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The Problem With Stay-At-Home Moms

Travis Agnew Family 24 Comments

My wife went with some friends this weekend to see the movie, Moms’ Night Out.  She enjoyed the movie, but as a stay-at-home mom, I think she simply enjoyed the night out more.

This is the synopsis of the movie:

All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and fun – a long-needed moms’ night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation, and food not served in a bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for a few hours … what could go wrong?

I try my hardest to provide Amanda to have time away to do things she enjoys.  She loves her job, but it is a very demanding job.

Being a homemaker is one of the most thankless jobs anyone can have.

While many people have loved the movie and can relate to it, it seems to have a different impact on others.  One report stated:

Scores of Hollywood movie critics have condemned the movie, which opened last Friday, taking particular issue with the notion of stay-at-home moms.

Christy Lemire of rogerebert.com called “Mom’s Night Out” “depressingly regressive and borderline dangerous,” adding that it “peddles archaic notions of gender roles.”

Newsday critic Rafer Guzman called it “unintentionally grotesque” and “worthy of damnation.”

The Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor pondered why the central character, Allyson (portrayed by Sarah Drew), “doesn’t just hire a nanny, find a job and get out of the house.”

TheWrap.com writer Inkoo Kang called both the movie and Allyson “anti-feminist” and said her “lack of a profession consigns the character into Eisenhower-esque irrelevance.”

And Neil Genzlingermay of the New York Times concluded that Allyson is “an insult to the millions of women who have much more to deal with.”

But are these reviews a punch-in-the-face to the millions of women who stay at home to raise their families?

The most recent data from the Census Bureau shows that the number of stay-at-home moms has increased in the U.S.; in 2013, it was reported to stand at around 5 million. Twenty-four percent of married-couple families with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mom, up from 21 percent in 2000.

I am not here to discuss the quality of the movie.  I have not seen it and cannot give a fair evaluation.

I am here to discuss the irony attached to those statements above.  A basic understanding of the fight for women’s rights should remove this conversation altogether.

Women’s Rights

The battle for women’s rights in this country (which was a very good battle that needed to be fought) sought to provide women the same freedoms that men had.  It was a fight for the freedom to vote, to be employed in whatever vocation they so desired, and to be paid fairly and equally as a man would be paid for the same job.

While there are still battles to be fought, the war has been won on the side of equality.  Are there abuses?  Are there unfair stereotypes?  Is there still unjust treatment?  Sure, but it is nowhere as bad as it used to be.

The blatant irony of women being disgusted by the Moms’ Night Out movie is that they are denying certain women the freedom for which they fought.

Think about it: women fought hard not necessarily for the ability to become doctors or lawyers or CEOs.  The fight was for women to work at whatever job they so desired.  The fight was for them to get paid at a salary for which they approved.  The fight was to obtain the freedom that they deserved.

And guess what?  Stay-at-home moms have that freedom, and they aren’t complaining.  It’s their choice.

When you ridicule a talented, smart, gifted, passionate, hard-working woman just because she has chosen to use her 9-5 at a job that you wouldn’t want to do (or believe that you couldn’t do) actually does more to hurt women’s right than it does to help them.

It’s a shame for all the progress that we have made in this country in the area of women’s rights that women would tear down other women for the choice and passionate commitment to a job that they feel called to and for which they love.  What blatant disregard for the progress we have made when we demean a woman and her free choice to work at this job.

The Only Unacceptable Job for a Woman

Notice no one is upset that women want to work in other vocations – it is simply this particular job that disgusts them.

No one is demeaning the woman who uses her body to sell goods for a corporation.  No one is blasting the female workers who are neglecting their husbands and children so they can climb the corporate ladder.  No one is criticizing the actress being filmed performing intimate acts with a man with whom she has no relationship.

Our country has turned its back on women who desire to work relentlessly at making one’s home a refuge for those she loves the most.  You want to know what is wrong with America?  Look no further!

It is purely a travesty when we humiliate, disregard, and criticize the women that are nurturing children not because they have to but because they get to.

