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How Staying at Home Changed My Relationship with My Kids

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Tracy McCardle: Ladies, before you all get out the knives and arrows, read on. I must comment on the needless, upsetting infighting that occurred the last time I wrote about being a SAHM. Newsflash: Some pieces are meant to be HUMOROUS. That means I try to make people laugh ... at me, or at themselves. 

mom reading to kids

The piece I wrote (about what I "do" all day as a SAHM) generated so much meanspirited debate I was stunned. I personally feel that if you can't see the humor in your life and laugh at yourself -- especially at the ups and downs of parenting -- you're in big trouble. We moms need to stop judging each other. Please! Staying at home with small children all day is hard -- that's a fact. If you don't think it's hard, well ... my hat is off to you. Seriously. I respect and honor that. Working all day and coming home to care for the house and children is also very hard. I respect that immensely, too. I've done both. You know what's the hardest thing of all?  Feeling like you can't be honest and reach out to other moms for support for fear that they will either hatefully judge the choices you've made or resent you because you haven't had to make the hard choices they did. (Take your pick.)

We need to be supportive of each other. Everyone's situation is different. No one wins when we are all competing. Do what's best for you and your family, and respect that others will do the same for theirs. I am thankful to be able to spend time with my kids, so at the risk of igniting a whole new war, I'd like to share what I've learned about my kids by staying at home. 

I know them better now. I had no idea that I could know them better, but I do. And they know me better, too. I understand what my 2-year-old is saying when no one else can. I know exactly when my 3-year-old has to go to the bathroom, and how he prefers certain orange cheeses. I know seconds before my 2-year-old is going to bite, and I know when my request for a kiss will be denied and when it will not. I know what days are going to be long naps and what days are going to be endless screaming fits. I know every shirt the 3-year-old doesn't like (but I still don't know why). I know when to sneak in fruit or nuts for a snack and when not to push the grapes another minute. I know whether the kids are good playing together for another six minutes or thirty seconds. I have a sixth sense about the moment an argument is going to escalate into a kick or hit. I know they will eat broccoli if I am patient. I know it is possible to have them in bed by 8 if I am firm and really patient. I know the 2-year-old is fiercely independent but loving, and aggressive toward spiders and bugs of all kinds. I know that six minutes alone with the cat can result in disaster. I know my 3-year-old likes P.D. Eastman books the best, and that he has a closet thing for princesses even though he is a boy. I know both my kids love the Roxy Music song "Love Is the Drug."

We have our secret language of words and looks and meaningful silences, like any intense, long-term relationship. And even though they are only 2 and 3, my kids can recognize and interpret my moods as well -- if not better -- than many adults. We get mad at each other, but we laugh at each other, too. We forgive each other -- all day long.

I know there are working moms out there who knew all these things about their kids without having been laid off. I'm just saying that I guess I was in such a hurry before, I didn't notice everything, and now I'm glad I got the chance to. Because as everyone keeps telling me, soon they'll be 15 and 16, not 2 and 3, and none of this stuff will be here anymore.

next: School Lunches Are Crap!
24 comments so far | Post a comment now
Tina September 22, 2010, 11:29 AM

I am a stay at home mom (kind of) I work a few 4-8 pm shifts a week, but for the most part I am home. I thought your previous post about what you do in a day as a stay at home was HILARIOUS and mostly true. I also totally agree with this post, there is too much competition and judgment among mothers, moms feel the pressure to put there kids in all the activities to stay at par with the others, everyone wants to put their 2 cents in. Support is great, judgment, not so much. Like you said, do what works best for your family. So I don’t have my kid on a strict napping schedule, so what, yes I fed my kid ramen noodles for lunch today, so what, yesterday he had salad and salmon for lunch. Lets do our best to support each other so we can all do our best for our families.

Susan Morgan September 22, 2010, 11:54 AM

Time goes fast, so hang on tight to those little ones. Before you know it they will be grown.

Staying home was my choice too, though today my three are much older than yours, 17, 14 and 10 to be exact. it’s disappointing to see that things haven’t changed much in terms of support for stay at home moms since I made the choice.

You are so right. We all need to support each other. No one wins when we tear each other down and disrespect each others choices. After all, we’re all only trying to do our best.

