I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years. Then I became a full-time working mom with an unemployed husband and two children at home (and I continue to work full-time now as a single mother). Having experienced motherhood from both sides, I understand the challenges each set of circumstances presents. Neither situation is easy, and insensitive comments can make things even harder. So, here it is: my personal list of things not to say to stay-at-home moms.
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1. It must be nice not to have to work.
Stay-at-home moms don’t punch timecards, but we are on the clock 24/7. To suggest that raising children and running a household is not work can make us feel undervalued. Trust me when I say we are not lounging on the couch for hours on end watching soap operas and eating bon-bons—we are working hard to care for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of our families in a loving, safe, and secure environment.
Also, never assume that we stay home because our husbands earn oodles of money. Many families are making great sacrifices so Mom can be home with the kids.
2. What do you do with all that free time?
People who ask this question have either never experienced raising children or have forgotten what it’s really like. Babies and young children require almost constant attention. When my boys were little, I spent the majority of my day playing with them, teaching them, feeding them, bathing them, and making sure they didn’t hurt themselves or choke on something.
Even if our children are older, there are still mountains of laundry to fold, meals to prepare, shopping to do, doctor’s appointments to keep, and bills to pay. And we often devote a good portion of time volunteering at our children’s schools and elsewhere. If we are lucky, we will find an hour or two to study for the college course we are taking, prepare our Sunday School lesson, or go to the gym for a quick workout, because once the kids are home, our time is not our own. There are merit badges to work on, dance lessons to go to, and science projects to complete.
3. Since you have extra time on your hands, could you whip up a few dozen cupcakes for the class party tomorrow?
Yes, I understand that I probably have more free time than a mother who works a full-time job, but “whipping up” treats for parties or dinner for a sick neighbor isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It will most likely require me to make a trip to the grocery store that I hadn’t planned for, in addition to rearranging my schedule so I have time to cook. I am happy to help and serve when I can. But remember that just because I am a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I don’t have my day carefully planned. Nor does it mean I’m Betty Crocker.
4. If you’re tired, why don’t you nap when the baby does?
This is a great idea in theory. However, when babies (or toddlers, for that matter) are sleeping, it is often my only opportunity to check a few things off my to-do list. This is when I load the dishwasher, fold laundry, scrub toilets, mop floors, and pick up toys. If there is enough time, I might even send an email or return a phone call or two.
5. I could never do what you do. I’d die without adult conversation.
Intentional or not, this statement implies that a stay-at-home mom is somehow not as intelligent as those who don’t stay at home with the kids all day. To be honest, as a stay-at-home mom, I did crave adult conversation and intellectual stimulation. While nurturing children is incredibly rewarding, don’t assume it means we don’t yearn to improve our minds and spirits, too.
6. I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s ever wasted money on a college degree.
I have yet to meet a stay-at-home mom who regrets getting a college education. To imply that it is being wasted is to imply that the sole purpose of an education is to earn money. An educated mother can enrich the lives of her children and set a great example for them. And yes, having a college degree is a lifesaver if unforeseen circumstances require her to unexpectedly enter the workforce (which is exactly what happened to me).
7. Huh, I thought your house would be spotless.
Even if I’m home all day, it doesn’t mean I have time to constantly clean my house. Maybe one of my children is sick. Maybe I am sick. Or maybe I decided my children needed my attention more than the kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes.
Whether I am a stay-at-home or working mother, I am a mother, and moments with my children—whenever I have them—are what carry me through the hard times and make everything I do worthwhile.