maybe agree on stuff that we don't even realize we agree on.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 2:49 PM

[Father of 4, you are being very bad and will be given a time out if your behavior does not improve.]

Does that mean that I get to, I mean, have to go to my room and spend time there without any visitors?

If I'm really bad, do I get a spanking?

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 2:50 PM

I love the fact that women who have had established careers and degrees, etc, decided to stay at home with their children. I am a full-time employee at a local college, I have 2 children and one on the way. The thought of me leaving my "career" to be at home is at the top of my list of things to do.

I am tired of having to leave work every other day because my youngest is sick at daycare and then my eldest is coughing (allergies) too much and his summer camp/school is scared he may pass his germs. Then when the youngest one does get sick, she has to stay out of daycare for 24-48 hours and then I have to get a doctor appointment just to get a note saying she is better and can go back to daycare.

Of course my boss looks at me all funny after about the 3rd - 3th time in one month of doing this. Then not to mention graduations, school closings, Parent-Teacher meetings that I have to take a whole day off from work because the school closes on these days and my appointment isn't until 3:00 PM.

Only problem with me doing it right away is that my job has the better benefits (health insurance,life insurance, 403B, dental insurance, etc.) BUT, the money I will receive when I leave can go towards an account that will be set-up when we need things. Also my employer allows you to continue with the same benefits when you leave Voluntarily, only you have to pay the entire portion. I would actual be ok doing that because it really isn't that bad. I would have almost $700.00 in daycare per month that I wouldn't have to worry about,then the gas or metro fees I wouldn't have to worry about, the clothing that I have to buy to wear to work, etc. It makes sense to me to stay at home.
My family comes first, "ain't" no job on earth worth losing my family and the support of a mother and/or father who is there.

Posted by: PG County | July 24, 2006 2:51 PM

To Erin: It's not only THAT you read, but what you read, how you think about it, the connections you draw, analyses you make, etc. Any edcuation should help you understand the world and people better, and these are lessons you can impart to your children.

**You can't take away one part of your life and say you'd be the same without those experiences and influences. A college education or beyond will shape your life in all types of ways, obvious and not, that don't rely on whether or not you ultimately have a career in that field.

Posted by: NotHardToGet | July 24, 2006 2:52 PM

"I don't get it - when women say they aren't "wasting their degree" because they love to read, are raising their kids to read, etc. - wouldn't you be doing that regardless of whether or not you got a degree?"

That's true as far as it goes because that is my value system.

However, the reason I hate the term "wasting your degree" is that it implies that, by getting a certain degree, you are obligated to work in that field for the rest of your life. And only that field. Ever. Never mind what you find fulfilling, never mind how your life changes, never mind what your needs and the needs of those around you are at any given time.

The object of getting an education is to expand your options, not to limit them. I have never seen a diploma with an expiration date; there is nothing that says I can't "use" my degree in a professional capacity later too. It's not going to spoil like a jug of milk.

College is more than just a vocational training program. Education is supposed to teach you to think, to reason, to look beyond your own surroundings, to consider views other than your own.

Therefore, I find the implication that, if I put my career on hold to raise my kids, I'm "not using my degree" or "used college as a dating service" highly insulting.

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 2:54 PM

"Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean that you are taking better care of them than a daycare could. It depends on the daycare and the parent."

Au contraire, one of the universal truths of life is no one will take care of your children as well as you. It's a maxim. They may love them, take great care of them, but at the end of the day, no one can love a child like his or her parents.

Posted by: Dad of kids from A-Z | July 24, 2006 2:58 PM

Texas Mom, suburban olympics, hilarious. This is the first time I've seen you post. Hope you stick around.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 2:58 PM

I don't believe that education is ever a waste. However, I also don't believe that having a college education automatically makes you a better parent.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 2:59 PM

Dad from kids from AZ said "Au contraire, one of the universal truths of life is no one will take care of your children as well as you. It's a maxim. They may love them, take great care of them, but at the end of the day, no one can love a child like his or her parents. " Boy, I guess you are forgetting about all the abused children in this country and the rest of the world. The majority of children who are abused are abused by their own parents. Particularly, mothers because they have the largest access to children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:00 PM

>>>And the disparity between SAHDs and SAHDs in terms of proportion shows that men are not as willing to contribute in terms of the DOMESTIC work, even though they may be ponying up the money.

It shows no such thing. The numbers show that the disparity IS THE CASE, but does not show any value judgement (i.e. that men are "not as willing"). Why do you insist on twisting these numbers to align with your antiquated view of what "most men" think?

Posted by: To Rockville | July 24, 2006 3:00 PM

"Boy, I guess you are forgetting about all the abused children in this country and the rest of the world. The majority of children who are abused are abused by their own parents. Particularly, mothers because they have the largest access to children."

If you're going to throw this out then I guess you have to compare it to the performances of day cares now, don't you?

Posted by: Dad of kids from A-Z | July 24, 2006 3:02 PM

What if one parent is doing 90% of the non-parenting domestic work, plus some proportion of the parenting (a reasonable proportion given that they work, say 20%). Is that WOH parent then doing their "fair share"?
Rarely happens. Unfortunately, most SAHPs see the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping as part of their role as a SAHP. The working parents usually just "helps" out.

Because, it's not as simple as 30 million men just electing to SAH one day. It really isn't.
Sure it is. My husband made the choice, despite the fact that he is urban, educated, what have you. So I had the choice to work. It helps that he cares not even a fig about what society thinks, which is why I love him so much.

So unless those rural folks about-face, we are left for the majority of urban men to stay at home to balance out the majority of rural women who stay at home in order to achieve societal "fairness" in some people's minds.
Someone has to take the lead. What would be so awful about urban men choosing to stay at home in greater numbers. If it was best for their families, why would this be such a bad thing. It seems to me you are saying that people should do what is best for their families, but that the same time, what turns out to be best for families is that women stay at home in much greater proportions then me. At some point, you have to see that this is no longer a choice than an obligation, for both men an women. It is an obligation for women to stay home and an obligation for men to work. Why insist it is the choice of each individual family than a socially imposed obligation?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:02 PM

"I don't believe that education is ever a waste. However, I also don't believe that having a college education automatically makes you a better parent."

I don't think anyone is saying that. I'm not, in any event!

"Au contraire, one of the universal truths of life is no one will take care of your children as well as you. It's a maxim. They may love them, take great care of them, but at the end of the day, no one can love a child like his or her parents."

In the case of good, dedicated parents, I agree with you -- my children will never be the center of their preschool teachers' world the way the will be of mine. And I'm sure this is what you mean. However, I'm equally sure that anyone who has ever worked at child protective services can provide ample counterexamples to that maxim.

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 3:05 PM

What is must frustrating for me is that many of the SAHM who posted today complained about corporate policy that is not family friendly. But instead of fighting for more family friendly benefits, they drop out of the work force. They can do this because they have the luxury of marrying well. Meanwhile, the single and divorced moms (or widowed moms or women with lower SES) have to suck it up and work with fewer women to argue for better benefits when their employers secretly hope they'll decide to stay home too. SAHM have betrayed the feminist cause, which was for an equitable society (I inlcude men into this paradigm because men don't always have it so rosy either.) So if you are a working mom dreaming of staying at home in a safe little bubble away from society, please don't. Help fight for better employee benefits. One day all can benefit from the hard work of working moms.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:06 PM

The majority of children abused in this country is not from a day care provider. Probably due to some level of accountability to the parents. Child abuse is more likely to happen in the home by a parent or family member. It is just a fact. My point is, just because they are the parent doesn't mean they love their children more then a non relative. Clearly children who are abused by their own parents, would have fared far better without their so called loving parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:07 PM

Wasting and education by staying at home???! Okay, that's only if you value education as a way to a better job (and I would call that a trade school education - in which case, many people have Ph.D.s from trade schools). An education is cultivation of a mind; a set of building blocks that further analytical and creative thinking and encourage a mind to explore new territories.

Besides, the best indicator of a success of a family and children is the educational level of the primary caregiver (usually the mother).

Posted by: Pam | July 24, 2006 3:07 PM

RESPONSE TO FATHER OF 4.

I would wholeheartedly disagree with your comments about being on VACATION. Just because you spend 3-4 days with your children during THEIR VACATION FROM SCHOOL, doesn't mean that you are on vacation.

Let me give you an example of staying at home with kids and see if this isn't hard work:

-Wake-up making breakfast for everyone (3-5 people)
-Getting the kids up (JOB IN ITSELF)
-Washing and clothing the kids
-Doing my little girls hair
-Packing their lunches (3 people) Can't do it the night before because it will get soggy.
-Taking the kids to school. School is an 8-mile drive that takes 25 minutes ONE-WAY.
-Doing the laundry (Our family of 4-5 I wash 4-5 loads of clothes every week) Not including the bed linen and towels.
-Cleaning up the kids room (making the bed, picking up the toys, vacuuming, etc.)
-Making my bed (Cleaning when necessary)
-Cleaning the bathroom (kids are dirty sometimes)
-Doing the breakfast dishes
-Preparing dinner meals
-Cleaning other areas of the house (with more than one child a house will get dirty everyday no matter what you do so it has to be cleaned. I am a clean person who loves a clean nice smelling house.)
ALL OF ThIS BEFORE 12:00 NOON
-Going to the grocery store (only about 1-2 time per week unless I need fresh produce, fish, meat, etc.)
-Keeping the yard neat (flowering, gardening, etc.)
-12:45 PM Get a call from the school, my son has been couging all day and they want him to go home. Now I have the baby and older child at home to do the following:
-Finish cleaning up
-Do my workout routine (have to look good, I mean I am on "VACATION")
-Prepare for dinner
-Go to the mall because his school needs him to wear a certain type/color/style of shirt that he doesn't have.
-Come back home to finish dinner
-ALL OF THAT WITH A ONE YEAR OLD.
-Husband comes home (BUT OF COURSE NO RELIEFE, HE SITS DOWN AT THE TV, WATCHES ESPN FOR 10 MINUTES, GETS IN THE SHOWER, COMES BACK TO ESPN, ALL while I am still cooking and watching the kids.

-WOW SOME RELIEF, THE HUSBAND WASHES THE DINNER DISHES BUT FORGETS A "SMALL" LITTLE DETAIL, YOU HAVE TO WASH THE COUNTERS, THE STOVE, SWEEP THE FLOOR WHERE THE KIDS HAVE DROPPED EVERYTHING, AND PUT AWAY THE FOOD. THANKS FOR THE HELP!

Now you try this for more than 5 days and see if you are on vacation. If you can afford to do it, by all means do it. It is nothing wrong with that, and IT IS BY NO MEANS A VACATION. There will be days of down time but the house still has to get clean. And I am tired of doing it on Saturday mornings when I could be resting while my husband watches the kids. I shouldn't have to spend my week working just as hard if not harder than my husband, (COMMUTING ON METRO IS A JOB IN ITSELF) then coming home to have to do all of the above listed things in 2 hours and then on the weekends doing the same thing and going shopping for groceries and all of the above things. I NEVER GET ANY REST.

Posted by: PG County | July 24, 2006 3:09 PM

"Okay, that's only if you value education as a way to a better job (and I would call that a trade school education - in which case, many people have Ph.D.s from trade schools). An education is cultivation of a mind; a set of building blocks that further analytical and creative thinking and encourage a mind to explore new territories."

Amen! Sing it, sister!

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 3:10 PM

to: PG County

#1 Father of 4 is KIDDING. He always says stuff like that.

#2 How about teaching the kids to, I don't know, PICK UP AFTER THEMSELVES???
Just a thought...

Posted by: missicat | July 24, 2006 3:12 PM

3:06pm:

You've hit the nail right on the head. It took me years, but I finally found a job that allowed me the ability to fulfill my obligations to my family while becoming management.
Many MANY places are NOT family friendly and pretty much figure that your just going to have to "deal with it" when taking a day off to meet family obligations simply isn't an option. It would take some strong minded women to really lobby for change on the platform of "family values".

Posted by: IhavenoChoice | July 24, 2006 3:14 PM

I'm a stay-at-home Mom and a farmer. My work is at home. While I may be home when my daughter leaves for school and when she steps off of the bus, it really chaps my hide when other working mother feign jealously because I get to "stay home." Very rarely do parents who choose to work a full time job without going to the office or traveling all over the world get any credit for making an effort to stay at home and raise their families.

Posted by: Sandra | July 24, 2006 3:15 PM

What is all this about spouses contributing 50/50 around the house and/or ponying up an equal share in terms of income. So since both my spouse and I work full time, but my pay check is larger by 20%. Then does this mean my husband should do 20% more of the diaper changing? But his job does cover the health insurance, does he get extra credit for that? And if he were to get a bonus this year, do I include that to calculate how much time he should spend playing candy land with the kids? Do I have to pay back my unpaid time off due illness by cleaning the gutters?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:15 PM

PG County,
You just made my point about the disparity between women and men's contributions to the domestic sphere. Some advice. Get your kids to help you, especially the school age kids. My son learned to make his bed by the time he was four. Your house does not have to be spotless, just hygenic. Why worry so much about cleaning. It sounds like you need to let go a little. Do less and see if your husband pitches in more. If he doesn't, let him live in his mess a little. Keeping house and raising children should not be hard labor.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 3:16 PM

PG County seems to be a competitor in the Suburban Olympics......

Posted by: Duhhhhh | July 24, 2006 3:16 PM

How exactly are we supposed to "fight for better conditions"?

I was a great employee. I presented a well thought out plan. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was either 40 hours a week in the office or nothing. I asked for other options, I was told there were none. I had talked to my boss, the VP and the head of HR.

My only option at that point was to stay or go. They thought I would stay, I went.

Posted by: Del Rey, VA | July 24, 2006 3:18 PM

yes.. everything down the replacing the empty toilet paper needs to be accounted for or else it might be 60/40.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:18 PM

Wow, PG county sounds close to the breaking point. Wish I could warn her husband. And if father of 4 is kidding, shouldn't he at least be funny once in a while?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:18 PM

MISSIcat:

We do teach them to clean behind themselves and they do but kids are kids, they don't do a very good job of Cleaning like I like it. So I still have to come right behind them and clean up anyway.

The older one is school aged. He should be in school. I don't want to go the route of homeschooling. Not a problem just not for me.

Also the one year old, I didn't even put in the fact that I sit down with her and we read, go over flashcards of objects, food, numbers, read bible stories, SHE HAS TO WATCH THE WIGGLES. So adding that in there is extra. That would be my stay-at-home day if I did stay at home. This is what it was like when i was at home on Maternity leave. So I can imagine how it would be full-time doing this not just 8 weeks. And now that we have another one on the way, I have been planning my departure from my job. Love children, will have as many as the Lord will allow. Will never think of making it so I couldn't have any. I love to do what I do but I just want others to know, that it is not a vacation and it isn't easy but it's worth. While home on leave, I loved being able to pick up my son from school without him having to sit there until 6pm for aftercare coloring because that's the earliest someone can pick him up. Then in the winter time, it's dark at 4:30pm so he comes home and isn't able to go outside and enjoy the outdoors. IT SUCKS and IT IS VERY DISAPPOINTING TO ME TO HAVE TO DO ThaT.

