Work vs. stay at home mom: my personal experience and comparison

Work vs. stay at home mom experience

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Deciding between work vs stay at home mom is tough. I started my time as a mom working and sending my son to daycare a few days a week. Honestly, it had its pros and cons. When he was 10 months old, I transitioned to a stay-at-home working mom.

The decision is so personal and no one can make it for you. It’s OK to have doubts from time to time about whether or not you did the right thing. You’ll also find, you might need to re-evaluate throughout your time as a mom to find what works best for your family at different phases of motherhood.

To guide you in your decision, here’s my comparison between working outside the home and staying home with my son.

Work vs stay at home mom comparison

There are some really neat parts about being a stay-at-home working mom. But then I have those days when I can’t get my work done, my son cries all day and I wonder what the heck I was thinking. 

The same is true for working outside the home. Some days I felt really good about dropping my son at daycare and having dedicated work time away from him. Other days the mommy guilt was just too real. As I reflect on both experiences, here’s a pro and con list.

Working outside the home pros

  • Division of work and home: When I was at work, my focus was completely dedicated to work. And when I was at home, I was truly focused on my family, the laundry and everything else related to home life.
  • Time away from my son: Don’t get me wrong, I love time with my son. But motherhood is 24/7 and so exhausting. Being the one who always comforts the little one when he or she cries can wear you down with time.
  • A reason to look nice: When I went to work, I had a reason to look nice. I did my hair, put on clothes that made me look nice and actually tried with my appearance. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t really have that many reasons to look nice.
  • Daycare coverage for appointments: With daycare, I could go to the dentist after work and not have to find a babysitter. It certainly had a convenience factor to it that stay-at-home motherhood does not.
  • Productivity: Because work time was dedicated to only work, I was so productive in the office. There are fewer interruptions in an office setting than there are in the home with my son.

Working outside the home cons

  • Becoming a pack mule: To get my son and I out the door took so many bags and preparations the night before. Each night after he went to bed, I was prepping and labeling bottles for the next day, packing my lunch and making sure I had diapers and extra clothes packed for my son. It was exhausting and consumed so much of my time. And when we got home from work, I had to clean bottles and lunch containers to get organized for the next day.
  • Pumping: I was blessed to be a breastfeeding mom. (More on that journey is available on my blog post title Why my short breastfeeding journey isn’t a failure.) But with breastfeeding came the need to pump three times while at work. And it also makes for more things to clean, prep and store to get ready for the workday. I hated sacrificing 20 minutes three times a day while in the office too because it cut down on my productivity.
  • Saying goodbye to my son for nine hours: This is probably one of the hardest parts, especially when my son was really small. At 12 weeks old, babies still need their mommies, and there I was handing him off to a stranger. Once he was about seven or eight months old, I could tell he knew his teachers and enjoyed them. Those small days though were tough. I wasn’t there to kiss his boo-boos, snuggle him at naptime and be there emotionally for him throughout the day.

Stay-at-home working mom pros

  • I never miss a milestone: At daycare, they had a policy that they weren’t allowed to tell me if my son did something there for the first time. They wanted to protect those special moments for parents, which I appreciated. But I knew when he did things for the first time when I wasn’t there. Sometimes, his firsts were just too coordinated, telling me he had done it before at daycare. When I’m home with him all of the time, I get to see every milestone firsthand and record it for my husband.
  • Using every possible productive moment: When my son went to daycare, I had to wake him up earlier than normal each day. That felt like such a waste. Then we’d spend 45 minutes in the car to get to daycare, do drop off and then for me to go to work. We’d do the same thing at the end of the day, but with traffic, it would take about an hour. That’s an hour and 45 minutes of wasted time. Now I work in the morning while he sleeps, and we run in the afternoon between when I finish work and when my husband comes home. That’s all time we were wasting in the car.
  • I’m emotionally there for my son: Sometimes, he just has a bad day. It’s normally due to illness or teething but on those bad days, I can snuggle him and give him what he needs. The days when I could tell my son was off but still had to drop him at daycare were the hardest. I knew he wouldn’t have a good day and that he needed me, but I still had to go to work and leave him with other caregivers. 
  • No unscheduled time off for illnesses: Babies are so fickle with their health. Sometimes my son would run a fever from teething or vaccinations when he didn’t have an illness he could share with other students. But they still sent him home because it was protocol. It’s tough to be sitting in a meeting, get a voicemail, and have to rush out the door without completing my to-do list unexpectedly. When my son is sick, I can snuggle him, work during naptime and plan to work in the evening after he goes to bed. It’s a flexibility I didn’t have with an in-office job.
  • Total flexibility: I have been able to do some really neat things thanks to being a stay-at-home mom. My son and I took a long weekend trip to Augusta to support my sister at Ironman Augusta in September (more about that in my post How to travel with a baby as a work-at-home mom). That would have been two days off of work when I was in an office setting. I drive my sister to work sometimes and get to support my extended family in different ways.

Stay-at-home working mom pros

  • Less adult socialization: This one is really hard for me. I learned during maternity leave that I’m not good being alone day after day. I make an effort to find something social to do each day, but some days it still just doesn’t happen. When you have an in-office job, you naturally get this without effort.
  • Less time to myself: When I need time away from having a baby hanging off of me at all times, I have to schedule it. I have less time to just be me and that takes its toll. 
  • Variable productivity: Because my son is unpredictable, some days are super productive and some days are not. That can mean evenings and weekends, which I don’t love and I think those take a toll on my marriage. It’s tough to have hills and valleys of work productivity.
  • Changes in income: While I try very hard to keep things consistent with what I make from home, it’s not a salary position. I freelance for a variety of companies and relationships come and go in the freelance working world. That can affect your emotions and make you exhausted if you get caught up in it too much. 

Conclusion

You can’t just do what your friends do as far as your decision to work outside the home, work while at home or take on the role of a homemaker entirely. Don’t let anyone shame you for the decision that you make because they’ll never know your personal circumstances. Plus, you can re-evaluate every few months to decide what makes the most sense for you financially and emotionally. Know that you are never stuck in one place forever.

Working mom helpful products

  • Neoprene 6 Pack Bottle Carrier: great for getting bottles to and from daycare. Easy to carry and insulated.
  • Medela Breast Milk Cooler and Transport Set: great for pumping and storing at work. I also used this for transporting bottles while on road trips because of the easy ice pack.
  • Avent Natural Bottles: these bottles were fantastic for sending to daycare and helped us maintain our breastfeeding relationship.
  • Breast pump work bag: with so much stuff to take to the office each day, this bag was so helpful. It held my laptop, lunch and pump supplies to reduce the number of bags I had to carry.
  • Plantronics Explorer 50: whether you work from home or in the office, hands-free calls are so much easier. I love this Bluetooth earpiece to make it simple.
  • Freemie breast pump: Hands-free pumping makes it easier to pump while in the mothers room. I highly recommend the Freemie breast pump whether you work out of the home or from home.

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