Is staying at home with kids as easy as working parents imagine it to be? We asked eight SAHMs and SAHDs to set the record straight on stay-at-home-parents
Secret #1: SAHPs don’t have halos
The idea that SAHPs are somehow superior parents is alive and well. “I get a lot of ‘pats on the head’ from people who are unhappy with their grown children’s choices,” says Kathy Ciccale,* SAHM of Mackenzie, three, and Adam, four, in New Westminster, BC. “Someone will say, ‘My daughter went back to work and she never gets to see her son. How can she miss out on these precious moments?’” Ciccale, 37, is uncomfortable being “evidence” for criticisms of moms who work outside the home. “I’m happy with my choice to stay home, but it wasn’t clear-cut,” she says.
Melanie Snagg, age 39, of Vancouver, encountered similar reactions when she left her job as a film and video editor to stay home with Carter, now four. “My least favourite comments imply that I am ‘finally’ doing the right thing for my kid,” she says. “Seriously? To me, that suggests a working mom’s job is like a hobby, something she chooses to do for her own well-being.” Snagg adds that some SAHMs she knows seem to forget staying home isn’t necessarily an option for everyone. “I hope I don’t do that the longer I’m at home.”
Secret #2: Living on one income can be surprisingly doable
Such expenses as transportation, buying lunch and maintaining a workplace wardrobe are often part of having a job. But for many families who opt to have a parent at home, the deciding factor is child care expenses. “While on mat leave with my third child, I crunched the numbers and realized after paying for child care, I was only taking home about $500 a month,” says Jenn Nadon, 32, a Guelph, Ont., mom of five kids, aged 11 months to 14 years. “It made more sense to stay home than go back to my factory job.” It wasn’t a decision she and her husband, Rickardo Myers, took lightly, since he’s a self-employed automotive technician without a set salary or benefits package.
Caregiver costs were also a factor in Hannah Munday’s decision to leave her executive assistant position and become a SAHM to James, three, and Isaac, five. (The 33-year-old Hatchet Lake, NS, mom also cared for her ailing father-in-law in their home until his death 1½ years ago.) To augment the paycheque from her husband Michael’s job with a contracting firm, Munday did some consulting work and then started a home daycare. “Sudden expenditures like car repairs can cause a bit of hair-pulling,” she says. “But, overall, it hasn’t been a major hardship.”
Plus, stay-at-home parenting can be relatively short-term, as Ciccale points out. She and her husband, Edward Black, a network administrator, budgeted for two years of Ciccale staying home. “I took an extended leave of absence from my job as an administrative assistant, rather than quitting entirely,” she says. “I’ll be going back to work this fall.”
Continue reading for Secrets #3-8 >