Stay at home mom

Is Life Easier As A Stay At Home Mom or a Working Mom?

I worked full-time outside the home the first two years of Miss H’s life. When her little brother was on the way, I told the head of her daycare center that we wouldn’t be returning the next school year, because I was leaving my job. The daycare coordinator gave me a sidelong glance and said, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE moms, huh?” This was not the first comment I had heard pitting stay at home moms against working moms. Before that, well-meaning moms would look at me sympathetically because, “It must be so difficult to let someone else raise your child.”

I don’t like this “us versus them” mentality. Both roles are very difficult. This post will offer different perspectives from four moms about staying at home or working outside the home with children.

Stay at home mom

Is Life Easier As A Working Mom or a Stay At Home Mom?

When I worked full-time, I missed my little girl immensely. I felt guilt for taking care of other people’s children, but not being with mine.  Cooking meals and cleaning the house were a huge challenge. It was hard to play with my child and be a good wife after being on my feet teaching students for 9 hours a day.

But I didn’t know that staying at home would be just as difficult, in different ways. The housekeeping piece actually became more difficult because we were home much of the day to make a mess. Making meals became more of a science than an art because I became so careful with our grocery budget. And not getting to interact with other grown-ups throughout the day left me feeling isolated and exhausted.

I decided to talk to some other moms who have been in both roles: working mom, and stay-at-home mom, to hear their perspectives. I asked them:

  • What were the challenges of working outside the home? What are the challenges of being home full-time (or working from home part-time?)
  • Which one has been “easier” for you?

Julie, Jules and Co, WAHM mom of 2

I worked for a full school year when my son was about one. The biggest challenge came in the form of both a blessing and a curse. My mom was able to watch my son while I went to work. Throughout the day she would text photos to me of their adventures and playtime. As much as I loved seeing my little guy doing all these simple fun activities (picking wildflowers, reading at story time, eating lunch on the back porch).

I was so heartbroken that it wasn’t me doing all those lovely things with him!

 Since I became a stay at home mom when my son was about 18 months old, the challenges have been completely different. The biggest obstacle is my mindset and my expectations. I have the tendency to expect perfection from myself in every role. I should be a devoted wife, efficient homemaker, calm and wise mother, profitable blogger and business woman, dedicated church member… the list goes on and on. Since I’m able to stay home and I know many mothers aren’t, I impose a guilt trip upon myself when I fail at my roles. It’s exhausting! As a stay at home mom, my biggest challenge is definitely my self-imposed expectations.
That being said, I still think staying at home is a better fit for me. In many ways it’s just as hard as working full-time. Schedules are slammed for any mom. However I feel like the “work” I do at home is more fulfilling. As a teacher I came home emotionally drained from worrying about other people’s kids. I still do way too much worrying, but these days it directed toward my own little circle of influence. I have faith that my work will be fruitful in my family. It’s fulfilling to set goals that are meaningful to me, and having a flexible schedule that allows me to work towards goals in many areas of my life such as parenting, marriage, and business as well. I like being my own boss!”

Susan, Glorious Mom Blog, WAHM mom of 3

The hardest part of working outside of the home was the extra time involved because of the commute. I also had to spent time packing for the littles and myself since I didn’t have childcare and had to take them with me. Days that I worked on-location were also tiring for me.
The thing that I like better about working outside of the home is that there were always bigger chunks of time where I was able to get stuff done. At home I stopped to cook, clean, do housework, etc., but it was nice not to have these distractions when working on-location. Also, the constant switch in my brain between all my different roles remains a constant challenge, diminished when I’m working outside the home. 
It’s hard to say which is easier. The change of scenery when working outside the home is nice also, but in the end having more undivided attention to give my kids is the most important thing. I have more time when working from home, so that role is the winner. “

Nikki, SAHM mom of 3

In the beginning, the biggest challenge of working outside the home was simply leaving my son. I went back to work when he was eight weeks old. It was too soon for me and for him. It felt like I was leaving a bit of myself behind every single day that I went to work. The other challenges were the general hard ones like finding someone I trust to watch my son and pumping at work. I also had colleagues who don’t understand child emergencies, and dealt with changes in his behavior/routine after being in someone else’s care for a few days. However, the hardest challenge over all was identifying the source of behavior problems because of too many variables. When I am with my child nearly all the time, I’m able to find triggers to behaviors much more easily. When someone else was with my child, it was hard to tell whether a behavior was a normal new behavior/stage, or triggered by other changes. 
Now that I stay home with my children, there are the small things like not finding time to read or journal on my own. I used to do those things on the train to or from work, or on my work lunch break. It’s hard to find time to answer emails that need much thought or return phone calls, even though I sometimes very much need to talk to someone over the age of 10. I don’t remember the last time that I ate lunch without someone yelling or grabbing at me. It’s hard to even go to the bathroom right when I need to. When I do, I risk disaster to the living room during the two minutes I’m gone.

