How do I decide to be a homemaker… and feel good about it?

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Vintage "Suzy Homemaker" vacuum from Etsy seller IrvinaVintage
Vintage “Suzy Homemaker” vacuum from Etsy seller IrvinaVintage
I live on the East Coast. My partner lives on the West Coast. So far, the distance has been manageable. Here is the other catch: He was initially the one considering moving, but has incredible career prospects where he is living. One that I have a hard time asking him to give up. One that will bring in enough income that I wouldn’t have to work.

This last point is important because the West Coast doesn’t offer strong career opportunities in my chosen field. Ready for the next catch? I’m still so early on in my career, that if I make the move and stop working now, it’s likely I’ll never be able to build a career in this industry.

The thing is, I think I’m okay with becoming a homemaker! I wish I knew myself a bit better when I made the decision to spend so much time and money on college for a career that, to be honest, I would love to just commit myself to as a volunteer! Knowing myself better now, I think I would be very happy being a homemaker, eventually a stay-at-home mom, and applying my skills as a community leader rather than for a paycheck.

How can I reconcile myself and move past the fears of disappointing those who supported me emotionally and financially through school… fears of not gaining the professional experience I need, should I ever need to re-enter the workforce… and the fear of being financially dependent on someone?

-Aimee

We’ve definitely talked about this from the angle of not liking being a housewife, and the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home dad/homemaker. But we haven’t discussed wanting to be a homemaker, but feeling bad about it at the same time!

For those of you who have made similar decisions, what did you decide? Did it work out the way you hoped/planned? What hardships and kinks did you encounter along the way?

Comments on How do I decide to be a homemaker… and feel good about it?

  1. I’ve been a stay at home mom for the past 7 years. It has and continues to sometimes scare the shit out of me. I am here serving my family because I love it and I love them. I love being able to help with homework and those little moments with my kids and husband. I enjoy having time to breathe and do random projects around the house. In my mind I cannot imagine having someone else there for my kids. Still

  2. I live in DC where many people have multiple degrees and a lot of time invested into a career. When ever anyone decides to make the transition to stay-at-home mom/dad or homemaker this question always comes up. When my own husband decided to stay at home with the kids instead of going back to work we had this conversation. When he was grappling with this I told him that college was one of the tools he used to get a better and happier life. If staying home with our kids makes him happy then he should do it. College was just one of the tools he utilized to get the life he wanted and it doesn’t lock him into any one particular life path.

  3. I chose to be a home maker and I sometimes feel bad about it.

    The job I left to stay home with my baby was just a job, not a career. There was no upward mobility but it was unionized and I’d been there for over a decade, so the pay was very good. But because it was unionized, if I decided after a year I hated being at home, I couldn’t just go back and pick up where I left off. I’d have to start from the bottom in pay and seniority or try to find another job (with no education or skills.) Even though I wanted to stay home, it was a big, scary, *final* decision.

    I’m now a year out and I do not regret staying home, but I do still have feelings about it. I do a lot of volunteer work for a cause I’m passionate about, but it sometimes makes me feel like a cliche: Bored Middle-Class SAHM Who Volunteers Because She Has Nothing Else To Do. While *I* do not believe that only paid work is valuable, I still feel like that’s the general opinion by which my choices are being judged.

    I often feel like I’m not doing enough. Like, to make up for not having to work, I need to be Donna Reed at home (I am so not), Pinterest Mom/Montessori teacher for my child (nope) and contribute the most to my volunteer group (because I don’t have a full-time job like most of the other volunteers.) I feel like, because I am privileged enough to not have to work or worry about money, I owe more to the world in general than just raising a nice kid and recycling. And that can be hard to reconcile.

    A lot of this is my own general anxiety making everything harder than it has to be and I’ve found the most important way to deal with it is to have compassion for myself and to not compare my contributions 1:1 with other people’s. My husband may earn money, but he doesn’t like managing it, so I am responsible for that. Which is an important job even though I don’t get paid for it. And my volunteer work certainly contributes more to the world in general than my paying job ever did.

    I still have insecurities about it, but I’m working on them and in spite of all that, I often wish I had quit sooner. I wonder what I could have done accomplished before I had a small person to chase around all day.

