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Is SAHM/W no longer a valid life choice?


Moxie
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That is super judgmental.  How do you know how people 'tend' to operate.  My sister works full time and claims to not be able to afford homeschooling for just that very reason. She and her husband have a low debt load, have money saved for college, have a large retirement nest egg, have money in savings for emergencies etc. They  have obviously made much better financial choices that my family has. We have nothing saved for college, no savings etc. But we have homeschooled. Whose to say who has made the 'better' choice for their family? I am not always convinced it was us, that is for sure. I know there are people who homeschool who have managed to get debt free etc. Good for them. It would be feasible for us with a second income.

 

People 'tend' to want to raise their kids in a nicer neighborhood. One that feels safe, where they can have a bit of yard. The vast majority of the US population doesn't live in rural areas, the cities and surrounding areas are where the jobs are. So, to live in the less rural areas people have to pay more for that land then is typical for the rural areas.

 

The family friendly neighborhoods also have...good schools. And that translates into higher school taxes in most places.  Which means a higher cost of living. Some people can swing that on one salary and some can't

 

For me to be a homeschooling parent, that meant living in the 'worst' school district because the houses were MUCH cheaper.  That was a big trade off.  If I weren't homeschooling, I would not live in this neighborhood. I wouldn't have considered it. If you moved my house a few blocks north and east it would more than double in value, and so do the mortgages. The schools are considered among the best around. People often assume we homeschool because of where I live, that we chose to homeschool to avoid the school. Nope, we live here because it means our mortgage was low and we can afford to live on one salary.

 

The key thing is that we knew before we had kids that we wanted to homeschool. That guided our decision as to where we settled down. Even if we had continued renting, we still would not be able to afford to have me at home without living on this side of town. The rents in the nicer neighborhoods with better schools are well beyond what we could afford. We could have continued renting in the rural part of the county, but again, the schools out there are not what I would have wanted for my kids. And I am not certain we could have afforded the rent for a 2 bedroom apartment, even in the rural areas, in a place I would have wanted to live. Some of the cheaper rental areas out in the country are pretty dodgy. 

 

So, if you are someone who didn't know before conception that you wanted to homeschool, you might have made perfectly valid choices about where you want to raise your kids that make it impossible to be a single income family. That doesn't mean you are a profligate spender, it means that you want to live in a neighborhood where you can walk the streets safely after dark.  I don't think there is anything selfish or thoughtless about that choice.

 

And, I also think a lot of people give lip service with the 'I always wanted to homeschool', but it's not something that is a real desire. It's like how I always wanted to teach the boys to ski. I guess if we rearranged our finances in a pretty big way, and had the boys quit their weekend commitments, then I guess I could spend every weekend on the slopes with them. But, in reality, I don't have the money to pay for lift tickets for a family of four, a hotel for the weekends, $ for renting or buying skis, food while staying in hotels etc.  So, we can't afford it. It's not that we don't have the money, it's that we have decided to do something else with it, something that is equally valuable and I don't regret, but there will always be a part of me that wishes I could have done it.  I have friends who do and that is great. But it isn't a real priority.

 

You know, I really don't think it was judgemental.  It's one of those human psychological truthes - most people tend to live at the limit of their income.  It's why so many people have a hard time saving, and why when they get a raise, it seems to disapear so quickly.  I'd say it is a pretty well recognized psychological phenomena.

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I think you misunderstood me and you aren't taking that into the greater context of what I said prior.  People have said to me that I'm lucky I can stay home and that they cannot afford it.  These are people I know who make quite a bit more than my spouse.  They may be unwilling to sacrifice certain things in their life and that is okay, but my position isn't based on luck. 

 

Everything is super judgmental.  As soon as we have an opinion about something someone else thinks we are judging.  I don't have an opinion about what other people choose to do in terms of work and what they choose to spend their money on.  But I guess I don't understand why they think I've fallen upon a pot of gold.  I don't have a lucky pot of gold.  I simply go without certain things.  I don't say this to come off as making a better choice.  It's just a different choice. 

 

My taxes are very high because I live in a very needy district.  Meaning there is a high number of people living in poverty.  There aren't many businesses to add to the tax pot.  Taxes are not high where I am because we have great schools.  We don't.  The only reason we can afford to live here is because our house is very old and I don't live in a desirable area. 

 

That is super judgmental.  How do you know how people 'tend' to operate.  My sister works full time and claims to not be able to afford homeschooling for just that very reason. She and her husband have a low debt load, have money saved for college, have a large retirement nest egg, have money in savings for emergencies etc. They  have obviously made much better financial choices that my family has. We have nothing saved for college, no savings etc. But we have homeschooled. Whose to say who has made the 'better' choice for their family? I am not always convinced it was us, that is for sure. I know there are people who homeschool who have managed to get debt free etc. Good for them. It would be feasible for us with a second income.

