The Case for the Stay-At-Home Mom: Why I Gave Up A Promising Career To Raise My Children Full-Time

When I became pregnant with my son two or three years before planned, my first reaction was to cry - not tears of joy, but tears of sorrow. I'm a planner by nature, and becoming a mom was something I always knew I wanted to do - but in the future, the far, far, future. In the nine months leading up to my son being born I wrestled with the realities of my new future. In particular, if I wanted to stay home and raise my son full-time or continue working outside the home. I was well into a promising career in public relations, I was happily moving up the ladder at the company I was employed with, I felt fulfilled and satisfied with my job and the work I did, and I was excited to see where my career led.

Part of me had always imagined that I would stay home, but when I was forced to choose, it was actually much more difficult then I ever thought it would be.

Lately I've had a surprising amount of conversations with other women about how I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. What was my thought process? How did I come to my decision?

And really, what they were asking was, how can someone who has a thriving, fulfilling career, and a promising future in it, give it all up to stay home with their child? Won't they be unsatisfied being home all day? Why would a woman devote the most prime 25 years of her life to staying at home and raising children?

And it's a valid question.
All people want to have worth in this life. A sense of accomplishment and esteem. To have positive evaluations, progress, growth. It is in our human nature. And I think the question becomes - can a woman have these things as a stay-at-home mom? Is homemaking a challenging and worthwhile career?

The lie the world has fed us is that we cannot be fulfilled by merely raising children and caring for a home. But to be fulfilled and satisfied in this life we need higher job titles, awards filling our shelves, thick portfolios and fat resumes. And in these modern days, we're often told women are finally liberated from being expected to be the primary caretaker in raising our children so we can focus on doing just that. While I appreciate much of the progress the world has made in women's rights, we still seem to often be ensnared to the belief that family cannot and should not be enough for a driven, successful and talented woman - which hinders us in feeling affirmed in the decision to not work and instead raise our family and care for a home.

As I've spent more time in this role, I've found that homemaking is full of opportunity, fulfillment and satisfaction - as much as any profession I've ever had. I would argue that there is much learning, talent and growth in motherhood and homemaking. It is a skill to raise a child well, just as it is a skill to write a brief or give a presentation. If there's one thing all mothers know it's that we cannot expect to get it all right when we first start out, it takes time and effort to know how to grow, develop and instruct a child. Just like one would grow and improve during their professional career. As we all know, strong character in our children doesn't just happen, it is grown and nurtured over many years by those around them who love them and spend the most time around them, investing in them.

It may sound like a stretch, like I'm just putting meaning to mundane, everyday tasks, but I truly believe a mother who stays at home is developing and producing a lifestyle for her family. And to do this well, it takes talent, time and thoughtfulness. She is improving and honing her skills on a daily basis, making wise investments with her family's time, money and resources; developing skills in cooking, psychology, cleaning, medicine, creativity, teaching, purchasing and other administrative affairs of the home. The opportunities for growth and advancement abound - just as in any career path laid out in a professional setting.

Of course, it is different being at home, than being at work. And I frequently hear women tell me, "I just think I'd be bored! I'd go crazy without adult interaction! I need more mental stimulation than the ABC's and 123's!" And I get it. I feared for that too. I thrive on adult interaction and social situations. I enjoy problem solving and high level thinking. I like physical, tangible results from the efforts of my day - to see how I made a difference, and be told, "job well done."  I won't sugar coat it, as a stay-at-home mom, there are days that are monotonous, boring and very, very lonely. The affirmation is scarce, the progress slow, and the execution repetitive.  But all jobs have more difficult days and parts than others.

