Where I live in India, you hear a lot of criticism or praise about whether you are a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) or a working-mom (WM) or even if you convert from one to the other.
It has been almost ten months since I became a SAHM, but I still receive judgments about my decision. Just check out these conversations…
Conversation # 1
Me: Wait a minute, why should you say sorry because I left my job? I am actually enjoying it…
Person X: No, No, I am still sorry that it had to happen this way…
Me: What? You insist that I should receive your apologies? Fine. Thank you. Oh well, it’s not like anyone died or anything.
Conversation # 2
Person Y: You lost it? I know, hard times… Economic recession, right?!
Me: I DID NOT LOSE my job. I just quit because that’s what I wanted and that’s what I chose to do.
Person Y: Really? Oh, why?
(Rolling my eyes I just mutter to myself, “that’s what I’ve been explaining for the past 10 minutes!”)
Oh well, I have had such interesting conversations this past year, and sometimes it has even bordered on being comical. Check out this all time favorite conversation of mine. It really happened, I assure you, though I won’t disclose who it was with. 😉
Conversation # 3
Pesky relative Z: You know, this cousin’s aunt’s granddaughter is a software engineer, too, and she is earning 50K a month. Did you used to earn that much too? What a waste, huh?
(And, I knew where this phone conversation was headed, so I just went to the front door, rang the door bell myself and said…)
Me: Someone’s at the door. You know how annoying these salesmen can be. Can I call you back after checking out who is at the door? (Pause.) Thanks! Bye!
You know, being a working mother had its own charms, too. Back then, I did not have to employ such cheap tricks to cut off undesired phone conversations. I could blame it all on my really “wicked’ manager and say that since he was around, he just might cut my raise this year if he saw I was on a personal call for too long. So, bye. lol! (On a side note, I had the most wonderful supervisor.)
Oh, man, I don’t even want to convince people the truth — that I am happy. It is my decision, and with my husband’s emotional support, I have made this choice. Sometimes, I just feel that I want to be left alone.
I do not want to be judged, criticized or sympathized.
Life can be just crazy. Sometimes, when I sit down at the computer with my articles, novel or blog, I do not know where the time flies. Before I know it, it’s time to pick up my son from his school, and then I do not have time for myself. And, I cook and keep home on top of it all.
Oh, I am not a happy home-maker. I am that grudging homemaker because I do not feel like asking my husband to share half of the housework. I feel guilty doing that and sympathize with him when he comes home tired. He has long hours as a physician, and I would like him to have his rest and peace at home, at least.
So, my point is, we are all mothers. Some of us work, some of us are at home, some work from home and others have various other options. Each one of us does what is best for herself, her child and her family. And, we do not expect to be understood or appreciated. Just to be accepted.
So, why do I always find that I am in a position to discuss or debate this? This debate should not exist.
Today, as opposed to half a century ago, we have a lot of choices as women. We have options to work part-time, work from home or take long career breaks; and, we have good child care/day care options. If we decide to be a SAHM, we have lots of ways to be intellectually stimulated, have an active social life, adult interaction and such.
I feel that being a woman is more empowering than being a man these days. (All those daddys reading this blog, please take that statement in the right spirit 🙂 ) Ok, what I guess I’m really saying is that I’m proud to be a woman today with all of the options we have.
I hate that the media, internet and people around us think that there is a discussion and debate going on amongst us. Why choose? Why fight? It is a choice, perhaps out of necessity or a passion for a specific career, or even as a way of life.
I know of a friend who just cannot be at home. She has this crazy energy which needs to be released, and she can never be a SAHM. So, she does not work for financial reasons or for a passion towards her career. She works because she feels an inner need to. And, how can one judge that?
It is also wrong to be self-deprecating. Make a decision and be proud of it.
And, if you are deciding between what to do for yourself, this is what worked for me:
Prepare a checklist if you have to. Add points in no specific order or priority like these…
- Child’s well being (What I mean by this is that if you are negative about whatever position you choose, then this may rub off on your children.)
- Financial reasons
- Personal feelings
- Spouse’s feelings
- Family commitments
- Personal passion, interests, creativity
- Child care options like day care or nanny and such
- Adult interaction, social get togethers, groups, mental well-being
- Future personal plans and family plans
- Probable future regrets either way (Give this a lot of thought…!!!)
- Add on whatever else you think fits your life because you are unique and so is your child.
I would like to say, that in the end, we are all humans first, women next and then mothers. And, we have to be good humans, good women and good mothers. To be able to do our duty, if we have to work or be at home or do whatever else, we have to do that.