Before anyone tramples me, I know that everyone can’t stay-at-home.  That’s not the point I am making.  I am trying to give credit to my wife and 5 million other women who have made countless sacrifices to do an incredible work that few appreciate.  Honestly, I would be scared if they all didn’t show up for their job today!  Not just for what that would mean for the home but for the fabric of our society.

I do not believe every woman needs to stay at home or even can stay at home, but I do believe that those who have made that choice deserve the respect of those who haven’t.

Why Moms Stay-At-Home

My wife and her friends who viewed that movie did not choose their vocation carelessly.  They are not lazy.  They are not incompetent.  They were not bad at their previous jobs.  Quite the opposite, actually.  These ladies are some of the most gifted, educated, and hard-working women I have ever known.

I can still remember the day we cleaned out Amanda’s classroom.  There is a picture that makes me tear up every time I see it as the two of us and a 2-month-old baby packed up boxes in her music portable outside of the elementary school where she taught.  We never anticipated her staying at home with our firstborn, and yet we felt compelled to otherwise.  It was hard.  She walked away from a job she loved.  She was finally getting the room and the equipment that she had been promised and that she had dreamed of for years.  And with all these things finally coming together, she walked away.

She’s not alone.  These women accompanying her that night (and many other homemakers that I know) are some of the best you can find!

These women were at the top of their classes.  They graduated with honors.  They were presidents of organizations.  They were winners of accolades and deserving of promotions, and yet, they walked away.  Not because a tyrant of a husband forced them.  Not because they felt pressure to (quite the opposite in most situations).  Not because they wanted to lie around the house all day (which is a laughingstock to me).

They walked away from very good, promising, and rewarding careers for another one for which they felt called.

Like every other person, they go to work some days and dream of spending their time doing something else.  There are rewarding days, but they are scattered among many discouraging and challenging days.  And yet, they continue to do it because they feel called to do it.  While the reasonings vary, they feel called to it.  And they have that freedom.  And they deserve that freedom.  And who are you to question them on that?  You don’t have that “right.”  It’s their right.

Their education is reaping benefits that aren’t as easy to graph as other work endeavors.  Their time spent in daily tasks is an endless cycle of monotony some days.  They never officially “clock out” of their job.  Even when they try to relax at home, they are staring at their workplace.  They will never ever be shown the gratitude that is due them.  And there is not a corporate budget that I know of that could afford the job that they do.

And yet they still showed up for work this morning.

So, as one American to another, will you leave stay-at-home moms alone?   Let them do their job.

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Travis AgnewThe Problem With Stay-At-Home Moms

Comments 24

  1. Kristen DeJesus

    I have days where all I want is an adult conversation away from little people. But, I am a stay at home mom by choice, and I will NEVER regret my choice. I went back to work for a small period of time when my oldest was about 18 months. Then again when my middle was 9 months old. Those are two of my biggest regrets. I am still at home with my almost 3 year old. I can’t get back those times I missed with my first two, but I will never look back and say “Man, I wish I worked while my youngest was a baby.” It is the most demanding, tiresome, unappreciated “job” out there, but it is so worth it. Thank you, for shining light on this most misunderstood “job”!

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  2. Chris Caldwell

    Thank you for your well-thought validation of stay-at-home moms. I have never, not once, regretted the decision my husband and I made to have our children nurtured by ME, and not a paid caregiver. My husband is in law-enforcement, so the financial reality is that our decision was anything BUT easy, and we had to make a lot of material sacrifices to make it work, but we hung in there. Our daughter is now 23, and teaches kindergarten. Our son is graduating high school on June 4. I have so many memories of the time I got to have with both of them, and I wouldn’t trade a single moment for all the money in the world. When God gives us the gift of a child, it comes with the responsibility of stepping up. Too many parents abdicate their role to someone else, and society pays the price. It makes my heart happy to know there are still young parents out there who are willing to put the needs of their family ahead of their own by making the sacrifice to keep one parent at home. Sometimes it may seem financially impossible, but if WE were able to do it, then just about anyone can. It may mean some Herculean effort, and call for painful sacrifices, but it can be done, and it IS worth it.