Posted by: PG County | July 24, 2006 3:21 PM

PG County

Yes Father of 4 was joking, it's his way.

I also think most parents do all of those things on your list, whether they work or not. I know I do.

Posted by: Workingburkemom | July 24, 2006 3:22 PM

Re PGCounty's post, and in answer to Leslie's question, THIS is why I would not want to be a SAHM. I do just about all of that (with the exception of making my husband breakfast and lunch, vacuuming every day, and working out) AND work full time at an interesting job that pays lots of money. (To be fair, husband does some stuff--drop offs in the morning, probably half of the dinners and most of the laundry. And we split sick days and snow days.) Yeah, it is really tiring, and there is not much "me" time or "couple" time. But lots of people post on here that their job is not their identity. I don't want running around cleaning and cooking and doing laundry to be mine and I don't see how you can be a SAHP and not end up being a domestic laborer. (Well, unless you marry REALLY well, but that was another blog.)

Posted by: Arlmom | July 24, 2006 3:24 PM

PG County, I work full-time and I can do everything you listed with my eyes closed except drive.

I call it a wonderful life!

And if I didn't have to work full-time, it would be even better!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 3:24 PM

PG County,
It just sounds like you are headed for a nervous breakdown...I am one of 8 kids (yes, really) and I still remember the charts my mom made up where we had to check off our chores - for example, make bed, put away coat & shoes,feed cats, etc. Then we had turns doing dishes and cleaning bathrooms. If we did not complete them, no allowance!! I now appreciate my mom teaching me how to clean up after myself. Thanks, mom!

Posted by: Missicat | July 24, 2006 3:26 PM

I have no idea if I could stay home. In fact, this is the one question that is keeping me from quitting my job for good. It's not the money, it's not what would be best for me or my kids or my family... but whether I could literally face being a stay-at-home mom for the indefinite future. It's one thing to take maternity leave or even take a leave of absence from your job, but to KNOW that you are not returning to work. I don't know if I could do it. I worry that I would feel completely trapped and anxious and lose the self-esteem that comes from working. I have a hard time imagining it being Monday morning and staring down the face of 5 straight days with my 3 little kids without a break in sight. Work is relief. Work is using my mind in a different way. Being at home is amazing but I think I would kill myself if I didn't have something ELSE.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:26 PM

TO PGCounty: where is Browse the net, Read WP.com and respond to Blogs in your Daily Duties?

Posted by: Joe D. | July 24, 2006 3:27 PM

I've been following along on this blog for awhile now and it seems that these discussions always seem to evolve into a 'my way is better' argument. The truth is both SAH and WOH have advantages and disadvantages. Some SAH's have wonderful well adjusted children and some have horrible brats same with WOH's. Doing one or the other is not going to guarantee happier, healthier children. Which is best has to be decided by each individual family and likely will change several times as the family changes (adds more members, children reach school age, job markets of the parents change, etc). There is not one right answer.

What I would like to see on this blog is more constructive idea on how to achieve that "balance". How about topics on how to negotiate with your boss for more flexible hours or part-time work, or how to find good daycare, how parents have worked around the often year or more waiting lists for good daycare centers, how parents can find and take advantage of interesting educational activities to do with their children, how do nanny sharing or coops work, how to find part-time childcare, how SAHM can find and form playgroups, things SAHP can do to keep involved in their professions, ways for SAH's children to socialize with ohter children and adults, and so on. I enjoy reading and learning from others about how they solved these issues.

Frankly I'm sick of reading 100+ comments a day (well I don't actually read them all...just skim over them) about how my child is an angel and I'm a SAHM and then I went to a party and another child was a brat and his mom works so clearly being a SAHP is the best thing everyone can do for their child. Comments like this don't provide the readers with anything...I hope no one actually bases their parenting choices on how a couple of 3 year olds acted at one party! There have been some good discussions that have people sharing useful information. I still read this blog for days like that. The babysitting or breast pumping at work ones stand out in my mind. Let's have more like that.

Leslie lets see more topics that actually provide info on "how to" instead of just another story about one mom's choice. For example in today topic you said "She keeps her business contacts active -- for the future". How about a discussion on how parents have kept those contacts active? Or "If you're thinking about making a change, test it out first with a leave of absence so you can go back if you want". Lets discuss ways parent have made leaves work. How long is long enough to figure out if you like it? Are the 1st 3 months when your baby is an infant the best time to test this out?

Posted by: cms | July 24, 2006 3:29 PM

For 3:02pm poster -

"What would be so awful about urban men choosing to stay at home in greater numbers. If it was best for their families, why would this be such a bad thing."

I agree. If it is best for your INDIVIDUAL family, then do it. But us urban Dads, as the people who presumably have less ideological issue with being SAHDs, should not HAVE to stay home as a group in order to achieve this 50% of SAHPs number that Rockville thinks constitutes doing our fair share.

"Because, it's not as simple as 30 million men just electing to SAH one day. It really isn't.
Sure it is. My husband made the choice, despite the fact that he is urban, educated, what have you"

One husband doing it in your individual family situation is not the same thing as 30 million men just "opting out." What happens to the industries that all of a sudden are drained of these resources? Is it good for society to have 30 million inexperienced child-care-providers all at the same time? Do we create a generation of kids that is somehow troubled just so we hit some 50% SAHP number that someone randomly insists is "fair"? This is not an open and shut analysis.

"It seems to me you are saying that people should do what is best for their families, but that the same time, what turns out to be best for families is that women stay at home in much greater proportions then meN. At some point, you have to see that this is no longer a choice than an obligation, for both men an women. It is an obligation for women to stay home and an obligation for men to work. Why insist it is the choice of each individual family than a socially imposed obligation? "

I am not saying any such thing. My wife and I both work and are lucky to have found a wonderful daycare that my son is flourishing in. If she made "enough" I would have no problem going SAHD and wouldn't give a flip what anyone thought about it. (The definition of "enough" is it's own issue.) I don't recognize the things you pointed out as a "socially imposed obligation."

I equally reject that you or anyone else arbitrarity gets to tell "X" number of men that they need to stop working (without regard to their individual situations) in order for to hit your random statistical notion of what is "fair" in society.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 3:30 PM

PG County:

I do all that and I work in a demanding field. I do expect my 10-year-old daughter to contribute (clean her room, help take care of her pets, do other household chores for which she receives an allowance). She's a very responsible little girl, and she pulls good grades and does well with music lessons.

I don't have a husband that contributes ANYTHING, financially or otherwise. When you see that your husband has only washed the dishes but forgot to wipe down the counters, ask yourself how much harder would this be if you had to do everything on your own. There's quite a few of us who are doing this solo. Even having a mate to confide in is important.

I hope all of you who are married will take the time to notice what your partners are contributing rather than what they are not contributing. The emotionhal support alone is valuable.

Posted by: single western mom | July 24, 2006 3:30 PM

TO CMS: I would rather have heard more about her husband who was the SAH while she was out in the workplace. Seems that she glazed all over that part and focused on the problems the woman was having...
And why is it always the affluent stories we hear about? Why not the 2 parents that work in $10 an hour jobs to stay afloat and can't make ends meet with their 2 kids...I am sure they want to stay at home too...Seems all these stories are about the ones lucky enough to have that 4bd/3br house, 2 car garage, BMW and SUV in the front yard...Yeah, woe is me, we need to make a decision on whether we make 170K a year or just 100K...

Posted by: Joe D. | July 24, 2006 3:33 PM

Why are so many children driven to school? It seems that there would be a school bus if the school is 8 miles away. On the occasions when I would leave work early to take the kids to dr/dentist appointments, i could barely get in the school parking lot because of the line of cars waiting to pick up the "walkers". If the kids live close enough to be classified walkers, why are the parents driving to pick them up?

Father of 4 is funny. A lot of the cleaning done by PG mom is because she likes it that way, as she said herself.

Fair share regarding household duties is an arbitrary measurement. 50% of what I think is necessary is 125% of what my husband thinks is necessary.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 3:34 PM

You're so right cms. It would be really valuable to find out what others are doing to achieve the oh so elusive work/life balance

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 24, 2006 3:35 PM

Having raised three children (now ages 25, 22, and 18, and working since each of them was six weeks old, I will weigh in on my perspective. I am but 45 yrs. old today, having married young (age 20) and having my children all before I was 30. I started out in a company at the bottom of the totem pole and worked my way up into the position I'm in today making over $100K a year. My husband and I are still married (he's the same age). When women were in the workplace 20 years ago, there was no working from home, no laptop computers, no cell phones, no voice mail at work, etc. If your children were sick, you had to take a vacation day. My company provided no sick days. My husband and I had to take turns. It was give and take. I now have young women that work for me who want accommodations because they chose to have children. It's a puzzling balance for me now. Single employees or many male employees whose wives don't work, don't ask for or require any accommodations. They put in extra hours, take work home with them, etc. However, the moms want flexible hours, the ability to work more from home with sick kids, etc. I think that when you choose to have children and work in the workplace that you need to think about what you really want. It is possible to work hard, contribute your equal share at work, be present without constant work exceptions and still raise good kids. I did it and so do many others. It does require you to have good child care (a person you really can trust and have confidence in), it requires husbands and wives to share in the the pleasures and the not-so pleasant realities that come with having children, i.e., kids get sick, kids have school holidays, kids have field trips, etc. and if you need to take care of those things, you should take turns and take your time off to deal with it. Or, if you can't then staying at home may be the best decision for you. I realize that there are single parents out there too. It's important that you have a support network to help you out if possible.

Posted by: Kathy | July 24, 2006 3:35 PM

I equally reject that you or anyone else arbitrarity gets to tell "X" number of men that they need to stop working (without regard to their individual situations) in order for to hit your random statistical notion of what is "fair" in society.

The inverse of that is that you have no problem telling women that they should just suck it up and take on the childraising and domestic duties in disproportionate numbers so that you can benefit from a system that unfairly puts men in the driver's seat economically.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 3:35 PM

Hahaha, PG County. Working parents do that AND work. And no, your kid does not "HAVE" to watch any TV show. It's called setting boundaries and teaching limits.

As for the whole "wasting education" argument: someone else wanted your spot in college. Someone else wanted or needed your scholarships, loans, internships, etc. If you just want an education without wanting a career in that field, get some used textbooks and teach yourself. Otherwise, you're selfishly using up scarce resources that could have gone to someone who would actually try to make a career out of their degree. You'll never use that dinky little paper for anything, but someone else might need it, and by going to college KNOWING you won't be in the workforce, you're depriving someone else of a great opportunity. That's what's meant by wasting the degree.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:36 PM

Flashcards for a 1-year-old? I'd be in the looney bin too.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:36 PM

You can never KNOW you won't be in the workforce, even if that's what you intend. Life happens. Husbands get laid off. Husbands leave. Husbands die. Husbands may not make as much as the family needs. The answer to there not being enough room at college for everyone to go is to create more room at college.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:43 PM

"It makes going to work easier when I know my children are home with their mother receiving the love and nurturing they need and deserve rather than stuck in a playpen in a daycare center."

Quotes like these make me puke. When will the self rightous SAHM and their husbands realize that working parents love their children just as much, that we bring up our children just as well (actually, I think I do better than the suburban olympic qualifiers who specialize in helicopter parenting) and are just as responsible. As someone else said, they are only being cared for by a non-parent during working hours. All the decisions regarding their care and anything provided to them are by their PARENTS. Also, I bet some of us spend more and better time with the kids than the moms on their cell phones while driving then to soccer practice or preschool.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:46 PM

"The answer to there not being enough room at college for everyone to go is to create more room at college."

. . . You've never even heard of the term "scarce resources," have you?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:46 PM

What happens to the industries that all of a sudden are drained of these resources?

Working women will be there to fill them, because they will not have abandoned the workplace in order to stay at home.
Is it good for society to have 30 million inexperienced child-care-providers all at the same time?
Do you think that all new moms are born with experience. Experience comes with raising kids. Men can acquire it in the same way women do.
Do we create a generation of kids that is somehow troubled just so we hit some 50% SAHP number that someone randomly insists is "fair"? This is not an open and shut analysis.
Do you think so little of men's child raising abilities that you think the next generation of children will be troubled if they are raised by stay at home dads? You really are selling men short on this.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 3:47 PM

Anotherworkingmom: thanks for bringing up the school bus vs. driving the kids to school issue. My suspicion is that the public schools are not "good enough" for most parents. I wonder way we don't invest our money and time into improving the school system instead of earning a paycheck to pay private school tuition.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:48 PM

Kathy - the fact of the matter is, when you were raising kids, it was difficult to work from home because of the absence of the technology that we have today that makes it possible (I'm talking about white collar jobs). This is the year 2006 and we work seamlessly with people around the world. I'm constantly in meetings with people in Europe so I see no reason why I can't be calling from my home instead of the office.
This old way of thinking is the reason why it's so difficult to institute flexible working arrangements in companies today. The higher ups think if I didn't have those perks why should those raising kids today have them. That's just archaic!

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 24, 2006 3:49 PM

I could possibly be a SAHM, at least for a year or two - my husband's salary covers our basic expenses and a bit more, and we have savings beyond our retirement savings to cover emergencies and the odd night school class or camping trip. We live pretty simply.

I choose to freelance (more and more; my son's 11 months old and I worked full-time until my due date; since then I've been growing my business).

It's nice to be in a field that allows for that (my husband's does not); the down side is that it really does pay considerably less than my husband's (and always has).

Working from home is kind of the middle ground. I would have preferred to work at the office part time - building a business up takes a lot of chutzpah that is hard to come by with spit up down your front - but my employer wouldn't bend.

Financially I'm taking a big hit, but freelancing means a greater range of work and probably better experience in the end. But often I do feel like I suck at both ends of it - I'm not accomplishing as much as I want in terms of work (and sometimes waste valuable nap time reading and posting to blogs! As if I worked in an office! :)).

And yet my home isn't spotless (I find people being in it mess it up! When I was working I did not appreciate that) and I miss playgroups because I'm chasing someone down on the phone or have a deadline.

Being the caregiver for my son is a lot of work in the hours I do it; it's certainly not eating bonbons and watching TV, and when I pay someone else to do it I am conscious that she is working hard during that time.

I am constantly questioning how much babysitting time I "really need" and how much I can do at night or on weekends instead. (On weekends this means my husband's time has to be spent parenting; not a bad thing, but a fact anyway.) But since my son is so little I do feel that being able to run our weeks around his schedule is overall a good thing. As he gets older I think we'll look at other options, like Montessori. I don't think this is the "one true way" to raise a child or anything; there are benefits to almost every arrangement. But I do like it quite a bit right now.

