Some people should not be SAHP: A deliberately controversial post

So usually at Grumpy Rumblings we’re pretty laissez faire about what people do with their lives and the choices they make.  We don’t really care enough about most people to judge them.  (You know, unless they turn their kids blue.)

But something we’ve noticed recently… not all people are cut out to be stay at home parents (SAHP).  Obviously both of us fit into that category, one because there’s no kids, and the other because she knows it deep down. Also we thought the blog could use a little controversy– it’s been a while since our last big debate.

And we’re definitely not saying all people shouldn’t be SAHP.  Some people have made that choice and it seems to be a great choice for them and for their families.  Not that there isn’t some stress and isolation, but on balance they’re doing great, their kids are doing great, and it is pleasant being around them.

But some people are obviously miserable and overanalysing and need more adult contact! Successful SAHP seem to be a lot more laid back than the folks we’re highlighting here. They also get out and talk to adults. Often they even spend some time with adults without kids their own kids’ age, who don’t belong to the local moms group. They have interests, hobbies, and/or volunteer work that isn’t 100% kid-centered.

We’re just pointing out that some SAHP really aren’t cut out for it and would honestly be better off with jobs. Generally these are Type A folks. Burnt out at their high-powered pre-kid jobs, they try to optimize their children. They feel like their kids reflect on them in the great competition of parenting. But it’s not a competition!

Here are some indicators that maybe being a full-time SAHP is not for you:

  • You go to 8 hour parenting classes on Saturdays to learn how to not parent your kid.
  • You post rants on mothering forums complaining about whether or not other kids should bring toys to the playground.
  • You analyze every single action that your child does based on all the parenting books and webpages you’ve read and share this analysis with any adult you can get to listen.
  • You never let your child play alone or alone with other children.  You are always down there playing with them (and you judge parents who aren’t!).
  • Conversely, you leave your kid in a bouncy seat for hours and explore an exciting online virtual life. (You know, like Clara on The Guild.)
  • You resent your spouse and complain to everybody under the sun about hir. At the same time, you don’t allow hir to take any responsibility for your child or housework.
  • You spend a *lot* of time worrying about what other people think of you and of your parenting. You actually take your in-laws’ complaints to heart and either feel terrible or rant against them, instead of just rolling your eyes and remembering that they’re from a different era.
  • Your entire worth is bundled up in the perceived accomplishments and failures of your 2 year old.

Perhaps instead, it is time to get a new job.  You don’t have to go back to the law office, but you know, someplace where you talk to adults and think about other stuff besides your kid. Or maybe some volunteer work or political activism. Or something!

And it’s ok.  Your kids will turn out fine, maybe even better, with a parent who is happy with outside interests rather than one who is around all the time in every sense.  It’ll be less pressure for the kid!  Plus your spouse will be forced to pick up some of the slack so there will be two involved parents instead of one overinvolved one.  Find a great daycare provider.  And stop feeling so guilty.  It doesn’t matter what your mom did or didn’t do or what your neighbors will think.

This public service message has been brought to you by Grumpy Rumblings, who remind you that it’s ok to try something different if what you’re doing is not working out.  Let the flameage begin.

41 Responses to “Some people should not be SAHP: A deliberately controversial post”

  1. brokeprofessionals Says:

    I grew up in a household where my mom left full-time work to be a stay at home mother (for about 12 years all siblings considered). I enjoyed the experience and always considered it a better experience than going to a daycare or something of the sort. However, thinking about how much my parents fought about money (they earned about evenly before my mother quit the workforce) and the fact that my mom did exhibit a lot of the qualities discussed above (putting her children first to an extreme), I wonder if you’re not right. I always feel bad that when she did rejoin the workforce she never again had nearly a good a job as the one she left before she became a stay at home mother (*parent).

  2. everyday tips Says:

    I think it is hard to be 100 percent happy and perfect at any job. It is an question you will never know the answer to because you only live one life.

    I don’t think it is a black and white situation. Just because a mom is over involved doesn’t mean she needs a job. Perhaps she needs a change in perspective, or maybe she is trying to fix the evils of her own childhood. A job may be the last thing that person needs. (But as you said, activism in something else may be a good middle-ground.)

    Personally, I feel a mom needs to be around a lot during the teen years for about a million different reasons. People worry about it most when the kids are little, but believe me, the freedom that a lot of these teens have can be a recipe for disaster.

    I have been a stay at home mom forever, and I agree that some parents are just not cut out for it. For those that aren’t, is it better for the child if the parent leaves the house and works all day? Who knows. I do know that when I am happy, the whole house is generally happier. However, if I was gone all the time, what affect would that have? What about the stress of me having to leave work to take care of one of the kids, missing many school events, blah blah. There is stress no matter what path you choose.

