Extremely Torn Between Being a Working Mom and Being a Stay Home Mom.

Updated on December 26, 2015
Z.F. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
26 answers

I was the only child of a single mother and I gew up in a blue-collar town where pretty much everyone worked shift work so both parents always worked because their shifts could be arranged around each other and there was always grandparents around too.

I went to university for 6 years in a big city and then got a job right away. While I didn't like this job I still felt that I was on track to having a huge career (now have a better job but still feeling this way). Then I got married and had a baby.

While my husband does a huge amount of the child care I still feel like having a baby has completely thrown me off of my career momentum and I'm not nearly as passionate or as driven about work as I was before. To me it's just work now. It's not nearly as fuffilling as it was before.

The thought of being a stay home mom forever or for even 4 years straight without working at all really scares me. It's not just the boredom factor that worries me it's just the fact that children do grow up and aren't as dependent on you and one day you will want to work again. If you've been out for 5+ years it's going to be very hard to get back into working and I'm still paying down my student loans nevermind going back to school again!

My husband's family is full of stay home moms who have multiple children and that's what they have done since they were out of high school so that's his side of the family's view on motherhood. They just look at me like 'huh, why would you want to work?'.

The city I live in has a very low fertility rate and women tend to work full-bore until they are 37 then have the baby and get a nanny.

I feel so torn between all these worlds and views on family and mothers and kids. I never had a strong sense of how I wanted it to go because my own mother didn't have these options and always discouraged me from being financially dependent on a man.

I'm guessing part time work somehow is the way to go moving forward? Freelancing (it sounds hard to keep up with though)?

Anyone else have this experience?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

For some being a SAHM is not an option. If you need to choose between Christmas and paying your rent as stated in your previous post then I'm not sure why this is even a conversation. You need to take the emotion out of it and do what you need to do for your family.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I tend to look at things on the more practical side. You have school loans. These are very important to pay off. Instead of quitting your job, keep working, but put your entire salary towards paying off your school loan early. This will also show you and your husband if as a couple, your family can do without your salary.

It's normal for working to take a backseat in your heart to baby. You need to just accept that this happens to most mothers.

Don't stay home and stick the responsibility of paying off your loan to your husband, or think that you'll find freelance work that will end up working out the way you want.

And don't worry about the others in the family who are used to doing things a certain way. THEY aren't paying your bills.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

sometimes the many options are overwhelming, but isn't it awesome to be a woman today and HAVE these options?
i think it's cool that you're still being drawn to use your education and experience, even if the passion and the drive have tapered off somewhat. so yeah, i'd harness that and use the (wonderful) fact that you're not in dire straits to poke about and find something that will suit you, that's part-time and flexible but will allow you to keep your skill set fresh. even if it's not OMG wonderful.
but don't let it tear you. it's not something that should cause rifts in your psyche. it's awesome! so is the fact that you've got working parents in your experience, and SAHMs in your husband's, so the wisdom of both sides from which to draw. you don't have to come down hard on one side or the other. you can take what you need from both and create your own unique situation.
i was desperate to be a SAHM (as mine was) and never got to. yay for you having a choice!
ETA, julie, i don't think the 'wet noise of a dog near your leg' was quite what you were going for but it gave me a good snork!
ETA2 oh, just realized you're the gal with all the money issues, and angsts about your dh, and dramas in the workplace. i guess my suggestions stay the same, along with 'get a job and use the money for some really kickass counseling.'

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Ignore all the 'world views'. There are 2 things to consider - can you afford to live on just your husbands income and if so what do YOU want to do?

In your post, I see a lot of - his family thinks this, I was brought up to think that, my neighbors do this, etc. None of this matters.

Will you be happiest staying home (and being happy includes being comfortable that you are financially secure this way)? If so, stay home. If you think staying home sounds interesting, but that you know in your heart that you will not feel financially secure if you are not working, then you work. If you want to work full-bore and get a nanny because you that is what makes you feel secure, then do it. If you want to work a 40 hour week to help pay the bills and feel financially secure, but you know that in your heart that work is not your top priority, then that is ok to.

There are many many ways to make motherhood work. If you are happy with your choice, your child will be fine. Stop worrying about what other people think, and do what will make you happy.

I also want to separately say that it is OK - and totally normal - that your priorities changed after having kids. That doesn't mean that you should quit. Personally, I (mostly) like my job. It's a good job, I know I'm lucky to have it, and I want to succeed. But I am no longer so passionate and driven with respect to my career. And that is ok. Sometimes life is a little crazy trying to do everything - running from work to t-ball practice, etc. But I know that because of my personal values, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did not feel independently financially secure (that is to say, I would not want to have the financial security of my entire family dependent on 1 person earning an income). So for me, the juggle is well worth the peace of mind.

