Who Has it Easier? Working Moms & Stay at Home Moms Battle it Out

by tinysneakers

Many people have a laundry list of pet peeves. Things that for no particular reason {or a very good reason} just get under their skin. I probably also have quite a list, but there’s one that stands out at the top so noticeably, the rest don’t matter.

What could possibly overshadow things like people leaving the door cracked open in the summer, scraping a fork across a plate, or failing to answer BOTH questions in an email? When people tell me I’m lucky because I don’t work.

A little over a year ago I took the scary plunge into self-employment. Now I work from home. The keyword here being I work from home. In fact, I’d venture to say I work harder than I ever did at any other job, but that’s a whole different story. The truth is, where you work doesn’t define if you work.

Since this little tidbit already gets under my skin like nothing else, I can only imagine how much it’s going to intensify when we have a baby. Suddenly you’ll be adding the word “mom” to the picture. I don’t see it being difficult for people taking the leap from “work at home” to “stay at home mom”.

working mom

I know it’s a hot, hot debate about who has it easier, or has it better, or who works harder: stay at home moms or working moms. I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer, but I think all of it’s probably hard. But for me, I want to both. I want to be a working mom that gets to be home with her kids a lot.

I’m already offended when people tell me I don’t work or that we’re lucky we can survive on one paycheck. We can’t; we don’t. I can’t imagine the level of annoyance I’ll reach when you add kids into the picture.

Before I started getting all prematually preturbed, I figured I should look into all sides of the argument. You can’t know what somebody else’s situation is like until you walk in their shoes. Since I can’t do that, I did the next best thing- I read about walking in their shoes in the new book Welcome to My World.

welcome-to-my-world-stay-at-home-mom-vs-working-mom

Welcome to My World is a collection of stories from moms- moms who work in an office; moms who work at home; moms who work at being moms; moms who run companies. It’s curated by Sarah Bryden-Brown, who also did Stories I’ve Only Told My Mom, I book I loved.

So what did I learn? That it’s not so clear cut and dry. There’s more than just working mom vs stay at home. There’s the my-work-runs-into-my-life mom, there’s the

Some of my favorite stories include that of Ali Wing, CEO of Giggle, whose son needed to remind her that “normal” moms wear jeans and tennis shoes on field trips and invite other moms on coffee dates.  Amber Doty so smartly highlights two very important things: that moms in the workplace are treated differently and that not all moms are sitting at their desks wishing they could be stay at home moms. They’re not at their job because they’re forced to based on salary, but because having a career is ingrained in who they are as a person.

stay at home mom

There’s Sharon Beesley who couldn’t stand being a stay at home mom so much, she stopped staying at home. Now she’s a stay-outside-the-home and let the mess wait for another day mom. The let the mess wait sounds awfully good to me. Winking smile Robin Farr shows us it’s not as easy as working mom or not working mom- the bottom line is, being a good mom has nothing to do with your work status. My favorite line: “…my son, as would be expected, didn’t always understand that even though I was there working, and banging on the door or yelling ‘I WANT MAMA!’ wasn’t something I had on my calendar for the day.”

Erin Shea reminds us it’s not really about working or not working- it’s about the dramatic change your life takes when a child enters the picture. I found myself particularly relating to Joanne Bamberger– who doesn’t wear a power suit to work, but isn’t twiddling her thumbs in her pajamas- and I don’t even have the “mom” part to add to the job description yet. Ok, I may wear pajamas some days…

stay at home vs working mom

The book is filled with mothers who think stay at home moms are lying when they say they are fulfilled by their role, and stories of moms who weren’t fulfilled until they left successful careers behind to spend their days going on playdates and playing make believe with their children. There are moms who still haven’t figured out what role they want or what role is best. There are moms that find being a mom is just plain hard- the work part doesn’t matter.

Even though I though I could imagine all sides of the possible story, this book brings eye opening stories into light, and makes you realize it’s not an easy answer at all: to work or not to work…or something in between?

You can find Welcome to My World on Amazon for Kindle, Kindle Cloud (a free web app), or the Nook.

So where do you fall on the working mom vs stay at home mom spectrum? Who has it easier? Is one better than the other?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen October 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

Ahh, this is my biggest pet peeve too! Before getting laid off last month, I worked from home full time for close to 3 years. I worked 8-5 and was strapped to my computer, yet people assumed I did laundry and cooked all day. Umm no. The only difference between being in an office and being at home is you get to wear more comfortable clothes.

