I woke up feeling sad today. The Monday after a vacation is always a difficult day. But my sadness stemmed from knowing that after several days of my husband being home with me and the two kids, I would be alone again. The anxiety of that was reminiscent of those Monday mornings when I was working a full-time job outside the home knowing I would have to leave my babies again for another nine hours in someone else’s care.
I realized that both sides of mom-life are so hard. There are pros and cons to each side – working mom versus stay-at-home mom. Each woman has to decide what is best for her and her family, of course, and factors such as household needs, budget, and other circumstances always factor into the final decision.
I have had the privilege of being on both sides of the fence. I stayed at home with my firstborn for seven months before re-entering the workforce of property management. I went on to stay home for four months with my second before heading back. And for the last nine months I have been a work/stay-at-home mom with both of the kids. I wanted to share my observations from both perspectives.
First, let me preface my opinion by saying that just like most things – my opinion will never encompass every single persons’ thoughts and feelings. My hope is to appeal to the masses of mamas who struggle every single day with how to raise our tiny humans the best we possibly can.
Pros & Cons as a Working Mom
THE GUILT. The guilt of leaving them for 9-10 hours a day in someone else’s home or a daycare business that wasn’t the comfort of their own home.
THE WORRY. What will they learn? What will they be exposed to? What if they are hurt? What if they are not being loved? What if they are not taken care of properly?
THE VIBE FROM COWORKERS. I was the boss where I worked, but I am not ignorant to the fact that it was noted every single time I came in late or had to leave early to tend to the kids. Eyes would roll and I’m sure comments were made to my boss or other employees about my absences. In fact at my last job, I found out about a private message from one of my employees to another stating “must be nice” to have kids to blame on everything. Of course this person didn’t have children yet, but one day when she does she will know that deep inner gut punch when you have to abandon your job to attend to your main priority in life – your baby.
THE CONSTANT JUGGLE. That deep inner gut punch was felt at home, too. When a call came in that I had to answer and took me away from my baby’s chubby arms. When an employee would call in sick on a weekend and I would have to cancel my family’s’ plan and take care of work. When I knew my job performance wasn’t 100% because I was basically sick and tired of being there and just wanted to be home. The fact that I wasn’t able to give my complete attention to my family because of the responsibilities at my job. I felt pulled in so many different directions and I never felt good enough at any of them.
THE GOOD PART. Having friends at work. Being able to take a lunch hour and walk through Target with a coffee in complete silence. Feeling confident having professional conversations with other adults. Enjoying praise when you absolutely nailed something on a secular level. Having a hot cup of coffee uninterrupted at your desk. Being able to take a walk outside alone. Having a steady paycheck without worry, even if over half of it is handed over to your child care provider. It’s nice to be able to pay for those Target walks guilt-free.
I was a property manager for eight years, for various companies, and I absolutely loved my job – until it wasn’t any fun anymore. I have thought about going back to Property Management – which was my love for so long – but every time I think about it, I realize that the chapter of my life where I worked on-site is one I prefer to keep closed.
Pros & Cons as a Stay-at-Home Mom
THE CONSTANT STATE OF NEED. Not for you … for THEM. I wake up to my 2-year-old son yelling my name at the top of his lungs. We go all day, non-stop. “Milk, mommy.” “Tea, mommy.” “Yogurt, mommy.” “Oreos, mommy.” “Can you play with me, Mommy?” “Can we go to the library, mommy?” “Can we go to the park, Mommy?” I am up all day fetching food and drinks for my tiny people who are too young to get it for themselves. I rarely eat a meal un-interrupted or hot, because by the time I sit down to eat it, someone needs something else.
NO MORE PEACEFUL TARGET WALKS. If I brave taking my children out in public, it is RARE that we get through one errand without a meltdown from one of my children. Usually it is my son who gives me a run for my money – literally. I have to chase him down the aisles at the store quite regularly. My daughter is a bit better, but if she even breathes the scent of a toy section in any store I know that my utmost manipulation skills must be brought because if she doesn’t get something there will potentially be a downpour of tears.
NEVER A SOLO MOMENT. My children are always around. They are always underfoot, in my lap, pulling my hand or my shirt someplace. I never go to the bathroom alone. I have an audience.
NO MONEY, NO MONEY, NO MONEY. There isn’t a paycheck every other week when you are at home with the kids. No one gives you any praise or a piece of paper certifying that you’ve kept the kids alive for another day. There’s rarely a “thank you” from the kids when you’ve handed them the 500th cup of milk for the day.
BOREDOM ABOUNDS. I have to plan play dates and rotate library visits, park days, trips to Chick-fil-A, the pool, and the zoo in order for us to have a full schedule. It’s tough when there is a lull, because my kids are then bored which in turn makes all of our lives unbearable.
THE GOOD PARTS. All the snuggles. The fact that if one of them wakes up sick there isn’t a boss to call. The freedom to stay in pajamas all day if we want. The moments I can’t get back if I was at work. The moments where I catch them laughing together or holding hands or discovering something new and enjoying it so much. The lack of guilt I feel when I hand the kids over to my husband after dinner so I can take a much needed shower.
You see, there is NO perfect way to mother. There’s always guilt and fear, but no matter what, if your children go to bed every night with full bellies knowing they are loved, we have done our jobs. And what a great job that is, mama.