SAHM a "choice?" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 117 Old 05-07-2005, 04:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is another argument that seems anti-SAHM to me: Telling us that it was a "choice" to stay home, so therefore we don't have a right to complain about lack of money.

When did SAHMing become a luxury? It used to be just the way things were; why is it all of a sudden something one can choose or not choose? To me, staying home with my children, educating and socializing them, is the absolute bare minimum I can do! This is not some frivolous luxury; something I have picked out of a large plate of options.

The argument seems to be that SAHMing is reserved only for those who don't have to worry about money - either those whose dh's are very high earners or those who planned for this years in advance and put together a large amount of savings. And low-income SAHMs are then told "If you don't like it, go back to work." or "You chose this; now deal with it."

I don't see SAHMing as a choice I can freely make or not make, any more than breastfeeding is! Or having a natural birth! My children must be born naturally, they must be breastfed, and they must have me at home at all times. How and when did these become mere "options?"

I'm sure someone else could say this a lot better than I could...but it's really aggravating to hear the bare minimum requirements of childrearing be called "choices."
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#2 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:09 AM
 
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#3 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:11 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greaseball
It used to be just the way things were; why is it all of a sudden something one can choose or not choose?
Umm, because times changes and usually not for the better.
My neighbor went back to work because she wants to put a family room addition on her house. Nice to think that this is where society is going.

Hmm....family room...spending time with my daughter...tough decision.
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#4 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:19 AM
 
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I agree for a lot of people it isn't a choice. For me it wasn't, for DH it wasn't. For my MIL well lets just say she isn't happy that I am not working.

When we chose to have children we accepted the responsibility of raising them. WE did, not some daycare, or babysitter.

The facts are though I couldn't work if I wanted to because we couldn't afford the childcare! We would actually go in the hole to pay for it. Of course my MIL doesn't understand this. She worked DH's whole life and sometimes two jobs. But she had her mother to watch the kids.

As for not having the right to complain about fianances? Give me a break. The economy and such are not in this state due to our decision to stay at home. DH's company hasn't given him a raise in 4 years, due to the economy. Not like I can fix that by working. We do a lot to be frugal and we sacrifice the creature comforts because our children's upbringing is much more important than a new car or even owning a house. (but the house thing is another topic all together!)

So for what it's worth I agree, for me it wasn't a choice. It was a given.

Blessings,
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#5 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:23 AM
 
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I do think of it as a choice I made. I must think differently than you... but I did choose to stay home I also chose to breastfeed, natural childbirth, etc, etc. There were other options, but I chose what was best for my children.

BTW, when I am told that "I chould choose to go back to work if money was tight", I always remind that person what it costs for daycare for 2 toddlers. We would be in more financial distress if I worked, than we are now.
This is not the reason I chose to be a SAHM, but it does clear it up for some people (like my FIL).
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#6 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:31 AM
 
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For us, it's not really a choice... The cost of 2 kids in daycare, work clothes, gas, car maintenance, etc. for me to go back to work is almost exactly what I'd make without my PhD (working in the field of human services doesn't really lend to a high salary). So, with all of the additional costs of working, I'd probably be making $50 or $100 a month...completely not worth it! So, it wasn't a choice at all...the fact that it can cost $1000+ a month for childcare made that choice for me!

~Brandon Michael (11/23/03), Jocelyn Lily Nữ (2/4/07, adopted 5/28/07 from Vietnam), Amelia Rylie (1/14/09), & Ryland Josef William (9/7/05-9/7/05 @ 41 wks). 
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#7 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:41 AM
 
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Of course it's a choice, but it's not a very free choice, and it's nothing but naked misogyny to try to use the rhetoric of "choice" to beat SAHMs up with.

If it were more of a real choice, we'd be talking about jobs with pay equity so that there wasn't such a disparity between the father's pay and the mother's pay. In a huge number of families, the wage difference is so huge it would be financial folly for the father to stay home while the mother works.

If there was more of a real choice, there would be more flexible hours for parents and for all the people who need them. It's one thing to work 30-35 hours a week (which is full-time in many other countries) if your partner also works 30-35 hours a week. But how can you do that if your partner works 60-70 hours a week? Not without enormous personal costs for everyone in the family.

I could go on and on but Bleuet's waking up -- good topic.
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#8 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 11:57 AM
 
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I'm baaa-aaack! NAKing, of course.

If SAH vs. working were more of a free choice, we'd see family subsidies for babes with SAHPs.

If is were really a choice, we'd see *paid* leave with protected job status so that a woman could establish breastfeeding before returning to FTE. We'd see a tranformed legal landscape and employment market such that stepping out for a few years wouldn't trash a woman's employment possibilities for the rest of her working life. Employers would not be free to penalize parents for taking off o stay home with sick children.

