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Is SAHM/W no longer a valid life choice?


Moxie
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We quit homeschooling this year and I'm moving outside that bubble. Turns out, DH was right, there are no more SAHMs.

 

I know many woman who are taking a break and will go back to work when their youngest goes to school. Most of them still work in some capacity (part-time, from home, etc.).

 

I know several families with 4+ kids and mom works.

 

My youngest will go to K in 2 years and I'm actively looking for something to do to bring in money. I always thought SAHM was my career. Guess not.

 

My own mother, in her 50's, has gone back to work after a lifetime of being a SAHM so they could have health insurance.

 

Is SAHM/W going the way of the dodo bird??

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I know several. Not all of whom homeschool. It probably depends on where you live.

 

ETA: All of the SAHMs I know have degrees, most have finished grad school. All have worked and have had lucrative careers. When we've talked about it, it seems to be a choice they made for their kids. FWIW: 2 teaching degrees (former high school teachers); 2 nurses (with a masters in nursing, can't recall the letters that go with that); 2 anthropologists - formerly doing field work and teaching; 1 communications degree; and the others we have not discussed their degrees, but I know they finished at least a bachelor's.

Edited by Spryte
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I know young mother's - with education - who are choosing to stay home.

 

I'm still home - and I only have one minor child left.  I've been home a long time, so perhaps it doesn't count.  and dh, works from home.

 

eta: I've a young sahm friend who wanted to homeschool - her dd wanted to go to school.  her dd is the kind to take over the world.  she's already taken over the classroom and tells everyone - including the teacher - what to do . . . .she WANTS (needs, demands) the social interaction. (and with her gone for a few hours, her younger sisters are blossoming)

she's highly intelligent, I'm sure she'll eventually calm down . . . .

Edited by gardenmom5
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I know young mother's - with education - who are choosing to stay home.

 

I'm still home - and I only have one minor child left. I've been home a long time, so perhaps it doesn't count. and dh, works from home.

I wonder how many of them will stay home after their kids go to school.

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Of course it is a valid choice.

 

But I don't think it is much more unusual now than 30 years ago; growing up almost everybody I knew had both parents working

 

The women I know who are SAHMs now (not homeschooling) have the same reasons as when I was a kid- military husband with frequent moves, caring for elderly family members, etc.

.

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Wow, Where I am it is the opposite.  Of all of the families I know in my community I am one of very few women that work.  Most of my friends and the mothers of my children's friends are SAHMs.  That is the case even though almost all have undergraduate degrees and most have post graduate degrees.  Only two of the SAHMs are homeschoolers.  The rest spend their days volunteering and driving their kids to a myriad of activities.  

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To an extent I think yes.  Economic considerations, not all of which are directly about money, make it harder to justify not having that job when it could be managed.  And I think also having fewer homemakers just around in the community makes a difference - it can be a lot more lonely.  Many don't want to spend all day in a neighbourhood that just empties out, even if they have valuable work to do.  Even some introverts find this to be too much.

 

One thing though, depending on what it is you liked about being at home, you might consider some kind of work at home.  It might not bring an income, but you could potentially bring down your expenses.  Serious urban farming, for example, or instituting some kind of trade or skill you could barter with.  But that doesn't help much if it really is cash or benefits you want.

 

 

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In a couple, if the roles and contributions of each member are agreed to and understood, it doesn't matter what other people are doing.

 

If you feel SAHM is your best occupation and it works for your family then it's a valid choice.

 

There are a lot of factors in other families for the choice of 2 full time working spouses or 1 full time and one part time. Those choices are valid too.

 

As long as there is agreement that the choice is best for the family it is valid.

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I know lots of at home moms with kids in school. I know families with two parents working full time make it work, but someone still have to manage the household, do the grocery shopping, manage finances, take care of sick kids, handle doctor and dentist and orthodontist and eye appointments, fix meals, do laundry, and somehow not get burnt out. Having a parent at home can contribute immensely to the smooth running of the family.

