Confessions: Work vs Stay at Home

by Heligirl on September 30, 2010

in Confessions,Daily Ramblings

I’ve been having quite a dilemma lately. Do I become a full time stay at home mom, or do I continue to work 25 hours a week?

A part of me sees my kids growing so fast and wants to be around to share every last second with them. I want to have playdates, get more involved in their preschools, meet up with other moms, take the kids to cool places like we did on Wednesdays all summer, explore their world with them every day. I want to come up with cool craft projects and do one a day, choosing a theme for the week and focusing on fun things from books and games to art projects and field trips around that theme. Sometimes I think if I didn’t have my day job, I might be able to do these things.

Before I know it they’ll be at school all day every day and this precious few years of being their world will come to an end. I want to savor it.

The other part of me realistically sees I’d be limited in my ability to pay for zoo, aquarium, museum and science center memberships; gas; craft supplies; coffee at the coffee shop playdates, etc. if I quit my job. If I choose to stay home, I’ll be forced to do just that – stay at the house or in the neighborhood. That’s a catch-22 right there.

Then there is my patience. When I have the kids a few days straight, I’m desperate for uninterrupted adult time. I think one of my favorite things about working is the ability to sit down until I need to get up and pee. The time at work actually recharges my batteries some days. I used to feel so guilty about these feelings. I’ve gotten past these guilty feelings. For me, I just had to accept I need that time of peace and change of pace to be the best mom I can be (calmer and more patient, which makes it easier to keep with my positive discipline).

If I quit, I can’t afford childcare so I won’t get a break when I need it. Can I do that?

And what about all the great leaps and bounds Sweetness is making from going to an in-home daycare with just 9 other kids two days a week? Just this past week I witnessed a child in Mr. Man’s preschool have a hard time with other kids. His mom kept apologizing, saying he’s not used to being around other kids and her hopes is the two hour a week mommy and me preschool will fix that.

I strongly feel, even for SAHMs, children need to have abundant opportunities to develop social skills in groups. And not just groups where every child’s mom is hovering nearby to intercede. I’ve heard from more than one teacher pal that they see kids who had some childcare/preschool experience away from home be far more advanced socially than those who stayed home with mom or dad and had limited group experiences away from their parents during their first five years. I’d need to come up with the cash for the kids to attend at least once a week to keep those skills going, which would mean even less cash to do things with the kids myself. Sigh. Though I do fantasize about finding  four or five other SAHMs and setting up a four-hour preschool-like arrangement where we develop a curriculum, rotate houses where we meet, and two of us work it each week. That way we’d all get a couple of days off to ourselves while the kids get time together away from mom. One can dream.

As I battle back and forth on these things, I’ve been noticing a couple of my favorite bloggers are also talking about this. Adriel from the Mommyhood Memos recently did a whole series on Working Moms, whether they be working at home, working outside the home, or working full time as mom. Those discussions Adriel got going with her readers were mighty helpful. I read many of my own thoughts in there, and got some good honest details from stay at home moms. There are as many ups and downs for those ladies as there are for us working outside of the home, even part time.

Also, Rebekah at Thoughtful Momma recently wrote a post about false assumptions from either side of the fence that also got me thinking. No one has 100% job satisfaction, whether it’s at work or as a SAHM. We each have to make decisions based off our own personalities, abilities, limitations and needs. No one can judge another’s decision because only you are in that place.

Whichever way I decide to go, there will be pros and cons. And maybe only working 25 hours really is the best answer for me and I’m only getting a “grass is always greener” pangs about being stay at home. I just hope I come to a decision I’m satisfied with soon. I can’t stand this back and forth.

What are your thoughts? What are the pros and cons to your “working” situation, whether it be out of the home, working in the home or working as a stay at home mom?


Carol @ Knee Deep September 30, 2010 at 7:12 am

The age old debate….and it’s a good one because nearly every mom tackles it at one time or another. I’ve been on both sides of this issue, with my 1st born, I couldn’t stand to leave her, so I quit my job and stayed home with her for 9 months, and at that point I was itching to work again. I missed the adult interaction, I missed using my brain, and I really missed having my own money and extra finanacial security. I was really uncomfortable with my husband being our sole supporter, especially in his line of work (professional athelete). With my 2nd born, I knew I was going back to work. It was really rough juggling a full time job and two kids. I couldn’t keep it all together. So, after 3 months of trying, I dropped down to part-time. This is ideal for me. I still work, I still get the interaction I need, I am still using my expensive degree, and I have time to get chores and errands done during the week while the kids are at preschool. This means we make the most of our weekends together. It works for us. Sure there is that piece of me that wishes I could be home full time, but in this economy I can’t risk giving up a job that is everything I want it to be only to be home for a few short years. I agree with you that kids benefit a lot from daycare/preschool situations especially after the age of 3. The time they should be home with just momma is so short, I just can’t give up a job that will allow me to pick them up from kindergarten at 2:30, will allow me to attend all of their school functions, etc., and in the elementary years they will remember that momma was there for them. I guess I am looking down the road long term….

