I was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. My husband worked to support our family.
We chose for me to be -- for lack of a better word -- a homemaker. I did all of the things needed to run a household, from buying socks to paying bills. I cooked healthy meals, carpooled, cleaned and organized, volunteered and built a strong network of friends and acquaintances in our community. I spent hours communicating with teachers, tutors, doctors and coaches, ensuring that my children were getting the best possible education, medical care and experiences as they grew up. Because I was running our household, my husband was able to devote extra-long hours to his career. I gave all I had to my job so he could give all he had to his. That's not to say that my husband wasn't an active participant in our children's lives -- he was. He made a point of being at nearly every event, game, show or meeting possible.
Apparently, we were doing it all wrong, and we're lucky we're still married.
I read this article "Why Dual Earner Families Have Less Divorce Than Single Earner Households" written by Scott Behnson. In this piece, the author presents the statistic that in marriages where there is a sole breadwinner, there are 14 percent more divorces than in marriages where both partners earn money, based on a study by the American Journal of Sociology).
Along with my surprise at this statistic (it certainly doesn't jibe with what I've seen in my community), I was fascinated by the author's contention that those women (or men -- let's be fair here) who stay at home to raise their children have a hard time understanding the pressures and daily challenges faced by their "working" partners.
Behnson contends that dual income marriages are more successful just because both partners are working to earn money, and therefore can talk about their horrible bosses or the crappy commute that morning. He also says it doesn't matter what the second job is -- a part-time job is ideal, especially if it has health care benefits (which is just about impossible to find).
To be fair, the author also discussed the financial benefits of two incomes, especially the safety net it offers in a tenuous job market. I can't argue with that, and for many families this is a matter of economic survival. He also discussed the lack of options for those who are unhappy with their jobs to try something new in single-earner households, to which I would say "welcome to the real world." We all make sacrifices for our families.
When my husband and I made the decision that I would stay at home with our children, not long after our first child was born, it was not made lightly. My husband, for purely economic reasons, thought I should return to work. There have been many times over the course of our marriage when a second income would have been a big help, but ultimately we are happy with our choice.
To say that those who stay at home with their children don't face pressures each day is laughable. When my children were very young, my husband worked 80 hour weeks and was rarely home. Caring for two children under the age of three, alone, for hours on end were some of the most stressful hours of my life. As they grew older it became easier in some ways -- but other stressors came into play. Investing your life in the care of others means giving up much of yourself. There were many days when I envied those working mothers who would leave their children and go out and be not-mommies for eight to 10 hours each day.
I've shared in the challenges my husband has faced as a small business owner over the past 13 years. I've cheered him on through the roughest of times. I'm involved in managing the accounts payable for our company, so I'm well-aware of what goes on there. I believe, if you asked him, that he would say I've been an important partner in our business, even if I've been an invisible one.
I'm so tired of SAHMs being dismissed as frivolous, indulged, pampered women who are ignorant to the realities of life. Our value comes not from the money we earn but from the energy, time and passion we give to our jobs as homemakers, volunteers, moms, friends, and, yes, spouses. I may not have had a hellish commute each day, but I traveled some difficult roads too.