The running joke in Bend is that best place to find a stay-home mom is not in the kitchen or in the home at all, but rather in the nearest pilates gym or yoga studio. And while that may be the case for some moms, the truth is that the majority of stay-home mothers in America have less education than their counterparts and are home because it makes more economic sense to be there, given the cost of childcare. But as one Democratic strategist recently learned, it’s dangerous to make assumptions when it comes to motherhood.
Misty Rupe falls into the broad category of women whose decision to stay home was made easier by the economics of parenting. After their first child, Hayden, was born, Rupe and her husband, Tyler, decided that it made more sense for her to stay home than to continue her career as an office manager where most of her salary would have gone toward childcare.
Since then, the family has added two more boys, Liam and Owen, and moved from Salem to Bend in the process.
For Rupe, who grew up in Oregon and met her husband shortly after graduating from high school, staying home not only made economic sense it also felt right for her.
“My mom was a stay-home mom so that’s what I thought was normal,” Rupe said. “Both of my parents were always around.”
She’s never regretted the decision, but it hasn’t always been easy. There was a time when her husband was working full time as a nurse and using his days off to complete a remodel of the farmhouse where they were living in Salem.
“There were some times when I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and newborn, which were taxing. They were much harder. I had no help at all. This feels like a vacation compared to how it used to be,” Rupe said.
Like other moms we talked to, Rupe said that being present for those infant and formative years was something that she wouldn’t trade for anything. But being home with young children all day, every day can be a lonely experience.
“It can be very isolating if you’re not careful about it.”
In the case of her family, Rupe’s husband, who works as a nurse, got plenty of chit-chat on the job and wasn’t always looking for conservation when he got home from a 14-hour shift. Rupe on the other hand was starved for adult interaction.
Sarah Daily, a marketing specialist who also runs the online support and social networking group Bend Moms for Moms (see sidebar on the next page), spent a year and a half at home with her daughter after she was born. It was an amazing experience, but also a difficult one, said Daily who added that she also had trouble adjusting to the demands and the isolation of full-time parenting.
“A lot of people think stay-at-home moms have this really comfy, cushy lifestyle, but I found being a stay-at-home mom was a lot more difficult than working. You’re on 24/7 and don’t get a break,” Daily said.
Daily also found it was difficult to get back in the workforce. Employers weren’t as willing to overlook the 18-month gap in her professional resume as Daily had presumed.
“I was shocked that it was an issue—what I had been doing for that year and a half,” Daily said.
Rupe, who has been at home for more than eight years, is in a similar predicament. Her youngest son, Owen, will be entering kindergarten in a few years. Rupe plans to go back to work at that point. But just what she will be doing is unclear. Given the long gap in employment, Rupe thinks she needs more education to look attractive to employers. She’s considered following her husband into nursing. But that would entail several years of school, and competition is tight for classroom seats and jobs.
“I’ve never really broached the subject with myself of what I wanted to do,” Rupe said.
But after the eight years and three kids, Rupe feels like she’s more, not less, prepared for the work world.
“It’s a bit of a conundrum with all that I’ve experienced with these kids, I feel there’s almost anything that I could do,” Rupe said.