What's a SAHM?

Carrie made this comment on a previous post: "I feel far more comfortable when I am working in my field than when I am being a mom. I think I feel l am better at being a designer than I am at being a mom (at least for now), so I feel more confident in that arena. The funny thing is when people ask what I do, I automatically say I am a SAHM even though I work about 20 hours a week. I wonder why that is?" I think Carrie's feelings of being more competent in a professional arena than in her own home are not uncommon. When I went briefly went back to work full time after Jacob was born, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of confidence I had dealing with the problems at work compared to the guesswork of dealing with with a alien newborn at home. Interesting that we can feel so comfortable solving professional problems, but feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to calming a crying baby. Or soothing a grumpy toddler. Or cleaning up an entire box of Cheerios that has been dumped out on the carpet as a snack for the dog. (FYI-A dog can eat half a box of cereal in about 3 and half seconds. Who knew.) And I think this brings up another interesting question--can we still say we are SAHMs even if we work a little bit outside the home? I'm working now, but I still consider myself a SAHM, just because I'm working so little. And yet, technically, I guess I'm a working mom. I had a friend who worked way more than part time, and yet she would talk about being home with her kids. It used to bug the heck out of me, because I would scream at her in my head, "Stay-at-home moms don't get paychecks!" (Of course, now she has a nanny, so now I scream "Stay at home moms don't have nannies!) Are there gradations of being a SAHM, if you will, or do you automatically lose your status if you actually get a paycheck somewhere along the line? And if your paycheck is a pretty sad little sum, does it even count? Maybe we should have a pay scale category type thing: $100/month, well, that's so pathetic you're still considered a SAHM. $500/week--whoa, you've hit the bigtime baby--off to the working woman category for you!


Blogger Kim Siever said...

I woudl think a SAHM would put in more than 20 hours per week.

11/17/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

I work for about 4.5 hours every day, from my home office. I have a mother's helper during the hours I work. So for four hours a day I'm working at home, and the other 12 hours a day I'm with my kids (and then, hopefully, they sleep!). Still, according to my sister-in-law apparently that does not qualify me for SAHM status. I qualify for WAHM (work at home mom) status, she says. I just roll my eyes - I don't really care what I'm called, but if it's important to her to reserve that label only for women who exclusively are at home and not working at all, then o.k. No skin off my back. I know my value to my kids.

I wish women would stop making judgements about how much/how good/how valuable the mothering habits of other women are (totally not saying that was the point of the post - just venting about what I see going on around me). Can't we just support each other? Or is that too boring?

11/17/2005 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kim Siever said...


In my books, if you're staying at home, then you're a Stay At Home Mother. I fail to see how working from home is not stay home. Maybe your sister needs a dictionary.

11/17/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I'm a stay-home mom who works fulltime. An hour away from home.

Actually I just posted on my personal blog about this. (http://whenigodeaf.blogsome.com/2005/11/16/does-what-you-do-who-you-are/) I have to work right now, but I'd much rather be home. I think of myself as a stay-home mom who has to work. For years and years. Ugh.

11/17/2005 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I'm pretty sure I don't count as a sahm anymore. It's been about 16 months now since I started this and I am finally starting to be cool with it. Not that all the stuff I should be doing is getting done, but I can live with that.

When I worked 8 hours a day, 1 day a week, I think I was still a sahm.

11/17/2005 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mama Aketch said...

I don't have a job but am a part-time student (husband takes over while I am out). I pretend to be a stay at home mom, but sometimes don't feel like one (like when I am at class)--I kind of feel like I am cheating.

In my heart, I am a stay at home mom. Does that make me a wannabe?

11/17/2005 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lurking on this blog has led me to the conclusion that (i) either women with children are incredibly mean to one another, (ii) women with children are incredibly sensitive to the point of being paranoid about what people are saying/thinking about them or (iii) some combination of the two--(ii) being a result of (i). Not a SAHM if you have a nanny? WAHM? Oh man--my wife, a WPL (working pregnant lady) is planning on going back after six months of maternity leave. I hope she doesn't beat up on herself for not doing more. I also hope her kids recognize the sacrifice she made for them.

11/17/2005 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

What one woman would feel a sacrifice, another would not. Sometimes this is hard for us all to remember. The gospel talks a lot about the black and white areas of life, but not so much about the gray. I think this is why it is easy to forget just how many of our decisions are in the gray area. For women, so much is dictated yet so much is left up for interpretation. Hopefully, as we all share our stories, it will help remind us how many different kinds of moms are out there.

11/18/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Anon -

I'm sorry this blog has made you feel that way. It is not our goal. We just wanted to share stories in a light hearted way to bring some smiles to some moms. And other people, too, should they so choose.

Good luck with your new baby - that's very exciting! And I hope everything works out with your wife going back to work. You have no idea how much your life is going to change. Congrats!

11/18/2005 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate the nature of your response and am wondering how you think the blog made me "feel". Did you read my post as a criticism? It's not meant to be such, but rather a light-hearted way of expressing consternation. I'm dumbfounded at the variety and subtlety of means found to marginalize mothers. That's all.

You can take comfort in the fact that I'm likely only dumbfounded because it's not really a part of my world; to an outsider looking in it's zany. But you would likely be dumbfounded at the variety and subtlety of means I and my fellow workers find to marginalize one another. No institution is without a pecking order. (Particularly interesting is when you go out socially after work and your boss' status drops from "important" to "tool." We call my boss Black and Decker behind his back.)

I'm sure that the vast majority of moms are doing the best they can by their kids whether they work, stay at home or marry some rich guy for his money. Not exactly a novel concept and yet . . .

Thanks for you best wishes.

11/18/2005 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

OK, total threadjack, but anonymous reminded me that we had a boss that was "as dumb as a box of rocks." She would come into our office, say something completely inance, and after she left, my co-worker and I would just turn to each other, shake our heads, and say "rattle, rattle, rattle." Hee Hee. Good times.

Oh, and mama aketch, I used to be a part time student with young children, too. It was funny, when people asked what I did - I said I was a SAHM. When people asked my mother, however, she'd say I was a student. I think she was just thrilled that I went back to college.

Oh, and anon, one more thing. Being a working pregnant lady is really hard. Be super nice to your wife. I remember pulling myself out of my desk to head home, and as I passed my friend's office, she looked at me, and just said "Go home, put your feet up, and tell your husband he can cook his own damn hot dog." It has made me laugh to this day.

11/18/2005 06:05:00 PM  

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