SAHM vs. WM = TIFIDWTC

That would be, “This Isn’t Fair, I Don’t Want To Choose.”  (You are reading a Mommy Blog, my friend, so I am assuming you already know the acronyms for Stay At Home Mom and Working Mom.  And if you didn’t before, well, now you do.)

First of all, let me say that I know I am fortunate to even be in a position where I am struggling with this issue.  Lots of moms don’t have a choice but to work if they want their kids to have food, clothing and shelter.  Technically, our family could survive (with all belts on that last, tightest hole, if you catch my drift) on my husband’s salary alone.  However, it would be nice to have a little more income.  PLUS, it really is hard as Hell to be home with the kids 24 hours a day.  I’m not (necessarily) saying it is Hell…just that it is hard as Hell.

But honestly?  Weighing the pros and cons of both sides is exhausting.  Stressful.  Emotional.  Draining.  Scary.

On the one hand, your kids are only little once and it is your only chance to watch them grow and to be the main influence on their character.

On the other hand, being around your kids all day every day is so exhausting that it can sometimes leave you acting like a grumpy old man instead of the nurturing voice of love and guidance you dreamed you would be as a mother.

The craziest part has been trying to make the decision based on financial components.  Once you’ve subtracted your nanny or daycare’s pay from your salary, you are not left with much.  Unless you are a CEO.  Or treating your nanny as an indentured servant and not really ‘paying’ her per se.  Which just really isn’t cool.   So basically, if you are a normal person, with a normal salary and you are decent enough to pay your nanny well…you find yourself doing a different kind of math:

So I am going to spend X amount of hours away from my kids this year in order to bring home Y?

Well, let me tell you.  That equation just never sits well in your heart.

Because the truth is, no matter what you make, if you compare it to whether it is worth not being around your children I can’t imagine a sum that makes it feel okay.  Let alone good.

Plus, let me just add that it finally dawned on me that it is totally wrong and bizarre that we always seem to subtract the childcare expenses from my salary.  Am I the only mom who finds herself doing the math that way? The truth is, if we want to do the math of having a two-salary household with childcare, we should subtract the childcare from both salaries to be fair, right?  Half from each.  My salary looks much more appealing with half of the childcare expenses subtracted from it. (And even better if I conveniently forget all of those lovely taxes that will be taken out….. Note to self: Get into that top, top bracket where I have a gazillion dollars and get taxed next to nothing before government comes to their senses and fixes that ridiculousness.)

The other part of the whole equation is, well…me.  Little ol’ me.

I went to college.  I went to grad school.  I got accepted into impressive programs.  I worked my little tail off. (It was still relatively little back then.)

I enjoy working.

I am not sure I want to completely give that up for another 5 years or so.  Certainly not for another 18.

Being a mom is my most important role.  It is the one that is most vital I don’t screw up.  It is the one I enjoy the most.

But I totally get it when women talk about needing to also be productive in other ways in order to retain their sense of self.  And I am starting to realize that perhaps I fall into that category.

I think my greatest strengths are as a mom. But maybe I need to be fulfilling other professional needs as well in order to really be the happiest and most patient mom I can be.

That, and I really need to start making time to do things like get a hair cut, go on a date with my husband, get my nails done, shower daily.

I mean, I deserve to feel human, too, right?

I am pretty sure that when my mom was away from me in order to work for whatever her personal reasons were, she was hoping it would benefit me as a person.  I need to honor that and make sure that I am not only a good mom and wife, but also a happy and productive person.  Individual.

I need to make sure that her choices and challenges weren’t wasted on raising a daughter who then never figured out how to not only be what her family needs her to be, but also be who she is supposed to be.

My kids deserve it.

I deserve it.

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14 Responses to SAHM vs. WM = TIFIDWTC

  1. Thai Phi says:

    This is something I struggled with when I stayed at home. I thought that I would be home for the first five years. I was lucky enough to not have to work if I didn’t have to, but about 8 months in, I noticed that the mom that I wanted to be was not the mom that I presented at home. A huge piece of me was missing and staying at home too long really led to such a downward spiral in my life. Some women are amazing stay-at-home moms. That is where they ware meant to be. Some are not. I fit into this category. I can tell you that I am infinitely happier working and an infinitely better mother. I think we will always have guilt about leaving our children, but I know Ethan will see his mother happy, pursuing the dreams that I’ve set out to have. That, in the end, is what I want him to do. There is no reason my dream can’t be to be a great writer and a great mom at the same time.

  2. Thai Phi says:

    Are, not ware. Grr, I hate typos.

  3. Nina says:

    When Bk was born I could not imagine letting someone else babysit her– let alone leaving her alone for an entire work day. Luckily, I was able to stay home with her until she was one. Slowly, I eased back into teaching. Initially it was really difficult, but now that I know that she really enjoys going to daycare and socializing (and most importantly–she is safe) it makes it so much easier to think about what it is that I want to be/do. I am constantly amazed at how much she learns at school, how much she benefits from being around other children her age, and how much she thrives in an environment designed specifically for her–it really gives me peace of mind and affirms my decision to go have her in daycare and to go to work and do something that I really enjoy doing.

  4. Thai Phi – Typos, when discussing your dream of being a great writer, are simply unacceptable.
    Period.

  5. Kidding! (obviously) And I totally meant to make a typos while writing that.
    Damn my over-arching perfection that prevents me from having typos-even on purpose!

  6. Okay, in all seriousness, Thai Phi, I have to admit that I remember you saying that before and knowing that I wasn’t sure where I stood yet.

    I think I am starting to realize that I do need some time for myself and to work at a job outside of ‘mom.’

