Em is in school three days a week. He loves it. It took a few weeks for him to adjust, a few weeks of holding onto my neck for dear life every morning, but those days are gone. Now, he doesn’t even say goodbye. He just walks into the “The Science Center” (an area in the room with cool textures, shapes and sounds) and doesn’t look back.
It’s been great.
It’s also been expensive.
We’re in an awkward position as a family, a position I imagine many New Yorkers are in. It’s the position where the amount you pay out is dangerously close to the amount you take in, so you can’t ever really get ahead where a savings is concerned. That’s not to say we don’t have a savings. We do. It’s just not enough for a down payment. So, should we continue paying for things like Em’s schooling (or living in an overpriced apartment), we’ll never get ahead in order to buy our own home.
You see the predicament?
Today is the final deadline to reenroll Em in school for fall. We definitely can’t afford the 5-day; I would have to currently have a full time job to make that worthwhile. We can’t really afford the 3-day either. We discussed the 2-day school week, which we can afford, but we’d have to tap into our savings in order to do so.
Toby doesn’t want to do that. I can’t say that I blame him. We’re in the middle of a recession right now. Even the most secure job right now isn’t all that secure. Who wants to tap into their savings when the future is so uncertain?
I want Em to interact with kids his own age regularly, especially since kids thrive on repetition. Plus, he loves it. He has made amazing progress in the brief time he’s been attending school and I have met some pretty great mothers there as well. Socializing is very important to me.
It’s conceivable that I could arrange regular playdates with kids in the neighborhood. After all, that’s what my mom did with us. But I face another roadblock.
While there are other stay-at-home mothers living in Brooklyn, we are a small minority. Out of all the mothers I hang out with, only one has parenting listed as her full time job.
Living in a city has its advantages. I love Brooklyn and I adore the mothers I have come to know over the years. But I’m a minority here. That’s all there is to it. If I were to start a regular playdate, I can tell you exactly how that would look: it would be Emory, myself, and a couple of Tibetan nannies toting around someone else’s kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I do not sit in judgement of this, I’m merely telling you how it is here.)
There are weekly readings offered at our local library, which I have been to a few times. They are great for him. He listens and interacts with the other children (for a scant 45 minutes, but still). Me? I leave feeling even lonelier because almost every other adult there happens to be a nanny. (I’ve also been turned away because they only have room for 20 people.)
I’m not complaining. I usually only complain when I know how to go about fixing something but really don’t want to deal with it. This time, I want to figure it out. I’m willing to make it happen—I want Em and myself to find a regular group of kids and moms to socialize with. I just have no idea how to.
Taking Em out of school is fine. But taking him out of school also means no more regular social time and that’s not something I feel comfortable with.
I’m in search of creative ideas and answers to this problem (and yes, I think it’s a growing problem). Getting Em around other kids is something I am very passionate about. I wish there were more communities and events in place for SAHs. Our culture seems to be built around both family members having to work outside of the home. I reckon this change took place sometime after the feminist movement—which is great, I am all for equality—but I can’t help to ask: what example were we trying to apply equality?
Perhaps feminism needs to be redefined entirely to meet present day needs within the culture of now. In some ways, I think the future good health of our society depends on it.
My question to you all is this: when did the term “feminist” or “working woman” stop including “stay-at-home mother”? Staying home to raise children shouldn’t be seen as giving up and it shouldn’t mean kissing your other career goodbye. A person who chooses this route should not be made to feel like lesser of a feminist, working individual, or asset to society compared to someone who leaves the house and visits an office every day.
I think that because of this transformation and way of thinking, there is a huge void for stay-at-home moms where community is concerned and because of that void, and the isolation that comes with it, choosing to stay home and raise our kids becomes the less appealing option. And that, my friends, is a crying shame.
But I’m not yet willing to give up that easy. Let’s get out of our living rooms and put on something other than sweatpants and start a SAH revolution.
That sounds like such a frustration situation! I live in Austin, TX and have a totally different experience. The most obvious difference is that the cost of living is MUCH lower here, so our decision for me to stay home came with far less of a sacrifice. This is true for many (certainly not all) families in our neighborhood, so I am far less “alone”.
I found an incredible community of local SAHMs through MOMS Club. Some local chapters are more active than others, and mine happens to be great. If you haven’t already checked it out it might be worth a look. http://www.momsclub.org I can’t image what the past 18 months would have been like without it!
Good luck in your search!
Ugh, I hear you. Only difference with our money is, we HAVE NO savings and live pay check to pay check in an extremely poor area. It’s how it is living on one income so I can stay at home with our son. I try to do odd jobs. Next two weeks, I’m getting paid to watch someone else’s child and occasionally I sell a story.
Luckily, up here, the SAH mom thing is really big. So we have plenty of people to socialize with.