  3. Faith

    I chose to take care of my boys….and will absolutely never regret that choice!!! They are wonderful men of honor…and I am so thankful for that gift. Wish all moms could be so blessed!

  4. LRF

    I am so thankful for this article you wrote! I am a stay at home mom and I chose to do so. My husband works a full and part time job but he supports my decision and though I am very tired and want to pull my hair out some days, I won’t quit this job that I am doing~and it IS a job. My boys are very naughty at times & yet they are also very wonderful. I live for the times when my youngest says things like” i like curling up on the couch with you mom (for a special video time or when we read books). Or when my oldest who is now in school full time comes running full tilt to greet me when I pick him up from school or comes to be hugged in the morning. I love my God given gifts and even when I think I can’t do it,somehow I do. I just want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU for validating what women who stay at home do and that it is a choice and that is a job~Those reviews are degrading by the way~
    So, blessings on you and on your wife who left the teaching job of other children to go teach her own precious gifts.

  5. RJ

    I seriously wish people could just enjoy the comedy. It was hilarious and had a GREAT message to anyone who watched it mom’s or not. It wasn’t just about mom’s. it was about how wherever you are in life God gives you grace!

  6. courtney

    Saw the movie and the screen writers really could have used your help to not only to address the current warped .perspectives of motherhood but also to encourage us full time mothers. Thankyou.

  7. Jana

    You know, we have forgotten one thing, both in the article and in the comments.
    I REALLY appreciate my husbnad who works hard and long hours (for 33 years) to make sure that I can stay home. He is my hero! Without him our 6 children would not have had that blessing of having a stay at home mom.

  8. Amy Jones

    Last summer my husband got transferred to a different state with his job. I left a job that I LOVED and coworkers that were like family. I was a mom baby nurse. 3 weeks before he got the news that he was being transferred I was honored at the hospital as a nominee for nurse of the year. I say all this so you know how much I loved what I did. Since we have moved I have had the opportunity to be home with my daughter and to homeschool her. As much as I loved my job as a nurse I love being home and taking care of my family so much more. This is the job I was born to do.

  9. S and C

    I loved the article. I too, had a job that I adored. Could not wait to get there every morning. If I had to work late, there was no problem as it was literally a joy to do. My husband and I always knew that we wanted a family that included children. That was our choice. And the minute that we became pregnant, it was time to give up the notion that my body only belonged to me, and that my life was my own. To make that decision to have a child meant that as a couple, we were going to put away selfish endeavors, and raise our children in the knowledge that we wanted to whole heartedly do our jobs to be worthy of the name ” mom” and “dad”. The choice was NEVER a sacrifice. My husband, a gem of a man, took on another part time job to support us all with no complaints. We never went into it with delusions of grandeur that we could “have it all”, (kids and personal pursuits) because we defined having it all as having each other. Bless the single moms and moms that work to help support their families for their needs and not the luxuries. What a badge of honor they bare. But I could never understand working moms who work for self gratification and luxuries as they could never make up for “being there”. If you have to pass your children on to others who will raise and teach them, then why did they have them in the first place? I see children as blessings that we have chosen to bring into this world. Why choose it if one cannot give the same dedication, time and effort as they do to personal pursuits? My hats off to all parents who seek to care for their children and make THEM their choice.

  10. K

    I am 51 years old and a nurse. I was able to leave my profession for a period of years to raise my children. It doesn’t matter how many media outlets are critical of stay-at-home moms, I will always treasure those years. They were fun and some of the best of my life! If you’ve made this choice, please ignore the critical comments and cherish these years…you never get them back.

