What is it Like to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom?

A picture of a woman folding laundry while holding a baby
Just who is a stay-at-home mom and what does she do all day? The answer is more complex than most people give her credit for. Photo © Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Just what is it like to be a stay-at-home mom? There's no cookie-cutter definition of what life is like as a stay-at-home mom. But you can take a walk in her shoes to get a good idea of exactly what some of the things a stay-at-home mom does all day:

Who is a Stay-at-Home Mom?

The basic definition of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) is someone who stays home to raise her children and manage her household. She may have one child or several children, and they can range in ages from newborn all the way up to teenagers in high school.

The modern-day definition of a stay-at-home mom is someone who may or may not have left the workforce to stay home and raise her children. She may be highly educated and left a six-figure job to stay home. She may be planning on returning to the workforce once her children are older.

As the number of homeschoolers is on the rise, so is the number of stay-at-home moms who choose to homeschool their children. And so is the number of stay-at-home moms who also add work-at-home mom to their title. The modern-day stay-at-home mom is continually evolving and can't be limited by a dictionary-type definition.

What Does a Stay-at-Home Mom Do All Day?

A stay-at-home mom works many jobs throughout the day. She's a nurse, chauffeur, chef, teacher, playmate, housekeeper, laundry attendant, accountant and babysitter all rolled into one.

While there's no such thing as a typical day, this sample schedule gives you an idea of what all her day involves.

The stereotype of a woman sitting at home watching soap operas while eating bon-bons is a distant reality for the stay-at-home mom.

In fact, many stay-at-home moms aren't home much at all because they're running kids all over town to school, soccer practice, dance lessons and doctor's appointments, plus attending school meetings, grocery shopping and running other errands.

"Home" is only part of her title in name only.

And when she is at home, she's doing everything to keep her house running smoothly, including managing the household's budget, taking care of the house and planning the family meals. Most importantly, she's taking care of the children and their every need, especially when they're younger.

Many people don't view a stay-at-home mom's work as work because she doesn't receive a paycheck for the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week she's on duty. She doesn't get a pay raise or 401K plans. There are no vacation or sick days accumulated.

While some may argue that a stay-at-home mom doesn't contribute to her family, they're strictly thinking about a financial contribution in the form of a paycheck. But as a 2010 report from Salary.com shows, a stay-at-home mom would earn $117,856 a year for all the jobs she performs if she were paid. Moms in Canada would earn $132,288. The salary estimates continue to rise with each year.

Today's stay-at-home mom is not your Leave it to Beaver image of a woman who stays home vacuuming the carpets in her long dresses and pearls while waiting on her children to come home from school. While some stay-at-home moms maintain their title all the way until the kids graduate high school and leave the house, others go back to the workforce, start their own businesses or find new ways to stay home while earning income.