Am I still a Stay-at-home Mom if my Kids Aren’t Home Much?

My son is of school-age now, so starting in August, he will be out of the house from 8:30 am until 3:05 pm most weekdays. My daughter goes to preschool from 8 am until 5 pm three days per week, and I’m about to put her back in the neighborhood daycare she used to go to from 8 am until 5 pm an additional day per week.

So, should I still call myself a stay-at-home mom if my kids are barely home during the week? Forget “stay-at-home”, am I still a “mom” if other people take care of my kids more hours than I do?

I used to say I would never stick my kids in daycare or get a nanny because I didn’t want someone else “raising my kids”. I still feel that way, but only about fictional, idealized children. My real, flesh-and-blood, stinky, cranky kids, I will totally put in childcare.

I rationalize:

  • My daughter is happier when she can spend time with other kids her age
  • She eats more and more variety when I’m not around (I have no idea why)
  • It’s healthy for my kids to have relationships with other trusted adults
  • I’ll be much more pleasant when I do spend time with my kids in the morning, evening, and on weekends because I’ve had plenty of “me” time as well as done a bunch of chores

I wrote in “My Miracle Child” about how I first started learning that I don’t have to be everything for my kids. Perhaps I’m overcompensating now, paying handsomely for a small “village” of people to help me raise my kids.

Despite my facetious comment above, I feel extremely guilty about this. For one thing, we really are spending a lot of money on childcare, and it’s not like I’m bringing in any income to offset the cost. For another, I realize not everyone can afford to do this, so why should I be able to?  How selfish of me to pay for childcare to have more time for me, instead of volunteering at a homeless shelter, or tutoring inner-city kids.  (Crap, writing that makes me feel like I really ought to be doing those things.)

It is selfish to make more time for myself.  I intend to spend the time writing, and finding ways to get paid for my writing so that I will in fact be “working out of the home,” and hopefully making a little money, although realistically I think it will be a long time before it’s any sizable amount.  I also plan to start exercising again and to cook more at home.

The idea is that if I invest time in myself, I will be a better mother and a better person. In all likelihood, I may not totally be child-free since I have a habit of offering my child-free time to watching my friends’ kids (they’re so much nicer to people who aren’t their parents). And that way, they don’t have to spend the money for childcare, I can give it to them for free.

It occurred to me that I wouldn’t want to date a person who did everything for me, who gave up all of their hobbies and interests for me, who catered to my every whim, and I don’t want to parent that way either. Of course, my kids do need me for a lot of things, but being with them 40 hours during weekdays is not one of them.

Please share your thoughts on putting your child in care, whether you’re a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, or whether you don’t put your child in childcare at all.

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11 thoughts on “Am I still a Stay-at-home Mom if my Kids Aren’t Home Much?

  1. flawson July 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Please also read my friend’s blog post about being a SAHM: http://migrainefamily.com/2013/05/15/sahm-or-am-i-a-sham/

  2. Mara Migraineur July 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm Reply

    Oh my! We are clearly on the same wavelength! The post I was writing today was all about my struggle with “deserving” things over others and how it led me to the extreme of not taking care of myself at all. Here’s a question: would your children not being in daycare save the rest of the world? We all have our own capacity. For some it is a cup and for others it is a bucket. If you can take a cup of your children, does that make you inherently bad? I know that because of my migraines, I have to respect my body a bit more than perhaps others do. My limits are what they are and depriving myself sure doesn’t make me a better parent. And it sure won’t save the world.

    • flawson July 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm Reply

      Thank you. I know it’s good to accept my limits, especially due to my anxiety and depression, but sometimes I’m tempted to believe the limits aren’t real and that I’m just using them as an excuse. I know deep down that they are real, but I think it’s normal to have the desire to want to be a supermom, it’s just better for everyone not to actually try to fulfill that desire, frankly because it’s nuts and unhealthy.

