The SAHM Mom Debate

I'm to the left of the sign. We had over 100 moms attend, 37 vendors and 12 speakers.

This was taken a few weeks ago at the Happy Mom Conference I put on at the Hyatt in Bonita Springs, FL.  I’m to the left of the sign. We had over 100 moms attend, 37 vendors and 12 speakers.

This post is written with special thanks to my amazing friend Diana who has this incredible way of finding the most stellar content on the web and then shares it with me…you should all be so lucky to have a friend like her.

Matt Walsh.  Have you heard of him?  How about his radio show?   Well soon enough you will.  He wrote a blog just a few days ago called “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?” that is getting a lot of attention.  In fact I just saw on his FB page that the Today Show called and invited him on. 

His blog addressed the age-old question of the value of a SAHM.  With humor and candor he sticks up for his wife, their twins and her contribution to the world.

Being a former SAHM I had people, on more than a few occasions, remind me how lucky I was that I ‘didn’t work’.  Then the questions would fly, “Do you plan to go back to work?  Aren’t you bored? I could never do that!” and on and on they cycled.  The same questions.  The same eye of judgment strikes yet again.

These harmless (or are they?) questions can leave a mom feeling a little less than valuable.  When our worth is measured in dollars and cents it’s no wonder a mom who has chosen to stay home and raise her children feels pressure to enter back into the ‘real world’.

Bring home a paycheck.  But also…have a clean house, make a healthy dinner, keep up with the laundry oh and by the way, don’t forget to volunteer at your child’s school, hand-make crafts and do it with a smile on your face.

Something has to give. 

Thanks to Matt Walsh, a man who validates the job of a SAHM, and stands up to the criticism.  He should be given an award.   Good for you Matt! I know there are many men out there that support your opinions, but there are so many more men (and women) who still don’t get it.

I was a SAHM for 7 years.  In that time I gave birth 3 times, nursed three babies, changed countless diapers, cleaned, cooked, baked, was the president of my local moms club, volunteered, raised money for the relay for life and more.  All while managing kids under 5. 

It was, as he described, a job with no break room, no quiet time and no pat on the back or promotion….and yes, no paycheck.  It was the hardest job I had ever done in my life.

It’s no wonder that I spiraled down into a hole of resentment, frustration, overwhelm and anger.  My marriage almost ended in divorce after I had an emotional affair and it wasn’t because I was at home eating bon-bons and doing nothing as the stereotype assumes.

I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I felt I had no value in the eyes of society and therefore I didn’t value myself.  I kept pushing and doing more and I was in a consistent state of exhaustion.  Why? Maybe because I felt that nagging pressure to be more, to do more, to bring home a paycheck, to not be a dependent.  After all, isn’t that what I was? A liability?

So I enrolled in some counseling where I learned that it was okay to take care of myself.  I wasn’t selfish if I needed a break.  I learned how to let go of mommy guilt.  And NOW it was my turn to teach this to the moms of the world. 

Here’s my business plan: I would sweep in with my Wonder Woman cape and save the day.  Moms would learn to appreciate their job.  Moms would learn how to take better care of them…guilt-free.  Yes, moms would once again realize their value and so would others.

So I went back to school.  Got certified as a life coach and opened my practice in Bonita Springs, FL.  I coached everyone from 24 year old college grads to 73 year old retired doctors.  I wrote two books, 100 blog posts, 30+ published articles and 3 virtual courses.  I launched the University of Moms.  I created the Happy Mom Conference and had over 100 moms attend.  I built my subscribership in less than a year to over 1000 moms strong and more.  And guess what….these same feelings of proving myself resurfaced.

Shouldn’t I be making more money? Shouldn’t I be helping more people? Shouldn’t I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going? Again…I was looking for outside validation to prove that I was worth it.  How did I fall in this trap?  I am just starting to see it now.

I was still looking for the outside approval of others.  I was still tying my value with the money I did (or did not) bring in.  And if I am still tying my worth to anything on the outside I have missed the mark.  Guess what? I HAVE missed the mark.

I want to be honest and admit something to you right now.  I have been pushing myself to the bone for the past 3 years.  I have done more while being a mom of 3 girls (ages now 12, 10 and 6) than most people without kids.  Yet I still feel like I’m waiting for something.

Questions swirl around in my head daily like, “Why does it seem like others are having more success?  Why does it feel like I should be doing more? How will I know if I’m doing the right thing? Does anyone care about my work? Am I really making a difference?”

And that is precisely the problem.  How can I serve moms and tell them they are valuable if I don’t feel valuable?  How can I value the work of a SAHM who doesn’t bring home a paycheck when I’m basing my value on how much money I think I should make in my business?  When times are good I feel valuable.  When business is slow, I question my worth.

So if all this is true it’s no wonder it’s been an exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming journey.  It’s no wonder I’ve gotten a bit resentful too.  Gee…does that sound like what I experienced as a SAHM? EXACTLY!

What is a SAHM turned WAHM entrepreneur to do?  And what advice would I give to all moms everywhere? Realize YOU ARE VALUABLE. 

Not because of what you do.  Not because of how much money you make.  Not because your house is clean.  And you don’t need to pander to the expectations of others.

Be who you want to be.

If your true desire is to work outside the home, do it. Without guilt.  Without pressure that you are trying to prove something.  But WITH the idea that you are pursuing your life based on your choices and you can own that. 