I always felt (and my husband supported the idea) that these three children were my (our) first responsibility and that meant I needed to be here. it’s worked out for us, but it’s no “day at the beach” and it called for a career sacrifice that’s getting harder to swallow as the years go by.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

Anonymous September 22, 2010, 12:33 PM

“I understand what my 2-year-old is saying when no one else can. I know exactly when my 3-year-old has to go to the bathroom, and how he prefers certain orange cheeses. I know seconds before my 2-year-old is going to bite, and I know when my request for a kiss will be denied and when it will not”

How did you not know that before? I know that and MUCH more about my babies and I work full time. Once again, SAHMS have to always find a way of putting down moms who don’t stay home. Staying home doesn’t make you know your children better, being a good mom does.

Anonymous 2 September 22, 2010, 1:43 PM

Great article.

No put down to anyone who goes to work and earns money. Kids need parents to do that. But I’m a SAHM and I know more about my kids than their dad does. Always have, even though he’s always been very involved in taking care of them in the evening and on weekends (probably because I ran to another room whenever I could when they were little). That doesn’t make him a bad parent who doesn’t notice his kids. He’s just not spending as much time with them as I do.

XXXX September 22, 2010, 3:42 PM

Good for all you SAHMs. Aren’t you all just special!

Anonymous September 23, 2010, 5:26 AM

It’s not “staying home” that makes you a good mom, it’s listening. It seems pretty sad that you CHOOSE NOT TO LISTEN to your children before.

Just Mom September 23, 2010, 6:32 AM

To the two anonymous-es (not Anonymous #2)…seriously? Did you even /read/ the article? Or is your self esteem so low that you still feel the need to judge?

And another thing…I agree with her. Knowing every word your toddler says or knowing the EXACT moment he’s gonna bite ya, are things that can ONLY be known by spending all day, every day with your child. If you don’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, or love your child less. It just means you think about something other than poop patterns during the day (and oh, how I envy you!)

Laila September 23, 2010, 8:25 AM

“Knowing every word your toddler says or knowing the EXACT moment he’s gonna bite ya, are things that can ONLY be known by spending all day, every day with your child”

A more ingnorant and untrue statement could not have been written than the above.
I EASILY translate EVERY word my toddlers say, know exactly when I will bit or kissed, know all their favorite songs and books, know all their cries. EVERYTHING. And I work. Full Time.

It sad that so many SAHMs have to try to make an excuse - if you are truly confident in your choice to not work you needn’t make up false perks. Moms know their babies/toddlers/children when they choose to take time to listen to them and get to know them - NOT because they choose not to work. SAHM moms are no more engaged with their children than WOHMs

Anna September 23, 2010, 8:27 AM

DEAD ON ANONYMOUS (except anonymous #2)

SAHMs - get a life and job and stop attacking Moms who care enough about their children to KNOW them AND work for them!!

Rita September 23, 2010, 11:39 AM

Good Lord. I guess some people will never be happy or satisfied about anything. Does putting down someone make you feel better about yourself?

Newsflash: You will never know every little thing about your kid. No mom is perfect, no kid is perfect, no family is perfect.

Accept everyone has flaws.

No wonder mommies can’t have other mommy friends. It’s always such a competition to see who can parent better.

It’s sad, really, how one’s self esteem only rises when they feel they’re better then another mom.

All of you judging, self-righteous moms make me sick. Focus on your own kids and don’t worry about how other moms might parent.

Laugh. Don’t be so quick to take offense at an article meant to entertain, or put down the author of said article just to make yourself feel better about your own parenting skills.

That’s real talk.

Rita September 23, 2010, 11:50 AM

Before anyone attacks me, I’d like to add I’m a SAHM and proud of it. I also don’t measure my self-worth in just being a mommy and wife. I’m still a woman.

Anna, not every SAHM is lazy and doesn’t want to work. Some of us are fortunate enough not to have to work and are blessed to stay at home and raise their children.

I know some mommies have to work, but I also think if most of those mommies would cut back on their extravagant lifestyles, they might be able to enjoy life a little more. What’s the point of having a huge house if you’re never able to enjoy it?

I know that some mommies have to work just to make ends meet.

SAHM’s are busy raising the next generation to be polite, civil children. I just hope the children of helicopter parents learn to find their own way.

Rita September 23, 2010, 11:56 AM

Oops, I meant to say polite, civil citizens lol

Mandy September 24, 2010, 5:26 AM

Holy Cat, if I hear ONE more ignorant person say/write this falsehood:
“but I also think if most of those mommies would cut back on their extravagant lifestyles”

Um, NO, the majority of working moms don’t have any luxuries, none of the not having to work/vactions/time off/breaks/out to dinners/out to lunches/play dates/luxuries that SAHMs automatically entitle themselves too. All the working moms I know work because we have bills to pay - not extravagances. Once again it’s SAHMs attacking those who work. If you want to stay home, just stay home, but don’t act like it’s hard or rocket science or makes you less extravagant or a better mom. My sisters are both still SAHMs and they will be the first to tell you it’s simply because they don’t like to work. And I hear that - ALOT.

