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Why Do I Apologize for Being a Stay-At-Home Mom?

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Guest blogger Cynthia: Though I love staying home to raise my kids, I can't help but feel riddled with guilt.

woman in pajamas holding baby
When I made the somewhat surprising choice to stay home with my firstborn -- I loved my career, after all, and the new budget barely worked on paper -- a loved one said to me (snarkily), "Well, that's a good use of your college education."

Ouch. Truth was, in those days I didn't care. Staying home with my baby -- and, later, babies -- just seemed to make the most sense for all of us. But now that my kids are school-age, it's getting harder to explain my reasons for not returning to my career.

Stay-at-home moms are a rarity in my area -- a depressed city in a depressed state smack in the middle of a recession. It feels downright indulgent in today's tough times, in fact, so I find myself apologizing or making excuses for my choice. And then I get annoyed for not putting a greater value on what I do.

A quick survey of my peers on Facebook and Twitter found that I'm not the only one. Fellow stay-at-home mom Michelle Smith of Monroe, Mich., said in an e-mail, "I feel guilty all the time for being a SAHM. I can't flat-out say I love it, because of the guilt." Michelle often feels like her choice isn't respected by some friends and family members. "I am a speech therapist, but I haven't worked since having my oldest over six years ago," she says. "One of my 'friends' saw an opening in the school system last year and almost seemed appalled that I wasn't interested. (I still have a 4-year-old at home, so of course I'm not.) That has strained our friendship even more -- which has added to my guilt."

Like Michelle, I've never once felt like I'm not contributing to my family. My husband and kids show me appreciation every day for keeping their lives organized and things running smoothly (something working moms are usually responsible for, too, by the way). But I often feel like I'm not contributing to the world at large. Like my loved one noted when I first decided to stay home, I worry that I'm not living up to my full potential -- not just as a wife and mother, but as a modern-day woman.

My own mother often worked two jobs at a time when I was growing up to make ends meet, and today she's well-respected in our community for her work with kids and teens. She was part of the generation that made it possible for me to do anything I put my mind to, and -- though she is my biggest cheerleader -- what am I doing with that opportunity? What I'm doing is raising my kids, just like my friends who work part-time, full-time, in cubicles and from home in their pajamas are doing. I might be doing it with far too much angst, but -- as another Facebook friend pointed out to me -- there isn't a mother around who doesn't sometimes wonder just how green that grass on the other side of the fence is.

Whether you work inside or outside the home, do you ever wonder if you're making the right choice?

next: Why Are Teens Cyberbullying?
38 comments so far | Post a comment now
just saying April 21, 2010, 3:47 AM

I am a SAHM and when deciding to become one, this is how my own mom explained it to me: You may regret working, but you will never regret being home if you are able to— you will never say, “wish I’d worked more!”— and I can totally relate w/ the “wasting my degree”…I have a BS and MS, but I love to remind people that I am using them, they are both in education!

Maureen April 21, 2010, 4:06 AM

It seems we will be judged no matter what we do. I have always worked full time and felt guilty for someone else “raising” my child (as someone put it). I am on mat. leave now, and would love to stay home once mat. leave is over. We will see how the budget works.
I say we all make our own choices that suit our families needs and leave other people’s choices to them.

Denise Nielsen April 21, 2010, 4:10 AM

I was talking to my sister (a SAHM) about this just the other day. I was at home for 8 years and returned to work when my kids were all in school. Both are tough, both are rewarding. But yes, when I was home I’d find myself justifying it to people and I could never figure out why I felt that was necessary. Surely being home with your kids is as valuable (or more) than anything else you could be doing.

beth g sanders April 21, 2010, 4:26 AM

I know I have made the right choice. It’s been difficult at times, and, like you, members of my extended family sometimes don’t understand.

But my youngest leaves for college in less than four months and I have no regrets. Whatever career highlights I missed are eclipsed by the sound of her car pulling in the driveway each afternoon after school. Or a lazy summer day when we goof off - together. Or the times when she is sick and I can be there for her without having to evaluate what else is on my plate that day.

For some, when the kids enter high school is a cue to get back into the workforce; for me, it was the best time to be home.


eLLe April 21, 2010, 4:42 AM

I’ve been in both worlds, a stay at home mom and now a working mom. In fact, it’s now my husband who’s the stay at home parent. With day care rates as expensive as they are even if my husband had a “real” job it would only cover the cost child care.
My husband also goes through times of feeling guilty. It’s worse for him I think because it’s even more rare for a man to stay at home. In fact, my husband for the most part is better overall being the stay at home parent.
I despise cleaning. The kids would be cared for and there would be food on the table, but keeping on top of house work was my downfall as a SAHM. My husband seems to have it all under control. He’s even got the kids into a routine, another thing I never mastered.
You should ask people who are in the workforce if they’re working in the field they went to school for. I know so many people, myself included, that are not working in their “chosen” field.
Oh, and by the way, the college education that you’ve got? Well, that will come in handy when it comes to homework!
To all of those stay at home parents - BE PROUD! You have the hardest job in the world.

Stephanie April 21, 2010, 6:17 AM

Im a SAHM too. We were going to put our son in daycare but then after he was born I couldn’t do it.
My husband and I decided that It would be best for me to stay home and raise our son. Financially it would be a little tight but we’ve made it 3 years with me home!
I’ve had people ask me when I want to go back to work. I just tell them I like what Im doing right now, that maybe when our kids are in school I’d consider it.

