stay-at-home-mom-vs-working-mom
Motherhood, Natural Parenting

Stay At Home Mom Vs Working Mom – How To Decide What’s Best For Your Family

“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.

Sometimes the accusation of selfishness comes from others, but sometimes it’s our own feelings and “mom guilt” that bog us down.working mom

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 this out, and I hope it will help you, too.

Your Heart working-mom-selfie

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

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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, 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.

If you can’t do those things on one income, you don’t need to feel guilty for choosing to work to make those things happen. But those are not every family’s goals.relaxed-lifestyle

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 I didn’t want to make a healthy dinner, let alone clean or do household chores.

When I worked full-time, 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.

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.

Personality Type

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Your personality type plays a significant role in this decision. Honestly, I believe your personality type is the biggest determining factor.

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.

I thought the test was so cool to help me 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.

However, 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 in a lot of areas!

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 support, I guess 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.

Your Hopes and Dreamsstay-at-home-mom-vs-working-mom

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 very difficult to justify that there is only ONE right way to raise a family in this modern world.

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 really hard time with that statement, but luckily for us, our calling in this life is not decided by people.

Finally, I just had to reach a point in our situation where I knew that I had no one else to answer to 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 for a reason 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.

Trust Yourself

Lastly, you need to remember that you are doing the best that you can.

The fact that you are carefully considering this decision is enough to show how conscientious and loving you are as a mother.

If you have a gut feeling, follow it. If you are like me where your head and heart have equal pull, keep an open mind and 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!

stay-at-home-mom-vs-working-mom

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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12 Comments

  1. riverdogg says:

    Interesting read on the stay at home mom versus working mom debate. Like you touched on, a way to satisfy both needs is to start an online business and become a stay at home working mom. And if the mom gets some affiliate sites or shopify stores or even selling homemade stuff on Etsy she could create the all important streams of passive income. Nice article,  I hope your weekend has been a good one, take care.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thank you!

  2. Stanley says:

    This is a very challenging decision for every family. Today, it is not just moms alone that struggle with this decision but some dads too. My wife left her job to raise our 3 kids and now that the kids are all grown up, she wants to work to continue to contribute but it is not easy for a woman to re-enter the work place. Therefore, developing alternative income sources like a home or online business is a good alternative and I would encourage one to start as easy as possible. There is also no job security today, therefore having multiple income choices is an good option as I find the financial decision often outweighs the other factors mentioned in your article.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Great point, Stanley! You are absolutely right that this is a big decision for every family, and could be applicable to dads, too. I decided just to focus on moms in this article because that is the perspective I have, and I can’t speak directly to the pressures men may feel from society or their own sense of personal pressure due to “cultural norms”, which could be very different than the pressures I face. But you are right that this is a topic that needs to be talked about for dads, too!

  3. DreaJay says:

    I’m a father and I know what it feel like to feel guilty towards one’s family. This was one issue that caused a little rift between I and wife when we had our first daughter, she was working, likewise me, I thought it was the best idea for her to sit back at home and take care of the house and the kid, she argued it a bit till when we had our second child, responsibility began to rise and it was and for just my little income to balance out living. To cut it short, we decided to stop arguing about it and she continued her job, it all depends on your agreement and how you can both work it out. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Yes, it is definitely a family decision! While it may affect the spouse who is going to be the one leaving their job more than the other spouse, it is definitely a decision that will affect the whole family and everyone needs to be on board.

  4. I am a mom of 3 adult children who are at the age of becoming parents themselves.If my daughters were to ask me which is best, my answer would be “whichever makes them happier”. Being a new mom is overwhelming enough as it is and trying to figure out whether or not to be a working mom just adds more fuel to the fire. Whatever the choice is there should be no guilt and no regret. You have pointed out some great factors to consider. Both ways work as proven time and again. It is important to spend QUALITY time with your children. That is what matters.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Absolutely, Geri! Quality time is exactly right. A mom could be at the office for 8 hours, but come home and make the best of every moment with her kids. Compared to someone who might physically be with their kids more, but doesn’t spend much time truly engaging with them, which is really better?

  5. Louise says:

    It’s a fine balance isn’t it, being home with your kids or going out to work to help provide for them and the rest of your family. Family values change all the time and as you say social media intervene to make judgement on everyone’s ideas.

    If you can afford to stay home that’s great, your children benefit from having you around. Here in the UK child care costs are astronomical and parents often find that one salary goes to paying for child care, so it’s a balance deciding whether to work or stay home. Some parents need the stimulation of work and other adults, rather than being with babies and children all the time. 

    It is what suits each individual and family best.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Yes, each family has different needs and goals!

  6. Wildecoll says:

    Every mother deserve to be treated with utmost respect for the great job they are doing, it’s always not easy to forfeit your own careers and take up the duty of taking care your kids. I believe which ever decision any mother make towards her home, either to be a full house mom or to decide yet time between work and home, we all have different reasons to do whatever we do and as you’ve said in this article, selflessness should be the backbone of every decisions. Thank you.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Absolutely, thank you!

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