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The Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom Debate

The Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom Debate

This CNN article, in semi response to Sheryl Sanberg’s book Lean In and the response in the New York Times, has been circulating around the blogosphere, not to mention the inboxes of all the bloggers for this blog. As we discussed whether or not we wanted to write about it, I was struck with a realization. I wonder how much one’s desire to be a stay at home parent versus a working parent has to do with job satisfaction?

Whenever I read these kinds of articles, there is always a common theme. I go to work each day to a job I love. But I can’t recall a time that I’ve read something from someone saying they head out to a mediocre job; one that pays the bills but doesn’t really fulfill them as a person, a worker, an employee and that that is something they love. It’s not uncommon to hear from stay at home moms that they are either totally fulfilled taking care of their families and running their households or that they kind of miss working outside the home; that they crave talking to other adults and using their college degrees or expertise in the office rather than the home.

I find myself wondering why this is a “thing”. Why is this fodder for writers and journalists? Why do we care what choices other parents make? Is it so bad that people make their own choice and are happy with them? It is ok to want to work. It is ok to want to stay home. It is ok to not want to work but have to because it’s the only way to keep food on the table or pay for extras like swimming lessons or the occassional vacation.

Some mothers can have it all. They can work and parent and be good wives/partners because they have that personality type. They don’t mind working on projects into the night or getting to the gym before 5:00 a.m. to fit in a work out. There are others that need calm and time to themselves. They simply don’t want to be “on” all the time; to have to take a conference call at the bus stop or go straight from a meeting with their boss to a meeting with their child’s teacher.

So I’m not sure it’s about AND or OR. I don’t think it’s up to the COO of Facebook or a reporter to be telling us how we should be feeling about working or staying home; how we should or should not be balancing work and family? It’s about YOU. It’s about realizing what you truly want out of work, whether it be simply a job or a full-blown career; whether it be with your family or in an office. It’s about being happy with the decision that feels right to you, and your family, at this point in time. Realizing that you can always change your mind as life situations change or your children grow up.


  1. Heather July 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    So true!!!! Thanks, Progressive Mom.

  2. Elizabeth July 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

    I actually have the opposite issue- I love my job but for the amount of money I’d pay to have my child in a quality child care, it’s not worth it for me to work. I’m excited about getting to be a stay at home mom but I do worry sometimes about getting bored after working so much… (I hear ‘bored’ isn’t the right word…)

  3. DCHomewares July 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I think a happily ‘contented’ stay at home mom is such up until one snide remark or sarcastic comment from a ‘friend’ or whoever that suddenly turns their life upside down. They sometimes feel this pressure or need to be validated as ‘women’ of the world, career woman or whatever. But really, I think one just have to keep in touch into that inner sense of who they really are. What one ‘might feel’ to be a necessity may turn out to be something they only want just to fit in certain criteria. Staying true to oneself will give them the peace of heart and mind that taking care of the family even without the employee of the month or career woman of the year awards is what makes them an accomplish woman.

    • Kris-Ann, Progressive Mom August 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      DCHomewares- So true! Staying true to oneself is likely the key to happiness no matter what choices we make.

      NourishMom- that’s exactly what I was trying to get at…maybe we just haven’t had the opportunity to achieve what we really want yet. Sheryl’s question is a great one and something I know for sure holds me back. Imagine how rewarding it would be to truly conquer something we’re afraid of.

  4. Amy July 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I think sometimes moms – both working and stay-at-home – have a vision for what they want their lives to be and maybe they haven’t quite achieved that yet. So they compare themselves to others that do. Or maybe they haven’t quite figured it out yet. I think I’m a little bit of both. Real life gets in the way sometimes. I was recently at #BlogHer13 where Sheryl Sandberg was the keynote and what I heard her ask was “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” And that’s such a powerful and personal question. Would I be able to do what I was most afraid of? I’m not sure.

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