8 Misconceptions About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom


I planned on going back to work when my first child was six weeks old, but ended up delaying that plan by, oh let’s see … almost twelve years now. In that time, I’ve come across many misconceptions about being a stay-at-home mom, some of them my own. Here are just a few:

1. It’s Boring

This kind of depends on your definition of boring. For example: My five year old thinks changing her underwear every morning is boring. My mother thinks doing less than five tasks at once or sitting for longer than thirty seconds is boring. I tend to fall somewhere in between (while pretending to not know either of them.) Sometimes it is a bit boring. Sometimes it’s Vegas-casino levels of chaos. Strive for the in-between and you’ll be fine.

2. We Have No Sense of Self

At a job outside the walls of your home, you are a name, a title. A person separate from motherhood. Probably no one wipes their snot on your pants. You have stimulating conversations about politics or the economy or Jersey Shore or whatever the hell it is adults talk about these days. Who are you without that sense of identity? Maybe think of it this way, though: It’s a chance reflect on who you are outside of work and obligations. If you want to continue on that path at some point, or try a new one. And if who you are is just a mom for now while you focus on this chapter of your life, well, what’s so bad about that?

3. We Go Crazy

I seem to get this comment a lot. How do I not go crazy being home with the kids all the time? My usual reply is, Who says I’m not? Which isn’t entirely true (or is it?) but really, it’s just a matter of adjusting. The pace of life is different, the way you fill your hours and days is different. Not better. Not worse. Not crazy. Well, okay a little. But what’s life without a little crazy in your day?

4. We Go Without

For a lot of us, living on one income is tricky. It requires strategic budgeting and planning and miserly cinching of purse strings. I read someone musing recently that going without builds character, which I guess is okay if you’re imparting a life lesson to your kid about why he can’t have his own iPad or why her War And Peace-sized Christmas list may be a tad unreasonable. But mostly, it kind of sucks. We do have an appreciation for what we have, and it is nice that I can go to the store without anyone whining for toys or clothes or fancy cereal (why is cereal so expensive?) because they know it isn’t happening.  But mostly we talk about choices; why we’ve chosen to take the financial hit so i can stay home and all of us agree: It’s still worth it.

5. We’ve Experienced Brain Atrophy

Obviously this one isn’t true. I just used the word atrophy, so. There really are plenty of ways to use your brain that have nothing to do with clocking in for a paycheck. And just taking a quick look around? I don’t think it’s stay-at-home moms who are leading the race in lack of brain use. Just saying.

6. There’s a Lot of Guilt

Yep, we get it too. Guilt over not contributing enough. Guilt over having a messy house. Guilt over ignoring my children while making a futile attempt at not having a messy house. It’s a mom thing, I’m not sure there’s much to be done about it. But at least there’s comfort in knowing we’re all aboard the good ship Mom Guilt. I hope someone brought cocktails.

7. We Don’t Feel Valued

The problem is we live in a society where value is so strongly tied to money earned that what we (or others) really seem to be asking is: What are you contributing? To your family or to society or to yourself. And it’s hard to quantify that without numbers. Sure, we can add up what we’d pay a housekeeper and a babysitter and an events coordinator. But that still doesn’t really capture what a stay-at-home mom is, or what we sacrifice to do so. It takes stepping to the side a bit and not thinking about your value as a dollar sign over your head, but being worthwhile as a mother, as a caretaker, as a center point for home and family. I have had plenty of jobs where I did nothing much with my days, where I felt I wasn’t contributing anything to the world aside from taxes. I never feel like that now.

8. We’re All Frumpy Housewives

I don’t even know why this is even an issue. At this very moment I have my hair done and make-up on, wearing a nice egg-shell white sweater without a single stain. And yoga pants. And fuzzy pink socks. But that’s neither here nor there. My top half is all business, thank you very much. Point is, sometimes I do make the effort. Er, half the effort anyway. But maybe sometimes I’m too exhausted. Or maybe I’ve rejected the notion that a woman needs to be aesthetically pleasing at all times. Maybe I’m just happy I got a three minute shower and had clean clothes to wear this morning. Maybe, just maybe, I actually don’t care. It happens.

A stay at home mom, just like any other mom, is making the best choices for her family. And any choice has pros and cons, worries and regrets and triumphs. My biggest fear about being a stay at home mom? That I’ll miss it too much when this time is gone.

Now pass the bonbons, my soaps are on.

Jill Vettel is a writer and stay at home mom of three in Durham, NC. She also fears tsunamis, sharks, public speaking, and clowns. And she’s actually not really sure if soap operas are even still a thing.

8 thoughts on “8 Misconceptions About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom”

  1. The frumpy housewife cliche has never gotten to me…same as the “dirty hippie” remarks b/c, well, I’ve ALWAYS been that way and will continue to do so regardless of philosophy or mothering. I hate makeup, cosmetics, lotions, matching clothing and basically anything other than covering enough to go out in public and combing my hair. *shrugs* Some people really do NOT care…AND they have partners who think that’s sexy as well.

  2. Thank you, Jill, for this wonderful article to read while I’m at home doing “nothing” with my kiddos. 😉 I get these a lot too – the guilt part plays in heavily sometimes, as it can be so difficult to quantify exactly how I spend my days. “What did you DO all day?” is such a loaded question! Do you REALLY want to know that I managed to sneak in 15 minutes of feigned sanity while

  3. I am not sure why you call these ‘misconceptions’. That word implies that these views actually are far from reality, and it’s not common for SAHMs to deal with them. However, with myself and many stay at home moms I’ve known over the past ten years, these struggles are commonplace. Yeah, it would be faulty to say it was true of all SAHMs, and you could say these are stereotypical views. But I haven’t heard a lot of, “ALL SAHMS are this way and nobody is an exception” coming from anybody. There are unique challenges to the SAHM lifestyle that make these issues real, common issues, not ‘misconceptions’ as you label them. Sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes because they are rooted in what happens a lot in real life, and all of these that you listed happen frequently with SAHMs. So while I wouldn’t assume these are issues all SAHMs have, it’s faulty to call them misconceptions. Your list here describes real issues many moms face, and you even admit many of them have been true for you. Maybe it would be a healthier move to acknowledge them as problems that there are solutions to, instead of things that aren’t really problems.

  4. Great article, many mothers will see themselves in this :)

    Is anyone else interested in changing the terminology here? I am a grandmother now, but I was a full time mother to our four sons back in the 70’s and 80’s, and I never considered myself to be a stay-at-home mother. My sons and I were out of the house almost as much as we were in it – at friends’ homes, at the zoo, at the grocery store, at the park, or at the playground etc. I really prefer the term “full-time mother” because it embodies my sense of what I was doing with my time, my energy, and my intellect. It also describes my decision and purpose, not merely my location.

    Can we start a conversion about this? I would love to have some feedback from this community. Thank you all.

  5. I just wanted to face punch the next person who said this time with your little one goes quickly enjoy it! It was not my choice to lose my job when my son was 16 months old, so I did not like the financial stress of suddenly being without an income. We had to wait 16 years to have our son naturally so at 43 he was a surprise given we had a .01% chance of conceiving naturally. So all in all I hated being at home, so isolated no family close by, no $ to do anything extra besides the basics…just went back to work 32 hours a week and am so thankful that at 3.4 years old my son is thriving at daycare 4 days a week. We are both happier, saner & at peace. But that is my experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>