I’m a SAHM, not a housewife

A recent visit to Baby T’s doctor proved what I’ve been fearing: I am judged—and looked down on—for being a stay at home mom. Since it was a new doctor my husband and I filled out forms, including our occupations. Although I put “stay at home mom, former Tobacco Control Coordinator,” the doctor’s verbal assumptions made it clear that she missed that second part. While explaining the science behind her reasoning, which also sounded a lot like lecturing ironically (or not), she directed her speech mostly at my husband, assuming that his job title meant that he understood the physiology and anatomy behind the human body and function of immunoresponse. She even went so far as to say to him, “with your job title, you understand, right?” “Uh, no,” he answered, “That’s actually not what my field is in.” His answer barely phased her as she continued, and he turned to look at me with a “Wtf….” expression.

Because of my Master of Public Health degree, I have some background knowledge of the human body. I understood more of what she was rambling on about than my husband did. When we left, he said to me “That was pretty insulting to you to assume that you knew nothing. You know a lot more about this stuff than I do.” And he’s right. I do.

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Why is it that “stay at home mom” is such a dirty word[s], and one that brings about so many assumptions—more like accusations—about a woman, her intelligence, her drive, and her priorities? It’s odd to me that a country like this one that puts so much emphasis on women as nurturers and givers and shames women who chose to not have kids, also has created a stigma about stay at home moms (SAHM). I am educated beyond the standard college degree and have work experience, and am [most days] intelligent, and yet when I say that “what I do” is be a mom, I’m met with a lot of “Oh”s. I can read the expression on your face and can interpret it, by the way, as I just told you, I’m far from an idiot.

Being a SAHM doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, has it easy, or has given up. I hate answering the question “Will you go back to work one day?” I’m sure I will one day, I say, but what I really want to say is “I’m not sure, will you ever get a better job?” But I never would, because that would be an asshole thing to say. Which is kind of what I hear when I get asked that question.

I’m a stay at home mom, not a housewife. A stay at home mom has chosen a path that she believes is best for her family. She has prioritized her role as mother above all else, and performs that most sacred of jobs, to nurture and raise her children as the sole caregiver (for most of the day. Until Dad gets home. Then the baby is all his!). Her house is messy because her job isn’t to cook and clean, it’s to stimulate tiny brains as a teacher. Her job isn’t to fold laundry, it’s to be a nurse on call 24/7, whether it is changing diapers or kissing booboos, or freaking out over baby’s first fever. Her job isn’t to look perfect with a martini in hand when her husband gets home, but even with oily hair and dark circles, she is the most beautiful creature.

Would you ever tell an in-home nurse that her job is easy because she gets to be at a home all day? No. Would you ever tell someone that is on call 24/7, even in the middle of the night, that her job is simple because she can “sleep during the day”? No, you wouldn’t. That would be asinine. Being a mother is no different. And BTW, I don’t get to nap during the day, because Baby T recharges on just a few minutes of sleep. I’m not convinced he wasn’t switched at birth and was meant to go home with the Energizer Bunny.

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Please also know that I am by no means judging moms who return to work. There is definitely a strength in that, too. Sometimes forced by necessity, sometimes because a woman is more complete with work-life balance, women who go to work and can be full-time mom off hours is another form of powerful superhero. Some days I think it would be a lot easier to go to work and not be at my infant’s constant beck and call. It might be easier to eat lunch in peace and take leisurely bathroom breaks. But I would never tell you, working woman, that it is easier, because I haven’t walked your path and would never take the presumption to say such things. So in all fairness, don’t judge us SAHMs either, ok?

No matter what your path of motherhood looks like, it’s often hard AF. If you’re not a mom, if you’re a guy, or just someone with an overinflated sense of self, just keep your opinions to yourself—not that you will, keyboard warrior.

Every day I try to not be embarrassed or doubt my decision to become a SAHM. I don’t believe I or any other woman should feel like that. Why am I even embarrassed? Because of judgy-mc-judgersons like the doctor who make assumptions about me. As strongly as I believe in my decision, there is still that nagging critical voice in the back of my mind that makes me susceptible to outside criticism. It shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks, but realistically, many of us are affected by others’ words. We hear our own self-criticisms in their voices. It can be very hard not to internalize such negativity.

What I do know is that I work my tail off every day, on very (VERY) little sleep. I am also very (VERY) proud of my occupation. It’s definitely all not cakes and rainbows, although if you ask me, it’s the best career in the entire world.

25 thoughts on “I’m a SAHM, not a housewife

  1. I’m appalled that the doctor talked to you like that! I’ve only been a SAHM for almost 2 years. I’ve been on both sides of the coin but never felt any thought to shame a mom for her choice. I was a working mom who craved an oppportunity to help raise my kid more using the efforts I gave strangers everyday to make their day better…and now as a SAHM, I do miss the validation pure strangers gave me for my efforts. It’s a nasty hamster wheel. Another great piece my friend!!

