What SAHMs, WAHMs, and WOHMs Want to Tell Each Other

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Image via Galit Breen

Every mother I know, no matter how eloquent, savvy, or bold, pauses when asked this seemingly innocent question: “So what do you do?” We've trained ourselves to sniff out whether these words are coming from a point of solidarity or war. Our defenses go up, and while some women tend to take the next step, guns–or words–blazing, others retreat, keeping their thoughts to themselves.

In the last decade, I've been a work-outside-of-the-home mom (WOHM), a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), and a work-at-home mom (WAHM). I've felt the body/mind exhaustion that WOHMs feel daily, the “Where did this day go?” frustration of the SAHM, and the internal tug-of-war that WAHMs feel from morning till night. But braided to each of these, I've also reaped a freedom rarely discussed–snuggles without timelines and an unparalleled control over my day. 

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The Mommy Wars pendulum has swung (deeply) from a roar to a silence. But where I want to be is right in the middle. I want us to hear each other out and listen–truly listen–to each others' stories. I have a hunch that when we weed through the noise, what we'll find is that each of our words and lives and choices has so very much value, and when puzzle-pieced to each other, they tell the story of motherhood.

I asked three women to start this conversation–Tonya, a stay-at-home mom; Shell, a work-at-home mom; and Jenny, a work-outside-of-the-home mom–because I wanted to know, if the armor was gone and the risk was low, what would they say to each other? And what I learned is golden. Read what each of these women has to say to each other, and you'll see what I see: When it comes to threading together, listening is the first step, and sharing openly is the second.

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Image via Todd Wertman

Tonya D. Wertman is a Southern Californian stay-at-home mom to her 5-year-old son and infant daughter, a reluctant dog owner, a lover of Dave Matthews, and an obsessive picture taker. She blogs at Letters for Lucas.

Dear Work-Outside-of-the-Home and Work-at-Home Moms,

Before becoming a mother, I worked in the marketing field for over 10 years. And while I loved my job, I wouldn't trade what I do now for anything. Being a stay-at-home mom is definitely the hardest job I have ever had. It's also the least appreciated but most rewarding. How's that for a juxtaposition?

I'm fortunate that I am able to stay home, that I am my children's primary caregiver, that I get to witness all of their firsts, be the one to kiss their boo-boos, make all of their doctors appointments, wait with them in the waiting rooms, prepare all their meals, purchase and wash all their clothes, do all the meal planning for our family, the bulk of the disciplining, pick-ups, drop-offs, and all the other fun and not-so-fun (read: gross) stuff in between.

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Some days are definitely more challenging than others, but I have never once entertained the idea of going back to corporate America. I've had freelance writing jobs in the past, and it has felt good to contribute to our family bank account and/or have a little extra spending money. With a busy 5-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter, those jobs are few and far between nowadays. I just don't have the time or choose to do something different with my free time than worry about a deadline or invoicing.

The bonbon-eating stereotype of the SAHM is getting old and is simply untrue. In my experience, there has been nothing relaxing about being a stay-at-home mom, and any ice cream eating that is done leaves little left over for Mom. From the moment my feet hit the ground in the morning (typically around 7 o'clock), I don't stop until I get back in bed at night (if I'm lucky, around 11 o'clock). And if I'm not doing something for my children, I'm constantly thinking about them–new activities, crafts, games, outings, play dates, family trips, items that they might need, the upcoming school year, the current school year, the next birthday, their nutrition, if I'm doing enough for them, if they are being stimulated, etc.

I make a point daily to make time for myself, and I'll be the first to admit that if I'm not taking care of myself, then I can't be the mother I want to be. This means exercising without my children in tow once my husband gets home from work or late at night. It also means stealing a minute here and there to flip through a magazine (yeah, right!), stay up way past my bedtime to read, or see my friends–those with and without children. These small breaks rejuvenate me, and I'm fortunate that my husband is such a hands-on dad. He thoroughly enjoys spending time with his kids, and he does a great job.

After he's been on duty, the house may look like a bomb went off ,but he encourages me to take time out for myself, and without his support, I honestly couldn't be a successful SAHM, if there is such a thing.

Which leads me to the most important thing I want work-outside-of-the-home and work-from-home moms to know: We're all just moms, we love our children, we want them to be happy and healthy, kind human beings, we all carry mom guilt, get frustrated and, in turn, have moments of sheer joy.

