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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm looking for opinions for an article I am writing on the evolution of the role of at home parent/homemaker/housewife over the past few generations.

What are your thoughts/opinions regarding how the role has changed? Rewards? Challenges?
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by gen25gen
I'm looking for opinions for an article I am writing on the evolution of the role of at home parent/homemaker/housewife over the past few generations.

What are your thoughts/opinions regarding how the role has changed? Rewards? Challenges?
Hmmm...that's a really good question! I'd have to say one of the biggies since my Gram was a SAHM in the 40's and 50's is that many more SAHM's are educated beyond high school. I know almost no SAHMs my age or even my Mom's age who don't have at least some college under their belt & the majority of us have degrees.

Probably another big one is just the whole family dynamic in general. Once again, my Gram was the whole 50's Donna Reed generation. Perfect house, perfect 3 course meal plus dessert on the table every night, perfect clothes, ironed sheets, and my Gramps worked VERY hard but did *nothing* as far as child care or household work goes. He would mow the lawn & occasionally clean out he gutters. Everything else around the house either my Gram did or he hired someone to do. Working Dads have a much bigger role in their kids lives now than they did a couple generations ago.

Of course, the fact that this thread asks about "SAHP" itself reflects a big change in society. Even in my parents generation (my parents are in their 50's btw
) a SAHD was really rare. At least in the area we live in. It's still pretty uncommon around here, but it does happen and while I'm sure they still get stupid comments I do think it's gaining acceptance.

Can't wait to see the other responses!

Holly
 

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What are your thoughts/opinions regarding how the role has changed? I think that in more recent past generations, it was expected that the woman would stay at home with the kids if the dad was earning a good salary. A lot of women worked, they've always worked, but there was a stereotype in my generation and my parent's generations (post WWII kids up to late 1970s kids) that a family was doing well if the dad worked and the mom stayed at home and took care of the family and their social needs. Nowadays, the role of stay at home mother is a choice for many women in that they can afford to stay at home. For others it is not a choice so much as a financial necessity. They could not afford to put all their kids in daycare for what they would bring home as salary. For the latter group, many of them do creative things to earn money like working at home in some capacity. Regardless, the role of mother has changed to be that of superwoman who can work at home and out of home and take care of the family and get everyone to all their activities. Technology has served to make the modern american mother more and more busy than ever before. There is not time to clean the house and bake a cake, even if you do not work outside the home. We are constantly wired to some form of technology and constantly stressed and busy. If you cannot find a way to step outside of this craziness, then you are a very stressed out mother. But even in more recently past generations, the mother was still always very busy and stressed out. Going back to before WWII, most women worked in some way to contribute to the family income, either by making the family's clothes and cooking food from scratch from their garden or working in a factory while the kids were watched by the grandparents. In some ways, women today have it much easier than these mothers. But, in other ways, that lifestyle was simpler and less stressful.

Rewards? Of being a stay at home mother today? Getting to participate in the growth and development of your child. Being the driving force in the family's togetherness. Being the major influence in your child's life. But, that is no different than it was for other generations of stay at home mothers. I guess what is different is that we are not stuck at home and we have more choice about how many children we have, at what age, and how we space them.

Challenges? The whole mommy wars crap is challenging. Just how do you have a conversation with women who work out of the home and cannot conceive of giving that up? How do you organize your day so that you and your family all get their needs met? How do you keep the family financially solvent? How do you get your child to use the potty/eat his veggies/ get along with others/etc? Normal stuff like that. Also, staying away from the over-stressed, over-connected syndrome that becomes a disease - where women want so badly to do everything and be available and put together all the time they are nervous, overweight, overstressed monsters.
 

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I think that the awareness that there are lots of choices for women brings on an appreciation for choices we make as SAHM's and as families with SAHM's. It's not an assumed decision, so there's a lot more respect for the choice given, especially within the SAHM family.

I think the fact that now SAHM's frequently come from jobs in which they were doctors, lawyers, etc... has changed the landscape of the "typical" SAHM. For instance, I am a SAHM and also a Planning Commissioner of my city. There is another SAHM who is an Ivy League trained engineer on the Commission as well.

However, with the SAHM choice, comes a lot of pressure on SAHM's to do everything perfectly. It boils down to the fact that a lot of SAHM's were in high-pressure jobs prior and now that they've chosen SAHM'ing, there is a lot of pressure to make it as hard as humanly possible, since they walked away from a great and challenging career to do so. That has changed the landscape of many a school and PTA, to say the least.
 

