Working Mum V Stay at home Mum

It is with slight apprehension that I begin to write a blog post on Stay at home mums V working Mums.  Mainly because, like most things in life, I don’t believe there is a firm black or white, right or wrong answer.  However, today I saw the Myleene Klass Yahoo channel ‘Bumps, Babies & Beyond’ programme and it was discussing the common debate – Can mums really have it all? – so I thought I’d dive in.

Until fairly recently, Ruth and I (who run this blog together) represented both of these worlds with Ruth staying at home to bring up Munchkin and me working (albeit part time) with Bear Cub in nursery 2 days a week and 1 day with Aunty.  So this is a discussion we’ve had many a time and we both see the pros and cons of each choice.  I say ‘choice’ when actually many mum’s are unable to afford to stay at home and not work and it doesn’t feel like a choice at all.  But from first-hand experience I’d also argue it’s an equal financial struggle to afford the astronomical childcare costs these days if you decide to go back to work!

The controversial bit:  Personally I don’t really see the point in having kids if they are in nursery from 8am-6pm 5 days a week.   It seems a bit like when people have a dog and then keep it outside in the kennel all the time – I just don’t get it. Having said that, I don’t think I could not work at all a) for my own sanity and b) for financial reasons.  So I opted for working part time. Bear cub gets a lot out of nursery and enjoys it but, there is just no denying if he had the choice he’d want to be with mummy full time.

One of the mums in the Myleene Klass video spoke of how upset she was that she missed her child’s first steps and this was what prompted her to become a SAHM.  However, the other guest described how working actually enabled her to be a happier and more fulfilled woman and therefore a better mum.  Both are incredibly strong arguments.

So in the interests of sparking some feedback and discussion let’s really go there with the good, bad and ugly of both options.

STAY AT HOME MUM:

Good – Won’t miss out on any key ‘first’ moments, give a secure start to your little one, form a close bond, educate them yourself, influence according to your family rules and preferences

Bad – Can sometimes be boring, may miss engaging your brain beyond child level activities, may miss adult company/interaction, may get frustrated with little person due to so much time with them, tiring.

Ugly – Lose your sense of being a woman in the role of being a mum, only talk about poo, Cbeebies and the latest soft play area, live in jeans and joggies

WORKING MUM:

Good – Having something for you can raise your self-esteem, by having time away from your little ones you may have more energy, patience and quality time when you are with them, makes you put make up on and do your hair, you can go to the toilet in peace and on your own!

Bad – May miss special/key events and first moments, bad habits can be learned at nursery/childcare, your child may have increased separation anxiety, nursery/childcare may teach different values/lessons to your preference, missing out in general as they grow up so quickly, tiring.

Ugly – You may have to learn how to walk in heels again (depending on your job) you have to work extra hard to keep all the plates spinning.

I’m sure you can think of many more to add (and I hope you will in the comments below).  One thing that really struck me is, whichever category we fall in, there is one accessory we all seem to wear as mum’s – altogether now – GUILT!!!!

Let’s give ourselves a break ladies and do what we feel is best for our family.

As we’ve often said on More than a Mum, we firmly believe it’s possible to be a great mum AND a fulfilled woman.

L

25 comments

  • Loretta, I’m a ‘stay at home’ mum, I choose to stay at home because we can just about afford to manage on my husbands salary…my mum didn’t work when we were growing up and that perhaps has something to do with it. I did work from home for a little while as a free lance fundraiser ‘during nap times and in the evenings’ and I loved feeling like I was bringing in some money for the family too but in the end pregnancy no 2 got the better of me and I struggled with the pressure of having to do so many hours in the week.

    Being part of and involved in a local community and church I feel like I ‘work’ full time and a half but just dont get paid (which is gutting when I’d really like to treat myself sometimes to something)…but I do love having the time to do that.

    But I do still feel guilty, at the weekend my sister in law asked me if I ever get a break from the children in the week and the answer basically is no. I have a load of wonderful friends who are all in the same position as me, balancing babies and life and work and my family live too far away to help out so I nearly cried with her recognition that, that must be hard. SO I feel guilty that I’d quite like the break from my wonderful boys from time to time, not to go to a governors meeting or help a vulnerable person in need but to have some space to myself.

