What Does a Stay-at-Home Mom Do?

Woman folding laundry while holding a baby

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There's no one-size-fits-all 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 some of the many things she actually does in addition to taking care of the kids.

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. Or she may have become a stay-at-home mom before ever entering the workforce.

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 contemporary stay-at-home mom is continually evolving and can't be limited by a dictionary-type definition or a societal stereotype. Her contributions to the family are more than just being the on-site grown-up in charge of the children.

What SAHMs Do

A stay-at-home mom works many jobs throughout the day. They're 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 her day involves. The stereotype of a woman sitting at home watching soap operas while eating bonbons is a distant reality for the SAHM. 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 crisply pressed dresses and pearls while waiting on her children to come home from school.

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.

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.

A 24/7 Job

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 plan. There are no vacation or sick days.

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.

A 2016 report from Salary.com shows that a stay-at-home mom would earn $143,102 a year for all the jobs she performs if she were paid.

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.

Should You Stay Home?

Just like there's no cookie-cutter day for a stay-at-home mom, there's no cookie-cutter answer as to whether you should become a stay-at-home mom or remain in the workforce. There are many great reasons to become a SAHM but you also have to evaluate your personal situation with your finances and going from two incomes to one is a factor to consider.

If you're thinking of becoming a SAHM, talk with your spouse. Discuss the pros and cons of you becoming an at-home parent. Ultimately, you have to decide if the day-to-day activities, and, yes, sometimes mommy boredom, that comes with being a stay-at-home mom will be right for you and your family.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kunzman R, Gaither M. Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research. Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives. 2013;2(1):4-59.

  2. Salary.com. Moms: We know you’re worth it. But how much is “it” really worth?

  3. Nel P, Maritz A, Thongprovati O. Motherhood and Entrepreneurship: The Mumpreneur Phenomenon. International Journal of Organizational Innovation. 2010;3(1).

  4. Crowley JE. Staying at Home or Working for Pay? Attachment to Modern Mothering Identities. Sociological Spectrum. 2014;34(2):114-135. doi:10.1080/02732173.2014.878605 

By Apryl Duncan
Apryl Duncan is a stay-at-home mom and internationally-published writer with years of experience providing advice to others like her.