Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What do SAHMs do all day?

SAHM (or Stay At Home Mums as they're known in the parenting biz) are often ever-so-slightly sneered at by WAHMs or WMs (that's Work At Home Mums or Working Mums - do keep up). 'Gosh, what do you do all day? I'd get so bored. I simply have to work.'

But by the same token SAHMs are very often quick to paint WMs as disinterested mums who put themselves before their children. I'm paraphrasing here. Just read the Daily Mail or go to Mumsnet to see the arguments in action.

Until very recently I've been a WAHM, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. You work AND are there for your kids and you can whip up a casserole while taking a tea break. Which means you get to wear The Halo of Smugness.

Now that I've replaced the W with an S in my acronym, I am realising what SAHMs do all day. Take today for example:

I got up, had coffee, put on some laundry, made the kids pancakes and apple sauce, got their school clothes ironed, bags packed and walked them up to school. All of which I could have done as a WAHM, only I'd have been checking emails in between.

Then I joined two other members of the PTA for a two mile walk to plot out a family fun day. After that, I came home, hung up washing and then headed up to the school to join them for community lunch.  I've since come back and had a long chat on the phone to my husband who is abroad, arsed around on Facebook for a while, am writing this blog post and am then off to town to pick up dry cleaning and get some BBQ food to celebrate our very, very late summer.

Then it will be time to pick the kids up, do a bit of homework, feed them, get them off to Beavers, back home and into bed. I'll spend my evening doing the ironing pile (which still holds no appeal, regardless of having less work to do) and watching some rubbish on TV.

So there you have it - an average day in the life of a SAHM. I'm sure there are SAHMs who also clean the house vigorously (I don't) and who exercise (I do) and who meet up with friends for coffee (something I've done a couple of times). They might even do charity work. But trust me, the day goes by in the blink of an eye and you're left wondering how on earth you ever managed to fit work in.

And don't get me wrong, it is pleasant. You can enjoy the sunshine (like today) and not wake up with a feeling of dread, thinking: Urg, I've got to do that presentation today. You have the freedom (certainly if you have school aged kids) to do pretty much whatever you like during the day - browse galleries, go shopping, spend hours in the downward dog pose at yoga.

But something is missing in all of this for me. It's a purpose. It's a point. It's knowing that I have to get up and get on with things because lurking at the back of my mind is that fear that I might end up being one of those mums taking their kids to school still wearing their dressing gown before coming back to watch Jeremy Kyle.

When I used to work full time in an office, I always used to wonder what happened out in the world while I was chained to my desk. I felt as though I was missing out on life. Now I have 'life' in spades, but it's emptier that I expected. Literally. No-one is around because they're all at work. I can feel this energetic buzz just brimming over the horizon where people are working and creating things and fixing things and doing things. And I'm not.

There are sacrifices that come with working. There are sacrifices that come with staying at home. The challenge is trying to figure out which sacrifice you're prepared to make. Tricky. Very tricky.


nappy valley girl said...

I absolutely know what you mean. I work at home too, and I manage to get the washing done, bags packed and lunches made, and do my work. When I'm not working, I do manage to fill the day but always feel a little guilty that I'm not being more productive.

But I think actually WAHM is the ideal. If I was out in an office full time, I'd never get any of the household stuff done and it would be incredibly stressful, not to mention tiring. And I'm lucky that I can nip to the shops/run errands if I need to in between tasks, and I finish at 3pm so I am there for the boys. The shame is that this is a pretty unusual situation to be in. I know most women don't have these options so they have to make quite a stark choice one way or the other.

Muddling Along said...

It's amazing how the jobs expand to fill the space available

I find my stay at home day is hugely busy rushing around trying to do it all and without the respite of a sit down and think at my desk or even the commute

Lazy Housewife said...

Do an OU course, good for filling time and creating a sense of purpose!I see my stay at home time as a bit of luxury before the kids dont need me there anymore and I have to get a grip/job!

Iota said...

Yes, Lazy Housewife's idea is a good one. OU course or similar.

I love your last paragraph. It sums it all up in a way that doesn't allow for the smugness and inferiority complexes and bad feeling that, as you say, can characterise this debate when it happens online. I hadn't really thought of both ways of life involving sacrifice, but now you put it like that, it's obvious.

About Last Weekend said...

Great post and i know exactly what you mean on all fronts. I worked for the first couple of years and was so tired I was an ideas-free zone and had to quit, then stayed home for 10 years - where did that time go, what did I achieve. At least starting a blog has moved me forward somewhat back into journalism....

butterflyexperience said...

Erm the day you describe is of a SAHM whose children are at school.

What about SAHM's who have pre-schoolers and have no family near by to help or visit?

This post just adds fuel to the whole working mum vs sahm.

Quite disapointing...

Nicola said...

I am working 3 days a week in an office - and feel that home is now totally screwed up. I like being away in a fresh 'working' environment but so many things are now falling by the wayside. I feel such a failure by not being able to be on top of things, as I used to be.

The silly thing is - the job is purely voluntary for a charity that I love and have dreamed of working for, for the past 3 years. No-one is forcing me to go to work. I can actually work from home if I want to - but I am finding it really hard to knuckle down and be productive unless I go into the office and surround myself with other working adults.

And this is just 3 days a week! I am struggling with 3 days a week! How do single mums do everything when working full time?

I have no idea.