If staying at home versus working were really a choice, we'd see subsidized, high-quality childcare everywhere, the same way public education should be excellent everywhere without regard to your ability to pay. As an affluent sopciety, we could amply afford it -- the priority just isn't there. Low-income working parents often have to rely on informal arrangements with relatives, friends or neighbors in unsafe homes without good supervision, much less developmentally appropriate stimulation, because decent daycare is just too expensive. And it's not like daycare workers make a living wage, either.
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#9 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:03 PM
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Hi...

I guess to ome it is achoice & to others we know we want to be home with our kids. I know yes i could go back to work, leave my kids in daycareetc & never seethem. BUT I CHOOSE NOT TO!!!!! I want to be home with my kids. They derserve a parent to be around 24/7. Thats what they need. I would rather be broke & stay home & LIVE LIFE with my kids. I knew from my 1st 8 yrs ago i would stay home. It is hard & some months WOW i want to just beg for money, but i as content with raising my kids as a SAHM..

Also my 1 child has SN & is medically fragile, if i got a job al lthe time i need of for medical things my god i'd be fired in an instant.

Daycare costs... OMG, my SIL is paying $850.00 a month for her kids to be in daycare.. Thats only 3 days a week for 2 kids.... Hello just stay home!!!! ugh...

It is easy for people to say "oh go back to work & you will have money" it is not like that & people need to stop saying that. Why is it society thinks its ok for kids to spend 12 hrs a day in daycare?? You chose to have kids, chose to raise them.

Now i in know way am saying moms who work are wrong, its their choice. just like i am home is my choice, and i knew it was my choice & the right choicefrom the start.



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#10 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:07 PM
 
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I see it as a choice. I made the decision to be a stay at home mom. I decided to stay home because I felt like it was best my my family. Sure, many days I would rather be doing something different, but for now, this it what works best for my paticular situation.

I may be in the minority, but I don't think being a SAHM or SAHD is best for everyone. It is a hard job, and it can be too much for some. Each parent knows their limitations, and a mom who knows herself well enough to say "my kids would not benefit from having be home full time" is being honest. In some cases, I do think a child is better off with a well trusted and fantastic child care provider for a few hours a day than with a stressed, burt out and resentful parent.

So, yup, I see staying home as a choice. And I am thankful I am in a financial situation where it is possible. How horible it must be for the mom who longs to stay home, but is forced to go to work to put food on the table or a roof over her littles ones heads.
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#11 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:17 PM
 
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Hi...I am new here....

I see it as a choice. I am going back to work b/c I want to. I dont have to use daycare-my MIL and mom are both at home. So paying for daycare is not an issue for us.

I love my kids more than anything in this world but I also like to work and have adult friends-not saying that SAHP dont have adult friends !!

The world is different know. Things are more expensive and most families have to have 2 incomes. There is nothing wrong with a parent working!
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#12 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:17 PM
 
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Many options in life are choices, some just make more sense than others. I knew all along I would choose to be married, have kids, bf, homeschool, all that. So that is my choice. And I wouldn't change a thing, I willing do without the "things" some extra $ could buy. Spending time raising my girls cannot be replaced.
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#13 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:25 PM
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""""""How horible it must be for the mom who longs to stay home, but is forced to go to work to put food on the table or a roof over her littles ones heads.""""""



Oh gosh i so agree with you. My mom was forced to work while we were growing up & it was horrible. I think thats why i am so for staying home. My mom was always at work, my dad was gone & we basically were on our own. My brother was 5 yrs olderthen me & from the age of 5 & he was 10 he took care of me while my mom worked. My mom couldn't afford childcare.. It was hard & to this day my mom cries to me about how bad she feels still to this day 20 yrs later...
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#14 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:34 PM
 
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To me, everything we do in life is a choice. The other options may be terrible, but they do exist, and I think it's empowering to recognize that we've made conscious choices to be where we are today.

I could have more money. But I don't, because I chose to quit my job and stay home with my kid. Or, going further back, but I don't, because I chose to marry the person I married, rather than someone who was going to become a lawyer.

I could have more free time. But I don't, because I decided to have children.

I could be thinner. But I'm not, because I'd rather eat what I want to.

I could have a bigger house. But I don't, because I'd rather save what money I do have so I don't have to scramble when unexpected expenses come up.

I could be getting more sleep at night. But I'm not, because I breastfeed.

And so on.

