For many women, and I know for me, finding out you are pregnant comes with an onslaught of thoughts shortly after seeing that little red line. Many questions come to mind. How will my life change when this baby is born? Am I ready to become a parent? Will I have a boy or a girl? Is labor really as painful as it is made out to be on TV? Among all of these questions, one that lingers and continues to become more and more of a question an expectant mother wants to figure out an answer to is: Should I continue working or become a stay at home mom?
Before becoming pregnant, my husband and I had more or less decided I would stay home. He made more money than I did and daycare is extremely expensive. Plus, I love kids, and I knew I would love my own more than any of the students I taught in the past, so I knew I would want to be with my baby as he or she grew. I knew that something just wouldn’t feel right if I went to work each day while someone took care of my very young child.
This being said, I still felt conflicted about whether or not the decision to stay home would be one I would later regret. I knew I would want to be with my baby but I also worried that I might lose a big part of my identity in the process. I had been a teacher for a while and it was a huge part of my life. I wasn’t one of those teachers who came to work right before the students got there and left right after they did. I came in early and stayed late. I ran activities like student council, yearbook, and the weekly newscast. I was a lead teacher for two years and was always looking for new ways to teach different topics. I tutored and took extra classes. I earned my Master’s Degree within my first full year as a teacher. To put it simply, I was dedicated. I loved my students and I loved being the one to teach them all of the building blocks that they would use for the rest of their educational careers.
I decided to stick with my original decision to stay home, and so far, no regrets. However, there are definitely pros and cons to becoming a stay at home mom just like with any major decision you make in life. My kids are still only one and two, so my perspective on this topic might change in a few years, and as I said earlier, I think many women wrestle with this decision. Here are some of the positive and negative aspects I have found in my experience as a stay at home mom.
Pro: You are always there.
As you might suspect, being a stay at home mom means you get to see every cute, funny, and notable action your child makes every day. Before having kids, you might not think a two year old telling you they want to watch Hey Arnold! without prompting or noticing your ten month old’s teeth coming in would be very interesting events, but they truly are. Every day when my husband gets home I always get to tell him about something the kids did that makes him laugh or piques his interest. Being able to see progress every day during a baby’s first few years of life is a very cool experience.
Pro: You don’t have to get ready for work every day.
As a teacher, I would get up early to get ready for work and be out the door on time, of course leaving enough time to either make or stop and buy my daily coffee. As a mom, I still get up early, but it is less of a race. I can make coffee when I feel like it and wear whatever I want. Mornings for me are now much different than they used to be.
Con: You might look and feel frumpy.
I think every stay at home mom runs into those days, or let’s be honest, weeks of wearing jammies all day and waiting way too long to wash her hair. While it is nice to not have to put as much energy into your appearance as you might have when you were working, it can definitely make you feel a little a bit crummy and less productive. I think most stay at home moms learn to make it a point to get dressed in clothes they like and attempt to look presentable to help feel a little better and brighter each day.
Pro: Life slows down a little.
I know what you are thinking. After having a baby doesn’t your life get turned upside down? My answer would be yes and no. Of course there are many things to adjust to. However, when comparing my day to day activities as a full time teacher to a full time mom of a newborn, taking care of my son was a lot less action packed. It is definitely work and takes patience, but everything you do is a relatively simple task compared to the tasks usually required of a demanding job. For me, taking off work was the first time in my life when I could really spend more time at my house instead of work or out and about. Newborn babies require a great deal of sleep, and if you’re lucky, your little one with probably spend a lot of the day napping or playing on the floor. Once the baby is mobile it is a bit of a different story, but I felt those first few months were very calm.
Con: You will probably start second guessing yourself more often.
Before becoming a parent I honestly never imagined I could put so much thought into parts of life that seem so simple. Questions that I never considered would and still do pop into my head daily about what I should be doing as a parent and what my kids should be doing at different ages. Is my baby sleeping enough? Is he sleeping too much? Is the swaddle going to be an issue in the future? How long should she use a pacifier? The questions never stop. I would imagine that this is something majority of parents face, especially with a brand new baby. The difference between being a stay at home mom or a working mom when it comes to these questions is that you are almost always with your baby and your baby is an even greater focus in your life since you don’t have work to think about. I think stay at home moms can easily obsess over silly things that working moms might worry about, make a decision, and move on from more quickly. Of course, it depends on your personality. I am sure there are many working moms who obsess all the time and stay at home moms who don’t worry so much, but either way, I think that being home gives you more time to go over all of those little questions.
