Staying home is a career choice

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?


When I nearing the end of my first maternity leave, my husband happened to mention to a neighbor from a few blocks away that I would be going back to work soon. She gasped, and asked, “So, who is going to raise your child?”

A new friend of mine recalls how, when she first mentioned returning to work, other new moms she met told her how sorry they were for her. And after story time at the library during my second maternity leave, someone I barely knew kept saying it was such a shame I couldn’t “find a way” to “do what’s best” for my children. (News flash! If your paycheck pays the mortgage, continuing to earn the income with which to pay it is, in fact, “what’s best” for your children!)

We’re quick to say that all moms are working moms, but if that’s really the case — and I believe that it is — let’s take things one step further: Staying home with your kids is a career choice, not a moral imperative.

And yet, things like this still happen. Over at one of my favorite blogs, Mom to the Screaming Masses, Carmen writes:

I had an argument with someone recently, someone who asked me why, if I was a stay at home mom, my kids had problems. Wasn’t the point of staying home with my kids, this person said, to avoid all of the problems? To make sure that things went well for everyone?

The issues with that argument are so numerous that it’s difficult to know where to start. Aside from the obvious Mommy War fodder and the shrapnel from the Mommy Drive By, it’s like saying that anyone who works should never have financial problems. Is that realistic? Of course not.

Let’s be frank: Full-time stay-at-home parenting is a tough gig. There are no sick days. It’s largely unpaid. All vacations are working vacations. If you do your job right, your current position eventually becomes obsolete.

But my decision to go to work? It’s not something I need to feel sorry about. Earning the money to put food on the table is just as important as cooking that meal and feeding it to your family. The decision to work outside the homeĀ is just as valid as the decision to work within the home.

Have you been criticized for your decision to maintain your career, whether it’s outside or inside the home?

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11 comments so far...

  • LMA - You know the answer to that one on my end. I’ve been criticized…even ostracized! And of course, my husband who chose a SAHD career over his career as a mechanic got the same shit, just from a different kind of ass.

    (Sorry for the strong language, but I feel it’s wholly appropriate in the context of this particular conversation).

    Even after M went back to work, we’re getting it from those who think that we’ve abandoned A to the wolves in the cave known as day care. Never mind that we did it so she’d learn to socialize more - and we wanted her to interact with kids closer to her own age (e.g. what we felt was best for her). According to more than a few, we’re still, Bad Parents.

    I think the overarching point and fact here is that no matter how much we love our kids…no matter how heart wrenching the final decisions we make regarding our kids…no matter how hard we try to do everything right and do only what’s absolutely best for our kids…

    Some jackass will always come along to tell us how, and why, we’ve done gone and just fucked it ALL up and what Bad Parents we really are.

    Phe  |  July 19th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

  • Completely yes… When I was SAHM… I had some friends who would say.. You will let all that education go to waste (TO which I would think… Taking care of my kid is not waste). Then when I started working… some friends would say… That’s the problem with so much education/ career prospects.. Your daughter will be in day care while you sip coffee and go for lunch meetings.
    Hmm… You cant please everyone.. You have to do what’s right for you and your family both financially and emotionally.
    I am now chanting the mantra… quality over quantity.. I soak in my weekends, evenings with my daughter.
    If and when we have a second kid… I might be a SAHM or I might go to work…I will do what I feel would work for my family. Like you said, its a career choice.> I might take a step back.. or continue my steps forward in either home or work.

    Garima  |  July 19th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

  • When I was home with my baby I really, really didn’t want to go back to work. Thankfully, I am glad I did. It was a big period of adjustment but it’s finally paying off. My daughter loves her daycare. She is learning more then she would have with just me for company. I am finally at a job I am happy with. In fact, we recently made the decision to delay having another baby longer then I had intended, at least until the new year and we will reevaluate then.

    I had a good time being home with my baby but I also felt closed in some days and cranky others. I’ve realized that I am not the stay at home kind of person.

    For me, it’s become about quality time not quantity of time. And I am very glad that I will have a career outside of the home, and a network of friends outside of family so my nest won’t feel so empty when the fledgling I am bringing up (to be a successful lady in her own right) decides to take flight for whatever post-secondary schooling….post-mom & dad home life she sets her sights on.