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Beginning with challenges, I think the worst challenge SAHM's and SAHD's face is a near complete lack of support from society- American society in particular. The intense work of 24/7 childcare, housework, running a family is not celebrated or even recognized as "real work" by many in our culture. SAHM's are often looked upon as spoiled, lazy, uneducated, unmotivated losers who can't do anything else but make babies and dinner. It starts early on, as our girls in school are told every day to get good grades so they can get into a good college and get a good job. Having a family is rarely mentioned as a valid lifestyle consideration. Schools, parents, and the even the government go to extravagant lengths to prevent young women from having children. The message is that you're supposed to have your career, retirement, new house, new car, and 200 grand set away for your child's college education before you even think about having kids. I am a very happily married 21 year old, and we are about to have our second child. Trust me, a lot of people think I've "thrown my life away". It makes me sick.

The rewards for me are watching my children grow and thrive under my care, having a smooth-running home that is clean and organized, and creating a place where dinner is on the table every night and the laundry gets done in acceptable amounts of time. I did not grow up in an organized household, and by the time I was 14 I was the one making dinner because my mom was just "too tired" from work. She was up shit creek when I moved out because her chef, housecleaner, pool keeper, and master gardener were all gone. Its a rare occasion she actually makes dinner for herself. Most of the time she will eat junk food and then complain about her stomach issues. Its extremely rewarding that my children do not have to grow up like this. Sure we could use some extra cash, but sacrificing a stable home life isn't worth it.

The role of the SAH parent has changed, especially in the life experience department. Like other posters mentioned, many of today's SAHM's once had a big career that they "gave up" to be a SAH parent. Also, unlike SAHM's of the past, today's SAHM's are more laid-back with some household duties. But modern technology encourages us to "take it easy", and we DO have it easier. I mean really, how hard is it to run the Swiffer across the kitchen floor?
 

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I was just reading an article on how we have evolved in these areas over the past couple of generations. One point that the article made was that we have much higher standards for husband/wife intimacy/partnership and for interaction with our children. These standards have been placed on top of the old ones of having a perfectly clean, well run house and appearance. We also have far more distractions in the free time category. We're less likely than our parents and grandparents to send our kids out in the backyard or around the neighborhood while we get time to clean/mow/etc. We have bigger houses, more toys (and therefore clutter), more things in general to take care of. So, while the actual expenditure of labor on the part of our ancestors may have been higher, they weren't constantly besieged by all of these things.

I agree with what one pp said about the extreme pressure for women to "do something" with their lives other than "just" raise children. I have so much to say about that, but my kiddos are calling for me...
 

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Personally, I am all for the SAHM. I think that our society at large began to decline when they took God out of schools and Moms out of homes. Now we have guns in our schools and drugs in our homes. Violence everywhere.

I think these are the "challenges" that have to be overcome in our new rolls within this society. Yes, women have "freedom" now, but I feel that many of the children are paying for it. (BUT, that is just my opinion, not a debate!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I definately hear a lot of people talking about the notion that society doesn't respect or appreciate SAHPs enough. I agree on many levels. However, do you think that is a recent phenomena or something that has been around for quite sometime? i.e. do you think parents who stayed in the home in previous generations got more/less/or similar amounts of respect?
 

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Well, I think that for a long time, work was the determining factor in who was respected and who wasn't. It didn't matter whether there was pay involved or not. So, if you worked hard for yourself at home, man or woman or child, or worked hard for someone else, you were respected for that. Later, there was a shift to what you had to show for your work: modern machines, nice home, a car, tv, etc. If you were able to provide these things for your family without your wife contributing financially, then as a man, you were respected. As a woman, you were respected because you married a man who was able to provide these things, and because you took good care of him and his children.

Obviously, there has been a strong shift again. Respect is complicated now, and it depends on whose respect you are seeking. There is less of a national definition of what makes a man/woman/family "respectable". The focus is definitely on money and how hard you work in exchange for money, but after that it gets fuzzy.
:
 

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How many generations are we talking about? I think the notion/ideal of a SAHM whose only job is to cook and clean and take care of kids is pretty young in terms of human history. I mean, "work" and "home" mostly weren't separate until a couple hundred years ago, in my understanding. So everyone would have both "worked" and "stayed at home," more or less. So I don't think either mother-child separation for most waking hours nor mom at home alone with the kids as a primary project is the "natural" way to be. I don't know that we have access to a "natural" lifestyle or that we would know what it was if we met it...we just have things as they are.
I think women as a whole got less respect for their intellectual capacity and personhood in the past than they get now. I don't know about SAHMs. I think a SAHM today probably gets more respect than one in the 1950s or so, because it is presumed that she had other choices and chose SAHMing as a sort of noble path...it wasn't just expected that that's what must be done.

There's a kind of idealizing/degrading schizophrenia about SAH in the culture. On the one hand aren't you a hero to stay home instead of leaving your poor babies for money or fulfillment. On the other hand, aren't you a dumb cow to stay home changing diapers and making pb&j's all the livelong day.
 

