SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

If you want to get in a heated argument, this is a great subject to bring up. Emotions run deep with the question of whether a mom should stay at home or go to work. I have seen mild and peaceful women go into full- blown rage over the subject.   Friendships have been destroyed. Family relationships have become strained, usually ending in the silent treatment with one another. It can become a pretty volatile situation. Read on to learn how I figured out which one is the right decision.

 

If you were to ask me my opinion on this subject 32 years ago, I would have emphatically told you that the only right way is for a mom to stay home with her children. I probably would have defended this position to the death and if you didn’t agree with me, I would have shut you out of my life and never spoken to you again. Okay, probably not that extreme, but I was quite passionate about my stand on the matter and to me there was no other way.

 

Skip forward to today. I have a whole other perspective on things. Time and experience has a way of showing us that there are many other ways to look at any subject. As I have grown older, I have learned that the more I learn, the less I know.

 

I have watched my daughters struggle with the debate of working outside the home. Economy has changed. The standard of living has changed. The world has changed. Women are more powerful than ever before. Opportunities are endless. We have the capacity to do many wonderful things, inside and outside of the home. We have the opportunity to provide so much more to our children in just about every way. Yet, the one thing all mothers face is what is most important for themselves and their family. What works for one may not work for another. We are all so unique in our situations and perspectives. This subject has led me to do some reading and a lot of asking around to gain perspective from other people.

 

Here are a few things to think about:

PROS IN WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME

MONEY!!

Photo Credit: Fabian Blank

Obviously, this is the number one motive people bring up. This is the main reward for the work that we do. Yes, there are other reasons, but ultimately it comes down to this. Bills need to be paid. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70% of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-time. Of those women, about 2.7 million of those are single mothers. Of those single mothers, only 43% receive full child support. (U.S. Census) That is a lot of responsibility placed on women to provide for their family’s welfare. Not only that, there are many women who want to know that they are financially independent should anything ever happen to their spouse in the way of disability, death, divorce, etc., and they are left to provide solely for themselves and family. (I also want to interject my thoughts on the need to prepare for retirement and social security….something you may not think about now, but important in your future.)

EXTRA MONEY

As moms, we want to be able to give everything to our children in the way of opportunity and possessions. We want Billy to look nice at school. We want Suzie to be able to take dance lessons. We want to be able to take our kids to Disneyland. We want to provide them with greater educational opportunities. There could be any number of reasons for this and for the most part, our reasons usually are completely valid and worthy.

CAREER ADVANCEMENT

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

Whether we have invested a lot in education or work experience, advancing in our careers is reward in and of it self. Our occupations can provide us with a feeling of accomplishment and worth. Some jobs provide much in the way of service to others outside of our family. Others are challenging and help us to reach our potential. Many careers provide continued advancement and rewards.

SOCIAL INTERACTION

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Not everyone is cut out to be at home with children all day. Working allows us to be able to interact with others and form friendships outside the home. We are able to discuss thoughts and ideas outside of the home environment. This is a key reason many mothers work.

OTHER:

Other points that were brought up were: time management, organizational skills, having a reason to get ready for your day, independence, better as a working mom than a stay-at-home mom, children are also able to socialize with other children at daycare, self worth, etc.

CONS OF WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME

FINDING & LEAVING YOUR CHILD AT DAYCARE

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This is numero uno. This is what it’s all about. Trying to find a suitable daycare for your children is of utmost importance. Sometimes this can be extremely challenging. There are so many stories of horrible experiences with daycare and abuse. This is a constant and pressing concern for every parent. No one will ever love your child like you do….except maybe a grandparent J. And more often than not, the procurement of daycare falls upon the mom.

Then, when you find the perfect daycare for your child, you deal with other issues. Is your child being fed enough, on time, diapers changed, emotional needs being met, etc.? I used to always worry that my child would be neglected in this regard. And the twister; you hope your child will form a bond with their caretaker, but how do you deal with the feelings of that child forming that bond over you at times? It’s hard to know that the caretaker gets to experience all those firsts as well. More than likely, you won’t see him take his first steps or notice his first tooth.

What if he gets sick? How do you handle that with daycare? You will probably have to give up your PTO to stay home with him until he gets well enough to go back and even then, his sickness may be lingering some and you wonder if he will get the attention and medication he needs. And that all depends on if you are able to get off work in the first place.