I truly believe that for many women, all it can take is a perspective shift to be fulfilled by staying-at-home. Of course, it takes effort on my part to keep it interesting and choose growth over languidness. It can be easy to fall into a consistent state of status quo when there is no manager looking over my shoulder. But I've found that with a certain amount of gumption and self-motivation, as well as the support of other driven mothers, my role as a homemaker is just as challenging and stimulating as any professional career. While I don't work for the lure of a paycheck or promotion, I find that I have just as many incentives and opportunities for growth as any corporate career. But it does take a certain amount of patience and humility to recognize that the tangible affirmation and progress so many of us seek will not be available on a daily basis. The reality is, the value and reward a mother reaps by staying home with her children likely won't be realized until years later.

Of course, there are situations that demand a mother works, and I know many wonderful mothers that do - some by choice and some by necessity. Some full-time, some part-time, some from home and some in the office, and my goal here is not to bring them down or demean their motherhood and lifestyle. I do support women that work and I do not think it is inherently wrong for a mother to work at all! In fact, the amount of time I spend here each week could be considered a part-time job. A mother is still her own person, own woman, outside of her husband and children and I believe there are situations, reasons and benefits that make it appropriate for a mother to work in addition to raising her children.

But I do hope to show that homemaking should be considered a viable career for all women, even for a woman who thinks she'd never thrive well at home during the day. I think many people believe that women that chose to stay-at-home do so because they didn't like their job and wanted a way out. And while that may be true in some cases, it was not in mine. But instead because my husband and I felt it was in the best interest of our children, and by me staying at home I could provide a lifestyle that is far better than any additional income I could bring in.

It seems that often the importance and value of the stay-at-home mom has been passed over in light of the much more shiny, alluring and publicly affirmed role of climbing the corporate ladder. Being a full-time homemaker is in fact just as challenging and rewarding. A stay-at-home mom plays the primary role in developing minds, raising bodies and teaching virtues, character and discipline. She invests her life to shaping her children into healthy, moral, well-adjusted, educated, involved and productive citizens that contribute to society - and that is an accomplishment far more challenging and rewarding than any 40 years in a corporate career could ever complete.

I am not saying you can't do these things while still having a second role in the workforce. But it's been proven over and over again that no one can have it all, and certain things are traded off when a person is juggling motherhood and a career. And each family must weigh the pros and cons of their lifestyle decision. My hope and prayer is that each mother and father chooses not what is in the best interest of themselves, but what is in the best interest of their entire family. To abandon their personal rights, desires and convenience, and choose the path that is best for the family as a whole. And that may look like the mother working, and that may not. I only hope that the option of being a full-time homemaker is carefully considered before being abandoned in light of a more instant gratification.

Personal ambition and public success are natural things to be desired, but if I may be so bold, it seems it is easy to find a woman who has regretted trying to juggle both a family and a high-pressure career and admits that they didn't do either well. But it is difficult for me to find anyone whom admits to regretting spending their prime years primarily at home, investing in the lives of their children.

There is significance, worth and fulfillment in homemaking. And being a mother has brought me more value, wonder and joy beyond any profession I could imagine.

Motherhood is and always will be my greatest accomplishment in life.

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22 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, this topic is a tough one, isn't it? I'm not a mother yet, but of course being pregnant this topic and been a point of discussion a lot more lately. I've never felt conflicted about what I want to do; for me, I've always known that I didn't want to be a stay-at-home mom and have never felt my personality and passions would be suited for that particular job full-time. Others I know are perfectly suited to be SAHM's just like any other career out there. However, I've been asked the question of, "What are your plans after the baby comes?" quite a bit over the past few weeks.

    With the rise of mommy blogs, a lot of which are written by stay-at-home moms, I sometimes find that there has been a swing in the opposite direction, where the most vocal and outspoken voices in the mom community are those that choose to stay at home, and now those who decide to work are made to feel they need to defend their choice, or that they are selfish and money-driven for desiring to continue with their chosen careers.

