Why do you work or stay-at-home?

Why do you work or stay-at-home?
I have a strange work schedule:
I work full-time, but work from home for the equivalent of two days. For the first year post-maternity leave, I worked part-time. For both situations, I realize I’m extremely fortunate to have arranged this schedule with my boss and company, as it allows me the opportunity to work with others in the office but also be home with my two-year-old.

I’m also one of those moms who work for financial reasons. We technically could live off of one of our salaries, but we like to save aggressively for our short- and long-term goals, and relying on only one of our salaries at this point—however frugally we already live—wouldn’t afford us that ability. That’s why I actually much preferred my part-time schedule because the income I made was enough for our goals yet still allowed me that extra day to hang out with my kid.

That said, I actually don’t mind working. My boss and coworkers are pretty cool, my commute is a measly eight minutes, the actual work is challenging yet doable, and… I even got promoted! Considering that I’m not in the office for two days of the week simply because I want to be with my son, I have to give a ton of props to my company for promoting someone like me. They recognize that a flexible schedule—and being a parent—doesn’t prevent employees from doing a stellar job.

If money wasn’t an issue though, I would like to be a stay-at-home mom, with a caveat. While I would spend most of my time with my toddler, I’d still like to work on projects that are solely mine, whether that’s volunteering my current work skills, pursuing interests and side businesses, or working on this blog. Then again, I may just have a case of greener grass on the other side; I’ve never been a stay-at-home mom so for all I know, I might just prefer working instead.

How about you? For instance, I know The High Needs Baby Blog is a stay-at-home mom to her daughter after reading her post on why she decided to become one (and whose post was the inspiration for this discussion). And a few months ago, I featured a poll asking you what your current employment status is, and the results were pretty much even:

  • 35% work full-time
  • 35% are stay-at-home parents
  • 30% work part-time

Tell me, why do you work or stay-at-home?

Do you work outside the home or are you a stay-at-home mom (or dad)? Why did you decide on either working or staying at home? What is your ideal situation? What are the pros and cons to your current situation?

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49 thoughts on “Why do you work or stay-at-home?

  1. I work part time but have an awesome job that lets me bring my baby with me. I think, like you said, it is crucial for a mom’s sanity that she have some sort of project, even if she doesn’t have a job. There needs to be something in my world that stimulates my brain more than the latest episode of seasame street!

    • Okay now I’m really jealous of all you moms that get to bring your kids to work, AND you get to work part time? I think you have my ideal job 🙂

      Then again it’s hard for me to say which is my ideal job if I haven’t had a taste of everything yet; eg I have never been a full SAHM so who knows I may want to be one come to find out that I wouldn’t like it.

      But part time I have had and I loved it a whole lot.

  2. I’ve had every possible arrangement. I’ve worked full-time (I’m a teacher). I’ve worked from home part-time (teaching online). I stayed home full-time and went to graduate school at night. I took my kids to work with me because we had a daycare there and I was still nursing. The work-home balance has always been a juggle. I’ve been home when I thought it was what was best for both baby and me. I’ve had the flexibility because we’ve made it work on one salary and cut corners (we currently don’t own a house and we only have one car). Now I’m back to work full-time and it’s the happiest I’ve been. I love my job. I’m a better parent when I come home from work satisfied. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution, but I am grateful for the flexibility to try on sizes until I found one that fit.

    • I’m glad to hear from someone who’s had a taste of every situation! Just goes to show that different arrangements can be made to suit your needs at different ages of your kids. And that’s pretty awesome you got to bring your kid to work!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Melissa and for stopping by Melissa; always good to hear from you!

      • Thanks for the conversation starter, Nina. I was lucky when I taught high school to have a boss who understood that the way to get moms back to work (especially after she’d invested so much in our training) was to have nursing/pumping rooms and a daycare. The daycare was for faculty only, but it was run through a community college so our high school students could receive early childhood education in the lab. A win-win-win. I went back to work when my oldest was two just so we’d have health care benefits. I was able to have lunch with my daughter and put her down during her nap during my planning period. It meant that I had to stay later in the day to catch up on work, but it was worth it to check in with her and reconnect. When I had my second child I was able to keep nursing because she went there, too. I can only wish that kind of choice and flexibility for other moms.