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Just about all of my mom friends in my homeschooling world are stay-at-home moms. But none of us would be if our kids were in school (or at least none that I know well enough to have had this conversation with). We all feel a bit weird not working. But we do what we've got to do. I know for me, and for several other moms, we feel a bit vulnerable, depending solely on our husbands financially. I've watched enough people go through divorces that I know things won't go well for me if my husband and I split up. But, for me, I'm making the best decisions I can make for my son and having faith that everything else will work out.

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I'm trying to think of any parents I know who stay home after all their kids are in school, and whose kids don't have special needs that require more parental investment than average.

 

I can only think of one person IRL, and she's got all sorts of personal issues.

 

The moms I know who stay at home with one or two young kids generally have something going on the side.  Like they will have a handicraft business that they run from home.

 

Most parents I know work even before their kids are in school full-time.

 

I think anything you and your spouse choose and can afford is a "valid choice" though.

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I know families with all children in school and the moms are still home. I think it's a perfectly valid choice. I know I have no plans to work for pay, even when my homeschooling days are over.

Which was my mother's plan. She hates working but you have to have insurance and my dad is a farmer so someone needed to work outside the home. I never thought I'd look for work but all these kids are getting really expensive as they get older.

Edited by Moxie
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It's still valid, but it's unusual. Between financial/ consumer pressure; and sociological messages around value/ purpose/ accomplishment/ fair contribution, it's tough to buck the trend. A two income (or one-and-a-bit income) aside from the 'very young children' years is the most common choice.

 

However, lots of people are still doing it: being a small proportion of a large population is still a lot of people. And we are increasingly doing more (each) of the types of community work that used to be distributed among plenty of 'wives and mothers' without formal employment. And we are loosing our health, fitness, and self-care, and our families are loosing that window where the at-home spouse's hard work in the daytime hours pays off in less work (and stress) for the employed spouse on evenings and weekends. Therefore they loose a lot of space for health, fitness and self care.

 

I'm not on the "women out of the workplace" bandwagon. For me it's not about 'women' -- anyone can do it. But I do think how I spend my time has value for my family and my society. It's how I answer the sociological messages around value/ purpose/ accomplishment/ fair contribution, which allows me to confidently buck the trend.

 

If nobody does these things, the world is slightly worse off, and my family is significantly worse off. And I do have a diverse life of people (aside from my immediate family) who benefit from my availability to help them, plus a very part-time "job" (they pay me, but I donate it back). Balance is important.

 

My DH reports that his friends are jealous that his kids are not in before/after care but receiving individual attention from a family member, that they go to bed early and sleep well, that he rarely has to be part of the solution when the kids are home sick on weekdays, that he doesn't have to think about his own shopping or cooking or laundry, nor do major housecleaning on weekends.

 

There are a lot of responsibilities that are 50/50 if both work that are 'magic' to someone whose spouse has made those things his/her full-time occupation. They no longer have to be squeezed into the margins of both people: they sit comfortably within one person's primary working hours.

 

Yes, it's valid. It has 'personal fulfillimemt' issues, but, with awareness you can compensate for that.

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There does not seem to be many in my area except for moms with babies or preschoolers.  Although I'm really just guessing because I also haven't really tried to find other SAHPs.  Even among homeschoolers several I know work, some even full time.  I don't know how they do it (work full time that is). 

 

That said, I don't worry about it in the sense I care what other people think of it. 

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I was a SAHM while my kids were in elementary school.

 

Then we homeschooled and I was a SAHM.

 

Then they both went back to public school and I was a SAHM.

 

For us it is a valid choice, regardless of what the kids are doing.

 

I don't know if I'll ever get another paying job or not.  But not doing so will always be a valid choice as far as DH and I are concerned.

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Which was my mother's plan. She hates working but you have to have insurance and my dad is a farmer so someone needed to work outside the home. I never thought I'd look for work but all these kids are getting really expensive as they get older.

 

I'm aware I don't know the future, and it's possible I may have to.  But my dh has a job that provides well enough, including insurance.  I worked part time for 15 months (I quit a year ago).  I wasn't looking for a job, didn't need a job, yet I felt like God handed me the job and I was supposed to work it.  I was very good and the job and enjoyed the job.  For all I know, a similar situation could present itself in the future, but I have no plans to go looking for one.  