Do your local rec centers have classes for toddlers and mommies during the day?? We did a few dance and art classes here in Columbus. The classes were maybe $20-$30 and last for about 6 weeks. My daughter had lots of fun!
I could have written this. I TOTALLY could have written this.
I might need to write something about this.
I have no wisdom…only empathy. The reasons you outlined–inability to get ahead financially, ridiculously expensive schools–are exactly why we left NYC. Now my daughter goes to a Montessori preschool five mornings a week, is happy and well-socialized, while her mama really, really misses living in New York.
I really relate to this, although we live in the suburbs. In our case, after sending my son to school in the morning for the last two years, I kept him (and his 1.5 year old sister) home almost all of this year, mostly for financial reasons and I agree with you that’s it’s not the best thing for him in terms of socialization (and learning in his case). I thought I would be able to set up play dates, but it just hasn’t worked out that well. Kids get sick a lot and everyone has different schedules. I think he’s lonely and I know I’m lonely.
The only saving grace we have is our local Mothers’ Center. They have classes for moms with childcare so I get to take yoga or go to discussion groups while my kids get to run around in the gym and sing songs, etc… It’s incredibly affordable (works out to about $5/hr) and it’s a great group of women. There is actually a woman from Brooklyn in my yoga class…not sure what part of Brooklyn she comes from, but she says it’s worth the drive for her. Maybe it’s something to consider??
I hear ya. I live in a dead zone here too. During the day all kids are in care and moms are working.
I also here you on the ‘lesser’ feminist thing…so many women look down at me for MY choice..or write me off because my status means I have no real opinion on anything .
Great post! Great message!
I just want to say this – we are downsizing a bit, too. I work part time as a ghostwriter and we had a part-time nanny, but we decided we could maximize the money I make by re-working my writing schedule and not having the babysitter.
The kids are ecstatic. We start Monday. We live in Harlem. Want to get together for a playdate? Write me anytime.
Brava! I totally agree – and I am also irked that being a SAHM is viewed in general as giving up – or doing it because we ‘can’t’ do something ‘better’ – when for many of us – these assumptions absolutely do not fit who we are as women, or mothers…
As for socializing – I understand completely your predicament. Locally (central Florida) we have a program called Success by Six – and it comprises many free programs designed to socialize kids, keep them used to a classroom setting – prepping them for Kindergarten, getting them used to other authority figures and most importantly – an opportunity for them to have fun. Maybe it’s worth checking if anything similar exists in your area? Contact with the city government, school boards, or somewhere like United Way (which sponsors a preschool playgroup here) might turn something up?
We have a similar situation, though not as extreme in Miami. There are SAHM’s, but you have to network to find a group in this huge city. Some moms drive 30-60 minutes to be with a like-minded group.
Even though your son is young, you might try a homeschool group. Our homeschool group has lots of young families learning from the moms with older kids as they move into pre-school age. At least you know these moms are not only committed to being home, they are committed to working with and for their kids.
BTW, I agree about the working mom designation–I work all my waking hours, 7 days a week. And I knew this is what I wanted to do, even when I got that coveted Ivy-League education. I guess that makes me a feminist misfit, but that’s the way it is.
I could have written this too.
There is nothing harder than staying home with your kid all day every day.
On days when my kid doesn’t take a nap, which are often, that’s 12-13 hours that I have to entertain her.
We go to the library and the Y a couple of days a week for classes, but they are only 20-40 minutes long. Then, what the hell am I supposed to do with her for the rest of the day? We draw, we play with Play-doh, we read a ton, it all doesn’t add up to 12-13 hours.
Inevitably, I end up letting her watch 1/2 hour-hour of TV, and then I beat myself up about it.
I’ve only met one other mom in this area that doesn’t have any help, and her son is much younger than my daughter, so their schedules are completely different, so we rarely see each other.
I could go on, and on, and on…..
Check out websites like ning and meetup.com and see if there are any local playgroups in the area. There’s also Mom’s Club Inc which I stay away from myself.
We had sort of the same issue in that there was nothing in the area (besides Mom’s Club who said we couldn’t join) so a friend of mine started a playgroup on meetup.com. We grew to about 50 people and I took over running it. Now we’re over on ning.com (because it’s free) and doing so very well.
We go to parks, malls, libraries and sometimes to paying stuff. Most is free though which is great.
Also check your local “First 5” I’m not sure what it’s called in your state but each state receives funding for it and they often provide free classes and activities. For instance here they do what they call a Kids Club at the local mall which is a free craft and activity for toddlers and up. They also have nearly 20 classes a month that are totally free for an hour or so a day.
I must applaud where you say, “When did the term “feminist” or “working woman” stop including “stay-at-home mother”?….” I, for lack of a better word, label myself as a feminist but I feel like an outcast, of sorts, in my SAH circle and w/in the feminist movement. Those in my SAH circle don’t label themselves feminists and many in the feminist movement don’t see me as a legitimate feminist.
