SAHM’s Need To Be SAHM’s “Plus Something”

Seeing I was a Stay At Home Dad, I get asked about the SAHM thing once in a while. Here’s my story first, then the opinion section…
When Jennifer and I married, we decided that I would come to America rather than her go to New Zealand. One reason was that we decided that I would cope better at being away from my family, than her being away from hers. Now adays we could probably just as easily go either way, but back in the day Jennifer was more timid with travel than I was.
The other reason was that despite us being able to have a fairly similar lifestyle in each country, there are significant…
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Well said! I have been a stay at home mom for years, while working part time two days a week. It has made me a much better mom and wife. I get a break from my kids, I have less free time to get into trouble, and the time I do have with my kids and husband I have to make count with quality. Because I just can't put something off until tommorrow, I get way more done, and I am more productive than my stay at home mom friends. They marvel at my ability to do things with my kids, my husband and still have a great job. I hear them complain about how hard their life is, how demanding their children are, and how they never have time for themselves. Yet they create a lot of their own hardship by poor time management, and poor parenting choices. I don't feel sorry for them at all. Furthermore my children are better behaved and more independant than the kids of most of my friends who do NOTHING other than be a mom.

    The thing that frustrates me the most is that my stay at home friends try to guilt trip me because my kids spend two days a week away from me. In reality I think my kids enjoy the break. They are with their grandma and have all sorts of fun with her, but yet are always super excited to see me when I pick them up.

    I could not agree more. Being a stay at home mom exclusively is not a difficult job. The moms that get my sympathy are the single moms, who HAVE to work full time, but then have all the responsibility of taking care of the kids. Those are the moms who truly have the difficult job.

  2. Simon Grey says:

    The few SAHMs I know through church all home school their children, and do a remarkable job at it. As best I can tell, this, coupled with their children's participation in sports, help to prevent them from being bored.

    By the way, ladies (and men), it is wise to remember that no one else is responsible for keeping your mind occupied. If you're bored, that's your own damn fault, and thus is your own damn problem. Go make something of your life.

  3. An excellent post! I addition to general SAHM duties I manage a home business, homeschool our daughter, volunteer in our military community, and do the social duties that are required of me/my husband thanks to his career. I also keep abreast of pertinent geopolitical issues & financial news and "digest" the relevant news for my husband when he may too busy to be able to do so.

    The plus something not only helps a SAHM add value to her family but keeps her interesting to her husband as well. There is a real risk of becoming boring and out of sorts if one does not actively seek to learn and develop as a person while also being a SAHM.

    This "plus factor" may also keep resentment at bay when one is truly behind the scenes and may feel as if they are living in their husband's shadow. I know of several military divorces where this was a factor in the marriage falling apart. The potential for resentment to build when one's spouse is literally welcomed home with a band playing and the press documenting his return is great; knowing that you have contributed to your family in your own important way provides a boost of confidence at such a time.

  4. Commodore says:

    Athol, generally like your posts and you make some good points here, but one quick note: Men and women are different. So too are little boys and little girls. It's mind-boggling to me how easy it is to watch my nieces versus my sons. At least at the earlier years…I'm told the level of effort is reversed once the kids get older. But yeah, two or three boys can easily take up a much larger chunk of time for a SAHP.

    As for the "and something", it doesn't even have to be value-creating, in a monetary sense. My wife and I are collaborating on a couple of novels, but she's writing a ton on her own too. No publishers yet, and it might never be anything…but she's not bored, and she is making things and has her own project.

  5. Ian Ironwood says:

    I was a SAHD off and on for about two years. And I agree, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. But it was also transformative in my marriage. While seemingly a hardcore Beta occupation, the fact is that my stint as a SAHD actually helped manifest many more of my Alpha traits.

    It might sound counterintuitive, but as I did the housework and the childcare, my wife and I had to re-adjust our parental priorities which also had an affect on our marital life. After a month of near-constant fights, I finally sat her down, looked her in the eye, and stated boldly: "Look: this is my job. And you can tell me if you need something added to my daily list as part of the household chores, I'm fine with that. But you can't tell me how to do my job. Period."

    I was angry and pissed off about it — something about her laundry sparked the fight — but afterwards she was a lot more deferential and seemed impressed by how I handled the situation.