ETA: Wait a minute, in your last post, you were not even sure you had enough money to pay your rent this month. And you have issues in your marriage. You are considering leaving your job to stay at home? How does this make any sense?

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't get why you being an only child has to do with you bring a SAHM or Working mom.

It's a very personal choice and involves financial decisions between you and hubby. If you SAH can you realistically plan for retirement and college educations for your children.

There are a lot of moms who are better moms as working moms and some are better at SAHM.

As a SAHM I had no time to be bored. I still can't believe some people think a SAHM does nothing all day but watch soaps and eat Bon bons.

I also supported my hubby as he was in sales and after our daughter was much older, we ended up forming our own company in the same industry. So you could say I was both but I was home with my daughter and she was the primary focus.

Again,it's a very personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Do not feel guilted into being either one. Search within yourself and your relationship with your husband to make the best decision for your family.

Best wishes to you!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

Do you want to stay home? I'm not sure you really said. This isn't really about what your husband's family would do or about what your mom did. What do you WANT to do?

I've been both. I was a SAHM for our oldest and didn't start working full-time until our youngest was 2 1/2. I didn't really like being a SAHM. I was grateful to have that time with my kids when they were younger, but I wasn't really happy. I was kind of counting the days untill I could go back to work. Now that I'm working full-time, I'm much happier and having a happier mom means happier kids.

There isn't a right answer. You have to do what is right for your family.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Yes, I can totally relate to your feelings on this. I am a biologist and loved what I did yet at the same time I had a hard time leaving my children and working. I just didn't care as much about work anymore. If you have the luxury of being able to afford to stay home it is really nice to be able to do it for a while. I missed research and my passion though. My solution was to work part time as a contract biologist. I found a part time nanny when I had my son and an amazing part time job doing research and writing. Then I moved into lab work at NOAA...the hired me for 20 hours a week. I put my son in day care 3 days a week and I found a home daycare who watched him up the other two days a week. Then I had my daughter AND we moved to a new state. I ended up staying home with her full time for almost 2.5 years. Then I found a 20 hour a week job doing science writing. I always said when my youngest started kindergarten I would work more hours, but we moved AGAIN and my husband works insane hours and I have no contacts here. I kept my old job but I am only working 10 hours a week. We move back in a year so at least I will still have this job and I'm thinking I'll work until the kids are out of school each day...so about 30 hours a week. But I would also consider full time. I'm ready. I feel like I've kept gaining experience all these years so at least my career is not totally derailed...but it really slowed down. I am very happy I did not leave my career completely...I would not have been happy staying home full time all these years and it makes it easier to jump back into a real job. Also kids start getting more expensive as they get older. There is college to pay for. There are so many expenses in life. I'm really looking forward to working more hours now that the kids are older. So my advice: work part time if you can afford it.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Some excellent points below.

I'll just add that I'm not sure why you think you would be bored. Do you think there is nothing to do? Why do you think it's not work? Yes, kids' needs change as they get older, but that doesn't mean they need you less. Your role shifts - you cease to be their sole source of entertainment, but you become in charge of their social schedule (even if that's library story hour and the park and some play dates) and you become involved in their school with volunteering and fundraising and much more.

I think there's a huge fallacy in the argument that SAHMs don't "work" - I hate that characterization. I also think there's a fallacy in your mother's argument about being financially dependent on a man. If he has a job outside the home and you have one inside the home, he's just as financially dependent on you! (What if something happened to you? Do you have any idea what it would cost to replace you and all the things you do? It's an interesting exercise in valuing the work stay-at-home parents do!)

I think your situation is complicated by several things. You and your husband come from different worlds. You have an idea that your whole city is largely 37 year old women with one child and a nanny - is that realistic in a city? Really? Maybe you just don't know as many people or as diverse a population as surely exists. You, likewise, are basing your understanding of SAHMs on just your husband's relatives, rather than other women in your community. You're terrified of the lack of income if you stop working and then can't go back at a high pay rate - and that comes from being raised by a single mom who just worked all the time at a job to keep a roof over your head. Not everyone feels that way. And, you have posted before about job issues, and you don't really feel fulfilled there either.

On the plus side, you have a husband who values being a father and providing child care. That's a great start. You're also open about your conflicts, and that's a start. You're aware of the pressures and of the difficulty in juggling professional and at-home lives.