 

I know several women who have grown children and they are now SAHWs.  It definitely still happens and is doable and a valid choice for some.

 

On the other side, my Mom was a SAHM until I hit 4th grade and she went back to work.  She retired two years ago and is now a SAHW.  

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Most of the other SAHMs I know do something on the side or part time for extra income, either from home or working opposite their husbands or using a sitter a little, even the homeschooling ones. I only know of a couple like me who don't have some sort of income producing job, even if it's babysitting in their own home, and I will probably do something in a couple of years when my littlest ones aren't quite so little. (Maybe. I don't really want to return to the things I did pre-kids, which were always temporary anyway, so there's not really something I'm burning to do. But then I saw an ad for AOPS looking for part time homework graders, and I thought, "That might be ideal for me! I like math and could do flexible work in a couple of years when I'm re-experienced with teaching higher math.") College, retirement, health insurance, etc. are so expensive these days that it's no longer a choice of living simply and foregoing expensive vacations, Starbucks, and the like.

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I would have preferred to continue at home, working as my own boss from home, but we needed to get benefits on board so dh can retire when he wants to. 

 

I have strongly encouraged my children to be open to finding an age peer as a marriage partner, rather than someone significantly older or younger than them.  Our laws are set up so that significant age differences can be a real challenge. 

 

But, really, that's another thread.   ;-)

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I really agree with bolt about the value of the role in family and community.  And that the things that push against it are the decreasing value of paid work, and social attitudes around valuing work.

 

That being said - it's very anecdotal, but I do feel that I have seen a little increase in moms (and some dads) staying home since we instituted the one year parental leave here in Canada. (That is you get your job back and while you are off get just over 50% of your salary - and some jobs top that up to nearly 100%.)  Most families seem to take advantage of a fair portion of that - when you consider the costs of infant care it makes sense and I think mst people also want to.  But beyond that, I think that there are families where the intention was that both would return to full time employment after the leave period, but the experience of having that time makes them re-evaluate.  They may not stay home permanently, but longer than they would have otherwise.

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Moxie - I didn't know you weren't homeschooling anymore! That's what I get for taking six months off the boards. We were all set to put the kids in school in the fall but ds12 didn't get in (charter school lottery). How's it going? How has the change been? 

 

I know almost no SAHMs. I'm in an  interesting position because most of my friends' kids are now in elementary school on up, and they've pretty much universally gotten jobs, although many are part time. The only SAHMs I know have toddlers or are homeschooling, which I don't really consider 'not' having a job. 

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My dds are now teens and in public school. I'm still at home. I did go back to work briefly and we all hated it so I quit. My MIL hasn't worked a day outside the home since she became a mom and now she's a grandma who still stays home. I don't know many SAHM's where we currently live. They seemed to be the majority where we moved from though and most had all older kids in public schools.

 

I don't plan on looking for work any time in the next few years, if ever. I'm happy staying home and not worried dh leaving me.

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I don't know any SAHMs with all kids in school who don't work  for pay at all.... not even part time, or with an etsy business or whatever.  Stay at home mom when all the kids are in school for 6+ hours a is getting into "housewife" territory.     Obviously whatever choice works for any particular family is valid.  But having that much time to do something other than care for kids, and not trying to make any money, is unusual, where I live.

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I'm not homeschooling (though I'm now in the planning stages to homeschool one of my two in the fall) and I still have no desire to get a job. DH has said that, at some point before our 5 year old starts college, he'd love for me to get some kind of job so that we can a bit more money for college. I'm not at all excited about that possibility. I love staying at home and running the household. It makes our family life a whole lot less stressful, and, when we decided recently that the best middle school choice for our son would be homeschooling, it was easy. There was no questioning of whether it would be worth it for me to leave my job.

 

What I'd love to do is dust off some the writing I have in a drawer and figure out how to get it published, thus making some money that way. But going to a particular place every day to do a particular thing does not appeal to me in the least. I agree that stay at home moms/wives are rarer than they used to be, but I know quite a few through my son's school, and I know other parents through my daughter's preschool who are sending their youngest to kindergarten and don't plan to go back to work, so I think how rare it is depends on your area.