    The biggest part of it, of course, involved parenting, and when she chided me about how I handled a dispute between Oldest Child and Evil Middle Daughter, I firmly grabbed her hand, hauled her into the bedroom, and chewed her out like this: "Look: when you're in charge of childcare, you can discipline the children as you see fit. But when I'm in charge, then I'm in charge. I don't parent like you do. I don't 'Mother'. I 'Father'. But it's still parenting, it's still valid, I'm not doing anything wrong, and you need to back off and not second-guess my parenting — especially not in front of the kids!"

    She was generally apologetic, and very appreciative that I had laid out the boundaries. And that's where the Alpha power comes into the essentially Beta process of housekeeping: by demonstrating a man's ability to Order. Often mistaken for "patriarchy" by the ignorant, a man — particularly a husband and father — has a duty to provide Order to his household. That doesn't mean bellowing orders and being a dickhead about everything, but it does mean establishing boundaries, rules, and policies for the house and then enforcing them.

    Like any other job where you can shine as Alpha by the fruits of your success, establishing Order in your household, from deciding where the dirty clothes hamper is going to live to what's for dinner to who's turn it is to take out the trash, allows a husband to demonstrate strong Alpha signs when he's successful.

    Indeed, one of the most common marital failures I've seen have been when a wife depends on a husband for housework, and he appears to be utterly helpless and incompetent. This makes him look weak and helpless in her eyes, and even if she takes a maternalistic pity on him for his floundering, that's hardly sexy. When I do something around the house it might not be the "right" thing to do, according to my wife, but there is never any doubt in her mind that I gave it proper thought and execution. I might be wrong, but I'm never uncertain.

  6. Awesome post. And some great comments, especially Ian's.

  7. My situation is different from your stay at home days. I have 4 kids, ranging in age from 3 to 16. I volunteer at school and church, and my husband travels out of state 2 weeks/month. Yes, I know I should be grateful he has a job, but it gets hard. Your kids were young and then put in daycare when they got old enough. I've never put my kids in daycare. I am with them and/or responsible for them 24/7. The older ones are all into activities and sports and most days I am in my car from 1:30 – 6:00, dropping and picking up and watching. Every day. Then there's dinner and homework and bathtime and bedtime when we get home. Not to mention doctor and dentist appts. Or when they're up all night vomiting. I usually do all of the above on my own. Believe me, getting a part-time job would be a vacation for me! I know a few SAHM's like the ones you mentioned, but we're not all the same. You shouldn't lump us all together, especially the ones with older kids who have all the afterschool duty.

  8. Athol Kay says:

    Lisa – "my husband travels out of state 2 weeks/month" – that sounds like "plus something". But you're also whining when I made it clear that I wasn't lumping all SAHM together.

    I think the two weeks a month apart from your husband makes you lonely as the bigger issue.

  9. I fail to see where I was whining, or is that what you call it when a woman voices an opinion opposite to yours? I wasn't complaining about all the work I do as a SAHM, I was just pointing out to you all the work involved. You called taking care of kids in one's own house a "soft job." (Was that directed at all SAHMS?) But you did it for 4 years with 2 kids, with daycare, and got weekends off. That's not SOP for SAHMs I know, and certainly not for this one. And I've been doing it for 16 years, with kids in all different stages of breastfeeding, diapering, teething, schooling, sports and extra-curriculars. So, maybe you jumped the boat establishing your street cred wrt being a stay at home.

    And yes, I miss my husband when he's away, but he makes up for it when he's home. Without online advice, I might add. And he appreciates what I do. But lonely? With 4 kids? You have got to be kidding.

  10. Athol Kay says:

    I watched the kids during the day Monday through Friday.

    But I didn't get weekends off, I also went to work and worked from Fri 11pm-7am, Sat 11pm-7am, Sun 3p-11pm, Mon 3p-11pm.

    The daycare was to allow me to head back to a day shift job. Not to have me sit at home with nothing to do.

  11. Lisa, if you don't know that you were whining, then you are the worst kind of whiner.

  12. Ok, I get it guys. I've stumbled upon another woman-hating, how to be a manipulative man blog. Good luck with that. Back to eating bonbons.

  13. Haha, more whining!

  14. Lisa, I'm a military spouse. My husband not only goes away for the military equivalent of business trips (out to the field it's called) here and there but has deployed for a year here and there as well. There is no doubt the parenting and housework workload is a bit tougher in such a situation but the work alone doesn't "affair proof" a marriage and it's hardly manipulative for Athol to suggest that loneliness could creep up in a situation such as yours.