        • Sooooo jealous of your experience at the high school! We were also lucky with the in-school daycare, though I chose not to use it (too many of my current / former students getting elective credit)… but pumping was a NIGHTMARE. Unlocked janitors closets, cranky secretaries & constantly getting walked in on… Ugh. You definitely had a good boss!

          • I also had a terrible pumping arrangement. We had to use the HR room, although I think now the company has dedicated a room for nursing. In my time though, I almost got walked in by a male coworker!

  3. I am a stay-at-home mom. Technically I work, but I have two free-lance-type jobs that currently require a mere few hours per month, which I do in the evenings. The one has conveniently (and by odd coincidence) dropped to less and less time with each successive child I’ve had. I had always wanted to be at home like my mom, so we lived only on my husband’s salary from the time we got married, using mine to pay off student loans and save. My current income is laughable, but it lets us stow a little away toward household projects. It’s rough, at times, to live on one income (especially since everyone else we know always seems to have money for anything their heart desires), but I’m selfish, and I don’t want to share my kids with anyone else. I totally agree, though, that it’s important to have outside connections and projects. I used to feel bad for not feeling fulfilled by just playing with toddlers (doing the same things over and over) all day, but now I’ve come to realize that most people need something more to focus on. In all honesty, I can’t fathom how someone could go to work all day long and still find time and energy to cook, clean, and play with kids–never mind if one of them keeps you up most of the night. At least I can walk around like a spit-up-clad zombie and no one thinks twice about it.

    • That’s awesome you were able to have some side income!

      When I worked part time, I had one day where I was alone with LO so I got a taste of being a SAHM. And having had both days, I was just as tired from that day as I was when I went in to the office! As weird as it seemed, being home seemed just as tiring as working all day in an office. I think it’s because I didn’t really cook or clean when LO was awake so I STILL had to cook and clean after the day was done, and yeah wake up all those times at night.

      I think now that he’s older it’s probably easier to do chores if I were to stay home but those baby stages were pretty tough!

  4. I am a working mother. Part of it is financial. We could live off of one salary, but we choose not to. Most of the reason I work, however, is because I LOVE my job. I run the restaurant that my parents own, as they are slowly letting themselves retire. After they retire completely, I will either buy the business from them or open my own restaurant.

    I work full time, but I have a different schedule than most working parents. The days I work each week are different and the hours are kind of odd. Most weeks look something like this: Off Tuesday & Friday, work 9am-7pm Monday & Wednesday, work 4pm-11:30pm Sunday, Thursday, Saturday. I never know exactly what time I’m coming home. I LOVE my work schedule… I am only away from Eli 2 days during the week. On the days that I work at night, I get to spend nearly the whole day with him… like yesterday, I got to take him to the pool with our neighborhood mommy group and I still got a full day of work in. I feel like I kind of get the best of both worlds, because I get to join in on a lot of activities with stay-at-home moms.

    Another plus, for us, is that Hubby gets a lot of one on one time with Eli. He has Eli by himself for a few hours at least 3 days a week and he does bathtime and bedtime just about every night.

    • Casey, don’t you love flexible schedules? I think it definitely helps keep my sanity by being able to see my LO more than I would if I worked my regular 9-to-5 schedule. And even more awesome that you love your job. I think it helps when you come home feeling rejuvenated rather drained from a day job.

  5. I am a stay-at-home mom. I was a working mom when little man was born but decided it was best I stayed at home with him. The main reason is because I went back to school to finish my B.A. Going to school full-time and staying at home is a challenge but one that I accept. My husband works full-time and we’re blessed to be able to live comfortably. He is extremely supportive of me being in school. Sometimes I do wish to work outside of the home but I am happy with the way things are.