Whether you are a mom that stays at home, works from home, or works out of the house, it's what works best for you and your family, and the sooner we all realize this, the better off we'll be.

Sincerely,

Just a Mom

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Image via Shell Roush

Shell Roush is a work-at-home mom who works as a social-media manager and blogger as well as being a mom to three very active little boys. She blogs at The Soccer Moms.

Dear Stay-at-Home and Work-Outside-of-the-Home Moms,

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It's frustrating to me that I have to remind people that I work. They assume that because I don't go into an office, I'm not working. Since my youngest is headed to kindergarten this fall, I've lost count of the number of times I've heard “Soooo, is it time for you to go back to work?” and “What are you going to do with yourself all day now?” And then I get blank looks when I remind people that I do in fact have a job and that what I'll do with myself is be able to do my job without having to hide in a closet to take a phone call.

I feel like I have a foot in both worlds. I'm at home with my kids, yet I have to balance that with getting my work done each day. I've heard many times “You have the best of both worlds.”

OK, OK. I get why someone might say that. Work-at-home-moms do have the best of both worlds in many ways. My schedule does tend to be more flexible than that of the mom who works in an office, and I am able to be at home with my kids while doing a job that I absolutely love. Plus, I'm earning an income to help my family. I won't argue with that.

But while work-at-home moms do get a lot of the positives of both, we also get a lot of the challenges of both. You'd think it would be the happy medium of the three, and maybe it is, but that still doesn't mean it's easy. Is any of mothering easy, no matter where or if you work?

Love,

A Work-at-Home Mom

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Image via Jennifer Ball

Jennifer Ball is a work-outside-of-the-home mom who blogs about life after divorce, parenting teens, and trashy TV at the happy hausfrau.

Dear Stay-at-Home Moms and Work-at-Home Moms,

Stay-at-home moms, you first: I have a confession. I'm jealous of you. Yes, that's right. I'm jealous of stay-at-home moms. Seethingly jealous, if you want to know the truth. You see, once upon a time, I was one of you. For a dozen years, I did exactly what you're doing. I don't think too much about it, but there are some days when I let myself go back, return to those days that sometimes seemed endless and almost always seemed exhausting. I let my mind wander and page through the memories.

I remember the sweet things, first. The luxury of being able to cuddle with a sick baby. Spending hours outside, letting the kids play with the hose and listening to their shrieks as they ran through the sprinkler. Oh yes, it's funny what time does to a woman's recollection of things, isn't it? Because after awhile, I start to remember the tough days. The panic I'd feel towards the end of the day when the house was in ruins and the kids were still in their pajamas and I had zero idea what I'd make for dinner. “My husband is going to think I do nothing all day” is what I'd be thinking as I ran around, picking up toys, cleaning up forts made of couch cushions and blankets, and wiping up the mess from lunch. “Where did the day go?” I'd ask myself because, some days, doesn't it feel like you just got out of bed and then, BOOM, it's almost 5, and there you are, hair in a ponytail, wearing the same yoga pants you had on yesterday, standing in front of the fridge and remembering that you were supposed to go grocery shopping because ALL THE FOOD has been eaten.

I remember wondering how my friend got everything done, how she kept her house clean and always, always had dinner ready when her husband came home. I remember the days my working friends would drop their kids off at my house when school started late because they knew I'd be home. I remember going out to dinner with my husband's co-workers and one of their wives, upon learning that I stayed home, asking me if I felt guilty for not working. For real. She asked me that, and when I told her that what I did was work, she laughed. LAUGHED. I remember sending my youngest child to kindergarten and thinking to myself, “One more year, please. One more year of having kids around me, underfoot and loud and messy. One more year! I don't want it to end.” I remember saying to my husband, “I was born to be a mom,” and him saying, “And you are such a good one,” and feeling a sense of pride that no paycheck ever gave me.

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Now, I work full time, and to be honest with you, I'd trade places in a nanosecond. Even though my kids are older, I know they'd still benefit from having me around more often. I know my house would look better and, for sure, my dog would be happier. Even though it was a tough job, and many days, a thankless one, I loved it. I hope you love it, too, and I hope you know that for every critic who thinks you spend your days eating bonbons and watching reality shows on Bravo, there are women like me–women like me who know exactly how important you are and exactly how hard you work. My hat is off to you, mama. Keep doing what you do and doing it well. I'll be over here, rooting you on. Jealousy and all.

