An In Depth Analysis
PURPOSE: Even in today’s robust economy, millions of families still face worrisome, even dramatic economic hardships. Many families today must forget about “keeping up with the Joneses” and seek to become two-income families, where both parents must work just to keep going.
In addition, many of today’s women are driven by desire for career satisfaction outside the home, and many have worked, trained and schooled themselves toward that goal before starting families. Also, in this modern age, many women head single-parent families with even tougher financial burdens. And yet, today there is a new movement of women all across the country, who are bringing back a tradition of yesteryear, from olden times through the 40’s and 50’s. They choose to stay home and take care of their families and sacrifice the opportunity for a career. They are called “stay-at-home moms”. Given so many incentives to do otherwise, why on earth are they doing that? To take a closer look at this dramatic parental decision, I decided to interview a stay-at-home mom and find out just why she has given of herself, more then the average modern-day parent might. The person I have chosen to study is a good friend of mine. We grew up and went to school together. She said she would enjoy the study so ask away with the questions and that is exactly what I did.
Liz Weaver. Age: 30. Sex: Female. Birthplace: Birthplace, NY.
Educational Information: High school diploma, computer and typing classes, certificate for Mortgage Processing.
Work history: 1988-1994-Receptionist, Loan Coordinator, Mortgage Processor.
Hobbies: Drawing, reading, self-help, spiritual books, taking long walks.
Marital status: Married.
Others living in house: John Weaver (Husband), George Weaver, (Son) almost 4 years of age, Michael Armstrong, Liz’s father.
Question: Why is subject’s father living with her family?
Because we are helping my father financially and vice versa. Taking care of my father after mother passed away several years ago. My father is also physically sick (breathing problems) and has a hard time getting around. He does not drive any more, either.
METHOD: Interviewing Liz was interesting, but it lacked something. It was just one viewpoint. I also wanted to get viewpoints of other SAHMs (stay-at-home moms), so some of the following questions (questionnaire) will be answered by 28 other SAHMs before the conclusion of this paper. The interviews for Liz and her family were held in the morning, during the few days that I stayed at Liz’s house, (I had thought it would be a great vacation with time to rest….NOT). I also took some notes on what a typical day was like during my observations.
DATA OBTAINED/RELATED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:
Question: Why choose to be a stay-at-home mom, and what are the benefits for you personally, your child, and your family? What are the draw backs, the downside for you, your child and your family?
She said (more or less): The reason for my choosing to be a stay at home mom is: I felt why else have a child if not to be there through the years to bond with that child and watch him grow. The benefit for me personally in staying home with my son is to bond with him; I have gotten to really know my child. Also to teach, love, support, and encourage him, because the first few years of a child’s life are the most important. Those years mold children into who they really are. My son has taught me so much about myself; good and bad, and from that, I have grown in a lot of areas, including some I need to keep working on.
The benefits for my son are: that I am always there for him no matter what; that he has a stable and consistent home life; that he is a happy, healthy child.
The benefits for my family are: that I am here to do the house work and cooking and everything else that needs to be done is done by me 95% of the time. And, of course, that they know they don’t have to worry about the child when they are at work all day because it is me taking care of him and not some nanny or day care center.
The drawbacks for me of being a stay-at-home mom are: that we have less money, of course, but also that, (for me), I lost myself because I am the one taking care of him 80% of the time, 7 days a week sick or not sick. I miss doing what I love to do and the freedom of going here or there, being at work, having more money to do the things I’d like to do. Not spending time with friends or my mate. Putting things on hold because I have a child. It is a different world when you are a parent.
The drawbacks for my child are: that he has not been around other caregivers; that he has not really experienced yet what it is like when I am not around all the time, so he is a little bit (in my opinion), overly needy for me and doesn’t want to really give anyone else a chance at helping him with his needs. I am his everything. And I think there needs to be a balance for him, so he can go to or count on others to help him besides me for what ever his needs are at the moment, instead of searching for me all the time.
The drawbacks for my family are: that we are under each other’s feet all the time, someone is always home and no one gets to be alone for any reasonable length of time.
Question: What problems do you face now or have faced in the past, and how have you attempted to handle these problems?