    One thing I do know is judging doesn’t help. When I worked, I was judged, when I stayed home I was judged. Parenting is a tough job, and people need all the support they can get.

    • Lindy Mint Says:

      Ohh, I like your comment about teens. I sometimes feel backwards for working now, while my kids are young, and seeking enough financial freedom to stay home more later, when they are older. But I think you’ve just given me a good excuse to keep going with this plan.

      • bogart Says:

        Having (step)parented both teens (the stepkids) and a preschooler I think what you’re doing is phenomenally sensible, for the record. Teens need love and supervision and IMO are more fun anyway. So, yes, carry on.

  3. Lindy Mint Says:

    There is something to be said for extracurricular, non-parenting activities for SAHPs. Isolation in mommy-dom is never a good thing.

    There is also something to be said for working parents who work a little too long, and could stand to cut back a few hours a week and go on a few play dates.

    I think it’s all about finding a balance that doesn’t make you turn into a loony, no matter which route you take.

    PS: This post is so controversial, I’m never reading this blog again! (<—hope that helps in the fire sparking).

  4. Jacq Says:

    I work with a helicopter mom. I wish she was a SAHP.

  5. MutantSupermodel Says:

    You need a better controversy. I was all excited about a blog war and then read your post and thought, “I agree!”
    Which means I can’t oppose your view. So safe all the time, it’s not surprising you’re a couple of untenured professors!

    P.S. I too am attemtping flame-starting.

    P.P.S. Is it working?

  6. Invest It Wisely Says:

    Shouldn’t it be “controversial”? :P

    Here’s my controversial thought: If someone is unable to be a good SAHM maybe they shouldn’t be a mother, period. There’s nothing wrong with getting a side gig or going back to work once the kid is older, but a mother should be there during the formative years.

    • Invest It Wisely Says:

      And yes, I’m referring to SAHM and not SAHP. We are built into two different sexes for a reason, and the mother and father have different roles. I do think the father needs to devote as much time into the parenting and the “absent father ” syndrome is a horrible one for the kid. They need love and care from both parents. During the formative years though I think it’s especially crucial that it be the mother doing the nurturing and not a stranger.

      • everyday tips Says:

        Kevin, I have to say though, it can be dangerous leaving a teen unattended too. Believe me, I am not a helicopter mom, but I am involved. Actually, I wish there were more helicopter moms around the older kids. I can’t tell you how much parents don’t know about their kids. I am not just saying drinking and such. I am saying just about their lives in general. So many parents ‘drop out’ once the kid hits high school. I think that is a massive mistake.

      • Invest It Wisely Says:

        @everyday tips: I agree! In no way should a child be unattended no matter whether a preschooler or a teen. At least with a teen I think both parents can work since the teen is at school during the day, anyways, but I completely agree that it’s an especially important time for a parent to be vigilant and show their love and attention.

  7. Squirrelers Says:

    I happen to agree with you, which won’t do much to fan the flames of controversy here.

    Really, as long as the kids are loved, know they’re loved, and are raised well – I see nothing wrong with there being either a SAHP present or both parents working. Some people are cut out for different things, and either way can occur while a parent can do a great job. What works for each family is different.

    • Invest It Wisely Says:

      I think when the kids are older a SAHP is not necessary, but during the younger years I personally don’t want to ship my kids off to a government-run daycare where the workers don’t particularly care too much and where germs run rampant. I think at least during these early years a SAHP is crucial.

      • bogart Says:

        Wait, we can ship our kids off to government-run daycares? Where do I sign up?!?

      • Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

        I know my kids are in a great daycare, and that their teachers love them. My son’s teacher goes out of her way to help him! I would be completely list without her. And my daughters first daycare provider still calls to ask about her after our 2.5 year separation.
        I don’t think all daycares are bad- I’m sure some are. However, I have only experienced teachers who put a lot of time and effort into each of their ‘kids’.

  8. bogart Says:

    Yeah. It’s framed here as needing adult contact, but what I personally need is non-contact with both adults and children. I never see it framed in these terms when discussions like this come up, but here’s what I understand about myself: I’m an introvert. I do best when I have about 4 hours in the day when I’m not sleeping, working (in my home, including housework, or at my job), or (here’s the introvert part) interacting with other human beings. It’s no surprise that that rarely happens, but the difference in my ability to engage positively with other human beings, including my child, when I get at least a few hours of that sort of time every single day is vast. Truly vast. I don’t imagine that I’d turn into a serial killer if I had to be my child’s sole care provider from birth to age 5, but I do think it would have long-term and negative effects on my mental and physical health and — perhaps more important — my ability to be a good mother. Which is (very) important to me, so out of the house I go (off to work, as it happens, but my DH is a SAHH by choice, and by mutual agreement we still have DS in the care of others roughly 30-34 hours during the work week).