 

People 'tend' to want to raise their kids in a nicer neighborhood. One that feels safe, where they can have a bit of yard. The vast majority of the US population doesn't live in rural areas, the cities and surrounding areas are where the jobs are. So, to live in the less rural areas people have to pay more for that land then is typical for the rural areas.

 

The family friendly neighborhoods also have...good schools. And that translates into higher school taxes in most places.  Which means a higher cost of living. Some people can swing that on one salary and some can't

 

For me to be a homeschooling parent, that meant living in the 'worst' school district because the houses were MUCH cheaper.  That was a big trade off.  If I weren't homeschooling, I would not live in this neighborhood. I wouldn't have considered it. If you moved my house a few blocks north and east it would more than double in value, and so do the mortgages. The schools are considered among the best around. People often assume we homeschool because of where I live, that we chose to homeschool to avoid the school. Nope, we live here because it means our mortgage was low and we can afford to live on one salary.

 

The key thing is that we knew before we had kids that we wanted to homeschool. That guided our decision as to where we settled down. Even if we had continued renting, we still would not be able to afford to have me at home without living on this side of town. The rents in the nicer neighborhoods with better schools are well beyond what we could afford. We could have continued renting in the rural part of the county, but again, the schools out there are not what I would have wanted for my kids. And I am not certain we could have afforded the rent for a 2 bedroom apartment, even in the rural areas, in a place I would have wanted to live. Some of the cheaper rental areas out in the country are pretty dodgy. 

 

So, if you are someone who didn't know before conception that you wanted to homeschool, you might have made perfectly valid choices about where you want to raise your kids that make it impossible to be a single income family. That doesn't mean you are a profligate spender, it means that you want to live in a neighborhood where you can walk the streets safely after dark.  I don't think there is anything selfish or thoughtless about that choice.

 

And, I also think a lot of people give lip service with the 'I always wanted to homeschool', but it's not something that is a real desire. It's like how I always wanted to teach the boys to ski. I guess if we rearranged our finances in a pretty big way, and had the boys quit their weekend commitments, then I guess I could spend every weekend on the slopes with them. But, in reality, I don't have the money to pay for lift tickets for a family of four, a hotel for the weekends, $ for renting or buying skis, food while staying in hotels etc.  So, we can't afford it. It's not that we don't have the money, it's that we have decided to do something else with it, something that is equally valuable and I don't regret, but there will always be a part of me that wishes I could have done it.  I have friends who do and that is great. But it isn't a real priority.

 

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You know, I really don't think it was judgemental.  It's one of those human psychological truthes - most people tend to live at the limit of their income.  It's why so many people have a hard time saving, and why when they get a raise, it seems to disapear so quickly.  I'd say it is a pretty well recognized psychological phenomena.

 

Absolutely. 

 

If I won a large sum of money tomorrow, I'd go out and buy a more expensive house.  If I went out and got a full time job, I'd go out and buy a more expensive house.  For one thing I'd need a house that required less maintenance and TLC because I'd be too tired to deal with it.

 

I think it is pretty much a fact.  Does this mean EVERYONE?  No.  For crying out loud I don't think I need to qualify that statement.  Except for death there aren't too many universal truths.

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Sometimes I do feel guilty being home while DH works, though.

 

I LIKE organizing and planning, and I like it even better if I have unencumbered time to research whatever I'm organizing or planning. So I can spend hours on whatever project I'm working on. Which usually has benefits to our family. For instance, my to-do list for today includes: prepare the monthly budget, finish our menu plan for Spring (I meal plan on a quarterly basis), put together a mini-curriculum to get ds through until we start kindy in August, work out a budget for next year's schooling, make a schedule for our family devotions, and gather a list and budget of clothes that the kids will need for spring/summer. Obviously, those aren't all things you finish in a day. But I spent some time thinking about and/or working on all of them at some point today. That's on top of the usual home and school chores, shuttling the kids to and fro, volunteer work for the church, etc.

 

It's a worthy list, and certainly one that benefits our family. But when I look at it, I wonder if I'm just trying to make myself indispensable. I was always unhappy when I worked, because I felt like these kinds of things got the short shrift. But plenty of families with two working adults manage to accomplish the day-to-day tasks without going to the lengths I go to. When I worked, we ate out more than we do now, and ate more convenience foods, but we still managed to put meals on the table without a quarterly meal plan, you know? We might have spent a little more, but our kids never went naked just because I didn't have a detailed list of what pieces of clothing they needed and how much I should spend on them.

 

On the one hand, I have to be more detailed now because our income is lower than it would be. On the other, part of the reason I wound up leaving my job was because I was trying to do all these things while working and driving myself crazy.

 

DH and I both agree that this arrangement is best for our family, but I think if I was able to accept a less rigid standard at home it wouldn't have to be.

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I just thought of three people I know in which the wives are youngish, don't work, and don't have kids.

