And by “work,” in this case, I’m referring to paid employment. Obviously we know that mothering in and of itself is plenty of work, and that’s not the debate we’re trying to stir up.
Truthfully, though, the issue of working outside of the home or not is a big issue in the lives of most moms, and those of us with multiples are no exception.
Sometimes, to work or not is a choice that’s made for you by virtue of financial or logistical realities. Maybe you’re the sole breadwinner in your house, maybe you need the health insurance, maybe the mortgage payment depends on two salaries. Or, on the flipside, maybe you find the cost of double daycare is actually more than you bring home!
Whether it’s an active choice or not, though, we all have to find the balance that meets as many of our needs as possible. And sometimes there’s just nothing to be done about the mommy guilt. You might decide to go back to work, and then feel guilty about not being with your kids all day. Or, you might feel really good about being back to work, but feel guilty about not feeling guilty! Or, you might be home all day with them, and wish you could contribute to the family finances. The list goes on.
The HDYDI moms, as ever, are no exception. We run the gamut, from working full-time, working part-time, freelancing, working from home, and 100% SAHM. Someone asked through our Features page to talk about the work/not-work/babies dynamic. So, we present to you, some of our pros and cons to staying at home or going back to work.
Working Outside of the Home, full- or part-time
- The external reward of being paid for what you do!
- Enjoying the work you do
- Professional advancement/career trajectory
- Getting a “break” from the kids can help you to be more patient or enjoy them more when you’re home
- Adult conversation
- Mini-breaks during the day to do things like online bill pay or phone calls on the to-do list
- Good childcare can teach your kids neat things that you might not have the time or ability or inclination, like Spanish or new songs and games
- Even if you get home at the very reasonable hour of, say, 5:30pm, it can be really hard to cram everything in before the kids go to bed. Play time, dinner, baths, bedtime… it can be a mad rush from walking in the door to bedtime.
- Having to use up limited vacation or sick days when one or both of your kids are sick or childcare falls through
- Potential for missing certain “firsts”
- With all time split between work and parenting, hard to keep up with other things (i.e. keeping your house from turning into a pit!)
- Being able to make all the decisions regarding your kids’ care (or, doing it all “your own way”)
- Time flexibility, at least as naps will allow… it’s nice to not have to insist on only the early morning or late afternoon doctor’s appointments!
- Lowered stress/expectations of daily appearance (though, beware, this can also be a one-way ticket to “What Not to Wear”), stay in your PJs if you want!
- Ability to participate in school-day activities
- Being there for practically every moment of their development
- Not having to call out from work if someone is sick
- There is no break. No vacation days, no calling in sick or taking a mental health day. You’re always “at work,” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Isolation from the “adult” world, and the potential for conversations that revolve around poop.
- Minimal external validation for all of the work you do
- If you want to re-enter the work force, depending on your career, the time “off” could have a negative impact on your career trajectory
There’s clearly no single right or wrong answer, and every family has different circumstances. Maybe you don’t have to worry about childcare costs because you have family nearby to take care of the kids. Maybe you have the kind of career that lets you pick up little projects that you can do from home to stay current. Lots of people who consider themselves stay-at-home-moms, including some of us here at HDYDI, actually have one or two part-time things going on. Teach a class in the evening, volunteer in your field, write articles for a magazine.
And while you may not have much of a choice when it comes to working or staying home, you can always find ways to mitigate the negatives. Combat the SAHM isolation by taking classes or having playgroups with other moms. Reduce the evening rush of the working mom by prepping food for the week on Sunday, cutting down the frequency of baths, or ignore the housework and hire a cleaning lady.
And remember that there are positives, and almost everyone has days when they feel like the grass would be a whole lot greener on the other side. Yeah, sitting in traffic is really frustrating, but there’s probably a SAHM that would kill to be in a car by herself with a coffee and NPR on the radio. And vice versa.
What about you, readers? Have you found hidden benefits (or pitfalls) of your current work situation? Advice for handling the guilt or envy of the other side?
[Forgive the late post, I just didn’t have it in me yesterday!]