A happy momma makes for happy kids, I’m sure you’ll do what’s best for you and your family!

Twitter: Heligirl
September 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks so much for that wonderful look at your decision Carol. I am having a lot of the same thoughts you did. I really am very lucky to have the schedule and flexibility I do at work so I can be there to take the kids to preschool (2 hours of preschool Monday and Tuesday for Sweetness, where I’m there working one of the days and 2 hours on Wednesday for Mr. Man, and I’m there with him). I love having Wednesdays off to play with the kids and take Mr. Man to preschool. And I do enjoy being able to keep my work experience going. I’ve allowed myself to feel really guilty for being away from the kids 25 hours a week.

Erin September 30, 2010 at 7:17 am

I prefer my role as SAHM because I wasn’t going to earn enough at my former job to do more than pay for daycare (and I WANT to raise my kid!) and the stress of finding a job that pays more and uses my degree (which I determined was the wrong degree for me to get) was too much in general. I do miss adult interaction, and while my daughter is in her Mom’s Morning Out program, I try to interact socially with as many adults as I can. I also miss the satisfaction of contributing to the household income. Neither of those things make me eager to jump back into the work force at this time. In general, I am much happier now than I ever was in the odd time in between college and pregnancy.
Erin recently posted: 5 Days On- 2 Days Off

Twitter: Heligirl
September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Thanks so much for adding a SAHM perspective Erin. I love it. I hear you on the cost of daycare. The only way I was able to keep working part-time was because I have a nanny share, which is cheaper than daycare. At $7 an hour per child for five hours ($35) I can make it work where $60 a day per child was pretty much making no sense at all to even work. Right now I kind of rely on my job for medical and retirement too. I hate being tied down like that. It sounds like you so made the right decision based on how you felt at work too. You’re so lucky that you know in your heart that’s the right decision for you. I so admire that!

JP September 30, 2010 at 8:12 am

Jen, you know I’m old. I had to work as a single parent for a lot of years and missed so much of doing, going with my kids. I wish I could have only worked part-time. If you can continue to work part-time and balance your time (and energy), do it. Your children need those social skills. You do too. Adult time spent with adults helps you to see things from another perspective and adult interaction can alleviate frustration as well. Your children will not suffer…they will respect you because you’ve taught them that thinking about yourself is healthy.
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Twitter: Heligirl
September 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Thank you so very much JP. You made me all weepy-eyed. It means so much to me to read your words of wisdom and experience. And, for the record, if I’m as youthful and energetic as you when I’m “old,” I’ll be a very lucky woman. Thanks so very much again!

Susan September 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I’m a SAHM and there are many, many days where I wished I had a half-time job and child care. I wish I had my own dineros coming in- I really miss having a pay check (having worked up until I was 37). I wish I had time away from my precious little man, who used to suck my energy dry every day by 2pm. And daycare to get the break I so rarely got before my son was in school all day. In my life before becoming a mother, I had a job that I liked, held a certain amount of prestige, and paid fairly well. It’s been a huge adjustment to completely let all of that go.

However, it’s been a luxury, as a SAHM, to make my own schedule. It’s been a luxury to be able to take my 2 favorite hobbies in the world, and turn them into a micro business where I sell my creations at local school and community center craft shows. Having that creative outlet has been a sanity saver for me.

It’s been life changing for my son to be able to go to all sorts of therapy appointments (especially when he was younger). And for me to take some awesome parenting classes. All made a million times easier to schedule (or even possible to do) because I’m a SAHM.

I’m of the school of thought that it’s not necessarily the quantity, but the quality of time you spend with your kids. Whatever you decide, your 2 kids will be great. Do what YOU need to do for you. The happier you are with your life decisions, the better mom you’ll be for your two dumplings.

My fondest memories of spending time with my Dad are things like watching M*A*S*H together after we had both gotten home from work (when I was right out of college), or chatting in the kitchen during dinner clean-up time.

For my son and I, we spend a lot of time with eachother because of my husband’s work schedule. I’m basically a single parent 50% of the time. We have our special moments when he’s taking a bath, or during our bedtime routine. And when Dad’s home, he gets special Daddy time, one on one. And that’s when my little man will tell me that he and Dad are going to have some Daddy time, and that I can go have Mommy time (a break). He’s such a considerate little guy!

