Last Updated February 13th, 2012

Are You Your Child’s Parent or Just Child Care?

There was an article the other day on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog that really has people talking. It’s about how the U.S. Census Bureau(PDF) tracks how children are cared for in the home.  Frankly, the way they count it is offensive to both moms and dads. You see, in a traditional, two parent household, the mom is always the designated parent. Anyone else watching the kids, including dad, is child care.

In other words, any care the mother does for the kids is taken for granted, while the father’s role is no better than paid help, or something extra he’s doing. You know, the old bit about dads “babysitting” their own kids. That’s a really poor measure for how children are cared for.

Certainly, more moms than dads are the primary caregivers of their children. However, dads have increased their role through the years, and that needs to be respected. That goes double when the dad is the primary caregiver instead of the mom. I know some stay at home dads who would probably be quite offended to be told that their work is just child care.

It makes far more sense to me to call all time that either parent is watching the kids parenting, not child care. Making an assumption that only one parent is really responsible for the kids is insulting to parents who work hard to raise their kids together.

Counting the statistics they way the Census does really skews the numbers something awful, as pointed out in the Geekdad blog. It sharply discounts the time at home parents of any sort spend caring for their kids. It’s just not a good use of the data.

Of course, changing the data a census collects as society changes is difficult. Assuming the mother was the primary caregiver and the father’s main job was to work outside the home was a reasonable assumption for a long time. Assuming that now, not so much. Finding a way to catch that change could yield some interesting results in how family care and work are split now. Just cut out the assumption that one parent is the caregiver whose time matters little and that the other treats child care as babysitting, and see what you get.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 29th, 2011

Don’t Insult Working Moms

I came across an article the other day in support of working moms. It came about due to a forum thread that said the lack of stay at home moms is what’s wrong with the U.S. No explanation of what exactly is wrong, though. There were plenty of things that bothered me about the whole deal.

1. Why the focus on moms?

This is one of the things that drives me up the wall. Why blame only moms for putting their kids in daycare and going to work? Why not the dads? I have two very competent stay at home dads in my family. Don’t tell me it can’t be done.

Sure, it’s more common and more traditional for moms to be more involved in child care. Unless you’re talking about pregnancy or breastfeeding, it doesn’t really have to be that way. Dads can do plenty, and they usually enjoy it.

2. Daycare is a perfectly acceptable option.

I may be an at home mom myself, but I have absolutely no problem with putting kids in daycare if that’s what the family needs.

My mother raised four of us on her own, so I speak from personal experience when I say daycare doesn’t have to be all that bad. It is not having someone else raise your child. They’re helping, yes, but so are the schools. Believe me, my parents still had plenty of influence on my choices throughout life, even my dad who I didn’t always see that much of as he didn’t always live nearby or even in the same state.

That said, I know daycare gets expensive fast. You do have to look at whether having both parents work makes sense in the face of daycare costs. Sometimes having a parent stay at home makes more financial sense. Still, that doesn’t mean working moms are in the wrong.

3. Not all stay at home moms are good at it.

It’s like anything else. Some stay at home moms are wonderful, attentive, caring, hard working mothers. Others aren’t. There are plenty of times when it’s better for the kids for both parents to work and have them go to daycare.

I don’t think you’re bad at being a stay at home mom if you aren’t up to June Cleaver’s level or anything. If staying at home is more of a miserable thing for you because you’d rather have a career, get out and get one. You won’t be called a bad parent by me for it.

4. Staying at home can be stressful.

Many people view being a stay at home mom as this wonderful, unstressed lifestyle. Somehow even the financial troubles just aren’t that big a problem for them. They make it work and life is good.

That’s not true for everyone. If you go to one income and can’t pay all the bills for little things you need such as rent, food and electricity, that’s stressful. Dealing with children can be stressful. Really and truly, the life of a stay at home mom isn’t all television and bonbons.

Is it less stressful for some than for others? Absolutely! That doesn’t mean it’s stress free for every stay at home parent. Financial challenges and other problems cause plenty of stress for others.

5. No acknowledgement of the real financial struggles many families face.

The people saying moms should just cope with the cutting back financially and stay at home have no concept of how much many families struggle. It’s not always a choice between a bigger house or a smaller house, or a newer or older car. It’s getting by, period.

Yes, some families are fortunate enough to have circumstances where they can get by on a minimal income and have one parent home. That’s the exception. We can’t all find extremely low rent, have family provide a home, inherit one, or otherwise get off cheap on housing costs. Some places are more expensive to live, and if that’s where your work is, it’s really not so simple as packing up to move someplace cheaper.

