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The OFFICIAL Pros and Cons of Being a SAHM

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Tracy McArdle: I was laid off a month ago and was unexpectedly thrust into the role of Almost Full-Time Stay-At-Home Mom.


I was not used to it. I am still not used to it.

Am I happy to have this time with my kids? Yes. Do I miss my paycheck? Hell, yes. Do I miss not having to be the house/life/marriage manager -- in addition to the kid manager  --because I work, too? Yes, I think I miss that most of all, Scarecrow.

Seriously, I was lucky enough to work part-time at a job I liked in my field. I had one foot in the playground and one on the on-ramp that career coaches love to talk about. And yes, sometimes on the days I was at work I wanted to be home with my kids. And sometimes on the days I was home with my kids waiting out the afternoon eternity between nap and dinner, I wanted to be in the Caribbean, by myself.

I can't lie: When you've spent a lifetime working, being a full-time mom in suburbia feels like being in the Witness Protection Program, only without the wistful memories of a past life of glamorous danger. Remember that last scene in "Goodfellas," when Ray Liotta (as snitch-gangster Henry Hill) opens the door to his cookie-cutter subdivision Witness-Protection-Program house to get his newspaper? Remember the look of panicked boredom on his face?

Sometimes I know how he felt. But then I read "The Butterfly Book" for the billionth time, or replace the wheel on the hapless fire truck whose sound mechanism has been mutilated by someone or something (making it sound like a malfunctioning droid). A strange, Zen-like calm overtakes me, and for a moment, I am a good mom.

Sometimes I feel like I fell off the planet and entered a time warp of daily survival. Before my eyes open every day, my body is moving to fulfill needs -- all kinds of banal needs -- that have nothing to do with my own. Time is divided by meals, sleep, bodily functions and their respective cleanup, Play Doh, the playground, the Fight of the Day (today's was "He Took My Fishy"), the broken fire truck and its creepy noises and 30 minutes of Big Bird.

So for those of you considering quitting your job to spend more time with your kids -- or quitting your kids to spend more time with your job -- here are the pros and cons of each route. All the answers you need about work and motherhood -- in one blog! (Seriously, someone should pay a lot of money for this list.)

PRO: I know my 3-year-old's digestive schedule now, and as a result can handily intercept him on the way to his secret corner to do what we both know he should be doing in the bathroom.

CON: Because I eat kids' food all day long now, I have no digestive schedule of my own.

PRO: The laundry and dishes are done and dinner is made by 5:30.

CON: I spend my days doing laundry and dishes and dinner. And it's never beef bourguignon.

PRO: No more rush-hour traffic.

CON: No more listening to what I want to listen to, when I want to listen to it, in my own car, as I eat breakfast and read the Times.

PRO: No work schedule means we're free to vacation with no time restrictions!

CON: No second paycheck means no vacation!

PRO: Because I'm lucky enough to have a part-time babysitter, I can get away to interviews, write or work on my resume.

CON: I end up Facebooking and cruising with the time.

PRO: Every morning, I get up with my kids and make them breakfast and get them dressed, and every night I am there for dinner, bath and bedtime.

CON: Every morning, I get up with my kids and make them breakfast and get them dressed, and every night I am there for dinner, bath and bedtime.

I hope this has been helpful to all those struggling with balancing work, motherhood and sanity.

When you figure it out, let me know, won't you?

next: One in Five Regret Baby Name Choice
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
black iris May 13, 2010, 3:36 AM

It’s funny how we think being a good mom means feeling happy about it. It can turn into one more burden - I should be enjoying this! SAHM is a job. That means we don’t love every minute of it, and that’s okay. I’m not saying anyone should stick with it if they hate it, just that we should let go of the idea that we have to love playing Candyland if we love our kids.

jo May 13, 2010, 5:32 PM

I am at the other end of the cycle having had my children some 20 years ago. I stayed home for three of them and then had to work when the 4th one was 3. I learnt more when I was with them and they learnt more when they were with me.I played my classical music while at home with them and it became their music. I learnt languages from library books and “played” languages with them albeit at a low level. I was able to accompany my husband to China for several months on a business trip which taught us all resilience. I attended many funerals during the day with my children which while not fun developed a certain maturie philosophical outlook on the whole life cycle. For 2 years I was able to participate in a beautiful life experiment with my children in a playgroup run in a nursing home loungeroom. It gave joy to the elderly and permanently imprinted my children’s hearts. Regard your sojourn at home with little ones as the adventure time you will never repeat. Visit back of stores, art galleries, industrial workshops, building sites, anything that inspires imagination in yourself and your children. You never know where it will take them. Go for a week without toys and see the world as your amusement parlour. Travel all day without a car. See what other people do throughout the day. Eat what some “other” people eat in their cultures. Life is an adventure and this is the only time to experience it.