The decision to work vs. not to work is so hard. We can’t really afford for me to stay at home nor do I really want to. I was offered another work from home job yesterday, but when I told them I was pregnant, they said they’d have to get back to me which shocked me. Being a woman is tough!

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Katie October 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

Just so you know (if you didn’t already), it’s completely illegal for a potential employer to do that to you. You should call them on it.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:28 am

That was my first thought too- they shouldn’t do that! I hope the job turns out for you. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when people think you don’t do anything all day just because you’re at home?! Yikes.

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Lee October 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

I’m not a mom, so I don’t really know, but I’ve talked to two of my friends who are stay at home moms and they both say that in a way, they envy moms who work because they get some time to be themselves and aren’t mommy 24 hours a day. I can totally see that.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:31 am

I can so see that too- sometimes you just need a break!

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Amber October 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

I love you for many reasons, but this review is just another one. I can’t wait to read about how you handle the role of work from home mother. 🙂

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K. C. October 7, 2011 at 10:50 am

Fantastic and insightful review!

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Liz October 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

I can’t wait to read this! I don’t think it’s a cut and dry issue- there are incredibly hard working SAHMs who throw themselves into the role with everything they have, and there are others who play tennis, shop and lunch while nannies do their mothering so that they have loads of “me time.” There are working moms who are absent from their kids’ lives, choosing to let their careers and the office keep them away from their families, and there are others who are busting their butts to do a great job at work so they can get home to throw themselves into mothering with the same vigor. There are others of us who try to do both equally well, often robbing Peter to pay Paul when the lines between work and home life blur. Bottom line, most of us are doing the best we can, and making choices for ourselves, our children and our families that we think will benefit everyone in the long run.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

That’s so true- just because you’re in a particular role doesn’t mean you handle it the same as someone else!

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Katie October 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

WHO CARES?!

I’ve been on both sides and honestly, some days it’s easier staying home and some days it’s easier going to work.

But seriously, why do moms need to make others feel worse about their “status”? IT DOES NOT MATTER. And you alienate other women by doing it.

Ugh. I just can’t stand this issue.

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Kalie October 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

FAntastic post! 🙂 My babys in heaven 🙁

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Kristen @ The Concrete Runner October 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I think, as a teacher, I will get the best of both worlds – work 9 months out of the year and be a stay-at-home mom for 3 months. Although I would love to stay at home with my kids, I am still driven by my career. I absolutely LOVE what I do and couldn’t imagine not doing my job, but I also know that I’m going to love being a mother also. I think if the opportunity presented itself, I would be happy to stay at home with my kids, but I think I would also miss working.

And honestly, I can’t believe people think that just because you work from home means you don’t work. After being unemployed for almost a year, I worked harder just looking for jobs than I did at any other actual job. I think I would also work a lot harder at home, especially being self-employed, since you are the sole person bringing in the money. Much harder job, I’m sure.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:33 am

That would be a great combination! I’m excited to see how it goes for you 🙂

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melissa October 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I work outside the home and I hate this debate in general. Being a mother is hard no matter where you are, and I will never understand why this is a fight. 2 of my closest friends are stay at home moms, and when we talk we all have the SAME COMPLAINTS about being moms, taking care of our homes, taking care of our families, longing for “me time” or “girl time.” It is so maddening that people can’t just say, “hey, it’s all hard! Let’s support each other!” and instead turn it into “oh you stay home? how easy your life must be!” or “oh you work at an office? you must not love your children enough.” Makes me sick.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

I love your point that you all have the same complaints and things to deal with regardless of work situation- so true!

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Christina October 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

For me, with MY baby, in MY situation, I find working to be easier. I need the sturcture that I can control. And I had a sick baby while I was home on maternity leave, so it was a very hard 10 weeks. But every mothering situation is different, just like every pregnancy is different.

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Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength October 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Amazing post! I have been thinking about this a ton because I had an awesome maternity leave (June – August) and had a great time with my baby. There were absolutely days that were hard, but I loved it. Now I’m back at work…working 3 days in the office and 2 days at home so I am getting a mix of the office and work from home mom. None of it is easy. Like Christina above said…everyone’s situation is different. For me staying home was much easier, but that’s because I have a really easy-going baby and I am good at entertaining myself so I never got bored.