So... I guess my answer is that for me balance has been to neither be a full-time SAHM or a full time WOHM. In my ideal world this would also be possible for my husband too, and we're working on that next (for the next baby maybe, although as I said I'm 35 so we have a limit on time that way).

This is long but I did want to add that both my husband and I were abused as kids in the halcyon days of hippie parenting - he was by the person who was doing daycare (both his parents worked), and I was by a family member (and had a SAHM). Neither of us considers that the /arrangements/ were at fault for the abuse; it was the individuals involved.

Posted by: Shandra | July 24, 2006 3:50 PM

"This old way of thinking is the reason why it's so difficult to institute flexible working arrangements in companies today. The higher ups think if I didn't have those perks why should those raising kids today have them. That's just archaic!"

Yep -- by Kathy's way of thinking, we also shouldn't give our children car seats or vaccines either. After all, we did just fine without them.

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 3:52 PM

"Boy, I guess you are forgetting about all the abused children in this country and the rest of the world. The majority of children who are abused are abused by their own parents. Particularly, mothers because they have the largest access to children."

"If you're going to throw this out then I guess you have to compare it to the performances of day cares now, don't you? "

So you have any stats on that, Dad of kids from A-Z? Daycare abuse and deaths get a lot of publicity, most parental abuse doesn't. I'd be interested to see any actual information you have on this.


Posted by: Megan | July 24, 2006 3:54 PM

"The inverse of that is that you have no problem telling women that they should just suck it up and take on the childraising and domestic duties in disproportionate numbers so that you can benefit from a system that unfairly puts men in the driver's seat economically."

No way, Rockville. I already pointed out that my wife and I do not live according to this rigid expectation. I do my best to do my share. I think that we achieve a great parental balance, and this balance is easier to track and quantify (not that it should be a goal to do so) because we both have careers. My wife's career, if she chooses to continue on her path, is likely to have her out-earning me in a few years. I'm very happy about that prospect.

I am saying that if women OPT to be SAHMs, I am not OBLIGATED to be a SAHD, just so I can balance out the numbers to achieve what YOU consider to be fair. My goal is to be fair to my family, not internalize your personal definition of what is fair in society.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 3:55 PM

Bethesda, by the nature of their gender, men intrinsically have an economic advantage over women.

Women, by nature of their gender, intrinsically have a biological advantage of raising happy babies.

Men work. Women raise babies. that's just the way it is and ever shall be.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 3:56 PM

Father of 4 - you are killing me... :-)
You are soooooo grounded....

Posted by: Missicat | July 24, 2006 3:59 PM

To the poster at 3:36... (I wish everyone would give themselves a name!)

The most valuable things I learned in college didn't come from the classroom or the textbooks. A college education is more than learning math, biology, history. I learned how to set my own schedule, get along with a roommate, and balance my life between studying and having fun. Plus I got to meet lots of people from different cultures that I never would have encountered if I had stayed home and gotten married right out of high school. So even though I may someday stay at home when I have children, I'll never feel like my education was wasted since college is about so much more than taking classes.

Posted by: Kate | July 24, 2006 3:59 PM

SCC: Bethesda, I meant Rockville. Wrong town, silly me.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 3:59 PM

Everyone take a chill Pill and go read "Mommy Wars"

Posted by: Duhhhh | July 24, 2006 4:00 PM

I'm curious to see what happens in the next ten years or so with the women my age (mid thirties) who are choosing to stay home with their children.

I just read a book called "The Mermaid Chair" by Sue Monk Kidd. It's about a vaguely unhappy, mid-forties, stay-at-home-mom who embarks on an affair after her daughter leaves home for college. It seems like there's an entire literary genre blossoming that's dedicated to exploring the mid-life dissatisfactions of a certain type of stay at home mom. Educated. Introspective. Upper middle class. Feels invisible. Disconnected. Confused. And unable express herself.

Is this what lies ahead?

Posted by: Friend | July 24, 2006 4:01 PM

"If you just want an education without wanting a career in that field"

By this standard, almost every college degree is wasted. Mine certainly is--and I've got a good job. It just happens to be in a field unrelated to my degree, like almost everyone I know.

As many have pointed out before now, it's not a choice between having a job and NEVER having a job. Most people work at some point, even if not their entire lives.

Posted by: Wasting away in Margaritaville | July 24, 2006 4:02 PM

I think so much has to do with who we are before we have kids. Before my kids came I was a social worker and loved it. I took care of people for living then my kids came and it made sense to me just to take care of them. The social worker salary being what it is it made complete financial sense. I never thought my college degree was wasted as a social worker or as a SAHM. (My MBA father however, really hated the social work. Why would anyone work for so little money?) Ironically, when I decided to do some part-time work that last thing I wanted was social work. I found a job as a part time bookkeeper (which can be done at night and on the weekend) and am so happy. My kids both had some health issues that first year that involved a seemingly endless number of doctor appointments. My little guy has developmental delays that I have been thrilled to be at home and not have the additional stress of having to take off from work to go to all the therapists and doctors.
This whole debate seems silly. I no more think my working mom friends should be stay at home moms than I thought my accountant and lawyer friends should be social workers. My friends that work love the fact that I am home I can always watch their kids during a nanny crisis and they seem to have an endless supply of contacts for babysitters. I love that my kids see women and men making all kinds of choices and having all kinds of careers. Maybe my duaghter will be a computer wiz and my son a social worker (if he ever learns to talk!)

Posted by: Raising One of Each | July 24, 2006 4:03 PM

Raising one of each..

Don't you know that sort of rational thinking is simply NOT ALLOWED here??

Good luck with the kids...

Posted by: Missicat | July 24, 2006 4:06 PM

fabworkingmom and Aimily -- you expressed so eloquently what I felt when I read Kathy's post. I was actually on the receiving end of such attitude from a male colleague -- I had asked (only asked) to leave work at 5 pm to pick up my kid from school at 6. He said it's not possible and I should a hire a nanny to do this. When I pointed how expensive and nerve racking it would be for me to hire such a nanny he pointed out that he and his wife did it so there is no reason I can't do it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:06 PM

I am saying that if women OPT to be SAHMs, I am not OBLIGATED to be a SAHD, just so I can balance out the numbers to achieve what YOU consider to be fair. My goal is to be fair to my family, not internalize your personal definition of what is fair in society.

I actually do not think you get the point. I am not saying that men should opt to be SAHDs in the same proportion as women. They probably wouldn't. But if women were not opting to be stay at home moms in such great numbers, the dynamics of home and the workplace would both change, because men would no longer be able to rely on women to do the lion's share of the housework and childraising. Domestic duties and childwork would be more equally balanced between men and women. I don't know that this would mean that the men stayed at home in the same proportions as women do at this time. I think it would probably mean that there were more two income couples. It is difficult to foresee how this would play out, except that men would participate more in the domestic front out of sheer necessity.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:06 PM

All right, Father of 4, come get your spanking.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:08 PM

I agree with cms - how to find the right balance - that works for you and your family? My family relocated to the DC area 15 years ago while I was in the midst of a year long maternity leave. The decision to SAH was right for us then - one child who was 4 and a 1 year old, in a new area, without any family or many friends locally. But after 3 or so years, I knew I wanted to go back to work - I had tried to keep current in my field, but needed to get back in or be far behind. I started part time (after almost a year of looking) at 20 hours a week. Over the next few years, my hours went from 20 to 25 to 30 until I got a promotion and went full time about 2 years ago.

Even with my kids in middle and high school the transition to full time was hard - I missed the after school time with them, even if it was just a quick hello or a ride to some activity.

For those who want to get back into the working world slowly - look at educational institutions and non-profits - they seem to have more flexibility and more opportunities for part time and work at home scenarios. I'd still like to be on a 30 hour schedule but with college a reality it's hard to go back.

Look for the places that want you and will accomodate your needs. The pay may not be as great as the private sector, but it helped me get back into my field easily.

Posted by: Mariem | July 24, 2006 4:09 PM

Good little game of Tennis we have going....

***What happens to the industries that all of a sudden are drained of these resources?

Working women will be there to fill them, because they will not have abandoned the workplace in order to stay at home.***

The assumption that the theoretical 30 million dads who opted out would be easily replaced by 30 million new working mothers without any upheavals in productivity while the new employees learned the job is just not realistic. If that were the case, there need not be any open hiring requisitions anywhere in industry, because you could just grab anyone off the street to fill your vacancies with no cost or productivity impact.

***Is it good for society to have 30 million inexperienced child-care-providers all at the same time?
Do you think that all new moms are born with experience. Experience comes with raising kids. Men can acquire it in the same way women do. ***

I agree with your statement. This sentence was supposed to be taken with the next one in order to provide context.

***Do we create a generation of kids that is somehow troubled just so we hit some 50% SAHP number that someone randomly insists is "fair"? This is not an open and shut analysis.
Do you think so little of men's child raising abilities that you think the next generation of children will be troubled if they are raised by stay at home dads? You really are selling men short on this. ***

Stop it. You're trying, in an O'Reilly-esque way, to twist my words and paint me as something I'm not. My point is that introducing 30 million inexperienced childcare providers into American life in place of the providers they already had MIGHT (remember I used a question mark) have an impact on the 30 million-plus children who all have to go through this adjustment simultaneously.

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 4:10 PM

Rockville seems to be some kind of control freak. Ideal candidate for motherhood. And yes, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out the majority of child abuse occurs in the home at the hands of the parents. Since the mother, by tradition, is the primary caretaker, guess who is guilty most of the time. DUHHHHH! Second place goes to Mama's boyfriend. It's only the daycare situations that get the publicity.
Folks, choose your priorities and stop whining. The rest of us are tired of hearing about it.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | July 24, 2006 4:15 PM

Stop it. You're trying, in an O'Reilly-esque way, to twist my words and paint me as something I'm not.

Ouch, Ouch. I can take anything you send my way, but comparing me to O'Reilly is really hitting below the belt.

The assumption that the theoretical 30 million dads who opted out would be easily replaced by 30 million new working mothers without any upheavals in productivity....

But my point is that these 30 million working moms will not be new. I am saying that they will be working women who will not have left the workplace in the first place because the did not feel the pressure to do so in order to make their family life function because their husbands shared the domestic burden equally with them.

I am not advocating that 50 percent of working dads all of sudden start staying home and 50 percent of SAHMs all of sudden go back to work. I am saying that if men shared more equally in the domestic sphere, gradually, as they begin to share more equally in it, the dynamics will change, and the choice to work or stay at home will actually be a choice rather than a socially imposed obligation.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:17 PM

Megan, here is data from the health and human resources center Provided in this link: http://pediatrics.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=pediatrics&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.acf.hhs.gov%2Fprograms%2Fcb%2Fpubs%2Fcm02%2Findex.htm In short, 81% of preperators of child abuse were the parents compared to 0.7% was the day care provider (less then 1%). DAd of AZ has no idea what he is talking about.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:17 PM


Dear Father of 4,

regardless of what obscure religious sect serves as your inspiration, someone's ability to do a certain set of tasks is irrespective of what genitals they happen to carry. The fact of the matter remains that there are women that can probably do your job far better than you can.

At the end of the day, people who work are more interesting than people who don't. I suspect that football and gardening would be far less popular if the world had fewer SAHMs.

Posted by: Alexandria Dad | July 24, 2006 4:22 PM

Father of 4, consider yourself spanked. Too bad for you that Alexandria Dad was the one to do it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:24 PM

I would rather moms stay at home and raise their kids instead of continuing to try to "have it all" by remaining in the workplace -- which means that women who do not have children by choice (such as myself) are stuck picking up their slack. Quite frankly, I'm tired of having my free time infringed upon and my workload increased because a working mother coworker has to leave to pick up her children from daycare. I actually had a co-worker TELL ME that it was my job to work late and finish a project that we were both responsible for because she had children and I did not. Thankfully, she was fired about 4 months later. And now that I have learned my lesson, I will bend over backwards to avoid assignments with any female co-workers who have small children.

What none of these diatribes about the decision to stay at home or work do not bring up is that business isn't about the mother's fulfillment. If you make the choice to have children in a world of overcrowded schools and a continuing population boon, you are doing so for your own reasons. There is no societal responsibility to reproduce, so there should be no societal expectations to make exceptions for those who choose to reproduce. HR departments need to stop towing the PC line and make working parents of both genders make hard choices about their time with their children and their professional advancement so those of us who have already made choices to not have children do not end up giving up our weekends so you can take your children to the park. My time with my partner and my dogs is as precious to me as your time with your children is to you. If you can't respect that, stay out of the workplace and find other ways to fulfill yourself.

Posted by: CAC | July 24, 2006 4:27 PM

***They probably wouldn't. But if women were not opting to be stay at home moms in such great numbers, the dynamics of home and the workplace would both change, because men would no longer be able to rely on women to do the lion's share of the housework and childraising. Domestic duties and childwork would be more equally balanced between men and women. ***

Okay, 2 things:

1) Is that this current statement now seems to place some of the impetus for change on women (e.g. your use of the term 'opting'), whereas what I originally reacted to was the dialogue around whether men had to constitute 50% of SAHPs in order to have society be fair/be doing their fair share.

2) I still bristle at your premise that 'men...rely on women to do the lion's share of the housework and childraising'. Some enormously large percentage of the men on this board have stated that this notion is often incorrect. I have no idea whether they are lying. I have no idea whether their wives agree with their statements. I have no idea whether this is an accurate representation of "most men." And neither do you.

Even if it doesn't represent "most men", the point is that attitudes amongst men seem to be evolving in the right direction, and women bludgeoning men unreasonable expectations (the standard of 50% men as SAHPs as the arbiter of what is fair) is no more reasonable than me running around demanding slavery reparations.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 4:29 PM

Hey Rockville!
You are hereby limited to 3 posts a day--please use them judiciously!

Posted by: More CMS, much less Rockville! | July 24, 2006 4:32 PM

***I am not advocating that 50 percent of working dads all of sudden start staying home and 50 percent of SAHMs all of sudden go back to work. I am saying that if men shared more equally in the domestic sphere, gradually, as they begin to share more equally in it, the dynamics will change, and the choice to work or stay at home will actually be a choice rather than a socially imposed obligation.***

Woo-hoo. We have now negotiated our way to a common understanding. Agreement. Does that ever happen on this board? I am hereby declaring a mutual victory and going back to doing the job they pay me for....

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 4:33 PM

I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. I respect that many men are much more involved with their children than men of previous generations. I do see it, and I do see it among urban professionals, like my husband. I can't speak to rural men in red states cuz I just don't know them. So I do think that we are going the the right direction. But the role of man and women seems to be changing at such a slow rate, and I think some of this is because professional women, who could lead the way, are often taking the path of least resistance and opting to stay at home 1) because the can and 2) because it is so hard on them not to, both personally and professionally.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:35 PM

[All right, Father of 4, come get your spanking.]

I've been a baaaaaaaaaaaaad boy!

But the "fair share" thing was a cheap shot too.

DCSingle started it!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 24, 2006 4:35 PM

About time!

