Stay at Home Spouse.

01 September 2011

A few months ago, I read a post {of a blogger I truly like} about what it means to be a stay at home spouse.  She was lamenting having to pick up her husband’s dirty clothes.  I cringed and paused and wondered what other stay at home spouses think.  Is it seriously expected of her to clean up his clothes?  That post, plus a conversation with a new stay at home mom about her decision to leave her career {hi Karri!} did inspire me to want to share my own ideas and experiences of what it means to be a homemaker, a stay at home spouse, and mom.  This is how I deal on a daily basis and still {mostly} keep my sanity.

  1. I am not a maid.  Finn is responsible for cleaning up his dishes, putting his toys away, and doing chores like helping me put clean silverware away or taking his folded laundry and putting it away.  It is my job to teach him these things, not to do them for him.  Dave helps around the house just as much as I do… some days infinitely more.  He is an adult.  It is not my responsibility to pick up his dirty clothes from the floor and throw them downstairs, he doesn’t leave wet towels laying on the bed, he’s QUITE capable of doing dishes and often does.  Being a homemaker doesn’t mean being treated like the sole housecleaner by your family, everyone can and should participate in cleaning up after themselves.  Your children’s future spouses will also thank you for instilling this in your children.  {Thanks Sue + Dave!}
  2. It is not his money, it is our money.  Dave and I have only gotten into one argument ever about his bringing home the bacon.  He told me once {to be fair we were in a heated political argument at the time} that I was voting his money away.  His money?  We now laugh about it as one of the most absurd arguments we ever had, but it did open a valuable discussion.  He has never, aside from that moment, ever thought of his salary as his money or treated it as such.  He puts away enough retirement cash for two, we make joint decisions about the big purchases, and we also both still maintain separate accounts in addition to our joint accounts.  I handle the bill paying & taxes because he doesn’t really like the financial detail stuff, but he has access to everything and it’s my job to let him know where our accounts stand.  As an aside, my former boss was a financial big wig, his wife is a stay at home spouse.  They realized at one point that if something happened to him, she would be screwed because she had zero credit in her name.  Even though in the event of something happening to him she would be left with an obscene amount of money and would still not need to work, she had nothing solely in her name, not even a credit card.  Needless to say, they remedied that quickly.  It’s important for you to have accounts and credit in your name whether you have an income or not.
  3. I take time for myself.  I go out to lunch or dinner with my friends, I get a pedicure once a month, I read, I have adult conversations, I blog, I do things just for myself.  It makes me a better parent.  It makes me a happier spouse.  It makes me a more complete person to have things beyond my family.  Even if they will always come first in my eyes, I still need things for myself.  This one was the hardest for me to figure out.  I felt guilty. I felt like my entire world needed to revolve around my family and let’s face it, it mostly does, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve things for myself.  I do.
  4. We don’t just ‘make it work’.  Most couples can figure out how to swing it so that one spouse can stay home.  There are people with a much smaller income than us who do.  It’s not about the money.  It’s a matter of learning how to make it work.  You can stop travel.  You can pay off all your debt and never step foot in Target again.  You can make living cheaply an art form.  You could live without a car.  You could sit at home all day.  The thing is, ‘making it work’ might make you totally miserable.  You have to enjoy the compromise and only you and your family can decide what the trade off might be.  For us, giving up travel completely wasn’t an option but, cutting back?  Sure, we could handle that.  I don’t have the time or energy to make my own clothes or be an extreme couponer.  We like to go out and I like being able to buy a $200 dress.  And we weren’t willing to compromise our retirement savings either.  So, how do we swing it?   Our mortgage is miniscule and our cars are paid off.  Staying in a smaller house and driving cars that were paid off was something we were willing to do in order for me to stay home.  If both Dave and I would be miserable in a small house or weren’t able to fully fund our retirement or never got to travel, it wouldn’t be worth it for our family.  You have to still be able to ENJOY your life, even with the compromises.
  5. It’s a choice not a requirement.  It is a choice to stay home, a choice I am thankful to be able to make.  The tough days.  The easy days.  I choose this every single day.  The day I wake up and don’t make that choice is the day I start applying for jobs.  Maybe it will be never and maybe it will be next week when that happens.  Staying home works for some parents and would make others go batty, you have to make the choice for yourself.   

Look, I don’t pretend to get it right all of the time.  I screw up in the parenting department, my house isn’t always company ready, there are times when sex just isn’t on the agenda and I’ve been in my yoga pants all day.  I don’t even do yoga.  You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to do what you can do.