    • You do deserve to be you sometimes too. I (Ruth) am a mostly SAHM though like you did before pregnancy no. 2 work in nap-times and evenings and have very recently started doing one morning a week. Even when not working at all I did try to ensure that I had at least one day a month where I spent time with just me. Even if that was just going to a coffee shop to read a book and drink a cuppa for an hour, whilst hubby looked after munchkin. It is important to have you time. Well done you for being such a hard working and generous person.

  • I’m a single mum with 2 great kids. I have to admit that after the birth of child one the thought of returning to work was awful. I just couldn’t bare to be seperated from her. Which, in hindsight, did her no good at all. She was a very shy, clingy child. However, after the birth of child two I was more than ready to go back. I only work part-time which is enough to give me a sense of purpose and more importantly a break.

    Both have developed in to well grounded, happy, fun loving children and rather than missing out on me being at home, the times I aren’t at work are happy, fun times that we enjoy together. So, I would definately vote for working over stay at home.

  • The old chestnut well presented. I don’t know what the answer is. I know that, finances aside, being a SAHM would drive me bonkers with boredom, much as I love my kids.

    That said, full time is tough going the 8am, 6pm nursery thing is grim. Most of the time I was full time I did shifts which is actually ideal.

    Now I do a patchwork quilt of work at home and shifts and, at the moment, it works.

    Without soundling like I’m Old Mother Time, you must find the solution for you.

  • A good post but I’d say that also there is sometimes no choice as to how it turns out. Through past circs, I work and commute full-time while OH stays home. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. Financially it makes sense. Domestically all is fine. All I know is it just IS that way and because it works, it would seem crass of me to try and change it now after 8 years, even though original circs now different. Kids know I’m the “working mum” – they’ve never really questioned it.

  • Captivated Mums – lovin your blog and what you’re doing with the FB page!

  • Jayne – extra points to you for being a working single mum! We worry so much whichever option we choose and as your comment tells they usually turn out just fine : )

  • Ellen I think more an more of us are realising if we want to ‘have it all’ we need to work for ourselves and work from home! Well done you!

  • Pigletinapoke I am so impressed your hubby is staying at home. That’s great! At least your kids have one of their parents with them all the time. And as the old sayin goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ Thanks for your comment : )

  • Kinga

    I’ve worked part-time after having children and I’m now a SAHM (for the time being). It’s tough either way and you cannot have it all. Even with an excellent childminder, who used to come to our house and look after our son and then son & daughter, you miss out on the daily milestones and hanging out together. But staying at home can be, as was pointed out, frustrating, tiring and lonely. And you’re perpetually worried about money and whether this month’s unexpected expenses will send you into the overdraft.

    These days, women have often had the financial independence and a career before children arrived in our lives and the adjustment is hard. I chatted about this with my MIL, who stayed at home until her sons were well into their teens before finding work and she said “You just did it, it was expected of you and there were plenty of other women doing the same so it wasn’t as lonely, we all used to spend time at each other’s houses chatting while the children played. There was nothing else and my job wasn’t great…so I didn’t miss it.”

    When I had my son, after my husband went back to work (we worked at the same school) I used to anxiously hover by the door, ready to pounce and ask him a million questions about the gossip, my colleagues, anything exciting that happened at work.

    This is just a roundabout way of saying: you can’t have it all, you’ve got to compromise somewhere. And it doesn’t help that our society does so little to help us out with parenthood/motherhood.

  • Well a really interesting question. I was a teacher full time and although it is a great job interns of holidays, it is very inflexible during the term time. After my second child, I tried part time but because of all the marking, I gave up after my third child. Every now and then I get a pang of jealousy when my friends are going to work and the lack of money is stressful, but I am a big believer that you only get one chance as a mother and children grow up so quickly. I have a much closer bond with my younger children than my eldest (he was in full time childcare) and that reinforces that I am doing the right thing. Not everyone can do it, but for me I know that my children are happier and more confident as a result.