I actually like having a combination of being home with my baby and going to work, but I do wish that on the days I was home I could just be a mom instead of trying to multi-task all day. Either way, I have a feeling I will experience all 3 situations as life changes through the years and I think they will all be hard, yet rewarding. 🙂

Couldn’t agree with you all more that we need to support each other instead of being jealous, catty or just plain mean!

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:37 am

I think it’s great that you’ve gotten to experience all sides of the situation! That’s really the only way to know what you like best. I think doing a combination -whatever that combo is- would be the best. That way it’s a little different everyday. 😉

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Tanya @ Dine, Dash and Deadlift October 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Well seeing as I do not have children, I am not exactly an expert – nor do I have first hand knowledge of this topic to share. However, both of my parents worked (away from the home) – and still do, while I was growing up. I think my mother had it much harder than other moms who stayed-at-home. She worked a full-time job which she had to commute to, carted my sister around to dance, soccer, etc before we had our license, cooked, cleaned, did laundry, gardened, ran errands, etc, etc. Certainly no “me time” for her. My view of the stay at home moms I knew growing up is that they had it MUCH easier. No commuting to work. No working 40+ hours a week. While the kids were at school they had plenty of “me-time” and plenty of time to take care of errands, chores, etc.

There is a difference between working from home and not working. If you work from home, you are still a working mom and not a stay-at-home mom in my opinion.

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tinysneakers October 8, 2011 at 8:41 am

I think there’s a big difference if your kids go to school or not too! Then you still get a little flexible time to yourself. But I agree, working moms still have all the duties as stay at home moms when it comes to after school activities- yikes!

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Tiny Blue Lines October 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Needed this today. I’m just making the switch over from work-at-home mom to a labor and delivery nurse, and it’s been so overwhelming. I feel like I’m always waiting for the perfect job situation that will make me a happier, better mother, but the truth is, there is no right fit for everyone. I feel guilty that I want to be a work-at-home mom, it doesn’t feel like a “real” job, but I also feel guilty that I gave it a shot, and some days, hated it. It’s so hard to not have that “clock in, clock out” mentality to divide home and work. Can’t wait to check out all the other moms who are making it work. Good luck to you with the little one!!

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sarah (the SHU box) October 9, 2011 at 9:52 am

love this post – and i want to read the book! i completely see both sides — just yesterday, i was talking to a friend who has a 7 month old (she was a preemie, no less!) and she said she was COMPLETELY ready to return to work after 12 weeks. i don’t know that i’ll feel that way but it’s nice to know that some do.

one thing i do know is that I CANNOT PREDICT what i’m going to like and how i’m going to feel until i actually have a baby. so i’m trying not to stress too much! i have no choice other than to be full-time after my maternity leave (12 weeks) but a year later when i get a ‘real’ doctor job, i am hoping to be able to choose part time if that is what i feel would fit my needs (and wants) best! but: one step at a time.

i just don’t think there’s a ‘right’ or ‘better’ answer for anyone!

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Jen @ Eat With Knowledge October 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

This is such a great debate!!! Heather I feel 100% like you- I want both options and I think that’s why I love our profession so much- we have the ability to do that as dietitians when most careers don’t.

I actually learned at PSU in one of my human development classes that the research says it’s best for the child when the mother does what she WANTS to do- not forced in a financial situation, from family, etc- and when she listens to her own personal gut the kid turns out best- whatever her decision may be!

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Liz S January 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm

clearly i’m a little late to the game here (it’s jan now, not oct after all), and i am FAR from being pregnant, but i cannot wait to be a mom someday and also cannot wait to be a doctor someday soon. but i almost didn’t choose that path because i was not sure how it would affect my ability to be a mother. this little tidbit, and this entire post and discussion, eases my mind more than you all could know!

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K. C. October 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

Melissa, I love you! I’m all about parents supporting one another instead of tearing down. It IS all hard, and if we could all see each other’s points of view with commiseration instead of judgment, I would be thrilled.

And tinysneakers, the line “where you work doesn’t determine if you work” makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It’s beyond perfect and oh, so true.

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Robin | Farewell, Stranger October 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

Thanks for the review and the shout-out!

Is it odd that I’m surprised to hear that you get this when you don’t have kids? What is it about working from home that people fail to understand? It makes me think women’s work, in any form, is still really undervalued. If you’re running a business from home, that shouldn’t be taken any less seriously than if you rented office space.

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