Since everyone and their grandma has opinions on the working vs. stay-at-home mom debate, let me throw mine into the mix.
I went back to work 3 days a week when Emma was about 4 months old. I was blessed to have such a long maternity leave – I think both Emma and I needed that time together. But even though I was a little nervous at the thought of someone else taking care of Emma, I was ready to go back to work. I needed some structure to my week and was looking forward to having a reason to shower and get dressed nicely.
I enjoyed working 3 days a week. Having 3 days at a computer allowed me time to think coherent thoughts and feel accomplished in a professional sense. It also enabled me to send personal emails, schedule appointments, and play fantasy football (haha) during random downtimes. Even though getting bottles ready, pumping and commuting an hour each way made those days a little hectic, it was nice once I got to work to be able to breathe and have a break from baby stuff.
Working those 3 days also made the days I stayed home with Emma extra special – we stayed in our jammies until noon, did random stuff around the house, ran errands and hung out with friends. I felt more energetic and creative as a mom when I was with Emma as a result of having the time away from her.
When we moved to Minnesota, I stopped working. My employer had already made a special concession to let me go down to 3 days – I doubt they would’ve approved working from home on top of that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay anyway. On top of no longer working, we lived 10 minutes outside a town of 300 for 3 months. Talk about a huge shift.
I knew that I couldn’t judge what being a stay-at-home mom is like based on those 3 months, so even though I wasn’t *loving* it, I was patient. I have now been a SAHM with Emma for about 9 months – equal to the time I was a working mom. Emma and I have gotten involved and have a fairly regular weekly routine, so I feel like I have a fairly accurate idea of what being a SAHM is like. And I can say that I prefer working part-time. Don’t get me wrong. There are many things that are great about staying home full-time. I like the ability to get things done during the day instead of taking care of them after work or on the weekends. I like cooking dinner at a reasonable hour. I like seeing Emma grow and learn new things, and being the one taking care of her. I like going to playdates and MOPS and spending time outside.
But just like working outside the home has its challenges, so does staying home. You don’t get a break. You have a little needy person (or persons) with you constantly. It’s impossible to get anything done without being interrupted and some days, you need an extra gallon of patience that never seems to arrive. So sure, hypothetically you have all the time in the world to bake and clean and craft and Facebook, but in reality, you’re just chasing a kid around all day, keeping them from injuring themselves, drawing on your furniture or yanking on the dog’s tail.
More than that though, I miss the personal fulfillment of working. When I gave birth to Emma, I became a mom, but I didn’t stop being me. I am happier and more myself when I have a creative outlet, a personal goal, time to think and accomplish things without a little person tugging on my leg or the worry that naptime will be over soon.
That’s me though. I am not a natural ‘kid person’ and never have been. Some people are, and that’s great. Some moms love staying home, and that’s great. Some moms love working, and that’s great. There are tradeoffs, sacrifices, challenges and benefits of each way. I truly believe that every family needs to do what is right for them. Travis and I are fortunate to have the financial means to make the choice freely. I know other families do not have that option.
What I would like to see is for women to stop picking sides and declaring which way is ‘right’ or ‘better’. Just the other day, I read a supposedly objective essay on this debate, and the author was clearly biased toward staying home (because she happened to be a SAHM). Just because you do things one way doesn’t make it the right way. And let’s be honest, fellow SAHMers – do we REALLY want all of the college-educated, intelligent, driven women to check out of the workforce once they have kids? Do we REALLY want a society run by males? We do not! Women are a crucial part of the workforce.
I realize that I may come across as slightly hypocritical by saying that, since I am not currently working outside the home. Even though I would prefer to work part-time, I have found that the number of professional part-time jobs out there (especially where I currently live) are virtually nonexistent. I know plenty of women who work full-time, but I personally would prefer not to (and I’m blessed to have that choice). So that might make me a hypocrite, but so be it.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the age-old debate of working vs. stay-at-home mom. Neither is easy. Both have challenges. Both have rewards. All moms love their kids.