A while ago, I received a rather strongly worded comment about some differences between stay at home moms and full-time employed moms. Without going into any details, it strongly indicated that full-time employed moms had it a lot harder than stay at home moms. Well, I have been in both positions and that comment made me think a little bit.
When my oldest two were much smaller I worked full time at a community mental health agency. I had some flexibility to my hours, but it was still full time work. My husband did a fine job when I wasn’t there and we did have two incomes for that period of time.
However, I found that the stress of having two little kids and a full time career was almost painful some days. I felt like I was half there at work with frenzied periods of work and some periods with inconsolable worry. At home, I felt like I hardly saw my little ones. Eventually, I brought down my hours with the intention of quitting. I didn’t see how I could possibly keep living like that. It was like I had a leak somewhere in my soul and I was losing more than I was gaining.
Now I know that the drain on my soul and my life was really my postpartum depression. Yes, there was certainly stress from the adjustment of kids and work, but many women do that and do it well. The depression made all the difference. It tipped everything out of balance for me. My transition was somewhat rough and awkward, but staying home with the kids was something that would work out.
No, it was not easy, and no, we often just scraped by for a while. Thankfully, staying home completely exposed my postpartum depression and PMDD. By then, it was working well for me to be at home. I’ve never pursued full time employment since then but I have had some part-time work since my kids were still little. Now with my kids all going to school next year, I see the potential for me to expand my work-from-home opportunities. My role as “the flexible one” can allow me a career and availability for my kids when needed.
This is my path, not necessarily everyone else’s. Those years with small kids on my pant legs every day all day, toting around a baby – not easy. That’s work. If you are a parent of any amount of experience, you know that to be true. Working parents also have difficulties – I know this from experience. Daily day care transition, supper, evening activities, hoping you aren’t laid off, bosses that stay in your head after you’re home. Who has time to rest?
Doing face-to-face time with your child is the work of a parent. This is true whether you are employed full time, employed part time, or you are with your kids all day long. It all requires focus, effort, patience, and consideration of others.
So I am here to stand up for both working parents and stay at home parents (stay at home dads, too). Both paths are challenging and rewarding in different ways. We don’t need to get hooked on attacking each other’s choices. No need for “mommy wars” or a “who really has it the worst” competition. The job of parenting is challenging enough without all that.