Another aspect of childcare is the amount of money it takes to provide them with the very best daycare you can give them. Many times this will take a big chunk of your check.

Daycare for older children, especially during the summer months, can be quite a challenge. Many times you will need to find someone who can take them to their activities and practices.

YOU MISS OUT ON A LOT!

It’s hard not to be able to be with your kids in all their activities with school and other extra-curriculars, etc. If you get the chance to go with them on a field trip, you have to be able to take a day off with either no pay or use PTO. You will probably not be able to help in their classrooms or any other volunteer work. You may miss out on dance recitals, ballgames, school programs, etc.

TIME MANAGEMENT & HUSTLE

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Being a working parent means that you have less time to be able to get things such as dinner, baths, homework, laundry, cleaning, etc., done in record time. When you come home from work there is no time for you to sit and relax. You immediately fall into robot mode. If your child is at daycare all day, you may be spared a lot of the mess that happens in the day with children, but you still have much to accomplish each night in the way of everyday responsibilities. This can cause a lot of guilt and frustration. What you would love to do is to just sit down and relish the time you have with your kids….or even your husband, or heaven forbid, something other than family. But, the reality is that even if you have two to do the work, your evenings are spent in just doing what has to be done and not in what you would like to do. You are constantly rushing from one thing to another. This can also cause problems in your relationship with your spouse in that you seldom have the time to nurture that as well. Because you leave your kids all week, you may feel guilty leaving them in order to go on a date, have fun, etc. You may have to lower your standards a bit in terms of your standard of living in cleanliness, home cooked meals, etc. It is not possible to give any of it 100% of your time.

 

OTHER:

 

Other points that were brought up was the amount of money spent not only on daycare, but on suitable work clothes, gas, auto, etc. in order to work. There is no downtime in order for you to pursue other goals or desires. Can also be lonely in other ways and cause anxiety and depression for many reasons.

PROS OF BEING A STAY-AT-HOME PARENT

YOU DETERMINE WHAT YOUR CHILD EXPERIENCES & LEARNS

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I loved this one. Children learn by what they see and experience. Being able to be the one that cares for your child, you have an opportunity every passing moment to teach in some way those values, ethics, thoughts, ideas, etc. that you want to give to your child. You are in charge of what they see, play, eat, interact with and do. You are able to provide a positive atmosphere to raise them in. You control their surroundings and activities. Ultimately, you are responsible for their growth in all ways…..physically and emotionally. This is not the responsibility of church, school or caregivers.

YOU ARE THERE

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You are able to be there when they are sick, sad, lonely, happy, cranky, funny and growing. You get to see all their little moments. You are able to see their firsts: first smile, rolling over, crawling, walking, first word, etc. You are able to go to their activities. You are there for quality and quantity. You are there to wipe their tears and kiss their wounds. You get to enjoy the simple moments of watching them as they lie in your arms asleep. You get to be there to watch them have a temper tantrum and throw a fit over a graham cracker. I could go on and on. But, being there is everything. This is usually the whole reason we choose to be parents in the first place. We want to relish every moment.

FULFILLMENT

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Being a stay at home mom can be a very fulfilling career. You are able to create a home and atmosphere as a shelter from the “world”. What some may see as a hardship in the way of cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc.; others may view as a means of improving. You determine what you will do with this responsibility and much of it lies in attitude. You have a greater chance of having a bit of time on your hands to be able to pursue other educational and learning activities. Many stay-at-home mothers also take online college classes to earn their degrees. Some may use that time to learn a new skill or to use their skills in creating beneficial projects. This one is purely up to the individual.

CONS OF BEING A STAY-AT-HOME PARENT

Here's that word again -- MONEY!