Honestly, I would recommend that you get some counseling to help clarify your preferences and fears. You can also get some good career advice about your abilities, how you are perhaps not in the right field, and figure out some options. Freelancing is one option but you have to have skills that lend themselves to that - and you can't assume that you can just work around your kid's schedule. Freelancers have deadlines and pressures - my husband has been doing freelance writing since our son was born, and it was only possible because I was either at home as a SAHM or working part time around our child's preschool and school schedule. There's no way he could have done his work after our child went to bed or was otherwise occupied at a play date! But without knowing your career skills, I wouldn't know if freelancing is an option for you anyway.

So take some time to do some exploration with an objective professional - you have a lot to sort out, and it's going to take time. Decide now that you are worth that time.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Fayetteville on

I was a stay at home mom for 10 years (3 kids). I stopped working right before my oldest was born and went back to work (part-time) when my youngest was in kindergarten (this past August). Please don't think SAHMs only have a high school diploma and pop out a bunch of kids. I have a Master's degree and willingly gave up my career for my family. When I was ready to go back, I was able to get a part-time job (exactly what I wanted!) in my field. You can never get this time with your child back. If you can swing it financially, go for it! Oh, and don't worry about being bored! Exhausted, yes. But, bored??? Nope!

Do not worry about what your mom/friends/coworkers/ think. This is a decision for you and your hubby.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I never planned on being a stay at home mother, but then my oldest came along right as we were getting to our next duty station and finding out my husband would spend half of every year for the next several year in the middle east. I have now been home with my kids for 12 years. I have loved this time with them and wouldn't trade it for the world, but I do mourn the loss of the career I could have had. As I now reenter the work scene I am basically starting over from scratch, no one even wants to see work experience from over 10 years ago. Either way (stay at home or work) you are going to sacrifice something, it is up to you do decide what.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've been both.

I never understand the bored part. It's a slower pace than working (rushing in traffic, dropping kids off at daycare, rushing to pick them up, rushing to make supper, doing laundry at night, etc.) but it's not boring. Raising kids - I dunno, I am run off my feet. It can be as social as you want (if you're a social person, you'll be out there meeting other moms or taking them to swimming lessons for tots), I mean - you have choices.

When I went from full time busy working mom to home, it was the fact that I the pace went to baby pace. My life revolved around little kids and babies. So it's not your pace. It's their pace. You do adjust.

As for working and keeping up your skills - I have friends who are lucky and just keep current either by volunteering their skills (say at the school, typing up newsletters, running groups, etc.) or part time - even if it's just to be able to say they have. If you could work part time or from home when you can, that seems like a great solution - if you can afford to be home.

For me, I enjoyed my career. I miss it. I miss my work friends, but I've made friend being home too. Work could be dull at times, and definitely stressful. It's like comparing apples to oranges really. Not sure you can. But for me, when I worked having wonderful care for my kids was crucial. It meant I could relax at work and know they were being nurtured. It would have been very different if I'd had more guilt over that. I had some, but not as much as if I'd been worried about them all day.

Not sure if that helps, but that's been my experience.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The grass isn't greener on some other side. It's just more grass. When you sit down and envision your ideal day, of what does it consist? Only you know the sort of life you want to live. So what is it? I'd sit with myself and silence all the other voices until I could hear my own.

I'm a SAHM. I'm too busy to be bored. I do miss having "my thing," but I'm working on that, and now that my youngest will be three soon, I feel like I have the headspace and energy to start something that brings me back to my previous existence. It's time to recreate and enter the next stage, and I'm excited about that, while feeling very sad that I won't ever get to snuggle with a cute baby or toddler again.

I don't worry about relying on my husband financially. His money is my money, after all, and I have a very important and difficult job --I think staying home with kids all day is the hardest, most challenging, most life-changing thing I could do: it forced me to confront my deepest fears, insecurities, and deepest longings. It forced me to learn how to be content with always being the least important. For me, it's been the most humbling, humiliating, and challenging thing ever --and I did have a difficult career before this.

I think we all go through a period of trying to figure out what sort of family we want. I know I was very insecure about my place in the world when I started staying home, but now? I feel very secure and confident I'm on the right path. Only you know what that path will be, as each family is different, with different needs and dreams. If I was you, I'd take some time to envision the sort of life you want. For me, I see myself sitting and writing with my kids near me, doing their own thing. I see trees out my window, and I hear birds chirping. I smell dinner in the oven, and feel the wet nose of a dog near my leg. I'm far from the chaos of capital, and far from the paper-chase.

