SAHM can be a tricky label. For many, it’s a job title, but it doesn’t always evoke positive vibes. No doubt every SAHM has heard some version of “you don’t have a real job”.
I’ve shared here about quitting my job this past spring. We paid off a lot of loans and realized we could make it on one income. Becoming a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) has been the fulfillment of a dream, one I truly never thought would happen. It’s also been a bit of an adjustment.
I’m used to making my own money, supporting myself. The old mindset of having to earn a paycheck? I don’t need to rely on that anymore.
It’s a bit disconcerting to suddenly be without a job and income. I’m not retired (the plan is for me to return to work for a number of years once the kids are older), but the emotions I’m experiencing must be similar to that of a new retiree. Of course, unlike most retirees, I don’t exactly get bored with two kids in tow, but I do have the new lack of wage-earning career to reconcile with.
Perhaps I ought to relax my expectations a bit. Fortunately for me, Nate hasn’t put any pressure on me to “produce” or earn during these coming years, but I’m starting to realize that I’ve been pressuring myself. Pressure to be the best mom ever. Pressure to give my kids unlimited opportunities for learning and enrichment. Pressure to enjoy every moment with my children. (Hello! What real mom is capable of all that?)
Side Income Possibilities
As if that parenting pressure weren’t enough, I’ve been hoping to earn a little side income, which is pretty unrealistic at this stage of my kids’ development. They require a lot of attention (and after they go to bed, I’m not at all energized to work on much). And let’s not forget that providing them with greater attention is…ahem…the point of my staying home! More time to teach them, enjoy them, and just be with them.
Brief consideration of caring for an additional kid or two in my home quickly dissipated as I saw how much work my own two kids are on a daily basis. They’re terribly needy. They fight like cats and dogs. The little one’s still a baby in many ways. Their energy levels seem inexhaustible (though I attempt to burn said energy up through daily sojourns to local playgrounds). Naps rarely occur simultaneously, if at all. So adding another child or two to the mix doesn’t sound so great right now.
Besides, a huge benefit of being a SAHM is the freedom to do what I choose and set my own schedule. If we want to take off and visit my folks midweek, we are free to do so. If we want to go to the library every morning or to the supermarket on a Tuesday, we can. I’ve somewhat mastered the process of loading up two kids in a stroller or van to go places, but add more kids, and everything becomes trickier. (Shout-out to my brother and many of my friends, who are parents to three or more munchkins! No one gives you enough credit!)
So even though a bit of cash wouldn’t hurt, I won’t be babysitting full-time anytime soon. Two kids under age three are plenty.
I’ve also contemplated several of the multi-level marketing businesses that are so popular among moms these days. Friends and family members have kindly offered me a chance to join their teams to earn a little spending money, and it has been really tempting. Let me be clear: I didn’t turn them down out of some sense of superiority. Network marketing has amazing flexibility and possibility, and plenty of people are rockin’ their own businesses.
It’s not for me, for two reasons: I just plain don’t want to sell anything, and there aren’t any products that thrill me enough to sell. I’m skeptical in general of beauty/cleaning/health products, and being frugal at heart would make it difficult to try and convince others to buy stuff I myself don’t want or need. If one day I fell in love with some products, I’d reconsider the sales consultant game.
Current Work Prep Goals
The search for part-time work will continue these next few years, but I’m trying to allow myself some grace in the process. It would be absolutely amazing to discover that I could earn even “just” $10-20K a year doing something I love. (Since we’re currently living off Nate’s income alone, any amount I bring in will just be icing on the cake of our retirement investments).
So this first year sans “real job”, my career goal is to solidify side job plans. Proofreading, editing, and writing are the fields where I’m most passionate, so learning the nuts and bolts of freelancing is a huge goal. For now, researching here and there for a few minutes at a time is what I can do.
It’s awesome to have these years to not only be closer to my kids, but to get distance from the stress of the classroom. I might go back to teaching full-time, part-time, or subbing, but no matter what, proofreading or writing would be my preferred side hustles.
Value Comes From Where?
My income has been predictable and safe since college, and I’ve never depended on anyone else for fiscal survival. Now it’s all up to Nate to get that paycheck and cover the bills. It’s super weird knowing I’m not bringing in any money. (Except for that 25 bucks I’ll soon receive from a small magazine for a freelance piece! Woohoo, big money!)
Not earning money forces me to consider what gives me value. Obviously, from a financial point of view, my work at home replaces our need to pay for childcare. That was around 8-9K a year for the two of them (not bad compared to the average childcare costs around the country, so I read). It’s an expense that sort of evens out the jacked-up cost of health insurance now that I’m on Mr. COD’s plan, so that’s something. But as a percentage of my previous salary, it’s rather small. If I’d had a lower-paying job, that would have almost made the decision to quit easier.
I’m just thankful to be able to stay home. I’m spending more time (read: all the time) with the boys. I don’t exactly find myself questioning my value; it’s more a recognition that my job was never what gave me value in the first place.
I don’t possess any more or less value now as a SAHM than six months ago at my regular, salaried job. However, there are times when I think of my husband while he’s at work, counseling high schoolers, and I wonder if he feels overly stressed as the breadwinner. When he’s rushing home for a quick bite on Monday nights before the college course he teaches, I feel a bit of guilt that I’m not officially “working” to help our situation. When I occasionally mention these thoughts to him, he reminds me that I am working. All day long. Without nice, quiet, legally-mandated lunch breaks. Raising kids is hard. The fact that I’m not being paid for it doesn’t make it any less relevant.
It’s a question that leads me to faith. As a Christian, I trust my ultimate value comes from having been created by God. But for most of us believers, it’s still a struggle at times to accept that our worth doesn’t stem from our accomplishments or beauty or church attendance. A job title or salary does not add to my inherent worth, or yours.
When Richard Gilmore of Gilmore girls initially retired, he felt aimless. Unproductive. (Yep, I’ve been watching it on Netflix.) As we each continue our own paths of work and retirement, let’s not fall into that toxic mindset. We don’t get our worth from what we do. Earning an honest living? Very important. Raising kids to be kind and generous and creative? Also very important. But there’s got to be something more that gives our life meaning.
Whether seeking retirement at age 35 or 65, don’t we all want to derive joy and meaning from someplace deeper than our jobs or our retirement plans? Bottom line: there’s got to be purpose that goes beyond the tasks we perform each day. Find yours!
What attitudes have you encountered regarding SAHMs, working moms, dual-income households? If retired, how do you fill your life with purpose?