  • Jessica

    I’m about to go back to work next month, 3days a week, after baby no.2. I took the full year for both my girls (20 month gap between them). I don’t know what the right answer is. From personal experience I know that I like having the break, because my two year old can push me and sometimes bring out the worse side of my mummy skills. Which again makes me feel guilty. However, mine are at a childminders, which has a very similar set up to a nursery, however, a much more personal feel. I think I would have found it harder to leave an 11 month old at a nursery. Again, that’s a personal feeling. No right or wrong. Both my parents were doctors, so career meant a lot to them. I do sometimes think, if you give up your career for your children, it might make you feel better, but will it make a huge difference to hoe they turn out. Plus when they are grown up, will they thank you for it, or have less respect for you because you only have being a mum on your cv????? I’m not saying this is my view, but I do often wonder about it. I remember that my mum only picked me up from school on wednesday, and god did I love Wednesday’s. Would I have appreciated her as much, if she’d picked me up everyday???? Yet this is something I really want to be able to do when mine are at school.
    As you said loretta, whatever works for you and your family. Happy parents must surely equal happy children. Sorry for the ramble lol

  • I always thought I would be straight back to work, but now he’s here I just want to be with my baby boy all the time! I am self employed so feel lucky I can dip in and out of work when needs be, but still, I just don’t want to miss out on a thing and I never thought I would feel this way, having been such a workaholic before! 😉

  • A really great article that covers both sides. I’m of the firm belief that there is no right or wrong, what works for one person doesn’t work for another and if we were all the same life would be boring.

    I gave my job up as I worked over 60 miles from home and there was no way that I could have been that far away from my daughter. As it happens we are fortunate that we are financially secure and so I don’t need to work – I know we are extremely lucky in that respect given the state of the economy and every day I’m thankful for this.

    Obviously my blog and twitter name give my circumstances away. I do adore being a SAHM but I have great parents who want to spend time with my daughter so they have her one day a week…I chose to do something different with that day, rather than ‘work’ work I volunteer my time to charity. I get out the house, get to meet great people, enjoy my job but have no stresses of work commitments. I do also do some hours now freelancing from home but it’s not much and I can do them whenever I choose. I also have a really great husband – I do get a break from my daughter (which is good for both of us) and I have great friends who I spend time with so I get lots of adult interaction. Again, I know I’m so lucky.

    My daughter is 2.5 years old now and is very a very bright and confident little girl despite being at home with me (apart from play school two mornings a week that she started last month) so I don’t believe that children who have SAHM’s necessarily end up shy and clingy – each child is different just like us mums are.

    As I say, each to their own and hats off to working Mums – I know I couldn’t do it.

  • I’m with you there Jojo! I was the most unmaternal woman ever before I had the bear cub. When he was born it actually not only shocked me but quite scared me the huge amount of love you feel for this little person. ALL my priorities changed forever!

  • Mary

    Good discussion point and very well put. After taking a year off work after my son was born I found that I had to go back to work full time. It wasn’t my choice but rather something U had to do to keep a roof over our heads moment.

    I don’t work full time any more and managed to get my hours reduced to 25 hours per week so things are better. I concur with some of the pro’s you have put here. The sense of freedom that comes when you first get in the car in a suit and no nappy bag! The localisation that you can go to the loo on your own!

    When my son started walking he waited for me to come in from work before he took his first steps! It was wonderful! On the other hand after working all the hours made for six months and then going back to a toddler group with my son I was mortified when he led me round the room proud as punch while he introduced me as “my Mama!”. I t was sweet but made me realise that I wasn’t bringing up but paying other people too.

    I would still love to be spending more time with him and pre school and feel that my son would prefer it too….

  • This is a great article. It is one that pulls strings with me. I wanted to be a SAHM when I was pregnant with my first and dreaded the prospect of going back to work. Unfortunately it was a financial choice that I had hoped that I would not have had to made.

