Real Simple Mama

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Working vs Stay-At-Home: An AP Mama’s Experience

Being a stay-at-home mom has been the best, most difficult job I’ve ever had, or will ever have. And yet, I absolutely love it. Not a moment goes by when I think “I wish I was working instead of being home with my babies.” However, going from a working mom (Kid #1) to SAHM (Kid #2) was a challenging transition. Here I describe the good, the bad, and the ugly of both… all from an attachment mom’s perspective.

As a teacher I found a particular irony with the whole process. Get this: I have to pay a stranger to watch my children, while I get paid to watch children of strangers. It all seems so unnecessary. And ridiculous. And stupid.

Working vs Stay-At-Home: An AP Mama's Experience - RealSimpleMama

Our mortgage and daycare for two littles was literally going to take my entire paycheck, so when I found out I was pregnant with our second baby, I knew something had to change. Thanks to a husband who busts his ass every day, and some grace and good luck, we were able to sell the big ole house and I quit my job!

I’m seriously one of those people who never thought I’d cry tears of joy at the prospect of staying home with babies. I worked my butt off since middle school trying to earn and achieve everything I could. I had my sights on becoming a famous band director and conductor one day, and I was aggressive in making connections and learning as much as possible.

Then I had a kid.

I went into a depression in the weeks before I had to return to work after maternity leave – not because of PPD, but because I couldn’t afford to stay home. I had never felt devastation like that before. And it came as a huge surprise to me.

Working vs Stay-At-Home: An AP Mama's Experience - RealSimpleMama

My mom did not have any guilt from leaving me (with Grandma) to go back to work when I was a baby. She felt fulfilled and valued, and knew that she was contributing to her company. I on the other hand, cried at drop off every day for a year when leaving my oldest son to go to one of the noblest of professions. It’s just the way I was wired: I was desperate to stay at home with my son, but we had no other choice due to finances. (This was also part of the awakening, when I realized how AP I really was. While you can of course parent the way you want even if you have a job out of the house, my parenting style does not fit super well into public daycare, But more on that in a minute).

Add in the loneliness and stress of pumping for your baby, getting sick from daycare germs, and feeling like I was missing everything, and I jumped at the chance to be a SAHM.

But I know it’s not for everyone.

We women work super hard in today’s society to earn our place in the workforce. It feels like swimming against the current sometimes, in school and on the job, to be our best. And we take pride in our work, as we should. My mom shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because she looked forward to going back to work. No mother should be made to feel guilty about anything, actually. And this post is not attempting to do that. There is no absolute right or wrong – just what is right for your family.

Working vs Stay-At-Home: An AP Mama's Experience - RealSimpleMama

What I did want to highlight are the perks and drawbacks of working vs staying home. I’ve done both – and now you know a bit of how it’s made me feel over the years. Here’s what I’ve got for ya!

There are benefits to being a working mom, of course. A few include:

  • Contributing to the family’s income
  • Being around other adults
  • Feeling accomplished
  • Advancement in your profession
  • Earning respect, titles, awards
  • Quality time when you are with your children (absence makes the heart grow fonder, and you don’t take that time for granted)
  • Separation of work and family

The worst thing about being a working mom is obvious: being away from your kid. It’s impossibly difficult to think about you leaving your child with someone else, particularly if they’re a stranger. If you let your mind start to worry about “what ifs”, you can wind up in a depression.

If you breastfeed, you now will be dealing with the cumbersome side job of pumping (and washing, labeling, counting, etc.). Do learn what rights you have in regards to getting (at least one, maybe two!) breast pumps from your insurance; also read up on your rights for pumping in the workplace.

If you tend to gravitate towards attachment/gentle/positive parenting, you will probably have even more guilt at leaving your child. Daycares are of course designed to take care of groups of children; they have ratios and rules to follow, but of course if you can’t afford a nanny or one-on-one care, your child won’t get the attention they’d get when being with you. This is hard to cope with – I wasn’t consciously aware of how AP I really was in my heart, until I started to realize all of the things I’d have to sacrifice if my kid was in child care: things like not being worn at all, not being held all the time or comforted every time he cried, having to possibly wait to get his bottle (and of course not being able to breastfeed). These sentiments and circumstances look different for everyone, but for me it was heartbreaking to not be able to stay home.

