I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom – and my Marriage Survived


I was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years. My husband worked to support our family.

We chose for me to be a – for lack of a better word – homemaker. I did all of the things needed to run a household, from buying socks to paying bills.  I cooked healthy meals, carpooled, cleaned and organized, volunteered, and built a strong network of friends and acquaintances in our community. I spent hours communicating with teachers, tutors, doctors and coaches, ensuring that my children were getting the best possible education, medical care and experiences as they grew up. Because I was running our household, my husband was able to devote extra-long hours to his career. I gave all I had to my job so he could give all he had to his. That’s not to say that my husband wasn’t an active participant in our children’s lives – he was. He made a point of being at nearly every event, game, show or meeting possible.

I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom

Apparently, we were doing it all wrong, and we’re lucky we’re still married.

I read this article Why Dual Earner Families Have Less Divorce Than Single Earner Households  written by Scott Behson on the website the Good Men Project. In this piece, the author presents the statistic that in marriages where there is a sole breadwinner, there are 14% more divorces than in marriages where both partners earn money (source – The American Journal of Sociology).

Along with my surprise at this statistic (it certainly doesn’t jibe with what I’ve seen in my community) I was fascinated by the author’s contention that those women (or men – let’s be fair here) who stay at home to raise their children have a hard time understanding the pressures and daily challenges faced by their “working” partners.

Behson contends that dual income marriages are more successful  just because both partners are working to earn money, and therefore can talk about their horrible bosses or the crappy commute that morning. He also says it doesn’t matter what the second job is – a part time job is ideal, especially if it has health care benefits (which is just about impossible to find).


To be fair, the author also discussed the financial benefits of two incomes, especially the safety net it offers in a tenuous job market. I can’t argue with that, and for many families this is a matter of economic survival. He also discussed the lack of options for those who are unhappy with their jobs to try something new in single-earner households, to which I would say “welcome to the real world.” We all make sacrifices for our families.

When my husband and I made the decision that I would stay at home with our children, not long after our first child was born, it was not  made lightly. My husband, for purely economic reasons, thought I should return to work. There have been many times over the course of our marriage when a second income would have been a big help, but ultimately we are happy with our choice.

To say that those who stay at home with their children don’t face pressures each day is laughable. When my children were very young, my husband often worked 7 days a week, sometimes 70-80 hours per week and was rarely home. Caring for two children under the age of three, alone, for hours on end were some of the most stressful days of a my life. As they grew older it became easier in some ways – but other stressors came into play. Investing your life in the care of others means giving up much of yourself. There were many days when I envied those working mothers who would leave their children and go out and be not-mommies for 8-10 hours each day.

I’ve shared in the challenges my husband has faced as a small business owner over the past 13 years. I’ve cheered him on through the roughest of times. I’m involved in managing the accounts payable for our company, so I’m well-aware of what goes on there. I believe, if you asked him, that he would say I’ve been an important partner in our business, even if I’ve been an invisible one.

I’m so tired of SAHMs being dismissed as frivolous, indulged, pampered women who are ignorant to the realities of life. Our value comes not from the money we earn (which is zero) but from the energy, time and passion we give to our jobs as homemakers, volunteers, moms, friends, and, yes, spouses. I may not have had a hellish commute each day, but I traveled some difficult roads too.

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  1. says

    I was (and still am)a SAHM and I love it. When I did work it was only part-time. What did we lose, the second car, the second television, basically all those second things that two incomes bring. What did our children, my husband, and I notice over the years, the divorced couples were those who had the two incomes, the second car, and ultimately the loss of time with their children.

    • says

      For some women, continuing their careers has nothing to do with money and everything to do with their personal needs. It’s all about choices. I could not have made the choice to work for any reason other than financial stability, and since it wasn’t necessary (not that it wouldn’t have been easier with another income), I chose to stay at home.