  11. followmysoldier

    I’m going to insert my opinion. Moms want two things, and I am going to make this a big general statement because I believe it is true of every mom out there. We want to have something for ourselves and we want to give everything we have to our families. The problem is that when you’re giving everything to something, there is not usually very much left for the other. I believe that every mom whether they stay home or work faces this struggle (which is essentially what this movie was really about) between the love of being a mom, and the desperate need to be your own person separate from your family too (if only for a moment). Working moms have to deal with the fact that they cannot be around for everything, which is difficult to face because we do regret the things we miss sometimes. SAHM moms deal with the struggles of being so-and-so’s mom, John’s wife, or Ms. PTA and sometimes completely losing our sense of self in the process. I have had periods in my life where I have been both and I can attest that each time it was the same difficult balance to keep. NO side is right or wrong, us moms are all out trying to achieve the same thing. It isn’t a battle, or anti-feminist. I wish we would all stop trying to pit these two groups of women against each other, and understand that we all have the same desires as moms that we can bond over together instead.

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  13. Margo

    You are ignoring a critical difference between a characterization in popular media and a personal decision of an individual. We may all be able to agree that a woman (frankly, a person–men should be able to choose their occupations, including staying at home–as well) should be able to make ANY choice about what to do with her life, and yet criticize portrayals of those choices in the media. A movie can portray a woman in a way that is archaic and offensive, and we can RECOGNIZE it as so, without thereby casting aspersions on women who make the same choice. Your post runs the two issues together, but they are VERY separate. And, please keep in mind, it’s not only women who choose to stay home. Your post is also incredibly conservative and narrow-minded in that it only references women as primary caregivers.

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      Travis Agnew

      The reason I posted on mothers is because that is what the movie was about and that was what the attack was about. So it was focused due to the focus that the media was putting on it. I was responding to their take.

    2. trina

      This wasn’t a response to a portrayal of motherhood by the movie – he specifically didn’t talk about the movie at all. He was responding to the reviews themselves, which do insult women who choose to stay home. I didn’t read it as conservative and narrow at all. He only referenced women as primary caregivers because women are being insulted by the movie reviewers for being primary caregivers. I find it ironic that these exact same people – who declare that our entire society is kicked back to the 1950s if a few women work in their homes rather than an office building – would totally celebrate a MAN for doing the exact same thing. “What a wonderful enlightened man to raise his children at home while his wife pursues a career!” But a woman doing it? Well, we’ve already seen THOSE responses.

  14. Marisa

    I LOVE this blog post. I actually had a friend from high school who found out that I had gotten married and started my family all she could say was, “what a shame, she was so talented.” REALLY!?!? I love being a stay at home mom because I get to enjoy watching my children and helping them grow. A friend of mine asked a question on Facebook, “what if everyone in the world got paid in hugs?” to try to get people thinking. All I could say was, “I do!”

  15. Holly

    “I do not believe every woman needs to stay at home or even can stay at home, but I do believe that those who have made that choice deserve the respect of those who haven’t.”
    Pretty much sums it up!

  16. Jennifer

    Each woman, each family has to make the choice according what is best for them. I have been in a position of not having a choice to work and also, having a choice to work. When I have been fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my children, I have been most grateful, but I always chose to be a work-at-home mom. It’s just who I am, but staying at home is most definitely a full-time job and I commend each and every woman who does it. It takes a brilliant woman to keep all things family running smoothly. It takes a brilliant woman to work and raise kids. Either way, time with my children is priceless, and so is the time that they see me as a hard working woman who can adapt to whatever is needed. As the mother of four daughters, I always hope to find and teach the lesson to relay to them that they can be whatever their passion leads them to be, and they should figure out the direction they choose, and then – and only then, should they choose a partner that can accept and support them in that journey.

  17. Shakelover1

    This is not exactly what is being said in this article, but I want to say that my mom is a working mom and has been for all my life (despite her want to be a home-mom) which has been for seventeen years; she has been divorced from my dad since I was five years old, so there has really only been her, there have been friends that have come and lived with us for a time which was kind of nice, but I missed, I think, a lot of nurturing, don’t get me wrong my mom has taught me a lot, I just think I would of wanted to have some sort of a stay home somebody – whether mom or dad during my childhood; I agree that people shouldn’t judge home moms on choosing to be so, especially with the anti-feminism attack. Women just tend to have the nurturing, patient trait so that’s what reason why women are usually the ones who stay at home. I personally am not a patient person and find it hard to raise children, but someday if I have children I would want to have time home with them.

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