Posted by: Papa's boss | July 24, 2006 4:35 PM

As a woman with a kid I want to say, I am sorry you had a horrible co-worker like that. Please do not think we are all like that. I agree with you 100%. If I had a deadline like that I would have been there helping you and had the husband (or friend) pick up my child. Your absolutely right my home life is no more or no less as important as yours!!

Posted by: To CAC | July 24, 2006 4:35 PM

Rats, just when I thought we had agreement.

Never mind, I've had enough for the day anyway...

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 24, 2006 4:37 PM

I'm warning you!

Posted by: Shut up already Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:37 PM

More CMS, much less Rockville
Hey, I will stop posting now, but not because you want me to. Nya nya nya

PP, nice chatting with you. Thank you.

Posted by: Rockville | July 24, 2006 4:39 PM

All those SAHM's who complain about what a tough "job" it is seem to have an awful lot of time to post to this message board.
I guess the air conditioning at the malls is not sufficiently cool ....

Also, it never ceases to amaze me, if you didn't understand the repurcussions of creating children, why did you have them? Cripes, it irks me when I read about all the "sacrifices," decisions, etc you all make when the biggest choice you had was to NOT have a child if you didn't want to or didn't think you (and your spouse) were capable of parenting. This self-indulgent streak of today's parents is part of the reason kids are so freaking spoiled.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:39 PM

Leslie
Can you do a blog for childless bitter women who love dogs and hate children. Let me know when you have it and I'll remember to skip that day. Thanks.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:45 PM

"Childless bitter women"??? You are kidding, right? If I have learned anything from reading these messages, it seems mothers are the most miserable creatures there are...whether SAHM or WOHMs....
Well, I am going home to make whatever I want for dinner...or maybe I will go out...then I will go to the beach this weekend, or perhaps the mountains...decisions, decisions!!!! :-)


Posted by: Happychildlesschick | July 24, 2006 4:49 PM

Great. Go! And don't be surprised if nobody misses you.

Posted by: happymom | July 24, 2006 4:51 PM

what a banner day on the blog today

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 4:52 PM

Happymom - hmmm, sound just a bit bitter... don't worry about me, have plenty of friends!

Posted by: Happychildlesschick | July 24, 2006 4:57 PM

Not counting dogs? I doubt it.

Posted by: Happy mom | July 24, 2006 4:58 PM

Happychildlesschick & Happy Mom - play nice

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:00 PM

Um, Happychildlesschick?

It's entirely possible that the comment on "childless bitter women" (1) had nothing to do with you, (2) was not by any means calling all childless women bitter, and (3) was in fact just a response to the one snarky, insulting post that was made by Anonymous. In fact if you are not bitter, then the poster definitely wasn't talking about you. By definition, in fact.

Posted by: Aimily | July 24, 2006 5:02 PM

Again, the focus on how good it feels for mom to be home is a bit off the mark. It does feel good. But, the main thing is our children are primates who evolved with a biological need for their mothers' arms and milk. Separation from mom floods an infant brain with hormones that impair learning, NICHD longitudinal studies show day care before age one lowers dad's approval of his child and decreases mom's attachment. NICHD longitudinal studies show that substitute care before age 3 and even age 5 results in deficits in learning, social skills, health, and family attachment.

It feels better to be a stay-at-home mom (such a misnomer!) because the family runs better because the biological needs of the children are actually being met. It's great for all of us grownups to be satisfied and less-stressed, but it would be easier to find our ways to this point if we begin with a focus on the fundamental needs of children, which, shockingly to some, actually include a needs for mommy.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:03 PM

*My time with my partner and my dogs is as precious to me as your time with your children is to you.*
I agree wholeheartedly.

*If you can't respect that, stay out of the workplace and find other ways to fulfill yourself.*
This statement is a little harsh. There are many,many working parents who are working to survive financially and not just for fulfillment.

The answer is workplaces with flexibility for all, not just parents. If the nature of the job absolutely will not allow flexibility, then you should really think about remaining in that line of work if you have children.

Posted by: anotherworkingmom | July 24, 2006 5:04 PM

5:03 pm poster if you are going to quote studies that tells all us WOHM's we are harming our children (and by saying a need for mommy insulting all the SAH dad's) could you at least provide a link or a journal citation

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:06 PM

to joe d: maybe the reason we don't hear about the couples earning $10 an hour is they don't have the luxury of reading 100s of blog responses and taking the time to respond. you're right. most of this blog appears to have responses from people who are comfortable.

Posted by: anna | July 24, 2006 5:07 PM

"Wasting a degree": My mom went to college in the early 1950's. After my birth (oldest of 4), she stayed home -- and imbued us with her love of literature and art, her community spirit (Girl Scout leader for years, PTA volunteer, Sunday school instructor), and her faith in God. Hardly a waste.

Re SAHD's: My husband was out of work for the past 6 months. I'm glad I was able to support our family. I'm also glad that during that time, when my recently widowed mother was being treated for cancer, I could go out of town for days at a time to help her -- without fear of losing my job (which would have been the case if I were still a secretary) and while knowing my kids were in their father's care.

So many of the people posting on here seem to be all about what's in it for them. Marriage & family should be a team effort.

Posted by: Lawyer Mom | July 24, 2006 5:07 PM

"if you didn't understand the repurcussions of creating children"

I don't know a single parent who understood what it would be like to have a child. There is no amount of reading, education, discussion, or research that prepares you for the actuality of parenthood.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:09 PM

"So many of the people posting on here seem to be all about what's in it for them. Marriage & family should be a team effort."

That, and "my way is the only right way." Which is an attitude that leads to things like dictatorships, cults, and [name of political party deleted].

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:11 PM

"There is no societal responsibility to reproduce, so there should be no societal expectations to make exceptions for those who choose to reproduce"

That is a joke, right? Haven't you read the latest that scientists believe we are not producing enough offspring especially in the Western world? Sorry you had a bad experience with a co-worker, but it's best not to generalize. That one person was a jerk, not all mothers. Geez. Let's change that to "I worked with a black person who had to leave early for Kwanzaa and left me to work late on a project. I'll never work with a black person again."

And with regard to who abuses kids the most---it is parents. And it is typically the father or step-father or mother's boyfriend. Sorry about that guys, but I work in the field and if I had a nickel for every boyfriend/stepfather that abused/killed a kid, I'd be rich. And day care abuse is exceedingly low as was stated above. Many day care situations are not amenable to abuse (too public, etc) and for home day care it is still possible, but much less likely. And most of the stupid things that are done to children (ride in cars without carseats, run over by cars backing out, sticking fingers in electric sockets, falls from high chairs, etc) are done by parents. Plenty of stupid parents. Rarely see these things in kids taken care of by professionals.

There are some seriously uptight people on this list. I didn't find anything Rockville had to say offensive. I do find offensive the missives such as "you are only limited to 3 posts" and other such nastiness. And the PG mother needs some serious psych help for OCD. Flashcards for a baby? All that cleaning? She needs therapy, not a job.

Posted by: anon | July 24, 2006 5:14 PM

I guess it's true. Americans are too uptight. Everyone, let's try to have a serious discussion without attacking each other. Please???

Posted by: Americangirl | July 24, 2006 5:20 PM

" I would never consider marrying a man with a less than generous/sacrificial disposition towards marriage and family. I don't necessarily consider it justifiable to saddle a groom with thousands in debt that he did not create, but I would never link up with a man who thought taking care of me while I raised OUR children was an undue burden."

What if your husband wanted to stay home with the kids? Would you be generous and sacrificial enough to support him?

"I would be a lot more likely to listen to the 'other side' if they could ever manage to stop insulting women who work outside the house by implying that we are not raising our kids."

Accusing parents who use daycare of "not raising their kids" is like accusing fathers with stay-at-home wives of "not raising their kids."

Posted by: Maria | July 24, 2006 5:29 PM

Whew.

Re: "There seems to be a thread about how clingy or social a young child is based on whether they are at home or in daycare."

I realize I started this, but I'd just like to point something out. I did not orignally say that the child of a SAHM is less clingy than the child of a WOHM. What I *said*, (or meant to say at least), was that if you work very long hours and don't spend a lot of time with your children, and they cling to you and are very needy when you're home, that it doesn't mean that they would be that way if you *were* home with them all of the time. Often I hear "wow, my kids would drive me nuts if I had to be with them 24/7" and I just thought it was important to point out that they might act differently (as far as being clingy and needy) if you were. But I certainly know plenty of SAHMs who have gluey children and I agree that personality (both child's *and* mom's) has a lot to do with it.

Re: PG County's outburst about how hard her days are....this kind of thing is what chaps ME because I think it gives the situation a bad rap that it doesn't deserve. There are always ways to lighten your load if you feel overworked (which apparently she does) - many posters mentioned them. Being a martyr about your situation just adds to the "Mommy Wars" and takes away from the reason you're staying home in the first place - for the benefit of your children.

Re: driving kids to school vs. school bus. I drive my kids to (public) school - I don't live 8 miles from the school, but buses are available for the middle and high schoolers because we're further than a mile. The reason? Imo, it's not the school district's responsiblity to get my children to school - it's mine. And I can get them there a heck of a lot faster than the bus can, what with them toodling all over town picking up other kids and depositing them at school 30 minutes before school even starts. The kids have 30-40 minutes at home that they wouldn't have if they rode the bus.

Posted by: momof4 | July 24, 2006 5:38 PM

'NICHD longitudinal studies show day care before age one lowers dad's approval of his child and decreases mom's attachment. NICHD longitudinal studies show that substitute care before age 3 and even age 5 results in deficits in learning, social skills, health, and family attachment.'


I majored in Sociology/Statistics, and worked in the field after graduation. The above sounds like crap to me.

(Just using that college degree that some claim I have wasted!! In my 18 years as a SAHM, I'd say I've used my college education just about every day.)

Posted by: experienced mom | July 24, 2006 5:39 PM

PG County:

Wanna hear a secret? Women who work do all the things on your list too. The difference is, we do them in addition to a full time job, not instead of. Wheres my medal for "working" two full time jobs?

I am so sick of SAHP's trying to justify their existence by saying they have a "job". Get over it. Just because I work doesn't mean the house doesn't need to be cleaned, food needs to be prepared, laundry needs to be done, my daughter still needs to be bathed and dressed every day, etc... And guess what? It still manages to get done.

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 5:39 PM

The only person I know who is not actually raising her own kids is my employer's nanny who had to come to this country on a work visa to work as a domestic so she can send the money home to her mother and aunt who are raising her kids. I guess that you could say she had choices, she could have refused to have children with her alcoholic abusive husband. She also could have chosen not to come and work in the U.S. and let her children starve. What great choices! The posters on this blog are so hypocritical.

Posted by: tiredofthewhining | July 24, 2006 5:40 PM

'I realize I started this, but I'd just like to point something out. I did not orignally say that the child of a SAHM is less clingy than the child of a WOHM.'

yes, I understood what you meant the first time and I was amazed at how many people didn't read carefully enought to get your well worded point. Just using my college education again, I guess!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 24, 2006 5:43 PM

Oh and by the way, I worked for three hours today and then got a call that my daughter has HFM disease. So I picked her up from daycare, took her home for lunch and a nap, took her to the doctor, brought her home, took her on a walk, fed her a snack, played with her a lot and now we are waiting for daddy to get home for dinner. Then we will take another walk, play some more, probably not take a bath tonight because she had one last night and she doesnt need one every night, then we will get her ready for bed, put her to bed and then its time to do laundry, clean the kitchen, pay the phone and electric bill and make sure we are still on budget for the week, possibly go to the grocery store while my husband watches the baby so that we have food for tomorrow and at 10 I will go to bed so I can get up at 5:30 and be at work by 7 or 7:30, since I have 5 hours now to either make up or take as sick/vacation time.

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 5:46 PM

Sounds like crap because it is. The research methods are poor and I even wonder if this quote is correctly quoting any study. Qualitative research is notoriously difficult to do and what is done is often (not always) fraught with confounders and incorrect assumptions. And what shows up in headlines is often not reflective of the work anyway.

There are pros and cons to both working parents and stay at home parents. It's how well you parent, not how much you parent. I've seen some pretty lousy stay at home mothers whose kids, I'm sure, would beg to have their moms out of the house and I've heard of work-a-holic parents who don't compromise in the least and have more than one nanny who work shifts. But in my anecdotal experience, it is the working parents who provide the stimulation and the example that a stay at home mother cannot. And I side with the posters who say that you don't need a college education to be a good mother. Geez, I've seen plenty of mothers without educations take an intense interest in exposing their children to the arts, literature, etc.

Posted by: anon | July 24, 2006 5:47 PM

This running commentary is fascinating and has led me to make some comments.

Remarkably, after reading the above, it seems as if I have the perfect balance of work and family.

Our three kids, ages 14, 12, and 9, love to have me at home when they return from school (or to have me pick them up at school). They like to see me at school and I like having the flexiblity to meet their teachers. I can get to know their friends, invite them over for dinner, and watch them interact. Plus, they are secure knowing that I am there.

I love to cook and don't mind going to the grocery store. SO, that aspect of SAHM suits me fine (I have a housekeeper).

On the work side, I teach part time at a local university and travel often to conferences. I just wrote a book on tax reform, which was possible to do while the kids were at school or sleeping. Thus, the majority of my work is done at home, which is possible with the internet. I do cherish, however, the time at the university and the interaction with other professors and adults. Plus, the kids are proud to see their mom working and having her own achievements.

I never wanted to quit work entirely for several reasons. First, I have invested a lot in my career (I have a Phd in economics) and I love working in the policy world. Second, I enjoy the stimulation of talking about current events rather than mostly about the children. I also do enjoy getting away and have had the tremendous good fortune to work in an area where my skills are in demand. I don't need to worry about finances since my husband works hard and makes enough for us to be comfortable. Finally, my mom, who worked until getting married, often said that she wished that she could have lived the life I was living (her first of 4 kids was born when she was 20).

All of this good luck did not just fall into my lap, although a lot of it is a result of being in the right place at the right time. The work/life balance is hard and I don't know many people who are as satisfied as they would like to be with their lives.

People are far too judgmental. Perhaps it would be less that way if instead of asking someone what what kind of work they did they asked, instead, what was the latest book they read or what they thought of a recent movie.

Posted by: econ | July 24, 2006 6:08 PM

"I am so sick of SAHP's trying to justify their existence by saying they have a "job". Get over it. Just because I work doesn't mean the house doesn't need to be cleaned, food needs to be prepared, laundry needs to be done, my daughter still needs to be bathed and dressed every day, etc... And guess what? It still manages to get done."

Hey Jolie,

I think I know what you are saying. I have to say though, being at home I have noticed that it is a little different when I'm home all day. More things get messed up. (I hear you about the laundry though.)