 

If it's financially feasible for your family, I think it's a perfectly valid choice.

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I've just finished homeschooling and I constantly get "So what are you going to do now?". The idea that I could be a stay at home wife is apparently culturally unacceptable. It really saddens me. I frequently here things like, "So you're going to do nothing?!" I don't think of my life as nothing, but it is hard for me to explain how I spend my time. Of course there is time here :). I garden, I workout, I shop, cook, clean. I make sure dh doesn't have to shop, cook or clean so that the time he has off work can be relaxing. 

 

I think culturally, we have moved to a place where being a housewife is as unusual and unacceptable as women working outside the home was a couple generations ago. I'm saddened by the shift. I want all options to be open for women, not just the current cultural trend.

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I consider it a valid life choice but I don't know that it is a practical life choice for many anymore.

 

When I was growing up in western New York (born in 1956), all the moms were home during the day.   It was unusual to know a working mom.  FWIW for my first 5 years of school I went to Catholic school, so many of the teachers were nuns.  I do remember a few teachers who were married, though, but I don't know if they had kids.

 

When I moved to CA in 1966 and went to public school, there were a few more working moms but still the majority of people I knew had nonworking moms.

 

When I got married I lived in Silicon Valley and I was a freak when I quit my job to stay home with my first child (1997).  I was so lonely. Even the women I met in the new-moms groups of talked of nothing except when they were going back to work.  The next year we moved to Oregon and wow, lots of stay-home moms!  It was great; we had a wonderful social circle and no one asked "when are you going back to work?"

 

Now in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the houses are empty during the day; all the moms work.  Once again, everyone looks at me like I'm a freak when I say I don't work.  Add even more freakiness when I say I homeschool.  (It is not popular around here.) 

 

I don't expect my daughter to be a SAHM, whether she wants to or not. 

 

My kids are in high school now so my homeschooling is almost done.  Today my daughter is at work and my son is doing schoolwork on his own.  I've managed to get a batch of yogurt started, have bread rising, and planned out meals for a week or so.  I've started working on the taxes, and have laundry going. In between I read or listened to a few interesting news articles, a chapter of a novel, and a few chapters of the Bible.  I prepped a meal to take to a new mom at church. I listened to music.  It has been a great morning.  I hope I can continue to be a SAHW when my kids are gone.  More likely, though, I will be trying to find something to do to earn money, even though I will be old! 

 

Edited by marbel
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Even if my kids were in school, I would not work full time out of the house. I do work part time for my church and as a freelancer writing from home. But there are too many things that would go undone/half done if I were working outside of the home. We would hate the evening scramble to do homework eat bathe and do chores between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30. It would not be worth it to our family.

 

But my dh makes a good living and can easily support us on his salary alone. If that changed, we'd do what we had to do.

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I don't count homeschooling mothers as SAHMs for the most part.  Educating the kids is a job that goes beyond just mothering. 

 

I know two women personally who are SAHMs who don't homeschool.  They have no outside jobs. 

 

Most everyone else either homeschools or works at least part time or homeschools and works part time.

 

If I didn't homeschool, I would not want to work. If my husband wouldn't get resentful that I didn't work, I wouldn't.  I don't know how he'd feel about me staying home while he works.

 

Actually, I'd probably get some education so that if I had to work, I could jump right in.  Some sort of certification in something perhaps.

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Most of the other SAHMs I know do something on the side or part time for extra income, either from home or working opposite their husbands or using a sitter a little, even the homeschooling ones. I only know of a couple like me who don't have some sort of income producing job, even if it's babysitting in their own home, and I will probably do something in a couple of years when my littlest ones aren't quite so little. (Maybe. I don't really want to return to the things I did pre-kids, which were always temporary anyway, so there's not really something I'm burning to do. But then I saw an ad for AOPS looking for part time homework graders, and I thought, "That might be ideal for me! I like math and could do flexible work in a couple of years when I'm re-experienced with teaching higher math.") College, retirement, health insurance, etc. are so expensive these days that it's no longer a choice of living simply and foregoing expensive vacations, Starbucks, and the like.

