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It is one of the most irritating things for SAHMs: husbands asking them what they’re up to each day. Anyone who’s ever stayed home with kids knows there’s no way to predict exactly where the day will take you. Anyone who’s ever stayed home with kids also knows the day can be filled with one harrowing activity after another.
This subject is one that brings the Mommy Wars out in full force, so much so that I even find myself getting involved despite my vow not to fuel that ever-so-unproductive fire. It isn’t so much the dispute over which job is hardest — SAHM or work-outside-the-home mother (WOHM) — that brings my blood to a boil, but rather the misconceptions about what comes with the territory of each job.
Having had the pleasure of working both jobs, I speak from experience when I say each job has its hardships and its delights. As a result, I am determined to dispel some common myths about SAHMs and WOHMs right here and now in an effort to lessen the amount of gasoline available to the arsonists of the Mommy Wars.
SAHM Myth #1: SAHMs simply lounge around watching soap operas all day.
No. There are some days when SAHMs can take in an episode of Ellen and another of General Hospital, but usually that’s during the miraculous 15 minutes when the children are simultaneously napping, while folding laundry, and while cleaning the breakfast and lunch dishes. When kids are home all day, they demand attention and stimulation, not to mention they’re always getting things out and messing things up, and it’s the job of the SAHM to get things back to some semblance of order before the little monsters destroy something else (and believe me, they do; it’s like a constant battle in which the SAHM is determined not to fatigue before the offspring).
WOHM Myth #1: WOHMs don’t have to battle the mess because the kids are at daycare or school all day.
Again, no. Just because kids aren’t home for a portion of the day doesn’t mean they can’t generate clutter of catastrophic proportions. Every mom (and dad) knows it takes just 2 seconds to produce chaos and 20 minutes to clean it back up again. WOHMs just have to leave the mess until they get home from work and then fight the good fight all evening — between making dinner, doing the laundry, sneaking in some QT with the husband and kids, and preparing for the next day’s work agenda — until the spawn head to bed.
SAHM Myth #2: SAHMs enjoy fancy lunch dates and hot yoga workouts every day.
True, there are some women out there whose husbands bring in the big bucks so they can enjoy daily white linen lunches and expensive spa treatments, but I wouldn’t consider these women SAHMs, mostly because if they can afford those luxuries, they’re also paying someone to nanny their kids whilst savoring them. Real SAHMs are never away from their children, making pricey lunches and physio routines impossible. Even when the kids do head off to school, SAHMs are stuck cleaning the house (no hiring a cleaning lady for them), volunteering at the school (WOHMs can’t, so somebody has to), and preparing dinner (a single income household makes getting takeout a financial burden).
WOHM Myth #2: WOHMs enjoy kid-free lunches and “me time” every day.
Nope. In some professions, WOHMs get to relish lunch out with adult colleagues, but many other WOHMs — including teachers like me — are stuck shoving an entire meal down their throats and using the restroom for the first time that day in the 15 minutes between the morning meeting and the afternoon training session. WOHMs are surrounded by people who need them and suck their time all day in another sort of way. The only “me time” many WOHMs enjoy is on the ride to and from work (and believe me, that time is golden).
SAHM Myth #3: Staying home is relaxing.
While sometimes spending the entire day in pajamas or going half a week without a shower sounds glorious to working people on the run, doing so is often not a choice for SAHMs, many of whom would kill to wash their hair and put on a pair of skinny jeans and heels. If you’ve got little ones, you can’t leave them to their own devices while you coif your mane, nor can you chase them around the house in stilettos (I don’t care what June Cleaver would have you believe). It’s exhausting being the only one who can meet their every need for 9 hours per day, particularly when those needs vary and it seems as if it’s against the laws of physics for a collection of children to be synchronously happy. I’ve never needed to take a hot bath to relax or head off to the grocery store just to steal 15 minutes to myself as much as I did when I was home with the kids.
WOHM Myth #3: Working outside the home is relaxing.
To people who stay home with kids all day, leaving the house sounds like a welcome respite from the bedlam of child-rearing, and on some days, it can be. On the whole, however, it is just as exhausting as staying home with kids, only in a different way. Someone else might be stimulating and looking after the kids all day, but WOHMs are breaking their backs just as much to get their work responsibilities done well, and they still have to spend time running the errands, keeping the house, and basking in the beauty of raising their children at the end of a long day.
SAHM Myth #4: SAHMs smother their children and hinder their social development.
One argument against keeping kids home all day is that they don’t get to socialize with other children or learn how to interact with teachers and peers in a classroom setting before kindergarten. While I’ll admit that I find keeping kids home until kindergarten is a disservice, most SAHMs I know make it a point to enroll their children in daycare, kids camp, and/or preschool a couple times per week to ensure they learn the nuances of peer interaction and formalized instruction early on, meaning children of SAHMs are privy to the same external experiences as their counterparts with working parents.
WOHM Myth #4: Children of WOHMs don’t receive the love and nurturing they deserve.
This one is so far off base it couldn’t hit the target with radar assistance. Just because a mom works outside the home doesn’t mean she can’t nurture and love her kids as much as the next woman. WOHMs take care to carve out quality time with their children during the evenings and on the weekends, talking to them about their adventures at school, reading bedtime stories, singing songs, and playing make-believe. Children of WOHMs are happy and well-adjusted and enjoy the special time they spend with their caregivers or teachers when Mom is away as well as the showering of love they receive when Mom comes home.
SAHM Myth #5: SAHMs are unfulfilled (or unambitious) because they don’t experience success outside the home.
Please. Keeping everyone alive all by oneself for half the world’s spin on its axis sounds like the epitome of success to me. Some SAHMs have advanced degrees and pasts filled with remarkable career endeavors. Others have always aspired to be at-home caregivers for their children, educating themselves on the best brain based activities for toddlers and how to foster early literacy skills through word play. A woman’s measure of fulfillment lies in herself, not in how others feel “success” should be defined, and for many SAHMs, acting as the primary caregiver for their youngsters day in and out is both fulfilling and successful.
WOHM Myth #5: WOHMs value their careers more than their children.
Poppycock, plain and simple. WOHMs love their children as much as SAHMs. They also love their careers, but their kids never come second to them. WOHMs simply find working outside the home to be both a rewarding and healthy choice for themselves and their families (and some find it a necessary one), and their children often delight in the opportunity to spend their days with other loved ones, teachers, and peers, rarely feeling slighted or neglected in the mom department.
The first step to ending the Mommy Wars is understanding the true experiences of each job. You see, neither job can be considered easier or harder than the other. They’re just easier and harder for different reasons and in different ways depending on the person.[/nextpage]