And, oh, well, either way, things will be good, and sometimes bad. Sometimes life will be manageable and sometimes crazy. And then, it will all go back to normal again.
And, my all time favorite cliché remains exactly that – “Life goes on!”
Are you a SAHM or WM? Do you think this debate about being a SAHM or WM exists if you think about it objectively?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The Alchemist, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog and dishes out Indian culinary expertise at AwesomeCuisine.
Photo credit to The Shopping Sherpa. This photo has a creative commons attribution no derivatives license.
Oh Alchemist, I can so relate to Conversation # 3. And that too from my Mother!! She seems to think that her daughter should have the highest paid job among all her relatives and she wants to brag about it. And I should also be able to handle the homefront as well as she does (and believe me, she is great at that).
I can hardly find my way around the kitchen, and usually cut myself whenever I take up the knife. I know that it sounds like I am proud of being kitchen-unsavvy, but I am simply accepting what I do best and what I don’t.
ANd I don’t give a damn whether my cousin can cook a 10-course dinner, or if my Mom keeps the house spotless. I am ME and intend to remain so.
Yes, is it not frustrating to always keep defending our choices, our talents (culinary skills or the lack of it), our ability to keep home or not, and such? Each one is different and unique and at the end of the day, all these differences hardly matters, but defending oneself and trying to prove what we are or what we are not is all so frustrating. I am happy you could relate to it, but sad that you also had to face it. But ah, well, who has not been through this in some way or the other. I heard, tomorrow Polish Mama is also posting something about being a SAHM. Stay tuned 🙂
I love your blogs that too when you write about women.. 🙂 I even have wondered why people feel proud or good about working mothers..Who knows..A SAH mother might be doing something better than just earning money..At last, It all depends on the individuals to choose based on their priority, comfort and interest. Next time when that Pesky relative Z calls you just tell her that you are busy writing a blog..But that was a good one.I too will use it when needed..
Savitha, Yes, like you said, we never know who does which best! I dont call myself a good programmer, but I would definitely call myself a satisfied writer. It does not matter if the client was happy with me earlier and the publisher is not now. I am happy right now doing what I would like to do best.
And that Pesky relative Z remains exactly that- pesky. Yea, I have a few tricks rolled up my sleeve, will give you ideas when you need them 😉
I am a working mom and I think working/SAHM is a personal choice. I have faced questions like…oh you let your kid in the day care all the day?. Dont you care about him, do you need that money that bad…. ???…. Initially I used to give reasons as to why I work……but now I believe in the fact that people who really mean to you, understand you so well that you dont need to explain to them and people who really dont mean to you….. there is no point in explaining…so why bother !. Just do whatever you like to do and keep pressing ignore button on your head (difficult to do)
Yes Saradha, why bother? You cant keep them all happy. And its not your duty to that either. So, do what you like, what you have to, and forget the rest.
I am a SAHM by choice and I do love it, even though it is also frustrating. I know part of why I love it is because I’m not a great multitasker nor am I one of those people with mind-boggling energy. I worked part-time but quit because it was affecting my ability to be the mother and wife I want to be. I found myself scooting my son away because I was too tired to fully interact. One night I watched my son while he slept and was reminded that he is my top priority right now and I don’t want to short change his early development.
I agree that this shouldn’t be such a big issue. It is a personal choice and no one can live our lives for us so they shouldn’t tell us what we should do. These are usually the same people who want to tell you when and how many kids you should have, where they should go to school, what they should eat, etc, etc. I look at my sister who is a working mom and her daughter absolutely adores her. The main thing should be that we show love to our children when we are there. If we can do that then we are doing okay.
Oh, I have been there. I have received opinions that I should have at least 2, 3 to 5 kids. These are the same people who even say how to bring up your child.
And dont such realisations and revelations as to where your decision lies, come at strange moments? Mine also came when I saw my sleeping son 🙂
Great post! I totally get it. But I find much more fulfillment at paid work than at unpaid work. And the thing is — we women all cycle through periods of different ways of working — sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid. So I try to leave the judgment behind.
Thanks mbcoudal. Yes, we go through different phases in our life. We go through different state of minds too. Being in everyone’s good judgement pages seem to hard. So, best to leave it behind 🙂
Thank you for sharing your conversations. It’s so interesting to hear what is expected of us moms in different cultures!