Also, because I'm home, even though I'm also working, people feel free to drop by and I know I feel extra-judged if the house is messy, because I'm here so it should be spotless. I'm not saying my house is cleaner than any WOHM parent (I almost guarantee it's not); I'm just saying I feel judged on it in a way I didn't when I worked out of the house.

For the work part - hey, if you pay your nanny or daycare for a job watching your kids, well, then that's what a SAHM is doing. It is a job in that sense.

Hopefully no one feels that they have to justify their existence.

Posted by: Shandra | July 24, 2006 6:21 PM

And econ, you're my new role model. :-)

Posted by: Shandra | July 24, 2006 6:22 PM

I'm always amazed at statements like John's comment that his wife needs "something more stimulating than sitting in a park watching kids play all day." (That's almost as offensive as the when someone once said to me that all I do is change diapers all day!) As a SAHM to twin girls who manages to balance life as a freelance writer and a mom, I can confidently say that if a mom thinks that raising kids is about watching them play, they certainly shouldn't be a stay at home mom. I give kudos to John's wife for realizing that. I derive enormous amounts of satisfaction from seeing my girls learn, grow, and absorb the wonders of the word -- and to know that I taught them those things. While there is nothing wrong with having a trained daycare professional teach your children how to walk, talk, play, share, speak, and so forth; for me I wanted to be able to create those sparks in their brains. I love taking them to the zoo to teach them what the giraffe in their book looks like in real life. I love taking them to the park to hear the squeals of joy when the swing goes "higher mommy." I love seeing the transition from "mine" to "her turn" as they learned the value of sharing. And yes, I love they they shout with joy when Daddy comes home. But not because I want time away from them, but because I know I'm teaching them how to love others and find independance from mommy.

While SAH moms and working moms will likely never see eye to eye because you never fully understand someone until you spend a day in their shoes, I think it's important to know who you are as a person and know if you're cut out to be a stay at home mom (or dad). Fo r me, I knew it was what I wanted to do. And it helped knowing that I've chosen a career that allows me to accomplish both -- working professionally and working with my children. My wish is that all who want to stay at home do -- and not because they are unhappy with their careers, but because they want to be with their children all day long. Because you truly have to want to do it in order to be successful at it. And I wish that those who wish to work during the day are able to do so without judgement from SAHMs who think their way is "the right way."

Posted by: Satisfied and Fulfilled SAHM | July 24, 2006 6:28 PM

Satisfied and Fulfilled:

If you freelance, you are a working mom (perhaps part-time, depending on your hours). It simply means you have an office at home. You have the best of both worlds (at least from my perspective).

Posted by: single western mom | July 24, 2006 6:44 PM

"While there is nothing wrong with having a trained daycare professional teach your children how to walk, talk, play, share, speak, and so forth; for me I wanted to be able to create those sparks in their brains. I love taking them to the zoo to teach them what the giraffe in their book looks like in real life. I love taking them to the park to hear the squeals of joy when the swing goes "higher mommy"

You're right. Us work out of the home parents don't do any of that. I've never taken my kids to the zoo, I didn't teach them to talk, read, walk, etc. I didn't create any "sparks" in their brains...." You are mother of the year.

Holy cow.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 6:50 PM

When I saw the comment above about NICHD research I went to their website to take a look. I didn't find those particular studies, but this one on Fathers engaged in childcare looked interesting.

http://www.nichd.nih.gov/new/releases/fathers.cfm

This line in particular popped out at me:

"mothers who reported higher levels of marital intimacy had partners who engaged in more caregiving activities"

So there's the solution ladies. If you want your husband to be more involved with the kids, you know what to do. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 7:11 PM

Oftentimes, I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom. Personal economics preclude that option for me, but sometimes I daydream about it.
Still, I recently had a situation where, because of financial mistakes made by higher-ups, my company was considering laying off lots of workers -- including me. The threat seems to have passed, but boy! Was I depressed! And not just because of the lost pay, because I have a couple other standing job offers in the wings. I really have loved my job and career, despite various stupid things and annoyances that it includes. For all my self-identification as a mother, and for all my grumbling about my company's irritating managers and stupid policies, it seems that my identity is really, really linked to my job and career, too. Maybe even too much.
On another topic, I don't know if anyone's yet made the obligatory Linda Hirshman reference, but I will do so here. One of her things is that the job of a SAHM is beneath the skills of, well, her kind of woman. (Translation: Not most of us.) You know, changing diapers and reading to toddlers is so tedious and low-skill, blah, blah, blah. But really, the job of SAHM -- or motherhood in general -- is more than the various individual tasks that comprise it. Even in my somewhat high-status career job, which it turns out that I really love now that I've faced the possibility of having to leave it, there are plenty of tedious, low-skill, repetitive tasks involved. Without giving the details, let me assure you that some of the things I do throughout the day could be done by a trained monkey.
Conclusion: Stay-at-home motherhood, or any job, shouldn't be judged on the basis of each individual task that goes into it. The sum total can be really fulfilling, even if individual parts of it aren't so great.

Posted by: anon mom | July 24, 2006 7:12 PM

"Also, because I'm home, even though I'm also working, people feel free to drop by and I know I feel extra-judged if the house is messy, because I'm here so it should be spotless. I'm not saying my house is cleaner than any WOHM parent (I almost guarantee it's not); I'm just saying I feel judged on it in a way I didn't when I worked out of the house. "

Well, it seems to me you just need to get over it. No one but you is responsible for your feelings, so if you are feeling judged, thats not my issue. I don't like when people come over and my house is messy either, but I know its my hangup, not theirs.

And my house gets just as messy on the weekends when we are home with our daughter fulltime as it does on weeknights when we have her home for about 3 hours before bedtime. Shes a little tornado.

And maybe SAHP's spend more time cleaning the house, but I would argue its because they feel they are supposed to spend more time cleaning and it at least gives them something to do. I hate cleaning the house, so I know even if I stayed home, I would spend about the same amount of time actually cleaning.

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 7:12 PM

Oh, and you husbands who want your wives to report higher levels of marital intimacy, you might want to help out around the home every now and then.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 7:13 PM

So there's the solution ladies. If you want your husband to be more involved with the kids, you know what to do. :)

And if you guys out there want more sex, you know what to do too.

Posted by: What's good for the goose.. | July 24, 2006 7:13 PM

I have a toddler and I am staying at home with him. I certainly don't think that it provides much intellectual stimulation, nor did I expect it to. Why is there often the suggestion that moms who have a choice whether to work or stay home choose work because staying home isn't intellectually challenging enough? I know I am at least as intelligent as the next mom but my decision to stay home was based largely on what I thought was best for my son and our family. I have an advanced degree and worked before having a family. Staying home is hard. I don't have any more patience or love for the playground than moms who work in an office. I get tired of singing the same song 46 times in a row and wake up some days thinking 'How am I going to entertain him for 10 hours by myself today?'. When other moms say 'I could never stay home, I would be bored, unfulfilled' whatever, isn't the implication that those of us who do are somehow simpler and happier with less, intellectually speaking? I was bored at work sometimes, too. Pointless staff meetings, boring projects, paperwork, dealing with a crazy boss, none of that was particularly fulfilling either. It wasn't 100% nonstop excitement there. I work hard to be patient, involved, and motivated at home. It is not any easier for me than it is for anyone else. There are plenty of times I am confident that being at work would feel like a vacation, peeing alone, eating my lunch with both hands, talking on the phone and paying attention to the conversation rather than what my son was stuffing down the toilet. My pediatrician, vet, and GP are all moms with young children. I am grateful that they are working outside the home. So are my mail carrier, my hair stylist, and the cashier at the gas station I go to every week. When I was working, I never would have suggested to someone with less education or a less intellectually demanding job than mine that I couldn't do what they were doing because it wasn't stimulating enough for me. I don't think this is any different. My admin asst was a pro mountain biker, she was just as smart as I am but didn't want to spend an extra 20 hours a week at work so she took a different career path. I often saw her leaving work at a reasonable hour and thought she made a better choice.

I don't know if staying home makes me a better mom, but it's what I choose to do right now. I miss working sometimes and I imagine that a lot of the angst that this debate stirs up is because deep down all of us second guess our choices. Isn't that only human?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 7:26 PM

"I have a toddler and I am staying at home with him. I certainly don't think that it provides much intellectual stimulation, nor did I expect it to.
...
When other moms say 'I could never stay home, I would be bored, unfulfilled' whatever, isn't the implication that those of us who do are somehow simpler and happier with less, intellectually speaking? "

I guess I am a little confused, because it sounds like you knew it would be less intellectual, and it sounds like you are happy with your decision, so what is wrong with someone implying or flat out saying that they think those who stay home are happier with something less, intellectually speaking? You may not be "simpler" but you definitely sound like you ARE happier with something less intellectual. I wouldn't be, and I don't see a problem saying that. Theres nothing at all wrong with being happy with something less, but its not something I could do.

Posted by: Jolie | July 24, 2006 7:40 PM

I find that I need
time for chores,
time for my marriage,
time for my friends,
creative time and
spiritual time and
fitness time,
as well as time with my child
and time for my career.

My life balance is multi-dimensional, but I get there by multitasking (spiritual/creative/friends is one good mix), negotiating and some outsourcing. I split the housework with my husband 50/50, then I went and hired my half out. Honest. I was seldom the one who got my child ready for school (outsourced), but I was always the one who read to her at night. I talk to her about her life, listen, face her problems, listen more, and share her joys, and consider myself an excellent parent. There are both SAHMs (perhaps with several kids) and working moms who are too busy to do that, but I do. I have also never seen an episode of Lost, 24, American Idol, or Survivor, but that's okay. The house doesn't sparkle either, but we like dog hair.

We streamline the shopping - We make a weekly grocery trip, and a monthly bulk supplies trip with lists- so we have more time for fun. We walk the dogs as a family, and I take lessons with my daughter - she gets a lot out of us facing the same frustrations and joys.

I would never choose to stay home for several reasons already mentioned, personality chief among them. But here is a new one. A friend of mine SAHM whose marriage got shaky just looked at supporting her kids on minimum wage and freaked. She can't afford to leave.

We are all one car accident (or layoff) away from being made the breadwinner or the stay home person (think disability). We all ought to seek skills in both arenas so we can deal with whatever life throws at us. As partners, we back up each other.

Posted by: Not guilty | July 24, 2006 8:15 PM

I can only speak for myself. I feel SO fortunate to have had the option to stay home with our child (who's now 7). I didn't do it for him - I did it for ME. I don't have a moment's regret. No sense of "missing out" on anything, although I will say that I had my child late after a fairly long career.

When I say "the option to stay home", that's not code for being wealthy. My husband makes a modest salary at a nonprofit. We manage with one car, a fixer-upper house that we're not fixing up, and infrequent consumer purchases. I know most people wouldn't want to live with these choices, but for us it was the right one.

I cannot imagine missing out on the thousands of wonderful unrehearsed moments I've had with our child. Even the hard moments I wouldn't miss either - they're part of the crucible of relationship.

Whenever I'm having a moment of fuzziness about what matters, I always think about what I want engraved on my headstone.

"She made a lot of money?" Nope.
"She helped the rich get richer?" Naah.
"She kept a clean house?" Um... no.
"She was a great Mommy?" I'll take that!!

Posted by: Nan | July 24, 2006 8:17 PM

How about we hear from some "kids" whose parents either stayed home or worked? I'll go first: My mother stayed home when I was a kid. She was miserable. She and my dad fought all the time. She left when I was 16 leaving me the oldest daughter in charge of an alcoholic father and two younger siblings. I worked full time and went to high school. I did the shopping, cooking and cleaning for everyone. My first thought when she left was now someone can be happy. She never had a degree and spent her working life doing low-paying office jobs. She now lives on social security and the genorosity of my brother, sister and me. My dad did well with his retirement until he died last year.
I never married. My brother never married. My sister married and divorced. It is hard not to do the math since we had such a bad example of marriage.
Back to mom - she KNEW what time school was out. If we weren't home within the usual walking time she was in her car looking for us. We had no slack. No hanky panky at all.

Posted by: KB in MD | July 24, 2006 8:19 PM

And how many parents kill their children (Susan Smith, Andrea Yates)? I believe they were SAHMs. Their kids would have been better off in daycare (or at least alive).

Posted by: To Dad of kids from A-Z | July 24, 2006 8:25 PM

I don't need work to provide intellectual stimulation but that doesn't mean that I need any less of it than I did before I had a child.

I have to try harder to find intellectual stimulation staying home than I would if I had a job but I do find it. It is patronizing to say that I am happier with less because it assumes that the only place to exercise one's intellect is through work. That is simply not true.

I have lots of interests and just as someone's job doesn't define them (or it shouldn't) neither does staying home define me.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 8:27 PM

At 5:39 pm, Jolie wrote: "Wanna hear a secret? Women who work do all the things on your list too. The difference is, we do them in addition to a full time job, not instead of. Wheres my medal for "working" two full time jobs?"

Sorry, Jolie, no medal. Working outside the home full-time while outsourcing one's childcare during those hours does not count as working two jobs. If you simultaneously cared for a 1-yr-old full-time (like PG County does) AND worked outside the home full-time you would indeed deserve a medal. Millions of women everywhere would pay big money to learn your secrets.

Posted by: MBA Mom | July 24, 2006 9:05 PM

"So there's the solution ladies. If you want your husband to be more involved with the kids, you know what to do. :)"

You drew a faulty conclusion. Maybe it's "Okay, men you know what to do" to get that intimacy that you say you want.

Posted by: Kate | July 24, 2006 9:15 PM

Note the mom's first name in the original story. Names can guide us.

Posted by: Avarice | July 24, 2006 9:28 PM

To Avarice: "Arvyce" only sounds like "avarice" if you're a moron.

I can't help but laugh at this blog. Everyone's always trying to one-up each other - stay at home parents, working parents, childless/childfree people. Everyone's trying to simultaneously say, "My life is so much harder than yours, because of people like you!" and, "My life is so much better than yours, because I'm doing more intellectual work/I have more free time/I'm breastfeeding the next Einstein and he's six years old already." Every blog post has the same script for the comments section:

Leslie: *posts to the blog*
Naive/Newbie: Gee, I hope people are polite.
WOHP: Balance is hard!
SAHP: I have it so tough.
WOHP: I have it tougher.
SAHP: I raise my kids better.
(repeat previous three posts for twenty to fifty comments)
Childless: Nyah free time, you all make me work more than I should!
SAHP/WOHP: Bitter childless hag, STFU!
Father of 4: *makes astoundingly funny comment*
Idiot who Just Does Not Get It: STFU, Father of 4!
WOHP: . . . Did that SAHP just insult me an hour ago?!
SAHP: No! Well, maybe.
Naive/Newbie: WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME.
Topic: *completely disappears*

Throw in a few trolls here and there, and I think that covers everything, right? Just shake well and repeat for about 300 comments, and that's about all that happens here, correct? This is the funniest blog on the web, and you all don't even mean for it to be.

Posted by: funniest blog ever | July 24, 2006 10:21 PM

OK - I've been reading all day and I think I have a new comment. I am going to be honest. I hope I don't have to duck for cover.