What do you want? What do you see when you close your eyes and see the life you want to live?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Remember that nothing is permanent. I went back to work for a year when my DD was an infant. I hated my boss. I quit. I did freelance and PT work from home work for 5 yearsish and recently returned to FT work. My DD is now back in childcare, but only for a few hours a day, since most of the day she's in school.

IMO, crunch the numbers for what you need as a household. Check the rates for childcare. Decide if it's more important for a parent to stay home (I say "a parent" because several families we know decided Dad should be home, and Mom works because she had the bigger career/better benefits/etc.). If it is, then try to define between you what that looks like. One of my issues with my DH was that he thought I did nothing all day if the dishes weren't done, and that made me angry when I was the taxi for his older kids, took care of our toddler, did ALL the errands and doctors appointments (including vet visits), etc. We had to come to a better agreement. Working PT and volunteering kept me in the loop when it came time to go back to FT work. And I had proven to be a reliable telework employee with my remote PT work. It's been a lot of fits and starts, but the main thing I kept in mind was "It's a bridge. It's not permanent." If I hated being home? I could do something else. I also volunteered to help feel connected and productive. Also, having a PT job I still had a little of my own money.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

This is a decision that you will have to make for yourself. It is nice that you have input from your inlaws and the example from your mom.

I enjoy working and when my kids came along, I continued to work. With my first I made sure that the boss would not dock me because of childcare as I found a center that would and could provide for his needs while I worked. If a babysitter was sick, they would find or call in a person so that I did not have to stay home with a child. With my second child, we were stationed in another country and I was a SAHM for four years. In those four years, I did all sorts of things that kept my skills current and was a member of the spouses club.

When we returned to the states,I went back to work full time as one child was in school all day and the other was in childcare. We did juggle the scouts and sports a bill for a while but it was worth it. We again moved overseas and I was involved in the school system for class trips and such and scouts. I also worked part time and had a job as a seamstress sewing stripes and patches on uniforms -- very fulfilling personally and financially.

I was more productive and happier working than staying home. I continue to work now and am planning for my next step of "retirement' but it will be me doing something else that I love to do and not sitting in a chair watching soaps and eating candy.

Good luck on your decision. But make sure you do pay your school loans just like you pay your rent first and before everything else.

the other S.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Every mom feels this way.
It's hard no matter what you do - and there are plenty of Moms who'll judge you no matter what you pick.
My husband and I both work - and we need to.
It was so hard the first day I dropped our son off at day care when my maternity leave was up.
I cried a river.
But it worked out alright.
Our son had kids to play with (he's an only child) and daycare was good for him.
We earned enough to be able to spoil him and he's got a pretty good college savings account built up.
Our son is 17 now, in 11th grade and we're working with a financial planner to navigate his senior year and college plans - and we have an expert telling us we've done very well planning wise for his college years.
He says so many parents come in and when the numbers are run - the Moms are just in tears over the prospect of being a financial burden to their kids, there's not enough money for college without massive debt, or there's no way the parents can retire.
You've got to do what you've got to do - but my keeping my career was a good move for us.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I was a SAHM for over ten years and never had a chance to get bored. I waited until we had our debts paid and money in the bank before we had kids, and even then we lived frugally, and I always did some type of part time work. That time at home with my kids meant more to me than any job or career could have. I wish I didn't have to go back to work, but after ten years at home it was time to start saving for the next stage in life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

If you were called to be a SAHM, I think you'd know. Sounds to me like you're meant to keep your career going.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You don't trust your husband, you and your husband don't get along, you two are NOT on the same fence about finances now when you are contributing financially, and you guys are struggling with gifts/rent?

You don't stop working - you are not in a position to do that. You keep working, put money away, and be prepared to take care of yourself if things at home don't get better.

You'll find yourself in a seriously desperate situation if you don't make the right financial moves right now.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I absoultely loved staying at home for the last 13 years. When I had my first however my husband encouraged me to have a hobby. I found a hobby that I became passionate about and fills my time. However with my oldest daughter about to start college and our health insurance premium sky rocking to $18,000 / year + deductibles totaling more than $4,000 last year (thanks Obama!) I am thinking about going back to work simply for the benefits since my husband is self employed and we pay out of pocket. Although I have an Masters of business admin degree (MBA) it is a bit overwhelming to think about putting together a resume and interviewing. I am not even sure what I want to do and have no idea who will hire me. Finding something PT is probably ideal...then at least you will be keeping your foot in the door. Good luck!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

No one can answer this for you. And only you can answer it, AFTER you have a baby. Really, it changes everything. You can be like me and always say you are going to work outside the home. And then have kids, and never looked back being a stay at home mom (and most of the years, worked at home very part time). Or I am sure there are the opposite, ones who want to stay at home, and then do it and it is not for them. This is one of those things that you may not be able to plan.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Know that there is no right answer for this, and what is right for your family today will not be what was right yesterday or will be right tomorrow.