I’m a SAHM. I have friends that stay home and friends that work full or part-time, here, in the US. I agree, that it is a personal decision. My family has always supported my choice, but I think that is also because everyone in my immediate family has chosen the same path, at least when the children were small. Perhaps things would be different if I was a working-mom, maybe they wouldn’t understand because it would be different.
I learned early that having something to do almost every morning — a reason to get dressed and get out of the house — worked well for us. Even though I’m “home” I like to take them out of the house a lot. That will change a little once my youngest is beginning to get on a regular nap schedule, but then open up again.
Keeping my mind active has been important — which brings in blogging and learning a second language.
I think the most important part is feeling comfortable with your decision. Who cares what everyone else thinks, right? lol
Thank you Jen 🙂
I totally agree that keeping the mind and hands busy is the most important thing. And as mothers we have more than that, and then we take up additional things because we would like to, because we want to, because we are passionate about it – like blogging and writing and various other things.
Initially I used to give a lot of weightage to all these opinions and comments from others. But slowly, with time, I realised that whatever I do, whatever decision, I take, there will always be comments from everyone around me telling me if it was right or wrong and I cant really please everyone. So, I decided to please just my son and myself and my husband. I know, cliched, right? But then only when I really went through it, and came out of it, I understood it, that you can only please yourself.
We have outdoor routines here too. But it is in the late afternoon (to early evening). We go out and play with the other kids in the locality. And I am glad I am part of all this, for now.
But all this, with Dr.Lanham’s post in mind (about being something else too other than a mom… I can never forget that post.!) We surely have to be actively involved in various other things other than being a mom.!
– T A 🙂
Yes, that was a great post, and Kyla’s follow up to it! We can’t lose ourselves. When our kids grow up and move out we will feel even more empty. I’m working on nurturing my own interests, too! 🙂
There is a saying: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”, which my friend always comments: “when I want you opinion I’ll give it to you”, but still hearing other people opinions and comments about your decision…over and over again might be very devastating. I wish I could enjoy being SAHM more without everybody keep asking me: “are. you. really. happy.”? when I say: yes, their rise they eyebrow with a question: “really?”. after that list of eventual jobs I could do with my degree follows! so I really understand what you’re going through!
Polish Mama, I can relate to that. People are surprised that after doing a post graduate degree in Electronics Engineering, why the hell should I decide to ‘sit’ at home ‘idle’? I do not understand why I should not. And I have also been given that long list of probable careers I could be good at with my degree :p 🙂
And I have stopped caring now to analyse each opinion and comment. I am looking forward what you have to post today about being a SAHM.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.” I never heard that before, Polish Mom Photographer, but I love it! Thanks!
I have been a full time working outside the house mom, a stay at home mom, a mom going to school, and a working at home mom. Each one takes special skills and is hard in its own way. None of us should be judged or criticized for what we do and it’s sad that we are.
Jessica, You have had interesting phases as a mom. Would love to read in detail how it has all been 🙂
Alchemist – such an interesting post! I am a SAHM, and I experienced some opposite reactions to what you described when I told people I was making that choice. When I was telling clients that I was leaving my job to be at home once my child was born, many would say “You know…that really is the best thing for the kids. I think you are making the right choice.” I heard this constantly, and even though it was supposed to be positive feedback to my choice, a little voice inside my head kept thinking, “Wait a minute…what if I just told you I would be back after my maternity leave? Would you be secretly judging me for coming back and helping you as I have been for these past years?” I thought about how no matter what we women decide, someone will have something to say about it, so best to make your choices and move ahead without listenting to much to the opinions. PS – I love your doorbell trick to end the phone call.
Tara, Thanks 🙂 I have loved some of your posts too.
Its interesting to know your feelings when you listen to what you want people to say. Just this morning I was contemplating on this post and wondering how my reaction would have been and how this post would have turned out, had people commented to me in a supportive way. Like you said, we neither would like to be appreciated nor disapproved of our decisions.
I would LOVE to be a SAHM mom! I’m going back to work soon and it’s breaking my heart. Enjoy!
I am sure you are doing what is best for you and family. Stay at work for a short while, if it is really unbearable to be away from your child, reasses your decisions and priorities…
Am sure you will find your peace. Good luck 🙂 Enjoy!
Great post! I completely agree that people are crazy when it comes to this issue. I remember when I told a friend I was pregnant and she replied “Now I won’t look down on you if you stay at home!”. What kind of comment is that? Being a stay at home mom is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever love. You never get those years back. Once the kids grow up they are no longer there. I’ll never look back at my life and say, gee I wish I had worked longer or made more money. No, I’ll look back and be so glad I spent these precious years with my kids. I get sick of the negative comments. I feel so fortunate to be able to stay at home. Yet I know some moms can’t and/or don’t want to. That is fine too. As long as you love your children and enjoy your life, that is all that matters. No need for all this unwanted judgment!