    • Karen Says:

      This is so interesting, bogart- I don’t know why people don’t talk about it more- are there really just not that many introverts? Personally, I consider myself a mixed introvert/extrovert. I need at least 2 hours per day of interacting with people (but for no more than 2 hours at a time) AND 2 hours per day of NOT interacting with anyone to be fully happy! I also need to interact with my laptop at least every 2-3 hours. Yes, I’m addicted. Whatever. So yeah, I think the hardest thing about being a SAHP to a child who was too old for naps would be the lack of alone time, not the lack of adult conversation. If you have alone time, you can always get your adult conversation online…

  9. Rumpus Says:

    Given how similar any two people are on the grand scale, I find it astounding how much needs vary. That’s between any two parents, and between any two children. I have definitely met SAHPs who act very stressed and needy and I’ve wondered if they wouldn’t be happier with a little more time outside the home. Unfortunately I imagine that’s one of those studies that’ll never be done…overzealous IRBs stand in the way of all the good science. ;) Also, watching my relative’s teens…I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with all that. I thought it was chaos when they were kids, but I see now that I had no clue what the potential for trouble was.

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Well, traffic is certainly way up. Thanks everybody for participating!

    I’m surprised nobody has taken any of these throw-downs. I guess I’ll address one of them for the sake of discussion… my DH is perfect in every way. I don’t see how his mother as a SAHM would have made him any better than he is today. He’s already optimized. I would be very sad if he had never been born, just because his mom has a Protestant work ethic. What exactly would her having been home 24/7 have changed? I also value my own mother as a role model– because she was a super-woman, I am too. There’s something to be said for not being brought up thinking you’re the center of the universe… just an important part of it. Plus I know how to do a broad range of chores and stuff because I’ve been helping run the household since I was 7… no big shock to my system on my own in college. I don’t think I could be any more perfect either (well, maybe 10 lb thinner, but that’s not my mom’s fault), and my son is a complete and total delight to everyone who meets him– phenomenally well-behaved (thank you Montessori!), happy, curious, popular, and smart. I’m glad we were both born too. Type A moms can have well-adjusted children so long as those moms are getting their challenges outside of child-rearing.

    • Invest It Wisely Says:

      It was an interesting post! I think people can make it work even if they can’t stay at home, though depending on circumstances staying at home can be even better at least for some of the years. That is what I personally believe at any rate.

      The most important thing is that the kids are loved and well-guided.

    • bogart Says:

      Yeah, I’ll go a bit beyond that. It mystifies me that some folks seem to think, or be willing to argue, that the BEST way to bring up a kid, perhaps the ONLY ACCEPTABLE way to bring up a kid, is to raise hir so that at least while young s/he believes that there exists only one adult who is really, truly capable of taking care of hir. Huh? I realize some of us may have (effectively) no choice, that this may be the best AVAILABLE option … but inherently best? Really?

      I’m really lucky to have access both to good quality, stable, paid childcare (now in year 4 with a paid care provider, DS has had precisely … 2) and to extended family. But I really do believe that raising my son to know that there are multiple adults who care about him and can take good care of him (and do, regularly) is doing better by him than would organizing my life so that he had one principal caregiver (plus perhaps a few cameo appearances by others) whether that was me or anyone else.

      I’ll add as a bit of an aside that by my son’s 3rd year, there were 2 occasions when my husband and I had to leave him in someone else’s care for several days and nights, with no warning (literally in one case, about 24 hours in the other). One was the death of a grandparent in another state; DH and I (but not young DS) traveled to the funeral. The other was a time on vacation when we were literally not even in a familiar setting when I was injured and needed surgery (DH was not there; he was on a trip with one of his adult children). In both cases my mom was able to step in (she was with me on the vacation) and the process was literally seamless. DS was a trooper, but beyond that, he was comfortable knowing that Granny is someone who can take care of him just as we, his parents, can and do. Obviously, we are lucky to have that kind of contact (and that kind of Granny). But there are others who could step in, in her stead, were she unavailable, whom my son knows and trusts — and they’re not all family (though many are). When I was lying in a hospital doped up on morphine (after the accident), knowing that my DS was safe and that he knew he was safe was, yes, priceless.