It all boiled down to this: nobody can take care of my baby like I can, damnit. I want to be there every time he cries, and let him nurse on demand, and fall asleep in my arms. And I know that he will get used to taking a bottle, and sleeping in a crib, but I just didn’t want him to have to.

If you do end up going back to work after you have a child, you can still be the kind of parent you want to be! My friend Marie wrote abut being an attachment parent when you’re working – find it here.

I feel like, in my experience, the working mom gets a lot more coverage than the stay-at-home mom. I had no idea what exactly I was in for, or how I’d feel, when I first had the two littles at home by myself. While I’ll write a separate post soon specifically with SAHM tips, here are the pros and cons I’ve noticed since quitting my job a year ago.

Benefits to staying at home with your kids:

  • You never miss a thing!
  • Savings (daycare for us would have been almost $1600/mo)
  • Parent the way you want, consistently
  • Kids bond better because they’re together
  • Routine
  • Comfort of getting to stay home
  • Save on work expenses: clothes, hair, commute, etc.
  • Can potentially do chores, cooking, etc. while home too

Drawbacks to staying at home:

  • Never get a break – you’re a mom 24/7
  • Feel trapped or confined, at home most of the time
  • Missing the interaction with other adults and professionals
  • Losing touch with friends
  • No excuse to dress up or make up (may make you have lowered self esteem)
  • Pressure to keep house clean, cook every meal
  • Guilt about not wanting to spend every minute with your children

This list will of course look different depending on your family situation and your personal preferences.

In the end, I am truly happy that I’m able to stay at home now with my babies; they are thriving at home, and I’m proud of how well I’m keeping everything together! While it was extremely difficult and emotional for me to work for those first two years, it did give me an irreplaceable sense of perspective. I don’t think I’d appreciate staying at home as much, without having gone through that experience of working with just one child.

Working vs Stay-At-Home: An AP Mama's Experience - RealSimpleMama

I’m so glad I never miss a moment! Staying at home is what’s right for me.

Hopefully this has helped shine a light on the world of working moms as well as what it’s like to stay home to raise your kids. If you’re in the middle of making this decision for yourself, be sure to involve your significant other and your family: make lists, have discussions, run the numbers. In the end, you need to do what works best for you and your children. I did, and I’ll never regret it!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions or would like to talk about your decisions. My goal as always is to educate and help make parenting real simple.


  1. I like how you were able to represent both sides since you have been in both places as a mommy. I’ve only been a SAHM with my 13 month old son now. I never thought I would be a stay at home mom because I always envisioned being able to do both. I thought I would really miss working with my students as a speech-language pathologist. As soon as that little guy entered my arms I knew I would have to wait a few years before thinking of going back. I think it’s hard to know either side until you are actually there. I definitely have some of the challenges you listed, always feeling like you need to have accomplished some household tasks each day is one. Thank you for sharing your insight!

    • The Mama

      July 31, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      I totally agree – there were aspects of quitting my job and staying at home that caught me completely offguard! I still battle guilt and finding balance, but I am getting better – and talking it over with moms like you really helps me too!

  2. There is so much truth in this post. When I had my first I stayed at home and I really didn’t enjoy it. When I had my second I was in college full-time and working full-time. I felt more liberated with getting breaks from being mom 24/7 that I was happier overall. Now expecting our third I’m on the fence on if I’;; go back to work or not!

    • The Mama

      July 18, 2016 at 9:19 am

      I am so glad to hear this! I also really like hearing about people who had a different experience than I did – I hope it is obvious that I tried to emphasize that this is not a one-size-fits-all decision. I certainly never want to make any woman, my own mother included, feel guilty because they enjoy going back to work.
      What types of factors are you looking at in regards to going back to work versus staying at home this time around?
      Congratulations on your third baby! How wonderful 🙂

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