    • Your first paragraph about not being able to return to your old position a year after giving birth really struck me. I’m very lucky to live in the UK where up to 52 weeks maternity can be taken, with legal protection for women so they can return without their jobs being lost or changed (though it can still happen).

      Is there a campaign at all to set up maternity leave in the US? It’s odd that worldwide only there and Papua New Guinea offer no maternity leave at all.

      • We have something called Family Medical Leave which (if you worked enough hours the previous year) gets you up to 12 weeks off during which your job is safe. But they don’t have to pay you for it. And they can make you use your paid vacation time first. It’s definitely not ideal.

        Some of the people campaigning for President (our election is next year) are in favor of mandating 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. There’s a lot of “I shouldn’t have to pay for your choices!” rhetoric that I think gets in the way.

        I was very lucky. I was put on lifting restriction and since my job is very physical, I had to take disability. I was able to get about five months off at 60% of my pay while pregnant and 6 weeks off after my child was born. I was very good at my job and had supervisors from all over the building trying to talk me into moving to their area when I came back from leave. But I wasn’t ready to leave my baby at 6 weeks, so I quit.

        The difference between six weeks and a year is HUGE. I don’t regret choosing to stay home, but if my job was still there for me after a year, I would have seriously considered going back.

        • Thanks for the insight into your experiences Jenny. I hope that Obama’s able to push this through – it would make such a huge difference to so many people.

  4. I am still working for a paycheck outside the home, but I did recently move in with my significant other, who’s paycheck is significantly bigger than mine, and I feel some of my concerns gel with the feelings you are having. You are facing some large life changes as part of moving forward with this relationship and that is always scary, even if the changes are good ones. I found what made the transition easier for me was finding was to ease into it. In your case would it be possible to still look for a paying job after relocating? Even if it’s not in your field? Even if it’s a part of your long term transition to homemaking (which I think for a lot of families having a partner at home just makes sense and is a very valid choice) maybe becoming a homemaker on top of a cross country move is just a lot of changes at once and you will feel more confident if you transition more slowly

  5. I’ve spent the last 4 years finishing my education at university and taking care of the kids and our home meanwhile.
    Now I’m nearing the end of my time as a student, and I am depressed beyond belief. For every year I have had to spend on finishing my university degree, I have come closer and closer to the realization that my financial career and all the fancy academic titles that i can fling around don’t really matter all that much. At least not nearly as much as they did when I was in my early twenties, and I thought that I would revolutionize the world someday. Not. Maybe I have been struck by premature old age at 34, but I feel that I have gained quite a lot of life experience over recent years. It brings perspective to this whole career versus home conflict, that is probably quite common. I think it makes sense to put ones energy where the heart is. If the heart is not in it, it will end up a half-arsed job anyway.
    For me, I am “stuck” in Scandinavia, where it is close to unthinkable to stay at home. So I am envious, of you having that choice, for it is the opening of a world of things to make and do, as much as it might be the end of your career aspirations. I would say; Make peace with your decision, it seems like you are close to getting there already.
    Hyldeblomst

  6. It seems like you partially answered your own question with the idea of being a volunteer. You’ll still be using the skills you learned in college and applying them to something you care about. And, volunteering experience is also useful if you decide to reenter the workforce.

    • Completely agree and was coming here to say that. Volunteer work can absolutely be used on a resume during gaps in paid work and can demonstrate the same skills– organization, time management, work ethic, communication, etc. If you get involved with a volunteer organization and work your way up to a role on the board or something, that can be huge if you one day need to go back to work.

  7. Money and security also plays an important factor into this decision, and while fulfillment should play a huge part in your decision, I’d also suggest having a back up plan for your own finances.

    My mother stayed at home with us after having one of us at 37 and the other at 39 – she’d completed her PhD from MIT, but she preferred to stay at home. She says she regrets nothing, but has had one word of advice for me as I’ve tried to determine what career path I want to take:

    “Assume everything goes to shit and always have an income back up plan. Too many people stay at home with kids or the house and then, if the relationship implodes or if your partner gets laid off, you’re trying to get back into the work force after a decade or two decades of unemployment and you’re essentially screwed.”