 

All have some sort of health issues though that make working difficult.

Statistically, having some sort of ongoing health issue is now a significant portion of SAHWs or SAHPs.

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Most of the time they make comments to me like lucky you I wish we could afford it.  To which I generally think BULL CRAP.  They choose to live a lifestyle that requires more money is what they generally mean.

Yeah, DH has a cousin who claimed she wanted to stay home with her kids. But then they kept buying new toys (things like jet skis and such). At their income, they can't do both, so it was hard to take her claim seriously.

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Statistically, having some sort of ongoing health issue is now a significant portion of SAHWs or SAHPs.

 

Which makes sense.  Most companies aren't all that supportive of these things.  Those that are might be more willing if the person has been there for a long time.

 

My father lucked out a bit.  His employer put up with him going through many periods where he could not work.  Sometimes he wouldn't even call out (nature of his illness).  Most companies would have fired him.  They never did.  But he had no sick benefit.  So he was not paid either.

Edited by SparklyUnicorn
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It's a worthy list, and certainly one that benefits our family. But when I look at it, I wonder if I'm just trying to make myself indispensable. I was always unhappy when I worked, because I felt like these kinds of things got the short shrift. 

There is an excellent analysis of this in "The Feminine Mystique".  IIRC the chapter is titled "Housework expands to fill the time available."

 

Having said that, I think the real trouble is lack of margin across the board, and also the way that not having a loving adult at home changes the way home 'feels' all the time, but having a loving adult at home has started to feel very expensive.

 

It's not impossible to delegate the cooking and cleaning and bookkeeping, etc.  But it's impossible to delegate the conversations with the kids, or just the fact that they don't arrive at an empty house very often, whether they interact with their parents very much there or not, or the lack of a universal panicked rush every single morning for every single person.  

 

Historically a housewife could save a great deal of money by growing and preserving food, by cooking from scratch, by sewing well at home (earlier even by spinning and weaving), by cooking and cleaning (disease prevention and freeing up others for hard physical labor), by keeping the fires going and the place warm, and by decorating 'on the cheap'.  Along the way, the home was a place of refuge because of all of this but partly just because she was there, able to converse, to teach along the way, to recite, to be an audience, to sing.  Now, a lot of those money saving techniques are reversed.  It is cheaper to shop in thrift stores or shop sales than to sew clothes, for instance.  But the creation of the home as a refuge, whether it is perfect or not, is not easily delegated.  

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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There is an excellent analysis of this in "The Feminine Mystique".  IIRC the chapter is titled "Housework expands to fill the time available."

 

Having said that, I think the real trouble is lack of margin across the board, and also the way that not having a loving adult at home changes the way home 'feels' all the time, but having a loving adult at home has started to feel very expensive.

 

It's not impossible to delegate the cooking and cleaning and bookkeeping, etc.  But it's impossible to delegate the conversations with the kids, or just the fact that they don't arrive at an empty house very often, whether they interact with their parents very much there or not, or the lack of a universal panicced rush every single morning for every single person.  

 

Historically a housewife could save a great deal of money by growing and preserving food, by cooking from scratch, by sewing well at home (earlier even by spinning and weaving), by cooking and cleaning (disease prevention and freeing up others for hard physical labor), by keeping the fires going and the place warm, and by decorating 'on the cheap'.  Along the way, the home was a place of refuge because of all of this but partly just because she was there, able to converse, to teach along the way, to recite, to be an audience, to sing.  Now, a lot of those money saving techniques are reversed.  It is cheaper to shop in thrift stores or shop sales than to sew clothes, for instance.  But the creation of the home as a refuge, whether it is perfect or not, is not easily delegated.  

 

Ultimately, this was what made me decide to stay home.  I went back to work after my first was born and I never spent any time with him.  I don't care about a perfect house or that we don't have a better house.  I could live with maybe being less stellar in a lot of areas, but what I could not live with is only going through the motions and not having any kind of relationship with my kids.  This is not to say that other people don't pull that off.  "I" was not pulling it off and that is what drove my decision more than anything else.  And homeschooling had something to do with this as well.

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It's pretty unusual where I am. Even among the homeschooling moms I know, more than half work for pay in some capacity, generally contract work from home and generally part-time. There are some who aren't employable for some reason as well.

 

I imagine that there are more homemakers/SAHMs in low cost of living areas. This is a pretty high cost of living area and most of the moms I know truly do need to bring in some money to make the ends meet. This even goes for women with husbands who make low six figures in this area if they want to own a home, save for retirement and/or college and give their kids the sorts of lessons, classes and tutors associated with middle class American childhood.

 

The largest chunk of SAHMs are not the media fueled sterotype of the opt-out highly educated previously well paid professional women. The majority are women whose husbands make enough so that they can just get by but who, if they also worked would not net much, if anything, after childcare costs. If you mostly know the opt-out professionals, that is a function of who you interact with and know. Statistically, most affluent families are two income families and most SAHMs are from modest or low income families.

