My Own Personal SAHM v WOHM Debate (An Inventory, Part 2)

So yesterday I wrote about the challenges of being a WOHM (for me), but I’ve already declared that I believe I’m happier not being a SAHM, so now I’m going to write out all the things I appreciate about working outside the home.

– It provides financial stability for our family. My job has a lot of drawbacks, but one of the benefits is that it is VERY secure. It would be very hard for me to lose my job, and knowing that we have my salary as almost a guarantee brings us a lot of piece of mind (especially since my husband’s job is new(ish) and somewhat political in nature and we’re unsure of what kind of stability it offers).

– It provides financially security and independence for me. I’ve read some horror stories about SAHMs struggling to provide for themselves and their kids after death or divorce, especially when they need to re-enter the workforce after extended absences. I have never been someone who assumed her marriage would withstand the general wear and tear of parenting (and the daily grind is so much more damaging that I ever could have imagined), so my own personal financial stability is important to me. I also feel piece of mind knowing that I’m contributing to my own retirement and that I’ll be able to take care of myself in the future, regardless of what happens to my marriage or my husband.

I also appreciate making my own money. It’s nice to know that I contribute to our family’s finances and to be able to point to a tangible way in which I support our family as a whole.

– It creates a more balanced parenting dynamic in our marriage. My husband takes mornings. I take afternoons and bedtimes. We try to both be home for dinner, and we work hard to cover each other so we can each pursue our own interests and show up after-hours when our jobs require it. My husband is in charge of the kitchen and I do everything else around the house. In no way are things split evenly, nor would I declare it perfect, but I KNOW things are a lot more even with me working full time than they would be with me staying at home.

{Having said that, I deal with a lot of resentment that I’m still relegated to being the “default parent” and that I still do all of the “invisible work” and that I don’t get any credit for either. I think I feel MORE resentment about that because I work outside the home, than I would if I were a SAHM.}

– It allows me to avoid the stress and uncertainty of re-entering the workforce. I don’t do uncertainty well and I think the uncertainty of how and when I’d return to the workforce would be a big issue for me. I’ve seen women struggle with this and I know how hard it can be. I appreciate being able to avoid the topic entirely by continuing to work.

– It provides an identity outside my family. I really appreciate having an identity that belongs only to me, that has nothing to do with my husband or my kids. At my job I can feel competent and accomplished (though I wish I felt that way more); it’s hard for me to feel that way at home. And while teachers aren’t afforded much respect by society in general (“Those who can’t do, teach.”), I am lucky enough to work in a district where my colleagues and administrators consider me a professional, and some of my students and parents share that point of view. Even when I feel like no one respects or appreciates how much effort and skill teaching requires, I appreciate having an identity that is completely separate from my role as wife and mother.

– It provides feelings of fulfillment. This one is complicated, because I struggle with so many aspects of my job, but I believe, ultimately, that I am fulfilled in some ways by what I do. Teaching does play to many of my strengths, and most of the time I feel like I’m a good teacher. Feeling accomplished at work can help mitigate the damage of feeling like a failure at home. I have a hard time articulating this one, because I can never get a handle on how I feel about my job, but I do believe I take something important away from work that I would miss dearly if I were only at home.

 – I avoid mealtimes. I hate feeding my kids. I LOATHE it. I hate making them food, I hate watching them not eat that food, I hate negotiating with them to please eat just a couple bites of that food, I hate cleaning up after they don’t eat that food. I hate every. aspect. of. feeding. my. kids. It’s absolutely the thing I dislike most about parenting, and to avoid two meals a day with my little ones is a gift that I cherish every weekday. Truly. I can’t stress this enough. Whenever I’m clenching my jaw to maintain my composure while my daughter complains that she doesn’t actually like one of the five things she’ll usually eat, I remind myself that I didn’t have to endure breakfast or lunch, so surely I can at least survive dinner.

Also, my kids eat way more things when I’m not around, so that is another plus!

