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 the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for 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. Find her at
  • mel

    Jacey, the blog post link isn’t working.

    • jacey_eckhart

      fixed! thanks for the heads up, Mel.

  • mel

    I believe she went way overboard with the guilt trip. I am a SAHM and I spend time on my computer. Not all day, mind you, but I do get on it when my kids are home. This guilt trip could easily be applied to me because my attention is not on my kids every second. Just because you are a SAHM doesn’t mean that your every waking moment needs to be spent with your kids. We are more than just moms. That woman in the article wasn’t neglecting her children and all parents are guilty of not always being 100% attentive. I appreciate my children every moment, but there are times when I need adult time. The author of the blog doesn’t know who the woman was talking to on her phone. It could have been a sick parent, her husband who has been gone for the past few days , or a friend who is going through a hard time. These are things I try to remember when I see someone constantly on their phone so that I don’t judge without having all the facts.

  • Sam

    Although parenting is the most important task a SAHM has, it’s not the only task. I’ve paid bills and juggled appointments, got caught up with family, enrolled my daughter in programs, negotiated service prices for home repairs, all on my phone, at the park, while my daughter is playing, as opposed to her sitting in front of a TV while I try to keep her occupied and quiet. She socializes and gets fresh air and exersize, instead of staying planted on a couch. All the while in her mind, Mommy took her to the park today! She met a new friend! etc.
    As far as the blog goes, it’s sounds like a reflection on personal guilt, like she has caught herself doing it and is trying to overcome a personal obstical. Good for her! However, to apply one hour, or less of the day as the standard for this other woman would be judgemental and presumptuous.

  • Also A Spouse

    I dont have kids but I did read this on a SAHM’s facebook. gag. please. Your kids are at the park, you have probably been with them IN THE HOUSE all winter long. Let them play. Play angry birds or read a book or play words with friends, whatever you want, while they play at the park. Being a SAHM, or parent for that matter, does not mean you don’t take your eyes of your kids to take a break every now and then! Happy parents = happy kids and no break ever does not = happy parents. SAH or not.

  • coffees1st

    Hate to disagree-but I see way too many PARENTS in general (not just moms) doing the phone distraction thing. At a recent school event ( a poetry reading and talent show), I observed a father trying to covertly watch a basketball game on his phone. He had a wireless earpiece on, and would turn the volume down between performances. :( We are too distracted, as a nation, by social media. When I was a child – I had my mom’s complete attention – but – she had this thing for throwing pottery on a wheel. So yes, she was distracted – however – I watched her in amazement and admiration that she was so talented…. and she was “my” mom… I was so proud of her. Tornado sirens meant a trip down to the basement AND an art lesson (to keep us occupied). My mom had time for us because she made time, and when she needed a mental sabbatical – she did something for herself: art, playing her cello, or helping with my girl scouts. We all need to put our phones away a little bit more…. and just reminiscing like this reminds me that this includes ME.