It sounds like you are blessed with both flexibility and choice, which is a great position to be in.It also sounds like you haven't really found work that makes you happy and leaves you feeling challenged and fulfilled, and that's OK too.

You and your husband do what's right for your family, in the present. Can you afford to live on one income? Is that income yours or his, and are there benefits such as health insurance and retirement tied to either job? If one or both of you were to work part-time, would childcare and commuting costs eat up most of your income? Or would you be able to reduce those proportionally? Do you need to go back to school or is the education you have enough for your long-term career goals? Would it make sense and be financially possible to complete any necessary extra education now, taking care of the baby during the day and taking classes in the evening when your husband is home?

Honestly, I can tell you that even though I've always had to work due to financial need (I was a single mom, then a breadwinner while I was married and am back to single parenting again) I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to stay home with my kids for long. For one, they would drive me crazy and two, the financial insecurity of depending on one income would have stressed me out. I think it makes a lot of sense for couples to have both parents working if for nothing else than to have an extra income in case of job loss, illness, disability, death or divorce. If the extra income truly is extra, then it can be socked away for retirement, college savings, and to build 12+ months of emergency savings. Then perhaps one parent could decide to stay home at least part-time when the kids are older and after-school schedules become complicated. Childcare for babies is actually relatively easy. It's childcare for before school, after school, managing sports and music and other activities after school, homework, projects, summers and school vacations that gets complex and expensive. I spend almost $1000 a month for sitters to cover the above while I'm in the office.

If I were you, I would sit down with your husband and map out your long-terms goals and dreams - will you have more children? Do you want to live where you do? Where will your child go to school? Do you need to move to get into a school district that you like or will you pay for private school? Do you need to make any major purchases in the future (new car, etc.)? Will you be caring for aging parents? What are your goals for retirement, college and emergency savings? How much is childcare? Do either of you need advanced degrees? How much debt and how will you pay it off? Does he like his career? What would your ideal career look like?

Then when you have all of that info, you can make a decision based on what's right for your family today, not what your past experience and not what works for his relatives.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think my kids really benefited from having a SAHM. In hindsight, I think a part-time job would have been nice, if it paid enough, just to have a break from parenting and keep your feet in the work world. I don't know about freelancing -- part of the reason to work is to enjoy the community, imo. I did become very involved in the community of my kids' schools, so I wasn't bored.

My experience was that they didn't really need me after middle school, so if I were to do it over again, I would be prepared to go back to work when my youngest entered high school.



answers from San Francisco on

I think my kids really benefited from having a SAHM. In hindsight, I think a part-time job would have been nice, if it paid enough, just to have a break from parenting and keep your feet in the work world. I don't know about freelancing -- part of the reason to work is to enjoy the community, imo. I did become very involved in the community of my kids' schools, so I wasn't bored.

My experience was that they didn't really need me after middle school, so if I were to do it over again, I would be prepared to go back to work when my youngest entered high school.



answers from Boston on

Pros and cons of each. Maybe try to work 4 days a week so you have a day to spend w her and get stuff done too so the weekends are a little less hectic. You might just be in a rut at work and need a new project. You can always work and you will not be bored, especially if you have another baby. Make sure you can afford it If you quit. GL!



answers from Dallas on

The only way I can give you advice is to know what your job is? If you have a low paying job, the obvious answer is not to work and be a stay at home mom. If you have a high paying job (which is what it sounds like), then it would make sense to work, since you would be able to afford a nanny or babysitter.



answers from Oklahoma City on

So, you're only going to have one child? What if you get pregnant when kiddo is 4 or 5? What if you get pregnant tomorrow and have twins? You might be out of work a long long time. Your student loans won't go away. So you have to continue to make regular payments on them or get a loan and pay them off entirely. That would be cheaper by far.

If your husband makes enough money for you to stay at home and every bill plus a hefty savings is an option then quit work if you want to. I say hefty savings because there is no guarantee hubby will have a job tomorrow.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions