Is Staying Home With Your Kids a Choice or a Necessity?
In the motherhood debate circle, perhaps no topic gets more heated than that of the working mother vs. the stay-at-home mother.
Heck, there are even acronyms for these sorts of things, with abbreviations like WAHM, SAHM, or WOHM cropping up to describe our “statuses” as mothers who work—or don't.
It's almost ridiculous when you think about it—our need to label and identify ourselves as a certain “type” of mother, as if we can assure ourselves and our children just exactly what kind of mother we are.
I'm the good kind, of course, we think to ourselves. Those other mothers don't have it hard as I do.
I'm guilty of it myself, surely, and I've run the gamut of working-mother employment, from working outside the home to being at home with young children, to periods where it felt like I was mostly just trying to keep my children clothed and alive. I've felt sorry for myself, misunderstood, lonely, and wondered if what any of what I was doing was even worth it.
And I can see now how silly it all is to wonder and obsess and judge other mothers and to waste so much time and energy on the “choice” of staying at home vs. working, when in many cases, it's not even a choice at all.
In many cases, the mothers who get the most attention in the media about choosing to become a stay-at-home mom or continue down the path of paid employment are the mothers who can afford a real choice about the matter in the first place. Many articles are centered around the mommy guilt, or the desire to be with their children more, or the fact that there is no more important job on earth—all very real concerns, but not necessarily a very real picture of the “choice” that the majority of mothers face.
The truth is, new data shows that the women who can truly afford to make a choice about staying at home are a very elite proportion of mothers—only about 5%—and the rest of us are struggling to just get by.
Instead of a simple “should I stay or should I go?” question about working vs. staying at home, the truth is is that the primary deciding factor is that which much of the world centers around: money.
More and more women are staying home—up to 29% of mothers—but those women also have different backgrounds than you might initially think. Most of the women stated that they are home with their kids because they can't find a job, can't afford daycare, and the overwhelming majority (a whopping 51%) of the mothers had less than a high school degree.
With crazy daycare prices, limited opportunities in the job market, and the struggle of maintaining family and going back to school, it's no wonder that many women feel forced to stay home with their kids, and it's easy to see how that cycle can breed stereotypes, resentment, and low confidence in women. Staying home with your kids might not be as much of a choice as we make it out to be.
So the next time we want to judge another mother on her “choice” of staying home or working, let's remember that there's often a little more than meets the eye, shall we?
Was your decision to work or stay home based on finances?