Nov 26, 2007

Not everyone is meant to be a stay-at-home parent

Plonkee wrote a guest post for Brip Blap that really struck a chord with me. She took issue with Steve's "blanket assertion that one parent (either one) staying at home is always a good thing." Plonkee used her own childhood as an example, noting that her mother stayed home with the oldest kids but went back to work after having the youngest, and that she was happier when she went back to work. Plonkee's conclusion rings true to me:
Being a stay at home parent works well if that is what you want and makes you happy. If it doesn't, then it's not a good choice. After all, parents' happiness matters too.
I know many stay-at-home mothers feel judged in a negative way when they tell others what they do, as if being a stay-at-home mom is not enough of a job. But I feel pressure the other way - that I'm not a good enough mother because I work. And the truth is, there are times when I dream about being a stay-at-home mom. But most of the time, I'm grateful to be able to work. I have a challenging job that still gives me lots of time with my kids (and admittedly, pays well). And especially as my kids get older, I think that I'm not cut out to spend all day, every day with them. For one thing, I am much more patient when we have some time apart.

However, I think sometimes about becoming a stay-at-home when my kids are older - say, middle-school age. I've heard that this is when kids really need someone to be home after school. They're old enough to get into trouble but not old enough to have great judgment. An available parent might help prevent certain situations that could escalate into big problems. And I think it would be fantastic if our house were the place where my children and their friends hang out after school.


Anonymous said...

I am a SAHM to 4 school-aged kids. They are 18, 16, 13, and 8. I can attest to the benefits of being home with kids this age. I can tell what kind of day my kids had when they walk in the door after school. This gives me a chance to address any issues or problems they might be having, or hear about all the good things that happened that day. I can also say that having teenagers can be exhausting! I use up a lot of emotional energy dealing with the different issues that come up. I also am able to get my housework done during the day so I can be more available to them in the evenings and not preoccupied with laundry and such. It is also physically draining to be parenting teens. I have 2 kids driving and we have to keep tabs on where they are going and what time they are supposed to come home. I'm not comfortable going to sleep before I know they are home, so this means some late nights. I also have to take the younger 2 kids to their various activities after school. All in all my being home works best for our family. I have considered working at one of the schools so I would have the same schedule as the kids, but right now I'm very happy just being home. I am also planning on opening and ETSY shop and that should keep me busy during the day!

Anonymous said...

At the time my twin boys were babies, staying at home was very hard for me. I was between jobs when they were born, and went back to work when they were about 3 months old. I was so much happier then, and extremely efficient so I could make the most of the time with the kids. About the time they started middle school, I made a big career change and now work from home. This is ideal because indeed, they need me more now. And when school is closed for a holiday or teachers' professional day, the kids' friends can come to our house to hang out.

I wonder where our need to judge other people comes from. Possibly from insecurity about whether our choices are the right ones. As long as everybody is happy and well cared for, I don't suppose it really matters how it happens. Our lives evolve to fit our changing needs. There was a time when all I wanted to do was work. I still love to work, but since I can do it at home - part of the day undisturbed and part of the day working around other things and the kids' needs - I don't know how I would manage our lives if I were in the lab all day long. Momala - I agree, teenagers are exhausting!

Anonymous said...

Your title is perfect. I think it really is a challenge to come to terms with staying home or working. I'm currently staying home, but there are many moments when I think that I'm really not cut out to be at home. Maybe I should be working. I have toddlers at home, so I don't even know what to do when it comes to teenagers. I don't know why people feel the need to judge Moms or Dads for the decisions they make with their family. I think each family must face their abilities and strengths and hopefully make the decision that is best for them. Without thinking of what others think.

I think what makes this such an explosive topic is that every decision is personal and people do feel that "their" decision is viewed as the wrong one!

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

Thanks for sharing your feelings, experiences, and opinions! I am going to take a hard look at our financial planning to see if I can make the transition to a work-at-home mom in about 8 to 10 years. Based on your comments, I want to at least give myself that option!

BB said...

Hi! The feedback I've seen on this good analysis of plonkee's excellent rebuttal to my original articles lead me to make two points:

1. One of my original points was that stay-at-home-mothers are often judged harshly by working parents, their peers, etc. for not "working", when stay-at-home parenting is probably a much tougher job, particularly mentally and emotionally, than going to an office job. I've been interested to see that my frustration at seeing my wife judged for giving up her career for our son (and child-on-the-way) has been seen as being judgmental towards working mothers. I divide working parents into categories, though - money-seeking, love-their-jobs, and simply-not-cut-out-for-stay-at home parenting.

