I dread the inevitable question that will be asked of me by a stranger. The one that I don’t want to answer, that I try to avoid if at all possible. That if asked I might not know how to answer.
If you are a SAHM, you know what question I am talking about.
“What do you do for a living?”
I panic a little. Should I tell this person that I stay at home? Should I tell them I teach nursing? Should I say that I’m not working right now, but that when the kids are older I am going to go back to my career? I often don’t tell them the real truth: that I am a stay-at-home mom.
We are led to believe that our identity should come from our profession. That we are nurses, police officers, teachers, and salesmen. It’s easy to understand how a person spends their time if we know their profession. We know that they are doing important things with their time. They are saving lives, teaching math, or providing us with products that we need. We know that they are earning money and that money is important. It’s harder for us to understand how a SAHM spends their time.
When I answer by saying that I am a SAHM, I get mixed feedback. Some will respond by asking what I did before I was a SAHM. For a lot of years what I did prior to being a SAHM was working at a fast-food restaurant. Not very impressive. Now I can say “I taught nursing at a community college”. And that becomes the focus of the ensuing conversation- not my choice to be at home or my family. Some will respond with positive reassurance. I love the people in this category. Some will respond by saying “I could never do that!” or “So what do you do all day?” This is the response that I am trying very hard to avoid, and why I often don’t admit that I stay home.
How do SAHMs answer this question? What really is a stay-at-home mom? What does she do?
First of all, we are going to try to define the SAHM. The main criterion is that you are home, raising children rather than earning a living at a paying job.
Easy enough, but what if you are at home with your kids but still work occasionally?
- What if you work from home?
- What if you work part time when your kids are at school, but are home most of the time?
- What if you are going to school?
- What if you make money in some way?
- What if your kids are all in school but you are still at home?
- What if all of your kids are grown?
- What if you consider yourself unemployed, but are looking for work?
- What if you stay at home but also have a nanny?
At Radical Motherhood, we believe there are many ways to be a SAHM. Instead of coming up with a strict definition, we believe that being a SAHM is self-defined. If you consider yourself a SAHM, whether you earn an income or have an empty nest, you are a SAHM.
Early on in my life as a SAHM, I felt immense pressure to be productive.
Not only did I expect myself to complete many household tasks throughout the day, but my husband expected to come home to a clean, organized house and quiet, well-behaved children. Most days we were both let down by the state of each. This was the source of many arguments.
I felt this pressure to be productive and also to convince others that I had actually done something that day. That usually meant listing the tasks I had done: cleaned the bathroom, washed the sheets, gone to the grocery store. I didn’t include that I had read the same children’s book 7 times, taken the girls to the park, held a crying baby, or played play-doh for hours.
This post is not here to list the potential earnings of the SAHM (she’s a housecleaner, cook, chauffeur). This is not a post about justifying the life of the SAHM by giving you a list of tasks that she completes during the day (laundry, dishes, play-dates). This is not a post to invoke the anger of working mothers or engage in the “mommy wars.”
This is a post to remind you that motherhood is not a job, it is a relationship. A beautiful and intricate relationship given to us by God.
By being a SAHM, you are there to lead your children with every step. You are there to comfort and console, discipline and teach. Your value is not about the things that you do to create a home, but about how you create children who are prepared for eternal life.
When you are at home with your children, you are the one answering their questions, setting the limits, and responding to their behavior. I want my children to hear my responses, follow my rules. I want them to know that I am their source of love and comfort, and that I am led by the Holy Spirit to be their mother. I want to create a home life that reflects my faith- loving, gentle, obedient.