  6. Read an article by the editor of “Working Mother” (I think… ugh. Swiss cheese brain) where she talked about a majority of us are now in that gray area between full-time work in an office and full-time stay at home, and how that’s changed the dichotomy of WOHM-v-SAHM. It looks like your comments are confirming that anecdotal evidence…

    In our house, I work part-time in the evenings teaching community college night classes, with an occasional Saturday class or summer intensive thrown in for good measure. Teaching full-time at the high school when the little scientist was an infant was a really stressful fit for us, mostly because of the revolving ear infections that he perpetually had (damn you crappy genetics and your tilted ear canals!). I am working half-time towards my masters as well, so that as he gets older I can transition back to teaching full-time, but at the juco level :). The hubs is on a 3-on-3-off schedule of 13 hour days, so we patch together some great babysitting coverage when he’s working (yay, college town!) and he’s evening-responsible when he’s off!

    Great post – really like your persepective & thoughtful comments!

    • Thank you, and good hearing from you nerdmommathfun! Reading through this discussion definitely seems to confirm that finding. I wonder what percentage of parents work the standard 9-to-5 versus some strange flex schedule.

      You guys seem to have a great schedule going for you, especially with your plan to ease back into full-time after your masters. I imagine that’s one of the tough transitions for parents who decide to stay at home but plan to return to the work force once the kids are older.

  7. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My husband was in the Navy up until just before our son was born, and we moved around enough that I never had a ‘career’, just a series of jobs. At our last station, I couldn’t even work full-time — we were overseas, and there were extremely limited jobs for spouses. Basically, with my skill set, I could work as an entry-level whatever earning just enough to cover full-time child care, and it’s just not worth it to us. My husband is out of the Navy now, and he’s earning enough that we can live comfortably on only his salary — we won’t be buying a Jaguar anytime soon (or ever), but we’re thinking about buying a house, and we can afford to put money away for retirement and our son’s college. I consider myself lucky that we’re doing so well that I don’t have to work, though this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — I don’t deal well with isolation, and I find staying home to be very isolating. To help with that, I blog, which connects me to other bloggers and makes me feel more connected overall, and I also act in local theatre in the evenings, which gets me out of the house (at least when I’m in a production — I’m not always) and meeting people who are also artists but who aren’t necessarily parents. It helps me to be around people who talk about things other than just diapers and parenting strategies all day long. Still, I’m not terribly well-suited to staying home, so I may look for a part-time job sooner rather than later, in the name of preserving my sanity.

    • Hi Kathy,

      That’s awesome you’re able to find an outlet in theater, especially if being a SAHM isn’t exactly your thing. Your situation sounds like Ashley’s, in that paying for daycare eats up too much of the paycheck to make it worth the while. It’s insane how much child care costs. Best of luck in entering the work force again for part-time work!

  8. I’m a SAHM, but I also blog and take the odd freelance job. I have to have my own thing going on, and I still want my own personal successes. Staying home can really take a toll on you if you don’t have anything else going on.

    I stay home partially because I want to, and partially because I wasn’t making enough at my former job for us to afford daycare. It made more sense economically for my husband to be the “breadwinner” and me to stay home with the baby. If I end up finding a job or something I love that pays the bills, then we’ll switch roles, but for now it’s working for us 🙂

    • Hi Ashley! It’s insane how costly daycare can be, and I know a ton of families who do what you do—when the cost of daycare exceeds one parent’s paycheck, it sort of defeats the point of sending them to daycare to work to pay for daycare, etc.

      That’s great though that you’re able to freelance. If anything it’ll keep your skills current and fresh!

  9. I work in an office part time for a couple of reasons. I really enjoy work–it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also have a job that is more of a career than a job and I want to make sure I have that on my resume when I eventually go back to full time. I also realized that working gave me a mental balance so I was excited to be at home when I was at home.

    Also, my husband and I discussed it together and decided it was important to both of us that our baby grew up with some direct involvement from either mom or dad. While Ace was okay with full-time/part-time/stay at home being completely my call, I felt it was necessary to have him be part of the discussion. We sat down and discussed the pros and cons of each of us being the stay at home parent and it made more sense for me to take on that role.

    I do think, though, that working part-time has it’s challenges. I never feel like I quite get a handle on either side of the balance before being back at work or at home. It can be a bit exhausting. Plus, there are days when my office still wants me to do stuff while I’m at home and they don’t understand that it isn’t an “off” day for me in which I can just do work. Overall, this worked best for me and my family.

    • I agree that strange or part-time schedules often make it difficult for the office to understand that you’re off, or that you’re really working.