Yes! My dad used to say "just add a little more water to the gravy" when we needed to save for something. But, we (DH and I) are at a point where no amount of saving will pay for what we need to do. I have 2 kids who need braces in the next year. In 5 years, I'll have 3 driving and 2 in college. Plus, we're still paying on our student loans!! I always said I would never work but then I woke up one day and realized that that might be a luxury we can't afford. And DH makes a good income!!

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Even if my kids were in school, I would not work full time out of the house. I do work part time for my church and as a freelancer writing from home. But there are too many things that would go undone/half done if I were working outside of the home. We would hate the evening scramble to do homework eat bathe and do chores between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30. It would not be worth it to our family.

 

But my dh makes a good living and can easily support us on his salary alone. If that changed, we'd do what we had to do.

 

 

That's how I feel about it.  I hate how there is the scramble in the evening because I homeschool for 7 hours a day and spend about an hour or so a day researching or planning future lessons.  I'm "working" for 8 hours a day.  And I swear, I can't seem to cook dinner in under an hour (sometimes 2), so by the time I'm done schooling and researching and cooking dinner, it's already 6 pm.  And then there is the cleaning and the bill paying and errand running to be squeezed into the evenings or weekends. 

 

So if I didn't homeschool, I would not want to work and have to still have that evening scramble.  I think it takes a full-time person to really run a home and provide a place where everyone can rest at the end of a busy day--including the homemaker.

Edited by Garga
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While not as popular, I haven't met a lot of hostility to it in general.  Some incredulity (I couldn't possibly stay home with them all day!) which often comes across as patronizing.  I've also found some very liberal circles that view moms who are out of the workforce as a general drain on society because they don't work for pay (pay income tax) nor do they employ lower-skilled workers for day care or housekeeping, but for my own sanity I like to think these are fringe views.

 

 

But, being a stay-at-home-mom/wife with older kids in school or launched kids is definitely seen as some kind of laziness.

 

 

What's funny is that when my oldest was in school, my life was generally busier and there were more demands on my time than when his was/is not.  Maybe it was just the school he went to, but I couldn't imagine trying to negotiate work and work hours around that schedule.  I wouldn't be a good employee or a good school-mom if I was trying to do both.

 

Then again, DH and I live so that I don't have to work for pay, and neither he nor I plan on me going back into the paid workforce even when the kids are grown.

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yes, that ability to rest or do non-job, non-school activities in teh evening, and the flexibility to jump in when family needs step-up (ilness say) is a big reason I can't imagine having both my dh and I working full time.  But the costs do really start to add up - and that is even though I am not particularly focused on saving to put kids through college.  But things like braces, piano lessons, and being able to do upkeep on the house, are just so expensive.  Even though I bring about $800 a month into the household through babysitting, it worries me.

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Of course it is a valid choice.

 

But I don't think it is much more unusual now than 30 years ago; growing up almost everybody I knew had both parents working

.

 

When I was growing up in the '80's, it was common for the mom to work PT while the kids were in school (my mom did) but very unusual for a married mom to be employed FT. The only moms I knew who were employed FT were the divorcees & widows. Today almost everyone is employed FT regardless of marital status.

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I really agree with bolt about the value of the role in family and community.  And that the things that push against it are the decreasing value of paid work, and social attitudes around valuing work.

 

That being said - it's very anecdotal, but I do feel that I have seen a little increase in moms (and some dads) staying home since we instituted the one year parental leave here in Canada. (That is you get your job back and while you are off get just over 50% of your salary - and some jobs top that up to nearly 100%.)  Most families seem to take advantage of a fair portion of that - when you consider the costs of infant care it makes sense and I think mst people also want to.  But beyond that, I think that there are families where the intention was that both would return to full time employment after the leave period, but the experience of having that time makes them re-evaluate.  They may not stay home permanently, but longer than they would have otherwise.

 

I am seeing the same things.  I do think having a year of leave is helpful.  It's a cultural value here - we value the role of parents in the lives of young children.  And we back that up with laws that allow for a year of leave.  

