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Stay-at-home women who are not moms — do you respect them?

Categories: Money, Parenting & Family, Relationships & Marriage


There is an interesting article over at Babble about a new, apparently growing group (I have nothing to back up this claim, it is from the article) of well-educated, married women who are choosing to stay at home and NOT having kids. They pursue their interests, passions, creative outlets, or just focus on managing everything about their household life. According to one researcher mentioned in the article, these women are the new status symbol for their husbands because “their lifestyle alerts the rest of the world that the husband makes enough money for the both of them.”

I am always weary of taking groups of people and passing general judgment upon them — every one of us has a unique situation. But I found this too interesting to not mention here. First off, I don’t know any such women — do you? Maybe I am not high-class enough but all the married women I know who don’t have kids work. I do know one who took a year off from her banking job to write a book — but to do that, she and her husband used their combined savings. And I think writing is work, actually. These status symbol women described in the article are not women I’ve met.

Secondly, I have to admit that as I was reading the article my first feeling was that of envy: I wish that before we had our daughter I had the luxury to not bust my butt in the office for a while and instead, improve my horrible painting skills, write more books than just one, travel to Israel to stay with my grandmother and other family there for a while, and grow my collection of I-rock-these recipes. (I would certainly NOT stay around the house cleaning and cooking, and getting ready a cold beer for my husband after he came home from work.) Being the primary breadwinner, that was never an option, but if I could have it, would I take it? Maybe, and I’d hate for anyone to consider me a status symbol for doing it.

Do you know married women who don’t have kids and choose not to work, in the traditional sense of working? If you could have done it, before having kids, would you?

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18 comments so far...

  • My sister-in-law was one of those at one time. The working women in the family did not understand it because we thought she would eventually get bored! I think even though some looked down upon her for doing that, I think it was more because of the attitude of, ‘hmmm…must be nice to live off your husband’s money and just play all day.’ Not the nicest, I know, but reality.

    Wendy  |  August 7th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

  • Because of where I grew up, the only ones like that that I’ve ever know were women who had only a high school education or less. In addition, there really were very few jobs for women in my home locality. Nowadays, the married women without kids that I know all work. 1st off, they don’t have the luxerary of staying at home, and 2nd, most wouldn’t do it in the first place. I guess it has everything to do with self-respect. I certainly couldn’t. There’s no way I’d EVER dream of doing this, because I was taught you pull your own weight, and that includes contributing to the household. IMHO, and this is strictly me, women who do this are not only putting themselves in jeporday in the long run financial wise, but to me are sponging off their mates. Sorry, but I refuse to be a leech.

    SAHMs are one thing, because of the individual decision regarding children. But if there’s no kids involved, to not contribute to the household is selfish and inmature and feeding into the chauvinist view of “keep’em at home where they belong” and “men are smarter than women” BS.

    Jane  |  August 7th, 2008 at 9:48 pm

  • One of my old friends recently got married and she is still in school, getting her Masters. She worked before her wedding and now she is not working. I think it’s because her husband does not let her. She likes working but says that the reason she is not working now is not because she wants to spend time with her husband and wants to be there for him.
    As for me, I have been working from the day I turned 16. I graduated HS in 3.5 years and earned my BA degree in 3.5 years. I have got my first full time job in Corporate American, two months before I turned 21. Got married at age 19 and became a mom at 25.
    I can’t live life without earning money. I have to have a paycheck no matter how big or how small. I can’t stand the thought of asking someone for money or not working. I feel the need to earn my own paycheck, buy my own clothes, shoes, etc.
    But there are times I stop and wonder, where the hell am I rushing. How about I slow down, and then I do and I go crazy. I go back to work and I feel good.

    Vera Babayeva  |  August 7th, 2008 at 10:44 pm

  • I am not sure why we enjoy judging other women so much.

    Just like us, let’s assume they weighed all the pros and cons and made the best decision for their individual family.

    SKL  |  August 7th, 2008 at 11:46 pm

  • Before we had kids, I left a terrible job and decided to “de-stress” for a little bit before looking for another job. It turned into about 4 months of not working and it was heaven. I’d totally do it if we could afford that! I have to admit I wasn’t the best housewife, though. My husband would come home to a dirty house and no dinner and say, “WHAT have you been doing all day?!”