– My kids learn from others what I can’t teach/give them. My daughter attends a Spanish immersion preschool/daycare where the teachers are all native speakers. While I consider myself fluent, I am not native speaker and I love that my daughter gets exposure to native Spanish all day. Her teachers also have specific strengths that I lack, and I know my daughter learns a lot there that she wouldn’t learn at home.

My in-laws watch my son and they obviously love him with their whole hearts. He probably gets more undivided attention and enthusiastic, involved playtime with them that he ever would with his easily distracted, ADD-afflicted mother. Seriously, I truly believe my son is better off with my inlaws during the day than he would be with me.

I also believe my kids do more productive things with their time away from me than they would with me. They also watch WAY less TV (only one movie per week) than they would if they were home. They probably eat better too.

I get to leave the house. I suffer cabin fever something fierce when I’m stuck at home. I’m sure I’d take my kids lots of places if I were a SAHM, but I’d still spend a huge portion of each day at home. This would drive me insane. I love getting out of the house each day. I even enjoy my commute: 30 minutes of quiet time when I can listen to whatever audiobook or music I want. My job doesn’t afford me much time to myself, but I do appreciate getting out of the house and away from my kids every day.

I cherish my time with my kids more. My kids drive me crazy. They know how to push my buttons and send me straight over the edge. After a whole day with them I start to go a little batty. Having limited time with them makes it easier for me to deal with their intensity, and I cherish that time more for how little of it there is. Having such limited time with them can make it extra stressful when I need to sacrifice that time for work or something else, but mostly I appreciate how sweet it is to see them again after I’ve been away.

– It affords us the life we want to live. One sentiment in the SAHM arsenal that always bothers me is “we make sacrifices to make it work.” It’s hard not to feel like this implies that I am NOT willing to make sacrifices to be at home with my kids, at that my income provides us with luxuries that the families of SAHMs go without. It’s true that my income allows us to live a life we couldn’t otherwise afford, but what we have prioritized is urban living in a city that we consider home (my husband grew up here and I’ve been here half my life), with our parents near by.

We want to live in San Francisco for deeply personal reasons and we value the close proximity to both sets of grandparents, who are HUGE presences in our kids’ lives. Could we move to another state so I could afford to stay at home? Maybe. I don’t know what my husband would do there, as his job is closely tied to where we live, but I bet we could make it work. Of course that would be at the expense of both of our personal and professional satisfaction.

So yes, I work at home so we can afford a certain lifestyle, but that lifestyle doesn’t include cable, or family vacations or fancy dinners out or even a second car. That lifestyle is about living in a culturally and linguistically diverse city that has so much to offer our children. For me, that trade off is absolutely worth it.

 

I have to admit, after writing yesterday’s list I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be able to articulate all the reasons I appreciate being a WOHM. I worried today’s list would fail to convince you all that I’m happier working than staying at home. I’m not concerned about that anymore. I think it’s clear that I would choose to work outside the home, if I did have a choice. I think I would choose to work outside the home even if we did move away from this insanely expensive city that we can barely afford on two salaries. I love my children, but I just can’t be with them every minute of every day. I often wonder if part time work (maybe three days a week?) would be the best of both worlds, but I suspect it could easily become the worst of both worlds too. So for now, it helps to remind myself that this is what I would want, if I had a choice.

In the end, what this exercise usually ends up doing is making me question my choice of profession. I think I would enjoy being a WOHM a lot more if my job didn’t make it so demanding in so many ways that are similar to mothering. But that is for another post.

What do you appreciate about your current set up?

17 Comments

  1. “Having limited time with them makes it easier for me to deal with their intensity”. Yes. thanks for saying it. (no, that’s not the only—nor the most important—reason I work, but this does happen to be a side benefit!)

  2. This decision is such a tricky combination of the personal and the political. It really sounds like you are in the right place (especially given that the perfect place doesn’t actually exist), which is a good thing.