I, too, have used preschool for my children because I felt strongly about their interactions with other children and adults. We’re paid up for this current school session but when school resumes in the fall, it will be a hard hit to our budget.
I understand your predicament. I live in the suburbs but even then, finding suitable avenues for interacting can be a challenge.
I’m definitely in the same boat, and as for the feminism issue, I believe a TRUE feminist allows each woman to decide what’s right for HER, whether it’s staying at home with her kids or working. A TRUE feminist does not judge these decisions just because they are not the ones she herself would not make. Easier said than done, though, right?
I felt extremely lonely my first year or so of staying home and with two stepdaughters headed for college, I can’t afford preschool now. However, my younger kids have a ton of socialization opportunities and I now help as many other local moms in finding them as possible.
Basically, it all comes down to doing tons of research and then basic trial and error. I’ve gone to local moms groups- many of which, frankly, I hated, but at least I tried. I’ve found free ballet, science and acting classes (through the city) and super cheap zoo classes. I belong to the local YMCA, which has an excellent nursery, and my kids have made lots of friends there. I enrolled my daughter in soccer. I take her to library storytime. I schedule playdates with her friends whenever possible. You’ll see that at this age, they don’t really care WHO they’re playing with- they just want the interaction, which makes it easier for you- Just take Em to the playground or children’s museum or any place where there are other kids.
Also, look up homeschooling groups in and around Brooklyn. A LOT of homeschoolers have kids that are preschool-aged and, like you, are teaching them at home until they’re school-aged. They are great resources when it comes to getting kids together to socialize and finding kid-friendly events and other SAHs. This was a resource I wish I’d realized I had earlier- I had always assumed most homeschoolers had older children and were sort of, well, weird. I have since learned that is not at all the case.
Good luck! :)
The way I look at it is that it’s a balance, right? I’m home with my kids because I want them to learn how to be people who can entertain themselves, who don’t need a constant hum of manufactured business around them. But preschoolers DO like being around other preschoolers, and there should be some places locally that have preschoolers AND their mothers.
We’ve never had the budget for any preschool activities that have cost money (and we also haven’t lived places that have offered them), but I’ve found a lot of other ways to keep my three kids busy and happy as preschoolers: library story hours, free playgroups, early childhood centers, and that sort of thing. It still doesn’t fill up more than a couple of hours a week, though, and that’s fine – between playing, crafts, visits with friends and going for walks, we’ve found a nice balance.
Feminism is about having the right to choose — to SAH, to work and have kids, or to not have kids at all. Think about the origins of the feminist movement. By the 50s/60s, women were college educated. When they started jobs, it was assumed that they would quit once they got married and had kids. And they had kids in their early 20s. So here are college-educated women unable to get a career going, dependent on men to provide for them and the kids. By the time the kids are grown, the education doesn’t amount to much because women have no experience in the workforce. The women say, hey this isn’t fair; I’m just as smart, educated, and capable as the guys. Why should I give up my career goals? So the women left the kids at home, went to work, and demanded the right to equal opportunities. The kids of those women are the so-called “latchkey kids” of the 1970s (that’s me!). We grew up without a parent at home and many thought that lot was unfair (not me, I kind of liked the freedom of it). Many of that generation want to swing back the other way and have a parent at home—but they still want the opportunity to have a career. So a lot of women are delaying having kids until their 30s when their careers are established and they know they’ll be able to get them back should they so choose. In NYC, I think the job market is just so competitive, many women feel like if they jump out of the rat race, they’ll never get back in. Not to mention the financial need of two incomes.
This does nothing to solve your socializing issue — sorry. Your blog brings up feminism a lot and I just thought I’d add a few cents, for what they’re worth. In theory, feminism is about making sure women have the option to choose what works for them and their families. In practice, it may seem judge-y, but blame that on judgmental people and not on feminism itself.
I’m a nanny and can totally understand you feeling lonely in a group as the only mom–for me, it’s often the other way around. A lot of places I go with the kids, I am the only nanny in a sea of moms. I often wonder why it is so hard for us to make friends with one another. I did have one very happy situation in which a group of both nannies and moms all took our kids to lunch together after storytime, so I know it is possible. I do understand that nannies and moms have different lives and different priorities, but I found through my friendships that we also have a lot in common.
I hope you can find a solution that works well for you!
I am not exactly sure why I feel marginalized as a SAHM who gave up a great professional position to be a SAHM. I think some of it has to do with the lack of societal respect for mothers. Everyone has a mother and it is the hardest job I’ve ever done (24/7), and yet, I feel like society doesn’t respect us. To make an active choice to be a SAHM is difficult, giving up a lot of what you strove for professionally and resigning yourself to start at the bottom after childhood is over. I get annoyed with forms that require me to list an occupation or treat me as secondary because I do not have a paying job (tax forms and health insurance forms, anyone?). So part of this is me, but part of it is society. How about a tax credit for folks who stay home with their kids? We give tax benefits to those who put their kids in preschool. Erg. But I digress…
One way I found other moms to hang out with was through meetup.com Once you join a group of moms, you can find events that fit your schedule….