      By the way, your second paragraph comes very timely. Stay tuned for Monday’s post because I write about the need for both parents to weigh in on whether to resume work or not, and not just the mom. Hopefully it’ll generate some discussion on this very topic!

  10. I am currently a stay-at-home-mom. I’ll be returning to work in August 2013. My husband and I waited 12 years before we decided to start our family. We were really focused on our careers and helping our parents (all are divorced and my dad is the only one with a spouse).

    After I went back to school for my master’s degree, we finally sat down and talked about having a family. We agreed that I would stay home for the first year and take an extended maternity leave. So, the year I was pregnant, I saved almost every paycheck to help us out in my son’s first year.

    I love this job more than anything. Is it exhausting at times? Yes. But watching my little one learn and discover trumps any draining emotion I might have.

    When my district told me I could take another year off I jumped right on it. I wasn’t so focused on not getting paid, but being able to spend another year one-on-one with my son. We’ve been doing ok without me working, but really this last year will have to be it. My checks from almost two years ago have been long gone 🙂 I need to start making some cash again.

    I’ll be happy to go back when the time comes, as education is my passion; however, it will be difficult for me. I still have an option to work part-time. I’m looking into that for sure!

    • Wow you are so fortunate to be able to have a job to come back to and even offered a second year! I thought you lived in America? Lol.

      I’m glad you also mentioned having attained your masters degree but still didn’t let that deter you from staying home with your son even if it’s only for two years. I suppose your situation is different because you *do* have that job to come back to, but hopefully it’ll be reassuring to other moms who have pursued post grad degrees and not feel like their only option is to work a standard schedule.

      • I am so fortunate to have my job to go back to after two years. Although, I’m sure I will not be teaching the same classes I did for the past 11 years! I’ll be spending a lot of next summer learning and focusing on the new curriculum. But I do LOVE curriculum so it is going to be so much fun to get my hands dirty in this stuff again!

  11. I work so we can live comfortably and save. For 8.5 months I was a SAHM and I did love the time with my baby but when I went back to work part-time I didn’t realise how much I missed having that alone time and talking to people about things other than babies and toddlers!

    • I think I’m an introvert so for me it wasn’t so much craving conversation with others but just having the time to do what I pleased. I remember coming in to work and drinking tea and thinking, “When was the last time I was able to drink tea as slowly as I wanted?” It was definitely a nice break!

  12. I’m a SAHM and mostly feel pretty lucky to have that option, but there are times when I wish I could have some kind of part-time job. My husband and I moved cross-country when I was 7 months pregnant. Since I’m a teacher and my little guy was due in early September, we didn’t think it would be a great way to start a new job with, “By the way, I’ll need the first few months of school off for maternity leave.” To create my own “space” I’ve done some volunteer work and created a blog–definitely important for me to have purpose beyond care for little guy!

    • Lynda, so good to hear from you! From the comments of others as well as yourself, it seems like staying at home is best balanced with finding something other than “being a mom” to devote time to. If I were one, I know this would be my course of action!

  13. This is a great post! I applaud stay at home/work at home moms! I too am one. I became a stay a home mom two years ago after many years in the work force. After a while I realized I never wanted to go back to an office and so my journey began trying to find a job I could do from home. I love having all day with my son, and being able to have my own time in my own home. Even though I feel that being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world, I also feel like I’m much more relaxed than I ever was in a cubical or office. I just read a great book you all might like called “The Barefoot Executive” by Carrie Wilkerson. You can get it right off of the author’s website, barefootexecutivebook.com. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a stay at home/work from home parent! Again, great post and thanks for sharing!

    • Jackie, thank you! That’s so great that you were able to find a work situation that lets you work from home. That seems to be a common goal among many parents, what with the ability to earn income from home while still balancing family needs. If I may ask, what line of work do you do that lets you work from home?

      Thank you also for the book recommendation; I’ll add it to my list of books to read 🙂

      • Thanks Nina, I consider myself truly blessed! A friend of mine owns her own small business and she offered me a job doing her billing and invoicing from home. I think you’ll like the book, enjoy!