OK, work-at-home moms, your turn. I'm going to be that person–the one who asks, “How do you do it?” Because I want to know. You are living my dream, mama–bringing home the bacon without leaving home! I can't imagine how organized you must be, how clear and defined your priorities are. It must take so much discipline. I wonder if you get frustrated when people hear that you work from home and automatically assume that you stay in your pajamas all day and basically “phone it in” when what you do is so much more than that. There must be days when you have looming deadlines and sick kids and a to-do list that's ten miles long, right? And somehow, you get the work done, you take care of the feverish child, and the to-do list gets done.

I have a friend who works from home, and she tells me stories. Stories of how people assume it's OK to send their kids over during the day because she's home. Stories of how people don't understand why she has a babysitter some days just so she can make important calls without having to hide in a closet because her kids are standing there, breathing loud and asking for cookies. “But you're at home!” they say to her. “Why do you need help if you're at home all day?” they ask. She says that she doesn't bother explaining herself anymore, that she's learned to just smile and move on. I think she's pretty amazing.

I think YOU are pretty amazing, too! Keep doing what you do, supporting your family, and holding down the fort. Like a boss, mama.

Love,

The Work-Outside-the-Home Mom

{ MORE: 8 Ways I've Changed Over 8 Years As a Parent }

What would you tell the stay-at-home, work-at-home, and work-outside-the-home moms in your life?

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What SAHMs, WAHMs, and WOHMs Want to Tell Each Other

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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2 comments

  1. nancyk says:

    I currently am a WOHM trying to become a WAHM. I want desperately to become a work at home mom. I miss my girls something fierce, and I hate the daycare thing. It’s a struggle for me because I have a 2 year old and an 8 year old, so the 2 year old needs care all day and the 8 year old needs to be picked up from school and care on days off of school. It’s a nightmare, and don’t even get me started on summer vacation. I want to work from home so that I can take care of my own children, go to all of the school functions, and still earn an income. I want to be there for my kids, and it’s really tough to be sitting at work right now when I could be running through the sprinkler with my girls. I hate my job, and I think it’s because it is the one thing that pulls me away from my family every day. I despise coming to work, and I, too, am very jealous of any woman who can stay home. Good for you!

  2. I have a completely different perspective. I am a work outside the home mom. I have two beautiful children, and I love them with everything I have, but there are days when I’m happy to drop them off at my amazing daycare and head to work. I like to work. My job is very fulfilling to me, as is being a mom to these two kids, but I think the balance between the two is what keeps me sane. I wouldn’t be as happy if I didn’t work outside the home. I used to feel guilty about NOT feeling guilty that I worked, but I’m over that now. That’s how I was built. That’s what helps me be an all-in mom after I come home and on weekends and whenever I have a day off….I cherish these times even more.

    Now let’s chat for a second about the reality of a work outside the home mom with two little children. I get up after sleeping 3 hours a stretch for 6 hours. It’s been that way for the past 3 months, when I came back to work after my maternity leave. It is 6:30. I get myself ready for work, get the kids stuff packed, get my stuff packed, clean my pump, pack up my car. I wake up my kiddos and get them dressed. I nurse my daughter and try to appease my son’s requests for lots of things. 🙂 I drive them to daycare (10 minutes) then drive to work (15 minutes) and then walk to my office (15 minutes.) I get started…it’s 9:30. I work all day, rarely taking a break. My kids are always there in my mind…because being a mom doesn’t turn off, ever. I have to be “on”…I have to make good decisions, and write emails, and respond to questions, and manage our social media channels. I drive home, help with dinner and cleanup, get my daughter to bed while my husband gets my son to bed, then I do freelance work or work for my small business,..and finally at 11:30 or midnight (after I nurse my baby again and try to get her back to sleep, on a GOOD night) I go to bed and do it all over again.

    It’s hard…there is a whole new set of worries when you are a work at home mom to small children. I never stayed home with a child so I don’t have that POV and can’t speak to that, but there are days when I wake up and think I can’t do this another day…but I do because ultimately I love what I do.

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