Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stay-at-Home Mom vs. Working Mom

my vocation as mom
When I was in college, when asked what my career goal was, I would often respond with "stay-at-home mom".  Of course, I wasn't getting my degree in motherhood (and a degree is hardly necessary anyway, I fully believe that women are made with some pretty amazing mothering instincts).  Like any practical young woman, I didn't know when (or even if) I would ever get married and have children, so I was preparing for my future in the best way I could at the time, by simultaneously preparing myself for marriage and motherhood and a career in education.  The responses I received to my reply were always shocking, no matter how often I heard them.  More times than I can count, I was told that I was wasting scholarship money that could have been used for someone who would actually better society because of it.  (Who cares that my children are more likely to attend college because I have a degree?)  I was told that I was too intelligent to waste my life at home. (Coincidentally, I also often heard that I would waste my intelligence by being a teacher.  So you want morons teaching your children?)  I also got some pretty nasty comments from other women along the lines of "It's women like you that are holding the rest of us back by playing into the stereotype of women at home."  (And to think, all along I though feminism was about allowing to women to make choices, not about forcing women out of the home against their will!)

Now that I have a daughter and am a stay-at-home mom, I'm doing a very unexpected thing.  I'm going back to work.  Tomorrow will be my first day as a substitute teacher.  True, I will only be working one or two days a week, but working part-time is enough to be considered a working mother.  So, I stay at home AND I work, and I have a feeling that I'm in good company.  Now, more than every before women truly have choices regarding balancing work and family.  Some women still work outside of the home full-time and others still stay-at-home, but there is a growing number of women who do a little of both and even more that are work-at-home moms of some sort, selling homemade items out of their home, answering phones calls, and, well, blogging.  

So, why do I stay at home? There are many reasons women stay at home and I have a feeling that none of my reasons are all that original.  I stay at home for practical reasons - believe it or not, it's actually more economical for me to be at home than to work.  Even if I were to get a full-time teaching job, the starting teaching salaries in the area aren't much more than I would be paying in daycare (not to mention gas).  Add to that the money I save my family by having time to make homemade household products, fresh homemade meals, and couponing and the money I earn with online survey and rewards sites and we probably come out a little ahead.  I also stay home because I feel that it is my vocation.  I love spending time with my daughter, being her teacher and caregiver.  Do children who have more personalized attention at home (whether with mom, dad or grandma) do better than their peers at daycare?  It depends on which study you look at; however, I firmly believe that no one can understand a child and his individual development and needs more than his parents.  I don't just stay at home for my daughter though, I also stay at home because of my vocation as wife.  It brings me great joy to create a warm environment for my husband to come home to and be able to accomplish household tasks while he is at work so we can spend our time when he is at home as a family.

in good hands with Daddy when Mama's gone
Why do I work? My husband is graduating next month with his Ph.D. He has already finished (and defended) his dissertation and only has to go into school a couples a times a week.  Because of this, he is free to stay home with our daughter while I substitute teach a few days a week.  We are living on my husband's small grad student stipend and the ability to substitute means that I am able to help relieve some of our financial stress and save up in case David doesn't find a job right away.  Many women work because it's a financial necessity and their ability to do so is an incredible blessing to their families.  However, I truly believe that for most (two parent) families, it is possible for the wife to stay at home if they are willing to make great financial sacrifices.  (If we can do it on a measly grad school stipend....)  But finances aren't the only reason women work, and it's not the only reason I am either.  I'm working because I love teaching and miss being in the classroom.  I like being able to add to my resume in case I want to look for a more permanent teaching position in the future, either because I have to support my family or simply because I want to work again.  For some reason, moms are shamed when they admit this, but I will tell you that work away from home is fulfilling for me.  I also feel that getting out of the house is good for me (and good for David and Lucia to have some time alone together).  

