“SAHM’s” and the “housewives” of the 1950’s.

With fewer moms staying home these days (22%), and stay-at-home dads still a rarity (though on the rise!), it’s easy to envision a 1950’s-esque existence when thinking about a SAHM (“stay-at-home mom”).  But comparing my experience to my grandmother’s, there are major differences.  Here are a few biggies:

The Biggest:  Staying home is a choice.

If you’re at home with your kids in this day and age, it’s most likely (barring a salary less than your child care costs) because you want to be there.  In fact, you’re probably making a major financial sacrifice to make it happen.  Gone are the days of the above cartoon, when staying home with children was seen as the ultimate aspiration for women everywhere and girls were raised with the expectation that they would stay home.  Medical and law school classes in the United States today are actually majority female!  These days, work/home solutions are tailored to the unique personalities, preferences, logistical situations, and priorities of each individual family.  If we took anything from the 1950’s, perhaps it was the realization that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

My grandmother (L) always regretted not having been able to go to college.

I sometimes regret my $100,000+ law school debt.

The internet keeps you connected to other adults.
SAHP‘s (P for “parents,” since dads do it too) aren’t likely to suffer the same feelings of “isolation” and “lack of mental stimulation” housewives of earlier generations reported.  Those poor souls were stuck with snail-mail and very expensive long-distance calling… nightmare!  Today, email and Facebook make it easy to stay in near-constant touch with pretty much everybody you’ve ever met.  Including your “working” friends…  Plus, virtually any publication is at your fingertips. 


Cleaning takes less time, thanks to technological advances.

I’m not just talking dishwashers and washing machines.  Floor steamers (like our ah-mazing Shark Steam Mop) mean that even tile and hardwoods can be “mopped” in a matter of minutes.  No buckets, no wringing, no soap.  Plus, no-iron clothing saves us, what, hours every week?!  

On the other hand, we all own more “stuff” now.  Perhaps “de-cluttering” is the modern house-spouse’s greatest challenge.

Online Shopping Means No More Errands!
Well, not completely but I really think you can cut down on at least 75% of your errands by online shopping.  My Amazon Prime subscription means I almost never go to Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, the hardware store, or just about anywhere else for an errand.  And it more than pays for itself when you consider all the gas saved and all the products I don’t stumble upon in stores.  I even do almost all of my baby and kids clothes shopping online now – so much better than shopping with a baby and toddler in tow.  Ebay, Gymboree, and Zulily are my absolute faves.

The internet has revolutionized cooking.

Can you even imagine being limited to whatever cookbooks you actually owned?  Beyond boring!  Now, if you want to make chicken soup, you can hop on the internet and find fifteen different recipes, read reviews of them, and pick the one that sounds best to you.  I know I’m not the only SAHP out there who is addicted to trying new recipes.  It’s not as fun when you already know the result, even if it’s a good one.
You need to make and effort to find peers for your children, at least until preschool.
With fewer parents at home, neighborhoods and even parks now seem empty during the day.  “Running around with the neighborhood kids” used to be status quo, but it’s a rarity today to be able to open your back door and have built-in near-constant playmates for your children.  

This has lead some to question whether staying home leads to struggles with socialization, for young children who are not in day cares with the rest of their peers.  Internet to the rescue again.  With local parenting list serves it’s easy to learn of many fun activities in which to involve your young children.  Baby M and I have been doing a “sign & sing” (where babies learn songs and sign language… or at least drool and babble while watching it).  And I have a swimming class all picked out for him once he stops taking his crazy-long morning nap.  We also have a “Groupon” for a month of Gymboree.  Early-start preschool (preschool at 3) is also on the rise, whether or not there’s a SAHP.  And many gyms provide childcare, so parents get a break while their child plays in a (somewhat) structured setting with other children.

Hardly anyone lives near “the grandparents.” 
If there’s one thing my other mommy friends are sorely missing (whether they work or not), it’s having their own parents around to help out.  What do you do with your kid(s) if you have a doctor’s appointment/hair cut/dentist appointment?  Teen babysitters are in school all day.  Unless you have another SAHP friend who can watch your kiddos, you’re in a bit of a pickle.  Every time I go back home I’m reminded of how much easier life would be if we lived near family.  Sigh.

Worries, Worries, Worries.
Did I wash the veggies enough or did I just give my entire family cancer?
Should I buy organic, or send my children to college?
Will my daughter start puberty at age 4 if I buy the wrong shampoo?
How will my son be successful in school when boys are falling further and further behind?
What’s more dangerous, the sun or the sunscreen?
Do the people staring at me think I’m a “mean mommy” or too lenient?
Am I neglectful for not having had my car seat installed at the police station?
What about not having a bilingual nanny, and not being able to afford bilingual preschool?
Should I “red shirt” and start my son later in kindergarten?
HOW WILL I EVER PAY FOR COLLEGE? 

I sense my own grandparents didn’t worry nearly as much as I and my peers seem to.  Maybe raising children in the shadow of a major world war gave a better perspective.  Or perhaps things really were just simpler back then.

Personally I LOVE staying home in this day and age… and I even love it as the wife of a medical resident.  It would be fabulous if my husband’s job were less demanding and we lived near family… but this is by far the best, most enjoyable, and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. *For me*.

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