If you stay home, tell me what it’s like at your house.  If you don’t stay home, tell me what you think it might be like if you did.



Unknown said...

OH, my god. I don't know how this happened, but your post is the answer to my post. Reading your words has helped me so much. Thank you, Michelle, for writing (again) exactly what I needed to read.

Tricia said...

It sounds like you have a great perspective on staying home and I wish that I could have read this post about six years ago. I never planned on being a stay at home mom, but my son was a really sick baby and I just needed to be home with him. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to be with him. I'm glad that I am the person who knows the most about this little person. But staying at home with him and having little other human contact very nearly drove me insane--and my husband might argue that I was/am insane. Six years into this parenting thing, I can see ways that I could have made it easier on myself. I should have reached out to other moms (though in my defense, I did try / I had a chronically ill child who could never go out without getting sick / I live in a tiny, ridiculous little town where no one will talk to me because I didn't grow up here). What did help me was reading blogs and getting crafty and finding a work-from-home job. And now with my son just beginning full day school, I have a chance to decide what to do next. It's terrifying and wonderful, but whatever it is, I hope that I can find the sense of balance that you have in your life.

Jennifer Jackson said...

Thank you for your thoughts on being a stay at home spouse. I struggled for so many years and it started to turn around last year when I went back to school. Now when I finish I feel like I have something else to offer and I have found a better place for me. I was always trying to make it work, but it wasn't for me. Now with two part time jobs, school and homeschooling the kids I have more than enough on my plate and looking forward to just being home again. This time around I think I will appreciate it more.

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

I love how you have broken this down. Good things for me to remember when I become a stay at home mom! Which I hope to do soon. :)

Unknown said...

WOW! Such a great post.
#1 I need to do something about. My 3 year olds room is a complete diaster and he he only picks up when he wants to. ANd I do mostly all the house work/cleaning. My husband will do laundry every once in awhile but doesn't put any of it away and that's the hardest part in our house, he does manage to get his clothes in the hamper. Let me tell's hard! I always feel our house is a mess and it's so hard to clean with the kids running around. In my husbands defense he does wake up at 3am and works 10-12 hours on most days and is exhausated by the time he gets home....I am not making any excuses;)
#2 I have a hard time with this. My husband sees it as "our" money but I feel so guilty when I buy something for myself and when I do it's usually when we are together and he tells me to buy it. one of my very close friends always tells me I am doing the hardest job there is and deserve to treat myself (currently working on seeing it like that).
#3 again I have a hard time with this one too. I rarely get any "me" time. ANd when I do get it it feels good and I feel recharged. When things start getting crazy I feel overwhelmed like my head is going to explode. I know I need more of this but I don't see it happening anytime soon.
#4 we feel the same way. We want to do things and have fun in life. My husband's father died when we were seniors in HS, so he feels we need to enjoy life because you never know when it will be taken away from you.
#5 I am so glad I made the choice to stay at home. I never thought I would ever want to but there was no way I was leaving my baby at 4 months old. I am so thankful I can stay home. Even though I complain somedays I wouldn't have it any other way.
OMG! look at that, I rambled on and on here!

WhitMc said...

Such a fantastic post. This is the first post of yours I read (I linked to you through a comment on The Scribble Pad).

In my family we are flipped--I work and my husband stays at home with our daughter, and so far, we are both incredibly happy. Figuring out the spouse balance is tricky and something we are still working on. He has been home since June, when the school year ended, so we have been doing the dance for about 3 months and are just beginning to find a rhythm. The funny thing we realized was that he was trying to do all of the "house" chores during the day, like laundry, dishes, etc. and then the "man" chores on the weekend--lawn mowing, serious home repairs, etc. And that did not work, because then he literally was doing everything! So we are finding how to balance it all between us so that we both feel like we are contributing to the family equally.

And your point about "our" money is spot on. We are the same way and I think it would be difficult to have a mutually respectful relationship if one person got to "borrow" the other person's money. That's just awkward.

Jamie @ charmingly ordinary said...

Amen, sister. I think your house is a lot like MY house.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am lucky. I get to stay home and work. I am a nurse and work weekends. I work every weekend, so that can sometimes be a downer. We need my income, so it is a way to have the best of both worlds. I get to know what it is like to be a full-time mommy, and get to keep my foot in the work door. It is what keeps me sane.

