The “Right” Parenting Choice

December 27, 2011

I’ll admit that I love being told I’m a good mom or doing a good job raising Bella. Who doesn’t like to hear that? But what I don’t love is when someone tries to congratulate me with a backwards compliment or insult to a working mom. Because that, my friends, really torks my monkey.

Like the PA in our old doctors office who wondered why Bella had croup so often last year. She asked if I had Bella in daycare, and I replied I stayed at home with her.

“Good for you,” she replied nodding. “Best thing you can do when you have children, what a great choice.”

I remember sitting there dumbfounded, wondering what she would have said to a mom who answered, “Yep, because I work full time to help pay our bills.” Bad choice? Horrible mother? This is why your kid is sick?

Or the time someone asked me if I planned on going back to work, and I said we were really trying to make sure I didn’t have to because I loved being home. Their response, “You’ll never regret staying home and raising your own children.”

Agreed, I’ll never regret staying home. But so much else is implied in that comment – as if my working mom friends are going to regret having the daycare provider raise their kids. Does the daycare provider grocery shop on the weekends with that child? Get up in the middle of the night to soothe them? Host Christmas in her classroom? Drive over to put them in time out?

What I do is tough – because being at home (for me) requires so much self discipline, motivation, and a self starter attitude – all of which I struggle with. So sure, it’s nice to be told what I do matters and I’m doing a good job. I don’t get that a lot from my 2 year old. But it’s not something I take a bit of pride in hearing when it comes at the expense of another mom’s choice.

I think what we tend to forget as a society that leans so heavily to one side or the other in parenting is that no choice is the right one all the way around. I’ve known a lot of unhappy SAHM’s that went back to work and became amazing working moms. Happy, balanced, and attentive with their kids when they got home. I’ve known a lot of working moms that got to stay at home and found the same happiness.

What makes me the angriest about these comments is the fact that should I ever have to go back to work, they would all be there. Guilt tripping me at every turn, reminding me of how so many consider working to be the “lesser choice”. Why would we do this to moms who are just trying to make ends meet? Who are happy and fulfilled in their work, and have spent a lot of time choosing a place for their child to be cared for, not raised?

Would we rather that children grow up with parents who struggle to make ends meet and in turn it causes massive amounts of stress, fighting, less time with the other parent and a higher divorce rate?

Or a miserable mom who loved her job yet stays at home because it seems like it’s the right thing to do – and hates being there?

How are either of those scenarios a better choice for a family?

I firmly believe that quality, not quantity, makes a child and parent relationship. My husband works long hours, but the time he spends with Bella really matters to him. He makes it count. I know I’m a better, more patient mom after I get a break.

If you don’t like or agree with another parent’s choice to work or stay home, ask them why they made it. You might be surprised to hear the valid reasons, struggle, or passion behind it. Then move on and focus on the right choices for what life has handed you.

For those of you dealing with people who judge your choice, hold your head high and remember that what you are doing is right as long as it works for your family.

There isn’t a “right” parenting choice for everyone. That’s why it’s called a choice.

17 Comments

  • Jen

    December 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I think I would be a terrible SAHM. Because I can be lazy and that doesn’t jive well with a toddler (every day). I felt guilty the first few weeks I was back at work but it quickly faded and I am happy with the balance we have in life. I love that our daycare provider loves my son like he is her own. It makes those days at work where I wish I was not there that much more tolerable.

  • molly

    December 29, 2011 at 8:22 am

    As a working mom, I get a lot of “Oh my! I could never work with two kids.” What am I supposed to say to that? Well, if you want us to lose our house I could stay home. Geesh.

    It’s just how it is for me right now. Am I happy every day when I have to leave my children? Of course not. But I’ve become accustomed to our routine so that we can pay off our debt and make our dreams come true.

    I have been both a SAHM and worked outside the home so I’ve got a unique perspective. There are absolutely pros and cons to both!

    Thanks for writing this, Diana. No one should judge a mom’s situation without knowing the back story.

  • Angie Matthewson

    December 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for the post!
    Like a previous comment, I too wish that I could stay home. Sometimes. But it’s not a choice you can change from day-to-day! I admire parents who are engaged with their kids – I know SAHMs who aren’t & working moms who are. For me, working has been a great choice – it provides us income we need, and honestly serves as my me-time. I’m lucky to have a great group of friends as co-workers!
    As for my relationship with my daughter, I make the most of weekends, and I try to take off a few random days each month just to hang out with her! (Again, lucky me – my job is also flexible & lets me do that!)

  • Susan DiMickele

    December 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks SO much for this. I love the voice of reason! All mothers need to unite — regardless of whether we “work” outside the home.

  • Diane @ DixieJulep

    December 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Great post! My husband is an SAHD, and I work full time, so it gets reeealllly interesting when this topic comes up when we’re together. đŸ˜‰ People really stumble over their words trying to figure out how to praise his choice without insulting me. Really, the best is if someone asks us if we like it, we say “yes,” they say “great,” and the whole conversation moves on.

    As far as I’m concerned the work/childcare arrangement that makes your family happy is the “right” one…for you. Too bad more people don’t see it that way.

    1. Susan DiMickele

      December 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      I am with you! My husband is also a SAHD!

  • Manda

    December 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Great post! I’ve been on both sides of the issue and can relate all too well.

