Unsung heroines: Celebrating stay-at-home mothers

What you need to know:

A stay-at-home mum is always in touch with the children’s development needs. They are available to provide the best attachment to their children, which is critical in the first five years of a child’s development.

Tomorrow, Ugandans will celebrate International Mother’s Day.  When I thought about the mothers to celebrate on this day, I thought of stay-at-home mothers. Often neglected and forgotten, they play a huge role  in building strong families and supporting men to thrive at work. They deserve our recognition, respect, and honour.

Stay-at-home mums are mothers who are not currently employed and have a child younger than 18 at home. The exact figures of stay-at-home mothers we have in Uganda are hard to come by.  But the closest we have is from the Uganda National Household Survey Report 2019/2020, where it is reported that unpaid (where the person doing the work does not receive a wage) care work “is not counted and therefore, excluded from GDP compilation.

The report indicates that more females, 83 percent than males 53 percent, participated in UCW”. Also, “the activities with the highest percentage of persons engaged in UCW, were cleaning utensils 50 percent and fetching water-50 percent.

The least percentage of persons engaged in UCW 32 percent was in collecting firewood. Across all types of household chores, more females than males, almost double, were engaged in UCW.       

In traditional African societies, there was a gender division of labour; men were hunters and gatherers, while women stayed at home to look after the children and the home. Now this relationship has become complex, contested and challenged, given increased levels of education of women, thanks to the women’s emancipation movement. 

Jennifer, my wife, is a stay-at-home mum. It was one of those decisions she made that I did not like, but looking back 13 years later, since she quit her job, I cannot say we regret that decision.

Of course, there are many downsides related to being a stay-at-home mother such as depending on a single income (and if it is low that makes it even worse). Physical, emotional, and mental fatigue becuase they might be overworked. The 2012 Gallup analysis carried out in the US, found out that, stay-at-home mothers are more emotionally stressed than employed mothers and it might also dent a stay-at-home mum’s chances of getting a job in future when she decides to get back into work.

Chances are that with technology fast evolving and high unemployment rate, there might be little or nothing her skill set can do. That said, the upsides of mothers staying at home are many and quite rewarding:

Round-the-clock care

A stay-at-home mum is always in touch with the children’s development needs. “Children, especially if they are under 12 years, need constant monitoring. I have been present when all my three children took their first steps in life. I get to know who has not bathed or brushed. I know whose temperature has risen. You cannot pay me any amount of money to substitute that,”  says Jennifer Agaba.

Better home keeping

Stay-at-home mothers concentrate on running the home more effectively than if they were away at work, because they are present. “I am always at home, supervising domestic workers. I do not have to call in to check on them. I have just celebrated 16 years in marriage and I have had three househelps during that whole time; one for all the 16years,” says Irene Joan Isoke, a stay-at-home mum of three, all under 15 years of age.    

Child attachment made easy

 Mothers provide the best attachment to their children, which is critical in the first five years of a child’s development. Bowlby 1991, in his attachment theory, concluded that mothers should spend time developing this bond, “…day and night, seven days a week, 365 in a year” and being a stay-at-home mum gives you more time with your children. Now, this is in no way intended to shame or guilt mothers who work full-time jobs.


Stay-at-home mums are proud to do what they love without the inconvenience of someone looking down on their shoulders and shoving on the work deadlines. “I love baking and tending to my children. I could not do both at my former workplace in the bank. After dropping children at school in the morning, I have the whole house to myself where I bake cakes for the orders I receive during the week. I earn and I am happy at the same time. I would never trade my freedom for anything”, she says with a chuckle.

Personal care

Stay-at-home mums can also have a lot time for personal care. CA says, “Some of my friends and relatives have spoken behind my back that I am lazy and do not want to work, but that is not true. I like to take good care of myself, and my children read cookbooks, and write. I am planning to start a blog on cooking. This is made possible because I have some time to myself, especially when the children are away at school. Luckily my husband provides some money, enough to afford a few good things that keep me looking good.” Tomorrow, as we reflect on the sacrifices these stay-at-home mothers, let us celebrate them.