    At the end of the day, I think we're all most heavily influenced by the way we were raised and our view of our childhood. I was raised (primarily) by a single, working mom with an important, fulfilling career. Part of that, of course, was out of necessity, but she's also the type that loved working, too. And I loved my childhood, and playing at friend's houses after school and my great babysitters. Granted, my mom had a career that allowed her to be flexible and she never missed a concert, program or recital, either. Whereas someone who had a mom that worked a lot and was never around probably feels more strongly about wanting to stay at home and be there for her kiddos.

    Anyway, sorry for the long response. Just providing a view from the other side. :)

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  2. Your headline is extremely offensive. Working moms raise their children too.

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  3. beautiful and thoughtful. I too gave up my time as a practicing attorney and although the transition was hard, I'm so glad I'm here. On baby number 3, and would NEVER trade these years for a better career or more money.

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  4. Thank you for a well thought out post on a prickly subject. What irks me the most about this conversation is that it's always framed around mothers and not fathers. There is an underlying assumption that a father can have a fulfilling career and raise children but a mother cannot.


    I do feel compelled to point out that it is a misunderstanding of feminism to think that the movement pushes people (men and women) to work outside the home. Feminism is about social and financial equality for everyone. Including challenging gender stereotypes that might hold men or women back from opting out of the workforce to raise children. Feminism supports choice - to work inside or outside the home, full or part time - for everyone.


    I totally agree with you that the value of raising children and running a household is vastly undervalued in our culture and needs to change. It really gets under my skin when people remark that going on maternity leave (which I am about to do) is a "vacation" or that parents at home with small children have "nothing going on."


    Another thing that comes to my mind, when thinking about what happens in society when women opt to run a household, is the loss of those role models for younger women and girls. I ask myself, is it important that my daughter be able to look around and see woman not only in caretaker roles but in leadership positions? I'd like her (and my soon-to be born son) to be able to see both women and men in roles running households and companies. Currently, this is not the case. And so I wonder, what can we, as a society and community, do to better support parents so that more woman can be leaders in the workplace and more men can be caretakers at home? Places I would start are paid parental leave, subsidized quality childcare, support for parents who want to "off-ramp" for a time and "on-ramp" when family demands are less. And not just for women and parents, but for everyone and anyone who needs to step back from a career to attend to family or achieve personal goals. Where would you start?


    You are incredibly blessed to have the option to stay out of the workforce and I support your choice!

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  5. Thank you for pointing out the feminism does not push women to work outside the home. Such a falacy. Feminism encourages social and financial equity for all!

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  6. Hi Madison - thanks for sharing your perspective. I too was raised by a mom who worked full-time. Although it was more out of necessity, she did a wonderful job balancing both, spending time and being very present in our lives and activities as well as working outside the home. It can definitely be done and as I mentioned, I truly believe there are reasons and benefits to a mother working!


    I totally agree with you on the mommy blogging world having the market cornered on SAHM's. Blogging is like the SAHM's sliver bullet. You can do it whenever you want, from wherever you want and it's (usually) free. :) I can see what your saying by feeling the need to defend to defend the choice to work - particularly online. I think I found more resistance in-person, as it "went public" that I was going to stay home. I felt I needed to always let people know that I'd most definitely be entering the workforce again once my children were in school and I'd probably do something freelance while they were little. I was asked "why" a lot and received a lot of - "hopefully you won't be too bored!" So I think that's the place I write this post from.


    I totally support moms working and know that there is no "one" choice for all families. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such an open and kind manner - always appreciated and welcome. And you're gonna do great working and being a momma - I just know it!

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  7. Hi Kelly, I'm sorry to offend you. The intention was never to exclude full-time moms, only to say that I stopped working to "solely" raise my children, and that it, in a way, is now my full-time job. Hopefully you can find in the rest of the post that I wholeheartedly support working moms and know that they in fact do raise their children.

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  8. Thanks Nell - I'm so happy to hear your still feeling that way three babes in!

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  9. Thank you for your apology. I'm just sorry that your PR background didn't instill in you that words are very important and change the entire tone of a piece.

