“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness.” – Jessica Lange. I love that quote because it is so true, and unfortunately when it comes to the stay at home mom vs working mom debate, the word “selfish” gets thrown around WAY. TOO. MUCH.
I have had the privilege of being able to do it all–I was a full time working mom, a stay at home mom, and a part-time working mom. My schedule still flops back and forth on occasion. I believe this gives me a unique perspective to share some considerations with you.
But first, I want you to push this idea of “selfishness” out of your head. Do not even let yourself think, “…but I feel selfish…”
Here’s the deal: now that you’re a mom, prepare to feel guilty all the time. If you decide to do A, prepare to feel guilty that you didn’t do B. And if you did B, then understand you’re going to worry about not choosing A.
In this modern age of social media and unintentional “comparison trapping”, moms are second-guessing themselves more than ever.
As we begin to have this conversation, I need you to let go of the feelings that say “should”. “Should” is not a true qualifier here. When we use the word “should” as a mom, there is often guilt behind that world.
(Now, obviously, I don’t mean in the sense of “I should make some lunch” or another similar usage–that’s different. I mean using the word “should” when there isn’t truly a right or wrong answer, and when your head and your heart are not aligned).
Go into the rest of this article with an open mind. I’m going to share some things that helped me figure out if I should be a stay at home mom vs working mom, and I hope it will help you, too.
The first thing I want to address is your heart.
Now that you have had (or are expecting) your precious little one, where your child is, your heart will be also.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the overwhelming love and strong devotion you will feel for your babies. You will want to protect them from everything and not miss any milestones. You’ll want to give them the whole world.
It may seem like being a stay at home mom is the best way to ensure these things, but I want to assure you that choosing to be a working mom does not necessarily contradict this.
Yes, it will hurt to be away from your baby. But for every mom at work aching to get home to her baby, there is another mom at home ready to cry because she is exhausted and just needs a break.
I have been in both positions. Sometimes it feels like a “grass is always greener” situation.
But it is important to remember going forward that no matter what, your heart is going to want every moment possible with your baby, but that doesn’t mean that being a working mom is out of the question. This desire to be with your kids is every mom’s desire.
We need to stop thinking that moms who choose to work don’t care about raising their babies. It’s a false and damaging stigma. There is so much more that goes into this decision than what we want.
But nevertheless, we need to start honing in on what we feel like our heart is telling us. If you have a gut feeling, you need to be honest about that and start to reconcile that with what your head is saying.
The other side of this heart equation is your passion. Your kids may have your heart, but you may also have a passion for your work. That passion doesn’t need to be stifled just because you have kids.
But if you do not have a passion for your work, then this probably makes your decision much easier.
Your Financial Status & Family Goals
This one seems obvious, but can you afford to be a stay at home mom?
If your family is paycheck to paycheck with two incomes, it doesn’t suddenly get easier when you get rid of one of those incomes, even if it means you don’t have to pay childcare expenses. A lot of times we say there is no point in working because “daycare will take all of my paycheck.”
That may be true depending on if you were making minimum wage or slightly above, or if you have multiple kids to put in daycare, but for most people, you probably will still come out financially ahead by working.
I live in one of the most expensive states for childcare costs, but I still managed to take a little bit home at the end of the month on a teacher’s salary after paying for two kids in a full-time daycare center.
Financially, we have more money when I work. If you aren’t in a place where you can take a financial risk, or if you just enjoy your work and love the extra money it brings to live a flexible lifestyle, then continuing to work may be the right choice for you. Contrary to popular belief, wanting a little more money doesn’t make you a bad person.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to worry about if you’ll be able to pay your bills this month, nothing wrong with hoping to be able to save extra money for college, and nothing wrong with wanting to have enough that you can take a family trip in the summer.
Rate of Return
What I truly needed to look at was the rate of return on the money when it came to the expense of the lifestyle we wanted to live. We didn’t need fancy cars and vacations–our goal was a more relaxed lifestyle.
When I worked full-time, I was so exhausted at the end of the day that making dinner, cleaning, or doing other chores was agonizing.
I needed a break at the end of the day away from people (I’m not a full-blown introvert, but I’m somewhere on that spectrum), but I also wanted time with my kids.
When my kids were in daycare full-time, we were ALL so exhausted at the end of the day, which meant more tantrums and outbursts. I felt like my kids and I were all getting the worst parts of each other.