Then there’s food costs. Frankly, if the only way you can have one parent stay at home is to go on food stamps or other assistance, you need to look at increasing your income. That can be by working at home, I don’t mind that (obviously). I just don’t think you should use assistance to support a lifestyle choice, no matter how much you love your kids more than money. Use public assistance to keep going when you must, no problem there, but not as a lifestyle when you have other ways to get by.

6. An old car isn’t always a good solution.

Some people in the forum posts mentioned having an old car as one way to cut down on costs. That’s great when it works, no car payments, but sometimes the repairs run more than a car payment would. What do you do then? Unless you live in an area with good public transportation or close enough to work to walk or bike, a car can be a necessity.

Older cars are going to hit that point where you have to repair them more often eventually, and although they can be quite cheap to own for a time, repair costs can be more than payments on a newer car. What are families supposed to do then? A single income family can’t always save up a few thousand for a newer used car.

7. Stop with the “Only have as many children as you can afford” thing.

This one always annoys me. Certainly, there comes a point where people know they’re having more children than they can afford, but that’s not always what happened at the time the child was conceived or was born. Circumstances change. Jobs are lost, businesses close, incomes decrease. You can’t ever be certain that you can “afford” your children the entire 18 years you’ll be raising them, never mind whether or not you’ll be able to help with college.

Yes, I do agree that parents should think if their current circumstances will allow them to afford a child. It’s not my place to tell them what their final decision should be, however. If my husband and I had waited until we knew on paper that we could afford children, we wouldn’t have started when we did. We made it work anyhow, and while it’s been a struggle, we haven’t had to go on any sort of public assistance, and are finally making progress on the credit card debts.

8. Working moms spend plenty of time with their kids.

It has been shown that working moms spend more time with their kids now than stay at home moms did back in 1965. Dads are more involved too. Sure, stay at home moms spend still more time, but it’s not likely that the average kid is lacking for time with his or her parents due to being sent to daycare.

9. Women benefit from working.

I love the work I do at home. I don’t believe I would cope at all well as a stay at home mom if I didn’t have my business. It gives me something to think about beyond my home and children. That’s a good thing.

There’s also the money moms lose from not working. I don’t just mean in the moment. I mean saving for retirement as well as building a solid base for her career, missing out on promotions and so forth. It’s a long term income loss that can be hard on parents long after their children are grown.

That’s a big part of why I’m such a fan of working from home. Maybe you don’t need to earn the equivalent of a full time job, but at least you can keep some money coming in and some job skills current. Life’s uncertain, and that’s one way I cope.

I have a lawyer friend who tells me that most stay at home moms he knows don’t really understand what they’re losing out on by not working. He’s dealt with them on Social Security issues, and it basically comes down to if you don’t contribute, you don’t get anything. Sometimes that’s a huge problem.

10. The United States isn’t easy on families.

If you take a look at work policies around the Western world, the U.S. doesn’t look remotely family friendly. There’s a lack of parental leave available, childcare standards aren’t as good as other countries, education isn’t as good, the list goes on.  I’d call that a bigger problem than whether or not mothers stay home with their kids.

11. It’s possible that working parents are better for kids.

Now, all kinds of conclusions can be drawn from studies, nonetheless it is possible that working mothers really aren’t bad for their kids.

12. Women have often worked outside the home throughout history.

Women working outside the home is nothing new, and they didn’t just do so before marriage or motherhood.

13. I absolutely support at home parents.

Despite everything on this rant, I absolutely support at home parents, whether it’s the mother or the father. I wouldn’t run this site if I didn’t. It just makes me mad when people glance at working moms and declare them to be awful parents. They aren’t.

There’s nothing wrong with raising kids in the tight financial situation that often results from being a single income family. I suspect there’s some good in it, as kids then learn that they don’t get everything they want all the time.

14. Parents supporting their kids is the most important thing.

What matters most in the long run is that parents support their kids. I don’t just mean financially. I mean educationally, emotionally and so forth. You’re a parent and you’re probably doing the best you can for your kids. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your best for yourself too. If your kids are loved and know it, there’s a good chance they’ll be fine whether you’re at home or working.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 29th, 2011

How Do Stay at Home Moms Get the Holiday Shopping Done?

One of the more difficult things to do as a stay at home mom is to find time to get out without the kids tagging along, especially when they’re younger. It’s bad enough the rest of the year, but when the holiday season comes and you want to get presents for the kids without them catching you at it, things can get pretty difficult. How can you handle all that shopping when you need to watch the kids?

These are just a few of the ways I handle things. It’s not always easy to get time on my own, but something is usually possible eventually.