I'm not a big fan of complaining about the results of choices that I've made. Either I'm happy with my life, or I need to figure out what choices I could be making to improve the situation.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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#15 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 12:51 PM
 
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: I agree with every single thing skueppers said. I strongly agree that I shouldn't complain about the choices I make...if I feel like complaining, I need to change something.
Quote:
I think it's empowering to recognize that we've made conscious choices to be where we are today.
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#16 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It's easy to use the argument that daycare costs would eat all of the second income. I've used it...though it's not entirely true. I don't have as high an earning potential as dh, but I do have qualifications that could get me a "real" job with benefits, so I could stick the oldest in Head Start and the baby in daycare and still have money left over. Of course, the last time I seriously looked for a job in my field (mental health) this was after moving to a small town and nothing was available. If I seriously wanted to go back to work, we'd have to move back to my hometown.

So what it looks like to outsiders is someone who could work, but refuses, and stays home living off everyone else. I can't seem to explain to them that I cannot work right now, I cannot be away from my children. No, they won't die without me; yes, they still need me to be with them all the time.
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#17 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 01:17 PM
 
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Well for us we'd make less money if I worked. I didn't make all that much to start with but the cost of daycare combined with commuting, parking, car insurance, food, clothes, disposable diapers, etc, etc I wouldn't have made any money.

I wanted to stay at home with my kids so it wasn't a sad choice for us.

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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#18 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 01:26 PM
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Well, it is a choice.

It was something I chose to do, weighing ALL the pros against the few cons--one of them being that we have a lot less money than some people.

HOWEVER...

I don't believe that just because you make a choice, you should be expected to be some suffering martyr, NEVER able to even have a down day, or a complaint or worry, or whatever...that is foolish and simpleminded in my opinion.

For instance, I am sure in the course of my motherhood, there will be times where I will have the thoughts of "man, life was so much easier before I had children! It would be great to be able to have a night alone!" ---Does that mean I love my children less or that I made a wrong choice, or that just because I may not relish in the responsibility of motherhood 24 hours a day 7 days a week...that I made a *mistake* and that I shouldn't have *chosen* to have my daughter?? Absolutely NOT!!

I hate the misogyny directed at all women, but especially mothers. I get this damned it I do, damned if I don't attitude towards mothers ALL the time...(not here, well, only occasionally here) ...but I feel like it is very much to the advantage of women-haters (and yes, they can be women too) to pit mothers against mothers, women against women, to make us all adversaries in some way or another, in competition some way or another, and even me, who is painfully AWARE of it--falls into it sometimes!!

It sucks!!

Anyway, back to topic, sorry for going off there...

I do feel it is a choice, and in some instances, a sacrifice --though for us, the reward and benefits outweigh the sacrifice....

It just stinks to me of the same old tired disgusting arguement people have when say, a single mom is struggling or whatever and some holier than thou *sshole is like "shouldn't have had kids"...

Just pisses me off...
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#19 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 01:28 PM
 
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Greaseball said "So what it looks like to outsiders is someone who could work, but refuses, and stays home living off everyone else."

I think that is only what it looks like to child-hating and woman-hating outsiders. I agree with your underlying notion that the decision is not purely economic, but not made in a vaccuum without economic ramifications, either.

Skeuppers, I'd have to disagree with your post in some regards. though I agree that yes, of course all those elemets of your life (generic you) are "choices," they are not all equal choices or all free choices. So I think to emphasize them as choices, as you've done, is a bit misleading. It's not as if making the decision to SAH/WOH is made as simply as if as if you're choosing from chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, without 30 years of socialization or any impact beyond your immediate moment of decsion.

I don't claim to be a mind-reader, but it sounds like you're laying the groundwork for a libertarian argument, where society is responsible for nothing and the individual is responsible for everything, because, well, it's their "choice." Would that be where you're going?

I also don't see how framing them as choices is necessarily "empowering." perhaps you could elaborate on that?
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#20 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 01:30 PM
 
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x-posted. great post, capt crunchy!

nak
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#21 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greaseball
When did SAHMing become a luxury? It used to be just the way things were; why is it all of a sudden something one can choose or not choose? To me, staying home with my children, educating and socializing them, is the absolute bare minimum I can do! This is not some frivolous luxury; something I have picked out of a large plate of options.

I'm sure someone else could say this a lot better than I could...but it's really aggravating to hear the bare minimum requirements of childrearing be called "choices."
For me I can't look at this question without looking at the fact that as a society we have undergone some radical shifts that have created situations where Mama needs/wants to work. Considering the divorce rate in this country alone, one can see where for some women there is a need to work. For everyone who is able to stay at home with her babies and be assured that she has a loving partner to financially provide for her and the babies while she tends to the work of the babies and their well-being there are many other women who do not have that type of stability.