I am 40-something working mom with a couple of teenagers. For a multitude of reasons that I won't go into here, I planned to always work. Since I always planned on working, I didn't really care very much about a man's ability to take care of me financially. I fell in love with a wonderful man who isn't a particularly high wage earner. In fact, I have always made a higher wage than my husband.

When my daughter was born, I was astounded at the depth of my desire to quit work and stay home with her. Alas, this was not to be since I carried the health insurance and my husband's wage was not enough to support us, even with 'sacrifices'.

We probably could have afforded having hubby stay home if I worked overtime, which actually was an available option. I never gave any consideration to this option. I know that I would have resented having to work when he didn't (it was a job - not a passion). I would have resented working extra hours even more. And the biggest resentment would be that he had more time with my daughter than I did.

Fortunately, we both believed that equal amounts of work time and family time for both of us made a better home situation than one home all the time, but the other practically a stranger.

My dirty little secret: as much as I believe that it doesn't matter if mom works or dad works or both work; I couldn't stand the thought of being the sole support for my family - if any parent was home, I wanted it to be me.

Posted by: kea | July 24, 2006 10:55 PM

I consider myself a SAHM, although I'm also technically a WAHM and a WOHM, since I'm keeping one foot in my career by working PT 10 hours a week plus occasional freelance work at home. With a 3 year old and 1 ½ year old it's a good balance for us right now. I expect to work more when the kids are in school every day, but probably never full time until they are out of the house completely. DH and I both want a parent to be home after school and his career has less flexibility and greater earning potential, while mine has more freelance options, so it's what makes sense. We're also comfortable with that because I really want to be home right now while he, after several years of being primary caregiver the one day a week that I work, knows he does not want to do it full time. I agree with previous comments that there is no one right way for any one family and the "right" thing for a particular family will change with time and circumstances and individual personalities have a lot to do with it. Responding to a few earlier comments...

"I'm also an introvert, so quiet downtime is critical -- again, not much in evidence at home with two kids under 5!" ***I'm also an introvert and my need for quiet downtime is one reason I want to be a (mostly) SAHM. It all depends on what kind of kids you have! With a full-time job plus parenting responsibilities, couple time, home stuff, etc., I think the big thing that would go is "me" time. At home, I have kids who nap 2-3 hours every afternoon. That is my quiet time and I need it. On the rare day that they don't nap I tell DH that if they keep this up I'll have to go back to work FT because being with them 10 hours straight makes me crazy. My kids sleep a lot and that is a blessing for me :) but also a reason I'm glad I don't need to have them in full-time childcare. Considering the hours I used to work and what DH works now, they would not get the amount of sleep they need. They wouldn't go to bed so early because we'd want to spend some time with them. My younger one, who tends to sleep later, would need to be woken up early to get out in the morning. I don't know that they could get as much nap time in the more stimulating environment of a childcare center. Seeing how their sleep needs have evolved (and how their behavior deteriorates when they are shorted on sleep occasionally) reinforces my decision to be home right now since I feel that *MY* kids wouldn't do well with less sleep. I'm sure that's not the case for all kids...I know mine sleep a lot more than most. Their unusal sleep needs give me some freedom (I do my freelance work while they nap) but also require some sacrifices (keeping them up past 7:30 or 8:00 is not something we do without serious consideration and we rarely go anywhere in the afternoons because they often sleep until 5pm). Other kids have their own unique needs that their parents need to work around.

"Stay-at-home motherhood, or any job, shouldn't be judged on the basis of each individual task that goes into it. The sum total can be really fulfilling, even if individual parts of it aren't so great." ***BRAVO! My prior jobs, in a professional and fairly "cool" sounding field, had as much, if not more, boredom to them than my SAHM life. Part of the boredom perception for me, I think, is the matter of control. I get to decide what activities we do day in and day out. If I think sitting around the park is boring we'll go to a museum instead. At work, much of boring stuff was really out of my control. If my client wants to have a meeting to talk over the same stuff we already discussed several times I've got to show up even if I think it's pointless.

"And maybe SAHP's spend more time cleaning the house, but I would argue its because they feel they are supposed to spend more time cleaning and it at least gives them something to do. I hate cleaning the house, so I know even if I stayed home, I would spend about the same amount of time actually cleaning. " ***On the cleaning thing. I think a big part of why SAHMs (at least this one!) clean more is that we actually have to *live* in the house more. If I was out of the house full-time, a quick pick up after bedtime would probably be sufficient. Since I'm home all day I generally clean-up once the kids are down for a nap because I feel more relaxed in an uncluttered living room. Then I clean up again after bedtime. Thus, my clean-up time has been doubled. I also clean-up after meals/snacks five times a day. I suppose I could let it all just pile up on the kitchen table and clean it all at the end of the day but that would drive me crazy.

It seems to me that there are so many differences to a SAHM lifestyle and a WOHM lifestyle and the personalities/circumstances of everyone in the family have so much to do with how that lifestyle plays out that it is impossible to compare one family's choices to another's or to ever really know what it would be like for your family to take the alternate approach at this moment in time.

(wow! that got really long)

Posted by: Suzanne | July 24, 2006 11:02 PM

***"Also, because I'm home, even though I'm also working, people feel free to drop by and I know I feel extra-judged if the house is messy, because I'm here so it should be spotless. I'm not saying my house is cleaner than any WOHM parent (I almost guarantee it's not); I'm just saying I feel judged on it in a way I didn't when I worked out of the house. "

Well, it seems to me you just need to get over it. No one but you is responsible for your feelings, so if you are feeling judged, thats not my issue. I don't like when people come over and my house is messy either, but I know its my hangup, not theirs.****

Jolie - Chill !!! Sounds to me like the lady is only trying to give a glimpse into her life about why some things seem different when she is SAH. No one is trying to make it your issue.

As far as no one but yourself being responsible for your feelings, I disagree. Our feelings are how we feel and are basically out of our control - what is in our control is our behavior and I wish that more people on this blog would exercise control of their behavior.

Posted by: to Jolie | July 24, 2006 11:06 PM

funniest blog ever | July 24, 2006 10:21 PM

That is absolutely the funniest thing I have ever seen in cyberspace. Spot on.

Having said that, I'll be back tommorrow to tell someone to STFU.

Posted by: Ha! | July 24, 2006 11:20 PM

Another twist on the "college is wasted" remark.

I truly believe that education is valuable. But, if I had the crystal ball telling me that my daughter would become SAHM, I don't know how willing I would be to spend $50K - $100K for her to go to college. I might think it a better fiscal decision to invest the money in a house for her family or in my own retirement. It sure would be nice to retire early and/or travel ;).

Posted by: kea | July 24, 2006 11:24 PM

Anna, Yeah, I was hoping the blogger would actually write some stories on Stay at home Parents that have it rough and makes the stay at home decision all the tougher. Instead we get these fluff stories about parents who have to give up 1 of the 2 BMW's and maybe their Boat as sacrifices to allow one parent to stay at home to raise their "Offspring".
But then again, like you said, most parents that are out there earning $10-$15 an hour don't have the luxary to browse the net or read yuppie blogs...Nor do they probably want to.

Posted by: Joe D. | July 25, 2006 7:35 AM

Reading the posts on this blog, it strikes me that most --NOT all-- posters seem to think the SAHM/WOHM decision should be made based on which is more likely to lead to the mother's fulfillment. I query whether personal "fulfillment" is the appropriate measure for an adult life. Something can be meaningful (think of all those guys who fought against Hitler or the thousands of immigrant parents who worked crap jobs so their kids would have a better life in this country) without necessarily being fulfilling.
Most of the grown-ups I know still live on a kind of adolescent model: You do what you must so you can spend your time as you like. In this scenario, who is responsible for making the choices and following through with actions that will affect the kind of world we live in, the kind of citizens our children will become? Staying home after my daughter was born when I was in my late 30s is something I decided was my responsibility. I believe small children need to be in close physical contact with a parent and a good parent will give a child what it needs (not necessarily what it wants!) in preference to what the parent wants. As my daughter grew older, I came to see that my responsibilities increased rather than decreased. Did I want the way she spoke, the norms she adopted, the culture she felt most comfortable in to represent my values or those she got from institutions and corporate commercial interests? Do you even know the norms your kids are exposed to in school and elsewhere? I don't think I would have, had I not been there. It's not the kind of thing you will hear at the end of the day.
Mostly, when you put aside the grunt work we all do to our different standards at home, being a SAHP is the only way you can do the "leaning against the wheel" that is necessary to offer a perspective counter to "what everyone else is doing." I just don't think it's possible to do this when your focus for 8 hours a day is on something else, and then when you get home you have to do all the stuff that needs doing. In fact, I think commercial interests COUNT on your being overloaded and stressed to sell you the various and sundry "coveniences" you can't live without.
Perhaps most important, choosing to stay at home --if you possibly can-- provides the single most powerful lesson to a child that being a grown-up means doing the right thing, rather than the self-gratifying thing. It also allows you to say, without hypocrisy, "You are what is most important to me" to your child.

Posted by: RDP | July 25, 2006 8:10 AM

Way to go, RDP! I agree 100%. I don't think I was clear enough about that in my previous post when I said I didn't like being a working mother (I work out of financial necessity). While I imagine I would enjoy staying home with my daughter more than working, I could be wrong (after all, I thought I would enjoy working much more than I actually did), and anyway, it doesn't really matter because it should be about what's best for my daughter. I absolutely believe children are better off with an SAHP, so if I could afford it I would stay home even it turned out I didn't "like" it, because I feel it is my duty.

This conversation tends to revolve around what the parents find fulfilling and completely ignores the needs of children. I don't believe parents should necessarily have to give up their dreams altogether, but if you have children you're probably going to have to subordinate your dreams to their needs, at least for awhile. Also, excellent point on commercial interests exploiting stressed-out working parents.

Posted by: This Blog Drives Me Nuts | July 25, 2006 8:43 AM

I was a SAHM for several years because I'm a military wife and my husband was deployed too much for us to ever come up with any semi-reasonable child care arrangement. (We lived abroad and had no relatives to help, etc. etc. etc.)

A month or so ago, we had transferred some old home movies to a DVD and were watching them, and it was jarring how STRANGE I looked in all of them. It was like physically I was in all the movies, but mentally I was somewhere else. I spoke in this strange flat monotone voice, and what I was picking up was barely veiled hostility and seething rage under the surface of this fine woman. Quite clearly, I had checked out on the whole SAHM thing a long time ago and was just going through the motions.

I remember being bitterly unhappy most of the time I was home with little ones (3 under 3 for WAY TOO LONG), and two of them had special needs which were undiagnosed at the time. I remember walking around trying to figure out why no one else was as unhappy as I was staying home, and mostly getting all this blather about how fulfilled everyone else was. In retrospect, my kid's special needs, rages, tantrums, language issues, etc. surely didn't help my situation -- but looking back at it now, I'm kind of amazed I even survived being home with my kids for 3 years in that state. And part of me, in retrospect, thinks that maybe they would have been better off in daycare.

And yes, a lot of it was the lack of intellectual stimulation. You know the trick you do when your kid asks you to read the same book to them that you've already read say 100 times, so you kind of rush through it in a monotone while devoting half your brain cells to making a grocery list at the same time? I remember feeling like I was losing my mind at that stage of my life. I'm not really sure what my kids gained by having me do it.

Just call me ambivalent.

Posted by: Is the Debate Still Open? | July 25, 2006 8:52 AM

Thank you RDP, and I also agree 100%!

Posted by: Amen!! | July 25, 2006 9:39 AM

To CAC @ 4:27, I completely agree. Don't worry about the people who belittle your choices by calling you "bitter." Your time is just as important as theirs. Between you and me, I knew exactly what havng a kid would be like (duh, all my friends are having them) which is why I'm childless!

To anon mom, that's so true about the trained monkey work. I describe a lot of my daily work activities exactly the same way. My brother and I joke about how many trained monkey's it would take to do our managers' job.

To RDP, about "fulfillment" for parents not being the appropriate goal (i.e., what's best for the kids should override all else), that's problematic. First of all, why people have children in the first place? Isn't that about fulfilling their lives (creating a person like them to be a source of love and a block of clay to model after them)? Seriously, people have kids to make their own lives more full of meaning. Second of all, parents have needs that do not disappear after children are born. The problem with your arguement is that people are tricked by society into thinking that kids will make their lives better. When kids arrive and the parents lives are fuller but more stressful, parents look to their children for the answer. That's where your assertion about "doing what's best for the kid" comes in. There is no proof that kids are raised better by parents at home than by parents who both work. SO why do you think that your kids need you 24/7? Because you are so focused on your children that you forgot your own needs. From there it's a short hop to psychotherapy and bitter resentment.

Parents' needs need to be met in addition to the kids' needs. Would anyone say that you can stop working on your marriage when you have kids? Heck no. So what's the reason for not working on yourself?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 25, 2006 11:08 AM

"Sounds to me like the lady is only trying to give a glimpse into her life about why some things seem different when she is SAH."

Yup, that's all I was saying. Even as a WAHM mum I felt/feel it and it surprised me. It doesn't mean I caved into it or think it's an overwhelming force.

I was mostly trying to share that I had this idea that being at home would make some things (chores) simpler, and instead I found that they got more complex in some ways that I hadn't anticipated. And not in others. To some extent a toilet bowl is a toilet bowl. In others, it just is different - as Suzanne pointed out, it being my space all day is one thing. And there are some differences - making lunch means a lunch mess and wiping the high chair out 3x a day rather than 2x a day, etc. etc.

I am in no way meaning to say it's an overwhelming difficulty. I'm just saying that given the question is would you want to stay home, what I've found in being at home is that some things I thought would be one way are another. :-)

Posted by: Shandra | July 25, 2006 11:49 AM

People have children for many different reasons, most of them the wrong reasons. Just like saying "If I lose weight I will be happier," or "If I get married I will be happier," or "If I win the multi-million dollar lottery I will be happier" or "If I get a face lift I will be happier." That's all a load of crap. You will always have to look at the same person in the mirror each morning. If you think having children will make YOU happy, does it make the kid happy as well? What about your husband? While you are sitting home, fat and clumsy, he will be out sowing a few wild oats. Then that long dry spell after the baby arrives -- can your marriage handle it?

I chose not to marry and/or have children because of the resident role model in my house -- our mother. She was an angry, bitter women who never let us forget how she wasted her life raising us. She also beat the living crap out of us any chance she got, but always where it never showed, and peppered us with verbal abuse almost daily. Before PMS was labeled a legitimate condition, I thought she had PMS 24/7 -- always irritable, crabby, grouchy, 'Don't touch me, you give me cold chills.' Every photo of her showed a woman who looked like she was going into root canal work any minute. We were all born before birth control pills were invented, so we were all dreadful accidents in her eyes.