It always comes down to money it seems. We don’t earn a whole lot in the way of monetary means by being a parent. No one gives us a paycheck to provide all that we do in the way of care for our family and home. This is a big sacrifice. I have differing thoughts on this and probably most of them are pretty traditional. It all comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice for what you want in return. For me, at the time, I was willing to give up everything in order for me to be home with my kids. I felt that the greatest gift I could give them was myself. BUT, I was also married and had a working and supportive husband. I did what was best for us. Your situation may be totally different. Now, I am faced with the prospect of needing to put more years working for social security and planning a retirement.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

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A lot of stay-at-home parents feel a great loss when they come home from their jobs to parent. It can be hard to leave behind the personal growth that comes with a career. Even though you are doing a great and vital job in taking care of your child, you feel as though you are not contributing to the world in any valuable way. You do not get a paycheck every two weeks. No one pats you on the back. Most of the time you are lonely and sometimes you may go days without uttering more than 50 words to an adult. You can feel isolated and alone. You may feel depressed because you do not feel challenged or fulfilled. It may be hard to find motivation to get yourself up and ready for your day because you wonder if anyone even notices. Depending on your situation, you may not even be able to get out of the house, workout, etc. Most times you feel invisible and you find yourself wondering who you are other than a parent. You may go through each day as a robot just doing the things required, but nothing that brings you life. It can be very difficult not being able to financially contribute to the family and many times this can make you feel weak and shame.

 

That being said, someone I love said this, “I’ve learned to define myself in my own way and not in society’s. Those tough moments of being along has brought some deep soul searching and has helped me really find who I want to become and I have the freedom and open schedule to make happen what I dream of doing.”

SO WHICH ONE IS IT? WHICH DECISION IS THE BEST?

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When my children were little, we decided that we wanted to help out other children by providing foster care. We were required to take courses in preparation to deal with the issues we may face. I remember during one of our classes we were discussing issues related to the decision to take a child out of their home. Ultimately, in deciding what was best for any child, the decision was based on what was best for that child, not the parent. Ever.

 

Honestly, I do not have a clear and concise answer to whether someone should work or not. Every single situation is different. Every parent and child is different. But, what it really comes down to is what is best for the child. For instance, if you are a single mom, it really doesn’t make sense for you to quit your job so you can stay home and raise your child. You are responsible for providing that child with their needs. A child’s basic needs come before all else.

 

What works for one individual may not work for another. I was married. Both my husband and I felt that the best thing for our children was for me to be home to raise them. We were willing to give up whatever to make this a priority for our family. I would’ve rather given them that than things or vacations, etc. My husband was able to provide their basic needs otherwise we would’ve found it necessary to do something different. I had to sacrifice a lot. I didn’t have a car to drive. Cell phones were a new thing and so I didn’t have that. We never ate out or had cable TV. We wore second hand clothes. I was always trying to take on extra jobs to earn money. My husband worked double shift and hardly saw the kids for years. In time, things got better and we became more established. My husband made more money and we raised a very large family. This is what worked for us. Does this mean that you should do the same thing? No, absolutely not. This is not a perfect scenario. Remember, there are things behind the scenes that you do not even realize.

 

When you are facing this decision, take a moment and ask yourself what is in the best interest of your child. That should be your first question and then go from there. Is this something you can do financially? What are your options? Do you, as a parent, feel like this is something you can do personally? What are you willing to give up? What aren’t you willing to give up? Who would take care of your child? Is this something you could do temporarily or until they are raised? Is there a possibility you could work from home? There are so many questions you will need to ask yourself and your significant other, if necessary. But, the one thing you must not do is:

SHAME YOURSELF

Just don’t. There is enough guilt tripping in this world just trying to do your very best. Cut yourself some slack. You are doing your very best. I really believe that in most instances most people are doing the very best of their capacity. You may look in on someone else’s life and judge, but you do not know everything. There may be variables that you don’t even understand or are aware of. Give that benefit to others that you may want for yourself. Give that benefit to yourself.

 

So, what is the answer?  The answer is whatever works best for your family situation.  That is what is best.  Mom, you’ve got this! Maybe in some other blog I will talk about some of variables of mom life and how to get through it. Just remember that you are not alone. Reach out to others who are facing the same decisions you are. Gather strength in the things you can learn from them. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Give to others the knowledge you have learned and buoy them up.

Most of all, be happy in the decision you make. Remember, for the most part, this is a choice. This is your choice. Whatever decision you choose will provide pros and cons. Be confident in your choice and radiate that. Be positive. Find joy!  Do not dwell on the cons of your situation.  Yes, you will have moments, but let it go and remember the reasons you are doing what you do.  Pat yourself on the back.  Be proud that you are doing the very best you can.  🙂

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