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  10. Thanks for your thoughtful response! With the feminism moment - you're exactly right, deep down, it's about women having support for any choice they make - in the workforce or at home, and particularly, that the workforce culture, supports the working mother. And that I can get behind! But I do feel at one point or another, the needle slid too far, and for a time, feminism became about women "having it all." The most famous of which was Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article in The Atlantic, as we've all probably read. While I know that's not how all feminist feel, some of that damage is difficult to undo, and a natural side affect of telling women to "have it all," is to hinder the fulfillment for a woman who desires to stay-at-home and not have the popular version of "having it all." I do believe this next wave of the feminist movement is making great strides in focusing on choice, rather than what exactly the choice is. My wording was likely too strong (or maybe outdated?) in the post, and for that I apologize.

    I love your thoughts on supporting mothers, and all parents in the workplace, particularly the idea of "off- and on-ramping." I definitely get envious of other countries that have more benefits and support for working parents, and I know if some of those perks were here in the US, I'd likely still be working! I completely agree that it's important for children to see role models both in and out of the home and see first--hand that both can be done well, and that both are a valid career choice! I totally understand your frustration about these types of conversation being centered around mothers, not fathers. I wonder if it's because there are fewer men that want to stay home? Or because they've not dealt with the glass ceiling like women? I'm not sure why the've escaped it so much, do you?

    ps. I'm so sorry to hear people are calling your maternity leave "vacation!" That couldn't be further from the truth!

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  11. Thanks for your thoughtful response! With the feminism moment - you're exactly right, deep down, it's about women having support for any choice they make - in the workforce or at home, and particularly, that the workforce culture, supports the working mother. And that I can get behind! But I do feel at one point or another, the needle slid too far, and for a time, feminism became about women "having it all." The most famous of which was Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article in The Atlantic, as we've all probably read. While I know that's not how all feminist feel, some of that damage is difficult to undo, and a natural side affect of telling women to "have it all," is to hinder the fulfillment for a woman who desires to stay-at-home and not have the popular version of "having it all." I do believe this next wave of the feminist movement is making great strides in focusing on choice, rather than what exactly the choice is. My wording was likely too strong (or maybe outdated?) in the post, and for that I apologize.

    I love your thoughts on supporting mothers, and all parents in the workplace, particularly the idea of "off- and on-ramping." I definitely get envious of other countries that have more benefits and support for working parents, and I know if some of those perks were here in the US, I'd likely still be working! I completely agree that it's important for children to see role models both in and out of the home and see first--hand that both can be done well, and that both are a valid career choice! I totally understand your frustration about these types of conversation being centered around mothers, not fathers. I wonder if it's because there are fewer men that want to stay home? Or because they've not dealt with the glass ceiling like women? I'm not sure why the've escaped it so much, do you?

    ps. I'm so sorry to hear people are calling your maternity leave "vacation!" That couldn't be further from the truth!!

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  12. Hi Michele! I just replied to rfinc above, but did just want to mention here the reasoning behind what I wrote. I do agree that feminism is about women having the right support in place to make the choice to work or not, particularly in the workplace culture, but I also believe that at one point feminism centered around women "having it all." And while great strides have been made to backtrack on the encouragement of that myth, a natural side affect is for women who choose not to have the common version of "it all," feel guilty, unsatisfied or like they're making the wrong choice and not fulfilling their true womanhood. I do admit that likely my wording was too strong in the post - or even just using an outdated view of feminism, but I would also to say that I've ran across more people than I care to admit that still have that view and have impressed it upon my choice to be a SAHM, which is the place I write from.


    Thanks for your comment and pointing out the good and valuable place feminism stems from.

