Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The SAHM debate

I am off for a couple of weeks visiting family. I have not been posting regularly - but felt like I should say bye to the people who might visit my blog till the end of the month - just to let them know I will be gone for a bit.

I thought my next post will be about KG. That draft is still in my head. Her third birthday is on June 17 - hope to post at least by then - exclusively about KG!

MM's latest post on SAHM is flooding her comments box. Understandably so. When the celebrity blogger (meant positively) writes on the hot topic, people want to pour their heart out in response. And I feel like writing a whole long post in response! No time though. Pretty late in the night as it is.

Different strokes for different folks - that's how I have come to view it now. And to some extent it boils down to what you get used to, what you need to do to raise your children. Some women don't have a choice, they have to work to earn money. Others are blessed with the choice. Neither choice is easy. Being a SAHM mom takes a little more conviction since you are subtly or blatantly looked down often by other working women and even by other SAHMs who have a low opinion of themselves. And if you happen to have educated yourself beyond UG level, forget it, they look down on you like you should be digging a grave for yourself. Like who would educate themselves so much only to "sit" at home! I have so much as heard outbursts like, "What?! WHY would you stay at home?!!" And then politely (not) follow it up with, "well, hats off to you, I couldn't do that".

When I toured preschools for KB when he was 2.5, I saw some little children in the full day day care and I just could not, absolutely could not get myself to do it. A nanny may have been OK provided I had some one at home to just oversee the nanny. Either way I did not want my baby to be spending whole days in a day care or away from me. Part time options would be OK but those jobs are scarce to nil and in my field that would require being in the lab, it is very rare. The money simply didn't make it worthwhile to send two kids to day care or have a nanny at home. I have zero family support here for contingencies and I just did not want to deal with the stress of it all. I felt like some of those children looked so worn out having to wander around in that same room with a whole bunch of other kids and only so much attention paid to them. My friend who has to work to be able to keep up their mortgage etc tells me such stories of how the child looks/feels at the end of the day. My father-in-law lives with us and I have to cook a full meal in the morning and go to drop off and pick up KB - so the mornings are pretty busy. So I do end up not being able to pay attention to KG at those times. But I keep talking to her while cooking and if she needs me to sit with her for a few minutes while she eats her grapes or comes to feed me her toy food, I am right there. Yes, I am not able to give her my 100% at all times even as a SAHM, but I am there for her when she needs me. And she can hang loose and be a child and not have to follow strict rules all the time. And if she is sleepy at 11.00 a.m. instead of at 2.00 p.m. on some days, she can sleep in a cozy bed with her favorite music playing in the room. I do feel upset and sad at times when I think of how my career didn't take off and may never really, but I don't see a better choice. I am glad I am able to do this and that my husband is able to support us in this choice. I want to be able to cherish these childhood years with them. The only real negative and very real one I see to this choice is what if...I shudder to even complete that sentence. In this economy it is a huge risk. I don't know how to get around that.

I see some working women who finally quit their jobs because the stress was too much. I only hear them say how much their children love the fact that they are not constantly rushed or that they don't have to spend the whole day away from home. And yet I find some of them so defensive of their SAHM status.

Women do it to each other. The viciousness with which they attack each other is so shocking that you wonder if they ever got past second grade. I just don't see why both sides can't just try and understand why certain choices were made and stop themselves from spewing out nonsensical comments and hurt each other. If someone is ambitious and really cannot see themselves not working, so be it. If someone wants to take a few years off and only have a low key career and be there more for the children, so be it too. It is only that woman and her family who have to deal with those choices. What is it to any one else?! You can have your own strong opinions on the topic but why attack an individual who is not asking anything of you in the process? One woman asked me with this self righteous tone, "Soow, do you plan to start looking for jobs?". I wonder how she would have felt if in that same tone I had asked, "Soo, do you have any plan of quitting your job?".

I do see merit to working - but sometimes the work/life balance just doesn't happen and you have to find ways to balance it. In the process, you do loose the confidence that took years to gain during the process of educating yourself. And you do get older and loose out in that sense too. But there is always plenty of need for volunteers in so many fields and eventually one of those will lead to some kind of job that might both be meaningful and give room for raising kids. You make the choices that will keep the family intact and allow you to keep your sanity. And in the end you do hope you have done the best for your children and your family.

