I haven’t always been a stay-at-home mom, or SAHM. When I was pregnant with my first child, all the way until he was two years old, I was a working mom. I did the whole pumping/daycare/packing food/cry at dropoff thing, and I hated it. So when we got pregnant with our second child, I knew I had to make a huge adjustment.
While my husband and I were always in agreement that I should stay at home with the babies, we didn’t really know anyone (except his mom, thirty years ago) who had done it. And it was certainly a transition for our house and our marriage.
That’s why I thought to sit my husband down (after asking nicely, of course) and pick his weary brain. Now he’s the sole breadwinner for our little home, and he’s married to a SAHM. So what’s it really like… from the dad’s perspective?
What is your biggest challenge as a couple?
Finances. Everything is a lot tighter now in regards to money. We have had to reel in and be extra careful. We’re lucky that we found a small house we could buy, otherwise we would be renting. (We did rent for a year once we sold our big too-expensive-for-one-income house and Sarah quit her job, but did want to get some equity if possible. So now we have a mortgage on a home which is $50/month cheaper than what we were paying to rent.) We rarely go out to eat, and we’ve sacrificed lots of little things. It’s all worth it, but we regularly have to remind each other to not stop to get coffee or buy some impromptu things at Target.
What’s one thing which surprised you?
Staying at home has been more challenging for my wife than I thought it would be. It took a long time for her to find balance with taking care of herself as well as the kids and the house and everything else. (I don’t expect her to do all of those things, and she was doing too much in the beginning.) It did take a while for her to figure out how much she could do, and where she needed help.
What do you think the job of a SAHM is?
To stay at home and take care of the kids. Chores, shopping, etc. is all secondary to her keeping our kids safe (and teaching them too if she can!).
What was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Really keeping track of our finances. There were many things we’d take for granted and buy without having to give it much thought, when we were first married as well as when we only had one kid. They were never large expenses, but you know how those little ones add up. Now we’ve really had to reel ourselves in, and communicate better even if we just get lunch out somewhere.
I think it’s also hard to keep the kids on the same schedule when it’s the weekend and Daddy’s home, as compared to our weekly routine. And it’s hard because Daddy isn’t here during the week, so he can’t naturally fall into habit like I can with the kids’ schedules. So we have to help each other!
What do you like best about your wife staying at home?
Our children get to spend time with their mother and don’t have to be in daycare. Our firstborn was in daycare for two years, and was constantly sick (including two hospitalizations). Plus it was really difficult on my wife; we never wanted our child to go to daycare, but we had no choice since we’d just built a house. We needed the money! I know she was never happy with him being in daycare, so I’m very glad that she gets to stay with our kids. And our daughter will never have to go to daycare, ever!
What do you like the least?
It’s great that the kids are with their mom but I feel like I miss out on a lot sometimes. It is what it is, and I make sure that I’m very involved with the kids when I’m home. And I would rather miss things and have the kids with their mom, than both my wife and I miss things because our children are with strangers. Still, I wish that I could do all of the fun things that my family does! My kids excitedly tell me about their day, things they did and places they went, and I get jealous that I can’t do all of those things with them when I have to work.
What would you want all SAHMs to know?
I would want them to know that neither of us have it easy. Sometimes I think Sarah is jealous that I go to work because I talk to other grown ups and get to eat lunch on my own. The truth is, we both work hard. We are both exhausted and ready for a break at 5:30pm. We have to work together since there is no such thing as a break with small kids. We love each other and we have a family together. We need to communicate and work together.
I’ll add here to this last answer: I totally agree with my husband. And yes, I do get jealous! I get jealous of his version of “a long day” where he tells me about the podcast he listened to on the way to work, and the pot luck lunches he has (with other adults!) a few times a month. But I’m neglecting to see that he’s listening to a podcast because he has a crappy commute, and he would rather be eating lunch with us than in his conference room at work.
I do sometimes complain that I never get a break, and that I spend my life doing dishes and nursing and cutting up snacks; and while that’s the truth sometimes and my opinion is justified, I also fail to see that there are days he’d love to have my version of a “long day.” I know my husband doesn’t do what he does (writes curriculum and trains teachers for a school district) because he loves meetings or because he likes getting up at 5:00am. He does it to provide for us, so that I can stay at home with our children, and so we have a house and lights on and food to eat.
He’s exactly right: we both work our asses off. We both work a lot. It’s just that our work looks different, and sometimes our spouse’s job seems like “the grass is greener on the other side.” (And while SAHMs often get treated like they don’t really work because they don’t make any money, my husband never makes me feel like I don’t contribute or that I’m inferior in any way.)
We’ve learned that it’s essential that we communicate with each other when we feel overwhelmed, compliment and really appreciate the work that we each do, and see value in our unique roles. And our kids see how we treat each other, too!
I hope that my husband and I have helped shine a light into what the working dad thinks and feels when his wife stays at home with the kids; even more importantly, I hope that we can give you some suggestions on things to be aware of, and how to talk to each other as you transition.
And finally, let me know in the comments what advice or suggestions you have for other families with a stay-at-home parent!