  14. I don’t think I would be able to be a stay-at-home mom. It takes a special kind of inner strength which I definitely do not have! I have to give a million kudos to women who are able to stay home with their children and stay sane. I don’t know how they do it. YOU’RE ALL AMAZING! 🙂

    • Savanah, I can see that—I remember actually looking forward to going back to work when maternity leave ended lol. That’s why they say a mom’s job is the most difficult!

      • It is! And yet, people are always saying things like “Oh she’s JUST a mom.” “She stays at home all day, doing nothing; I wish I could, too.” It’s harder then people understand, for sure!

  15. I have been on both sides of the fence. I currently define myself as a SAHM, even though I have a job as an Assistant Children’s Librarian, because I am a floater who only fills in there as needed, sometimes not even once a week.

    When Simon was born I intended to go back to work part time, and did after 12 weeks of maternity leave. In my third trimester I had dropped my hours on my midwife’s orders, and intended to keep my reduced hours when I went back. However, my boss kept slowly increasing them on me, and because we didn’t want the expense of childcare, it meant we were juggling our time in a way that didn’t leave the 3 of us together very often. Eventually, my boss got tired of me asking for less hours, and I honestly believe, after seeing what she has done with other employees too, that she doesn’t understand working Moms. I once called out when Simon was sick and she didn’t understand why I had to be home even though I was healthy.

    Anyway, after a while, my husband kept having to turn down overtime so I could work, and I was earning less than half what he was. We sat down and figured out that if I just quit, he could more than make up for my income with an occasional overtime shift…not to mention he was headed for a raise within 6 months.

    Leaving was freeing. Now I can do so many of the things I didn’t have time for before. However, I need independence. I kept my occasional shift at the library for that reason, to keep my office and professional skills sharp, and so there won’t be a giant hole in my resume if I ever return to full time work.I also make time for occasional “me dates” where I get out to do things I enjoy either alone or with friends or my husband.

    Things are financially tighter by a lot, but it is worth it in family time for us.

    • That’s crazy your boss thought you could go to work with a sick kid haha. Thankfully my boss is pretty understanding even though he doesn’t have kids himself. And yes you guys have a great arrangement where your husband just adds in the extra work with overtime while you’re still able to fill your time with work here and there. It’ll definitely be great to keep your work current.

  16. I agree you need some project/hobby/etc. of your own if you are a stay at home mom to help with your sanity! I’d love to work part time, but in my career that wasn’t really possible so I decided to stay at home. When I had been working, with the commute into London, I was gone all day which would mean away before Josh was up in the morning and back after he had gone to sleep. Childcare is also so expensive here in London that I just hated the idea of working to pay someone else to look after my child. I’m sure it’s different for every person but part time work would be ideal! 🙂

  17. I’m a stay-at-home mom and do freelance stuff on the side. But the time is creeping up on me when I will be going back to work. I like being home for the kids and I’ve always had projects of my own to keep track of who I am and keep my work current. But I know going back after all this time will be a huge adjustment. I’ve been my own boss for almost ten years!

    • Another fantastic example of doing something to keep your skills current or at the very least, give you something that’s entirely your own apart from mom duty.

      Maybe you can start your own business and *still* be your own boss! 😉

  18. I stay at home because I want to spend every moment (ha! some days beg to differ) with my kids and be the steady rock for them to return to. I could go all psychology on you and ponder that it may have something to do with my mother being an awesome stay at home mom until I was 7, and then me missing that connection after that point. I like to think that it’s because I can’t stand the thought of leaving my kids with other people and missing out on all of the memories.

      • Yeah, enjoying my mom as a stay at home mom (for the time that I had her there) was amazing! I also had a lot of friends who had stay at home mothers who were super involved with them all through…life…and it really inspired me. 😀

  19. I left my job when my son was born because 6 weeks of maternity leave seemed too short and, well, I didn’t love my job. Then we found out my husband’s job would take us to England. I decided not to return to work to allow us the flexibility to travel when we wanted in addition to spending time with my son.

    While we’re able to live comfortably on one income, I’d like to go back to work when we return to the US. Mostly for personal fulfillment, but also to start saving to support any of our son’s (and future children’s) interests, be it camps, clubs or sports, without having to make sacrifices. However, being a military family, I wonder how difficult it’s going to be to find a job I love every 2-3 years!

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