Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is a SAHM?

Well, of course it's an acronym for stay-at-home mom. But what I'm really asking is who can call themselves one, and why do they claim the title? It seems to be one of the labels that floats around, and I think that with it comes a bit of a claim to superiority, "I love my children, so I am staying home with them." I know that most people wouldn't say that outright, so I think that sometimes they use the title to say it for them. I even had it on my "About Me" description, but I changed it. I think that the message that we try to convey with that SAHM label is "I'm home. I'm available. It's what I do." Now, of those three phrases, "It's what I do" is the one that I think that most people mean to convey. It's my job. I guess that Homemaker is outdated and old-fashioned, but I think I'm going to start using that one. I like that one, because it focuses on my role in the home (which honestly takes up as much time and energy as mothering), and also does not exclude the care and nurture of my husband. My role in this family goes beyond being a mom.

What is the intent of indicating that you are "at home?" Is it the presence? The sacrifice? The availability to meet the needs of your kids? Don't women who work outside the home strive to be available and meet their kids' needs? In fact, I'm sort of starting to buy in to the quality versus quantity time argument. I do not take the opportunity of every hour that I am with my kids. In fact, as a full-time homemaker, instead of craving time with them and making the most of it, as I know many of my working mom friends do, I am instead looking for the opportunity for a break.

One thing that has brought this to mind, is that I recently took a part time job. I'm working one day a week with a friend of mine. We get to ride together and visit, Amanda's at school all day anyway, and Kyle is staying with a friend of mine who keeps another toddler during the day. He loves it. I love the break, and the little bit of extra money is going to be fun. This change has caused Amanda to begin to worry a bit. I'm not exactly sure why, but we've talked a lot about it. In explaining it to her, I realized that when she was the only one home with me, in her preschool years, I was a lot busier than I am now. Currently, I attend Bible study at church one morning a week. Just this year, I added a volunteering commitment at Amanda's school which is two hours every other week. When Amanda was in preschool, I attended (and led) Bible study once a week, and once a month had fellowship which lasted another couple of hours. I had a weekly training meeting, and in addition to that, we attended and I served in our MOPS group. I was a full-time stay-at-home mom, but I wasn't home a whole lot. . . . So, that's what I meant by, "What does it really mean?" I know many women who squeeze in almost a full-time schedule on weekends or working nights so that they will be "home," and I know women who work a bit, as I have started to, and women who work full time, and then do the whole "mom thing" after work and on weekends, giving it all they've got.

I think it's all about trying to be available to your kids. I wrote a post a while back that I'm proud of called Homeraising Mom, where I basically claim some of the virtues that I see in homeschoolers, even though my daughter is in public school. What am I trying to say with this post? Am I trying to alienate those who proudly use those labels? No, in fact I think that most of us use those labels to try to find common ground with some people, not to alienate those with whom the label differs. A homeschooling family leads a very different daily life than a non-homeschooling family, so simply by identifying yourself as such, you let people know your choices, struggles, and daily routine. But I think that sometimes there's an attitude that if you don't stay at home full time with your kids, or if you don't choose to homeschool or whatever else that divides, then you are somehow less of a mom. I think it can go the other way, too, although it's not the pervasive attitude in Christian circles--if you don't choose a fulfilling career outside of the home, you are somehow less of a woman. Having children has even become some type of a badge of honor. A truly devoted woman has a quiver full of children, thus signifying her as a mom above compare. What about the woman who has no children, either by choice or circumstance, or for that matter "only" one, also by choice or circumstance?

How do your experiences help you edify all women, regardless of their personal choices? Do you believe that there are certain absolutes that are right and wrong, or do you believe that there are areas that work fantastically for you that you would not change, but that you can support other women's choices that differ from yours? I will not hide my bias. I think that this is where we should all be--living our own lives the way that God is calling us to, but lovingly supporting others who are living out their own lives in the way that God has called them to. Do you know, intimately, women who lead different lifestyles than you do? If not, I encourage you to seek some out. If you are a SAHM, invite one of your daughter's friends and her working mom over on a Saturday morning. If you are a part of a bookclub or something that meets in the evenings or the weekends, make a conscious effort to have lots of differently labeled women. Truly knowing and loving women who make different choices, and seeing how it works so well for them in their lives has really helped me to appreciate all the differing walks of life. Give it a try.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Jennifer. We are all part of the body of Christ, and as such, should value one another, not for what we do or have, but who we are in Christ.