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Will your article include stay at home fathers? Or only female stay at home parents? (I ask because it is posted in the stay at home mom forum and some who have the father as the SAHP may not see this.)
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by gen25gen
I definately hear a lot of people talking about the notion that society doesn't respect or appreciate SAHPs enough. I agree on many levels. However, do you think that is a recent phenomena or something that has been around for quite sometime? i.e. do you think parents who stayed in the home in previous generations got more/less/or similar amounts of respect?
since it was a given that you had to stay home there wasn't much respect to give for the "choice" to stay home. But I think that you were respected for how well you did the job. There was great pride in the way you kept house and how your garden produced and how well you put the food up for winter. I think those tasks now are not respected.

They are considered minor and "lessor" work...
 

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Gen25gen, I recommend that you get in touch with the Family and Home Network, a non-profit advocacy group for parents at home: http://www.familyandhome.org/index.php This group used to publish the wonderful journal "Welcome Home," filled with essays and poetry about life at home, but the journal became too expensive to publish by the end of 2004 (I can send you back issues if you like).

My decision to stay at home with my DS was a very personal one, and I did not think of it in terms of a larger trend at the time of my decision. My DS has made it very clear from the beginning that I am needed at home with him, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be than with him.
 

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Well......I personally find that being a SAHM is incredibly rewarding, as I get to create opportunities for her to learn imporatnt values and to develop a very deep relationship with her, which I think will help her be able to have better relationships in the future. Despite my pure enjoyment of SAHMing, I have found it VERY difficult. It's def. harder now.

There are SO few SAHMs....whereas my mom's mom used to take her over to her sisters/friends/etc for tea and a little adult interaction, I have to work SO hard to find opportunities for this. And to top it off, many of the mom gatherings now are "high-powered" - too formal, too pigeon-holing, and also scheduled, so you have to drive your a$$ off when little one wakes up for a nap, whittling away time and gas money. You can no longer wander over to the neighbor's house to play and chat. Look at all of us, on this computer just so we can vent, get support, and "meet" other moms.

Also, families are much more spread out now. Our families live 2 and 4 hours away....so they can;t just come over to help fix the fence, we can't drop by for dinner when dh works late.

Also, the economy is set up for 2 earners, so that if you are a one income family, you are made to feel that you are failing. We get pity comments from people all the time when they learn that i can;t afford to go to yoga class, or get my haircut, or go shopping at Ann taylor....the horror! This is so insidious that I sometimes start to *feel* poor, when we're actually doing very well, especially if you look at it in a world context. We have heat, clean water, fresh organic food, clothes, a car that runs well.....You get the picture. Another thing to consider is that our partners probably work very long hours now, too, to bring home less money (relative to expenses) than men did several generations ago. Houses, cars and college educations have inflated like crazy, so our dollars dont; go too far now.

Being a SAHM is harder now because it's against the grain, whereas it ws the norm 30-40-50 years ago. I find it so hard that all of my friends are working, they often put this subtle pressure on me to "get out", "do things for myself" - like raising my daughter is not THE most noble task to take on!

This recent motto that "you can do it all" is very misleading...I know not one woman, working in or out of the home, who feels a sense of freedom from this notion. What it really meant was, "hey women, get out there and work! contribute to our ecomony! (Oh yeah, and don't forget to keep doing all that other stuff too!)" SAHMing to day involves less support from friends, neighbors, partners, a smaller and sometimes un-doable budget, and hardly ANY validation.
 

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As far as I can tell the major changes involve SAHM's feeling entitled to complain constantly on how unappreciated they are. And pat themselves on the back even harder because they "sacrificed" the career they didn't want anyway for the "benefit" of their children. The martyrdom streak runs wide and deep around here.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bczmama
As far as I can tell the major changes involve SAHM's feeling entitled to complain constantly on how unappreciated they are. And pat themselves on the back even harder because they "sacrificed" the career they didn't want anyway for the "benefit" of their children. The martyrdom streak runs wide and deep around here.
Excuse me? -'Around here'? perhaps what most of us want (in this forum, as well as in life) is just a little commiserating and understanding.

I've been Sah for 8 yrs and know darn well the reality of unappreciation. It's quite obvious to me that when women went into the work force way back when they were Happpy as anything to get away from the messes, the managing, the endless giving without breaks, and the dh (as sweet as he might have been) coming home expecting his diner ready.
I think it's not that Now we feel entitled to complain---- It's That Now we STILL feel the lack of appreciation that our foremothers felt!
 

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Another things occurred to me as I was reading through the other posts. In terms of pretty much all the generations before us (even our parents to some extent...although I would say they are on the cusp) there was SOOOO much less "stuff" that was considered "necessary". People freak when I tell them we only have 1 car and that our house is 800 sq ft. Seriously, you'd think I'd told them we live in a cardboard box. It's just crazy.
: Yes, the price of stuff is higher today, but salaries are also a lot higher and frankly there is a lot less necessary stuff in life than most of us have been raised to believe!