    She went on to become a substitute teacher, in part because she had left her field for so long that she didn’t feel comfortable re-entering the industry. Totally an awesome decision for her and it sounds like she’s much happier, but she regrets not having a financial back-up plan. Our extended friend-family has included several people who went from a six (or seven) figure lifestyle to living with two roommates because their household had a sudden income shift and the stay at home partner suddenly had to work. When my mum and dad had relationship challenges in their marriage, there was definitely an unintentional power dynamic at play because one partner brought in all the money. Part of their relationship’s development has been navigating how to keep the other person safe and secure when one person leaving could be financially devastating to the other person.

  8. If you think you’d like being a homemaker, DO IT. I’m a stay-at-home mom now, but I quit my job a couple of months before my son was born. I did this for a few reasons. One was that it was a pretty physically taxing job where I was on my feet for eight hour shifts. Another reason, though, was that it was a job that was really easy to leave. I didn’t love it, it wasn’t a career, and I worked by myself for most of the time so I didn’t even really have friends to leave at work. But the most important reason was that a few times times in my husband and my relationship, I’ve been unemployed for a few months at a time (mainly because we’ve moved kind of a lot in 6 years). And whenever I’ve been unemployed and been able to be a homemaker, I’ve LOVED it. So, give it a try for a few months, and if you hate it, try and find something. The great thing for you is that if you decide to work, you’ll have all the time in the world to figure that out. Live the dream!

  9. You have to recognize several things.
    1. It’s your life. You don’t get a refund on the time you spend unhappy or living for other people, so do what is right for you. If that’s being a homemaker with the man of your dreams, do it. The people who love you want you to be happy, and eventually they’ll see that you are and they’ll be happy for you.
    2. Being able to be someone’s support and being able to parent your children is a gift that so many people will hate you for only out of jealousy. You will make a difference in your family’s lives, and that’s a beautiful thing. Don’t discount your role in your household or say you’re “just” a homemaker.
    3. You’re not done. Just because you leave your current career field to be a homemaker doesn’t mean that you are locking yourself away from all possible work opportunities. Volunteer. Get a job doing something that you thought you’d like but that you never thought would pay enough to be worth it. Learn. Take free classes online and frequent the library. Learn new languages. Pick up new hobbies. Try remote work. Chose to expand yourself as a person, because you’ll get really bored of saying, “My day? Well, I mopped the kitchen and rotated the winter clothes to the back of the closet. That’s about it.” Also, having a strong resume of skills and volunteer work will help you if you need to re-enter the workforce, which you seem concerned about.
    4. This is optional, but I strongly recommend it: require some pay from your partner (separate from any money for the household). Maybe only $100 a month, but if you sock that money away, you can save up a nice cushion. You should always have enough money to move yourself and your children away from your partner if he becomes abusive. You may think it will never happen, and I hope it doesn’t, but providing yourself an out is extremely important.
    Beyond that emergency cushion, use the money to take care of yourself. When you’re a homemaker, your wants and needs are often secondary. Make them important to you still. Use your money to go get a massage when you need it, or just jump in the car and run away for a few days.

    • “You don’t get a refund on the time you spend unhappy or living for other people”

      I should write this on my bathroom mirror so I can see it every morning.

    • I don’t know you but thank you so much for the words (I took the liberty to quote them on my journal). I’ve been a homemaker (and I discover this word today) for some time – with breaks to casual work and study – and I feel happy, my husband has a considerably large income, we move a lot (not cities but countries), don’t have kids and I choose to put my career on hold to actually LIVE with him. I am not done, I know it, but it still hurts me a little when people ask me if I “really just do nothing all day”.

  10. I had a brief period of about four months after moving across the country to be with my higher earning partner where I did stay home. Parts of it were awesome. I exercised every day. The laundry was always done, the kitchen was always clean. I meal planned and coupon clipped and budgeted. I read books and learned about things I was interested in.