  11. Money Reasons Says:

    My wife is a SAHM, and you just made her sound like she walks on water in comparison to the list that would be considered a bad SAHM :)

    I’m make sure she nevers see this article (I don’t want her to know she’s doing a great job…)

    • Everyday Tips Says:

      Money Reasons, you need to tell your wife every single day that she is doing a great job. One of the hardest parts of being a parent is you don’t know how good you did until they are adults, and that is a long time to wait for positive reinforcement!

      I am sure your comment is tongue in cheek. But I am just saying this generically to everyone out there- appreciate those who are doing a great job, especially when it come s to caring for family members!

  12. Molly On Money Says:

    As a kid I always wished my Dad was a SAHP and not my Mom. I think they wished the same. His income was so much higher than hers (Physicist vs. elementary school teacher) that it was not even considered.
    Funny thing, I married a man who is a great SAHP! Occasionally he gets restless and goes back into the workforce. I just let it run its course and know he will be back!

  13. SonyaAnn Says:

    “You analyze every single action that your child does based on all the parenting books and webpages you’ve read and share this analysis with any adult you can get to listen.”-I have someone in my family(I’ll leave it at that) that has a small child. They have been a parent for under 2 years and are now all knowing when it comes to parenting and try to tell me what to do. Mind you my kids are 19 and 15 so my guess is I know a bit more.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of DH’s relatives is always asking us what to do with his teenage daughters. Other than that I was once a teenage daughter and have a sister who was also at one time a teenage daughter, we have ZERO to say on that front. And we came from such a different environment that my sister’s and my experiences really can’t help at all anyway. We do sympathize though.

  14. First Gen American Says:

    I questioned my decision to go back to work until just after the first day my son was in daycare. My lady had my son on a schedule after 1 day when I couldn’t figure it out after 3 months. There is something to be said about a person who has a lot of life experience to help you on your journey.

    I definitely fit into the type A bad SAHM category, except I think I would ignore my kid and put them in front of the TV so I could do house projects or something. Right now, I make an effort to go out of my way to do stuff with them and my guess is that “real quality time” would go down if I was home with them all the time. I still dream about being home with them, but not til they’re both in school so I have some me time.

  15. Funny about Money Says:

    “Helicopter mom”…what a demeaning term.

    Why do we so often feel impelled to ensure that women can’t win, no matter what they do — especially where parenthood is concerned? Does anyone ever speak of a “helicopter dad”? When have men’s personalities been blamed for everything from thumb-sucking to autism?

    The big problem with staying at home with the kiddies is loneliness. I speak from experience. It is EXTREMELY lonely for a bright, educated woman to be stuck in a house all day long while her friends, spouse, and peers are engaged elsewhere. While yes, raising children is a great intellectual (and physical) challenge and possibly the ultimate altruistic act, carrying on conversations about doo-doo and Sesame Street can get to be pretty crushing if you have no relief from it.

    Motherhood is a full-time job. In the days that preceded the expectation that women would have careers outside the home, any woman who was bringing up kids had easy access to lots of other women who were home dealing with parenthood. They spent a lot of time together during the day engaging in adult conversation. From those dark ages, I can remember, for example, my mother and her best friend spending entire afternoons over a pot of coffee. I also remember their bridge clubs and beach parties and many other mechanisms, formal and informal, that brought adult women together socially, every day.

    It’s not normal or healthy to be 100 percent focused on the kiddies by virtue of being the only adult woman within walking or driving distance who’s not at work in an office. To maintain their sanity, people who choose to stay at home with their children, whether they’re men or women, need to actively seek out other adults to befriend and to spend time with. If that means having to farm the kids out to daycare a few hours a day and go get a part-time volunteer or paid job, so be it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve never been contacted by a helicopter mom at work, only helicopter dads who don’t understand why I’m sending their precious sweetheart to the honors counsel just because ze was caught cheating.

      I don’t think not working is a pre-requisite for helicoptering. (And THANK YOU FERPA!)

  16. Solitude Is Precious | Funny about Money Says:

    […] In a similar vein, NicoleandMaggie generated a lot of commentary with a lively post suggesting some people are not cut out to be stay-at-home parents. […]

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  18. 101 Centavos Says:

    Nothing controversial about it. Heck, some people are not cut out to be even parents at all. Lucky (very lucky) for us, Mrs. 101 is very good at her SAH job, the whole enchilada, kids and home.

  19. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I have 2 kids, and I work full time outside the home. I know deep down I can never be a stay at home mom. Our kids are so much better off with both their parents working! We are able to spend quality time together not quantity. And it’s great!!

  20. Midweek Reading: Catching Up Edition | Invest It Wisely Says:

    […] Some people should not be SAHP: A deliberately controversial post (Grumbly Rumblings of the Untenured) […]

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