I was lucky enough to be able to stay home for a couple years, so I know of which I speak. And btw - staying home didn’t make me know my children ANY better -another falsehood.

Melissa September 27, 2010, 2:10 PM

Oh, stay at home moms are busy raising polite little future citizens, yet the quote in the article said the mother knew just before her child was about to bite. I am a working mother, however, there was no way on earth, biting would have been tolerated in my house!!! Just not an option. I have to work, someone has to pay the bills. We do not live in a big house, we live in a doublewide (it is paid off though). I drive an 8 year old vehicle (it is paid of though). I do not believe in borrowing money if it can be prevented, that is what has caused all the problems in our society. We live meager, but we pay our own bills. Our spare money is used to help others, for example, my child’s school had a bookfair today, I was asked by the teacher to take vacation time and help, so I did. The kids that did not have money to buy books, I paid for a book for each of them. (I hate the thought of a sad child without a book if they want one, reading and the love of books is essential to early development.)

A Mommy with the right attitude is what a child needs, working, stay at home, whatever, that is what it all about. The well behaved, smartest kid in school of this working mother, is going to outshine every other child he encounters, because he already does. Why, because he has been given the building blocks he needs for the future, and all it took was a little quality time and attention from his mother. You can spend all day long in the presence of a child, but if you are giving him/her the wrong kind of atttention, it doesn’t matter anyway. Quality one-on-one attention, when you are both happy and glad to be together is what makes a difference.

mia angel September 27, 2010, 11:26 PM

Given the choice, I personally would like to be a SAHM. I know it is not at all easier than working your 8 hours a day off in the office, in fact, staying at home can drive moms more insane than we already are. But I agree with Tracy, in time our children will no longer be that - children. And I don’t want to look back at my life with regret, sadly looking at my now adult child thinking “who is this beautiful stranger standing next to me?” Given the choice, I will definitely want to be a SAHM.

Sadly, my circumstances, a divorced mother of 3, aged 14, 10 and 9, leaves me with no choice but to toil away 8 hours a day in someone else’s office. Raising children alone and facing parenting challenges everyday is no piece of cake, whether you’re a career person or a SAHM. Thank God for sites like these and online communities that reassure you “no, you’re not going crazy, someone, somewhere, elsewhere is going through the same things you’re encountering as a parent”. When I got divorced, I joined because i was thrilled to read articles and blogs about “real” and relevant issues on parenting. Today, I’m grateful to have found this site, momlogic. Motherhood and parenting is real. Thank God for sites like these where people who take motherhood and parenting seriously can keep coming back.

Fashion Trends October 12, 2010, 3:27 PM

I’m currently working on a forum to house all industry professionals under one roof and to provide an area where we can grow together.

Erika October 15, 2010, 6:27 PM

My mom was a SAHM, and hated it. She couldn’t wait for my dad or someone to watch us so she could go out and do whatever she wanted. And, as kids, my brothers and I could sense that. I give SAHMs a lot of credit for what they are sacrificing for their children, and some will never get it. Ever. I’m pregnant with my first, and going through that debate now. I don’t know if I’m going to make the “right” choice, but I hope my child doesn’t have to go through those frustrations that I encountered.

Anonymous October 24, 2010, 1:31 AM

This warfare is hilarious, especially considering the way the article opened.

Anonymous October 25, 2010, 10:38 PM

My, didn’t it go quiet in here. I can almost hear the echoes.

Skipper November 29, 2010, 6:32 AM

I’ve worked at home, worked outside of the home and stayed at home mom, all as a single mom. I can say this: Quality time is much more important than quantity time for your family. Once you hit that balance so you can focus enough on your children to be able to learn all these things about them no matter your outside circumstances, your children will prosper.

I’ve known SAHMs who don’t pay any attention to their children and WOHMs who rush home just to finish that science project with Junior. I’ve also known exhausted WOHMs who can’t leave work at work enough to notice Junior is missing another tooth and SAHMs who make cookies with their children at least once a week.

The key is balance and QUALITY time. Once we ‘get it’ we’ll stop judging everyone else.

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