2. If you are going back to work solely to make more money and be able to buy more STUFF, that is not a good motivation and devalues your child. In that case, yes, I am judgmental. If you WANT to stay home and could afford to, there is no excuse. My family made massive financial sacrifices when our son was born - my wife quit her job and I quit my senior management position to begin consulting in order to avoid my extremely-heavy-traveling schedule. I took a pay cut and my wife's salary disappeared - but we didn't want to be absent parents in the critical early years of his life. Now, if you are going back because you love your work, you feel it's worthwhile or you simply find you aren't cut out to be a stay-at-home parent - that's understandable. I suspect my wife will go back to work sooner rather than later because she misses adult interaction. If she gets a reasonable salary - even if it means further lifestyle sacrifices - I would gladly stay home because I think in our case I'm actually more suited to it.

However, I see a lot of people who are working simply to make money to afford the leased car or the plasma TV. They are not passionate about their work - they simply have a lifestyle where they need money more than they need to spend time with kids. That bothers me. I see other parents who have work that they love and couldn't imagine not doing even if it was for free. That's different. I think there is a significant difference, and in the first case, yes, my attitude is probably judgmental.

I have really appreciated the fact that everyone has strong opinions on this subject, because pro or con it makes for thought-provoking reading! Thanks for the comments here on CFO's article, plonkee's article, and the comments on my articles - they have all been interesting!!

- Steve (brip blap)

Father Sez said...

My wife and I mutually decided that she would be the Chief Family Officer (I like your blog name..), whilst I would work and bring home the moollah, so to speak.

This has worked very well for us.

We have 5 children, so you can imagine the planning, delegation, monitoring, logistics, management, counselling, purchasing etc that she does.

She'll put so many so called CEOs to shame.

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

@Steve - You make a good point - I too find it incredibly annoying/frustrating when people say they wish they could stay home but have to work, when the truth is that they simply refuse to see that they could afford to stay home if they made some sacrifices. Of course, I think a lot of people don't realize that when you factor in the cost of daycare, taxes and other work-related expenses, they might not be making nearly as much as they think!

@Father Sez - I think your wife and I would get along splendidly :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for participating in the December 3, 2007, edition of the Carnival of Family Life, hosted this week at!!

I was a SAHM for about 6 months with my oldest and it was not a good thing. I needed to get out of the house and that's how I ended up going back to school part-time.

Your title is absolutely appropriate. Every family has to make its own choices. For the most part, I have been very happy with mine. The only time it got really difficult was when my youngest was 18 months old and I was studying for the Bar Exam. Those were a rough few weeks because I had to focus on studying and working to the exclusion of all else. Hubby had to really step up. But I knew that if I studied and passed, it would all pay off and it has. Also, it was a short window of time and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Still, I remember my little one crying and crying one night when I had to go to Bar Review class. He got over it quickly (they always do), but I can still hear him as I type this. Maternal guilt is a strong thing.

However, my kids have benefited from the behavior I have modeled for them. Just this past Thursday, I was the guest at Chapel at my youngest's high school and spoke about the intersection of faith and work.

My oldest accompanied his father to watch me argue before the California Supreme Court (with the international media also gathered) on the same day that he graduated from 8th grade. He will never forget that memory.

Great discussion!

Colloquium (

Frugal Duchess said...


Wonderful post. And I agree with you: A happy, fulfilled parent is a good parent.

I've seen working moms (my own mother and others) who have been wonderful.

And I've seen stay-at-home parents who have raised dysfunctional families.

We shouldn't generalize. And I so hate that battle between the
stay-at-home and work-out-of-home moms.

We're all full-time moms/parents

I became a work/write-at-home mom, when my oldest was in the 4th grade. I'm home more. I'm home when they get home from school. But to be honest, sometimes I am so caught up with writing and deadlines that it's tough to carve out quality time even when I'm home all of the time.

Bottom line: Whether we work in the home or out of the home or don't work at all, it takes dedication and discipline to give our families quality time.

Thanks for such a great post!
Take care

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

Sharon - Well said! Thanks for sharing your experience. I hate that battle too :(

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

@JHS - Thank you for sharing your experience also! I love the part about your son watching you argue in Cal Supreme - that must have been a wonderful experience for all of you!