  • Daneilia

    December 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    It’s insane the things people say to you and unless you analyze it sometimes you’ll never get the real gist of what they were intentionally saying. But hubby tells me I over analyze haha.

    Anyways, I was told by someone who is now an ex friend that I am a loser for joining the Army and pretty much that I’ll never be there for my child. Well I told her what a bunch of crock that crap is and told her to shove it. But it really hits home because it is my life already and something I’m passionate about and it will soon be my job as well. But I will always be there for my child whether it is in spirit or it is physical. I have for sure made up a list of things my daughter will have to know that I’m with her. This job will be sacrificing some of my time with my daughter but without doing that she won’t get to experience preschool and life outside of our home. I would love to be with my daughter everyday like I am now but there is a calling for me to do this job and to help support my family. This will allow me to provide money for preschool and to allow me to provide things for our family as well as vacations (yay for vacays). The money isn’t a priority, what is a priority is giving my child opportunities to get an education and provide me with more work experience. There are so many factors that go into this not just the things I have already stated.

    I really love this post of yours because no parent should ever feel guilty for wanting or having to work to support their families. Someone has to pay the bills đŸ™‚

  • Desi

    December 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Love this! I love hearing someone talk about both sides and how they both have positives.

  • Brandy

    December 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Amen! Love this post. As a working mom, I appreciate your kind words. Fortunately I haven’t run into hardly any opposition in my situation but I am on my guard. I was not cut out to be a sahm and I am not ashamed to admit that. I am a much better mom when I can spend quality time with him. So that means I have to do laundry in tandem with dinner after a hectic day but we make it work. Weekends are all about fun and parks. Also being truly 50/50 parents when it comes to time makes for way less resentment when my son is having a bad day. Tag team at its finest. Anyway I am rambling but just thank you. This is wonderful to hear.

  • Samantha

    December 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    When I went back to work for a while, I found I was a lot happier at the end of the day. Maybe not week, because then I was exhausted with a lot to get done, but my days were easier.

    I hated when people pitied me for working, it made me upset that no one understood how much it meant to me to have time for the life I’d worked hard to build outside of motherhood.

  • JD @ Momagement

    December 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I work part-time and I love it. I have “spirited” girls (read: more difficult than the average kids) and I do love being with them. But I also love working. My girls are tough at times and I need a break from their intensity. It may sound odd, but after a day of work I am refreshed and can be a better mom for them the next day.

    I would never EVER judge anyone’s choice/need to work or stay at home. What’s the point? Who does that help? The judgers are probably insecure with their own choices. Which is just dumb. Make your choice and then do the best you can do in life!

  • Sol

    December 27, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Having been the working mom, now stay-at-home mom I’m still shocked at some of the comments I get. A lot of people assume I’ve always been a SAHM and make some terrible remarks about working moms only to then have me tell them I chose to work (because I wanted to AND because we needed the money-not that it matters honestly) when Leah was younger and then they fall all over themselves backtracking. Why can’t we just support one another?

  • Misty

    December 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I honestly wish I could be a stay-at-home Mom. I really do. I imagine myself doing wonderful crafts, baking, and spending a lot of quality time with my children (ha!!). But I work part-time, and the days I spend at home with my little one are EXHAUSTING!! I feel so guilty to say this, but I usually look forward to Monday morning when I go back to work. Now, I don’t know if that would change if I were to actually leave my job, because after the year I took off for maternity leave, I really didn’t want to go back to work. Little Aylen and I had gotten into a great routine at home together. So maybe the challenges I experience on my days off are because we’re both adjusting to being back at home….and 4 days later we have to re-adjust to being back at work/daycare. Anyway, all that to say that I truly agree with this post…..these are choices that we are able to make!

  • Christi

    December 27, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I have been both, and have gotten much more grief from the working moms about my choice to stay home than when it was the other way around. I feel like working fulltime is what is expected these days, and I am FOREVER having to justify my choice.
    I guess because we’re not living up to society’s picture of success since we don’t have a car payment, a cell phone bill, or credit cards. We live simply, on purpose, so i can be here with our children (6 of them..just to run laundry takes more hours than I was home to do it when I “worked”).

    Maybe the Dr was just being kind and encouraging? Maybe she would’ve been equally kind and encouraging if you had said the opposite?

    I’ve learned my issues with this topic (as it has always been a touchy one) were my own. I am comfortable & confident in my own decision, and I was equally comfortable that it was best for my family when I did go to work.

    It comes down to us, as women, need to stop using our own guilt on either side to make other moms feel bad about their choices for their families.

    1. Diana

      December 27, 2011 at 7:54 am

      Absolutely. And sure, the Dr. could have just been making an offhand comment, but her tone implied a lot more.

      I feel like my working mom friends take a lot more flack than I, personally, ever have for staying at home. Maybe it was because I taught and didn’t make a whole lot that the transition seemed a bit more “ok” to outsiders or something, but I’ve never felt any guilt over it. Except when we were financially hurting. We’ve sacrificed a lot for me to stay at home, but to me it’s worth it. I know many, many moms that simply aren’t able to make the ends meet without their paycheck, no matter how much they cut.

      The guilt trips they get (from their family, blog readers, friends) are why I wrote this post. Like you said, we need to stop guilting each other in our choices.

  • Elizabeth Flora Ross

    December 27, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Amen! What a great post! This is exactly what The Mom Pledge is all about. Love it!

    http://themompledge.com

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