I have the utmost respect for mothers who work and mothers who stay at home.  Like all other parenting decisions, parents have the sole right and responsibility to decide what is best for their families.  I myself was raised by a working mom and spent my days with my grandmother.  My own mother has already offered to retire to watch Lulu if we move back to Colorado and I want to get a teaching position.  Maybe I will take her up on that, because I believe that grandmothers might have an edge on even mothers when it comes to caring for children! 

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  1. Good luck with your new venture! I know what is is like to be married to a student-we married when my husband was in 3rd Med and had our 2nd baby 8 weeks before his finals!! Looking back it must have beendifficult enough but we didn't seem to notice!! Baby is looking FAB!!

  2. www.gracelovesiggy.comApril 24, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    I love being a stay at home mom, and for me, it was a sacrifice financially staying at home vs daycare, but watching my babies grow beats having extra money for now =)

  3. Is there an official stance on a stay at home dad?  

  4.  Only that they are awesomesauce :)

    1. Thanks! Presently that is our family plan. I'm the bread winner currently and my hubby wants to stay home with our future children.

  5.  I have to admit that deep down I thought women going to school to get the ole "MRS" degree and stay home were crazy.  We even joked about it though I never met anyone who actually planned on it. We joked in a more abstract way...and in a crazy, humbling turn of events I am staying at home now with my family looking down on me for it and urging me to go get a job as soon as the youngest is in kindergarten.  Now I just want to be a room mom. I don't want the schedule I used to have.  I'll take my at-home stress over my at-work stress any day of the week  Ironic, no?  Anyway, I loved your post.  Keep on doing what is right for your family. :)

  6. I wanted to be a SAHM but I didn't go to school for a MRS degree. I went because I truly love learning (as dorky as it sounds) and I was very dedicated to my education.  I really miss school and before I got married, I was planning to get my Ph.D.  Maybe someday, but as much as I miss school, I am glad to not have homework and tests and deadlines anymore!  I get much more sleep as a mama of an infant than I did as a college student!

  7. David is proud that she looks a lot like him, but she has a lot of my mom in her as well (the cleft chin and eyes especially!)

  8. Thank you for sharing this - so well said!

  9. Wow people said some incredibly nasty things to you!! That's pretty shocking.  I recently heard about women being angry at SAHMs for "holding them back" and it's completely ridiculous, but I heard a pretty interesting argument as to why they feel that way.  

    I never knew I wanted to be a SAHM until I had my daughter; now it's my ultimate goal.


  10. Beautiful!! Wow, you have a unique perspective that any woman with a strong opinion on this should hear. Thank you, Mandi!

  11. Those are some very hurtful comments that you received for mentioning that you'd like to be a SAHM. I never said that I wanted to be a SAHM exactly, but my goal was always to be a WAHM. I'm not sure why it's so much more socially acceptable to say that you want to work from home so that you can be there for your kids than say your goal is to be a SAHM. Any mother is doing a great amount of work, whether it directly lends itself to paying the bills or not.

    I hope that you'll share more about your substitute teaching experience. I have considered applying as a sub in the local school district (in our state, the educational requirement for subs is about three years of college credits in any subject), because it seems like a great way for mothers to earn a little extra money while working part time.

    I agree with you on how it seems likely that most families could have a stay at home parent if it was a top priority. I have had many mothers tell me how they wish they could afford to stay home with their child(ren), and I can't help thinking of their McMansions and other expensive material goods. We're happy to live in our tiny home and buy almost everything second hand or with coupons to help finance our choice to have me at home with our children. Also, as you mentioned, we come out ahead by not having to pay for child care and work related costs and having a parent here to raise our sons - we really do know our children better than anyone else.

  12. I agree wholeheartedly. I didn't get a MRS degree just because I am staying home now. I love teaching and I love school. I too wanted to get a PHD (in education), because my goal out-of-the-home job is to be an Education Professor ;-)

  13. Just another reason we are meant to be friends - I would love to be a history professor!


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