Shop Online

This one should be obvious these days, but it’s not always easy to keep kids from peeking over your shoulder, nor is it always a replacement for going out and actually seeing the things you want to buy. When you’ve got just a little time and privacy, it’s one of the easiest. Great selection, shipping free from many sites, this stuff can be good.

Amazon is a common favorite because they carry such an amazing range of things. I also have a deep fondness for ThinkGeek. I’d imagine you have your own favorites too.

Shop During School Hours

If the kids go to school and you have a few hours without them, it’s a great time to get your holiday shopping done. It means watching the clock a little, but that’s not usually a major problem.

Have Someone Else Watch the Kids

I love this option. Usually it’s my husband or a grandparent watching the kids to give me time out for holiday shopping. Grandparents are particularly useful if my husband and I want to go out shopping together. It’s fun picking things out with someone else to talk to, after all.

If you don’t have family nearby, see about trading off with friends. Surely you know someone else who has a hard time getting out to shop because of their kids. Make a deal which benefits you both.

Remember Toddlers Don’t Really Understand Everything

I do a lot of my holiday shopping with my toddler in tow, even if it’s for her. I can show her things, even put them into the cart and buy them, and know that by the time I give them to her, she’ll be excited all over again. She also doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to spoil any surprises for her siblings.

Shop Later

One of the presents my kids ask for most often is that I take them shopping after the holidays or a birthday. They love that a big part of their present is time out with me or their father, whoever they pick. A budget is set, the kinds of things I’ll be willing to buy explained, and off we go. Usually there’s ice cream or a movie involved as well. It’s fun and it ensures that whatever is bought is what that child wanted.

I try to make this one on one time, but it can be done with siblings along if desired. Just make it a little extra special.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 26th, 2011

How Do You Find Work After Being a Stay at Home Mom?

“Are you going back to work when all your kids are in school (grow up, etc.)?”

It’s a common question stay at home moms get, and not the most welcome one in a lot of cases. Many people assume that once your kids are in school, you don’t need to be a stay at home mom for them anymore, despite all the challenges of getting them to school and back home again after, coping with sick days and so forth. And certainly you won’t be staying home once all the kids are grown! What are you going to do once that time comes that you need to find a job when you’ve been spending years as a stay at home mom?

This can be a real dilemma, although it gets worse if suddenly you can’t be a stay at home mom anymore because your family needs more money coming in for one reason or another. Then it can be urgent.

I get this question here and there, even from fellow stay at home moms. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to have a business that I love and that may allow me to continue to stay at home, kids or no. We’ll see what the future holds. It doesn’t hurt, however, to plan ahead so you know what you’ll do when you’re no longer able to stay at home.

Keeping Up or Building Your Job Skills

What kind of work would you like to do when you’re no longer staying at home? Do you have a dream job you’d love to have? What would it take to get you into that job?

If it’s a job you had before you became a stay at home mom, you may have skills you need to keep up. There may be journals in your field you should be reading to keep up on the latest, or short classes you can take here and there to maintain your skills. These are the kinds of things you might be doing even if you were working in the industry now, and there’s little reason to give it up just because you’re at home now. Hopefully they’ll come in handy again in the future.

If you have a dream job you’d like to get into when the kids are old enough, at what point should you start taking classes to help you in that direction? Are classes available online that you could take while watching your kids?

For example, I have considered the possibility that I’ll go into Instructional Design someday. I took a course in that in college, and it was a lot of fun. My college had a Master’s Degree program for it, so if I want to do that in the future, I’ll have to look at how I’d qualify for that program.

Look into any grants or scholarships you may qualify for when you’re getting ready to go back to school. There are grants available in some places for homemakers who want to build marketable skills. Check with your local colleges to see if something is available to you to help with the costs. An online search can help too, just be careful of scholarship scams.

Working from Home

Many stay at home moms keep their skills or build up new ones by working at home. You can find a job you can do from home, freelance for a variety of clients or start your own business. This is the option I took, and I’m glad of it, as it has allowed me to stay home with my kids even when my husband was laid off work, plus  I’m continuing to pay into Social Security in the hopes that it will continue to be there.

Even if you believe you’re always going to stay at home, earning some amount of income is a good idea. Not only do you never know what’s going to happen in the future, you need some way to save for retirement. If you aren’t earning your own money, make sure to take some of your husband’s income for a retirement account. Odds are you’ll need it someday.

I like working from home. It’s rough getting things started, but for me it has been well worth the trouble. I’ve had pathetic months where my earnings have been miserable, and great ones where I’ve earned more than my husband, all while being there for our kids.