Let’s see where to begin with this question (she smiled and gave me a smirk). We have faced some hard situations due to the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom, such as financial difficulties since our child was born almost 4 years ago, last year we had to go into Bankruptcy. I used to not like change at all, but as I grow from just being a mom, I am realizing that change is inevitable and that sometimes it can be good for the soul.
Question: Does the person find it easy to do new things, or is she upset and threatened by any change? How does the person view the future?
I view the future with (most of the time) optimism, that it will get better for us; we are still settling in as being a young family and the first (I’d say) 10 years are the hardest. Well, we have about 5 more to go! (She laughed and said, on the qt: If we can make it this far, we can make the others O.K.).
Question: What situations in your life (if any) would have changed your mind about being a stay-at-home mom?
None, even with all the financial difficulties. It is worth every penny I did not make out in the working world to take care of my own child that I chose to bring up and to love and care for.
Question: Have you ever felt that anything or any situation has held you back from accomplishing your life’s dream?
Yes. In the past I had a dream of becoming a Mortgage Underwriter and to go back to school for some classes for myself. But now I have a different career. So in a way I really don’t think I feel like motherhood has kept me back from accomplishing my life’s dream. When my son is old enough, I will go back and accomplish what I dreamt of, or go in a whole new direction for myself.
Question: What do you hope to achieve by being a stay-at-home mom?
I am hoping to raise a happy and healthy, well-adjusted child. Some one who is not afraid to do anything he sets his mind to. Someone who accomplishes his own dreams.
Question: Do you feel you socialize less because you are a stay-at-home mom?
Oh yes. No hesitation there.
Question: What other activities, besides being at home, are you involved with?
Question: Are any of your friends stay-at-home moms?
No. Either they have no children, or they are working moms.
Question: How do you feel when interacting with other women your own age that are not stay-at-home moms, but do have children?
I sometimes feel inadequate. Like I don’t know what is going on in the working world.
Question: How do you feel they view you?
Never thought about that.
Question: Are there any economic/financial problems that you feel are not being met in your home due to your being a stay-at-home mom?
Yes a lot of things, like, for instance, not having enough money to pay off certain bills and having to save far in advance just to pay them.
Question: Would you ever consider going back to the job market? If so why or, if not, why not?
Yes. For many reasons: to rebuild my self-confidence, for more income, to maybe get a career going for myself again.
Question: If you would ever consider going back to the job market, what would you do?
I would go right back to being a receptionist in the mortgage business again, learn what I have missed all these years not being in it, and then go back to being a mortgage processor.
Question: Would you ever consider going back to school? If so, for what?
Maybe, Interior Design.
Question: Would you ever consider home-schooling your child? If so, why, or if not, why not?
Yes. If my son is not safe in school; I believe that would be the only reason I would home-school him.
Question: Doesn’t being home, being sort of isolated from the rest of the world ever drive you batty? If so, why or, if not, why not; and how do you deal with it?
Yes, I sometimes do go very batty because I am isolated from the rest of the world. Sometimes I just want to get out of the house and do what I desire to do; shopping, walking, sitting outside by myself under a
tree and reading a book. I deal with it by realizing that I am a very important part of my family’s life and taking care of them the best way I know how is top priority. I also realize that nothing stays the same and before I know it my child will be in school. I believe I can have the best of both worlds; do what I have to do to take care of the family and still be able to make enough time every day for myself to do what I desire to do. That is how I deal with it.
Question: What type of parenting style do you feel you have?
I have a sort of half-and-half parenting style. I am strict but not overboard, and I am soft and flexible too.
Note: I consider Liz to have an authoritative parenting style because she is the law in her house with her son, but she does show him an enormous amount of love and care, as well.
Question: Do you feel that your “age clock” is where it is supposed to be? Why or why not?
Oh please, my “age clock” is so confused! L.O.L. I am 30 years old and sometimes I feel like I am 60. So, no, I don’t feel like my age clock is where it is supposed to be. I am hoping that will get better with time as my son gets older. I will have more time to really take care of myself. I can exercise, meditate, read, relax more. Oh yes!
Question: How is your physical health? Do you have any medical problems? Do you see your doctor regularly? Do you take care of yourself, exercise and such?