PS. I do not do my husbands laundry. I have a hard enough time keeping up with three girls.

Anonymous said...

I, like it seems everyone else who has posted, am incredibly grateful that you took the time to write this!

Never in my life did I imagine I would be a stay at home mom, but it seemed right once I was pregnant.

Now though, there are times where I feel so lost in my new role! I was so used to taking care of myself, providing for myself (even in a relationship), and cleaning up after myself, that now being a SAHM is like an alien world! I have two more people to think about!

But I love the way you outlined everything (especially the 'our money' part, which I struggle the most with!) and made it clear that you are just as important as the person who 'brings home the bacon'.

Keep being awesome!

@JessEsco said...

Fantastic post as always. It was awesome staying home with Ava when she was younger. Then it wasn't so much and I started working. But it's what works for us right now. Who knows what the future brings, but at the end of the day you're right: it's about choices and doing what's best for both of you (and of course the kids).

Meg said...

I love this! And I'm pretty sure I love Dave too :)

Joanna said...

Love, love, LOVE this post! So very true. ALL OF IT!!

Carrie Davis said...

Really good post. I made the choice to stay at home a year and a half ago and I'm so glad I did. Does it mean I will be in this small house forever? yes. Does it mean I won't have a shiny new car? Yes. But, it means my husband has a happy wife - not a stressed mess. (most of the time anyway. :) ) But, like you, we enjoy travel and buying nicer things every once in a while. We chose house and cars to "sacrifice".

Just A Normal Mom said...

A-men. I've worked part time since my son was a baby. We drive paid-for cars and don't have a huge glamorous house. But we are happy, and it works for us.

Emily said...

Not a stay-at-home, never have been, and hopefully never will be. If I were, there would be a lot of stabby feels swirling around. I would go crazy (ok, craziER) and would likely sell my children on the black market. We would also be homeless, but that's beside the hypothetical point.

Unknown said...

Wow, thank you so much for leaving such a kind comment on my blog this week because I'm so glad it led me to your blog! I really loved this post! I can totally relate to everything that you said. We too have made some sacrifices and cut-backs so that I can stay home but that we're still comfortable and able to do what works for us. And it's most certainly OUR money and not his. I find that if we stay in constant communication about our budget, our goals, and our needs, we stay on track! Great post!

Krista said...

I stay at home. My husband works from home. We have 4 kids and life is crazy. My husband helps out a lot. At first he expected a Donna Reed, but he got a Lynette Scavo. What has changed him over time, is him being in charge of them while I go out shopping or getting a pedi. He helps out whenever he gets the chance, whether its putting the kids in bed or doing the dishes. He cooks often, which is a blessing because I hardly have the time or energy. We have been teaching the kids to take care of their things like making the bed , cleaning their bathroom, putting their laundry away, ect. Because of the kids learning how to do these things and my husband pitching in and working at home we are able to function.

Lisa said...

I love this Michelle! You are so smart. :) I agree with everything you've written here and AMEN especially on item 1. I am lucky because my husband is very good about picking up after himself but often he will just pick up after the kids too, instead of teaching them a valuable lesson. So we're working on that (ie, I'm telling him NOT to clean up and having him ask our older son to help).

Love the monthly pedicure idea too... I am not consistent on this and really have no excuse not to be!

And yes, I'm a SAHM. We have 2 kids, a dog, and a pretty big house to keep clean. We are fortunate that we can afford to save adequately, pay for the house and have money left over for a couple trips/vacations a year. Savings is my main thing though. I'm the saver, my husband is the spender. It works... most of the time. :)

Katie @ Modern-Day Family said...

ok so this is my first time visiting and I love you. period. subscribing immediately!

Stephanie said...

I loved this post!! I am lucky in the fact that I get to work from home 3 days a week so I honestly feel like I have the best of both worlds! I can spend my at home days with my kids, work while they are sleeping and after my husband gets home. But I loved this post because you said exactly what I was thinking! Just because I am home doesn't mean its my job to clean the house! And I need adult time too!
Thanks so much for writing it!

Stacy Kaye said...

This is a great post, Michelle!

Kev does ALL of his own laundry. Every single bit of it. He also does towels. I love it! He is amazing at doing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning up the table-it gets piled with massive amounts of crapola and he has this crazy ability to make it all just disappear! I don't know what I would do without his help! I love that we are PARTNERS!!

As for the money thing, that is the exact reason we put our cottage in only my name!

Great post...awesome!

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