I have skills now that I could use in a job outside the home if I had to. If it comes down to it, I might still go for that, but I could certainly show a potential employer that I could help them with certain online parts of their business. It’s not a bad skill to have. Alternatively, I could brush up my old medical transcription skills, although I’d have to learn to cope with electronic medical records.

Earning some amount of your own money at home can be very good for the future of your career as well as your retirement. You may not want it to take over the time you mean to spend with your kids, but there are always early mornings, nap time, school time and/or night time to work if you want to be mostly focused on the kids during the day.

Setting Up Your Resume

The resume is the hardest part for a long term stay at home mom. You may not feel as though there’s much to put there, and just where are you going to get references anyhow?

The important thing to a potential employer is that they know you are truly interested in getting back to work. They don’t want to hear how you’re missing being with your kids or other such things. If you might have childcare issues, be upfront about that.

As a stay at home mom, you’ve done a lot of work keeping your family organized, dealing with finances, possibly you’ve volunteered at the school or other places. These things can be highlighted on your resume, along with any work you’ve done or classes you’ve taken to keep your job skills up to date. Volunteer work may be a good place to get references. Don’t be ashamed of having been a stay at home mom; just point out the skills you used as one. Skip silly titles for the work you do at home and go for realistic ones.

Remember to tweak your resume for each job you apply for. You want to emphasize the skills the job listing asked for. Focus more on skills than on dates, but have the dates available on your resume, as many employers still want to know. A flat out chronological resume may not be your best choice, but a combination format allowing you to emphasize your skills while giving employers access to the dates they may be interested in is often your best choice.

Don’t stress too much about keeping your resume down to a single page, but don’t make it excessively long either. These days you’re more likely to be sending your resume by email or through an online form.

Make sure you know how to write a good cover letter too. Some companies care about them, others don’t, but you usually won’t know that in advance.

Try a Temp Agency

If you just aren’t finding a permanent job of the sort you’d like, try a temp agency. Sometimes these jobs turn permanent, but even when they don’t, you’re building up your skills and making them more current while earning money. That’s far better than being out of work.

Don’t expect a temp agency to be the solution to your job search woes. They won’t always have work available to you immediately. They are simply another tool you can use as you look for a job.

Update Your Wardrobe

Make sure you have a reasonably current wardrobe appropriate to the type of work you’ll be doing. Just what you need depends on the job, and it may not be exactly what it was when you last worked outside the home. Many are more casual than they used to be. Fortunately, dressing up a little for interviews is still a good plan in many industries.

Returning to work after being a stay at home mom for a few years or more can feel pretty strange, but it’s entirely possible to make the transition. Search hard, prepare well and do your research before interviews.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 19th, 2011

Are Stay at Home Moms Really Bored?

Sometimes I still get caught off guard about how people see stay at home moms, even other stay at home moms. There’s this assumption that you aren’t really doing anything that happens all too much. I dealt with this problem recently with a fellow stay at home mom at my children’s school.

I was telling her how happy I was to finally have a way to get my volunteer hours in at the school with my toddler in tow. To get guaranteed admission for my kids into this new charter school, I had agreed to do 50 hours of volunteer work at the school. This has been a bit of a problem as she’s not allowed to be with me if I volunteer in the classrooms. However, as the school has a room for parents to work for the teachers while watching their younger children, I decided to see if I could do reading with individual students. Happily, they gave me permission to do that, so long as I don’t leave my little one alone in the room. She’s two, so that much was obvious to me.

The other mom congratulated me on having a new way to keep busy.

Busy? I thought I was busy. I’m raising 3 kids and have a reasonably successful online business. My life isn’t exactly quiet. Adding in reading with my son’s classmates makes my life busier, sure, but it’s not the only way I do that by a long shot.

I always wonder if these attitudes come about because so many stay at home moms don’t see their own work as work in that sense. It just has to be done, as though that makes it less valued than other sorts of work, and it’s certainly not enough to keep you busy.

I also don’t consider this sort of volunteering to be social time. I won’t even get to speak to the teacher much, since we’ll be in separate rooms, she’ll be busy with the kids in the classroom and I’ll be busy with each child she sends to me, plus my little one. I’ll be more interested in how many kids I can get through each day before my youngest gets too frustrated with the whole process. She loves listening to stories so I hope she won’t be too difficult, but she’s two. It happens.

I’m not a big believer in stay at home mom boredom. I don’t think most moms who really chose to stay at home are bored. If you are, it’s probably a good time to find something to add to your day, just don’t assume that I’m bored too. I have too many things I’ve chosen to add to my days for boredom to be a major part of my day.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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