Hope that helps!
“My question to you all is this: when did the term “feminist” or “working woman” stop including “stay-at-home mother”? Staying home to raise children shouldn’t be seen as giving up and it shouldn’t mean kissing your other career goodbye. A person who chooses this route should not be made to feel like lesser of a feminist, working individual, or asset to society compared to someone who leaves the house and visits an office every day. ”
I think I’m echoing an earlier commenter when I say this is not a fault of the feminist movement. Having a voice in Western society, for better or for worse, has been tied to achieving higher education and/or working outside the home. So it makes sense that there has been a large focus on equality in education and the workplace for women within the feminist movement.. not to mention the fact that as more women went into the workforce salaries adjusted so that it has become very difficult for many families to live on one income. For women who want to work outside the home, and perhaps have spent significant time and money through education, entry level jobs, etc. to make a place for themselves in the workforce, leaving their field, even for a short period can jeopardize their career in the long term.
I think people who call themselves feminists and suggest that stay at home moms are less than are most definitely expressing less than feminist viewpoints. I don’t think it’s fair to take agitation with individuals like this and apply their thinking to feminism at large. Within academia, I feel the overriding view on SAHM throughout time, is that they are unpaid labor who have made it possible for the men they support to work towards success in the workforce. In other words, because men have historically had women to take care of the domestic sphere without compensation, they are not weighed down by those worries and concerns and everyday mental/emotional/physical exhaustion, leaving them free to expend their energies on so-called ‘higher’ level thinking and activities. Feminism, to my mind, seeks to rectify this by not only helping women make their way into the public sphere, but also making public and concrete the real work that happens in the private sphere.
Socializing for Em isn’t as important right now. He’s probably just starting to gain interest in other kids, but primarily is still playing in parallel. In another 6 months or year it will become more important than it is now. It sounds like it’s more of a lonely mother issue and that completely understandable because it is very lonely and mother’s always think of their kids before themselves. As for feminism, I think being a SAHM takes more balls than having a job.
as a full-time nanny i’m sure the differences between our days would still be too many to list – but i also wonder why the similarities can’t be focused on more? here on the west coast i’m also familiar with this strong division between moms and nannies in classes and at parks and i’m so curious about it and want to change it! just because our jobs change at 6 or 7 in the evening doesn’t mean we can’t spend time together and learn from each other during the day, in my opinion. as it’s not something i ask moms and grandmas at the park, i’m curious to know what the nanny/mom divide is about?
also, i encourage you to redefine feminism however you would like to – if you find every aspect of the feminist movement alienating, the make up your own term! feminism has been broken apart and rearranged so many times and in so many ways from the mainstream media’s portrayal of the middle-class white women’s movement in the 60s and 70s. the term and the history has also alienated many people of color, bisexual, lesbian, queer, trans, and gender-bending folks. feminist literature, art and media today has so many off-shoots that stand on their own and partake in coalition-building as well. for me, the most exciting part about feminist movement is that it requires constant reworking from the roots.
I think a lot of the feelings of isolation and the challenges of finding activities and peers is related to your location. Being out here in Phoenix now, there are tons of SAHMs – I have at least 6 just on my block and 2 others (myself included) who work part-time or at home – and that is everyone. I don’t know one person around here who has a nanny. And there is a certain strength and power in the larger concentration of women here that you don’t get in a big urban area.
I think a lot of the judgment we feel comes in urban areas where there are fewer SAHMs, more working moms or childless women (who are all stretched so thin), a more highly educated female population (who have more to give up than a lot of the woman I know here in Phoenix, who may have had jobs before they had kids, but they didn’t really have careers), and more educated men all who just don’t put the same value on caring for children as they do on work outside of the home.
My kid is having a massive meltdown so I have to end this incomplete thought…
I found my moms group at http://www.meetup.com
There is also another site http://www.raisingthem.com
Just type in your zip code and you’ll find SAHM groups in your area which you might be able to join.
Good luck. Hope you find playgroups and other moms soon. I’m sure there must be more out there in your area who feel the same way.
My experiance has been nearly opposite and I struggle with it also. In my community and particularly at my son’s school, most of the mother’s are SAHMs, there are a few exceptions (I am one of them). There are play dates planned all the time, weekend events, and even mom’s night outs that we are for the most part left out of. Don’t get me wrong, many of the mom’s are great and still work out a way to have my son over after school,etc. in spite of the fact that I am working. However, overall I feel looked down upon because I “have” to work outside the home. A financial/social status thing I guess. They either have family money or married rich.
