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Stop “Shoulding” On SAHMs With Phones

When 40 percent of military spouses are Stay At Home Moms (or Dads), it exasperates me to no end when people pick on the SAHMs.

Last night on Facebook, one of my milspouse pals shared this blog post about a civilian mom with three kids playing on her cell phone while her little boy begged her to watch him. While her daughter spun all alone in her pretty dress.  While the baby sat cooing in a swing.

“Pull your eyes back on your prize, your kids,” exhorted the writer.

My pal was in full agreement.  “That mom should be paying more attention to her children!”

I know that as an old mom (my kids are 23, 19 and 11) I ought to feel the same way.  I ought to agree with a tear in my eye that those precious years of childhood go so fast that a mom should be ‘in the moment’ at all times.

Then I remind myself how many precious moments I actually had with my kids:  billions. 

I don’t know why this society has to “should” like this all over the Stay At Home Moms and Dads.  We all probably use our cell phones too much.  But why does that matter more than the fact that those three kids were out at the park?

Why do we think that mom is duty bound to be cherishing every moment of childhood like a visit from the Archangel Gabriel?  Why do we insist on making the work of childcare harder than it already is?

That simply won’t work for military families.  Unrealistic expectations about how a person “should” do the SAHM gig depresses people.  Frustrates people.  Makes people feel like hiding in their houses lest they be judged.

I don’t know about you, but during my MilSpouse SAHM years I was at that same park hoping and praying that another parent would come by. A phone or a book or a magazine would not have been enough.  I would have jumped out in front of a car for an encounter with another adult.  Look!  Here is my insurance info and my phone number!!!.

Taking care of small children is sometimes beautiful, meaningful, unforgettable.  Taking care of small children is also sometimes repetitive, boring, and isolating–especially for MilSpouse SAHMs who must frequently PCS and start all over with their parenting connections.

Yet military families often choose to do the SAHM years because that is what works for their particular family. Oh, I admit there are some slackers out there.  But really what I see is that just like military spouses on the job, SAHMs take stock of their situation and make a conscious decision to do what’s best for their folks.

That’s because being a SAHM works. That parent at home (just like a parent happy in their work) can be the mechanism that keeps things consistent during moves and trainings and deployments.

But those SAHMs cannot do that work if we insist that they be constantly joyful, engaged and delirious about the whole thing every minute of every day.

So forgive me if I drive past that SAHM with her phone and toot my horn and wave as a sign of support for the tasks she is accomplishing.  Forgive me for trying to provide something for that dad  to read on SpouseBuzz while he is pushing the colicky baby in the swing.

Around here, we believe that military spouses who work at creating a good life for their families make a difference in the world.  And if they connect with that world on their phones?  Good on ‘em.

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.

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