“So, when are you going back to work again?” This dreaded question is never far from anyone’s lips. Funny that, before your baby came along, no one ever asked you about the ins and outs of your workday. Because what you did at your office all day was never a topic of great interest to your mother-in-law, your neighbors, nor your aunt Flo, although now she seems to be very keen to find out whether you are going to be a stay at home mom or a working mom.
And now, your little one is here, and you find it hard to remember what life was like before she came along. In fact, she has now become such an integral part of your life that just thinking about life after maternity leave brings you out in a cold sweat.
Surely, if anyone could read your mind right now, they’d see a jumble of different scenarios and conflicting thoughts.
While you can’t imagine leaving her with strangers in a creche, at the same time, you’re not sure if staying at home with your child is for you. Not to mention, what about the financial side of things?
“If finances allow and I do stay at home, what will everybody think? Will they think I’m wasting my education?”
“If I go back to work full time, would people make me feel guilty for not being at home with my little one?”
See, for some, this decision is straight forward.
In fact, many moms don’t have a choice, just a massive mortgage bill every month. Whereas other mothers want to stay home and have the financial means to do so. Then again, some moms are so keen to go back to work, they have their ‘back to work’ outfit all sown up before baby is born.
But, if your mind is seesawing on this topic, and your partner is happy to give you space on this, then let me help you come to a decision that suits your family.
Find the lifestyle for you
Because I know how hard it is to make this decision and stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, I have undoubtedly agonized over it and tried out different options: going out to work, staying home with baby, and taking on freelance projects from home.
You see, all have their different merits, and most of the moms I have met have said the same during endless chats about this topic of conversation.
In fact, every situation calls for a different decision: a ‘whatever works’ mentality would conclude every one of these discussions.
But, the one thing that has always struck me in each work/life balance chat (and there were many) is moms voicing their worry about what other people think. Every mom would be happier with her situation if she didn’t have these niggling thoughts running through her head about other people’s opinions.
On the other hand, dads rarely ever voice the same misgivings. Funny that.
How to decide between being a stay at home mom vs working mom and be happy
So, after many years of living with this dilemma. I have come up with 13 pros of both staying at home and going out to work. And you might find that some of these really resonate with you.
Also, to help you make up your mind which lifestyle would suit you and your family best, I have listed the 5 main questions you need to ask of your particular situation.
Sure, it will require you to do homework and asking some tough financial questions of you and your partner. But then again, every critical decision involves a lot of thought put into it.
Still, once you have made your choice between being a stay at home mom vs a working mum, own it, and make the most of it.
Ultimately, you’ll find that, no matter what you choose, there will always be people close to you who will question your lifestyle. Just don’t let them make you feel guilty; your lifestyle is your business.
So, let’s look at the science bit first. For instance, have you ever wondered what the experts say on this topic? Fortunately, research was done in this respect, but as with most research, you can find studies that argue for both sides of the working vs. the staying at home debate.
Working moms have a positive effect on sons career choices
For instance, the 2006 US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study of more than 1,000 kids discovered no difference in the development of children who were looked after by their mothers compared with those who cared by others (including their fathers) during their pre-school years.
In particular, if you’re raising a son, this study might pique your interest. A Harvard based study of over 100,000 in 29 countries found that sons of working mums spend more time with their own children, support their wives to work outside the home and opt for workplaces that favor gender equality.
Staying at home can change your baby’s brains
Then again, other studies argue in favor of one parent staying at home. Edward Bishop, a Scotland-based researcher, has found that your lifestyle can affect a baby’s brain development and thinking process.
An advantage of a parent staying at home is that baby will spend most of her days in a secure environment with one parent around, experiencing less stress. Consequently, this lifestyle will foster cognitive-emotional growth in later life, enabling the child to be more confident in her social interactions as she grows up
Equally, a Norwegian study (run by Eric Bettinger, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education) found that a stay at home parent has a positive effect on the academic career of older children. But while the average point difference is small, there is still a marked difference.
Given these arguments, what works best for you and your family?
Ten pros of being a stay at home mom (SAHM) vs. working mom
- Staying at home is a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch your child develop. Indeed, when you’re knee-deep in nappies, it might not seem like it, but take it from me, children grow up fast! You won’t ever get this time back
- On the same track, you get to be there for your child. You won’t miss her sitting up, first steps, her learning to say mama, and later, all her school events.
- You’re there when your child is sick. You and your partner won’t get the dreaded call at work that baby is poorly and needs to go home ASAP. Trust me this happens a lot the first few years in crèche.
- You get to bring up your child with your values.
- You can teach your child new stuff every day: when you go out in nature when you read books together, and even when you show her how to build massive Lego constructions (or just a small wall).
- Finances allowing; a stay at home parent cuts down on stress. You don’t have to worry about a work trip taking you away from home for the guts of a week. If your partner is working late, neither of you won’t get in a tizzy looking for a babysitter to bridge the childcare gap.
- Staying at home can also mean working from home. You should investigate this option if you’d like your brain to have a daily work out while bringing in a second source of income.
- If you’re sociable, you will find other mums to hang out with, giving you a lot of insight into applying for the best schools, the best pediatrician, fun activities, and summer camps.
- If you’re at home when your children get older, you get to help them with their homework and take them to their various clubs or playdates. They’ll end up with a better social life than you.
- You can get involved in their school; which will have a positive effect on their school career.
Ten pros of being a working mom vs a stay at home mom
- While you might miss milestones, you’re also absent during every nappy explosion, temper tantrum, and general food refusal. Yes, someone else can deal with all that while you’re in a meeting.
- You don’t have to do all the cooking for every lunch and dinner. No fretting about the vegetable and protein content of every meal; you have someone else to worry about that.
- You don’t have to set a routine yourself; just follow the one from daycare or the minder.
- You get to leave the house every day. Every day! For a full day!
- It’s nice to interact with adults again during the day, without talking about the little one, or God forbid, other people’s kids.
- You bring in a source of income.
- Career progress is more straightforward if you keep working.
- Not taking time out from work will be beneficial for your pension.
- No umpteen daily attempts to clean up after a messy baby or toddler; cleaning the house with a little one is like walking backward underwater; sheer impossible.
- You’ll have an active adult social life with attending work events, rather than your child’s play dates in the park.
So, there you have it, the main pros of both choices. For the cons, just flip them.
Going back to work or being a home maker: how to decide
Be honest, while you were reading the lists, did you feel yourself go one way or the other? When you make a decision that affects your life in a big way, it needs to be done with your head and your gut.
So what does your gut tell you?