You cannot join a single Mommy Group page without at least two to three instances a day (and sometimes an hour) of mommy-bashing in relation to this singular topic: to work or to stay home. I often find myself pitying the poor Moms who are simply reaching out for advice on this topic, only to find themselves in the middle of an all-out ragefest of some of the most profane and antagonistic words. Most new moms really don’t know how primal people will become in reaction to this subject.
For many of us, the topic isn’t a choice so the feelings are what they are. For some, it is a choice and I know many moms who have chosen the path in either direction.
I’ve been on both sides (kind of). Before Evvie made her presence in this world, I was able to take a hiatus from work for a bit (read: I moved back to St. Louis and was unemployed for a month and a half before she arrived). I returned to work when she was sixteen weeks and took my second leave when Collins arrived last Fall. I’ve been able to be both moms and experience life as a working mommy with a 40+ hour job and life as a full-time mommy. And let me tell you… neither role is easy but both have their perks.
I reached out to my girlfriends, my life gurus and fellow wine-sippers to understand how each side of this debate must really feel when presented the opportunity to share their thoughts without repercussion. Sure, I can tell you how I feel about it, but that’s too biased. Instead, I want to share with you our collective thoughts.
ONE: We ALL make it work with the help of routine.
I admit, my maternity leave was much harder at first because I had no routine established. It was the wild west in our house with Evvie running the show because Mom had to tend to a newborn. But once we set a routine for our day, I found myself and my days being more productive.
My beautiful SAHM (that’s stay-at-home-mom for those not familiar with the acronym) friend shared the same sentiment.
“I find my son usually does better if we have some type of routine. I get up with him around 6 A.M. and we usually snuggle for about 15 minutes while I drink my coffee and he drinks his milk. Then it’s balls-to-the-wall all day long! I will usually play a little with him before starting my mile-long list of things to do.”
And she’s right. When you’re at home all day long, there is an expectation that other things need to be done around the house. This means routine is essential to ensure you can tackle your many home/life/family projects and still keep the kiddo(s) healthy, happy, educated and stimulated. You’re rarely on the couch or in bed unless you’re joining in naptime.
The same can be said for my life as a working mom. The day a routine switches up (I do daycare drop-off versus pick-up or an errand is necessary for the evening), everything is amuck.
My sweet friend shared her daily routine and it’s just as busy as a mom at home.
“[At] 5:30 A.M. [I] wake up, get ready, nurse baby, get her ready, load bags into the car, drop baby off at daycare, drive to work, work from 8:30 pick pick up baby from daycare, get home no earlier than 6:30 P.M., nurse baby, wash bottles and pump parts, make up bottles and coolers for the next day.
Hubby makes dinner most of the time these days while I’m nursing and doing the bottle/cooler prep so that after I get a few bites of food I can enjoy about 20-30 minutes of playtime with her before her bedtime routine.
Baby bedtime routine starts around 7:30 P.M. (bath, book, nursing, bed), and as soon as she’s asleep I get ready for bed––most nights I’m in bed by 8:30pm so I can get some sleep before I’m woken up by my alarm to pump (if she sleeps through the night), or before she wakes up in the middle of the night for a feed.”
TWO: Our dream days still include the kids.
I’m going to be very honest here: many, many days I’m not nearly as engaged and focused on my children as I’d want to be or aspire to be. It’s really hard to fully give my kids my undivided attention when there are 24 hours in a day and the running list of needs doesn’t seem to ever shorten. Believe me, I wish I could.
In speaking with my girlfriends, even with different goals, responsibilities and work demands, they, too, dream of a day spent really bonding with their children.
My dream day would be waking up and just being able to focus on my son without having to stress about the house, and dinner, and appointments, etc.
When I was home, it was hard to shake the feeling that I needed to be doing something at all times. I can imagine how she might feel if she were able to have a day at her home, with her son, actually focusing on each other and bonding.
My dream day would be working part-time each day. I’d still have my “adult time” at the gym and at work, she’d still have her play time and socialization at daycare, but we’d get more mommy/daughter time each day.
Again, the ability to contribute to your work responsibilities while still being entirely there for your children––present and engaged–– is something all Moms yearn for.
THREE: We put ourselves last (And, that’s probably true for the Dads, too).
Family comes first, self comes second.
That can sound whiny, I understand, but hear me out.
The role of Mother comes first no matter if you’re at home or at work. This is the biggest adjustment for all new parents. If you’re at home and your child has an immediate need––you drop what you’re doing. If you’re at work, you’re coming home and prepping for the next day or spending as much quality time as you can with the kids.
That time to catch up on your favorite show either happens after 10 P.M. or doesn’t happen at all for both SAHM and working moms. Working out? Unless you have someone available to stay with the kids (like your spouse/babysitter/family) while you take 30-60 minutes to yourself, plan on working out super late or super early in the morning.
“I find the most challenging part of my day is that there are not enough hours in the day! My commute is an hour each way and I’m the one doing the daycare drop off and pick up, which adds an additional 10-15 minutes twice a day. When I get home I have at least 30 mins of feeding and bottle stuff to do, and her bedtime routine takes approx half an hour. That’s about 3.5 hours of working out, cleaning, laundry, alone time, etc. that I no longer have every day. Post-baby, I only have time on the weekends to workout and I have to spend my weekends playing catch up on household jobs.”
I hear you loud and clear, sister. Many people hate the drive to/from work, but for me, it’s a time for peace, quiet and reflection.
And how does the SAHM feel?
“The most challenging part of my day is overall just trying to accomplish what needs to get done with an active toddler and NO help!”
Moms are on their toes 24-hours a day. Think I’m joking? I recently posted a meme on Facebook that said something to the effect of, “Mom Sleep: your eyes are closed but your ears are wide open.” That’s because even in the night we’re always listening for that cry for help. No matter what your demands are for the next day, you are always on.
Finally, understanding that many of our readers may be facing a new situation in life, such as a transition from working mom to SAHM, or, heading back to the workforce, I asked my girlfriends for the best pieces of advice they’ve been given about embracing their roles.
Here’s what they said.
A fellow working mom friend told me before my baby arrived not to overschedule/overcommit ourselves on the weekends for the first year and to keep our weekends for ourselves to enjoy precious time with our new baby.Pre-baby, I was a “Yes” girl––if someone asked me to do something, I said “Yes!” If there was a party or an event, I was there… heck, most of the time, I was the one planning it!Now, I’m more selective about what I say yes to so I can maximize my quality time with my baby girl. She changes and grows by the day––I don’t want to miss any more time with her than I already have to due to working.
As a SAHM, it is easy to lose your identity and long for your pre-baby life. I promise it does pass, it may take years, but one day you will feel a little more like yourself again… but a better version.