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  13. Wow. I've been a longtime lurker and sent several girlfriends your way to enjoy your amazing blog, but I have never commented. I can't let this one go without telling you how perfectly you have described the "job" and role of the stay at home mother. I have 3 children, ages 4 & under, and I treasure the time with them - for the most part. I could do without the stomach bugs and toddler meltdowns. bwahaha But you get my point! This is beautiful, accurate, inspiring, and I want to tell you how much it meant to me to come on here today and read this. xoxo

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  14. So the title of Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece was "Why Women Still Can't Have it All" and she is one of the few powerful women openly discussing the sacrifices and challenges of a high-powered career and family - and she left an influential position to spend more time with her family. Look to Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg or any male CEO with children for examples of the myth of "having it all." I think we can look to the media, as opposed to the feminist movement, for reinforcing unrealistic expectations of parents.


    As for why the conversation focuses around mothers' work/ life balance and not fathers, I think its has to do in part with cultural and historical precedence and expectation. But also, if you look at research around personality trends by gender, a significantly larger proportion of woman have the personality that will find being a homemaker fulfilling (Myers Briggs ISFJ would be a great parent, and almost twice as many women have this personality than men). So, if the workforce values the perceptive of women (which it should!) then the workplace needs to change to accommodate them. There is a small percentage of women (also small percentage of men) who are willing and able to make the compromises required to become a CEO, so I think we need to challenge the traditional path to leadership roles. This would benefit fathers and non-parents who want more time with family, too.


    The question to me is how to we challenge the structure and status-quo of the workplace? Pushing the boundaries - asking for part-time work, for longer paid leave, financially supporting and encouraging fathers who desire more time at home to take a more prominent role in care-giving - is one way to accomplish this. The other key to change in this realm is engaging men and non-parents, re-framing the conversation as not just a mother's issue but as an everyone issue. We all have interests and passions outside of work and finding a way to support people in finding a balance that works for them is important.

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  15. Completely agree that it's the media manipulating the message and loudly touting anyone whom speaks loudly on either side, like pitting Sandberg and Slaughter against one another - making the feminist movement cluttered and difficult to discern what it's message is. And as I mentioned, I'm grateful to see that the true message is more in balance than it ever has been before.



    Love your thoughts on making it an "everyone issue," and I believer you're right, that it must become applicable to everyone in order to see true change in the structure of the workplace. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Thanks Anna! I'm so glad you came out and commented! I'm glad you identified with it and I so appreciate you taking time to say something. I agree with you - those meltdowns and bugs, certainly the part of our job that is the most difficult! :) Thanks too for sending people my way, I'm so thankful for supportive readers like you!

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  17. Yes, this is amazing. Thank you for all you said here so well. I agree that feminism has done GREAT things for us as women, but that it has swung the pendulum to the opposite side. We are no longer limited to the home, but now we have to be able to juggle it all - the career, the children, the household - to prove our worth as women. And that is absolutely what feminism is against - living in a world where we have to prove our worth. Thank you for these words.

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  18. Thanks Laura - I'm thankful feminism is back on track (whether it got off unintentionally or not) and I truly do stand behind the messages feminism is for today. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post!

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  19. Look to Judith Warner's New York Times piece "The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In" for a discussion about women who had regret about leaving the workforce to care for children.

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  20. Love, love, love this post.

    "Motherhood is and always will be my greatest accomplishment in life."

    I feel the same way. After being a SAHM for several years (at first, much to my chagrin), nothing comes close to being as fulfilling. I later became a high school English teacher and then decided that the time and energy it took to teach in our public schools was not worth the time and attention it took from my family. Even though my daughters were both in school, I felt like I was giving them less of myself and less of what I'd always given them (my best).

    I became pregnant (almost ten years after my last pregnancy!) and decided to stop working and return to the home again. Not sure If I'll ever go back to the traditional workforce. There's nowhere else I'd rather be than in the home.

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  21. Thanks Vashelle! What a great testimony since it sounds like you've been on all the sides! I agree - there's no place I'd rather be than here at home - I can't imagine ever working out of the home full-time again. But then again, you never know the future!

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  22. the days are long but the years are short. thats my reason! i am so thankful to be able to stay home and be that much more involved with my babies. its just what i knew i was meant to do!

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