      • Mara Migraineur July 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm

        It is very tempting indeed. (pointing accusingly at myself)

  3. misia17 July 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm Reply

    I could write pages and pages on this subject but I will try to be brief:
    1. To answer the question “should I call myself a “stay-at-home-mom?” my answer is no. Don’t do it. Say you have graduated and open the bubbly.
    2.Are you a mom if other people take care of your kids more than you do?!?!?! I’m taken aback by the question. How many hours/day does your husband spend with his kids? I bet you it’s not nearly as many as you. Is he not a dad because of it?
    3. The phrase that you don’t want “other people raising your kids” is usually said by people who A. have never had children, or B. have had to subject themselves to it and resent that other women have refused to sacrifice themselves in the same way.
    4. All of the “rationalizations” that you mention regarding the benefits of childcare are true.
    5. If you feel guilty about not making money, pay for childcare so you can work. It is perfectly legitimate, even if you lose money. You’ll be investing in your career and that is enormously valuable.
    6.Why should you be able to afford the daycare when not everyone can? You shouldn’t. It’s a gross injustice. Every woman and man should be able to afford childcare.
    7.If you feel guilty about not contributing more to society, pay for childcare and volunteer a couple of hours/week. It is immensely rewarding, it is a great example for your children and why should your children get all of your time and your community none?
    8.Don’t do things for yourself to be a better mother or a better person. Work on whatever issues you need to work to be a better mother and/or a better person (we all have them), but do things for yourself to feed your soul, and to develop the craft you want to call your craft because not doing so will crush your soul.
    9.That habit of looking after other people’s children: bad habit. Drop it, unless by doing so you are also giving your children play dates and consequently getting time for yourself.
    10. Your children DON’T want to spend all their time with you. They probably do want parents who are present (in the sense of being truly there) and generous with their time (in the sense of being able to set priorities that take their needs into consideration). Millions of people have managed to do that without dedicating all of their time to their children. Please REFUSE to feel guilty about finding out that you do not want to be a “stay-at-home-mom” and in so doing, give ME permission to not feel guilty either.
    Whew! Sorry. I tried to be brief.

    • flawson July 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm Reply

      Thank you for the thoroughness of your response.

      1. What do you say when people ask whether you work out of the home, are you a stay-at-home mom, etc.?
      2. My husband spends every morning, evening, and weekend with the kids, so I feel he does spend a majority of his free time with them/us. I guess my error is defining my time away from the kids as “free time” when really I’m running our household, investing in a new career, trying to take care of my own physical and mental health.
      5. I feel guilty because I don’t expect to make anywhere near enough to cover much of the cost of the child care, but I know I need to let it go. Working at something I love isn’t about that. I’ve lived too long feeling I didn’t have any dreams to fulfill. I want to be a writer, I am a writer, I’m going to continue to get better at writing.
      6. Amen, I totally agree with you.
      7. I do already volunteer at church, at my son’s school, I’m going to be okay with that for now.
      8. Good point. I didn’t want to admit before how much writing meant to me, but not doing it would really “crush my soul” at this point. It’s also really therapeutic for me.
      9. Now that I think of it, I only really do it occasionally. Most of them have regular babysitters now.
      10. I can’t promise not to feel guilty, but I won’t let guilt stop me from doing what I want to do, and putting my daughter in childcare so that I have time to actually do it.

  4. katyblue04Katy July 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm Reply

    I find I’m a rare sort of mom who doesn’t ever want to spend time away from my kid. I just don’t crave “me” time. Maybe I get enough of it on terms I’m comfortable with? There are plenty of moments when I’m done, ready to escape to my room behind a closed door after a rough day. And sometimes I do that, when my wife is home to be with her. Or maybe I’ll go grocery shopping for an hour to myself. But I have a hard time rationalizing a day out with friends at the spa when really I’d rather be at home and can’t afford that luxury anyway. I’d rather put that time and money and effort to having a family day at an amusement park. I often get to sleep in for mornings and will spend an hour or so awake but still in bed, reading and what not. She has a good bedtime and I spend those evening hours doing what I want. So I do get time alone, and apparently it’s enough for me.

    I’m a homebody, always have been, so I don’t feel the need to get out more. I didn’t give up anything at all when I became a mom, it was something I’ve always wanted so much that I didn’t lose any of myself in it. I feel like being a mom is my full potential. I always knew I’d be a SAHM, I didn’t want to have kids unless we could make that happen. I knew that I personally wouldn’t feel like a mom if I had a full time job away from my kid. I’ve spent my whole life taking care of other people’s kids and I was certain I knew what I was getting in to. (Of course I was wrong, parenting is a million times different and harder than being a nanny/camp counselor/teacher’s assistant!) But I feel lucky that every day I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. We spend our days together, sometimes out and about, sometimes at home being lazy. But it’s all really really good. We thoroughly enjoy each other’s company! I have huge problems with letting others watch my daughter. I don’t like missing any moment away from her. We waited until she was 7 months old to leave her for the first time. In her first 2 years I think the total number of date nights was 5. We’re both uncomfortable being away from her, and I’m grateful for that. It would be hard if I never wanted to leave and had a partner begging for a vacation away with just the two of us. The thought of being away overnight freaks us out, we just don’t have any desire at all to do that. Having kids was something I wanted to do fully, not in addition to a career. Raising her is my career, I’ve helped raise so many other kids that I have no doubts that I’m on the right career path!