The hardest challenge for me when I transitioned to being home all the time was never being “off-duty.

When I worked, I could leave the stress of work at work, the stress of home at home. I had the commute to transition my heart and mind to what I needed to focus on. Being home all the time means that my problems from the day are still there in the evening, and my problems from the week are still there on the weekend. That was a lot for me in the beginning. After a while, the biggest challenge for me became losing perspective. When I worked I had the time away from my house be able to step-back mentally from my household.  This probably made me more effective at getting things done when I was home.  Being at work gave me a break to think about things unrelated to my family and my house, etc. It put all of our problems into proper perspective with the rest of the world. Staying at home no longer gave me that break away from my house or my kids to refresh my brain and thinking.

I had to learn to build in to the schedule time for me to be away.

Staying at home has definitely been easier for me. I enjoyed my job enough, but it wasn’t fulfilling. Being with my kids, though trying on even the best of days, fills my soul. Also, I really like running my days in cooperation with my kids and what routines fit us all best, and not sticking to someone else’s schedule. I get to be my own boss and make my own choices about what tasks get priority over others. It is a lifestyle that fits me and my kids better than strict routines imposed on us by an office, preschool or daycare. Our household still has general routine built into our days, but no one gets yelled at because mom is 15 minutes late to work (again).”

Meg, working mom of 1

The biggest challenge I face working outside the home is being able to dedicate the time and level of attention needed to do what I  expect of myself in each of my responsibilities. For example I want to take care of my clients and dedicate the time and focus they deserve. I want to spend quality time with my child helping her develop and simply spending time with her where I am focused on her, not in the back of my mind thinking about the housework that needs to be done or work situations that need to be dealt with. I feel pulled in many directions everyday and I hold myself to expectations of accomplishing tasks to my standards. Some days there is not enough time and it adds another layer of stress. I feel stretched too thin.

When I stayed at home I was unfulfilled. I love being a mom however I need the fulfillment I get from my career. It was overwhelming being with my child all day. I felt that I needed to constantly do something productive with her.  Maybe it was playing, teaching, or finding outside activities.  Not having a career outside the home wasn’t healthy for me. Therefore, I was disappointed in myself for not appreciating the opportunity as much as I thought I should. I am a better mom when I am also working. I take less for granted and value the time more that I have when wearing whatever hat I am wearing that hour.”

This Mom Job Is Hard

No matter what your role is, being a mom is hard! Don’t stress your decision to stay at home or work away from the home.  I pray that we can help and support each other during this challenging season of life.

5 Comments

  • Lexie July 6, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I think you hit it right on the head at the end there. Being a mom is hard, and it’s really a grass is always greener type of situation. There are pros and cons to either choice, and what works for one family won’t always work for any other.
    Thanks for sharing this great piece of perspective. <3
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    • leahbmartin July 12, 2017 at 6:38 am

      Thank you, Lexie! I think it’s so important to look at the whole story!

      Reply
  • Sheila September 9, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Of course its harder when you work outside the home because you’re still responsible for EVERY single thing you’d do if you had to stay home all day. Its not as though you’re magically no longer responsible for cooking, cleaning and keeping the kids on track. It is silly to think those tasks wouldn’t still need to be accomplished just bc you work.

    Reply
    • leahbmartin September 11, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Yes, it is silly to think that! I thought homemaking would be so much easier as a stay-at-home-mom when I worked full time outside of the home. But when I stopped working, the homemaking piece is actually more difficult for me! When we were gone all day, we didn’t create so much mess. Now there is constantly a mess to clean up! I also wasn’t responsible for so many meals when I worked outside the home. Now I feel like a cook all the time 🙂 The purpose of this post was to show different perspectives- not everyone feels like working outside of the home is more difficult.

      Reply
  • Bianca August 13, 2018 at 4:33 am

    Thanks for sharing, its wonderful and validating to read the different perspectives. I have worked away from home and been a stay at home mom at different stages, both came with their challenges and great rewards. In the times when I had to leave for work, it was difficult to leave my son, but the time for my self and to be successful in my work was incredibly rewarding at the same time.
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