Many younger women saw our Mamas and Grandmamas stay at home to tend to us only to be discarded by their partners in later life- well there is not much of a pension plan for SAHM so many younger women were raised with the view that they better have some skills and ability to provide. Translation you better work, as a MOC this is espcially true in the community I was raised in. While my parents were married 31 years until my Mom's death and my Mom was a SAHM, in the Black community of the past 30 years or so that was not the norm.

Now I know there are single Moms who SAH but unless these women are WAH as well, we have created a culture that looks down at such Mamas. Thing is its not just men looking down a poor SAHM's but other women. After all this is a society where we worship at the altar of the money God, plain and simple. Unfortunately it does take $$ to live in this society.

Not sure if I am making much sense but I think overall in the past 50 years we have created a society that does not value kids and where everyone is encouraged to look out for #1.

I will post more later.

Mothering since 1992...its one of the many hats I wear.
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#22 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:22 PM
 
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I agree, everything is a choice, but I also agree with the OP.
And my personal theory~~~if you have kids, you should take care of them. That simple. That's what parents are for. I can understand we don['t live in a perfect world and all- and sometimes women can't stay home, and occasional babysitters are fine~~~~~~~~~~~~~~but, that's what parents, namely mothers, are for.

Due with number 5 in August. We do all that crunchy stuff.
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#23 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:50 PM
 
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Shayinme, great post. I *highly* agree that the feeling that marriage might not be "til death do us part," much as we might wish it is, pushes a lot of mothers out the door to work.

Greaseball (and everyone else), I've been thinking a lot about your use of the word luxury and I agree it sometimes is characterized that way, and I agree that's wrong, but something was bothering me about that. I think what's happneing is that to a low-income mother who can't SAH, but who really wants to, who is either the cole family wage-earner, single, or working a crap job, being a SAHM seems like a luxury, because that's what she would do if she had the choice.

What seems so wrong is when other people characterize SAH as a luxury. Let's pick on my neighbor as an (imperfect) example. She, her son and her husband live in a $450,000 house, has two late-model cars (one luxury) and works three-quarter-time as a post-doctoral researcher in a mega high-paying industry. Her husband works FT in the same industry with a comparable position. Her mom lives with them to take care of their toddler and they have a part-time nanny to give the grandmother a break. There's nothing wrong with doing any of those things, IMO, but she says that she "can't afford" to SAH. Well, in a sense (a rather strained sense), that's true, because she went to school for a bazillion years, her industry is ubercompetitive, and if she gots mommy-tracked, it wouldn't make a lot of financial sense for her. But it's not like she would be applying for WIC and food stamps if she quit her job and stayed at home. For a person like her to say SAH is a luxury (and FWIW, my neighbor is really nice and would never say that!) tramples on the real hardships experienced by many other women who really, truly have to WOH and see SAH as a "luxury."

Another friend has to work because without her income and benefits, she & her husband would probably lose their house. They have to skimp on lots of things, including daycare, because that's what they can afford even with two incomes. To her, SAH is a luxury they cannot afford. I cannot argue with that -- for her, SAH with her infant son would be a luxury (not all days, though, heh).

And that brings me back to why I don't like framing the issue as simply "choice." Yes, it is certainly a choice and yes, everything is. But by that criteria, I choose to eat, breathe in and out and not crash my car into others when I drive. What kind of "choices" are those? How useful or revelaing is it to characterize them as choices? We are not talking about cream versus winter white. Characterizing SAH vs. WOH as merely "choices" trivializes the factors and circumstances that influence the choice. Characterizing SAH/WOH as choices creates a false "eqality" between the choices when usually none exists.
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#24 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:50 PM
 
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i completely see where you're coming from. This is what makes me so sad about welfare mothers being made to go to work and leave their kids in daycare or before & afterschool programs.

I heard it said somewhere-- "an upper/middle class SAHM has the hardest job in the world. A welfare or poor SAHM doesn't work." I also remember something from when Clinton was president. A picure of him standing next to a lady who had nine children, was a single mom, and had been on welfare-- and had just been put back to work through "workfare." She said, "Before workfare, I had never worked a day in my life."

whoa........... that statement totally floored me.

well this is rambling but again I totally see where you're coming from. It's not a choice at all-- it's what children need.
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#25 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:51 PM
 
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Meowee, another great point. There is a TON of classism in how our culture frames this issue and public policy reflects it.
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#26 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:53 PM
 
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bleu-- you are one well spoken and smart cookie!!!!!!!