Thank God, my physical health is O.K.. No, I do not have any medical problems. No, I only see a doctor when I am really sick. No, I don’t take care of myself (exercise) like I used to before my son was born.
Question: What factors in your past or present have helped or hindered your process of growth and development?
The most important factor in my past that I can think of that hindered the process of growth and development for myself is the passing of my mom. It was a total shock and still is, that she has passed on; that she is no longer physically here for me. After my mom died I had to leave my one bedroom apartment that I previously moved into and go back home because my dad needed my financial help. (That had been my first real taste of independence away from my family). I believe also, in a way, the passing of my mom also has helped my growth and development. Through the years, I have become a stronger and more spiritual person. Something I never really had been aware of when I was growing up. But a lot of things that I have done before my mom’s passing also helped my growth process. After high school I went back to school for computer courses and typing classes. Because of those classes I was able to find a job in the mortgage business, something I never knew anything about. I started as a receptionist and after a while the company paid for an at-home course for mortgage processors. I received my certificate of completion and became a loan coordinator. Slowly, I was promoted to processor. I got so good at my job that I was doing legal documents and helping in closing these loans. Just before I switched jobs, I met and married my husband and moved again out of my parents home. After that I switched jobs and received more money with less of the responsibility. Not even a year into my new job I left the working world to be a stay-at-home mom for my son.
Question: What is your life’s dream?
My life’s dream, since I became a stay-at-home mom, is to be as close and open with my son as he grows older, as possible.
Question: Would you ever consider being a work at home mom? Why, or why not?
I don’t think I would be a work at home mom; only if I started my own business.
Question: What advice would you give another mother who is thinking about being a stay at home mom? My only advice is to think long and hard, make a chart of pro’s and con’s and then think about it some more; don’t forget this is not really just until the child goes to school which is 4 or 5 years after you give birth, but also when that child is in school and who is going to be there for that child after school when you are still at work till 5-6 o’clock at night. This is my opinion is the biggest commitment you are giving or going to give another person, more so than your wife or husband. So all I can
say is to think long and hard before rushing a decision.
MY OBSERVATIONS: As Liz and I are friends, I spent two weekday’s at her house, and made some key notes: She did everything from taking care of the bills to taking care of her father, husband and son. Sometimes it seemed as though she were a chicken with her head cut off, and sometimes there was this silence in the house which seemed like an abyss. It seemed as if she were a live-in “house manager”, rather then a stay-at-home mom. In between we did have some time together to take the kid food shopping, and afterwards, we enjoyed the rest of the day at the park. She prepared everything that was needed to go to the park beforehand, so that nothing was forgotten, as if it were a lifetime journey. From the kid’s sun glasses, to something to drink, a jacket, bat, ball, Frisbee, (did I say she brought 3 different types of balls?) snacks, etc. For an hour of play time, she was well prepared. Not only did the kid have fun, so did we. That evening, she made dinner, got the kid ready for his bath, snack time, tv time, and off to bed with a bed time story. Man, talk of being tired, I was tired just watching her. Then afterwards she had to take care of 2 cats for the evening, one of which was sick and needed special medicine. Then she fed her husband who does not work in a 9-5 job but gets home later. Then cleaned up the kitchen, and then she made a list of things we had to do tomorrow! Wash day! Change sheets, do a white wash, and a color wash, (for only towels of course) then hang them. Then we made lunch, then we ran to the bank, then we ran to the pharmacy to get a script filled for her father, then we came home, had a cup of coffee while the kid watched a movie; time for dinner, and the whole routine of the evening before started flashing before my eyes! I thought that I had a good system, but this was nuts to me! Anyway, the next morning I left, feeling even more tired then I did to begin with. Oh, did I mention that she got a chance in the mornings to answer some of my questions for this report, but only after breakfast? I think my girlfriend Liz needs a vacation.
