Should I stay home or work? It’s a question every mom has to answer, and EVERYONE seems to have an opinion about it.
So often in the online ‘mommy groups’ people asking hundreds of strangers what is best for their child – staying home or working. It almost always ends in heated debate with “research” being thrown about. It has been a source of mommy wars for decades. It seems ever since women fought for the option to even be able to work, the decision whether or not to work outside the home has elicited guilt and judgment from all angles.
The reality is, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what choice you make that is. The decision itself matters greatly – it can determine your happiness, the health of your marriage, and the relationship with your children. But which one makes for happy mom, healthy marriage and fulfilled family depends on YOU and YOUR family.
What is best for each family is totally different. Some women LOVE their jobs, some women do not. For some women, the decision is cut and dry – work or don’t. But for most of us it’s a much more loaded question. There are women that want to stay home, but simply can’t afford to be a single income family. There are women that want to work, but simply can’t afford the exorbitant costs of childcare in order to do so. And then there are women who don’t have a traditional career and are forced to try to figure out a new plan once their family starts to grow.
I made the choice to stay home partly out of necessity and partly out of desire. At the time I got pregnant, I was working as a professional dancer, a career which I knew, being in my 30s, was naturally nearing a transition of its own. When I got pregnant, I started doing more commercial acting and on-camera hosting, which satisfied my performing ‘itch’. I also started coaching a dance team and ramped up my personal training clients. I spent 9 months laying the groundwork for what I thought would be feasible to continue once the baby arrived.
Unfortunately, we live across the country from any family, and childcare starts at about $20/hr with a 4 hour minimum (which is INSANE). So I eventually stopped auditions, coaching and training clients as I ultimately lost money doing so, which we were definitely not in a position to do.
I spent a year raising Avery and doing nothing else. Not wanting to give up my dreams, I tried to audition and coach dance while toting him along, but it was stressful and ultimately didn’t work. So I stopped doing anything other than being a mom.
I loved staying home with my son. I loved being able to share in the moments with him. I loved being able to have such a profound impact on his life. BUT…I needed more.
I was bored. I felt like I had lost my sense of independence and self-worth. Somewhere along the way, while I was embracing all that motherhood had to offer, I lost all of myself in the process. My life 100% revolved around Avery.
So I made a change. I started this website. I started writing. I started attending blogging events. I connected with other moms. I learned the insane world of social media. I found a two-day a week 2-hour drop off program for Avery and I dusted off a little chunk of myself.
It wasn’t necessarily exactly where I wanted to be, but it was a step in the right direction. A step toward that elusive thing called BALANCE. It allowed me to be creative, entrepreneurial and have a sense of accomplishment in something other than putting a baby down for a nap.
Then I got pregnant again.
And it knocked my world on its side.
Now with two kiddos, no time for myself, and no time to write, I felt over-committed, overwhelmed and lost again. I felt like I had spent two years fighting tooth and nail to get a glimmer of myself back and now I was knocked back further than I started.
Don’t get me wrong, we (and I) was incredibly happy and overjoyed to grow our family, but blindsided by the incredibly hard reality of raising kids with no family and no access to affordable childcare.
I found myself suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety with what felt like no way out. With Avery finding time for myself was what saved me – what allowed the anxiety to quiet and the joy to creep back in. This time around I KNEW what I needed, but it felt so impossible to achieve. I wanted so desperately to be able to carve out a moment of time for myself to do some work and feel some pride in something outside the home, but it just seemed impossible. I felt like I was drowning.
I had zero patience and constantly felt stressed and frustrated. I couldn’t even enjoy the sweet yet stressful fleeting moments with my newborn and my growing preschooler. I was not happy.
After a 5 week “reset” trip back home for the summer, I realized that what I needed was to make another change.
We reevaluated our budget and are going to find someone to help out three mornings a week so that I can start to work on something for myself again; because for me, staying home 100% of the time and not working on ANYTHING does not make me happy. And when mommy is not happy…no one is happy – or at least not as happy as they could be.
Nights when I am up late working on a project or on set filming until 11pm, I wake up the next morning full of life and happy to see my kids’ smiling faces. Days when I have a couple of hours in the morning to return emails, pitch brands, write articles, look at grad schools and think about MY future, I have more patience, more calm, more ability to make it through the day with a smile and a sense of humor.
So, I guess, what I’m saying is…if you are wondering what’s best for your kids…look inward. What is best for them is what is going to feed your soul; because when mommy is happy…the kids are happy. And sometimes that changes.