    Yep, mornings are crazy, money is tight, but life is good :)

    MamaLisa  |  July 20th, 2010 at 1:19 am

  • Yeah, I just point to my kids, who are doing better than ever since they have been in preschool/daycare. And they are happy.

    SKL  |  July 20th, 2010 at 8:59 am

  • Thanks so much for this post. I do not have kids yet, but husband and I have started talking about it, since we’re in our 30s now. At first I thought that because I never entertained the thought of being a SAHM, that I really didn’t want kids at all. I’m starting to figure out that’s not true, but several people said that kind of thing to me when asking if I would ever stay home.
    And it’s nice to see that not every working Mom is actually sitting at work wishing she was a SAHM (I have several friends like that who complain all the time). I am the primary bread winner, so I would have to work, but even if that wasn’t the case, I would still want to work. So, thanks for this article and the comments that I am not a monster for wanting kids and my career.

    Su  |  July 20th, 2010 at 10:13 am

  • Su, The last bit of your post made me chuckle. For 2 years I was a SAHM wishing I was a working mom. I am SO much happier as a working mom! My husband and kids are happier too!

    LMJN  |  July 20th, 2010 at 10:58 am

  • We all remember the “mean girls” in jr./sr. high, right? Well some of these simply grow up to mean women.

    I try to view snide comments and the like as the hallmark of someone insecure in their own choices. Most people I know that have made choices different from mine have never made comment about my choices. Indeed, they don’t make comments about anyone’s choices.

    But total strangers feel free to give you advice on how to homeschool as a single working parent or how if gluten/casein free didn’t work you were “doing it wrong”; despite medical evidence that it (like all drugs/therapies) doesn’t work for every child.

    Mich  |  July 20th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

  • Mich: That last bit you mentioned is exactly what I meant about Mommy Drive Byes! Or “Assvice” (unsolicited advice from someone who either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or doesn’t know your situation).

    Lylah  |  July 20th, 2010 at 7:47 pm

  • Completely agree with your, specially the last paragraph. I usually will tell husband that, even though I do understand other’s position towards the fact that i am a working mom, there is that moment of the day in which i take my child to his pre-k 3 class and drive my commute to work in which i feel empowered as a woman, as a working woman, yes, i am first a mom and a wife, but i am also a professional and feel very proud of it. I have felt proud of my mom all my life watching her succeed over and over in her profession while being the best mom ever, and i can only hope my kids can see me that way.

    Also that i dont get is that some families work better with the mom or dad at home full time, some families do better with both working outside the home (our case) if my DH is completely supportive to the fact that i want to work, you should work, go for it, why it should bother other people?

    Mari  |  July 21st, 2010 at 10:40 am

  • Interestingly, no one has ever commented that it would be better for me to stay home. Of course, I had my oldest son while in college pursuing a career that would pay nearly $20K/yr more than my husband was earning starting out. People were more worried about us having a decent home than him having me there all day. I also don’t have the temperment for being a SAHM. I also don’t live in a part of the country where many well-educated career women give up high-paying jobs to raise kids.

    AJB  |  July 21st, 2010 at 1:39 pm

  • Yes! I hear ya.

    I would love to stay home and be with my children. Some working moms prefer to work. Everyone’s different.

    I am not blind to the fact that we do make sacrifices when we work, just as moms who stay home make sacrifices. The stay at home mom generally makes financial sacrifices. The working mom often makes quality of life sacrifices, particularly when you are working to survive. As you mention, my check pays the mortgage, the food, and the bills. There’s no choice here. I would love to stop being made to feel guilty for putting aside my own desires and doing what’s right. Isn’t that the same sentiment that stay at home moms feel - that they’ve set aside their needs to meet those of their kids. Same here.

    It’s also a myth that families with two earners are well off financially (a point that you also made). It’s a blessing for stay at home moms and their children to be able to rely on someone else for their sustenance. To have that choice. So many of them don’t see it that way.

    D.  |  July 29th, 2010 at 12:47 pm