    My oldest child is now 4 and a half and I work 3 days a week with my husband working 4 hours, 6 days a week. My children get a small amount of child care 3 days a week and spend the rest of the time with either my husband or I. They therefore get a great mix, which I feel has helped them grow socially.

    Both my children and I enjoy the 4 days that I have off with them and I am especially lucky to have a term time job. I feel that through working 3 days that we appreciate the time we have together more. Conterary to what I thought I do enjoy going to work, I like to get dressed up and having uninterrupted conversations and proper breaks (Most of the time).

    However I do feel guilty when the Nursery are doing something that I can not attend like last years St Andrews Day celebrations and Sports Day. I will say that my boss is understanding and I was able to juggle some things so that I could attend my sons nativity play.

    If I had the choice I would choose to be a SAHM but I do not dwell on the fact that I do work!

    • Thanks for your comments Emma. You sound like you have a great balance. Your reply made me realise we can sometimes put the onus on mums but actually children can really miss out on having their dads around too. Some kids may have mum at home all day but Dad may leave before they get up and get home after they’re in bed. I love the sound of your set up and still have some time for you too :-)

  • All interesting comments, but I struggle to say “stay at home Mum” or “working Mum” because I don’t believe that most women who choose to look after their children rather than go to work stay at home all of the time. Nor do I believe that women who choose this option don’t work. It is rather that they work for no financial compensation. I guess I don’t particularly like labels, particularly when they only tell part of the story. Anyway, do you ever hear the term, “working Dad”? I concur with many in this post that there is no right or wrong answer on whether or not to give up a career to look after children. I did give up a career that I loved, basically because the hours meant that I barely saw my children during the week. I was lucky enough to be able to make that decision financially, but nevertheless it was an incredibly difficult decision to make as I did truly love my work. I found looking after the children full time incredibly challenging, exhausting and often tedious, but I have grown in to it and I know that it is a decision that I will never regret. I love the fact that I know them as well as I possibly could, and that I am there for them. I also realised a year or so into looking after them full time that I needed external stimulus and mental challenge independent of childcare, so I retrained and set up my own business. I now work around school/preschool for the most part. I have found a balance and a compromise which overall suits me best.

  • My experience is very similar to Sara’s (above), in that I tried to work full time for several years before giving it up when my younger daughter was 18 months old. I, too, felt that I was missing out on my children too much to continue, especially as I often found myself having to work during weekends and holidays as well as evenings. Like Sara, I also found it pretty tough parenting full time, and now that my children are at prep and kindergarten respectively I, too, am studying something new and hoping to find a job that I can do within school hours. I do think that it’s very important that women do get to choose the road they take; things like paid parental leave for both men and women, the ability to take extended unpaid leave but still be able to return to one’s original job, the availability of reasonably-priced childcare, and flexibility in working hours, are so important. Recently our family relocated to Finland, which (I think) has an amazing system – by law, either parent can take up to 3 years’ leave from their job to look after a child under 3, on part-pay (and parents can swap over at any time during that 3 years, so that each gets the chance to be at home/keep working); until your child is 8 your employer is required to let you work only 6 hours per day if you wish (with salary reduced accordingly); and daycare is high-quality and very affordable due to heavy government subsidies (e.g. my 3 year old’s daycare costs 250 euros per month, which I think is unbelievably reasonable, and parents who need to can leave their child there 10 hours per day if needed). It’s not uncommon here to see Stay-At-Home-Dads, and overall I get the sense that women are less stressed about career because they have so many options and so much support.

  • Hi all I’m a Stay at home mum of 2.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the responses to this post. For me it was a case of either going back to work to pay the costs for childcare or stay at home and keep the money that I didn’t have in the first instance! At least this way I got to spend time with my children, I really didn’t want to miss out on that.

    However being overly domestic can be challenging and I was soon looking for ways to combine work and home. Having some background in marketing I now run a modest little boutique from home which works for me and I feel I have struck a balance between kids, home and work.

    Mums please visit my website here: Children’s Clothing thanks for your support!

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