If your true desire is to be a work at-home mom, do it.  Without guilt.  Without pressure that you are trying to prove something.  But WITH the idea that you are pursuing your life based on your choices and you can own that. 

If your true desire is to be a stay-at-home mom, do it.  Without guilt.  Without pressure that you are trying to prove something.  But WITH the idea that you are pursuing your life based on your choices and you can own that. 

But please don’t look down on the choices other moms have made that are different than yours.

Live the life you want to live and let others do the same.  Don’t judge them.  Don’t belittle their choices.  Support them.  Encourage them.  Honor them.

Know that your choices don’t increase or diminish your inherent value and neither do theirs.  You can be a SAHM today, a WAHM tomorrow and have a full-time career in a year and neither today, tomorrow or next year will YOU be any more or less because of what you are doing on the outside.  That’s just a load of crap.

You are a gift to the world.  Believe it.  Sure, others will have their opinions.  They always will.  That doesn’t matter to me anymore.  Take this journey with me and let this be your mantra.

I am valuable as I am today.  My choices as a mom are mine and I own them.  It doesn’t matter what others think and they don’t have to understand me.  I know that what I am doing is important, incredible and irreplaceable.  My worth comes from within and I choose to be happy.

April O'Leary

April O’Leary is a Certified Life Coach, Author and Founder of the University of Moms. She happily resides in Florida with her husband and three daughters. For more info visit uofmoms.com and apriloleary.com

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

FOLLOW ME:
  • Thanks Carolina for your kind words. I am proud of my daughters, they are amazing and I’m glad to hear my work makes a difference in your life. Much love!

  • Carolina

    April, you have been most transparent, and I admire that. You have quite an impressive resume, and with 3 amazing daughters, so much to be proud of. You make a difference in my life every day!

  • You’re right Amie! People can ask such inappropriate questions about personal choices, including a woman’s choice to have children or not…which sometimes is not a choice at all. But either way, the more we as women support one another, stop judging and stop pandering to the societal pressure to ‘be’ something other than we are, the better off we’ll all be. Much love! Thanks for commenting!

  • Yes Matt had a lot of great insight. So who are you doing it for? 🙂 Make sure it’s for you!

  • Neldys

    I read Matt’s article and agreed totally. You have added more depth and insight into that same topic. I am a SAHM but I also work outside of the home in the evenings when my husband can watch the kids. I love what I do (teach) but sometimes I wonder who am I doing it for, myself or those that ask what do you do? At the end of the day, we need to do whatever we do for ourselves and no be else otherwise we will be resentful. I love how you broke it own…without guilt. Without pressure that you are trying to do prove something. But with the idea that you pursing your life based on your choices and you can own that. Spot on!!

  • Loved this. Even though I have no kids (and believe me, there are plenty of people who ask inappropriate questions about that!)I totally agree with you! Great perspective.

  • You’re right about that Sarah. The best news is that the only thing we have to concern ourselves with is figuring out what works for us and let others do the same for their paths. Thanks for your comments and have a super week!

  • We are irreplaceable as moms and that is the most important job anyone could do, no matter what your career choices are. Thanks Genevieve for your comments and for admitting that you were in that place at one point too. We do ROCK!

  • Yes! Be who you want to be. That’s it in a nutshell. And let others be who they want to be too. Thanks for commenting Tena!

  • Thanks Christine for your honest words. It is amazing how there is such a double standard for men and women. Love that you were able to follow your passion even with the criticism from those who are closest to you. Good for you! Thanks for the nice words about UofMoms. Yes we all need it…me included. 🙂

  • Thanks Casey for your kind words. Yes we have to be careful where we find our value. It’s so easy to slip into a money=value trap because society lives and breathes that, but as moms our value is SO much more than that. You’re a treasure too. 🙂

  • Great article and oh so true. There is no right or wrong mold of success and happiness as a mom.

  • I see so many parents who don’t believe they are worthwhile because they are a Stay-At-Home or Work-At-Home parent. I agree with April’s point, we are looking for outside validation when we do this.
    I have done this myself, and have seen many clients do this as well. We need to reclaim ourselves as valuable members of our families and of society. Yes, we matter!! It is self-love, not selfishness, to see ourselves as we are. We ROCK!!!
    Love the work you are doing to help moms, April!!

  • Great article April! My favorite line ‘Be who you want to be.’

  • Christine Galli

    I come from a family of four girls (and one boy, and that is where the laugh comes in) Our parents practically shunned me when I wanted to work when I had babies and I didn’t even have them yet. It had nothing to do with what people thought. It had to do with my own passion. Society judges, even sisters judged as they had degrees as well but stayed home. (Eventually, they went back to school and worked) Bottom line is your internal barometer of happiness and recognizing that most 20, 30 and 40 year old women struggle with the norms of society, whether you work or dont work. Finding yourself and your passion and validating your internal barometer with your own experiences that you create are the only way to survive, work or no work.

    And the boy? He could do no wrong, he went to school for medicine and is very successful. But, he struggles with other issues. We all do.

    Best of luck to you! I know we all could’ve used a UofMoms 30 years ago 🙂

  • Wow, April!! This is something every woman should read. I can totally relate to every sentence. Thank you for putting it on paper and thank your for making sure we all find our value…which truly and totally comes from within. Love you and LOVE how you support moms. You are a treasure.