    Anita  |  August 8th, 2008 at 12:39 am

  • Women I have known that are like this do quite a bit of work. It may not be in the office, but they are usually pretty active in charities. It may be that initially their time is more for their own personal pursuits. In time, they have given their time over for some amazing causes. They may not get paid, but it is still work.

    If you can’t, or don’t want kids and your husband’s career would significantly impact your ability to work or have a career, then I don’t see that this is a big deal. Overall, I don’t see this as a big deal. Some would say that the status of being a SAHM, is a status symbol.

    All I can say is, I WISH!

    Michele  |  August 8th, 2008 at 6:52 am

  • Isn’t that the origin of the phrase, “Nice work if you can get it”. Hell I worked through chemotherapy because I thought I would lose my mind if I stayed home. If they have the option to do it I say go for it, I just hope they do spend some time helping build up their community.

    Kate  |  August 8th, 2008 at 8:45 am

  • I work around some men in very demanding jobs. Many have SAHWs (though many with kids). I really think that for some of these men, especially those who travel alot, having a wife whose job it to take care of everything that isn’t their job helps them to be successful. While I don’t understand it, I can see how it would work for some. (My grad advisor’s wife packs his suitcases for him for his many trips - all he has to do is put them in the car).

    Personally it is not what I would want. It might be nice to have the time, but I would prefer to have more time with my husband.

    Stacey S  |  August 8th, 2008 at 9:11 am

  • why do we equate ‘work’ with making money? Maybe these women have some sort of saved money that does contribute to the house hold. maybe not. who knows?

    if we had the money so that i could spend my time on the house, family, and involved in my community and various other interests of COURSE i would do it!

    But that’s me. i like that stuff more than i like spending the day in an office dealing with beauracracy. but i do it since i am the breadwinner and i certainly do not hate what i am doing. There are just other things i would like MORE, had i the time and money to do them :)

    kate  |  August 8th, 2008 at 10:15 am

  • I agree with the comment that women spend way too much time judging other women. We have to learn to appreciate each other and work together, not against each other. I get very tired of this mythical battle between SAHMs and working moms. We all do what we have to do or our lifestyle and income allows us to do. I think SAHMs work hard at what they are doing and I respect them for what they do. They often make sacrfices to be able to stay home. I love to work, it gives meaning and balance to my life. I would be miserable as a SAHM and thus, my kids and spouse would be miserable. I am fortunate to love what I do and to have created a company where my staff and I either have our kids with us in the office or can leave to be with them when we need or want to. I work with wonderful women who love and support each other and work together to build something that we can be proud of. We all have to do what works best for our family and our lifestyle.

    Minette  |  August 8th, 2008 at 10:24 am

  • This doesn’t have anything to do with being a SAHM. I saw the article on the other day and was absolutely appalled at the woman who was interviewed. I was a SAHM for 2 periods, 1 when we only had 1 income (his) and the other after my parents died and I was left enough money to be able to take the time to deal with things and get things back in order. I can tell you most definitely that after nearly 20 years of earning my own paycheck, having to ask my husband for ever cent I needed was a total embarrassment and totally degrading for me. I swore that when I went back to work it would NEVER EVER be that way again. I fully understand that this was the way it was deemed “appropriate” 50+ years ago, but thank God we’ve grown up and passed that BS. I guess because I come from a very materichial family in which most, if not all, women worked outside the home AND had families, I simply cannot understand WHY a woman, with any self respect and self-esteem, would subjugate themselves this way. It is totally beyond my comprehension. You can say what you want about doing charity work, but I’m sorry, it’s humiliateing to have to go to your spouse for every dime you need. That’s certainly not me or mine.

    Jane  |  August 8th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  • My main reaction is that I really hope they have fabulous relationships with their husbands or fabulous prenups. From a financial perspective, their choices have left them in an extremely precarious position (in this age of very limited alimony).