Recently I have been looking into the option of cutting down to part-time so that I can spend more time with my boy’s and be more active in the school. This will make our financial situation doable but a bit precarious…meaning we have some savings but each month our income will take us right down to the wire. Anway, just a view from the other side.
I think it is possible to be a feminist and a SAHM or a professional. Interesting reading on this subject might include some writing by Ellen Key (a Swedish feminist writer in the early 1900’s. She often felt that women ought to be raising their children vs. working outside of the home.
I am entirely in disagreement with the notion that current feminism does not include the SAH mother, father, whatever, or one’s ability to choose working outside the home to working true full-time inside it. The issue is not, IMHO with current feminism, but with past conceptions of how to make equality happen. Once upon a time, yes, the focus was on women’s equality in the workplace (still an issue) but just because it’s no longer taboo for a woman to work doesn’t mean it’s now taboo for women NOT to work. It doesn’t…um…work that way
The point of equality is for everyone to have the equal choice of whether to stay home or work outside their home, but unless social status, race, gender, etc were all equal, the ability to make that choice will never be equal. What can be is merely the acceptance of the choice.
So we’re always brought back to square one. With the economy, expectations of living, socio-economic hierarchy, we’ll never have real freedom to choose. There will always be something pushing.
Just beware this whole ifeminism push-back that says “feminists don’t want you to be a SAHM!” because it’s utter BS. Current feminism, as I was taught, is far more concerned with the concepts of intersectionality and how race, gender, culture, anything about your identity can affect your choices and your freedom to make them than it is concerned with burning bras (which I’ve been told didn’t actually happen. they burned make-up or something) and wearing pantsuits to your high-powered executive position.
The feminist movement gave us these choices. The problem is that our social and economic structure have not caught up with us. The established expectations that are placed on us at work and as parents, homeowners, and renters have not evolved in the past 50 years while our choices have. I blame “the man.”
For those of you who don’t believe that some women and feminists believe SAHs and mothers are ruining years worth of feminism, read this:
Specifically, this bit from her article:
“Once upon a time, educated women fought to separate their identities from the ideal of mother, knowing that until the two came to be seen as wholly distinct they would never be taken seriously; and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life? In the past decade, however – a decade that began, if you are in search of neat bookends, with the birth of Brooklyn Beckham – a growing number of women have reverted, 50s-style, to identifying themselves primarily, vociferously, and sometimes exclusively, as mothers.”
I am a mom and work outside the home, and that has been an incredibly lonely experience, too. All the paygroups, playdates, etc. are during the day when I work. Yes, my son gets social interaction at a ludicrously expensive daycare, and he loves it there. But, I have zero face-to-face interaction with other parents, which is vital, I think. I would love to stay home for a bunch of reasons, but I don’t think that’s any easier–in fact, I think it can be just as lonely as my experience has been. (On a side note, I have gotten almost nothing but criticism for NOT staying home with my child, which is hurtful because I don’t feel as if working is a choice for me; it’s a necessity.) The problem is that daycare is just too expensive. Life is just too expensive right now. Best of luck in finding a happy medium. I’m trying to, as well.
Hey, wanna get lunch or coffee, either out or at one of our apartments, some time next week (any day but Tuesday)? I always take Cole for a walk over to W-burg so it’s no problem to meet up at your place or where ever.
It seems like women are our own worst enemies. I have noticed the snobbery of those SAHMs with wealthy supportive husbands who look down on women who “have” to work. I have also looked down on professional moms who seem disproportionately absorbed in their kids lives and who can’t seem to have a conversation about anything other than kids and schools. I have looked down on them while wishing I had a little bit of what they have.
All right, so I know this isn’t helpful to the conversation, but I have this nagging need to chime in.
I work outside the home, because I choose to do so. I love my job, I love my husband, I love my son, I love my cat, and I love my life. What we do works for us. Everyone’s lives are different, and everyone will do what works for them.
I don’t know how much of this “pressure” is imagined, how much I put on myself, or how much is actually being put on me, but screw everybody. If someone wants to look down on me for the choices I make, so be it.
OK, so as I said, this comment adds nothing to the discussion and certainly does nothing to help you figure out your socialization issues, but it sure made me feel better to say it. ;-)
[…] The previous post has me thinking a bit more about whether my feelings regarding being a SAHM are specific to urban areas, and even more specifically to New York City. I can’t answer that question because this is the only place I’ve ever lived as a mother. But I do think that those of you who suggested as much might be onto something. […]
As a former nanny, I found I was around a lot more moms or dads. However, I never let this difference interfere with making friends. I was around the children I watched for 40 hours a week. I took the baby I cared for to the library, to Music for tots, etc. I knew them well.
I guess my question is…why does the interaction have to be only with moms and dads? Nannies and parents alike have experiences to share, etc. Like someone above stated: We can all learn from one another.