    In my seven years of being "married to the Army" I've known plenty mothers of many who managed to find time for infidelity just as I've known many women who were sure to set boundaries and rules for themselves to prevent even the appearance of misbehavior. Not "making friends" with men, especially single men, is one rule most of the faithful wives, myself included follow, as is being sure you have fulfilled your quota of adult conversation for the day. Lunch dates, play dates, potlucks, movie nights and knitting afternoons with friends who also have deployed husbands are very common, Volunteer work fills the void for many. Book clubs, church participation, you get the point. And on those days you can't get out of the house, there is also a headset for phone calls/skyping while you tend to chores once the children are sleeping. I personally do not know a military wife with a strong successful marriage who does not have have a plan in place to keep her marriage that way, with a group of close friends who would shame her into the ground if she did stray, and a safety net of friends & community connections to catch her should she need help when she's far away from family and on the other side of the world from her husband.

    Loneliness and hunger for adult connection can lead to infidelity. It's not a stretch or inappropriate for a marriage advice blogger to consider this real risk.

  15. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    Good post, Athol. I agree that there needs to be something besides just taking care of the kids going on.

  16. Mama of five says:

    Hey, Athol, just wondering…

    When you were home with your kids, did you do any sort of "homeschool" stuff? Teach them basic numbers, letters, reading, etc?

    I think you said they were just toddlers at the time, but I started mine off early with "lesson time" each day that included reading to them, learning letters/numbers, spelling, and them reading to me. This was my way of "plus one" that conveniently gave them a head-start when they went to public school kindergarten.

  17. Mama of five says:

    Oh, I meant "plus something."

    Anyway, the point was that anyone can sit around and watch kids play. Of course that's not hard!

  18. Athol Kay says:

    Mama of Five – myself not so much. There's was an element of me just trying to stay awake and keeping everyone happy and safe on my Monday's and Tuesday mornings. Also we had some medical drama with youngest and "learning your letters" just wasn't going to be happening at that point.

    Jennifer did more of that on the weekend. That stiff still never goes away though, I'm still the math and science guy for homework assistance. Jennifer is the English helper, because as everyone knows, I write appalling English in need of constant correction!

  19. Badger Nation says:

    "That stiff still never goes away though"

    Isn't that the point of this blog? ;)

  20. Athol Kay says:

    Fruedian slip Badger Nation. :-)

  21. Hi Athol,
    I generally agree with most of your ideas, but I think this ‘plus something’ sounds like an employer creating make-work because he doesn’t trust his employees. It is unlike you.

    I left a promising career to be a SAHM for 6 years, because my husband was adamant about it. I didn’t want to at first, but I came to be very glad I had the time off. We were lucky that we could afford this choice. When my youngest was 3, my husband had a serious health problem and I went back to work or I would have stayed home longer.

    I never kept tabs on my husband to make sure he was putting in extra hours or taking extra assignments to become more promotable. I trusted him to do what was best for our family and he trusted me to care for the kids and house. That was my job. I believe there is an intrinsic value in being around for the kids, far more than in those ‘plus something’ suggestions. A job or home business? Maybe, if you need the money, but otherwise, why? Just cuz? As to taking classes, I don't think that makes sense for many professionals who already are credentialed in their field. Volunteering? I find that folks who like to volunteer do so whether they work or not. Some moms make a career out of being involved in their kids’ schools. But a lot of moms in my suburb were intimidated by the hard-charging, corporate attorney-type moms in the PTA and they shied away from that. So what? "Furthering" a spouse's career? Maybe if the spouse is a c-level exec at a big company it might make sense, but at the time in life when a lot of folks have kids, getting ahead means putting in hours and becoming indispensable. The way a SAHM/D contributes is by taking care of the kids so the spouse can do that.

    I was raised by my stereotypical SAH grandma—unhurried, always ready to somehow ‘waste’ the better part of the day having fun. I credit my relationship with her for everything I have accomplished in my life, and I tried to emulate at least a part of that with my kids. That can be hard to do for someone with a type A personality! I recall many days that consisted of little more than an outing where all of us bundled up and walked over to the Walgreens a few blocks away so each kid could choose one of the 69-cent toys they had there. It takes awhile for a 3-year old to get dressed to go out if you aren’t constantly haranguing him to move it because you have to get to daycare and work. Shepherding them down the street on foot or by stroller is more time-consuming than driving, but makes for some fun detours. And choosing a toy can take forever. It is difficult to move at a child’s pace but it is worth doing. I have found that a lot of career women simply can’t do it. A soft job, yes, but a fantastic one. I feel that being able to have that kind of relationship is one of my biggest accomplishments.