Anonymous May 14, 2010, 7:18 AM

“No second paycheck means no vacation!” Now imagine HAVING to each work and still not getting a vacation!! I think that definitely reinforces the misconception that if people cut back a woman can afford to stay home. Most of the time moms work because there is no other option.

I got to be a SAHM for a time. Honestly - there arent’ any cons. SO much easier than having to full time parent while working full time. As for the the con: “I spend my days doing laundry and dishes and dinner. And it’s never beef bourguignon” I don’t get it. when I stayed home there was plenty of time to parent, do laundry, clean and still make AWESOME diners like beef bourguignon. I still manage to do all that while working full time. I can’t imagine why a full time stay home can’t.

Anna May 15, 2010, 11:59 AM

Thanks you helped my sanity tonight. I really treasure my time with my kids, but its not easy!

Mom May 18, 2010, 11:09 AM

Obviously, anonymous chose to not see the humor in this. I think it is right on and honest. Being a parent is difficult work, but well worth the rewards.

Dad May 18, 2010, 11:39 AM

Hey, your Mom went to school nights, got her degree, and then worked nights, while she was a SAHM during the daytime.
Of course it was a different time, no blogs, no internet, no cable TV, no cell phones, IPODS, play groups, etc. although, I dont remember beef bourguignon… When it got tough she read Irma Bombeck!

Nicole May 18, 2010, 11:41 AM

Refreshing and honesst. I think people like to generalize and I like how your reflect on YOUR life without judging anyone else’s. The truth is, many great moms work just because they want to. I salute them. Many similarly wonderful mothers work because they must to make ends meet. Others choose to stay home because they believe it’s best for their children, others are between jobs and some do it because they feel society will look down on them otherwise. I can honestly say I am all of the above. There is no easy answer. At the end of the day, like you, I know what matters and I am doing the best I can while having a pretty good time and when possible, tapping into a creative outlet inspired in large part by my children.

Mommy3 May 21, 2010, 8:27 PM

We are so blessed in this day and age to be able to read about other people’s experiences. Life is not easy. This includes motherhood. Whether you work a job in addition to holding the mystical, powerful title of Mom (or, as my oldest daughter jokingly says “Master of the Universe”) or not. To me, the whole point of sharing an experience is so that someone, somewhere will relate to part of that story and by doing so, their life will be a little easier that day. Thanks!!! I really enjoyed it!

Janine May 22, 2010, 4:46 AM

Great blog! I entered the SAHM bit 4yrs ago with my twins, and it’s been the best and hardest ride of my life!
Anonymous, you can’t be a full time parent and work full time. At some point someone else is taking care of your kids. Write your own blog to make yourself feel superior. Most SAHM feel this way, and I think people aren’t being honest if they can’t recall at least one day when they wanted to run away to the Caribbean-by themselves!

Jamie June 2, 2010, 7:02 AM

Janine who so ignorantly wrote “you can’t be a full time parent and work full time”. Spoken like a SAHM who likes to pretend that staying at home is actually work. You can all drop the charade now. You stay home because it’s easy and you don’t enjoy working. It’s fine, just admit it.

I had fraternal twins followed by a son. I stayed home until they started preschool (age 3). It was far and away the EASIEST, most fun time of my life, but certainly not difficult. My house was spotless, food was homemade and healthy, my children well cared for. It did not require any real work, just organization and a desire not to be lazy (which I find the majority of SAHMs lacking). The REAL work comes when you have to do ALL of that and work a real, full time job outside the home.

Want to run away to the Carribean because you get to hang out with your kids at home all day? You’d never make it in the real world!

BelovedMother July 1, 2010, 11:12 AM

Nearly all of your cons boil down to the fact that you are selfish, and have little self discipline. You sound like an ungrateful woman who is pretty lazy.

Why are your kids eating “kids food” all day? Why aren’t you making better quality meals? Do you realize you are exactly what is wrong with Mothers today? Why did you conceive children you had no interest in raising yourself?

Those poor children!!!Imagine, viewing your family as BURDENS that alter your MENTAL HEALTH! What a horrid person you are!!

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