Con: You will be making less money.
I think this is the most obvious con and the first one that comes to mind when a couple considers whether or not one parent should stay home full time with the baby. Going from two to one income can be a huge stressor for many families. My husband and I prepared quite a bit during the first few years of our marriage so we would be able to afford living off of just one salary.
Pro: You don’t have to pay for child care.
While you will lose one salary if one parent decides to quit working, a positive effect is that you will not need to pay for child care. Personally, I don’t know much about child care costs except that they are high and vary from state to state. I know in some cases couples would actually break even when considering one person’s salary minus the cost of child care, so working really doesn’t make sense financially for them.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about your child being taken care of by someone else.
Let me begin by saying, I know many parents love their child care providers and their children love going to daycare. However, I think it would be tough to find any first time parent, especially a first time mom, who wasn’t at least a little concerned with how their child would do in someone else’s care. Even if you have the opportunity to have a family member or friend care for your baby, it is still likely that you will be a little apprehensive about how your baby will be taken care of simply because no one else is you. Since I’m a stay at home mom I really don’t worry much about this. My kids are sometimes watched by other family members, but it has never been a daily thing, so as they have spent days with someone else I have had time to become more and more comfortable with and appreciative of it.
Con: You sometimes have to fight the urge to sit around and feel like you should be getting more done than you actually do.
I think this was the hardest part about my transition into stay at home motherhood. Before taking off work I dreamed about how I would get so much done every day and my house would be spotless aside from baby toys and items that were recently used. This was not the case. I have heard many moms say that their husband will come home to a messy house and say something like, “What did you do all day?” Cue rage and fury from the mom. I accepted the fact that especially once I had two babies housekeeping while they were both awake was really going to be almost impossible. I found I would try to clean or do laundry and then I would constantly be interrupted resulting in getting almost nothing done and me only half interacting with my kids. I would get frustrated that I wasn’t getting cleaning done, making me less patient with my kids which was not what I wanted at all. The other problem is with very young kids it is easy to just sit around and watch them play instead of leaving the house. I found this would make me tired, especially if I was pregnant or just not feeling well, and I would fall prey to scrolling mindlessly on my phone or watching too much daytime or reality television, making me feel dumber by the day. For me, it was hard to find things to do with the kids when I knew there was so much to do around that house that I couldn’t really conquer until nap time. Eventually, I figured out leaving the house once a day and lowering my expectations for what I would truly accomplish each day helped me a great deal.
Pro: To some extent, you can do whatever you want.
In my life I have always had so many things going on between work, school, and my social life. I would salivate at the thought of having a day all to myself to accomplish some task or relax. Once I became a stay at home mom I found that I had much more say in what I was going to do on a day to day basis. Yes, I had the tiny humans to worry about, and believe me, they can be demanding. However, if I want to go grocery shopping or take the kids to the park, I can. If I want it start binging a new show during nap time, I can. If I want to eat a bagel and have coffee in the morning without running around worrying about being late for work, I can do that too. Granted, everything is on a much slower schedule and sometimes getting that bagel is more work than it’s worth. Despite the obstacles, I love the fact that I can truly decide to do what I want each day.
Pro and Con: You spend more time alone.
As an introvert, I love this part of being a stay at home mom. When I had a newborn, he would sleep all the time, and even when he was awake, let’s be honest, it wasn’t the same as spending time with students or coworkers. I wasn’t alone, but it felt that way. Now as a mom of a one and two year old, I get time to myself while they nap, if they are engrossed in play, or if I let them watch some PBS Kids. It is less alone time, but it still doesn’t have that same feeling as being at work being forced to make small talk or interacting with another adult. However, if you are an extrovert, I know spending so much time alone can be tough. I do miss the relationships I had with my students and coworkers, but I make up for those relationships by seeing other friends throughout the week if I feel lonely and I of course have my kids. I am also lucky enough to have a husband who is my best friend and works a standard Monday through Friday schedule. We eat dinner together every night and spend time together on the weekends so I still get my adult time in. Without him, I would struggle with being alone much more.
Every new mother experiences this season of life differently. Although there are its drawbacks, I have found being a stay at home mom to be a fulfilling and truly fun experience. I am so blessed to have this opportunity and I look forward to what it brings. I hope all of the new mothers reading this have a little bit more perspective on stay at home motherhood and can blossom in their new roles.