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

stay-at-home mom, raising children, dual income family, divorce, working mom

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.

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).

stay at home mom, divorce, husband, raising kids, dual-income families

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 worked 80 hour weeks and was rarely home. Caring for two children under the age of three, alone, for hours on end were some of the most stressful hours 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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36 Responses to I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom – and my Marriage Survived
  1. Carpool Goddess
    April 18, 2013 | 8:08 am

    Well done, Sharon! I especially like the line “I gave all I had to my job so he could give all he had to his.” So true.

  2. AlwaysARedhead
    April 18, 2013 | 8:08 am

    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.

  3. Ginger Kay
    April 18, 2013 | 8:16 am

    Amen, Sharon!

    It is sad that there are people who do not see value if it doesn’t come with dollar signs.
    Ginger Kay recently posted..What’s that word for big and beautiful?My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:22 pm

      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.

  4. Ornery's Wife
    April 18, 2013 | 8:17 am

    Yup. Thirty four years next month single income almost every year. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. What malarky to think two income couples are less inclined to divorce!
    tm
    Ornery’s Wife recently posted..A to Z Blogging: P is for… PMy Profile

  5. If only more parents made their children and even whether they have children or not — a priority and not an afterthought, mistake, or accessory, there would be less neglect and abuse.
    enchantedseashells, confessions of a tugboat captain’s wife recently posted..Social Media Is Hurting My HeadMy Profile

  6. Cheryl Nicholl
    April 18, 2013 | 8:29 am

    You should receive a Pulitzer for this one. Seriously- as a stay-at-home-mom I shared EVERYTHING, including the stress, of an equally shared marriage. I’m sharing this with your permission- to the WORLD!!!
    Cheryl Nicholl recently posted..Gardening to BreathMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:20 pm

      Thanks Cheryl! I so appreciate the shares. As for the Pulitzer…sigh.

  7. Lois Alter Mark
    April 18, 2013 | 8:32 am

    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.

  8. Elizabeth Lee
    April 18, 2013 | 8:49 am

    I was a stay-at-home mommy whose marriage didn’t survive. But I did everything you did…with 5 kids. My husband worked long hours, traveled extensively, and left the running of the home and family to me. Anybody who says that job is easy or low stress is foolish.
    Elizabeth Lee recently posted..It Could Have Been Me, It Could Have Been YouMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:20 pm

      Yes, and with five kids it’s a million times more difficult I’m sure – I only had two!

  9. Maritza Martinez
    April 18, 2013 | 10:45 am

    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!
    Maritza Martinez recently posted..In The Event Of Something Happening To Me…My Profile

  10. Mary Jo
    April 18, 2013 | 10:47 am

    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.
    Mary Jo recently posted..On Boston.My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:19 pm

      It is indeed a difficult job. Putting your children’s needs before yours all day, every day, is a huge responsibility.

  11. Cynthia Meents
    April 18, 2013 | 10:48 am

    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.
    Cynthia Meents recently posted..If There Be Any VirtueMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:18 pm

      If a marriage isn’t going to work, nothing can help – staying home or not. I’m so glad you were able to go back to college and get your degree.

  12. Erin
    April 18, 2013 | 10:55 am

    Amen sista!

  13. Grown and Flown
    April 18, 2013 | 11:12 am

    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.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:17 pm

      Thanks so much – yes that choice is really where the power lies.

  14. Jo Heroux
    April 18, 2013 | 11:32 am

    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.
    Jo Heroux recently posted..The Big “O”My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      April 18, 2013 | 12:17 pm

      Thank you Jo. If I had been in a situation where I had to work I absolutely would have, and I’m so grateful I had the choice to be at home with my kids.

  15. mindy
    April 18, 2013 | 12:19 pm

    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.

  16. Carla
    April 18, 2013 | 1:50 pm

    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!

  17. Laura
    April 18, 2013 | 3:02 pm

    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.
    Laura recently posted..Someday, It’ll Be Your Birthday TooMy Profile

  18. Home Health Care
    April 18, 2013 | 8:21 pm

    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.

  19. Susan Bonifant
    April 19, 2013 | 5:05 am

    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.
    Susan Bonifant recently posted..Waiting for wordMy Profile

  20. Haralee
    April 19, 2013 | 6:50 pm

    Well said Sharon! You had your job, your husband had his and this allowed your kids to have their job to be kids and go to school. The cost of child care especially babies often doesn’t make financial sense for a part time job and even some full time jobs.
    Haralee recently posted..Planning Tips for your Summer Garden and Healthy EatingMy Profile

  21. Sue
    April 21, 2013 | 8:57 am

    Absolutely wonderful. Please keep writing about the stay at home Mom. I related to the part about your husband working long hours and being alone raising the children and having your own stress level.
    Sue recently posted..DIY -A Cool Girls’ Bedroom Design Idea – Before and After PicturesMy Profile

  22. Kyle
    April 21, 2013 | 4:42 pm

    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.
    Kyle recently posted..What My Dog Taught Me About EldercareMy Profile

  23. non medical home care
    April 22, 2013 | 4:23 pm

    Fantastic! Superbly amazing piece of writing. I am going to saving the website immediately. Bless you!

  24. Kate
    April 23, 2013 | 1:58 pm

    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!
    Kate recently posted..Tips, tricks and thrustsMy Profile

  25. Sandra
    June 3, 2013 | 8:38 am

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

  26. [...]  It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets.  I don’t know any parent who regrets time spent with their kids, especially kids who have moved on to their own lives. Although I am fully aware that being a stay [...]

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