    Mary  |  August 9th, 2008 at 8:54 am

  • “From a financial perspective, their choices have left them in an extremely precarious position (in this age of very limited alimony).”

    I totally agree with you. And let’s face it, the percentage is VERY good that it wil. And they’ll be traded in for a “trophy” because all they did was be a SAHW. It’s very unfortunage, but in a LOT of incidents, that’s exactly what happens. And by the time it does, whatever “skills” she had are so far out of date that it’s not funny.

    Many years ago, I was at a “picnic” lunch on Labor Day with my late MIL. I ended up being the youngest at the table, and the ONLY one whose husband was either alive or still married to the same person. ALL of these women, MIL included, were ALL SAHs, either with no kids or with kids. My MIL was a private person; she never talked about ailments, doctors, etc. - never “compared notes” with the others. But the rest of these women…Yikes! All they could talk about was their ailments, their maids, their volunteer “work”, etc. They had no idea what was going on in the world, except for their own little “June Cleaver” world. I found it VERY sad. VERY VERY sad. I know that was a different generations, but the fact that they didn’t know, or didn’t even want to know, spoke volumes.

    Now, granted, the widows were well taken care of by their late hubby’s monies, but they literally had nothing of their own.

    Jane  |  August 9th, 2008 at 11:44 am

  • I was a stay at home wife when we were first married. I am Canadian and my husband is has duel citizenship in Canada and the US. It was illegal for me to work for a long time after we moved to the US.

    And it did feel awkward to need money for things and have to use my husband’s. I felt very vulnerable and dependent.

    Fortunately I started handling all of our finances at that point. I had the time, so I did the banking, paid the bills, did the shopping. So I never felt like I needed to ask my husband for money, though I did discuss larger purchases with him. He usually just asked me if we could afford it and if I said yes we got it.

    Before I was cleared to work I ended up pregnant and so that has been my job ever since. I’ve worked from home, but never outside of our home, and I’ve always handled everything myself and made most of the financial decisions as well as choosing where we live. My husband would rather not have to think about things like that after work.

    While I won’t disagree that that first year was rather leisurely in some ways, I wouldn’t say it was all fun and games either. I did plenty of work. I just didn’t get paid for it. But the work I did saved us money so he’s never disrespected me for that and we’ve always considered it our money, not his.

    carrien (she laughs at the days)  |  August 9th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

  • I haven’t worked in an office since before I was married. We now have a toddler, but I spent 3 years as a SAHW, though there wasn’t too much staying at home. For two of the years, my husband ran an international charity and we spent half the year here and half abroad. There was no way I could hold a steady job. Charity work did not lend itself to a big paycheck however, so we lived very simply in a very expensive area. I was developing a career as a writer at the time so I did a little work, but when I look back on the days before kids, I do wonder what I did all day.
    I cleaned our apartment once a week and it stayed fairly neat. I cooked pretty elaborate meals. I played a lot of computer games.
    My mom was a “professional volunteer” so I vowed to not lose myself in volunteerism but I did a lot of writing for my husband’s organization.

    We always said that we wanted me to be home when we had children. I think if I’d pursued a corporate path, it would have been very hard to lose the 2nd income. We still live pretty simply, but those years of not working, I did develop a decent portfolio that has served me well as a freelancer.

    Calee  |  August 10th, 2008 at 12:39 am

  • Why should I or anyone else care if a woman chooses not to work and not to have kids. Before I had kids I worked 60 hours at a .com and imagined what it would be like to not work. I say you can afford to stay home…good for you! I certainly would not judge someone for it, just as I don’t judge people for being fulltime working moms or fulltime stay at home moms.

    Lisa Szabo  |  August 10th, 2008 at 11:43 am

  • I don’t know any women like this - but no, I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I think it’s important to contribute someting to your marriage and your family. If a married woman sits and home and fluffs herself 24/7, won’t that make her husband feel jealous, unappreciated, etc? I’m fairly certain as wonderful as my husband is, it would get to him!

    Merideth  |  August 13th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

  • Kudos to them if that’s what makes them happy.

    Rona  |  August 30th, 2008 at 12:33 am