Working full-time meant more take-out and wanting to outsource household tasks (like cleaning) when possible.
You need to figure out the lifestyle you want and if you need your paychecks to live it. Our family wanted a simpler lifestyle, so eventually, it made sense for me to cut way back on my hours.
There Are Other Ways To Make Money
One thing to remember is we have never lived in a better time for making money as a stay at home mom. There are so many options for work-from-home gigs, side hustles, passive income, etc. If you want to stay home but need to make a little extra for your goals, there are many ways to do so.
Also, don’t rule out the idea of having your spouse find higher-paying work. Yes, I agree it’s not just that easy to say, “Okay, I’ll get a higher paying job.” But I would be remiss to mention that the game changer for my family was my husband getting a job that replaced my income.
He didn’t just decide to do that one morning by going out and coming home with a great job offer he found randomly. It took three years to get there. It didn’t happen overnight! But it was something that paid off in the end, and it gave my family the financial freedom we needed to live the life we wanted.
Shortly after this job change, I was able to stay home with my kids. Truly, we could have made it work for me to quit earlier, but it would have been difficult because we were working to pay off significant student loan debt.
Your personality type plays a significant role in this decision. Honestly, I believe your personality type is the biggest determining factor when deciding between being a stay at home mom vs working mom.
I first took the Myers-Briggs Test back in college. I did a study abroad program, and they made us take it to help them pair us up with compatible roommates.
The test was so helpful for me to learn more about who I am, though no personality test is going to be a perfect science.
But it is a start! There are so many different personality tests out there; look into a few to see what helps you learn the most about yourself.
Your personality type can help you decipher what being a stay at home mom or working mom might be like for you.
I was not surprised to see that this article stated my personality type as the most likely to be a stay at home mom. Once I finally was able to be home more, it’s honestly like I became a new person.
I am so grateful that my husband supported this because I do believe it would be difficult for me to return to full-time work permanently.
What About My Career?
There is also a part of me that is ambitious and has a hard time giving up my career completely. That is where I feel part-time has been my sweet spot while my kids are little. I was lucky to work out a job share position as a teacher–being a part-time teacher isn’t always feasible!
At the end of the day, you need to do some self-exploration to find out who you truly are.
Who you are matters!
You are not selfish if you enjoy working, are career-driven, or need to work for whatever reason. You were created this way. This is who you are.
You are filling an important role, and don’t let anyone tell you it is at the expense of your children.
Daycare has been awesome for my kids in SO many ways. My kids are well-adjusted, well-behaved, and happy.
They know I am their mom. Not once did they “get confused” or whatever else people say.
As for raising your kids, we all need a village. It is okay to have daycare be part of your village. Critics say that they needed to stay home because they couldn’t imagine someone else raising their kids, but there is so much wrong with that statement.
First of all, you are 100% raising your kids even if you utilize daycare. Each time one of my sons had an issue, it was me who figured it out and solved it. Then daycare supported me in what I said they needed to do for him.
Second of all, if you want to raise your kids 100% on your own with no village, you can. But the reality is that most (happy) stay at home moms have their own kind of village and support with child-raising, even if that village isn’t daycare.
While I put this last in my list, it certainly isn’t least. Like I said before, we all have our unique callings.
I believe each of us was created uniquely to fulfill a purpose. It is difficult to justify that there is only ONE right way to raise a family in modern times.
It’s okay to have a career as a mom. You are showing your kids that women are not less than men. You are showing them that women have an equal place in this world.
Some might have a hard time with that statement, but our calling in this life is not decided by people.
I reached a point where I knew I had to answer to no one besides myself, my family, and God. Society has expectations, but society’s expectations are not going to determine my calling.
While I loved my times as a stay-at-home mom, I have a career-driven part of myself that I can’t ignore. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work part-time.
While it is difficult to grow a career when you are part-time, it at least keeps you treading water. I am okay with that at this stage in life.
Lastly, you need to remember that you are doing the best that you can.
The fact that you are carefully considering this decision shows how loving you are as a mother.
If you have a gut feeling, follow it. If your head and heart have equal pull (like me), keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try things and take risks.
Remember, you don’t need to make one decision and stick to that decision for the rest of your life.
If you decide your decision was not what you thought it would be, you can always change your mind!
How did you decide if you were going to be a stay at home mom vs working mom? What advice do you have for those who can’t decide? Let me know in the comments!