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The "cannot afford" issue is a question of lifestyle and goals in life.

A person could afford to stay home, but then the family might struggle paying for college. So, if part of their "lifestyle" choices includes funding college education, then the spouse truly cannot afford to stay home.

If their goal were sending the kids to community college and then taking out loans, they could.

 

I don't think it is "bull crap" to prioritize things like this. Or to put a high priority on family travel and, for example, foster a strong relationship of the kids with their grandparents overseas. Just different choices and priorities. Owning a house with bedrooms for each child as opposed to living in a one room shack is, in the end, a choice.

 

Sure, people have different priorities.  But if a family's priorities are not compatible with one parent staying home and not earning an income, then they should not be envious of families who do make keeping a parent at home a priority.

 

When I quit my Silicon Valley job, so many of my coworkers expressed their envy at my luck in quitting rather than just taking a 6-week maternity leave. More than a few said "I would do anything to stay home with my kids."  But I had worked with them a long time, so I knew their lifestyles. They spent a lot of money on travel, on living in the nicest neighborhoods, and, on their cars. I am not kidding when I say that I knew I was not going to fit in socially with my new coworkers on my first day at work, when our boss took us out to lunch and all they talked about were the custom modifications they were having made to their BMWs.  I think I was driving my Escort then.    :lol:

 

Nothing wrong with those priorities, or the ones listed in the quote above.  The annoying part is the profession of envy.

 

ETA: re: the BMWs - this was in the midst of the high-flying years in the high-tech world.  :-)

Edited by marbel
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I take care of a lot of little details that in and of themselves seem small, but believe me they add up and if I didn't have the time to do them, I'd have to pay someone to do them. 

 

Just a comment from the "other side": people who work outside the home take care of these little details, too, and very rarely pay somebody to do them.

The only things we outsource are tasks we are lacking know-how or equipment (like replacing garage door springs to take a recent example). Or major time consuming construction jobs (like the 3 weeks it took a professional to lay our floors). The rest gets fit in around our jobs. Most people I know do not pay others to do tasks they can do themselves.

 

Maybe your life is a lot more complicated than mine... but I could not think of that many "little things" that need to be done and fill a substantial portion of my time.

Edited by regentrude
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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.

My (childless) sister wanted to know what I did all day as a SAHM with one toddler. Then she became a step-mom to two (potty-trained, reading) school-age kids and was working full-time. After two years she's now a SAHM and they are much less stressed as a family! She gets it now.

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It's not impossible to delegate the cooking and cleaning and bookkeeping, etc.  But it's impossible to delegate the conversations with the kids, or just the fact that they don't arrive at an empty house very often, whether they interact with their parents very much there or not, or the lack of a universal panicked rush every single morning for every single person.  

 

Historically a housewife could save a great deal of money by growing and preserving food, by cooking from scratch, by sewing well at home (earlier even by spinning and weaving), by cooking and cleaning (disease prevention and freeing up others for hard physical labor), by keeping the fires going and the place warm, and by decorating 'on the cheap'.  Along the way, the home was a place of refuge because of all of this but partly just because she was there, able to converse, to teach along the way, to recite, to be an audience, to sing.  Now, a lot of those money saving techniques are reversed.  It is cheaper to shop in thrift stores or shop sales than to sew clothes, for instance.  But the creation of the home as a refuge, whether it is perfect or not, is not easily delegated.  

 

Please... tell me you are not saying that having both parents work outside the home has to mean a panicked rush in the morning or a lack of interaction between children and parents. Plenty of families with working parents show the contrary. In fact, quite a few even homeschool.

As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

 

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Whatever other people want to do is fine and valid, IMO.  For me, and really just me, I would not want to be a SAHW. 

 

:iagree:  with both of those statements. It's certainly a valid choice if that's what one wants to do. I don't think I could just be a sahw though, it's not for me. Initially we planned for me to go back to work once ds started school. Since I was a teacher that would work out well. I'd only need to worry about the short period between when school ended for students and when teachers got off work. It was only homeschooling that kept me home all these years. 

 

We're basically done homeschooling now. Ds graduates this May, but is not doing anything at home anymore. He does dual enrollment now. If dh wasn't going to retire in 2 years or less I'd go back to work, but I'm not going back now when he's just about to come home. We're looking forward to doing things together. It also wouldn't be fair to an employer for me to take a job knowing I wasn't going to stay. I'd rather spend this last bit of time doing volunteer work (and am looking at a few different possibilities).

 

BTW, dh would have gladly been a sahd. The only reason I'm the one who stayed home is because his job has always paid better than mine. With me being a ps teacher, I was never going to make more than he does.

 

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, I only knew of one mom who worked outside of the house, even when the kids were in school. When the kids were in school, the moms did chores, visited over a cup of coffee, and talked "across the fence" while hanging out the laundry. None of the women in our neighborhood had access to a car during the day.

 

 

 

My mom was one of the few working mothers during that era. My parents were divorced, she had no choice. I was envious of my friends who had moms to waiting at home after school. I usually had to babysit my brother after school until my mom got home from work. We were latchkey kids before it was a thing.

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Here's what being a SAHM in a world of not-stay-at-home looks like:

 

It looks like scrambling for weeks in advance to find anyone, anyone who will watch your four children while you go to the hospital to have baby number 5 because every. one. you. know. works.  EVERYONE.  

 

Here's what being a SAHM in a world of not-stay-at-home looks like:

 

It looks like essentially losing your friends everytime somebody else goes back to work.  Yay for them, but can I just say it has happened so many times to me over the past 18 years, and I ought to be used to it, I guess you could say I'm prepared for the reality of it, but it is painful.  

 

And it's always made just so much more fun when I get the phone calls about watching their kids because I am the last one still at home.  

 

 

Edited by Stellalarella
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Please... tell me you are not saying that having both parents work outside the home has to mean a panicked rush in the morning or a lack of interaction between children and parents. Plenty of families with working parents show the contrary. In fact, quite a few even homeschool.

As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

Maybe it doesn't have to, but for many of us it does fall that way.  And for many of us if it doesn't fall that way it falls to exhaustion, even if our spouses are unusually engaged.  Even for SWB.  There's a significant loss of margin.

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Lack of pension is also making many at companies that hubby worked at reluctant to retire. They are working until they can't work for the health benefits as well as for the income. Some people are also worried about SSA being bankrupt by the time they stop working.

 

My dad is on pension and my mom gets spousal benefits so they are comfortable.  My FIL does not have a pension and worked until way past retirement age because they needed the money.  When he stop working, my MIL went back to work full time at fast food joints. My in-laws are very thrifty and relatively healthy, and all their kids (hubby included) give money when possible to help out.  Still food, utilities and property tax needs to be paid.

 

My hubby prefers I stay home and work from home if I want to.  That is because we can't find suitable private schools for our kids and the assigned public school isn't a good fit. I don't do anything at home other than make sure my kids get some work done and aren't up to serious mischief.  I don't need to meal plan since my supermarket is a 10mins walk away. I spend 30mins cooking per meal and my kids can cook their own meals if I don't want to cook. No budgeting to do as well.  I'm really a slacker SAHM.

 

SAHM/W/D/P is a valid choice for anyone. Whether it is viable choice is up to each family to decide. Even on the same income, some families carry more debt be it student loan debt, medical debt, old credit card debts.  

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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.

 

 

I have two undergrad degrees and a masters in International Business.  I used my degrees at one point -- I didn't get married until I was 32, and I didn't have my first until I was 36.  I'm happy to have those degrees and I don't think they were a waste at all.  

 

I don't intend to go back to work.  My younger son will graduate when I am 58, and I think I will go into retirement at that point.  Well, after I spend a year or two finally organizing my house. Maybe I'll even buy some furniture.

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Here's what being a SAHM in a world of not-stay-at-home looks like:

 

It looks like essentially losing your friends everytime somebody else goes back to work.  Yay for them, but can I just say it has happened so many times to me over the past 18 years, and I ought to be used to it, I guess you could say I'm prepared for the reality of it, but it is painful.  

 

 

I'm so fortunate in this regard.

I found a mom's group while I was still pregnant.

We met for 10 years, and during that time some of us worked parttime, some worked full time, some stayed home full time, and some switched around.  We did not do the mommy wars thing, and we saw the pros and cons of each choice, and cheered each other on in fulfilling our best dreams for our families.  I have learned how unusual that is, and I'm very grateful that I had it.

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As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

 

:iagree:  my mom was much happier working which make family life more enjoyable.  Who wants a cranky SAHM.

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:iagree:  my mom was much happier working which make family life more enjoyable.  Who wants a cranky SAHM.

Absolutely.  Being depressed, frantic, unfulfilled, or resentful as a SAHM is not doing your family any favors.  Or you either, for that matter.

 

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

 

Well these things are all subjective. *I couldn't* do it.

 

But I know A LOT of people that do! I have friends who have full time jobs, go to school for phds, do significant volunteer work, go on dates with their husbands AND have the nicest, most grounded kids I've ever met in my life (and their families are very tight-knit).

 

I also have working mom (and dad) friends who are very handy around the house and just GOOD at keeping everything going. And do it cheaper than us because they know what they are doing. Car maintenance, for example.

 

[in general, not directed to the person I quoted...] This conversation deteriorates because we all have our strengths, and it feels like it should be just as simple for others to do the things we do, but that's just not how it works. *I* can double-dig an acre over a weekend. I don't understand why others can't (or don't want to). But I have to believe them when they say they can't.

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Maybe it doesn't have to, but for many of us it does fall that way.  And for many of us if it doesn't fall that way it falls to exhaustion, even if our spouses are unusually engaged.  Even for SWB.  There's a significant loss of margin.

 

I like how you're phrasing it with "margin."

 

That is exactly the thing, all around.

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State Pension (social security equivalent) becomes difficult in the UK.  You need a certain number of years of contribution to qualify for a full pension, and the government only pays your 'stamp' until your youngest child is 12.  For young to middle-aged women, a husband's contributions do not add up to a full pension for a wife.  You can pay voluntary contributions, but that becomes one more expense for the family.

 

I went back to work almost full time when Hobbes reached age 12 and I expect to work until I am at least 67.

Edited by Laura Corin
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[in general, not directed to the person I quoted...] This conversation deteriorates because we all have our strengths, and it feels like it should be just as simple for others to do the things we do, but that's just not how it works. *I* can double-dig an acre over a weekend. I don't understand why others can't (or don't want to). But I have to believe them when they say they can't.

 

Sure. It is one thing to say "I cannot do xyz while working, so I choose to stay home". Perfectly acceptable - they must know what they are talking about since they are sharing their own experience.

But that is quite different from saying "working parents cannot do xyz". That is presuming to know what others can and cannot do (and passing judgement between the lines).

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[in general, not directed to the person I quoted...] This conversation deteriorates because we all have our strengths, and it feels like it should be just as simple for others to do the things we do, but that's just not how it works. *I* can double-dig an acre over a weekend. I don't understand why others can't (or don't want to). But I have to believe them when they say they can't.

 

I have to believe myself as well. Sometimes I look at the financial sacrifices we've had to make and think, "If I was like all those other people I could do it all." But I can't. I just can't. Not if I want to keep all the balls in the air and do anything as well as I think it should be done.

 

I'm less of a woman, I suppose. Or else everybody else has figured out how to harness the power of time to get more hours out of a day.

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Please... tell me you are not saying that having both parents work outside the home has to mean a panicked rush in the morning or a lack of interaction between children and parents. Plenty of families with working parents show the contrary. In fact, quite a few even homeschool.

As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

 

I'm a little concerned too about the idea that the only way to have a peaceful home is for the woman to stay there.  My current set-up is this: I work full time outside the home; Husband works part-time from home.  Of course Husband does more organising around the house, and he is also more likely to take my elderly mother to appointments.*

 

Laura (home-cooked meal eaten, with a second one ready for tomorrow night; fresh bread made; conversations had with child and his French exchange partner; dog walked with Husband - good conversation; just off to put away some clothes, have a shower and go to bed with a book).

 

*When I went back to work full time, part of my salary went to getting a cleaner once a week.

Edited by Laura Corin
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Maybe it doesn't have to, but for many of us it does fall that way.  And for many of us if it doesn't fall that way it falls to exhaustion, even if our spouses are unusually engaged.  Even for SWB.  There's a significant loss of margin.

 

I think there has been a fair bit of research that shows that many people feel that way - that they just don't have the time to do the things they need to.  It's a big reason I decided not to go back to work - we'd have had a few hours a day with the kids, mostly driving or trying to get supper on the table before bed.  I can't see any way to make that nice.

 

And I know a surprising number of two income families who really do outsource some household things, and others who wish they had the money to.

 

It's a common problem, even if not something everyone feels.

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Or else everybody else has figured out how to harness the power of time to get more hours out of a day.

 

Some people like my dad needs more downtime.  Some people in my extended family are like energizer bunnies that work out problems even while sleeping. 

 

Expectations of course plays a part too.  My meals are simple. My house is not sparkling clean. None of our clothes need hand washing or ironing. My hubby doesn't expect me to teach my kids or give them a rigorous education.

 

When my MIL wasn't working, she spend a lot of time on housework and cooking. When she was staying with us as a guest, she spent her time making my kitchen and bathroom sparkling clean.  Now that she works, she spends her free time doing housework and cooking.  My MIL is a very efficient multitasker when there are things to be done. However her downtime is really housework because that is how she prefers to spend her time.

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I think there has been a fair bit of research that shows that many people feel that way - that they just don't have the time to do the things they need to. 

 

Absolutely.

Interestingly, I have found that the feeling "too little time to do the things one needs" does not always correlate with the actual amount of time available. Some people will manage to feel stressed and out of time no matter how much time they have and manage to stretch tasks to fill any available amount of time. Some people waste lots of time on unproductive tasks (internet, I am looking at you) and then complain about having no time. I have experienced people with roughly equal work loads to have very different perceptions of whether they have time or don't .

 

Another thought: we should in this debate also keep in mind that "working" can span a huge array of different time commitments. Some working parents work part time,  some full time with flexible schedules, some work in their own business, some do contract work from home - those situations are very different, and I do not think any blanket statements about "working vs SAH" are possible. Most working parents are not in situations where each parent works a 60 hour week.

Edited by regentrude
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I'm a little concerned too about the idea that the only way to have a peaceful home is for the woman to stay there.  My current set-up is this: I work full time outside the home; Husband works part-time from home.  Of course Husband does more organising around the house, and he is also more likely to take my elderly mother to appointments.*

 

Laura (home-cooked meal eaten, with a second one ready for tomorrow night; fresh bread made; conversations had with child and his French exchange partner; dog walked with Husband - good conversation; just off to put away some clothes, have a shower and go to bed with a book).

 

*When I went back to work full time, part of my salary went to getting a cleaner once a week.

 

I don't think anyone is saying that.  I think a lot of people are speaking about their own lives, and the lives they see around them.  I don't believe anyone has said that a family with two full-time workers can't have nice dinners, good conversation, etc., etc.

 

It sounds as if you are very comfortable with your lifestyle.  I'm comfortable in mine.  They are probably about as different as can be, but there's nothing wrong with that. 

 

 

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As for the comment about most dual income households not outsourcing much, I'd like to point out that I've heard that more money is spent nationally at restaurants than grocery stores. If true, this means that a huge number of families are heavily outsourcing their cooking/cooking clean up.

 

ETA:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/americans-spending-on-dining-out-just-overtook-grocery-sales-for-the-first-time-ever

 

More is spent at restaurants than traditional grocery stores. Grocery sales from Costco, Walmart, and Target weren't included, though, so I guess groceries are probably still ahead by some.

Edited by HoppyTheToad
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But it's impossible to delegate the conversations with the kids, or just the fact that they don't arrive at an empty house very often, whether they interact with their parents very much there or not, or the lack of a universal panicked rush every single morning for every single person.

 

 

This was what I was reacting to: does this not suggest that two people working always (universally) leads to panicked mornings (for every single person), often sees kids coming home to an empty house....

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As for the comment about most dual income households not outsourcing much, I'd like to point out that I've heard that more money is spent nationally at restaurants than grocery stores. If true, this means that a huge number of families are heavily outsourcing their cooking/cooking clean up.

 

ETA:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/americans-spending-on-dining-out-just-overtook-grocery-sales-for-the-first-time-ever

 

More is spent at restaurants than traditional grocery stores. Grocery sales from Costco, Walmart, and Target weren't included, though, so I guess groceries are probably still ahead by some.

 

I'm not sure this statistic means much.  It excludes some major grocery providers, and includes plenty of families that aren't dual income with kids.  Plus, I could eat out twice a week, and still spend more than what I spend at the grocery store.  I don't consider 2 meals out of 21 to be "heavily" outsourcing.  I'm still eating at home 90% of the time.

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As for the comment about most dual income households not outsourcing much, I'd like to point out that I've heard that more money is spent nationally at restaurants than grocery stores. If true, this means that a huge number of families are heavily outsourcing their cooking/cooking clean up.

 

ETA:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/americans-spending-on-dining-out-just-overtook-grocery-sales-for-the-first-time-ever

 

Just want to point out that comparing the amount of money spent on eating out vs groceries does not automatically mean that families are "heavily outsourcing cooking".

The family may choose to "outsource" a single meal per week - one nice restaurant meal for the family can easily cost more than the weekly groceries.

 

(I am not saying that people may not, in fact, eat out more than they used to - just that the data do not allow the conclusion that people eat out a lot.)

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Absolutely.

Interestingly, I have found that the feeling "too little time to do the things one needs" does not always correlate with the actual amount of time available. Some people will manage to feel stressed and out of time no matter how much time they have and manage to stretch tasks to fill any available amount of time. Some people waste lots of time on unproductive tasks (internet, I am looking at you) and then complain about having no time. I have experienced people with roughly equal work loads to have very different perceptions of whether they have time or don't .

 

Another thought: we should in this debate also keep in mind that "working" can span a huge array of different time commitments. Some working parents work part time,  some full time with flexible schedules, some work in their own business, some do contract work from home - those situations are very different, and I do not think any blanket statements about "working vs SAH" are possible. Most working parents are not in situations where each parent works a 60 hour week.

 

I think most of the discussion has been around the idea of two full time jobs.  I think that is really where, as someone said, the margins can start to become really quite thin - though some jobs that are full time offer far more flexibility than others.

 

I've read some things which suggested the sense of lack of time may be in part related to the kind of time people have available.  Broken up small periods of free time are less useful, unpredictable time so people can't plan regular things, time that can't be easily arranged to fit around other needs (like seeing kids off to school), and also when work starts to intrude on free time through things like expectations of being available by telephone.  (Some of that is cultural IMO - I know some people who have gone to work in other countries where the idea of calling a client, or a client calling you, or your boss calling you, after office hours is really cosidered beyond the pale unless it is some kind of life and death emergency.  We could easily make that kind of change if we really wanted to.)