OK blog pals, will see you in two weeks! Absolutely no time to even read what I have written here let alone edit it. Forgive the typos and ramblings! Wish us a safe trip!

I just read about the killings of KG children in China. My heart just bleeds for the children and their parents. What is the world coming to? We watch "Criminal minds" and think this can happen only in TV shows. But the news each day is so gut wrenching that if you stop to think about it, it is hard to even get out of the house. Anyway - sadly, I am thinking now about how I have to pack for my trip tomorrow! Life goes on.


Praveen said...

Have a safe trip and Advance Birthdya wishes to KG

Rohini said...

Take it from someone who is on the other side. You feel blatantly and subtly judged either way. The 'How do you manage?', 'I could never do it' and 'Are your kids ok with the maid?' are questions I field on a regular basis, from SAHMs. And you just did it with your pity for the kids in day care. I met this lady in the park a few months ago who went on about how she gave up her job as a teacher because she saw the kids with working moms and 'their eyes were hollow'. Isn't this also judging?

noon said...

Hey Praveen - thanks!

Rohini - thanks for your comment. No actually I don't think I did it with my pity for the kids - I do feel sorry for the kids - but I don't judge the moms for "doing it" or I don't pass these kind of comments in some condescending tone to them. I just cannot get myself to do it. Even my friend who is a working mom feels sorry for her son with some of the stuff he has to go through in day care. I have never once told a working, even the ones that have insulted me on my face for not working - hey - how do you do it yourself the other way around. But the truth is, having chosen this, I find it hard to imagine leaving the kids in that setting until 5.30 in the evening. But I still understand why some women have to do it. Even if they don't need it financially, I understand - you are entitled to your ambitions and your life choices. I guess we all judge and in that sense I am guilty of it - but I honestly do try to understand the other person's pov and I certainly don't look down on them for having put their kids in day care. I just couldn't do it myself even though I feel so nervous when I think of what I would do suddenly if my family situation changed. I hate that I am putting myself/the kids in such a risky situation.
I totally appreciate your directness in your comment Ro. I want you to know though that I do respect your choice totally. And I have never once looked down on you for it. I only feel anger towards the women who will not even give the SAHM an ounce of respect and think their way is the only correct way.

PV said...

You asked for it - so here is my comment essay :-)

I agree with Rohini on working moms being judged with disdain and contempt by some SAHMs - why does justifying one's choice require that another's choice be thumbed down ?

Unlike earlier times, information sharing is everywhere - and opinions are freely expressed - even if they are unsolicited. Mothers of today appraise themselves far more harshly than earlier generations of mothers - and this makes us even more judgemental on the choices made by others - since there is no "Sliding Doors" way of reliving life by choosing previously untrodden paths

Guilt defines all mothers - only the cause attributed to the guilt varies (Working moms feel they spend less time with their kids or are less devoted to their jobs while SAHMs might feel like their self-identity is nebulous or that they are not extending their sphere of influence on a wider field)

The choice of external care for a young child is something that most working moms agonize over - and try their best to provide a nurturing environment. Most working moms I know have kept their chidren at home with a nanny until age 2 - and then only send them into a larger child care environment.

Also, what exactly defines the "best care" for a child younger than four ? Does it have to be the mother who provides the attention and takes care of basic needs and interaction during the 9-5 timeframe each weekday ? If the caregiver is truly a "caring" giver - in what way would the child lose out ?

Working moms are very keenly aware that they don't spend 8 hours (or more) in each day with their child - so extra effort is put in to spend quality time with the child at home. For a small child, is 6 hours of quality time any less impactful than 14 hours of regular time ? Are all the extra hours that SAHMs have spent "truly" interacting with their kids ?

Regarding the viciousness of women - this usually stems from self-image issues - - an outward air of superiority masking a rampant sense of internal inferiority - and belittling another's choice (working or not) somehow makes these folks feel better about themselves - sad but true.

Also, men don't have to usually make the choices or sacrifices that women do - hence they don't spew such vitriol - and not due to any innate decency specific to males

All moms are working moms - only the work "place" is different - the exhaustion, frustration etc are all the same - and all of us have our "the grass is greener on the other side" moments

Live and let live - there are no "right" choices or "wrong" choices - we make our choices and face the brickbats or take the boquets that life throws at us in the time that we have

noon said...


Nice long comment. I don't disagree with Ro - I can believe SAHM dish it out to the working moms as well in nasty ways. My point is that when I respect your choice, you (as in for example that woman who exclaimed in front of every one at a party - WHY?! Why would you want to stay home?) have the decency to respect mine. I am not able to get myself to leave my child for long hours in day care and you are not able to imagine not working. So be it. But don't assume one is better than the other. That is what I mean. And I did not imply men are more decent. I meant women who you think would understand each others situations often make it more difficult for each other.

I too wish I had a support system in place that would enable me to work at least part-time. Also I feel after the initial years children can handle longer days away from home - when they start 1st grade anyway they have to be in school till 2.30 pm. If say I had had someone like Hari's preschool teacher as my nanny I would have been OK with working for at least five hours a day. But some of us don't have those choices. It is unfortunate - both in terms of the kind of job (doesn't allow for working from home) and the kind of family support you have. I don't think all SAHM spend quality time with the kids. And even my own nieces and nephews who have gone to day care since their moms were working are absolutely fine, wonderful independent children. It is just what I am used to now and what I feel comfortable with. I have certain personal and family constraints that I have to work with...but it is when I am looked down upon for having made that choice that I feel very disappointed. I don't think I have consciously ever said anything condescending to a working mom for doing so leaving a child in day care. I do wish that child could go home and stay with a grand parent or some one at home after a few hours in day care - but I never blame the mom for a regular working day.

Anyways - thanks for your nicely written comment PV!

Sumana said...

Hey noon, long time no see. They say tongue has a mind of its own. I have seen a friend of mine who commented on a SAHM about her dress. Has dress got to do anything pertaingin to whether you work or not. Sometimes people cross the limilt and it gets hard to react.

Rohini said...

That's the key thing. That I respect your choice and you respect mine. I was merely making the point that just as a lot of people judge a SAHM, it goes the other way too.

Trishna said...

Noonie!!Hii,hope you've been good.I have been reading,on the reader,but this post made me hop over and comment.
I love the clearity of your thoughts in this post.BEing a SAHM,I have faced/heard all this and more ..and have drafted this kind of post in my head so many times.but it always comes out wrong:P
Like you,I have nothing against working moms or their choices but its just their attitude towards me/SAHM that bothers me.
When I can respect your choice,why can't you extend the same courtesy to me..naah?
Anyway,Happy B'day in advance to KG..hope you are doing well.

IBH said...

I completely agree with Ro! If SAHM's are judged hard, IMHO, Working mothers are judged harder.....both by family and others...puts us in a light of being selfish...if a SAHM mothers have reasons to stay behind, workig mothers have their own reasons to work...

it is one's own prerogative to choose what they want..and they must stick to it...fend it urself..and dont get other comments bother u ...

first time commening here noon!

mnamma said...

Long time no see Noonie!! A very well thought out post written in your own inimitable style. Have a nice trip and happy reunion. Happy 3rd to KG! And waiting for the KG exclusive :)

Preethi said...

Very well put Noon.. I have done both.. and I know both sides of the story (or so I think!!). I have endured days when I had no time to spend with my son and cursed myself for working.. not because I had to but because I wanted to.. So then I quit! But then after a while of that, while I was spending more time with my kid and could see the difference I was making to him, I grew restless! And was torn between both worlds! I think they both have their charms and sometimes you just need to strive to get the right balance! However it is each person's choice and outlook!
When I quit a lot of people were really surprised and many told me I had made a wrong decision. My answer to them was "I know many women can juggle both roles and be competent at doing justice to both. But I am not one of them.. I would rather make a choice and make sure I am doing one right rather than mess up both. " Yes it looked as though I was not as capable as those women.. so what? All the time I was a SAHM I did not care that people thought I was wasting my life.. so who defined that life is excelling at a job? or vice versa? life is what you want it to be.. what makes you feel complete! It rankled though that men and women alike (more so the men actually I noticed) treated me like I was an idiot or had lesser IQ just because I was a SAHM with a kid!! I have actually had friends who were working at the time I was at home tell me they thought I had a lot of courage to do what I did.. and that they would have loved to do it if not for their mortgage or some need! Either way as long as we are comfortable in our skin I think judging a woman by the decisions she makes for herself is ridiculous!!
Sorry about the mini post here!!

Anonymous said...

Hi noon,

You write well and I agree with Rohini that you are subtly judging us working moms by feeling bad for the children in daycare. My daughter who is 3 now has been and is going to full time day care since she was 13 months old and she is perfectly fine.

In face I see that she is really well behaved and social when compared to kids who stay at home all day with moms without any interaction with others (am not judging btw).

So whatever works for u might not for others and vice versa.

Best wishes..


Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

A heartfelt post Noonie .... people are judged ... so as long as your choice is not based on people's judgement and YOU are happy, working or SAHM doesn't matter.

To each his/her own.

Mama - Mia said...

frankly i dont even see a reason why these posts should have to come up!

what is there to argue? to each one his own is the only way to be on this case.

but considering we dont stop judging each other this debate will keep happening with each side trying to justify their stand which is just so sad!

i work very hard on not guil tripping myself and if someone wants to say "Poor baby! he gets to see you only 3hrs a day" i really dont give a damn! :)



noon said...

Sumana - yeah - it certainly does.

Ro - I of course agree that the judgment goes both ways. But at least personally even if I feel bad or not, I certainly respect a working moms choice. I never look down on them for feeling bad for a child who has to stay late doesn't mean I don't respect the working moms choice. When I see a little baby - under two - still at day care at 6.00 pm - I feel bad for the child - but I never ever make snide remarks to the mom as to how she could do that - I don't ever say anything negative nor think any less of the mom in that case.

noon said...

Hi Trish, how are you? Totally settled in Aussie land looks like!
Thanks for the birthday wishes!
Yeah - really it is about just live and let live..

Thanks for your comment IBH! Yeah - I can imagine that if I were to start working I will face the reverse thing - although at least thankfully kids are a little more grown up.

Mniamma - how goes? Yeah - don't let me off the hook for the KG post OK! I don't know why that post is so hard for me to write! Am so bad!

noon said...

Preethi - how are you girl? And your cheeky boy?
Well written mini post! :)

Hi Bhavani

Thanks for your comment. No honest - I wasn't judging the working mom by saying I feel bad - see my comment to Ro. I feel bad for that child but I totally still respect the choice that the mom made. It is her life, her child. I don't ever make comments to some mom saying how could you be working leaving your child in day care...I just don't...It is in the tone of your questions (condescending or just curious) in such situations. I have had friends who ask me how I do it - don't I go mad etc - but some make me feel bad because it is obvious they are putting me down - while others with the same questions are genuinely wondering how I do it because they find this kind of life impossible. BTW - I only feel bad about kids who are very young - somehow I don't know why - some kids stay 8h or more in day care - it really does make me feel bad - I am honestly not judging the mom here. Even my own sister's kids have done it - they are fabulous/smart individuals now - it's not like I think it harms them - just a feeling that's all.

Thanks for visiting and commenting...

noon said...

CA - yup - to each her own!

Abha - the ever smiling Abha all fired up! :) Yeah - if only we could all genuinely leave each other alone these posts won't come up! :))

Sunitha said...

Dear Noon,
I just finished reading your entire blog! Many of your posts are wellw ritten and I can relate to coz I am also from Chennai. I still don't have children, so can't post anything regarding this particular post, but any decision is hard I feel and good luck to moms choosing either of them! I am waiting for a post about KG too! I have not been blogging regularly at all, but hope to start things and go on steady soon....
Keep posting more, makes an enjoyable read!

Aryan said...

Well written posts are you? Advanced happy birthday. to KG

Poppy said...

Both SAHM's and Working moms are put down subtly and blatantly. The only advantage SAHM's have is that - they are only made to look like they're stupid/dumb etc whereas working mom's have to deal with the child guilt. Having been on both sides, I feel for the working mom more - totally agree with Ro and IBH here.

Now that I've quit my job I already have started receiving those type of condescending comments - but it's water off my back really.

Only I know how much I've tried to make the whole balance work and it hasn't worked for me. My life is much much much better now - and I have no hesitation is letting the person putting me down know that.

I have after all worked for 10 years in high-tech and very well paying jobs, I feel like my degree has already "paid" for itself. Time I did something about the role nature handed over to me!

It does boil down to how comfortable you are with your choices as Abha puts it. Without judging anybody, I will state for the record that life IS easier when one parent is at home but only if that person feels fulfilled.

IMHO child welfare does not come into the picture at all, I know plenty of children raised at homes who are always with the maid or TV etc. Not every housewife is a SAHM!

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