Heather said...

Jennifer, you have no idea how much I appreciate this post. Chris and I don't have kids, yet, but as part of my thinking about it process, I've been overwhelmed by every dimension that it reaches. This helps me put perspective on another aspect.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer this was very good---you know, I've always felt a bit guilty that I see myself more as a wife than as a mother...I mean, afterall the wife part came FIRST and I see it as a big huge part of who I am, and the "mom" part falls under that umbrella.

I also like to use the term keeper of the home (which encompasses a great deal!)

Angeleyes Blue said...

Funny I had this conversation this morning with my 13 year old daughter. I had just cleaned up after the cat AGAIN! I found a tirade of tests all with "F" scrawled across the top of the page--found in my 14 year old son's room and I was folding laundry before I took my daughter to school.

I was sounding off that I had THREE jobs and I wasn't complaining. I started to cry. My daughter looked at me in amazement--What 3 jobs are you talking about? Throuh my teary eyes I said I am a receptionist for Farmers, I teach at the elementery school and I am a mom. I keep the house going forward.

We had a roof over our heads, food to eat and heat to keep us warm.

I told her that all I was asking in return was that the kids keep up their end of the deal--get good grades, feed the animals and clean litters.

She told me that going to school was hard work.

I know and i understand. Things were just overwhelming this AM.

I love my kids and love my hubby. He is working about 75 to 80 hours/wk right now. I miss him and our team.

Big Mama said...

As a mom who works and has "only" one child, I appreciate your perspective. I can't tell you how many times I have felt judged for the decisions I have made when ultimately they are decisions that have prayerfully been decided as the best for our family.

I agree with your thought that each woman has to do what is the best for her family and that will include choices that others may not understand but should accept. Motherhood is challenging enough without feeling judged by other women. Thanks for writing it down so eloquently.

Maggie said...

Jennifer - Thanks. I think it is importnat we all support each other and not draw the battle lines. I think it takes all kinds to make the world go around. I think my personality is better suited to working outside the home (although I would have loved the change to work part time). I try to provide my SAHM as much respect and support as I do my friends who work outside the home.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I know moms who work, moms who stay home full-time, and moms (like I've been on and off over the years) who work from home. Some things they all have in common though: they love their kids, parenting is one of their top priorities, and they've all made their decisions after much prayer and counsel.

On another note, the day Camden started first grade, he said to me, "Now that I'll be in school all day, I think it's time for you to go back to work." :)

Jennifer said...

I'm glad that you all liked my points here. I wasn't quite sure how it would go over, but I felt the need to say it. In general, I think that our little Christian blogging community is a wonderful peek at the diversity of the lives of women, and that's yet another great thing about it.

R.G. said...

Wonderful thoughts here, Jennifer. I have been at different times a full-time-working-supporting-the-family mom AND a stay-at-home-mom. Now I'm a WORK-at-home-mom and I used to think it would combine the best of both worlds... but some days, I think it just gives me the WORST of both worlds!

What's difficult for me is that I no longer fit the most common categories of "working" moms, SAHM's or homeschooling moms. Yes, I'm at home. BUT I have a full time job. All the labels and acronyms are helpful as shorthand, but the limitations quickly become apparent!

I actually do like the term homemaker, and I tend to think of myself that way.

Anonymous said...

I like the term homemaker, too (that's what I sign on my tax return). It says that's where my heart is, no matter where my circumstances take me. Like the Prov. 31 woman, during different seasons of life, "looking well to the ways of my household" may look different, but I'm always looking homeward.