This was our caregiver until we all moved away from home. I could never, for the life of me, figure out why anybody would want to have a child. Remember, once you have them they are yours for life -- theirs and yours. It's not a decision to be taken lightly, and just because your parents want grandchildren they can spoil, or you're in some kind of demented comptetition to produce more than someone else, think about your decision. After they arrive SOMEONE will have to take care of them. Whether it's you or a paid sitter, that person should take on the responsibility with generosity and kindness, not with bitterness, anger and a sense of wasting their life. Mom produced 4 -- 3 are on anti-depressants, 2 have been in therapy, 1 is a borderline alcoholic, all are dysfunctional in relationships one way or another.

Read "The Baby Trap" by Ellen Peck before you ruin your kid's life and yours.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 25, 2006 12:04 PM

The 11:08 poster must have misunderstood me. I do not advocate focusing on one's children to the exclusion of all else. Doing the best for children is neither training them to believe they are the center of the universe nor demonstrating that they are an obstacle to parents' fulfillment. In fact, having children is a really good reason for paying attention to what is going on in our culture and the world we live in! After all, all of us will be dead in another 50+ years --why should we care about the environment, culture, world affairs if we don't care what comes after us?
It seems to me that your responsibility as a parent is both to nurture children as human beings and to model adult human behavior for them--including political behavior. You can't possibly do that if you are focused on your children "24/7" and looking to them to give your life meaning. At the same time, I certainly couldn't do an adequate job at the "con" if I were absent from the ship half my waking hours!
I think the bitterness and resentment comes from --as you say-- people having kids before they have any idea who they are and what being a parent means. We all have needs, but I think, ideally, adults should learn to work them out before they have kids or subordinate them to longer term goals. Of course you need to think about what those goals are. For a lot of people, having kids is kind of like a habit we developed as a species from when having kids was an economic or biological necessity. Only we have carried the habit forward into a time and place where it's not. We're in a struggle to define the terms of parenthood in a radically changed reality.
Bottom line for me is that I think it's an ethical problem to satisfy one's own needs/desires at the expense of those with fewer options/less power, and that would include children.
P. S. I can tell you aren't a parent. :^> "[C]reating a person like them to be a source of love and a block of clay to model after them." AS-IF!!!! This expectation will totally lead to bitterness and resentment.

To Childless by Choice, I am so, so sorry. It is pure brutality to inflict such a hostile and cold childhood on an innocent child. and you should never, never have had to endure it. I couldn't agree more that many people have kids who shouldn't. All I would say is that if you aren't one of the 2 already in therapy, you deserve to do it if for no reason other than to make sure you won't regret your decision. It would be awful if your mother got to get in this last blow.

Posted by: RDP | July 25, 2006 1:11 PM

"Perhaps most important, choosing to stay at home --if you possibly can-- provides the single most powerful lesson to a child that being a grown-up means doing the right thing, rather than the self-gratifying thing. It also allows you to say, without hypocrisy, "You are what is most important to me" to your child.
"

Wow. Thats sort of sad. Sounds to me like you are saying people with kids should stay home, whether they like it or not, because its the "right thing" to do. So basically, the lesson we should be passing to our children is "I stayed home with you and gave up a fulfilling career, even though I craved intellectual stimulation and even though I worked incredibly hard to get to where I was, in spite of not being happy staying home. But I did it for YOU."

I don't want to put the guilt/responsibility of my happiness (or lack thereof) on my child.

Besides there are many different models for child rearing. I personally believe children should be exposed to a variety of adults and should learn that children are supposed to listen to and respect adult authority, even if its not mom or dad. I also believe that everyone has life lessons they have learned that made them the people they are today, and I want my daughter to learn from people that are not just me. It is my responsibility to make sure I guide her in the right direction and expose her to the adult influences that I think are important. But everyone has a unique story and a unique perspective and I want her exposed to many stories, not just mine.

Posted by: Jolie | July 25, 2006 1:21 PM

To childless by choice. Ok you are bitter. Did it ever occur to you that you are no longer a child. Maybe its time to stop using your childhood as a excuse. Its called taking responibility for ones life. To others if you want to work do so if you want to stay home do so. Neither is superior to the other.

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 1:25 PM

RDP, I agree that personal fulfillment should not be the only thing an adult family member considers when structuring his or her life. While you apply that to working parents, that similarly should apply to the SAHMs who say they stopped working so they could have a lower stress life, pursue hobbies, read more, spend time with their friends or not bother to spend time and effort developing routines for the kids, etc. In that type of situation, the children are ancillary to the mother's personal fulfillment (to say nothing of the father's personal fulfillment). Working for many parents (especially mothers?) is meaningful because it provides experiences, education and stability for their children--even though it's not the most personally fulfilling choice or fun choice for the adult. Trust me, I'd like to spend my days at Starbucks, playing outside, straighening my house, going to the gym/spa and at my kids' gymnastics class, and sometimes I do some of those things, but for me, it's more important to make sure my kids can go to the schools I want them to go to and to set them up for the future. So I work.

And let's for a minute ignore the reality that most mothers work truly to make ends meet, and focus on those of us with a "choice" to work. Not all of us work to buy a lexus or mcmansion (although I don't have a problem with that either). Others of us work to afford competitive private schools for our children or to ensure they can attend the best university and post grad schools they can get into without regard to cost, or provide any number of other experiences for them that will help to build them into well rounded, experienced, competent, confident people. Or to ensure that their parents will not be dependent on them in old age, thus compromising their own families' security. All of those are worthy and important goals too, and to suggest working mothers are selfish or self centered because they want those things for their children is silly and short sighted.

Posted by: Reality check | July 25, 2006 2:12 PM

All those who argue that it's just a matter of individual family choice: alas. Would that it were.

But a dependent adult spouse with kids (aka stay at home mom) is subsidized by taxpayers. If we removed the subsidies by eliminating the spousal deduction, spousal health insurance, spousal social security payments, and so on--and then also eliminated all the societal benefits we hand out to women in these situations when their choices don't pan out (welfare, food stamps, etc), then we can talk about it being an individual family choice.

Posted by: Cal | July 25, 2006 2:30 PM

I relaize this is a little late to this blog (had to work yesterday rather than follow this thread).

In case anyone is interested, the only study I could find on this issue shows that center based daycare is significantly safer than in-home care, whether it is provided by parents, an in-home daycare provider or a nanny (or manny). The safest place for a child, particularly an infant under the age of one, is a daycare center.

See: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/childCare.pdf

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 25, 2006 2:40 PM

Jolie-
I should have prefaced the paragraph you quoted with "If you believe it's better for your child that you be hands-on..." But if you (Jolie) believe that the way you are handling parenthood is the best thing for your kids, then what is the problem? You don't have to come to the same conclusions I have. I would be the first to say that if doing what you think is the right thing makes you feel bad, then you have big problems --sticking your kid with guilt being only one of them. And of course, you understand that nothing I wrote has anything to do with keeping kids in a hermetically sealed box where they don't get to interact with other adults, kids, the culture-at-large!

To Reality check:
You are exactly right: There are self-centered people in all walks of life. But as the wife of a state employee, many of whose friends are two-income couples with a doctor or lawyer as primary earner, I have learned to take "working to make ends meet" with a grain of salt. It's the curse of the privileged that we are always chasing after putative "advantages" for our kids that involve spending more and more money. It might be good to see some figures on whether attendance at a "best" universities translates into "best" adulthoods, etc., etc. Another thing to think hard about: Which of the things we give our children will really make a difference in the quality of their lives as adults (as opposed to making us feel gratified for having given them?)

Posted by: RDP | July 25, 2006 2:54 PM

I think women should, if they can either stay home or work part time when the children are under 5. This is the time when the bond is most critical. I have a friend who was in the corporate world when her kids were under 5. Whenever they saw a plane they said Mommy. She quit after that and worked part time. That was really a reality check for her

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 2:54 PM

RDP, I was the blogger at 11:08 repsonding to you (I always forget to put my name!).

I did misunderstand you, and you make very good points to clarify. I agree with you on most of them, especially your opinion about how people are struggling to redefine parenthood (which was eloquently put, I must say). The point on which we disagree need not be brought up again in this blog!

Jolie, we agree (my post appears much earlier from yesterday) on the imperative to expose children to as many viewpoints as possible. We can only learn from experience. My parents are anthropologists who traveled extensively. Because of them and the varied situations they introduced to me, I feel that I'm an open and well-rounded person.

Posted by: Meesh | July 25, 2006 3:04 PM

To RDP at 2:54,

I agree that most things we do for our children are born out of desire to feed our own gratification, but what is wrong with that? If we do not aim for anything, be it to provide the best we can for our children or to build the best life for ourselves - what do you want anybody to do? Deny gratification and become hermits? We try and perhaps succeed, if we don't not a chance in h***

Posted by: AnotherRockvilleMom | July 25, 2006 3:06 PM

(I write this as a listen to a tedious, tedious teleconference. . .)
To Childless By Choice, I am very sorry for your sad upbringing. It's pretty appalling that there wasn't some kind of state intervention to protect you and your siblings. And if you never want to have children, that's perfectly understandable.
Still. . .many of us, probably most of us, had loving parents, even if they were imperfect. I adore my mom, even though she's pretty eccentric; I adored my father, who died several years ago, sadly, before any of his grandchildren were born; and (gushing mother alert here, continue at your risk, expect to roll your eyes) I adore my cute, cute, sweet children more than life itself, despite all the inconveniences they cause me and despite the way they've cramped my former swingin' single lifestyle. My guess is that this is how most parents feel (though not all, and of course not your own mother), despite our occasional grumblings.
Also, Funniest Blog Ever (or whatever your name is), that was the funniest comment ever. Of course, I'll be back tomorrow to say, Why can't we all get along?

Posted by: anon mom | July 25, 2006 3:21 PM

"Jolie, we agree (my post appears much earlier from yesterday) on the imperative to expose children to as many viewpoints as possible."

Yes, and children receive such a vast number of viewpoints of the world when they're in a daycare center with the same people all day long, instead of exploring their community and world with their parent, meeting and spending time with people of all ages and many different walks of life.

Posted by: Amen RDP!! | July 25, 2006 3:46 PM

Westcoast -- You don't just snap out of an abusive relationship overnight. It takes years of trial and error, caution, testing the waters. Sure, I'm an adult now and my decisions are based on logical thought and reality, like buying a house, my choice of hobbies and friends, and my childless lifestyle. I grew up scared to death of my mother, school teachers, police officers, the minister, anyone wearing a suit. I have always had a fear of authority figures and will always be in a subservient role, whether it's at work or in a relationship. Would you want your children saying the same thing after they leave home? To this day, my mother doesn't think she did a thing wrong in raising her children. I was like a rat in a lab learning from observation. If I saw a sibling being beaten for something, you can be dern tootin' I didn't do that same thing. It doesn't take much to scare an already frightened child. You can't control someone who is smarter than you are. When I left home I worked two jobs to pay for night classes at college and got a 2-year degree. Mom can never remember the name of my university or the field I majored in.

BTW -- my paternal grandmother gave paregoric to her children to 'dope them' so she could get her housework done. None of her children graduated from high school.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 25, 2006 3:54 PM

I am a very hands-on mother. In fact, when my husband and I are with our child, one of us is always focused on her. We aren't putting her in front of toys (or worse, the TV) so we can do chores or read a book or do something else. We play with her constantly, teach her constantly, and interact with her completely. In addition, we direct her care at daycare. We determined when and how they introduced solids into her daycare diet, we determined when and how they stopped giving her a bottle during the day, and I know her entire daytime routine.

And you didn't say that you think parents should do what they feel is the right thing for their children. You said that by staying home with your child, you show them that being a grown up means doing the right thing. You've essentially determined that in every instance the "right thing" means staying home with a child. I am doing what I think is the right thing for my child. She is in a place she loves during the day with providers she loves. They are like her extended family. She gets the benefit of learning about other cultures from their perspective (one of her providers speaks nothing but spanish to the kids, and they understand her perfectly) and she gets the benefit of an additional network of adults who care deeply for her and other kids that she loves to play with and interact with (in fact she gives them kisses and hugs every day when we leave).

Just because staying at home is the "right thing" for you doesnt mean that translates to "right thing" for everyone.

Posted by: Jolie | July 25, 2006 3:57 PM

I always seem to get to a point in this blog where I am astonished. Such vitriol because someone makes different choices for themselves and their children than you would make. Walk in their shoes first.

SAHP are not all perfect in their patience, caring and teaching ability. Daycares also run the gamut from fabulous to poor.

Some people work to pay the bills, some to have that extra, some because they have a calling. Some stay at home because they feel fulfilled in their role, some because they do not have the resources to do otherwise.

I think the topic for the blog was how to evaluate becoming a SAHP if you have always been a WOHP. Any constructive ideas?

Posted by: Sunniday | July 25, 2006 4:02 PM

"Yes, and children receive such a vast number of viewpoints of the world when they're in a daycare center with the same people all day long, instead of exploring their community and world with their parent, meeting and spending time with people of all ages and many different walks of life.
"

My child does get exposed to more viewpoints at school than she would at home with me. I am not the type of person who would be happy in playgroups, so for the most part, the people she meets and gets to know ARE from daycare. We are acquainted with some of our neighbors, but my husband and I are are basically too shy to have developed real friendships with any of them - and we've been there for two years - and most of them have children - and a good number of them are around my daughters age (15 months). Even when we take her to the park and/or pool, its rare that we end up talking to anyone other than eachother, because we are just too shy.

I have one friend in the area with a child near my daughters age and they live 45 minutes from us and soon will be closer to an hour away. Our nearest family is an hour away, and the majority of our family is even farther than that.

So how exactly should we expose her to different cultures, people and children?

Posted by: Jolie | July 25, 2006 4:10 PM

With the high turnover rates in most daycare centers, your child in daycare is certain to be exposed to many different people.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 25, 2006 4:28 PM

To AnotherDCMom: Thank you for the link to the CUNY study. Interesting read. It should be noted, however, that the focus of the study is nonrelative care as opposed to parent care. Yes, they do cite a statistic that corrolates parent abuse to the results of in-home (non-relative) care, but that is an aside and does not really speak to the issue of whether a parent should take full care of a child.

It is really sad that in many comments people are seeking to affirm their own choice but lashing out at what others do. Life is too complex for one-model to fit all. The fact is working moms and stay at home moms struggle with the choice and, few, if any, will ever be satisfied with whatever choice they make. Many think the grass is greener on the other side without ever trying that other side. It is a sad testament to womanhood that we spend time criticizing each other's choices rather than working together to make sure that choices are available to women. Many women who want to care for their children, cannot because of financial responsibilites. Others would like to spend more time with their infants without giving up fulfilling careers. Our focus should be on how to change our society to enable these women to provide their children with what they need. We are the only developed country that does not mandate paid maternity leave. Many countries in Europe allow moms to take a year or more and guarantee her job upon return. Why don't we focus our efforts on expanding rights for moms instead of undercutting each other's choices.