Liz falls into the category of early adulthood. From my observations, her answers to my questions, and just knowing Liz as a friend, she has revealed to me that she has accomplished the first six developmental tasks of Havighurst’s theory within the early adulthood section. One factor that really hits home, is that I have seen in Liz the “gender splitting” (Levinson), the “split” Dream. She also demonstrates that she is at the point at which “women generally reverse the priorities that they establish during young adulthood (also Levinson 1990). Liz not only shows us, but also expresses it by letting us know she would not only reenter the work force, but she would also pick up where she left off as a morage-processor/Receptionist. My own personal feelings and opinion of the dream “split” for Liz and any other SAHM or WAHM is that after the child/children are in school full time, then she will have some time to herself and can begin to find her own identity of self, and how that self relates, interacts and is part of the world around her. I draw the conclusion that Liz is just right above “Esteem Needs” and is reaching, or beginning to view “Cognitive aesthetic Needs” on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. I base this on the fact that she is loved, accepted and viewed highly by her family and friends, but she is looking into herself and seeing what she needs to do as a person to not only be full- filled as an individual but also to be part of a community. My friendship with Liz and her husband makes it easy to know that they made their marital choice (first marriage for Liz, second for John) by the “family system perspective”. (McGoldrick, 1980)
Currently they are In the “authority stage” of parenting, and both are finding that there is no such thing as the perfect parent, but are still trying to work as closely as possible towards it, together.
28 OTHER SAHM’S QUESTIONNAIRES ANSWERS
With special thanks to the following for helping me get in touch with some of the SAHMs that had answered the questionnaires: The ChildFun Family Website, http://www.childfun.com, e-mailing lists:, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] their url is: , and the Stay-at-Home-Mom.com
1. What do you hope to achieve by being a stay at home mom?
a. 11 said: raising my child/children myself, including taking care of parent/child
bonding and taking care of the child’s needs themselves
b. 11 said: give good moral and values to child/children
c. 4 said: to built self esteem of their child/children
d. 1 said: so that she can also stay home and continue her education
e. 1 said: to raise a Godly child
2. Do you feel you socialize less because you are a stay at home mom?
11 said yes, 17 said no, and 5 out of the 17 that said no, said they socialize more now.
3. What other activities besides being at home are you involved with? Some moms displayed involvement in one or more of the following areas:
a. 4 said: hobbies, (including belly-dancing)
b. 11 said: child’s schooling/ and or activities including sports
c. 10 said: church
d. 4 said: nothing else
e. 1 said: MOPs (MOTHERS OF PRESCHOOLERS)
f. 4 said: I am going back to school myself (some for degree programs)
g. 1 said: bingo
h. 4 said: home biz
I. 1 said: bowling
j. 4 said: computer stuff, including Internet
k. 1 said: traveling
l. 1 said: charities
m. 1 said: writing her 2nd book!
n. 3 said: cooking classes
o. 1 said: belongs to a mom’s group
4. Are any of your friends stay-at-home moms? 4 out of 28 SAHMs said they had no friends that were SAHMs, while all others said they had one or MORE SAHMs as friends.
5. How do you feel when interacting with other women your own age that are not stay-at-home moms but do have children? I had received different answers to the following 2 related questions, to sum it up:
a. 5 said: no different/no problem
b. 2 said: fine
c. 2 said: these women are missing out on the greatest joy in life
d. 1 said: she feels guilty cause they have more and she has less money
e. 2 said: she said she feels guilty cause she has it better then the working woman
f. 2 said: inferior / inadequate
g. 10 said: confident / comfortable
h. 1 said: they forget me
I. 1 said: they are jealous
j. 1 said: I feel sorry for their children.
6. How do you feel they view you?
a. 1 said: I have made my choice
b. 3 said: don’t know, don’t care
c. 3 said: jealous of me
d. 2 said: O.K.
e. 5 said: inferior / inadequate
f. 3 said: envious
g. 1 said: I have an important job
h. 4 said: I,m lucky
I. 2 said: no different then themselves
j. 1 said: radical
k. 1 said: lazy
l. 2 said: as a stay at home mom
7. Are there any economic/financial factors that you feel are not being met in your home due to you being a stay at home mom and not a working mom?
a. 7 said yes
b. 16 said no
c. 5 said yes
NOTE: Some of the women had made comments when answering yes, but here is one that stuck in my head: “the tradeoff is well worth it!”
8. Would you ever consider going back to the job market? Why or why not? (more then one answer about why applied to some individuals)
a. 18 said yes
b. 4 said no
c. 6 said maybe.