Hi M — Just came upon this. As usual, I am/we are on the opposite side of the coin from you guys. We’re also nearly a year behind you in dealing w/it, but I can see how the trains are going to converge in months to come.
For us, the two-parents-working scenario is not a choice, it’s a necessity. I’d gladly be a SAH dad if it were possible, but it isn’t, not even remotely. As for Laura, when Luca was younger she was happy to go back to the office. Now that he’s getting older, though, she’s having second thoughts — she’d like to spend more time with him, for one thing, and would like to have more control over his development, for another. But even that’s not possible.
The options available to us are about as grim as those available to you. Daycares are (a) very, very expensive, (b) very, very hard to find, and (c) very hard to get into — even outside the city. School is on the horizon, but it will only compound the expense issues. We’ve gone the daily babysitter/nanny route, but we can’t afford to do it alone, so we have substantial subsidies from extended family to make it work — they’re all willing to help because they all agree it’s better for him, at least at this stage, to be home and to have one-on-one care. And we’ve been lucky, in that he really likes his babysitter and she really likes him. Because that’s not easy either. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is not the solution we want for him or for ourselves. It’s just the least-bad alternative at the moment.
In a little less than a year now this will become even more problematic. We, like you, think it’s important for him to learn social skills. He’s a happy, social baby and this part of him needs nurturing. We, like you, want this to begin shortly after his first birthday. We, like you, can’t really afford the costly schools in our area. (This is as true in Westchester as it would have been in Brooklyn, BTW. Moving out of the city, at least the way we’ve done it, has resolved nothing but the issue of space-per-dollar. Otherwise, the commutable New York area just costs a hell of a lot of money, and is hard to navigate for those who aren’t substantially well off.) In our case, school would be an additional expense on top of the already unbearable expense of the babysitter/nanny. I frankly don’t know how we’ll be able to do it, especially since familial largesse will eventually exhaust itself. Most of those helping us — his grandparents — are living on retirements of one kind or another, and much of that is stock-based, and so they are hemorraging their own futures already, nevermind what they’re giving us. It can’t go on.
I guess one thing I’d say is I’m damned if I can see where feminism comes into play for us in a way it doesn’t for you. It’s true Laura has had work opportunities her mother might not have had (Italy was even later in entering the era of feminist influence); maybe that’s a net gain for Laura overall, but it isn’t much of a factor in this puzzle. The cost of living is much higher these days than it was for her parents; I’m convinced that feminism was only an adjunct in some senses to economic necessity — what Marx would have called the superstructural component that allowed or justified the base economic shift by which earning power was diminished and greater labor input came to be required to achieve the same ends.
By which I mean to say that we look at your situation (to use just that example, not to single you out) and are rather desperately envious. Neither one of us has the potential any time soon to earn enough to allow the other to stay home. And even with both of us working, the economic strain of child care and, soon, child education/socialization will be so great as to utterly bind us economically. We live in a corner. We don’t feel empowered, so to speak; we feel embattled. Our kid would be one of those meeting you on the playground with his nanny. But rather than a sign of liberation or opportunity, this feels to us — lucky though we are, we know, to be able to make it happen — like a broken, unsatisfying, and unsustainable solution. I’m tempted to say it even feels like a failure of sorts, though perhaps not a failure of the worst possible kind.
I was in the same predicament and found a great group of SAHM moms (one of which turned me on to your blog) through meetup.com and raisingthem.com might be worth checking out.
I don’t know you (except through the internet) so don’t know your whole picture, but what if you got a part time job at night, after your husband gets home? I know, then you wouldn’t spend any time with him. But what if you worked 15 hours a week, would that help ease your financials?
Just throwing things out there.
Reading the last two posts, I find some surprising communality between life in rural NM and NYC. In terms of getting around in strollers and feeling well just plain left out. I recall talking to a few moms a few years ago about starting my own business or other issues trying to break free of the job I wanted, but felt marginalized by, stay at home mom. I got a lot of comments like I didn’t work while my kids were young and it was so worth it, or my home business didn’t really work until they were in school. Basically all I heard was wait, and patience isn’t my forte. However, now that my kids are 6 and 4 one is in school, the other in preschool, I am able to work a little and bring in some income and slowly but surely the home business is starting to come along too. So I am going to tell you what I dreaded to hear, too wait, you will get there. Yes there is a terrible financial sacrifice and yes a personal one to our egos to stay at home, however the pay off in the long run is high. I hope we will catch up financially, however quite frankly even if I have to work a second job after they leave home to catch up on retirement, that is okay with me too.
