Being A SAHM Was My Greatest Luxury And My Greatest Liability

by Colleen Orme
Originally Published: 
A stay-at-home mom playing with her daughter in the backyard, with her husband and son playing socce...

It’s hard to describe the emotion I felt when my son was born. I cried those first few minutes. My sister leaned in and whispered, “You wish Mom was here, don’t you?”

She was right. I did.

Soon the ache of losing my mother began to subside. This sweet little guy absorbing the once barren spaces of my heart.

The triumphant return of the mother-child relationship. Sure, I was now the mom, but the bond was identical albeit from the other side.

I coveted our moments together.

After a mere twenty-eight years with my own mom, can you blame me? It was a loss that would define me.

I understood the commodity called time.

For this reason, I wanted to stay home with him.

I didn’t have to agonize over the decision as many women do. We were self-employed. We either had to hire someone to replace me in the office or at home. In the beginning, we could afford neither, so I took my baby to work with me each day.

Ultimately we settled into somewhat “traditional roles.”

I was at home with our boys but still involved in some aspects of the business and paying our bills. My husband was happy with this arrangement. His own mother stayed at home and like many, we often wish to duplicate aspects of our past.

I felt blessed.

Being a stay-at-home mom was a luxury.

I was exactly where I wanted to be.

It was equally advantageous for my husband. He never experienced the typical demands of two working parents. He didn’t go in late or miss a day to tend to a sick child. He didn’t have to rush home from work to meet a sitter. His professional routine was never interrupted by the demands of parenting.

It worked for us. Until it didn’t.

Initially, there were no hints of how my greatest luxury would become my greatest liability. There were no tell-tale signs of the financially abusive vulnerability my once best friend would inflict.

Yet there were foreshadowing moments which came in the name of so-called “traditional roles.”

The guy who asked me if I would stay home and raise our children was now making stay-at-home mom jokes. The tired, caveman-esque echoes of one who now fancied himself “the big man of the marital campus.”

“Another lunch with your girlfriends?”

“She must be sitting home eating bonbons.”

“And any and all references about spending money. Oops, ‘his’ money”

These insulting wife euphemisms were sophomoric. Their implied meaning? I was living a life of leisure while he was laboring tirelessly.

I should have been offended. I should have demanded respect. But instead, I laughed beside him. These remarks were made infrequently, so I waved them off as harmless humor.

But were they?

No, they were indicative of a mentality.

One which would surface with a fury some years later. A man who believed he had built a life solely on his own. But at the time, I didn’t understand the danger.

However, I did understand the underlying sentiment.

My husband had “given” me this life of luxury.

Or at least, he felt he had.

While I was busy changing diapers, making dinner, and volunteering, I had unknowingly experienced a motherly metamorphosis, and not a good one.

My value hadn’t been increasing with time — it had been decreasing. Dictated by a man who felt worth was determined strictly in the monetary sense.

I had unwittingly transitioned from best friend to business partner to trophy wife of the man who could afford stay-at-home motherhood — to the woman who was lunching and noshing on bonbons.

Looking back, it’s easy to see when I became the liability.

Love makes you want to win the heart of another. There’s something in it for you.

A business partner helps you grow your business. There’s something in it for you.

An income that allows your wife to stay home draws prestige. Again, there’s something in it for you.

The in-between years of raising our children didn’t bring my husband any intrinsic value. I had become a drain. Regardless of the behind-the-scenes, work I did daily. There was nothing in it for him.

But I would find out this was all child’s play.

Compared to the narrative of the divorcing stay-at-home mother.

The “Over-spending housewife.”

The “Lazy stay-at-home mom.”

The “Kept woman.”

I am none of the above.

Twice I made a joint decision with my husband to step away from my income. The first time to join him in building a business and the second time to raise our children.

I was not a stay-at-home mother.

I worked inside of our home and outside volunteering.

We both had different jobs.

One paid well, and came with colleagues, accolades, and admiration. The other compensated nothing financially but infinitely in time, memories, and love.

It was my greatest luxury.

I got to make a choice some women are afforded, some struggle with, and some sadly never get. To choose between working inside of our homes or outside of our homes. A deeply personal choice that is often dictated by our life experiences.

I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Who knew one day it would become my greatest liability.

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