    I am so intrigued to hear other people’s stories and points of view, though…
    Thank you for sharing. :)

  7. Nina – You are right. It isn’t even entirely about how much better off WE are for doing something else. They are often better off spending part of their day with other kids, in a child-focused environment, or even just with an adult that isn’t MOM. They are learning to socialize and more importantly, to adapt.

    This is what I am telling myself, anyway….

    Thank you so much for (always) sharing. You don’t know how much it means or how many times it has kept me writing.

  8. SRD says:

    This post hits really close to home. I was struggling with this topic even before we got pregnant. Now that baby girl is just a couple months away from being born, I find myself in the minority when compared to my friends with children by having decided to go back to work full-time after 12 weeks. Throughout my life, I’ve found that I am most successful when I commit to a plan and then am willing to change course based on new information/perspectives/feelings. So for me, it isn’t a question of ‘WM vs. SAHM’ but rather a plan for ‘WM now then WWFTF (whatever works for the family) later’. I’ll keep you updated on how my plan turns out :) Thanks for this post.

  9. Thai Phi says:

    Annie – Yeah, I’m embarrassed by the typo, but I had a fever. It’s all about placing blame elsewhere, something Ethan hopefully won’t learn from me… :) I wish we didn’t live in a country that unfortunately forces us into categories. The only way I knew I couldn’t be a stay-at-home mom was by living it, but the options for work were slim to none, so I quit without the possibility of having my job back. Three months is simply not enough time to figure out what is best for you. You’re still in that crazy, adrenaline-rushed, head over heels with the baby phase. Not that you aren’t in love with your child later, but I’d argue it’s not quite as euphoric.

    Being a mom always comes with those internal struggles and for me, it’s about learning to listen to your own voice. I often would feel embarrassed by having a college degree and deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. I’d think, “No, this is not what all these women fought for centuries for–for me to be at home with my kids, waiting for my husband to get home.” (And don’t take that the wrong way. Being at home was the hardest job I’ve ever had. I deeply respect those who do.) Then there was the guilt of going back to work despite not having to. I’m a bad mom for wanting to leave my kids. Then you just realize you do what’s right for you and things fall into place. No reason you can’t go back to work and realize hey, I actually want to stay home or vice versa. We have the right to choose.

  10. MHolley says:

    I went back to work full time, out of the home, when Ella was nearing two. It was absolutely the right thing for us. I originally struggled with the idea that I would no longer be her primary caregiver during the week and that other people would be spending more time with her than me. We questioned whether that is what we wanted for our kid. Then the right opportunity came up offering the right pay and we found a caregiver that is amazing. This was the magic formula for us that allowed it to work. When the time came for me to start, I have to say, suprisingly I didn’t have much guilt around it. It honestly felt right for me. I went into it knowing that it may not work and I may have to make some tweaks but so far so good. I absolutely would not have been able to return to work and do a good job at 3 months. It took about a year before I finally figured out whether I was coming or going and just to get used to the idea of being a mom and figuring out what that meant for me, getting to know Ella etc.

    In cultures around the world child rearing is shared among families and communities so that mothers can take care of other responsibilities. We live such isolated/nuclear lives here in the US which for me made staying at home hard.

    Other people will have influences over your kids for sure which really can be a great thing. I have to remind myself occasionally that Marc and I will always be the main influences even though we may share the caregiver role with others :)

  11. Annie's Mother says:

    For eons and in most of the world the communal way of life created some support for the new mother and this is a challenge in the modern Western world. You must find your own support system in order to try and live a balanced life just at a time when you are feeling most vulnerable. Women my age and older were born into a much different time and some of us experienced a lot of frustration and pain in challenging the old expectations for women. It IS important to create your own independence and personal satisfaction as well as care for your family. Making this effort for yourself makes you powerful. I am happy to hear your generation taking advantage of the possibilities we fought for. More power to you. If only women ruled the world…….

  12. Sandra says:

    So funny how we always want what we don’t have. As I was reading of your academic achievements and your career opportunities, I was so envious. I stayed home to be with my children, and now at 42 I’m in my fourth year of nursing school, and it’s so difficult. I so wish I had done all of this when I was younger, and had worked while my children were little. I think I went a little bit crazy being a SAHM.

  13. mammamags says:

    very very true and very well put!

    i feel the same. when i am at work i know that i am good at my job and it is fulfilling, but when i have to leave and say godbye to baby S or when i get home and she is already alseep, i just feel awful. i feel like i am missing too much or don’t have enough consistency for her. or when i’m TIRED from work and then am not being the best mom or wife i can be…

    it’s such a struggle to be in this situation.

    i DO like you perspective that childcare costs should be deducted from both salaries! i think too often it is only deducted from the mom’s potential salary (which we already know is likely to be less than the dad’s because of gender bias in salaries). plus if the mom is working part time then it can appear that she is only working for $2/hr or something ridiculous like that. however, the way i’ve recently rationalized it is that it’s worth it right now for three reasons. #1 i know it makes me a more sane person to feel productive and useful to society. #2 one day baby S and potential future children will be school aged and childcare won’t be as much of an issue. i will definitely want to work then and do not want to lose my skills or position in my field by taking a decade absence. and finally, #3 i am still paying student loans on two degrees so there is no way i can justify to myself not using my education that i worked so hard for slash paid for!.

  14. SRD – You know I love it when I hit home with someone…especially my dear SRD! :) Also, I need to start by saying I appreciate your creation of an additional Mommy Blog Acronym. ;)

    Knowing you, this has been long thought out. More importantly, it is what FEELS right for you and your whole little family (to be). ;) You are going to make such a fantastic mother and I really appreciate you commenting on here about your plans and thoughts as you approach motherhood. I was where you are only 4 years ago, but already it is hard to remember what it feels like and how you view impending (in a good way!) motherhood. xo

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