(lol we posted that at the same time-- wasn't referring to your agreeing with me but you earlier post. )
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#27 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbigailsMomSarah
I decided to stay home because I felt like it was best my my family.

I may be in the minority, but I don't think being a SAHM or SAHD is best for everyone. It is a hard job, and it can be too much for some. Each parent knows their limitations, and a mom who knows herself well enough to say "my kids would not benefit from having be home full time" is being honest. In some cases, I do think a child is better off with a well trusted and fantastic child care provider for a few hours a day than with a stressed, burt out and resentful parent.

So, yup, I see staying home as a choice. And I am thankful I am in a financial situation where it is possible. How horible it must be for the mom who longs to stay home, but is forced to go to work to put food on the table or a roof over her littles ones heads.

I was going to quote one part, but on further investigation, I just really agree with the whole post!

I *hope* SAH is a choice. I hope that every parent who is home with their kiddos really wants to be there. And I hope that every parent that is working really gets a lot out of their job, and that time working helps them to be a better, more fulfilled, happier parent. I do understand, however, that these are not always the realities.....

There wasn't really any active choosing for me.....just like there was little active choosing for natural childbirth and breastfeeding. I didn't actually consider the alternatives....but, yes, I was aware that there were alternatives. The alternatives just were clearly not right for me, kwim? I am thankful that these things were so clear for me, so I didn't have to struggle with conflicted feelings.

For me, SAH is/was a choice, albeit an obvious choice .
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#28 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 02:55 PM
 
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Jinx!
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#29 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But by that criteria, I choose to eat, breathe in and out and not crash my car into others when I drive. What kind of "choices" are those?
Exactly. I see SAH just as essential as not crashing my car. But I'm the only one IRL who agrees! The financial aid office at school says that since I "choose" not to work, they don't have to help me with extra aid, for starters.

Really, I think it's so many of the other things that Americans take for granted that are choices or luxuries. To me, owning a home is a luxury and one that we may do without so I can SAH long-term. (Now, if you already bought the house and don't want to lose it, that's different.) Buying a new car is a luxury; we'll stick with our older ones that make funny sounds. Hiring someone to clean is a luxury, and so are family vacations. I guess if I went to work we could afford all these things. It's been said over and over that a lot of people who say they are working to put food on the table are actually working to maintain a standard of living they have only become accustomed to because of their work!
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#30 of 117 Old 05-11-2005, 03:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Bleu
Skeuppers, I'd have to disagree with your post in some regards. though I agree that yes, of course all those elemets of your life (generic you) are "choices," they are not all equal choices or all free choices. So I think to emphasize them as choices, as you've done, is a bit misleading. It's not as if making the decision to SAH/WOH is made as simply as if as if you're choosing from chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, without 30 years of socialization or any impact beyond your immediate moment of decsion.
I personally try to make decisions in my life with as little regard as possible for what other (uninvolved) people think, what society expects, etc. How else can I be truly free?

I certainly agree that the decision about whether to SAH/WOH isn't as simple as making a choice about what kind of ice cream to have, and that it's vital to consider the impact beyond the immediate moment of decision. In my particular case, it wasn't a decision between SAH or WOH -- it was a decision between having children and not having them. My husband and I had agreed years before that if we had children, we wanted one of us to stay home with them. So then the question was whether to have children or not! In making that decision, we certainly considered a wide variety of different factors, stretching decades into the future -- I'd say that deciding to have children was the culmination of 15 years of discussion and thought. So no, it wasn't an easy decision, but it certainly was a choice that we made.

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I don't claim to be a mind-reader, but it sounds like you're laying the groundwork for a libertarian argument, where society is responsible for nothing and the individual is responsible for everything, because, well, it's their "choice." Would that be where you're going?
Hmm. I certainly believe that the society and the policies of our government make certain choices easier or more attractive than other choices, and that we as a society are responsible for the outcomes that result.

On the other hand, I also believe that as individuals, we must take responsibility for our own lives. The government and the society can establish an environment that makes it easier for people to get out of poverty, but ultimately it is the individual who must make the choice to take advantage of the services offered. We can establish free drug-treatment programs and related services, but the individual addict is the only person who can actually decide to get clean.

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Originally Posted by Bleu
I also don't see how framing them as choices is necessarily "empowering." perhaps you could elaborate on that?
I find looking at life as a series of choices, rather than as something that happens to me without a lot of input on my part, extremely empowering. It suggests that I always have the power to change my situation by looking for options. It also helps me to be satisfied with where I'm at -- If I can see how the choices I made got me there, and recognize that I made the best decisions I knew how to make at the time, it's hard to have regrets.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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