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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

12 Things to Never Say to a Stay-at-Home Mom

A woman's decision to work or stay home with her children is highly personal. But so many people still feel obliged to give their two (or more) cents on the matter. Here are some of the most appalling things real moms have been told about their decision to stay home.

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“You’re so lucky!”

For those on the outside looking in, being a stay-at-home parent looks like unending days of catching up on Netflix, wearing pajamas like a uniform, and eating ice cream straight from the carton. This stereotype could not be further from the truth. Lisa, mother of three, adds, “I was told, ‘It must be nice to have so much time on your hands or to yourself.’ My husband works 12-hour days. I barely have time to use the bathroom by myself.” Amber, mother of three, has heard some real doozies. She shares, “I’ve heard, ‘Your house must be so clean!’ Right, because I have two or three of my kids home all day with me! And all I do is clean and not pay attention to my children!” Another one: “You have it easy. Some of us have to work!” And the cherry on top of the envy sundae, “I wish I could stay home, it would be so much easier!” Check out the 16 things every parent wants you to know.

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“What do you do all day?”

When you imagine a stay-at-home mother’s day, you might envision her buzzing through her living room with a feather duster a la June Cleaver. Why is her house so messy though? Doesn’t she have all day to clean it? Whitney, mother of two, shares, “I’ve definitely heard, ‘What do you do all day?’ I’ve also heard, ‘You should let your husband sleep, he has to work tomorrow.’ As If I don’t work, too?!” Shelby, mother of two, relates, “When I announced my second pregnancy, a guy said to me (dead serious), ‘That’s good, you need more to do to justify being home all day with no job.'”

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“Don’t you need a break?”

Parenting for a stay-at-home mother is 24/7. There are no lunch hours and break times to have down time, and using the restroom alone can feel like a miracle. Some mothers who stay home are even encouraged to give it up and find child care for their child. Catherine, mother of one, was questioned about her need to have down time, “I’ve been asked, ‘Wouldn’t you want to work, even part-time, so you can take a break from your baby?’ True, but I didn’t sign up as a mommy to ‘take breaks.'” She’s also heard: “You should have someone else watch your baby, so he doesn’t get too attached to you.” These are the 12 ways to find a babysitter you trust.

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“Why are you so tired?”

Although she’s not clocking in at 8 a.m. sharp on a daily basis, a stay-at-home mother has plenty of reasons to be exhausted. For starters, her day begins the second her kids wake up, and chances are that’s hours earlier. Her day, truthfully, has never ended. Babies need to be rocked to sleep, nursed, and soothed from nightmares at all hours of the night. By the time the sun rises, her day has been going for a while. Serena, mother of one, has been asked the dreaded question, “Why are you so tired?” Her response? “I have one of my own, and I babysit two others!” Cindy, mother of two, adds, “My husband says he’s the one who needs a nap, since he works graveyard shifts—like I’m not up several times throughout the night with the kids!” Tired of looking tired? Find out the beauty hacks to fake looking like you’re wide awake.

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“When are you going back to work?”

If she’s not working, then she must plan to go back at some point, right? For some mothers, the demands of their homes and children provide more than enough to take care of, and working outside the home remains on the back-burner. Kristin, mother of three says, “My husband told me I would deserve a new car once I got a job. He ate his words very quickly.” Anhai, mother of three, shares, “We are blessed for me to be a SAHM. But we have relatives constantly asking when I am going to work. I hear, “You should get a part-time job for when the girls are at school.”

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“What a waste of an education.”

Many stay-at-home mothers have college degrees, though this does not fit the stereotype that many have of the typical mother choosing to stay home. Obtaining a college degree takes dedication, time, and money, and some feel the effort has been in vain if a woman chooses to spend her days caring for her own family. Nidhi, mother of one, said, “Someone once told me, ‘You must be feeling miserable, right? You quit when you were at your career peak and to make it worse had a baby soon after. There’s no going back to it, is there? Such a pity you had to waste all your degrees. Now you’re just a housewife and a mother.’ I got this from someone who is also a mom, and she’s never worked!”

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“Remember how blessed you are!”

Every mother, working or not, knows how #blessed she is. She doesn’t need to be shamed with a reminder. Motherhood is stressful for every mother, and it’s okay to talk about it. Stacie, mother of two, says, “My personal favorite from older stay-at-home mothers is, ‘Staying home with little kids is easy—wait until they’re teens!'” Mary, mother of three adds, “I can’t stand when you’re venting about your kids and the person says, ‘Just remember, children are a blessing’ like you’re a horrible person. Well, of course they are! They’re precious, bratty blessings.” Find out the things parents of adopted children wish you knew.

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“I could never stay home.”

This one just might be the most annoying. If staying home is not your choice, that’s OK, but it’s really not necessary to offer back-handed compliments to those that have made this decision. Shannon, mother of three, says the comments that bother her the most are those that make assumptions about her own needs. “I have heard, ‘I’d have such a hard time staying home all day. I need to work so I can use my brain.'” Jackie, mother of seven, says, “I ran into someone I knew from school a few years ago, and she asked me what I was up to. I told her I was married and a SAHM to my kids. She said, ‘Oh, but you used to be so smart.'”

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“Come clean my house.”

If a SAHM has so much time to clean her house, she should come clean yours too, right? Rhonda, mother of four, has actually been asked, “You are home all day, can’t you come clean my house for me?” (Find out the 10 questions you should never ask a new mom.)

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“How do you afford it?”

Many times there is an assumption that having a one income household happens only because one enormous salary is able to cover what two people would make. This isn’t always the case. In the majority of situations, many sacrifices are made to be able to live on one income. Jessica, mother of one says, “I hear, ‘You’re so lucky. We could never afford that.'” She says its inevitably from “the mom with fake nails, freshly bayalaged hair, Michael Kors bag, $180 jeans, new car every time the old one gets paid off, and an iPhone. Um, actually, you could.”

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“Can you do me a favor?”

With all of that free time on her hands, a stay-at-home mom should be able to run a few extra errands for others, right? Whitney, mother of two says, “I get the ‘Hey, since you have time, can you do this for me?’ thing a lot. I’m like, ‘Nah, the baby and I need to catch up on our Netflix.’ Elizabeth, mother of three adds, “I hear, ‘I thought maybe you can do this favor for me. Since you have nothing to do at home, I thought I would give you something to do so you aren’t bored all day.'”

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“What will your children think?”

All mothers want to set the best example possible for their children, and when others have the audacity to question a stay at home mother in this way, it is hurtful and unfounded. Kayla, mother of one, says, “I’ve heard, ‘Don’t you think it’s important to show your daughter what a hard worker looks like?'”

Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.