    It was a financial and professional sacrifice to take the time off, and I wanted to make it mean something. My time was too valuable to play around “plus something.” It wasn’t lacking anything.

    I’ve been back at work for many years, and it always makes me a little sad when female colleagues take their 3 months off and come back full time right away. I want to tell them that having home time is far more valuable than whatever the hell they are spending her salary on, but it is none of my business and I keep my mouth shut. I know a lot of folks feel they can’t afford it, or the woman is worried for her career. Having done both, I believe that being a SAHM is FAR FAR harder than a demanding career. I’m amazed that you don’t agree.

    I think your site provide a tremendous value, even though you may not be making any money from it yet. A wise investment in the future even if it doesn’t immediately amount to ‘plus something.’

  22. Demonspawn says:

    "The moms that get my sympathy are the single moms, who HAVE to work full time, but then have all the responsibility of taking care of the kids. Those are the moms who truly have the difficult job."

    They don't get mine. 40% of children are born out of wedlock, i.e. they CHOSE to be single mothers. Out of those not born out of wedlock, (IIRC) 90-ish% of all divorces involving children are filed for by the wive, i.e. they CHOSE to be a single mother.

    It's not sympathy you should have, it's detest for making poor choices and then having the audacity to complain about the situation they put themselves in (and are given just about every legal advantage for).

    "I think you said they were just toddlers at the time, but I started mine off early with "lesson time" each day that included reading to them, learning letters/numbers, spelling, and them reading to me."

    Everything becomes lesson time! From reading my shirt when 1 to a lesson on the English language (Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs, Adjectives, Conjunctives) from the first time she said "fuck," I've found any possible way to turn anything into a learning experience. The best thing is to never treat something as "too advanced" for your kid. Teach it to them. If they don't get it, find out which part and spend more time explaining it. Use tools/toys as helpers (coins and teaching multiplication at age 5). Turn anything into something to learn.

    "But if she's a SAHM plus whining…."

    If a SAHM ever needs regular help with the house-chores, look at what a 1900 woman did for the house at the turn of the century. Ask her if she is really that incompetent that with today's modern conveniences she can't get it all done.

    And before you ever even get to that point, look at her mother ;)

  23. Anonymous says:

    You have some good advice but overall I think you're an asshole and your wife is a saint to put up with you.

  24. Anonymous says:

    So you get to jack off and finish with a blow job….what does she get?

  25. Athol Kay says:

    Anon – Thanks for your compliment and appreciation of the way I both was a full time SAHD during the day watching two toddlers and working full time nurse on nights and weekends at the same time.

    She got a husband who loved her.

  26. Anonymous says:


  27. Athol Kay says:

    Maintaining a sexual connection isn't lame, it's vital.

    But then you knew that.

  28. I think the issue with you jerking off and her blowing you is that it's not a sexual CONNECTION, as you suggest, but merely sexual release for YOU. While that kind of thing is fine and necessary occasionally, I hope that you made time to satisfy her needs, too. Otherwise, what you're suggesting is actually the surefire way to an extramarital affair.

    My husband ensures that not just his needs are met, but that my needs–for love AND sex–are met. Keeping your wife satisfied in bed goes a long way to keeping her faithful, IMHO.

  29. Athol Kay says:

    Bitsy – I give Jennifer as many orgasms as she can physically tolerate without losing consciousness. Always have.

  30. Athol,

    I just "stumbled" upon your site this morning and couldn't agree more. I never worked outside the home after I had children. My husband was studying for a professional certification during the time our kids were born and toddlers. He didn't have the opportunity to help much and I totally understood that. What happened to me was that after the second one went to school full time, I sort of lapsed into "early retirement." So basically, I wasn't doing my job. That actually lasted about a year and then all hell (i.e. my husband) broke loose and he sat me down and told me what's what. It was truly news to me becasue I never thought about it that way, as a job. I think it's an easy trap to fall into as a mom, but when you look at it "as a job" it is a lot easier. I now have schedules, etc. He works his dick off to support our family and this allows me to stay at home, so I fully understand that if he goes for his tomato soup in the cupboard and it's not there, he has every right to be pissed. I came to view it as me being a stay at home wife. I am a mom too, but wife first. We view it as Cheif Excutive Officer and Chief Operating Officer. He needs something done, he requests, I do it.