Lastly maybe I missed it in the comments, but if you have any sort of religious convictions what about taking Em to church to be socialized. I didn’t for a long time but I did find one we liked and the boys loved it. However you know if that isn’t your thing, I understand, I am not trying to push any beliefs on you. ; )
As others have said, you really need to keep looking. I guarantee you, SAHMs are out there. I’ve lived in small towns and metro areas and have always been able to find them even if it took awhile. Groups like La Leche League, Mothers of Preschoolers, MOMS Club, etc. almost certainly have chapters in your area. There are probably other informal groups you can find through Meetup.org (or start your own). Some of the most intelligent, interesting women I know I met through moms groups.
And seriously, try not to give in to negative pressure to do preschool if you can’t afford it. As a former preschool teacher, I can honestly say an interested, engaged mother is every bit as good as a preschool setting (and in many ways better). Parks, libraries, and playdates with a couple good friends are plenty of socialization for the under 5 set. If you can afford preschool and your child enjoys it, great. But truly it is not a necessity for most kids who have loving, attentive parents. Placing one’s family in financial jeopardy is certainly not a good trade off, no matter how nice the preschool program. Good luck!
I was also going to suggest going online. Here in Baltimore I was very, very lucky to find a listserv of local parents. It has about 500 members–moms and dads who stay home, work p/t, work f/t, etc, but all share ideas, advice, product info, etc. I was lucky to find my playgroup through this list–most of the moms stay home (cost of living is obv lower in Bmore than Brooklyn–that’s why we’re here and not there, though we miss it!) but many work p/t and I am trying to cobble together a freelance career (rough in this economy). Our 18-mo-old also attends daycare but there is no option for p/t, so I think we’re also going to have to pull her out unless something changes. Let me know what you come up with!
(BTW, here is something we struggle with all the time, as our jobs may take us back to New York: How do you afford two kids and stay within the 5 boroughs? With one, sure, you can have a two-bedroom apartment, but with two? The kids can share a room, of course, but the sheer amount of *stuff* would throw us right over the edge! I am curious if this is something you weigh in your decision to stay or go. A post for another day, I guess…)
There is one issue that always gets me stuck about feminism and being a SAHM – and, believe me, I hate myself for even thinking this because I know it sounds judgemental.
Am bracing myself for loads of anger, but here goes – how is allowing yourself to be financially dependent on a man a feminist choice?
I am very curious to know how feminist SAHMs (because really, I know most SAHM moms would call themselves feminist, and I agree with you!) cope with the money issue.
patty, i’d say there are two answers.
first, there is no “her vs him” in a family. the family is one unit. the family is financially dependent upon itself. the family has responsibilities and duties and sources of income and savings and expenditures.
second, even if finances are separated, or if families don’t operate cohesively, feminism isn’t about an Ayn Rand’ian sort of callous independence. It’s about choice. Choosing to take any role in a given interpersonal dynamic (such as a family) is an expression of the kind of responsibility feminism creates.
you are parroting the biggest problem with the 60/70s feminist movement, they seemed to believe that being a mother had no value and that was feminism’s fatal flaw. that there was something inherently wrong with raising kids or maintaining a household as a vocation when the male is out working.
there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that scenario UNLESS the woman is forced into that role against her will or if she is not afforded any other options if she wants them. But that isn’t the case today. Most SAHMs are there totally by choice, but the pendulum has swung so far that most women are forced to work outside of the home for a variety of reasons, leaving their children in the care of others and leaving mothers with an often agonizing daily life as they juggle work and family responsibilities.
is earning a paycheck the only measure of value? i think mothers have been demoralized and marginalized enough in this culture.
feminism was suppose to be about choices. it isn’t about turning women into men or turning them into unrealistic, unattainable super women.
I have one more thing to say on this issue. The money issue really boils down to the family dynamic, the strength of the relationship between the man and woman, and the overall goals and values of the family. For sure, a woman feels somewhat vulnerable being at home and not bringing in an income. And her partner can either reinforce that feeling of vulnerability (and we all know how that can happen. I’ve heard of men who take a highlighter to the credit card statement, who verbally or psychologically demoralize and degrade a woman for being at home, who leave when the consequences of his wife being at home (long hours, no down time, no interest in sex, lack of ability to converse like an adult, etc.) or he can become a true partner with his wife and support the choice for one person to stay home and run the home while the other works outside the home.
I would argue that it takes a feminist MAN to accept and support a woman who chooses to stay home for THEIR children.
Amen, Michele Chaves!
This is such a western (American?) way of thinking… that everything boils down to income and money and blah blah blah. Why shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why shouldn’t we be dependent on the mothers of the world? (Or SAHDs) Because, ultimately, they are the people preparing people for the world. They are creating/molding future doctors, scientists, artists, teachers, mothers, fathers, OR convicts and rapists thieves and lairs.
I believe we don’t put nearly enough worth on early development. Mothers (and SAHDs) should be put on pedestals for the work that they do. In America we don’t give mothers enough payback for having such hard jobs. I am so sick of wealth stopping at cash or paychecks. It’s bullshit. There is so much more to it than that.