    In my experience the issue that is particularly relevant is the challenge of re-entry into the workplace. I know this won’t be easy because I am officially far less qualified than I was. But, assuming that I actually can eventually find gainful employment, the substitution of my role at home is what worries me most. I absolutely believe that we have been very privileged to have me at home during these early years with all of the benefits that I provide and it’s hard to accept that we would loose those benefits. On a positive-ish note, a more balanced dynamic in our marriage would be very welcome. However, the political negotiations that it would/will entail are exhausting just to think about. While the benefit to sharing would be the acknowledgement of all of the”silent work” that I perform, I simply can’t see my husband managing to take over half of what I do without adjusting his work life significantly. I would love to be wrong but I imagine that I would just continue to do more than my share and the rest would simply not get done at all. The addition of even a minor amount of domestic responsibilities to my husband’s life would almost surely increase his stress levels by quite a bit. I know that it would be a real challenge for me to be happy with this most-likely outcome.

    1. Many women find that, even though they work as many hours and make as much money as their husbands, they do a lot more housework and child rearing. This is one of the reasons why being a WOHM can be so difficult. But, I think it’s worth the effort to try to find a balance. I know for us it was four excruciating years to get where we are now, but I’m glad we put in the work because it’s so much better now than it’s ever been and I so appreciate the balance we have come to, even if it’s not ideal or perfect.

  3. I am in a similar situation as you, in that we value the cultural diversity of our city and have one set of parents (mine) near by. We could definitely afford one person at home if we moved to a smaller town or city, but the trade-offs wouldn’t be worth it.

    1. Living in a city is a non-negotiable for my husband. He has a moral aversion to suburbs–we will never live in one. So the city it is, even though it’s crazy expensive and the school system is a shit show…we make it work. 😉

  4. This: “In no way are things split evenly, nor would I declare it perfect…” And then from commentor: “I simply can’t see my husband managing to take over half of what I do without adjusting his work life significantly. I would love to be wrong but I imagine that I would just continue to do more than my share and the rest would simply not get done at all. The addition of even a minor amount of domestic responsibilities to my husband’s life would almost surely increase his stress levels by quite a bit.”
    WHY?????? Gay fathers have proven themselves able to do this. What is wrong with straight men?

    1. This is a very good question. It was agonizing to get my husband to a place where he is contributing as much as he is. He literally kicked and screamed for four years before he finally put his big boy pants on and just did it. But now it’s so much better and I’m so glad I pushed him to step up. It has saved our marriage.

  5. These are awesome reasons, and actually made me remember my first days back at work and what a relief it was to just leave. I didn’t make lunch, I didn’t leave special instructions, I said you’re her dad, you’re his kid, figure it out. It was an important step for all of us.

    1. I have to admit, I cherish my half hour, holed up in the bathroom, getting ready for work. I leave before anyone is up, and it is sooooo nice to start the day that way. 😉

  6. Also, NEVER did I think the words, through clenched teeth; PUT. FOOD. IN. YOUR MOUTH. CHEW IT UP. SWALLOW. NOW DO THAT AGAIN TIMES INFINITY. would leave my mouth. And they have. More times then I’d like to admit.

      1. I think it’s because we worry too much about it. Almost all kids will eat if everyone at the table is eating. Almost all kids eat enough over a week to get by. I’ve given up trying to convince and just offer food (and do whatever the feeding therapist tells us to do also). Eventually almost all kids will eat something and there’s no sense giving the tiny crowd power over you by worrying about their eating. Obviously some kids won’t ever eat and they need help but I think they are few and very far between.

        1. The problem with just letting my daughter not eat is that she becomes really hard to manage when she is hungry. And she is picky enough that she will not eat if she is hungry. Luckily walnuts and raisins are a big pleaser with her so we’ll let her eat those as a snack before dinner when we know she’s isn’t going to eat much of it. With my son, I don’t worry about how much he eats because he seems fine no matter what goes in his mouth, but my daughter has such a hard time when she doesn’t get enough to eat. So I could just let her not eat at dinner, but then bedtime will be a total nightmare.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *