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The Decision: Working Mom or Stay at Home Mom?

Many things go into the decision to stay at home or stay at work. Both can be the right choice and both can be the hard choice. Here we offer perspectives from two of our writers. They made different decisions and try to provide some perspective if you, too, are struggling with this decision.

The Basics

Do you work outside the home or stay home with your kids (we know that is work, too!)?

R: Work.
K: I stay home!

How many children do you have?

R: 3 now, one on the way.
K: Two

How old are your children?

R: 6, 4, 2 and due in May.
K: Two, and five months

Before Kids

What was your occupation before having children?

R: Civil Engineer
K: First grade teacher

Do you have a higher education degree? If so, in what?

R: Yes, a bachelor of science in Civil Engineering.
K: Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in elementary education.

Did you always plan to have kids?

R: Yes, I always knew I wanted to be a mom and an engineer. I just never thought about how that would actually work.
K: Yes!

Did you always plan to continue working/stay at home once you had kids?

R: No, I thought by the time I had 3 children I would be working part time for the family business.
K: To be honest, I changed my major several times in college because I was so certain that my life’s joy would be found in being a wife and mother. So, for me, it was really a no-brainer. Of course we had to ensure that it worked out logistically speaking. But my husband and I both knew from a young age that when we eventually had children, I wanted to be home with them. So that was that! As my husband likes to joke, “What Mama wants, Mama gets!”

The Big Decision

What things went into your decision to stay home/keep working career wise?

R: I was an “Engineer In Training” meaning I was not yet licensed. I felt I had to stay in the field until I passed my Professional Engineering license exam or I would never finish it. It would be like going to law school and skipping the Bar exam.
K: It was actually significantly more difficult to leave my job than I ever anticipated. I absolutely fell in love with teaching. The school, the children, the community—I genuinely loved what I was doing. That caught me off guard, and it was quite emotional as the days before my maternity leave drew nearer. The question people ask most? “Do you think you’ll ever go back to teaching?” And my answer is always, “I don’t know.” It can be a weird feeling to be so uncertain. But I’ve spent a lot of time as a new mom reminding myself that just because I say no to something right now doesn’t mean that I’m saying no to it forever.

What About Finances?

What consideration did you give to finances when you decided to stay home/keep working?

R: At the time I had just started a new job after having been laid off for several months. I felt like we needed the money. It was 2011 and the economy was pretty scary for a newlywed (wedding debt) new home owner (who needs blinds) new mother (all the baby things!)
K: My husband works in wealth management, so finances really were THE consideration.

Were health insurance benefits, retirement saving etc. a consideration in the decision to stay home/keep working?

R: No, not really. I was 25 and had faith we would figure it out. I felt like I needed a job, any job.
K: Absolutely. We keep a strict budget in order to allow me to stay home with our boys while also maintaining the same contributions to our savings accounts, retirements funds, and such, ensuring that we’re not putting our future at jeopardy simply so that I can stay home. And, let’s be real – the hit we took on the health insurance side was intense. But we knew it was coming, so we prepared for it in our budget, which took so much of the stress out of it.

Child Care? 

Was the cost of daycare a factor in your decision to stay home/keep working?

R: Not at the beginning. With one child at the daycare center we had to begin with the cost was $175/week which we thought was manageable. Now it is a concern. The cost of daycare for us this summer will be about $985/week if we send them all to a daycare center. At home daycare space is hard to find for an infant, especially. And the process of hiring a nanny is also difficult, but may cost closer to $800/week.
K: Certainly. As a teacher at a charter school, and with the rising cost of childcare, it made little sense for me to continue working to essentially just pay for childcare – especially since my heart wanted to be home with my boys anyway!

Coming to Terms with the Decision

Do you ever feel like you made the wrong decision?

R: Yes, every time I miss a classroom party or have to stay home from work with a sick kid, I consider what life would be like if I just stayed home with them.
K: I wouldn’t say I ever truly feel like I made the wrong decision, but I would say that in some small way I question the decision on a nearly daily basis. Raising these sweet little people is infinitely harder (and more fulfilling – but also harder) than I could have ever imagined. When my oldest is mid-tantrum or my little one won’t stop crying, I definitely wonder if this is where I’m meant to be. And the answer in the very depths of my heart and soul is always a resounding yes.

As a mom, what is the best part about your decision to work or to stay home?

R: At this point I think I am a better mom for them than I would be if I stayed home. I ensure they are involved in good programs, I hope I am modeling a strong female role model, our family is efficient because we have to be and I yell less when I get time to drink my coffee hot and know that the work I do is contributing to the greater good on a large scale.
K: I love that I have the ability to constantly pour into my boys each and every day, especially when it comes to our family’s morals and values. I know exactly what they’re being exposed to on a daily basis, which is both wonderful and terrifying (because when they pick up that terrible habit, I know that it was my fault! Uh oh.).

How Others See You

Do you ever have to defend your decision to other people?

R: All. The. Time. People are so rude. Casual conversation makes me feel like an inadequate failure on a regular basis. Maybe I am oversensitive, but I constantly feel like people are judging me. 
K: I’ve never really had to defend my decision of being a stay-at-home mom. But I have had to defend my decision to not take on certain activities or roles while staying home. I’ve found that because I choose to stay home, many people assume that I’m constantly available…which is definitely not the reality. My schedule is more flexible, certainly, but there is no doubt that I keep busy.

Any Advice? 

What advice do you have for other moms?

R: Keep your chin up. Some days it is so hard, I know. In the end they won’t be any less intelligent then their friends because they went to daycare or drank formula. You are providing the best you can for your family the best way you know how and that is all that matters.
K: To my fellow stay-at-home mamas, I would say: schedule your time, just like you would when working a job, or it will get away from you. Take on side jobs or responsibilities that add joy, not steal it. You don’t have to add frivolous things to your plate simply to be worthy. You already are, Mama, even when you don’t see or feel it. And, finally, if you think you want to be a stay-at-home mom only to find out that your heart doesn’t love it the way you thought you would—that’s okay! Don’t force it. You may find that you’re much better mama to your little ones if you choose to work outside the home, and accepting that is the best thing you can do for your family and yourself.

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About Rachel

Rachel is a native Coloradoan, though originally from the Western Slope. She followed her husband Chris to his hometown of Colorado Springs after having met in engineering school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. Together they have three beautiful children, Tommy (2011), Tazzy (2014) Zach (2015). Having a young and active family keeps Rachel on her toes trying to find ways to keep the ship sailing while still meeting all the demands of motherhood. Though Rachel loves her most important role as Mommy most, she also works full time outside the home as a Water Resources Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. This role helps keep her life in balance, bouncing from detailed and complex discussions relating to Colorado Water Law with her husband ( a mechanical engineer) to daycare and preschool drop off and pick up schedules, while being constantly interrupted by the equally complex musings of her 4 year. When Rachel isn’t busy with work or kids, she enjoys visiting family, making jewelry, baking, photography, writing here and at her blog, running a home business and seeing how many balls she can keep in the air at once.

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About Krista

Krista is a former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home mom to her insanely precious little boys, Hudson and Jones. She is married to her best friend and high school sweetheart, Randy, who is the peanut butter to her chocolate. Krista hopes to be a light and joy to the world, especially other mamas feeling stuck in the daily grind, through her writing. You can also follow Krista’s journey through marriage and motherhood kissesfromboys.wordpress.com.

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