To Work, or Not to Work

This topic has been the source of argument & contention since women joined the workforce. Do I leave my job to raise my kids? Can I work? Do I even have a choice?

I remember the mad scramble in the years leading up to having a baby. We paid off my car, but I didn’t get pregnant. We started in on my student loans, and I got pregnant. By the time baby came, they were paid off (Yay!) My decision to stay home was made easier on many fronts:

1. Those debts were paid off

B. Scott’s job opened the door for us to afford to (sing “The Who” with me here: “Let Scott’s job open the door oooh-ooh”)

3. The company I worked for was bought during my pregnancy and I would be coming back to a completely different job- and I wasn’t sure I wanted the old one anyway

IV. I really wanted to

We decided; I could do it. I did & have no regrets, well, other than the fact that now I wish to re-enter the workforce and feel inept, clueless and lost at sea, but that’s a blog topic for another day. Sigh.

One morning, newly unemployed and joyfully nurturing my baby, I saw that Oprah episode: ‘Mommy Wars’. 

Working Moms called stay at home moms failures as women. How could a woman who went to college waste their degree to be home raising kids instead of empowering themselves?

The rebuttal- how could any mother leave their baby for a job? Family should be the priority.


Where do I stand on this? Hhmm, I’m not using my degree, am I letting down womankind? I’m home tending to this little miracle I waited 2 years for, and as I look into my soul, I know I could not have left her. But that was me, and not every other woman out there.

The whole show displayed mothers divided against each other, based on this personal life decision, and the two sides stood firm against each other; as if there’s no grey.

I called my BFF Karen who had her 1st baby one month after mine. She was going back to work (and if I had her job, I would too). I filled her in on the show and we made a pact that no matter what, we both respect the others’ decision regarding work. We still do.

See, here it is, years later, and it still bugs me. This topic belongs in the “What business is it of yours?” file. How can you judge (and condemn) someone for their personal decision made by choice or necessity? We have enough pressures in our lives between keeping our spouse and kids happy & households functioning, we don’t need fellow mothers piling on the pressure.

The Trash Heap has spoken (again!). Ay, Mama!


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  • Kelly, as a full-time (at least 40 hrs a week) working mom I wish I could have done like you did, to stay home with my kids (5 and 3 now) but we couldn't afford it. You were lucky you could do that, b/c the guilty monster attacks for a full-time working mom are horrible, painful, and heartbreaking. I guess, since I haven't done it, not sure how I would feel regarding not working after going to grad school, but right now, I am more than ready to be a full-time mom. Having to be 100% at home, work, marriage, etc is too much. Also, look at this survey, it looks neither of the two "moms" (WM or SAHM) are satisfied,0,5757183.story. SO... I think the ideal is the mom that can work 20 hrs or less a week and still be there for the kids. That's what I would love to do, still work in what I like but being able to get the kids to school, work while they are at school, pick them up, do homework, play with them during the week... having time for me the hours they are at school but I'm off work, being able to go to the gym, do my hair, nails, go shopping, without feeling guilty. If we could only live with one salary... So, why don't you go back part-time? Would that work for you? Good luck!

  • Trying for kids are still a couple years off for DH and me, but we're already mulling over our options as far as taking care of the kids. Unfortunately, for me I need to work 10 years as a public servant after graduation (aka, as a librarian) in order to get the rest of my big student loans forgiven, and it has to be full time. So my hands are kind of tied, there. DH has less loans, but still, that 10 year public servant loan forgiveness program will be of immense help to him, too. So, we probably can afford the FMLA leave after birth/adoption, but beyond that, I'm going to feel so guilty about leaving a child with a babysitter all day. Once they're in school, it'll be easier on the conscience.

    I would freely have my MIL take care of the children while we both worked, but the in laws live a couple states away.

    So, I'm not sure what we'll be doing, yet. I wish I could just do PT work, but the student loans have me trapped and I desperately want to get it forgiven sooner so we can save up for the kids' college education.

    That's why I appreciate hearing from other mothers' stories, because that helps us try to ponder what to do, better. Thanks for writing.

  • My Mom was a stay at home mother from the moment my brother was born. She is a huge advocate for women working at least part time especially when the kids go to school full time. I remember her telling me "make sure the biggest accomplishment during your day is not that you clean the oven." My cousin, mother of three is a stay at home mom who kept her dietitian's license up to date "just in case", now that her kids are teen agers and sometimes make her feel like she "just doesn't get it", she is thinking about looking for work at least part time. I think both of them feel like work would have provided an outlet when motherhood got emotionally tough.

    I know I have the best of both worlds, a job that I love and the hours that allow me to be with my daughter more than traditional working moms. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. It's what works for you and for your family, financially and emotionally.

    By the way, I think being a stay at home mom is the hardest, most under appreciated job ever.

  • I know that working mommy guilt and have seen several friends struggling with it too. There is no right answer, I have decided. I feel so lucky to be able to be with the kids, but then you have those days where all you have done is talk to kids all day and you need some adult time. Yes, maybe a part time job would be ideal for me- now to find the job! Holly- you'll figure it out. I wish there was an easy answer, but reality sometimes stinks. You have to let any guilt go, otherwise you'll drive yourself crazy (the guilt over leaving the job, the guilt over leaving your kids...) Calgon!

  • Well stated--the part about the working vs. stay at home moms not recognizing the grey. The VAST grey. I think, no matter what, it is never perfect, there will always be tinges of guilt and regret...I think the best we can do is just strive toward focusing on the upside of our personal decision/predicament. Not always easy to find, but the upside is there somewhere.

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