 

I also think commuting makes a huge difference, and unfortunately for many people there aren't other options they can control.  When a hour or more a day is eaten up taking people places, that takes a real toll.

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I was a latch key kid. Before that, I was the kid in an after care program that was day care for older kids. I was the kid sitting outside sports practice until long after everyone has been picked up. My mom was the one who felt that she couldn't get all her work stuff done without being rushed to pick me up. My dad couldn't pick me up and commute. I was eating hamburger helper and chicken patty sandwiches (I loved both of those things, btw) for dinner. I went to a public school that was, for at least a few years, a place of torment for me, with no options to get away. I wanted to do things differently, despite a very "normal" upbringing.

 

 

I can't see how I could work full time and not have all of this happen to our family. For me, I couldn't do the home cooked meals, the homeschooling, and just being available and present at home like I want to be. I understand others don't want the same things, or have more energy and drive to do it all. And somedays, yeah, that feels limiting. But it isn't some chance or luck that we live this way. It's a very deliberate choice and sacrifice.

Edited by JodiSue
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Please... tell me you are not saying that having both parents work outside the home has to mean a panicked rush in the morning or a lack of interaction between children and parents. Plenty of families with working parents show the contrary. In fact, quite a few even homeschool.

As to the creation of a home as a refuge: yes, it can be done, even if mom works. There can be bedtime stories and home cooked meals and leisurely family time and home baked bread and making music together.. whatever you need to feel home as a refuge.

 

And not every single-income home is a refuge for that matter.  Not by far.

 

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Here's the down low though- all options come with opportunity costs.

 

It's incredibly sexist that our culture glosses over the opportunity costs of these various choices. We have this myth of having it all at the same time. For most mothers, that is just not possible. If it were, women's workplace participation rate in the US would not be the lowest it has been in years.

 

Homeschooling has an opportunity cost. Similarly, working has an opportunity cost. Working a more than FT managerial position for me came with some significant opportunity costs. Opportunity costs which, once we had 2 children and we were parenting a child with serious ASD related behaviors and challenges, just became too high. I did not have the time or energy to cook most nights, I did not see my kids awake some days, essentially no time for myself, I lost significant work productivity to the insurance and school calls, my son was miserable in public school and no suitable private alternative was available. I was running on empty. Did that mean home was a cold hellhole? No. Yet, I do feel we tend to devalue what stay at home caregivers and homemakers can and do do when we pretend that every one can do it all all the time or that there's no opportunity cost to working. By not working, my home tends to be cleaner, I exercise regularly, my kids do get more time with me, we do eat better, I get more than 3-5 hours of sleep per night. My sons have been able to access far better educational and therapeutic resources with me mostly at home than when my husband and I both worked outside the home. That is not to judge or malign parents who work- it's acknowledging that not working FT does in fact increase my family's quality of living.

 

I refuse to pretend to be superhuman anymore. When I worked FT, I was pretty good at keeping up the illusion that I was doing it all but the truth was that we were on the brink in many ways.

 

Let's please stop pretending that with a crockpot and a few clever time management tricks that a parent who is working FT can do as much caregiving, as much housework and as much stuff outside of the office or job site as someone who has opted to not work FT for an extended period of time.

 

Can all adults working FT work for a family? Absolutely. It did for me before we had more than 1 child and a child with significant developmental health needs. Working does have some opportunity costs and pointing that out is not judging or attacking anyone.

Edited by LucyStoner
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This was what I was reacting to: does this not suggest that two people working always (universally) leads to panicked mornings (for every single person), often sees kids coming home to an empty house....

You have one and half careers going in your family at present, and another adult in the household.  You have considerable margin for this kind of thing that would not necessarily be so for a two full career family, particularly in the US where overtime and poor public transportation and longish commutes are more common than they tend to be in Western Europe.  And I'm very happy for you that that is the case.

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Just want to point out that comparing the amount of money spent on eating out vs groceries does not automatically mean that families are "heavily outsourcing cooking".

 

While this is true, the steeper slope on the graph of restaurant vs grocery spending shows that either people are eating more than they used to, or the meals they eat out have increased in cost at a faster rate than groceries (or both). 

 

I do think that a lot of people are heavily outsourcing their cooking. Think of how many people have their kids buy breakfast and/or lunch at school, get takeout/pizza/fast food once or twice a week, and eat out at lunch several times with coworkers. These people are in fact outsourcing 1/3-1/2 of their cooking and the associated cleanup. It's so common that if you mention "outsourcing work" most people probably think of a housecleaner or lawn care service, not restaurants.

 

Of course this is their choice to make. I just wanted to point out that when women started working in increasing numbers and they felt the time crunch that not cooking much was one of the biggest things to change (other than the obvious increase in the use of child care).

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