 

My sister stayed home until her first child was in kindergarten.  Her second one was three at the time.  She happened to get a job in the government and it was too good to pass up - even though she would have rather stayed home until both kids were in K.  But, her job allows for a ton of flexibility - she works extra time four days a week so that she has every Friday off.  So, she works the same amount of hours in a week but only goes in for four days.  Also, she's just applied for a parental leave program - she can ask for the summer off work while spreading her pay out over 12 months, so she'll still get a paycheque and benefits, but it will be less each month so she can take summers off to be with her kids.  I had a friend, years ago, who also worked for the gov't and was able to take a 5 year leave of absence to take care of her young kids after her maternity leave ran out.  She didn't get paid during that time, but she got to walk back into the same job when she was done.

 

Anyway, all that to say that when it's clear that the society you live in values SAHP's I think it's not surprising to see an increase in parents staying home.

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I think that something that has completely shifted is the SAHW thing.

 

Remember in 'The Gift of the Magi' the wife was home all day, with no kids, in a tiny rented apartment, waiting for her husband to come home?  That used to be pretty common.  I remember hearing that teachers were let go when they married, for instance, routinely.  

 

I only know one family in which the wife didn't work before they had children, and it was a woman who had a very patriarchal husband AND whose father believed that women shouldn't work after high school but rather should stay home and learn how to serve their husbands and children.  Creeped me out totally, let me tell you.  But in more 'normal' circles, staying at home completely before having children is pretty much unheard of.

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Most of the people I know who stayed at home with young children either went back to work when their kids started school (a couple shocked me) or started homeschooling. I was not planning to go back to work or homeschool and now I'm homeschooling. With my husband's travel schedule I don't really see how I could work even if my kids were in school, I would have to hire a nanny or something.

 

I can think of two families in which the mom has elementary kids in school and she doesn't work. I do know a handful of empty nesters who never went back to work, they have been a great help to my family, being able to pitch in with child care from time to time. They also volunteer quite a bit in the community which is kind of like an unpaid job though.

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I know several as well.  Maybe it's your area?

 

I know in the city we just left had many.   It was a wealthy area.  We attended a MegaChurch where the SAH seemed more the norm than otherwise and the MOPS group had 200+ moms at every meeting.  I strongly suspect it was the wealth that motivated that.   I also strongly suspect that many women SAY they return to work because they want to, even when it is about the money, in order to save face.  Not that I think it is impossible to want to return to work.  DH stays at home and I work because we are both happier that way.  

 

Our current town, we know many SAH probably because of the homeschooling.   This seems to more a hardship imposed by religion or reaction to the local public school.  I've had to reject friendships with mothers of kid's DD's age because the parents are doing drugs.  There seems to be two towns, one wholesome and the other not.  

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I am married to a soldier, so it is commonplace to me. 

 

We need to keep our families stable. 

 

I am working part-time now, and I am glad -- it makes my husband appreciate me more, and he does not always assume I will always take care of certain things where I think he has taken me for granted at times.

 

But we have talked about full-time, and he is concerned it would be stressful for us and detract from the quality of time I spend with the kids. 

 

Also realistically we have some stressors in our lives that others do not have, and realistically we need to adjust for that. 

 

The people who don't get it with me, don't have an understanding of the kinds of stress we might have or the need for stability that my children have, and that we have some more challenges in providing that stability.  They may not understand that my husband's job is very inflexible in many ways and he simply cannot "do his share" like is expected for 2-income families to work (imo, like sick days, etc). 

 

I don't see it being something my kids will choose, though, b/c I don't see them choosing the military lifestyle.

 

I don't have a good feel for it outside of the military, either. 

 

I do like it, though!  It works well for us!  I have times I would like to bring in more money, but the small amount of money I am bringing in now goes a long way since it is extra to us, and we have never expected to have a higher income later on. 

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SAHM's are actually the norm in my church. There have been some awkward situations over that with the few of us that work for pay. I view it as a family decision, but some people can get a little militant about people who chose differently.

 

Outside of that, even in homeschooling circles, most women I know work. I live in an extremely expensive area, and it's a rare family that doesn't have the spouse that is mostly home doing something for income.

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