  2. says

    Love this, especially “I may not have had a hellish commute each day, but I traveled some difficult roads too.” Anyone who thinks SAHMs have it easy have never spent days on end alone with young children. Great piece.

  3. says

    Great post! Even though I’m an English teacher, I’ve been home with my kids most of the time, and a couple of seconds ago I was listening to my daughter during a press conference in Tucson about migration detentions, and talked to my husband a moment after. When I asked him if he had seen the video clip, and that she had done great, he just answered that, our children were the result of my dedication and hard work. To tell you the truth, I felt very proud of myself. If presented with the same choices twenty+ years ago, today, I’ll decide to stay at home all over again!
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  4. says

    This post was incredibly interesting, and I think your take on it was spot-on. I can’t speak to statistics, but I know from my experience that when I stopped working three years ago to stay home with my kids, my marriage strengthened as a direct result. I, too, am tired of feeling like people view stay at home parents as pampered or indulged. Being a stay at home Mama is by FAR the hardest job I ever have or ever will have.
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  5. says

    Well said. I was a SAHM until my youngest went to kindergarten. At that time, I went back to college and then became a teacher. My marriage broke up after I went back to work because it was a bad marriage from the start. Whether or not I worked had nothing to do wuith it.
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  6. says

    Surely the triumph of the woman’s movement was for women to have the choice to work or not, whichever suits their family the best. Each family has a different story and different constraints and I know that you did what worked best for you. If there was a battle to be won, I think we have won it when both parents can decide what work configuration suits their family. Thanks Sharon.

  7. says

    This is my favorite of ALL your writings. Ever. Because I would have loved to be in your job most of my child rearing years. I worked to support my kids. No choice, but I always wanted to be a SAHM always.

    I knew how difficult it was to do that and I still wanted it.

    This is everything I would say to or about any mom who has chosen to be home and was able to do so. I would add a huge round of applause to any dad who made it work for his family.

    Excellent write with an excellent message.
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  8. says

    I worked all through my kids’ childhood, but was lucky enough to have a job which enabled me to largely work from home. I thoroughly enjoyed the job flexibility, but there were times when people (husband, children, teachers) assumed it was even more flexible than it was–I still had work and deadlines, and not everyone realized that. There were many times when a full-time job outside the home would have been a lot easier to handle…and explain.

  9. Carla says

    I am working mom that dreams of becoming a SAHM. I have 11-yr old triplets and thought when my husband stayed home the first 4 years (yep, he was a SAHD to three little babies) and then went back to work, everything would get easier. I now realize that my children need me more rather than less and I regret being in a position where being a SAHM right now just isn’t possible (I chose the bigger house, nicer cars, career route — all , again, which I regret!). My son had surgery to fix a broken leg and I was off for a few weeks last year. Being able to keep the house up, prepare meals at normal times, and most importantly, being there for my kids (homework, play time, etc.) was absolutely wonderful. What really stung was my kids saying (over and over) that they wished I could stay home all the time. You SAHM moms have a tough job with a great reward. SAHM’s are awesome!

  10. says

    A friend calls herself the Household CEO. Parents who choose to be at home with their children deserve much more credit than they deserve. My mother stayed at home most of my life, with a part time job when my siblings and I were in grade school, and I’m grateful she took the time to simply be Mom. It was a great help.
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  11. says

    I can see how the dual income would help marriages stay together. You each feel as you are partners because both are able to contribute monetarily. Also, as stated above, it helps a couple relate to each other in that aspect and even creates communication. However, I totally agree about the pressures of sahm’s. The isolation it creates when the only conversation to be had is with a toddler or baby is very stressful. Not to mention the scheduling and coordination it takes when you have multiple children. I completely agree with pretty much every point/comment you’ve made here as I have been on both sides of the fence over the last 15 years.

