November 13, 2007

Talking about stay-at-home moms in South Africa

This is a Talk about Tuesday post.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for weeks! And now that I see how long it is, I’m going to have to split it up over two weeks because it’s LONG!

You know how it is when you take blog conversations offline and start emailing back and forth? Well, in one such conversation, Laura and I started talking about stay at home moms and I mentioned that they’re not that common in South Africa. Apparently in Canada, most women stay at home and those that do work, work only about 30 hours a week.

Laura asked me, “How do moms feel about that? Are they conflicted about it and wanting to stay at home with their kids? Are they working because of need or just because that's just the way it is?”

My non-scientific opinions were that that’s just the way things are and for the most part, everybody works. We consider some moms “lucky enough” to be able to work a half-day job from 8 – 1.

We have good friends in Australia and aside from the BRILLIANT maternity leave (one whole year whereas in SA, generally 4 months is standard and people add onto that by taking all their annual leave and sometimes taking unpaid leave, but it is rare to find someone who takes maternity leave for longer than 6 months), they have a thing called job sharing. My friend returned to work after her first baby working 2 days a week and then changed to working 3 days every 2 weeks. After baby number 2, she is again working 2 days a week.

But, I thought it was an interesting discussion so I made up a little 5-question survey and sent it out to all the moms I know. Carry on reading below…

This is from a mom of 4 who added some lovely comments for me to understand her answers…
A while back I read a passionate write-up about the stay-at-home debate with 2 other black working mums and we laughed! To all 3 of us there was no debate to be had - none of us had dreamt of staying at home as a truly viable option (and all of us with professional husbands to boot!). We think about it when the baby is 4 months and maternity leave is over or when the kids are sick and you wish you could be at home to look focus on them and then its 'perish the thought'.

We also have the experience of fathers who were absent one way or another but quite often financially. Apartheid made sure that a man could not earn enough to keep their family - women HAD to work. So much so that as free/mentally liberated as we are, the idea of being a stay-at-home mother ends up being seen as a white priviledge -whereas I know it has nothing to do with race!

Here’s my survey with the results below each answer. Read on!

1. If you had the option to do so, would you stay at home?
Yes I would LOVE TO be a stay home mommy
Yes I would
Probably not!

2. Based on (1) above, why or why not?
Spend more quality time with my kids. Support them in their sports, homework, playtime.
I am kept stimulated and challenged at work – love being around people
I don’t have a helper and love to do things myself. And it would be nice to take and collect my kids from school and go places with them before we head off home!!
I would work but just not be paid financially for it. I don't need it for my self-worth but there's a balance of power issue and having real options about my life (and not having to need anyone else's money).
I need the cash to give my kids a stable life and make sure they have what they need. So I want the best of both worlds, to be able to spend time with my kids & earn an income.
Due to the age of my kids and the guilt I feel at not being able to spend enough time with them.
I have my daughter, they are demanding and require a lot of attention as well as nurturing to fit in with todays society, work is also extremely demanding and requires most of my attention so I don’t give my all to family as I often take work home to ensure that I do not lag behind during the week.
I find work stimulating and need adult interaction on a daily basis
I believe any intelligent woman needs something at which she can excel, and personally motherhood is not it for me. Mental stimulation by my peers is vital to me being a better mom.
so that I get to see my baby grow up

That’s where I’m stopping this week. Next Tuesday I’ll post the rest of the survey results.

Personally, even though I don’t have children yet, my plan was always to stay at home and do something to keep me stimulated while being able to be there for my children. In fact, that’s a large part of why I started my coaching and organising business.

Now I want to hear from you.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the responses. Do you want to clarify something? Do you have a different opinion?

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Nomadic said...

What do you think?

I would have loved to stay at home with my kids when they were little, and I did for a few years. However, I worked even when I was at home: in-home daycare, delivered newspapers, took in typing.

Now, I own my own businesses, so I am on the road a lot, but I am available to pick up my son from school, to take him to the doctor, etc.

Do you agree or disagree with the responses. Do you have a different opinion?

I think it is ideal if a woman can afford to be at home with her children. It just doesn't seem practical unless the woman can find a way to also add to the family's income while she's there.

I'm in the US, so my numbers may be different than what others experience, but a SAHM (stay at home mom) doesn't need to earn their full salary to be at home. All it takes is to earn the difference between what it actually costs to work and one's annual salary.

So, if your annual salary is $30,000 and your expenses to work (daycare, fast food, work clothes and transportation) are $15,000, then a SAHM really only needs to contribute $15,000 to the household. That is easier said than done sometimes, but it can be done.

Heather said...

Great post! I am a SAHM in the US, and I am SO happy that I can stay home. I do work a little with an at-home business. I love being with my little one all day!

Org Junkie said...

Hey Marcia, sorry if I mislead you a little bit. I was just referring to "here" meaning where I live in Canada. I'm not really sure about what the stats are for the rest of Canada as to how many stay at home and how many work outside the home. It is definitely interesting. In Canada we are so blessed to have a whole year of maternity and I think it's safe to say that a majority of companies are finally recognizing alternate work arrangements like part time and job sharing which does make it easier on us moms.
I worked when my oldest were little and it was very very hard to balance everything yet now that I'm home I realize I'm doing the hardest job in the world and no one tells me how great I'm doing. Either way is tough that is for sure but to be the one to pick up my son from his crib when he wakes from his nap and snuggles with me is priceless and I'm so thankful that this time around I'm the one to do it.


Jen said...

In developed countries where there are supports for mothers, women tend to have more children. There is a problem right now with the birth rate in developed countries being too low to support the current population in their old age-both financially & in service workers.

Countries are doing various things to up the birth rate, for instance Italy & Japan are working to create better options for working mothers, like on site daycare, etc. In Sweden, most women work after their child is a certain age, I think its age four, but the hours are based on the age of your child, and on site daycare is pretty common.

I think this is all moving in the right direction. It's unreasonable to expect women to have a demanding career & also mother children with out some built in supports. In the US, maternity leave is 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and the FML act doesn't even apply to many employers.

Jen said...

PS-regarding the financial viability of working, what I saved in health insurance costs alone more than paid for child care for my 2 kids. It never cost me as much to work as people claimed it would, the only expense I didn't already have was work clothes, which now that I'm a SAH mom again, I can still use.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I knew as a young child that I would stay home to raise my own kids. I made sure I married someone who felt the same way and could support a family. Even if my husband lost his current well paying job he would work three lower paying jobs to support our family if he had to. My going to work would never be an option since I already have the most important job in the world!

Coach J said...

I never strived to be a sahm. I was in college when #1 was born, and he went to daycare while I was in class. I was working when #2 was born, and took 6 weeks maternity unpaid leave. I still think that's the normal leave here in the US for most employers. The FML Act only pertains to larger employers. I was very depressed to leave my newborn at a daycare, even though I went to the same daycare growing up. Now that God has blessed me to be a sahm, I encourage other moms to stay home with their children. Our kids grow up so fast-we miss so much in the name of moving up the ladder. Yes, there are some moms who have no choice but to work to contribute to the family income, but if there is an option, my advice is to stay home! I can go back to work when my kids are grown and out on their own. Material wants can never replace time spent with your children.
I think there is a new wave here in America of women coming home to raise their children. That's strictly my opinion, and have no polls to back it up.
As for that feedback from the mom that said she needed mental stimulation by her peers to be a better mom, I have to add that you can get mental stimulation from a playgroup or church group or your best friend while being with your children. You don't have to work 40 hours a week to get mental stimulation.
I really think it comes down to your priorities. Again, some women don't have a choice, but if you do, which comes first in your life? Your 9 to 5 job, or your flesh and blood?

Anonymous said...

Hi Marcia
I live in SA - I'm a so-called 'privileged white' (I *hate* racial tags) and I'm a freelancing editor trying to make a living as a stay-at-home-mom with a hubby with no fixed income. I'm thinking about starting some sort of resource website for stay-at-home-moms with good qualifications that could make a contribution to SA's economy by job-sharing. This is a concept that has not been very successful in SA. How do you think I can go about it?