The reasons for the yes were:
a. 9 said income
b. 5 said personal fulfillment
c. 5 said socialization
d. 3 said an extreme such as lost job on husbands part
e. 1 said better schools for kids
f. 1 said to have something occupy my time
The reasons for no were:
a. 1 said she only wanted her own business
b. 3 gave no reason as to why they said no.
9. If you would ever consider going back to the job market, what would you do? (more then one answer about why applied to some individuals)
a. 8 said: teaching field
b. 3 said: bookkeeping /accounting
c. 2 said: medical field
d. 2 said: law
e. 2 said: counselor
f. 2 said: they were unsure
g. 2 did not answer the question at all
h. 1 said: she would not work for anyone but her self
i. 1 said: masseuse
j. 1 said secretary
k. 1 said: publications/editor
l. 1 said computer industry
m. 1 said: catering
n. 1 said: office work.
10. Would you ever consider going back to school? If so for what?
a. 21 said yes
b. 4 said no
c. 3 said maybe
a. 5 said the medical profession
b. 5 said the teaching field
c. 4 did not answer the question at all (maybe because they said no)
d. 2 said law
e. 2 said computers
f. 2 said accounting
g. 2 said counseling
h. 1 said something different
I. 1 said history
j. 1 said massage therapist
k. 1 said cooking
l. 1 said for English literature
m 1 said did not know for what.
11. Would you ever consider home-schooling your child? Why or why not?
a. 14 said yes
b. 13 said no
c. 1 said maybe
The reasons for yes were:
a. 2 said if the child had problems school could not resolve
b. 2 said too much violence in school
c. 3 said to have a smarter child
d. 3 said school system is not good
e. 2 said they already do home-school
f. 1 said because of a feeling
g. 1 gave no reason why she would
The reasons for no were:
a. 4 said child needs socialization
b. 4 said child will not learn if I am the teacher
c. 3 said I have no patience to do that
d. 1 said her child is graduating High School
e. 1 said I do not have confidence in my ability to be a teacher.
12. Would you ever consider being a work at home mom? Why or why not? (more then one answer about why applied to some individuals)
a. 14 said yes
b 4 said no
The reasons for yes were:
a. 6 said yes because they are already WAHMs
b. 9 said yes because of the flexibility and extra income
c. 4 said yes because they can still be there for their children
d. 3 said yes because it will fulfill them
e. 1 said yes because if there were an extreme such as her husband losing
his job she would return to the job market.
f. 1 said yes because she want to open her own stay at home school.
g. 1 said yes because it is easy to do so
h. 1 said yes because it would give her a feeling of accomplishment.
The reasons for no were:
a. 3 said no because it will take too much time away from what they had to
do at home and with their children and
b. 1 said no because she would need a change of place and atmosphere.
What did I learn? I guess I learned that everyone is an individual, including mommies. I also learned that there are certain needs of a stay-at-home mom that I did not think of before I wrote this paper. I think those needs used to be desires but turned into needs after becoming a stay-at-home mom. I found that it was more of a need on the parent’s part than on the part of the child. The parent either knew or had grown to know that there would be some sort of sacrifice needed, such as lack of income, socialization, self-esteem, accomplishment; all in varying degrees. However, stay-at-home moms gained something they valued equally or better, which is being able to raise their children themselves, and to teach them good morals and values. These values will be passed on not only to their own children, but, by association, to a certain degree, to the children of other (non stay-at-home) mothers. Now, that is amazing! Additionally amazing is that more and more stay-at-home moms look around and find that they actually enjoy doing what they’re doing, and move up to the next level, becoming work-at-home moms. Many are doing this through the fast-growing communications technology known as the Internet. Throughout the last decade of this century, these women are helping to create a new frontier, and a new generation of hope for the family, despite the on-going, timeless conflict of “identity splitting” between career and family. They not only heighten their own self-esteem, but they also help their families’ economic situations, yet are still able to be present physically and emotionally to nurture their children/family members. So, whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or a mom that needs to be out in the workforce, all of us are moms with a common goal, the betterment of health, happiness, and well-being of our children.
Written by: Anita Schwartz