  12. says

    I love this and not just because it sounds like my own story, which it does. I’ve always considered ours to be a “collaboration” in that we know and respect what else each of us could be doing, and therefore respect what we’ve chosen to do. Also, I’ve known women who deeply resent others (mostly their husband’s) “lack of respect” for what they do when it is their own regard for what they’ve chosen that needs work.
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  13. says

    Thanks for this on behalf of this SAHM. I’m so tired of being dismissed as a brainless, pampered, bon bon scarfing, soap watching, good for nothing. I made a choice when my first was born. It’s not best for everyone but I think it was right for my family.
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  14. says

    Every life choice has its positives and negatives. I think it is silly when articles like the one you referenced generalize people and lifestyles. Glad you apparently are the exception with a happy marriage!
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  15. Sandra says

    Seriously, God Bless all of you women who have made the choice to stay at home. There is NOTHING more important.

  16. says

    People don’t realize how much a stay-at-home Mom contributes to her husband’s career and the children’s welfare. With my Dad in the military, we moved every two years and needed the stability that Mom provided by staying at home. Obviously, having a stable home environment contributes to a man’s career.
    Thanks for writing this, Sharon.
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  17. says

    I was so hoping we were past the B.S. where women are judged by whether they are SAHMs or “work outside the home” — especially when one woman does it to another woman. I had mixed messages from our sons. “I wish you stayed home so we could have homemade chocolate chip cookies like my friend, so and so” and then, “Would you believe that so and so’s Mom doesn’t have a job?” I tried to make that a teachable moment about choices and not harshly judging someone who makes a choice different from our own.

  18. says

    Congratulations on your successful job managing a household and raising children. That is a lot of work for sure and I’m so happy to hear that your marriage survived it. Obviously you have done a great job and felt appreciated for what you do. SAHM families seem to have more well rounded children with a more grounded approach to life.. They are so lucky to have had that growing up..
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  19. says

    Very well said, Sharon. I believe that the success of any partnership lies in the maturity of the parties involved. It doesn’t matter whether they’re both working or not. If they understand, can empathize and support the other’s challenges, then that is key. I am very fortunate to have had the choice to be a SAHM and care for our son full time. There was a time when I struggled a lot with the this role and how others see me. But now, I do believe that whatever success my husband enjoys at his work is partly due to me and my own input as a SAHM. Let’s face it. He has so much less to worry about knowing that I’m here 100% for our child and everything else needed to run our household. Thank you for this post!
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  20. ann says

    I agree with most but not all. My 4 son’s benefitted from me being at home. I benefitted from being able to watch them grow and sharing milestones. However had I been able to be a part-time attorney at the time I stopped practicing law., both my son’s and I would have benefitted! I, for one, would not have had to give up skills and income for 14 years and my son’s would have had a great role model, an even happier mother and I would have still been there for those milestones.

    I tell my children that their wives should never give up working in some capacity in their chosen fields. And that work and salary should be equally earned and shared. I would not want a young woman to have to give up her very hard earned degree and certifications because she could not find a part-time job, or adequate child-care. That is the choice I had. And yes in the short term it is joyful to watch a baby and toddler but in the long-term it is better to keep your skills up and be able to slot right back in. A happy fulfilled intellectually challenged mother is a good mother.

    This is my opinion and my experience though and I am sure that each of us sees and experiences the challenges of mother hood differently.

  21. says

    Dear Sharon,

    I love this! Our situations were so similar. My husband worked such long hours, and so did I to keep the house and the boys as healthy and whole as possible. With the death of our oldest son, I will be forever grateful to have had all those precious years – even if they were hard and we were at times very financially challenged. I would not change being home with them. Our eldest had quite a few intricate surgeries on his feet from the time he was 18 through his early twenties, I was there for him during those times also. I have such beautiful memories of those moments even though they were suffused with suffering on his part. We raised orphaned kittens together, we laughed, we shared a million thoughts. My time with my sons shaped me, it was such a privilege to have them in our lives. And my husband and I have been married for over 34 years pretty contentedly. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts and experiences!
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