In Career, Life

Do you become boring if you stay at home as a parent?

I am reading and hearing from a bunch of French folks that French women simply don’t stay at home and do not want to become stay-at-home mothers.

Yes, we know.. French women also apparently don’t get fat (a lie), and think drinking a glass of wine a day with food is okay while pregnant (umm.. I can’t defend this one).

Still, it intrigued me to read in the many French-centric pregnancy books about how French women simply don’t have the culture of being able to decide to stay at home or not.

(Note: I’d also talk about fathers staying at home, but it seems to be a non-existent discussion in France so I’m sticking to mothers in this post, but I AM TOTALLY pointing out how unfair it is that men are expected to go to work and women are not, as well as women being forced to carry the complete burden of childcare just because they’re women.)

George-Carlin-Salaries-Working-Pay-Joke-Comedy

1. IT’S A QUESTION OF MONEY

Many mothers go back to work because of money, and that’s the same in France.

You need more money to live, and another working spouse brings in more income, end of discussion.

2. IT’S A QUESTION OF CHILDCARE BENEFITS

You have state-run childcare centers where you can drop your kids off basically for free, so you don’t even need to go through the calculations we do here of:

Is it cheaper if you stay at home with the kids, or if you go back to work and we have to pay for daycare?

This makes the decision so much easier if you can drop your kid off at one of these rather fabulously-run crèches, and not really have to worry about your child being fed properly (OMG the menus I read about!), or taken care of to the highest degree (they have 500 people sit for this examination to become a daycare worker for these places, and only 30 get in each year.)


3. IT’S A FEAR OF BECOMING AN UNINTERESTING PERSON TO TALK TO

There is not a single French couple we know (family, friends, acquaintances) where the mother stayed at home to watch the kids.

Simply not a single one.

I cannot find ANYONE who has stayed home. At about 3 months, they all go back to work and pop their kids into daycares.

Digging deeper into the issue, it’s because when people meet to chat with you, they ask you:

What do you do?

If you say:

I’m a stay at home mother.

…you kind of become a cocktail party pariah.

French folks have affirmed this with:

No one really wants to talk with you if you’re a stay at home mother.

They think you don’t really have much to offer in terms of an interesting discussion beyond your children.

This is true and not true, in my opinion.

Some stay at home mothers are very interesting women even before having kids.

I’d like to think that if I had to stay at home, I’d still be an interesting person to talk to, but in France the culture is that if you work, your job is interesting, you will have interesting stories and interactions with other adults which can become topics of discussion.

Granted, Baby Bun is not stimulating conversation and you are really just exhausted from watching a child all day that you don’t have time to think about any adult topics but… STILL!!

I’ve also noticed this attitude with women who stay at home and follow their husbands from city to city to work, but aren’t necessarily married or with kids.

 

We know a woman who basically quit her job and followed her husband to another country, and while I still find her a nice person, she seems to clam up and can’t really say much beyond talking about all the traveling she has done with her husband, which is only one topic out of many.

Still, I can’t help but feel that they have something right there.

I would lose a part, if not a sense of my self as a working person in society, if all I did was stay at home with my kids.

Or maybe I’d surprise myself and be a perfectly interesting person, even with a child at home and no career.

(For me that would mean no blogging, no part-time jobs, just full-time staying at home watching the kids.)

Actually, maybe I just learned this attitude from my mother because she has never, ever wanted to stay at home with us kids or with her grandchildren full-time, and has never done so in her life, even after being offered her equal pay to do so.

I’m on the fence. I wonder if it’s true, that I’d be a boring, uninteresting person if I stayed at home all day with Baby Bun, seeing as I wouldn’t have time to read or do anything adult-ish…

What do you think?

Do stay at home parents really lose their identity as adults and as “interesting people to talk to if they stop working?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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15 Comments

  1. maz

    Umm interesting post. I am a French woman living in England. I’ve got 3 kids, I went back to work when my eldest ( now 12 ) was 5 months old. I never thought about it really. It was just what everybody did. My mum, my aunt, cousins, my sister etc, we all went back to work within 6 months of having our babies. It was just the “normal” thing to do. You’re young, you’ve got the energy to be a mother and have a career so yeah, we chose to do both. My youngest is 3 1/2 yrs old and I haven’t gone back to work. I don’t feel the need to work or prove to people that I can juggle work & family life. I ( with my hubby ) bought my house cash, we’ve got enough savings not to work for at least a couple of years so I just stay home. Am I becoming stupid because I’m a stay-at-home mum ? Am I less interesting? I don’t think so. I do other stuff. I do the school run and my son stays with me until he starts school at 12.00. Last year I was doing some coaching ( within an organisation ) for new mothers & struggling mothers . This year, I’m training to help people in financial difficulties. All voluntary but all very rewarding. Not working doesn’t equal being brain dead. If you were active before having kids, you’ll still be active & busy after having kids. The environment & the kind of activities will be different but there’ s no reason not to have a fulfilling life just become you don’t work.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      If you can buy your house cash and have enough savings to NOT work, why justify anything then?

      I just seem to get the impression when I talked to his side of the family that going back to work was “the thing” to stay interesting, not be some SAHP (P for parent) who can only talk about their children.

      Reply
  2. Jen

    I’m going on 9 years as a stay at home mom. A know a few others who stay at home, but it’s not common (definitely for economic reasons most of the time). I do feel like a bit of an outcast socially, like being a mom is all there is to me. In reality, I was never a woman who always dreamed of having kids and keeping house. I simply decided this lifestyle would work best for me. I am a college graduate, a Mensa member, I do various freelance stuff at home, and lots of interesting projects just for fun (for example, I just learned how to take apart and repair my piano and painted it). I read a lot, and our family travels fairly often. With the exception of a few projects that I really enjoyed, my old career was probably the least interesting thing about me, and I would have been more tempted to complain about it than to regale my peers with interesting anecdotes.

    Staying at home is not easy by any means, and there are times when I get desperately bored, but overall I enjoy and appreciate the freedom I have. I wish women would stop making decisions based on social pressures. People should spend more time getting to know one another instead of making split-second judgments based on “what they do.”

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Agreed, and maybe some men in these conversations should stop brushing off stay at home parents as boring too.

      Reply
    2. Ashley

      I have to say I relate to this comment entirely. As a college educated woman as well who had not originally planned to be home, but have been for six years now, the stigma that I’m just a stay at home mom and there’s nothing else to it can get old. Personally I read a lot of literature, enjoy learning about many things (great courses on Audible are wonderful), love going to see the theater or ballets, and keep up with politics and blogs (such as this one on feedly). I have to agree that my old job is far less interesting than most things I enjoy discussing with friends now,

      Reply
  3. LizK

    I think it all depends on how you interperet the “What do you do?” question. When we lived in Europe, people rarely answered that question in reference to their employment, but with their passions or hobbies. I love that, because I am not my job. I now dodge the question and answer “The same things we all do… eat, sleep, etc, but what I love is XYZ.” I find that gets people talking about more than ghastly commutes, and gripes about bosses and coworkers,

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Haha, yes, my partner mentioned that once people asked me: How are you? I’d launch into work stories but he said: THEY ARE ASKING ABOUT YOU.. AS A PERSON.

      LOL

      Reply
  4. SarahN

    I’m like cassie (an engineer). I have a married friend, she’s not an engineer but he studied tangentially with us. I’m out of their social loop and her FB is so much about who two kids. I mean I was not at all surprised when she declined a housewarming at six cause the kids and sleep times. I am also not surprised I’ve been invited to one event at their home in years after seeing them monthly (pre kids, when they lived locally, she worked etc). Anyhow, I don’t think she’s boring but I think she maybe only cares about things I can’t know about and if I try to understand she’s the sort of person who would discount it as I’ve not been a parent, despite nannying etc. I think sahms need to be good at asking questions or knowing non child topics and then that’s taking their fair share in social situations.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Perhaps that’s it — right now, my whole world is Baby Bun. I FEEL MENTALLY STUNTED unless you’re a parent and have kids, and I can relate to you on that front….

      Reply
  5. Cassie

    I’m going to pull from my mother’s experience on this one. My mother got married and had my sister and I at a very young age, and as such never had a career to “make her interesting”. There seems to be a perception that when a mother stays home every waking moment it spent with her children. This may very well be true in some cases, but not in all cases. My mom was what you could call a skilled homesteader. She raised animals (farm animals, not her children, ha!), gardened, canned and preserved the garden vegetables, sheared spun and knitted sheep wool, made butter and cheese, made our soap and toothpaste, sewed our clothes, foraged, and did numerous other tasks that for many have become largely forgotten skills. She also started and ran a bakery out of our house for a decade. She is currently honing her fibre art skills, and is working on keeping different styles of tatting (lace making) and weaving alive by teaching courses to others. Since she never had a career per say, she would be written off as uninteresting. Perhaps to city dwellers who are comfortable with their way of life, and are confident someone else will always be there to create products for them to consume, she is. To the growing population of people who are looking to become more self reliant and relearn some of the skills lost through automation and apathy, she’s an encyclopedia. It really depends on your personal circle as to who is interesting and who is not. I didn’t know a single Engineer until I became one, and now my social circle is filled with them. It absolutely changes what is considered an interesting topic of conversation.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Holy cow, your mother is a true boss..

      Reply
  6. Sarah S

    I think it’s less to do with whether or not they stay at home, and more to do with whether or not they let their children take over their lives completely. If I were to stay home, I would still want to stay informed with current events and be able to hold an interesting conversation that does not include how wonderful I think my daughter is (but seriously, she is the best! lol). This reads as a bit of a stereotype to me – the woman who stays home, and her children are the absolute center of her universe. You are solid proof that that does not need to be the case! And, for the record, I work full time, and it would definitely be a struggle for me to be a full time, stay at home mom. Also, love your blog!

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thanks Sarah for loving the blog!

      I will say though, that my child is not my center. He IS my heart, but not my center…

      Reply
  7. raluca

    Although “being interesting” is one aspect of the equation, I still think that point 1 and 2 have a lot more impact in the decision to stay home / go to work.
    If you knew staying home means moving from comfortable middle class to being poor and you can easily avoid that by popping your kid in a place where he/she will be well cared for by professionals, well, that’s the end of discussion, right there.
    Most couples in Europe would not do well on one salary alone. Most people in Europe also work the normal 40 hours, rather than have one parent work 0 (not 0, because you’re taking care of the kid, just 0 in an economic sense) and the other one 70 hours a week. Most people in Europe also work less intensely than their US counterparts. This means that women/men in full time employment will still have energy left over when they come back from work to spend quality time with their kids.

    I plan to take an early retirement when I hit 40. Should I be worried that I’ll be less interesting in conversation? Somehow that doesn’t really compel me to work longer :). I guess I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and be boring.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Retiring at 40 sounds nice. My partner turned to me the other day and said: How about you retire in 10 years? You’ll be 40 and it’ll be about as much work as you can handle. LOL.

      Reply

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