My own mom insists that she had to work, but when I look back over my childhood I see what it often was was a need to have a bigger house, new car, boat, motorcycle, etc. Unfortunately what I *don't* remember is much time spent with either her or my father.
I do however have lots of great memories of my grandma who cared for me and was a SAHM for her kids & her kid's kids. FWIW, my grandparents still live in the same house they bought 60 years ago. They've never put on a huge addition, or owned a boat, or motorcycle, or DVD player or taken expensive vacations and they've both managed to live to 90 despite that fact.


On the topic of respect, when I talk with my grandparents about when they were young or when they talk about my great-grandparents I never get any hint that what the woman did at home was not considered a valuable contribution to her family & a respected position. Granted maybe this is just my family.

Holly
 

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I do feel that modern SAHM has built up a bit of a culture of complaining/martyrdom. I think that the rationale is as follows: if we can't convince everyone that being SAHM is super-duper haaaarrrddd -- then they either won't appreciate us or they might actually expect us to WOH.

In fact the necessity of "justification" is probably the biggest change since the 50's (where being SAH was accepted as occurring in the ordinary course). I bet if you look way down deep at the women who are choosing to homeschool at least half of them are choosing to do it to give them a justification or excuse to avoid going back to work. In fact, I remember seeing a homeschooling post here that was basically along the lines of "my child is school-aged but I don't want to go back to work. Give me lots of references of why homeschooling is good so I can convince my husband to agree to my continuing to SAH."

Edited to add:

Besides, what sort of appreciation do you think the rest of the world gets for just doing their job? Its not like your husband's boss stops by his cubicle everyday and says -- wow, thank you for making it in to the office today. And you're actually doing the work you're paid to do -- GREAT!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by theatermom
I agree with what one pp said about the extreme pressure for women to "do something" with their lives other than "just" raise children. I have so much to say about that, but my kiddos are calling for me...
This is maybe a little off-topic, but maybe not: What does the group feel about SAHMs who spend all day playing with their baby (or taking baby to playgroups, the library, baby gym, etc.) and tending to the domestic stuff (cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner, ironing, cleaning) and little else?

It's really kind of awful, but I have such a hard time relating to the SAHMs who do that, especially those who are former professionals. Down here in Texas, as the children get older, the parents often homeschool, and the family winds up living in this little bubble with a minimal amount of interaction with the outside world with the exception of close family. "Do something for your community!" I want to say. "Meet your neighbors and give the old lady down the street a hand with her garden this morning! Go to a meeting! Hand out popsicles to the kids on your street! DO SOMETHING!" Now that I am staying home with my babes I still have other projects going on and am still active in my community (though not as active as before, mind you!
). I expect women (and men), ESPECIALLY when they have come from a professional background, to maintain some kind of contact with the outside world, if not for themselves than for, I don't know, a sense of obligation, love, something? After all, what kind of world would it be if we only took care of our progeny--and our progeny only took care of their progeny--and ignored everyone else?

:

So, I guess I'm wondering if growing up, like so many girls have and did, with the expectation that I WOULD NOT be a SAHM (hee hee, how things change!) if, internally, I am mentally belittling those mothers who do not to some WORK (even volunteer work or just plain being neighborly) outside the home, OR . . . in the spirit of the whole "it takes a village to raise a child" social-animal concept, we SHOULD expect SAHMs to be volunteers and otherwise active outside the home, because SAHMs are an important part of a well-rounded and nurturing society?

Just some food for thought. Good thread!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bczmama
As far as I can tell the major changes involve SAHM's feeling entitled to complain constantly on how unappreciated they are. And pat themselves on the back even harder because they "sacrificed" the career they didn't want anyway for the "benefit" of their children. The martyrdom streak runs wide and deep around here.
Wow! Just a little harsh, huh? Sorry but the whole "martyrdome streak runs wide and deep around here" comment seems kind of presumptive coming from someone who's a new member too....

Out of curiousity, are you a SAHM? I'll admit I did a search for your past posts & most of your comments on SAHM'ing are pretty negative, but I didn't get any sense if you actually SAH or not.

I honestly find that just as many of my WOHM friends complain about how unappreciated they are as my SAHM friends do. I think that regardless of wether women WOH or WAH or SAH there are a million different pressures on us all and maybe a little bit of kindness would go a long way....

I do not personally feel like I sacrified anything career wise to SAH with my kids. I'm working on my Master's on-line and should be finished by the time my kids are old enough for me to WOH and be comortable with that decision. I do however feel that there are definite benefits for them to my being a SAHM. That is based on my experience as a kid with a WOHM for a parent and my DH's experience with a SAHM for a parent.

Just my 2 cents of course! I'd hate to be labelled a "martyr"....


Holly
 
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