    Many of my friends and relatives have called me a Stepford Wife because they want to make their "job" seem more difficult than it is. I am living the fucking dream becasue this man has allowed it and if he wants me to make him lunch and then suck his dick, well I have no problem with that. I literally woke up, made the kids breakfast, made lunches, cleaned for an hour and then walked for a few miles, came home and ate lunch. Really fucking hard.

    Keep up the good work!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Being a homemaker is way easier than some jobs, tougher than others. I always treated it like a career, kept learning and growing and giving it my very best. I am proud of the job I've done and my husband is very happy with me – and I with him. I have no need to defend our lifestyle nor attack anyone else's. I wonder why so much judgement and self-righteousness and name-calling here?

    I find it hard to believe that more homemakers than career women cheat. So many opportunities to meet interesting men on the job and have lunches (and dessert!) with no little ones clinging to you. Bottom line, if people want to stray, they will, whatever their job description.


  32. Oh my goodness. I can see the need for this post!

    I know it is sensitive, but it needs to be said. People need to work hard. Whether you are a SAHM or a WAHM or a WHATEVER, you should get up in the morning and have a plan and execute it. One of the most encouraging blog posts I have ever read was by a young mom at home with her two kids who realized how not-diligent she was, and how much more she really should/could accomplish in a day. She experimented, turned off the laptop, docked her iphone, and went through her day as if she had a boss looking over her shoulder whom she needed to impress in order to stay on the payroll. Her account of her day was amazing, and has always inspired me. Because, ladies, as much as we like to say our job is soooooooooooo hard, we do have absolute control over how things are managed (barring illness, disability, etc. but that is the exception). We need to treat our home-based career as a profession, take it seriously, and act as if we had a job review every quarter with our manager. We can/should/but don’t very often study up on raising kids, so they are hellions and make chaos; we can/should/but don’t very often take the time to learn how to cook well and efficiently, so we feed boxed-a-roni to our husbands and give them little to look forward to at meals; we can/should/but don’t very often study up on making our guy happy, so we are still in sweats with a chore list a mile long and a bad attitude due to our lack of planning earlier in the day. If you don’t want to be thought of as a whiny pansy, find someone who looks like she has some of this figured out, and copy her! Talk to her! Find out what books she reads! Look around at the stay-at-homers who have pleasant homes, are known for their good dinners, raise well-behaved kids and who are in great physical shape and nicely dressed and who have happy, sex-sated husbands. We exist, and I know many of us. But it is hard work, like 6am to 11pm kind of hard, and all day Saturday. And not a lot of alone-time, me-time, or girls’ lunches. Some, but not a lot.

    I am a stay-at-homer, and I take that very seriously. We have a small farm, with chickens, milking Jerseys, and a garden. I homeschool our 4 kids (3 B, 1 G) due to the fact that the public schools in our area are nationally known (and not in a good way) and I am an pedagogical snob, so the only private school I would consider is a long way away both physically and financially. I actually study about homeschooling, and research curriculum and attend seminars, etc. My husband and other teacher friends call it my full-time job, and it really is. I freelance as a violinist (weddings, gigs…) and taught privately for several years. I have a foreign language degree, and have been offered private school teaching positions, and I tutor. So yes, I am a SAHM + something. This is so important.

    I really wonder sometimes about my mom friends who don’t have a +something, whose kids attend traditional school. What do they do all day? I know that the after school time can be horrid, with carpooling and driving all over creation, but it doesn’t have to be. What fills those other 7-8 hours a day? And they usually don’t even cook great meals for their guy, either. Weird to me.

    I think your activities and accomplishments are like a gas, and will fill whatever size container you put them into. And there is much more force behind something that’s compressed and under pressure. So you feel like you have so much to do and couldn’t possibly take on a part time job or whatever, until you do it, and then wow! look at all you are getting done around the house now that you know you only have 2 days to do it in and not 5.

    Boy that was a rant. Sorry for writing War and Peace here. Bit of a frustration for me to see/hear a lot of the whining in my circles…chance to vent = long comment. :)

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