Thank you for not taking the hatchets out – what a good discussion!
I think I find this so provoking since financial freedom – the ability to earn money, inherit money, buy a house without a husband’s co-signature (or your father’s!) , open a credit card account without a man’s permission – is something that feminists have fought for well before the 1960s/70s. Obviously families have come a long, long way and life is not about a paycheck (thank goodness) but for many, many years women did have the freedom to consider earning a paycheck at all. I’m glad we all have this freedom of choice today.
It’s funny, I was trying to get a library card the other day and realized that I don’t have any bills being sent (in my name) to our new apartment. So I couldn’t get a freaking library card! Can you believe that?
So, I know what you’re saying, Patty. I apparently need to change that so I can read some books.
And, yes, I agree with Patty, what a great discussion!
I’m just gonna chime back in for two quick things. One, economics drive the argument because in more cases than not economics drive the decisions — or so I’d estimate. Economics and gender politics thus get bound together, with family dynamics twisted in for good measure. That can all be accidental, or it can be a reflection of cultural practice, or it can be both. I offer our household as an example again: if one of us were to stay home, it would have to be my wife, because my earning potential happens to be a little greater at this time. But the one of us who’d *rather* stay home — at least until recently — would have been me. (And it oughtta be OK that she didn’t want to, and it oughtta be OK that I did.) Yet my earning potential isn’t necessarily greater because I’m male, but rather because of the industry each of us is in. And but then none of that matters whatsoever because my earning potential, while the greater of our two, still isn’t enough to get the job done by itself. (And you can roll out a truckload of cutting definitions of manhood into which that fact plays if you like, and I’d suggest they’re every bit as constrictive and unkind and damaging, self-esteem-wise, as traditional definitions of womanhood.)
Last thing is I’d (again) like some citations attached to the bashing of 60s/70s feminism, because I’m not convinced it’s really 60s/70s feminism one should be upset with so much as it is the caricature of 60s/70s feminism that got fabricated in the 80s and 90s, mostly by Republican or otherwise reactionary men. I don’t doubt there were folks who took the opportunity to cast misguided disdain on women who chose not to work (or who just came late to the party), or that the immediate environment that would have surrounded the emergence of the feminist energy from the closet, so to speak, might have *seemed* hostile to those opting to continue in traditional gender roles; but I don’t believe it was a part of the theoretical or spiritual core of the movement. Or at least I’m wondering in what movement texts or episodes it’s revealed as such.
I’m all for attaching value to childcare, BTW. (The market already does this, just not when it’s done by an actual parent.) And I’m all for making a public investment in it. I want that investment, however, to be gender neutral. As many have said, it’s about households and families, however they’re composed.
I’m the daughter of one of those 60s/70s feminists and the messages I got from my mother were that being a SAHM was not as valuable or worthwhile as working, that it was oppressive and an old fashioned ideal that held women back. But by the late 80s and 90s, I think my mother (who is now dead, unfortunately) was a somewhat lonely, empty divorced woman who was looking back and wondering what she sacrificed for those feminist ideas.
I am not sure what my point is here, but I’m saying that as a product of the 70s culture, I got very confused and mixed messages from my adult female mentors and the culture about the role of women and the value of working vs. mothering, etc. And I’m still confused.
I’m an aunt, and have been checking out the world of mom & dad blogs through my sister, who is a mom.
Here in California, a lot of the nannies are Spanish-speaking, from other countries, but there has been a resurgence of college-educated Caucasian nannies recently: gals who decided they like hanging out with kids more than they like the corporate world.
It does seem to happen more with husbands who have high-paying jobs, though.
Definitely agree that childcare is a hugely valuable occupation! I’m a child of the 80s and teen/college student of the 90s and consider myself a feminist, and totally think people should be able to do whatever they want, whether it is working exclusively with one’s children, or in or out of the home, or whatever combination works.
Good luck with your dilemma!
I am a newlywed and would soon like to take the baby journey. I grew up with my mom being a stay home mom and my dream in life is to be one myself. I get a little discouraged when reading this blog. I wouldn’t think being a SHM is the hardest job in the world, but the most rewarding. I hope that I encounter other mothers if and when I get to become a SHM…I can see where it would be lonely to do it alone. The suburban neighborhood where I grew up, all the women were stay home mom’s and would take turns during the week watching the kids, which gave each mom a couple of hours to herself to get things done…the comraderi seems to be important. Do you love living in Brooklyn that much to give up being around other women such as yourself? I live in LI now and think I would meet many a stay home mom at mommy and me classes….I can see where money is a big deciding factor. I think though that your child will be thankful of the time he has with you, I know I was always thankful my mom could do activities with me and go on school field trips and stuff b/c she was home…it was wonderful!