    But there were downsides too. It’s hard to make friends in a new place, especially if you’re at an age where most people you’d want to be friends with are off at work all day. A lot of volunteer positions are filled by the elderly, so that’s not always a good way to make friends. So it can be isolating, especially if you’re in a new place with out your own social support network.

    I think it’s different once you have children. there are so many mommy-and-me style groups to introduce you to other sahms that I think it would be easier to meet people in similar circumstances that way.

    Regardless, I wouldn’t feel bad about not using your degree. I’m employed at a job I generally enjoy that has nothing to do with my education, so once you change coasts you might find a paid position doing something you love but don’t even know exists yet!

  11. How nice it is to see my question posted! I submitted this quite a while ago when we were still dating long-distance. I appreciate everyone’s advice and input.

    Everyone ready for an update!? After dating long distance for 18 months and me looking for a job on the West Coast (in and out of my field) he, instead, started his own work-from-home consulting firm and made the move to the East Coast. In the end, its been perfect because our relationship is stronger for closing the distance and my immediate family either already lives out here or are relocating to this coast next summer.

    Its giving me the opportunity to meeting some professional goals at a company I’ve been happy working for. We are still aiming for me to become a homemaker in the next 1-2 years, which will be amazing to take care of myself, my fitness, my family, homeschooling future children, the volunteer projects I would like to dedicate time to, and incoming earning potential that will allow me to work from home.

    Its been such a blessing to see our plans coming together and moving forward with our lives together. I still welcome all of your advice and guidance for my future plans to become a homemaker.

    PS – we got engaged after the move and are tying the knot May 2016 (on the West Coast!).

  12. Awesome to see your update & congrats on the engagement!

    For the future or for other people facing the same dilemma…

    I have my BA and started grad school before realizing that there is a huge difference between what I want to do and what I always felt like I should do. I spent a great deal of my early life trying not to wind up in a life situation like my mother…she’s a wonderful person and I’m so glad she was a SAHM for most of my childhood, but people tend to walk all over her (though she has gotten a bit better about drawing the line of what is/is not acceptable). So my life plan was always to avoid that situation, which meant planning for a great career, not being dependent on anyone (particularly a spouse), etc.

    As I got older, I realized how stressed out and unhappy I was as I pushed myself towards a career that wasn’t rewarding to me…it took a lot of introspection, but decided to start doing things that made me enjoy and appreciate life instead of the logical next step towards a life of work. Being a homemaker is not going to be the right fit for everyone, but here’s what helped me feel good about my decision:

    1. Find a role model. If you don’t know home-makers in real life that you admire and respect, start looking online and follow their blogs. It helps to remind yourself that you can be fierce, a feminist, interesting AND a homemaker 🙂

    2. If you’re the kind of person who gets cabin fever, line up activities. This is even more important if you are relocating and don’t know many people in your new area. Hobbies, volunteer work, or a part time gig (I’m a fan of care.com) will all get you out of the house and interacting with new people. Even if these new people don’t become new best friends, it will still provide variety to your days and give you something to chat with your spouse about when they get home.

    3. Prepare yourself and some easy responses to questions like “what do you do all day?” Even well-meaning people who love you are going to make some pretty rude comments and inquiries. You don’t necessarily owe them any explanation, but most of them are genuinely curious. For those who persist or when you’ve already answered, feel free to be more blunt: “My spouse and I are happy with our current choices, budget and living arrangement, why are you so concerned?”

    • 4. Oh and don’t dwell on all the money you “wasted” for college…it still helped develop you into a well rounded person, led you to where you are currently (and possibly even to meet your spouse) and likely gives you a sense of pride in completing your degree. In all honestly, it’s a little insane that we expect 17-18 year olds to determine the path for the rest of their career before they’ve even figured out who they are as an adult. The student loan payments stink, but it’s certainly not the worst way to spend thousands of dollars.

  13. What a wonderful update!! Congrats!! 🙂

    And I agree with most of the other commenters: Follow your heart. Do what makes you happy.

    I was two years into a four year graduate program that I had been talking about since my sophomore year of college, when I realized that it wasn’t for me and quit. It wasn’t ‘logical’ or ‘practical’ in society’s eyes but it was incredibly freeing and was what made me happy.