Posted by: RealityCheck | July 25, 2006 5:30 PM

To single by choice. I was kind of harsh in my comments, However I am glad you are making choices. I am just concerned that people cling to the past as an excuse not to get on in life. I know from experience.

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 5:41 PM

To add from above children at daycare will be exposed to many illinesses.

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 5:43 PM

Children in general will be exposed to many illnesses - if not in daycare then in preschool/kindergarten. Its how immune systems are developed.

Posted by: Jolie | July 25, 2006 5:47 PM

Thanks, thats true also about regular school.

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 5:50 PM

They also get exposed to illnesses at the mall, grocery store, playground, pool, museum, doctors office, next door neighbors house, zoo, etc...

Unless they live in a (to borrow from a previous poster) hermetically sealed box, they will eventually be exposed to a germ or two in their lifetimes.

Posted by: Jolie | July 25, 2006 6:17 PM

Jolie, thanks for responding to my posts, I guess most people hav moved on to other topics.

Posted by: westcoast | July 25, 2006 6:39 PM

"My child does get exposed to more viewpoints at school than she would at home with me...my husband and I are are basically too shy to have developed real friendships with any of them...Even when we take her to the park and/or pool, its rare that we end up talking to anyone other than each other, because we are just too shy."

I have also always been a shy person and slow to make friendships. I have found one of the greatest benefits to be of being a SAHM is that it has really pushed me to overcome that. In an office I didn't have to seek out personal contact. I had the people I worked with, clients assigned to me, became friends with some coworkers mainly because we spent tons of time together. I knew staying home I'd need a support system to be happy so I pushed myself to connect with other moms. It was extremely difficult at first. But now, after 3 years at home, I have a much wider and deeper social network than ever in my life. After my happy, healthy children, my improved social skills is the accomplishment I am most proud of from this stage of my life. It has greatly enriched my life right now and will help me achieve greater success at work when I am ready to go back to that.

Posted by: Suzanne | July 25, 2006 8:33 PM

I am a SAHM and I thank God for that; I worked for almost twenty years and I didn't know that I can be more useful for my children being near them... it's much better to hug them instead of buying a lot of things!

There are boxes full of things bought to be stored. We must understand that LIFE is
very important and childhood is gold for our children and us, nothing can be more precious than a laughing moment with your children. When you come home tired you say that you're not in the mood or something like that...I regret the fact that I worked instead of be happy near them.

We do not know to choose what's best for us because our education was not what had to be!

We must look for what's important for our children and us! Really important.

Every woman has her own thoughts if she reads and wants to be a good mother she'll understand that LIFE with children must be a wonderful thing.

Posted by: M.V. | July 26, 2006 11:34 AM

"But, if I had the crystal ball telling me that my daughter would become SAHM, I don't know how willing I would be to spend $50K - $100K for her to go to college. I might think it a better fiscal decision to invest the money in a house for her family or in my own retirement."

Kea, I'm posting way late, but I don't see any comments on this. I think you SHOULD spend the money on your retirement and contribute less to your daughter's college education fund. One of the best things you can teach a child (son or daughter) is the value of their education. If they have to earn scholarships, do work-study, or work part-time for some of their tuition, then they might value their education more.

I have many friends whose children have been in college two or three years now. Most have spent far too much time cutting classes and goofing off, planning their weekend activities. The parents are paying all their tuition and expenses, so the kids have no concept of what their education is costing and what it's supposed to do for their future. I have already told my 12-year-old son that he will need to provide some of his education funds on his own and why.

Posted by: C.L. | July 26, 2006 5:08 PM

To C.L.: Great for you! It's about time somebody made their child take responsibility for their education. I left home at 19 (if you read my posts, you know why) to work for the Government in the 1960's. I decided to go back to college, but could only attend night classes because I had to support myself completely. I worked a full-time job Monday through Friday, and a part-time job on weekends to pay tuition and all living expenses. Not a dime from mom or dad, and no scholarships because I'm a healthy, white, childless woman. Not a protected class and no handouts from Uncle Sam. It was a long hard pull, and I only got a 2-year degree after 6 years of night school and working two jobs. That degree and $1 will get me a cup of coffee at 7-11. My classmates on campus were clueless -- talking all through the lectures, planning a social calendar, skipping classes, getting blotto at keg parties. Such a dreadful waste of the parents' money. Parents: If you only knew what goes on at college, but I'm sure you already do. Been there, done that, right?

I hope to retire soon and go back to school so I can start another career. I'd love to get into nursing or health care -- something respectable, not subservient like secretarial -- GAG!

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 27, 2006 9:22 AM

I agree with both CL and Childless. I put myself through school w/o financial assistance, too, and I know that makes a difference in the way I see the world. It's also why I struggle with where the line is between doing what a caring/supportive parent (like I wished I had) would do, and giving a kid so much on a platter that they don't really value any of it. Thinking this kind of stuff through and applying it in all the little decisions over 18 years is what makes parenthood so exhausting. I have to laugh when folks say being a SAHP isn't intellectually stimulating. I guess if you don't have to think when you're making all those little decisions and you don't think those little decisions add up to a hill of beans anyway, maybe it isn't. Speaking only for myself, the lack of intellectual stimulation had more to do with there not being a critical mass of other adults who were struggling in the same way I was, than it did with the job not offering it. Kind of like trying to do science without ever getting the input of other scientists' work.

Posted by: RDP | July 27, 2006 10:20 AM

It has been a long week so I am still reading through this long thread. Though most of it is very interesting and insightful. But man, PG County scares me. If you are that upset about taking care of your children and cleaning your house, why did you have them? I underdstand it is a tiring job, but man alive too many caps. All due to the joke made by father of 4 (who is hilarious BTW).

I think you may need to see someone aboutyour anger management. My mom was angry about things like that all the time when I was growing up. I think she would have been better off with a career (she was a SAHM) and maybe only one, or no, children. It was a hard upbringing.

Posted by: Yikes | July 28, 2006 9:06 AM

My wife gave up her career to become a stay at home mom a few years ago. I know it was tough for her to do so. So many years of hard work in college and career, creating contacts, new friends, etc., etc. However, we had to make a decision... continue with her working, pay a nanny and barely come out on top or rather above that lovely red line. Or take a chance. Give up her career and everything she worked for, have her stay at home with the kids and come out of it just a little bit better of monetarily.

It took us all of about 2 minutes to know and realize (our belief) that no one can raise our kids better than us. No daycare, no nanny. Nothing is better than a mother's love. And we were right. And we've been lucky that it has turned out well for us.

My wife has taken on a new career. One where she is CEO, teacher, accountant, event planner, etc. Basically is the jack of all trades and she is amazing at it. In the first few years of their lives they have rarely been sick, they are completely involved with their finger painting, singing/dancing, kids clubs and anything else their mommy can think of. She is doing such an amazing job with them.

Now with all of that being said, I know at point she missed the "real" corporate life and her friends downtown. She tries to stay in contact with them as much as possible. I have asked her if she wanted to eventually go back to that, she said no. She has made new friends, she has and is continuing on teaching our children new things every single day and when they eventually go to school - she wants to be there waiting for them. So that they can discuss their day with her.

Being parents at times is about sacrificing things for your children. They are and should be every parents "new" life. Whether moms decide to stay at home or continue on with their careers, obviously is a personal decision and a hard one at that. Bottom line is doing what you think is best for your children... you make the decisions and no one can take care of them better than you.

By the way, in case you couldn't tell... I am amazed by and lucky to have my wife.

Posted by: Sam | July 28, 2006 1:40 PM

I had to comment of this....

"Kea, I'm posting way late, but I don't see any comments on this. I think you SHOULD spend the money on your retirement and contribute less to your daughter's college education fund."

Yes, people let's have children and then when they get to the college years they are on their own so we can get cushier retirements. I'm sorry about one should be able to teach the value of the dollar and a good education without having to take deprive your children of financial security. I would much rather have to plan a bit more or do a little bit more to help my children have the free time to study. And not worry so much about if they will have enough money to pay for that educational quarter.

Posted by: K | July 28, 2006 2:34 PM

"But, if I had the crystal ball telling me that my daughter would become SAHM, I don't know how willing I would be to spend $50K - $100K for her to go to college. I might think it a better fiscal decision to invest the money in a house for her family or in my own retirement."

I don't know if I can explain this clearly, but here goes. If I am going to invest $50 -$100K for my daughter's future it would definitely be for education to benefit her career. However, if I knew that she would be SAHM and give up her career, I would rather use that money to invest in her home or some other way to contribute to her ability to stay home. And I am not saying that education is a waste for SAHM's, but a college degree definitely isn't a requirement for raising children and cleaning house. They can always go back to school when the kids are older. Many SAHM's are already saying that they need to update skills before they go back into the workplace.

And I mentioned this only in terms of investment, not to say what a woman should or shouldn't do. Just an "I wonder" remark - don't take it too seriously.

I know several people who graduated with student loans, had children, wanted to stay home and couldn't, partly because of the student loans. I know others with loans who did stay home, but had so many stresses over money and cramped living conditions, I don't believe that they were truly happy.

And as far as spending on education or retirement, I have planned for retirement. Paying for my child's education isn't going to make me work longer than I plan to, but not paying would allow me to retire earlier or more comfortably.

Posted by: Kea | July 28, 2006 4:43 PM

Hmmmm. Just wondering when a college education became something you got so you could earn more money. I thought it was something you got so as to become a more educated person, so as to acquire a breadth of knowledge that would be a resource for you in all aspects of your life --at least a liberal arts as opposed to a pre-professional education. Do we all only want to be widgets in some vast machine of commerce? Does everything we invest in have to pay dividends in cold hard cash? Criminy!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2006 9:08 PM

Actually, among my middle-class peers, we do look at a college education as being necessary to get a good job.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2006 10:26 PM

And having a good job is necessary for ????? Feeling that you're doing something worthwhile, or just making enough money so that you can stress over whether you put it in your retirement account or toward your kid's education, depending on whether the kid views the point of education the same way you do?
The thing is, people, you've got to decide what your promised land is. If what you choose really matters to you, the obstacles you encounter along the way don't matter as much or in the same way as when you're just following some generic program. They're challenges to be met that give you the opportunity to feel good about yourself.

Posted by: Criminy | July 29, 2006 7:21 AM

Yes, people let's have children and then when they get to the college years they are on their own so we can get cushier retirements.

This is what my parents did. I went through four years of college on loans. So did my husband, but his parents honestly couldn't afford it. Between the two of us, we graduated with $70,000 in debt. Did that make me angry? Heck yes! Six years after graduation we have paid it down to $20,000.

But let me tell you- it DID teach me the value of our educations. A friend of mine had her entire education paid for and now drifts between part-time jobs. She has no idea, nor do so many others who have always taken advantage of their parents good-will.

Now that I have a daughter my goal is to find the happy medium. The motto to go by is everything in moderation. She will have her first year or two paid for, but after that she is on her own.

Posted by: new working mom | July 31, 2006 11:51 AM

This topic has haunted me for some time now, and I am very appreciative of everyone's comments. I am a working mom who works normal hours (most of the time), but I always feel torn between what is better for my daughters- having a mom who is always home with them, or having a mom who is pursuing her professional goals? While working, I learn so much about personal achievement and about the business world that I can guide my daugthers later on. If I stay home, I will be able to maximize time with them and be able to also guide them in a different manner. My salary goes to support my immediate and extended family, and I have to make the decision that will be right for everyone. Maybe the most important thing is just to love our children, and be happy parents. :)

Posted by: Working Mom In Progress | August 4, 2006 12:22 AM

Has anybody been listening to the NPR series on kids and the media this past week? Or read the WP story on "toxic parents" this past weekend? Both highlight some of the real world dilemmas facing parents today.
Maybe the issue isn't so much whether you are working at something besides the home or not. Maybe it's whether you have the capacity to do as good a job rearing your children as you are expected to do at your paying job while you are doing both. (Do you even know what the job entails?) And if you don't have the capacity to do both, which is more important?
I feel pretty sure I could not have done it --at least not if the outside job demanded anything beyond simple labor. And even then, who would be establishing the normative conditions for my kid's development? Daycare? The schools? (Remember, these are the folks who brought you Channel One and soda dispensers in the cafeteria.) TV and the internet?
One problem today, as distinct from earlier eras, is that instead of exerting fairly potent control over behavior, society, culture, now tend to be the source of influences many of us believe are less than beneficial to kids. So, instead of being able to rely on societal standards to pick up the slack for us, parents must --if they care-- figure out how to innoculate their kids against prevailing norms. I try to resist solutions that require more money be spent or that transfer the burden to someone with fewer options (eg. V-chips or nannies), which leaves me with parents.
Of course, if you don't have a problem with prevailing norms, you only have to consider what the emotional/psychological effect of parental absence has on your kids.

Posted by: RDP | August 4, 2006 8:57 AM

Some women are put into a position where they have no choice.
Imagine being a Mom, Wife and then given the Breadwinner position because you need to save your family from being Homeless.
..then..
Imagine what it feels like to fail.
Unfortunately there are more and more American Families out there being forced into this tragedy.
A Person might think they are cursed - husband served his country in the ARMY, then loses his Father to cancer --on the 4th of July. A Wife and Mother must now be the Breadwinner and can't keep her family from losing everything. Why? Because they ran up bills or credit card debt? NO. It's because her husband is recently disabled and we are waiting for SSI to kick in. Are there any services out there to help? Not enough to keep our home. Is there enough Generosity in Americans today?
We have less than 2 weeks to find out...
brenda-scott.blogspot.com

Posted by: Brenda | August 5, 2006 12:59 PM

I'm a SAHM. College degree. Intelligent, creative, often frustrated and tired, often happy and glad to be near my kids. All in all, I still prefer to be at home fulltime at this point in their lives. I am active as a leader in church and community, but consciously strive to keep it under control b/c I've seen other SAHPs who simply traded other activities for their workplace, and their kids didn't seem to reap any unique benefits from their being "at home."

I've worked as a Montessori teacher and within daycare when my firstborn was younger. What I saw was that parents who stay at home and parents who both work are all capable of raising happy, healthy kids or of raising unhappy, dysfunctional kids. It all came down to priorities.

Montessori parents tended to be more affluent and more highly educated. But, guess what? I noticed a strong disparity between dads and moms. It was still a "Mom is responsible for the kids" world. And many of these women were professors, lawyers, etc.!

The daycare world was much more 50/50. Dads were just as likely to drop off, pick up, and show up for tea parties as were mom's. So, at least in my experience, the blue collar, pink collar, and self-employed small business families cared for their children more equally.

The strongest thing that I saw was this: If, when you are with your children, you spend all weekend trolling malls, shopping centers, and God knows what other fun or enriching activities you can muster, then your kids will be tired, cranky, and unfulfilled during their regular week. When you are with them, be WITH them. That made the biggest difference from anything else - the HOME environment, or lack thereof.

Posted by: PJ | August 8, 2006 11:41 AM

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