I became a stay at home mom after my first baby was born because it made the most financial sense for our family. I never had any particular dreams of being a SAHM, never hoped to stay home and take care of my children while tending the home or anything like that. In fact, before having kids, I would have said I’d likely follow in the footsteps of my parents, your typical double-income home where both of them worked and I went to preschool and then daycare as I got older.
Fast-forward to when my first child was born, and I found myself in the role of SAHM. In a situation where finding employment full-time was unlikely, we made the call to have me be at home with our child so that I could provide the childcare until our child(ren) were in school. For the last few years, this has been our arrangement, and it’s worked well for us.
However, I noticed as friends gave birth and went back to work that there’s an assumption made that most stay at home moms must choose to take on this role because we love kids – all kids, any kids.
A couple years ago, I had a months-long stint of having people ask me to watch their kids for them. Some of them needed actual full-time childcare, some of them needed childcare here and there because of daycare issues. Either way, it was a sudden onset of people coming to the only SAHM they knew and hoping I would take on their kids alongside my own because they just desperately needed childcare.
In a lot of those cases, I was willing to help out, and generally speaking, I’m typically available to friends and family in emergencies. I did take on a lot of childcare back then, and I don’t regret being there when people needed me. The problem came when I started getting some feedback from friends who, well-meaning though they were, came across as if they were doing me a favor by giving me kids to watch.
I don’t know about any other SAHMs, but I actually am not a real big kid person.
I love and care for my children, and there are a few nieces and nephews who also have my heart. Other than that? I can take or leave kids in general, and I’m definitely not gifted in caring for kids like the myriad of teachers, daycare workers, and preschool employees that are out there.
On top of the assumption that you must love kids to be a SAHM, there’s also that stigma that seems to follow that says you aren’t earning any money, which means you must be looking to earn income to help your spouse out. Sometimes that equates to people sliding into your DMs on Facebook with a delightful offer of joining their amazing MLM team so you can start making money from home. Other times that equates to people asking you to watch their kids in a manner that makes it come across as a favor.
“Oh, of course, I’ll pay you, too!”
That’s the line that sometimes accompanies the bit about how nice it is that you can help out your friends and make some money at the same time. It comes across as an afterthought, as if the idea of paying your friend for childcare just occurred to you and you wouldn’t normally pay someone to care for your kids.
For some people, that’s a great thing, and they appreciate the chance to babysit other people’s kids in their own home and make money. That’s why so many SAHMs choose to open their own in-home daycares and create babysitting or drop-in childcare businesses. It’s a help to them to have an easy way to hang out with their kids, get some socialization with other kids, and be paid to care for someone else’s children. I think it’s a great business model for people who enjoy that kind of work.
I am not one of those people.
Perhaps it’s just the fact that I make my SAHM life apparent on social media, but I have run the gamut of friends offering me “great opportunities” to own my own business by joining their MLM team and also friends coming out of the woodworks of my past who need emergency childcare options and assume I must enjoy watching and caring for kids.
Like I said, I don’t mind the occasional request, but when it becomes apparent I’m more of the “drop-in childcare” preference and I’m asked to do it on a regular basis, I have to draw a line because, while I like my kids, I am not really a kid person.
I’ve made great strides in setting boundaries with people who tend to use me as “drop-in care,” but I think it also helps to make sure we’re not just applying a one-size-fits-all stereotype to the SAHMs out there who may or may not like kids.