Im never going to apologize for being a SAHM. Some of my family and friends are jealous and wish they could do the same thing.

buzzvibe April 21, 2010, 6:44 AM

I don’t feel the least bit guilty. I dropped out of college after a couple of years, so I don’t have a degree to waste, and I’m essentially not qualified to do anything else. I believe children are our most precious assets, and I want to be the one taking care of mine.

Kelly D. April 21, 2010, 7:05 AM

I’m a mother of two kids, ages 4 and 2, and I work from home. Whenever I’m working, my kids crave my attention. They are young so they don’t quite understand what I’m doing and they feel ignored. When I’m playing with them, my mind isn’t fully there and I’m constantly going over the mile long to-do list in my head. It’s a constant struggle between parenting, working, and household chores and I feel like I come up short in every area.

Niki April 21, 2010, 7:42 AM

I would love to be a SAHM, you are so lucky!

Katie April 21, 2010, 8:51 AM

I really enjoy staying at home with my kids, but I do feel the guilt that this author is talking about. I have a college degree and a teaching cred. but there is no where I would rather be than raising my own kids….craziness and all. :-)

ss April 21, 2010, 9:30 AM

I completely relate. I have a B.A. & an M.A. and I’m home with my baby. I find myself saying, “but I’ll eventually HAVE to go back to work” when I know that may not be true. I guess I feel like the fact that we can afford to live on my husband’s salary alone somehow sets us apart from many of our peers and I find myself wanting to apologize for that. I need to stop that! I’ve never judged other women for staying home so I don’t know why I’m assuming people will judge me. Maybe this article will help me let go of that!

Samantha  April 21, 2010, 9:49 AM

i think that as long as you are raising your children to be good people that you are contributing to the world and that you definitely shouldn’t apologize for it. be happy in your little corner of the universe no matter what you do.

michelle April 21, 2010, 10:17 AM

Maybe you should look at why you feel you have to explain anything, to anyone, for any reason. I don’t like this automatic assumption that other women are judging us, or that we should judge them. This is all just another way of keeping moms/women divided and down.

Lele April 21, 2010, 10:23 AM

I can totally relate to this. I am a single mother with two master’s degrees and will soon be pursuing a Doctorate. I have an 8 year old daughter, and I have worked full time while going to school and raising her. So when I became pregnant with my son, I made the decision not to return to work, to focus on my kids. I have heard it all. Everyone wants to know why I would quit a job as a single mother of two during a recession. I often found myself telling people that I was focusing on school, but this was only partially true. This is what I have told people to justify my decision to be with my children. I no longer make excuses. It’s silly that sahm arent valued and supported. That just shows the moral direction in which our country is headed. Everyone has to do what works best for them without the guilt.

Nikkol April 21, 2010, 10:39 AM

I was going to say what Samantha said. Don’t worry about the negative comments others say. They are the ones that would love to be in your position. And if your relationship with your friend is stressed because you didn’t take that job then maybe you shouldn’t be friends. People in your life should support you in your healthy decisions. If you are happy with your choice then forget the past and future be in the moment.

Christina April 21, 2010, 11:55 AM

I do NOT for the life of me understand the “wasting your degree” comments that seem to be tossed at mothers (not parents, just mothers) lately. Studies have shown that an educated mother is tremendously beneficial to children. So whether you are working outside of the home or within it, those years of education are being put to good use!

Anon April 21, 2010, 12:02 PM

you should!

Anonymous April 21, 2010, 12:18 PM

You don’t need to apologize. Just appreciate that you are in such a good financial position and don’t rub in the faces of those who aren’t. My only complaint about SAHMs I know is how they try to tell me if I made sacrifices maybe I could afford to stay home. Well considering all the SAHMs I know go on vacations, get mani/pedis and professional dye jobs, go clothes shopping for themselves and their kids at least once per month and myriad of other things my husband and I can’t afford to do with both of us working full time it’s infuriating. What it comes down to is money - either one of you makes enough to support a family or you both work.

Leah April 21, 2010, 12:20 PM

I was a SAHM for a couple of years and I have to say, it was SO MUCH EASIER than having to work full and be a mom full time like I do now. If I could afford it I would be a part-time working mom - that way I wouldn’t be wasting my degree but have more time with my kids

Rita April 21, 2010, 12:53 PM

I’ve been a SAHM almost the entire time I’ve been a mommy, and I love it. I’ve had to work a few times and I enjoyed it, but I really enjoy being able to stay at home with my children and be a part of their growth process.

I’ve had other mothers assume I’m uneducated or stupid because I don’t have a job. No, that’s not it. I don’t have a college degree (even though I do plan on going to college to get a degree in the field of my choice), but I’m certainly not uneducated or stupid. i am extremely computer literate and know I can find a good job quickly. Staying at home is a choice my husband and I made and it works for us. I’m entirely grateful to have this opportunity because I know alot of mothers/families don’t. Even if I did work full time, any money I earn would go straight to daycare so there’s really no point in working full time right now.

For the past year, I have had a very part-time job at the church nursery during church hours. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share God with my family and I enjoy it very much.

I’m very blessed to have a wonderful job as a SAHM mother! And if anybody doesn’t like it, they can kiss my a$$!

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