Twitter: Heligirl
September 30, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Oh Susan, what an amazingly wonderful and awesome piece of advice. Thank you so very much for sharing your story and heart. I just feel your wonderful energy in your words. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and words of wisdom. I recently had someone link to my site in one of her blog posts and use me as an example of a poor mother because I had a nanny 13 hours a week. It wrecked havoc on me because of my inner turmoil of whether or not I should stay home. To be called out and criticized as an unfit mother because I used childcare was a blow. But you’re right, quality is very important. I really need my recharge time. I’m not an unfit mother. Maybe I’m just unfit to be a SAHM. I can’t tell you how much your kind words and support mean to me. I so look up to you. Thank you!!

Susan October 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm

You don’t know how good it feels that I was able to help you feel better about whatever you decide. I find that when I have some “me” time or time with girlfriends, it recharges me. So, whatever you do, pencil in some time for just you. I found it a little bit difficult at first, when my little man was a toddler. But it got easier.

The first 3 or 4 years with my little man were especially tough on me. I have no family here. And because I just moved here in 2000, I didn’t have any close girlfriends here until my son was around 4. I didn’t know until he was 3 that he has Sensory Integration Disorder. And part of that was an inability to transition between activities- any activities. He would tantrum at every change: getting dressed, diaper change, getting into or out of the car, going anywhere, leaving anywhere. And he was completely obsessed with balloons and flags for about 3 years; making trips to the grocery store a nightmare. He didn’t sleep well for months at a time until he was 5. I didn’t even realize it, but I was mildly to moderately depressed for most of 7 years, coming out of it this summer with a wonderful therapist.

The SAHM vs. working mom debate will rage on until the end of time. But just follow your heart and listen to that little voice inside. It won’t steer you wrong in the end.

Booyah's Momma September 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Reading through the comments, and I think I love Susan: “I’m of the school of thought that it’s not necessarily the quantity, but the quality of time you spend with your kids. Whatever you decide, your 2 kids will be great. Do what YOU need to do for you.”

Really, how perfect is that? That about sums up anything I could offer.

But I do hear you about the uninterrupted adult time. I need to have that every day… I do think it makes me a better mom to my own kids to have that element in my life.

Lost In Mommyland October 2, 2010 at 11:54 pm

I always thought I would make a great stay at home mom. That is not true. I crave my alone or with other adults only time. I really think it makes me a better mom. If I spend 24/7 with my kids it makes me nuts! I love them and all but a girl can only take so much. I know there are moms out there who are great at this and enjoy every minute but that is not me – and I am ok with that. I also believe the social interaction children get at daycare or nursery is necessary for them.

All work and no play makes me a crabby mommy!
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Amy October 4, 2010 at 7:21 am

This past year, I’ve been at home with my 4 yr old daughter only because I lost a FT job last October. At first, I enjoyed the days at home and doing little projects with her or just being free to do what we wanted. But to be honest, I’m a schedule person! I need to be on a schedule and I need some ME time. Not to sound selfish but being at home while I look for a job has definitely been an eye opener for me about SAHM. They have TOUGH job and coming from working 40+ hours a week outside the home some days I wish I was working FT again. I would love a 25 hour week job give me time away but still give me enough time to plan fun play dates, crafts, and just being able to stay home those few days. But you need to find the right balance for you! Some Moms are cut out for the SAHM thing but me I think I’m more of that WAHM but with a good balance of work and family time! Good luck with your decisions!
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Twitter: Heligirl
October 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Amy. We sound like we have similar feelings. I was climbing the walls at the end of my second maternity leave, but after a week back to work I was missing the kids something terrible.

ericka @ alabaster cow October 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I just started working 20 hours a week and it’s been so good for me. I’ll say this first: none of it’s easy. But I have found working has made me more balanced and every moment I spend with my daughter encourages me to stay focused and fully in the moment. When I was a SAHM I was overly exhausted and felt very unlike myself. Working part time is the best for me and my daughter right now. She stays with her grandmother while I work and I interact with adults and get to do something I enjoy…for pay! You just have to do what works for you and your kids and make no apologies for it!

KMayer October 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Why is it all or nothing? When I had my first worked full-time, then quickly job-shared, then telecommuted the jobshare, then became the consultant, then with 3 kids, stayed home with periodic “opportunities” or freelance gigs. Worth nothing, other than keeping my name in the loop. Thing is, there are options. And now, the youngest of my 4 is 11 yrs old, and I’m vamping back up to fill the school days — but on my terms. Options exist (if there’s another income in the home). I write about this here:
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