    And here we are, nearly two years later, with a beautiful baby girl whom I care for and will homeschool/unschool, stable finances (he makes the money but I make sure it gets spent wisely), a happy marriage, strong connections with our families and an overall very happy life. These are all things that I, being the stay-at-home mom and ‘homemaker’, have mostly facilitated.
    And these ‘roles’ that we have, while traditional and burdened with stereotypes, play to our strengths and create a stronger partnership.

    One last thing about being financially dependent on someone else. When I first quit graduate school but before I got pregnant, I really struggled with this. It took a lot of self reminders and reminders from my husband that what I was doing had value even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. And finally I started to believe it. And now that I have a little daughter to take care of, it is very easy to see that what I do has value. Good luck!

  14. I think ultimately, it’s about three things: your personal happiness, trust, and risk comfort. Me, I’d never be happy in a million years not working and earning money. But, if I were to lose my job for a period, I also trust my husband to be really supportive through that and be able to give me what I need. HOWEVER, I do not trust life. And by that I mean that I don’t trust that nothing bad will happen to him ever (like a car accident, for example) such that I would need to support us, at least for a time. That’s the thing with a single income: it’s inherently riskier, even when you trust your partner to be supportive and not run out on you. So if you would be happy staying home and you trust your partner, then you just have to ask yourself whether you are comfortable with the risks that are inherent in a single-earner situation, especially one in which you may end up in a position of not being employable in your chosen field ever again.

  15. I was a stay-at-home mom for years. My marriage fell apart after 19 years. I was left wishing I had done something all along to stay employable and retain the sense that I could always support myself. I ended up OK because I have an advanced degree and someone took a chance on me. I’m very sure that I stayed in my marriage longer than I should have because I had been out of the workforce so long. I would suggest finding something you love and doing it part-time for balance.

  16. OP said: “How can I reconcile myself and move past the … fears of not gaining the professional experience I need, should I ever need to re-enter the workforce …”

    Since others several others have offered great advice on other concerns you’ve posted, I won’t bother. But you mentioned being concerned about not being able to re-enter the workforce, should you choose. Volunteering can be an excellent addition to your resume, particularly if you can work into taking on some leadership roles. I don’t know what your career field is, but grant-writing, volunteer coordination, organizing events, teaching, fundraising, etc will all look fantastic on a resume, and will fill in the dreaded “unemployed gap”. I know several moms who chose to start or work at non-profits during their stay-at-home time, which allowed them precious time with their new babies AND to stay competitive in their chosen career fields. In fact, several of those moms loved it so much, they decided to stick with it full-time. Staying at home (with or without a child) does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

  17. I know this is a few days later, but as I see your update, I still want to mention one thing: pre-nup! (You can even call it a pre-marriage agreement if you don’t want the terrible baggage the term carries.) I agree with the others recommending setting aside an emergency fund and volunteering, but in a poor economy, those won’t get you much cushion long-term. A good pre-nup will take into account the value of what you contribute to the partnership that isn’t measured by a standard paycheck, and can also help you talk over important things before you make the leap, like whether you will have an agreed-upon slice of his salary to use as you want, or if you will have free access to all his accounts, as well as other things like expectations for how vacation time will be spent or how duties will be split. Couples in most other developed countries take for granted that they will have some kind of contract like this; it’s only in the silly USA that we have the notion that having a pre-nup somehow “jinxes” the marriage.

  18. Time spent becoming educated is never wasted. I worked crazy hard, 60 hour weeks plus a full load of classes, to obtain my education. I am currently a stay at home mom and LOVE it! I might not use my Advertising degree much, but I am the CEO of this household and take pride in running my shit well.

    I just read about a study the other day that a child’s education level is directly linked to the mother’s. The more educated the mother, whether utilizing a degree or not, the more educated the child became.

  19. A lot of people obtain degrees then go into completely different career fields. Do what you love, and fortune will follow!

  20. Since you’re lucky enough to be able to do this, I would encourage you to volunteer in a capacity that helps women who aren’t so lucky. Maybe volunteering with an organization that provides free childcare to struggling single mothers or works with victims of domestic violence, just to name a couple of opportunities.

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