    She’s going to be attending 3 mornings of preschool soon, and I already have anxiety about it. 1 morning a week I’ll get to be the work parent. It was crucial for me to find a school where I could have as much parental involvement as possible, and the co-op we found is exactly what we were looking for, otherwise I absolutely wouldn’t send her. They are open to me staying in the room for as long as it takes for both of us to feel comfortable with me dropping her off. But even the thought of her being away from me for potentially 6 hours a week is nerve-wracking. I feel silly even enrolling her in preschool, when I stay at home. But at 3.5 she is ready and excited, and I know she’ll benefit from it, especially the interacting with her peers. And I think since I’ve carefully chosen a place we love, it’ll be a great way for us to begin to test these waters of separation.

    Another huge aspect is the cost, as an extremely low-income family we can only attend this preschool thanks to a generous scholarship. If I didn’t have another baby on the way I would certainly wonder what I should do during the hours she wasn’t with me. I’d feel obligated to work because we need the money so badly, but if money isn’t an issue I don’t think you have to feel that way at all! There is plenty to do at home, or for yourself, whatever you need to do to function should be priority. It seems that my cup just needs much less than what the average mom needs. If we were living more comfortably financially I might feel differently. I don’t know.

    I’m curious how/if these feelings will change once baby #2 is here, I wonder if I’ll suddenly become overwhelmed and find myself needing time away. I wonder if baby #2 will be more difficult, and demand more of me. I know our entire family dynamic will change, and I have a feeling the adjustment from one kid to two will be much harder than it was to have the first baby. So who knows how much of my feelings now are personality or situational!

    I just realized that I basically wrote an entire post on my blog about all this, I knew it was feeling familiar! So if you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts, here you go- http://motheringmakena.blogspot.com/2013/06/different-types-of-mothers.html

    • flawson July 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. It sounds like you are really already doing your “calling”. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to have kids when my hubby and I stopped preventing pregnancy. When I got pregnant, I was like, “Oh, I guess we’re having kids.”

      Of course, I’m really grateful to have them, they’re wonderful kids. I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into though, especially how it would trigger my depression, unresolved issues with my parents, and my perfectionism.

      I’m really excited for all that you’re going to experience with having your second baby. I can’t tell you which parts will be hard and which will be easy, but there will very probably be some of both. I hope you know you have a lot of people who are happy to help you when they can, myself included.

  5. 2 AM Candor July 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm Reply

    Wow. This REALLY struck a chord with me! Sooo much to say here… For starters, I LOVE reading your pieces. Thank you for sharing!! You’re so authentic, so real, so raw, I can feel what you’re feeling because of your gifted ability to communicate so well. As a reader, it’s as tho I can “feel” exactly what you’re saying, cuz I often feel the same! Thank you! It’s so wonderful not to be alone. (!!!) Because as a mom, I often feel guilty (just like you did) about stay at home mom but not with kids 24-7 with kids. But when I’m gifted the opportunity to see inside another family, I can easily see it’s sooo healthy idea to “enjoy” going to the supermarket alone again. So much more to say…but will leave it at this for now… I hope you always follow this mantra (cuz I’m gonna try, thx to you!) … “It occurred to me that I wouldn’t want to date a person who did everything for me, who gave up all of their hobbies and interests for me, who catered to my every whim, and I don’t want to parent that way either. Of course, my kids do need me for a lot of things, but being with them 40 hours during weekdays is not one of them.”
    Amen, Frankie Lawson. Amen.
    Thank you for the “permission” to be a stay-at-home without 24-7 time together.
    xoxo,
    Gretchen

    • flawson July 21, 2013 at 3:42 pm Reply

      Thank you. I think it really says something that we all feel like we need to ask for “permission” to be moms even if we’re not watching our kids 24/7 or going to an office job the whole time they’re in school.

      You really ought to thank yourself for me writing. I’ve been inspired by your blog (http://sassysinglemom.com) for a long time, and I continue to be inspired by your courage and honesty.

  6. […] of this topic, check out Sassy Single Mom, who just returned with her daughter from Guatemala; and Pretend You’re Good At It, who speaks about it specifically from her view of her […]

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