Oh yeah, I completely agree with you about it being the toughest job 🙂
So true about being about to feel the love and spread it – do whatever to enable that!
Great post!! I agree 100% that it is wonderful than women nowadays have a choice!
Isnt that an awesome choice and a cool way of looking it?!
Alchemist, I spent three months traveling in India when I was in my twenties (I only intended to be there for a few weeks but was so mesmerized by the people, culture and land, I stayed for 12!). In spite of having slightly more than just a tourist’s perspective of your country, I still think of much of India as a country that holds tight to tradition and traditional roles. I know that India leads the world in engineering and technology careers but still had in my head that women were encouraged to be the home maker once children came into their lives. I am fascinated to hear this is not the case.
I am a SAHM for all of the reasons you listed above. Another reason is that my husband’s job is demanding enough that in order for me to support his career path and enable him to do the best he can at this stage in his job, it makes more sense for me to be the main child care provider. We aren’t as financially ahead as we hoped we might be 10 years ago (living on one income) but we are ahead in many other aspects of our family life. And there will come a time, soon enough, when I won’t need to be home around the clock for my kids so, if I want to and if the opportunity exists, I could convert to a WM too. I think as you and Polish Mom Photographer point out, being SAHMs can make it hard to place value on what you do (there are no performance reviews, no income, no promotions). In the end,we have to hope that the product(s) of our time at home (our kid(s)) will be people we are truly poud of and feel good about contributing to this world.
Hi. You said it right. There is no performance review or incentives :p
Perhaps the payback would be to see our kids grow up into wonderful people and be contented in that.
I totally understand. My husband’s profession is similar too. He needs to devote the entire time now in his career to be able to get settled later on. And I love being the primary child care provider 🙂
Oh, were you in India? Next time, just holler, we will meet up! And there’s a spare bedroom here, all neat and tidy 🙂
Oh, the families like to boast in a fond way that the lady of the house does not want to be a SAHM even though they advise her to be so. And the second income does not hurt the fam too. (By fam, I mean, extended fam, because most often its a joint fam system practised here, with the parents, in laws, sometimes siblings and their family living together… like a huge big fam of 7 to 10 people)… Oh yes, lots of positives and lots of negatives in such set ups. You must have noticed. 10 yrs ago, it was more common.
I have been a SAHM for 10 years now (apart from one short foray into work) and am so stroppy that no-one gets beyond the first statement without receiving a *look.* I was lucky enought to have the choice. Since we had our first son the cost of housing has more than doubled so that for many kiwi mothers there isw no option but to return to work and I know of many who are unhappy about the situation.
Good for you.
I need to take some lessons from you being assertive 🙂
I think it is wonderful that you chose to stay home and raise your child! Children raised by SAHMs seem to be better grounded than those raised in daycare.
Well, I know whole of your life just go wasted giving justifications… specially in India…ppl always have advises & opinions in your matter… I am a new mum…have chosen to be SAHM.. but now, I have started WRH…In my case my family criticizes me on leaving job… same what u facing… & my in laws side is totally against me working… so again criticism… I do the same… give hell to every one else … n prioritise my needs!
I agree with all that you have said. I am working now but debating whether to become a SAHM. What i really like about work is that it makes me financially secure and i would hate for money to become a bone of contention between me n my hubby. It just makes me feel independent… Its a feeling hard to explain as i come from a family of working mothers.
Love your posts!!!!
Heyy I am a working mom but planning to be a SAHM. While reading your post , i could relate what I would be expecting from my XYZ relatives .. But feeling blessed that I have two ears ..
Wonderful post Poornima, I agree with all the points you have touched in your post. It’s sad why people waste their energies by being over judgemental. And especially, when it is not required. Everyone has their own priorities and reasons for their choices and actions. Whether it be SAHM or a working mom, the bottom line is Mom is mom, no matters if she is working outside or she is doing something from home. And yes, as you have said we should feel ourselves privileged to have the access of various resources and means to fulfill our dreams.
There are few areas which are still considered to be unconventional. Still the old notion of going out and working from 9am-5pm means job.
I would say, doing what you feel like doing, following your passion, learning something new everyday and most important inner satisfaction , mental peace is more important. That belongs to you and nobody can take it away from you.