Many people romanticize the decision to become a stay-at-home mom — especially if they’re considering it for themselves. They imagine a reality where there’s finally time: Time to play with their child, manage their household with more ease and efficiency, to breathe, and to find a community of other stay-at-home moms to call your own. But a new survey has found that half of SAHMs say leaving their job actually decreased the size of their mom circle, defying many longheld presumptions of “mom squads” so often seen in pop culture (and working moms’ daydreams).
American Mothers on Pause (AMP) is a survey conducted by Proof Insights for Mother Untitled, an organization founded in 2017 to update the perception of stay-at-home motherhood in America. Respondents included approximately 1,000 members of the general population and 1,200 mothers who considered themselves SAHMs. This included mothers who worked part-time, did not work outside of the home, and women who were actively considering leaving their jobs to become a SAHM. All respondents had earned bachelor’s degrees, had children under 18 in the home, and were between the ages of 25 to 54.
Motherhood is, and has always been, complicated. This is true whether you’re a “working mom” or “stay-at-home mom,” and AMP’s findings highlighted the complex nature of being a SAHM. While 55% off SAHMs say that they’re content in their role and 72% believe the trade-off in household income was worth the benefits of being able to stay home with their kids, 68% report feeling under-appreciated; 38% worry about losing their sense of self. Concerns about finances were, unsurprisingly “overwhelming.”
But something that is surprising are the findings regarding companionship with other moms. AMP indicates that stepping back from the workforce, either partially or completely, is a satisfying but often isolating decision. Half of SAHMs say that leaving their job decreased the size of their mom friend circle; only 16% say it increased. More than 10% said they don’t have any mom friends at all.
In fact, most SAHMs made friends prior to motherhood, with 38% saying they have mom friends they knew prior to becoming moms and 34% with mom friends from work. Others found mom pals through mutual friends (30%) and daycare or school (30%). While mom groups and playgroups were also good places to make friends (22% and 20% of SAHMs saying they made friends this way, respectively), a lot of the spaces frequented by SAHMs, like social media (14%) and parks (17%) were ranked among the least likely to yield the “mom squad” of one’s dreams.
“[I wish other stay-at-home mothers knew...] how lonely that can be, and how important it is to try to keep those friendships that you’ve made or to make new ones,” one 37-year-old respondent said. (It’s also noted, perhaps not unsurprisingly, that she’s “ready to go back to work.”)
So what’s the solution? The survey doesn’t offer a panacea, but does observe that 4 out of 10 SAHMs have some activity (such as volunteering) outside of the home and 90% of those women report that doing so has a positive effect on their mood. The survey also cites the following statistic, which we can’t help but think of as being related: just 19% of respondents use their own mental health as a marker of success as a SAHM. The same percentage, the survey notes, as those who measure success by a clean and tidy home. There are a number of reasons it can be difficult to make and keep friends as an adult, much less as a SAHM tied to a child’s schedule and needs — everyone, it seems, is busy and burnt out. But having someone who understands that you can talk to or even text can make you, and parenting, feel a whole lot better.