If you read my post a few weeks ago called Which Way to Lean you know I am fully undecided on the topic of stay at home mom vs. work outside of the house mom vs. not being a mom at all vs. everything in between. So, it was interesting for me to talk with someone who is firmly in one camp.
I expect many people will read the following conversation and think, “Well of course she’s going to stay home with her baby. In her situation, she’d be crazy not to.” And others will think, “It’s nice she has the freedom to choose, but I would be so BORED not working.” There are so many differing opinions on this issue, which is why it’s so interesting to talk about!
So, let me introduce you to Erika. She lives outside San Fransisco, CA with her husband, Tres, and has worked in Retail Marketing for the last six years or so. Erika is due with her first baby in December(!!) and has decided to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). Here’s Erika’s story:
Caitlin: So, right when you find out you were expecting, you also found out that the freelance position you’ve been working for the last several months is being terminated. But, you were planning on being a SAHM anyway. So, tell me about that.
Erika: I don’t know if I was going to be a full time SAHM, but I was never going to go back to work fulltime. I was talking about going back, when the freelance position was still there, and doing monthly projects, instead of weekly project like I’m doing now. So, I’d have more control over my timeline and it would let me stay connected to the workforce.
So, for me, this is not the worst thing. My plan now is just to stay home and enjoy my child and to sleep when I can and not worry about trying to balance all that. I want to build my family when I’m young and have energy and figure out the career thing later if I want to. I don’t have to have a master plan right now.
Caitlin: So, how do people react when you say you want to be a SAHM?
Erika: Very mixed around here. It’s the land of Lean In and Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg. A lot of moms have their own unique businesses around here. It’s not necessarily the stigma of corporate America and power suits. You don’t need to be in heels and carry a briefcase, but most moms, unless their husbands are ultra successful, really do work and they have careers and they’re very proud of having careers.
I don’t want to say that people look down on me, but they definitely say, “WHY?” They’re like, “Ohhh, that’s interesting.”
Caitlin: Are reactions different from men to women?
Erika: Yeah, men love it. Men think it’s great. From women, sometimes I feel judged, like, “Why are you doing this?”
Caitlin: I would imagine the question you get a lot is, “Won’t you get bored?”
Erika: Yeah, you know, they say only boring people get bored. Even with the free time I have now, I’ve gotten more interests and hobbies. And when I was commuting all the time, I was exhausted. And I didn’t want to do anything because I was so tired. I don’t feel bored at all, I feel relaxed.
Caitlin: Is this something you always wanted to do?
Erika: No! When I was young, I wanted to be CEO of like, whatever, or like, Anna Wintour. But, I think living in New York and seeing all these power hungry women who had nannies raising their kids, and they didn’t really connect with their families, it made me appreciate the ability to stay home.
Caitlin: So, obviously, money plays a huge part in this and the fact that staying home is even an option for you is a great privilege.
Erika: We’re very fortunate. My husband makes a great living by most standards. When I was working full time, I was still a drop in the hat compared to my husband. So, when I decided to go freelance and then to have kids and stop working, it was more of like, okay, maybe we take a vacation or two less, rather than, how are we going to pay our bills? So that was fortunate that that didn’t really play into my decision.
Also, for me, daycare and commuting would take up about two thirds of my salary, so what are you getting versus what are you giving up? There wasn’t a huge perceived value for me.
Caitlin: So, your mom is a really accomplished career woman. What does she think about your decision to be a SAHM?
Erika: She thinks it’s great! My mom worked my whole life. She has two Masters degrees, a PhD, super smart lady. But, she says if she could do it over, she might have stayed home. She’s an educator and she says you can’t argue against the benefits of a SAHM.
I think my dad is probably more judgemental. He worries about the burden on my husband. He wants to make sure he’s okay with it.
Caitlin: And he is, right?
Erika: Yeah, he doesn’t care. He likes the benefits of me staying home, but if I wanted to work, he’d be fine with that.
But, he definitely enjoys coming home to a dinner made every night and the laundry being done and the house in good order. He can call me at the last minute and say, oh a client is coming over, and it’s no big deal. His life is a lot easier, because when I worked, everything was split 50/50.
Caitlin: Did you ever wish as a kid that your mom stayed home?
Erika: I think I did a lot. My parents were always late for everything. They did their best and I was always taken care of, but they had another set of priorities. I always wanted my mom to be a room parent, that was a big thing for me.
Caitlin: What do you most look forward to as a SAHM?
Erika: I don’t know, I’m mostly scared by it. (laughs)
I don’t know, I guess I look forward to being home with my kid and being their for the milestones, and let them do things with kids their age, and having a community.
Caitlin: Are you going to join some moms groups?
Erika: Yeah, there’s a big mother’s club in the area that I plan to do, and I want to do swim classes and stuff like that. I have these grandiose dreams of being a mom on a schedule and having my kid be well adjusted, but who knows. It’s at least nice to know I’ll have the time to do it!
Erika is in a unique position and lucky to be able to make a choice on this issue. This Time Magazine story has some interesting statistics on who stays at home with their kids, and who doesn’t.
What do you think? Do you want to stay at home with your kids when you have them? If you have kids, what choice did you make? What advice would you give other women and men who are thinking about having children in the future?