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  2. Great post! I completely understand as I work part time and often get the same style of comments from new work colleagues (I train new staff) “Oh how old is your little girl?” “Shes 7 now” “Oh…ok…and you still only work 3 days? Even though she is at school?” Yes you moron because working 3 days gives me the flexibility to be able to attend her school plays and take her to ballet on a Thursday. Working part time means I can do most of my chores when I dont have her so our time at weekends can be fun! Yes I know I’m lucky to be able to choose this lifestyle, very lucky we can afford it and it doesnt matter how many times you say “I would love your hours!” or “Well if you worked more hours you would be able to afford….” I will stick with these hours until I feel the time is right to be able to work more and still be the Mum I want to be! If that means she is 10-12 or 14 I dont care because its my choice! 🙂

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  3. I was actually a housewife before I got to be a stay at home mom, so the last 6 years of my life have been met with judgement from everyone around me. My husband encouraged me to leave a job I wasn’t happy at, and when I was unable to find a job in my field he became our sole income. We have also relocated multiple times so that he could move on to better opportunities, something that would have been much harder if I’d had an established career as well. Sometimes I regret the choice to leave work, but only when I see myself through other’s eyes. I am happy that I was able to work enough through the years to get the things that I have wanted to not feel like a burden. But I am also happy that I don’t have to work opposite hours from my husband anymore the house got cleaned and laundry got done when he was as work so we had ample time to spend together. I’m glad we had that time together because finding that time now with a baby is so hard. I’m lucky to have the opportunity that I’ve had by marrying such a generous man.

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  4. Interesting piece! I just read a sister piece from Lindsay Arvin about returning to work and applauding those who can SAHM. It really is amazing how different it is for each Mama and you just gotta go with your gut as to what is best for your family!

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  5. Careful, you say “housewife” like it is a bad thing… don’t look down on those who choose that path in life either!! But I get what you are saying. I had been a housewife for three years off and on before we got pregnant, and will continue to stay at home after baby. I just have never been job/career driven and I hate working for someone else, even though I am smart, skilled, and have been successful in any workplace I’ve ever been. I used to feel super insecure about it, especially not having children, but then I realized in a single day I was a farmer, a gardener, a landscaper, a housekeeper, a cook, a carpenter, an interior designer, a fence builder, a painter, an artist, the list goes on… and on top of it all, I was living my dream life having flexibility to ride and compete my horses. Me not working is an investment in my family life, and hubs loves that he can come home from work and not have to work MORE. I could care less what someone else thinks of it, because it is what I want and it makes mine and my husband’s lives AWESOME. And that’s all that matters. Give it time, soon enough you’ll be proud to tell someone you stay at home.

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  6. I have to agree that the usage of “not a housewife” feels a little like a slam to those that choose such a lifestyle. I don’t think you intended it that way, but as someone who identifies as a housewife (as well as a stay at home mom) I noticed the comparison. I even wear dresses and heels while I fold laundry and bake casseroles lol!

    Being a good wife to my husband is just as important to me as being a good mother to my children. Managing our home and ensuring smooth operation follows after that. My home is our fairy tale castle, and I’m Cinderella, the Nanny, and the Queen all in one lol.

    I also think the reception to being a stay at home mom varies greatly by area. When my first was born, people just gushed with happiness at my staying home. And then I’ve had distant friends practically be shamed for not returning to work… In the end, you just gotta do you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree! Like I said to Emily, what I’m rebelling against is the housewife stereotype, although I should also say the stay at home stereotype too! SAHMs get a bad rap, maybe I should change the title! 😊 You’re right, we do so much more than we get credit for- I give you extra points for the dress and heels! Yoga pants for me! You guys definitely keep me on my toes- thanks!

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  7. This is a very touching post for me. I’ve always assumed I’d be a working mom, and as my due date comes closer, I’m searching for ways to cut costs and make things work so that I can stay home longer. If I don’t reach that, I’ll be home for 6 weeks and that’s all. 😦

    If I achieve this, I know I’ll face this adversity. It’s crazy how many moms bully each other.

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  8. Your post rings so true – many people absolutely look down on SAHMs. I went back to work briefly after my first child, and I’ve been at home for four years since then. I’m about to start working outside the home again, but it has been so hard to navigate the job market with the mom gap on my resume! Why people assume motherhood erases every other part of your identity, I don’t know – of course it’s a big transition and an important new facet of who I am, but it’s not all I am. People never seem to make these assumptions about men/fathers. Ugh.

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  9. Thank you for your post! You literally took the words out of my mouth! People definitely have pre-conceived notions about stay-at-home moms and housewives. I think women judge each other the harshest — many working moms assume that moms who stay at home are those without education, career prospects or ambition. It’s far from the truth. At the end of the day, it simply a CHOICE, much like breastfeeding vs formula, private vs public school, etc.

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  10. Saying there is a “right” or “wrong” way of doing things as a woman and mother is like saying there is a “right” way to be a woman and a “wrong” way to be a woman. We are all different. Period. We have different wants. We have different means of doing things. Therefore, our paths are going to be different. I am a sahm myself and I do things others don’t like. Who cares, it’s up to me to live my life and make decisions that are best for my family and me. It’s no ones job but my own. Some women need to simmer the F* down and busy themselves with their own business not others.

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