WOH and SAH: the debate

So I am trying to make a momentous decision.

One that will influence my entire family, my entire future, my entire life.  But mostly, my kids.

In another life, I had a career.  With five years of university education under my glossy, pride-shined belt buckle, I became a professional in the working world – and I loved it.  I was an educator, with about 120 junior high students under my influence every single day, teaching subjects about which I had great passion (language arts and social studies), developing professional relationships with my colleagues in which we discussed all manner of academic/education related issues, and filling up my bank account with happy dollar signs (in Alberta, teachers have it pretty good.  I do realize this is not the case everywhere and am grateful to be part of a province that values its educators).

Then came my wee blondies.

And now my life is filled with, like most SAH’s (stay-at-home moms) and, dare I say it, WOH (working-outside-home moms) too – though not to the same extent, perhaps – poopy diapers, tantrums, pop-mommy’s-head-off hugs, arts and crafts (blech!  there’s a reason I didn’t teach elementary school!), tickling tummies, giggles and laughter, discipline issues, nap times, and meds (okay, that one’s not normal for everyone else, but it’s just routine over here).

And suddenly, my stay-at-home, homeschooling mom future is shattered by one phone call.  And I have to choose between staying at home daily with my children and taking the perfect career opportunity for a wannabe stay-at-home mom (team-teaching, which can be beautifully flexible and allow for the best of both worlds).

So I’m starting to engage in this debate.  HOW do I decide?

It’s an interesting debate to hop into, incidentally.  Most stay-at-home moms, myself included, feel strongly that staying at home is the best choice for our family (some of us believe it’s the best choice for every family, but that’s a discussion for another day).  I know there are so many, many incredible pros to staying at home.  Such as:

  • Remaining primary influence over my kids for as long as possible
  • Keeping the home less busy (instead of using weekends, valuable time with kids, we can clean during the week and have family time on the weekend.  Ideally.)
  • Time to cook healthy meals/snacks
  • Witnessing first-hand most of my kids’ aha moments, tragedies, triumphs
  • Doing what I totally love – being 100% there for my children and my husband, showing them they are the most valuable “things” (you know what I mean) in my life

Okay, I know there’s a million more – those on this side, send’em my way.

And there are incredible pros to going to work (part-time – at least, in my case):

  • Advancing my career – so when the kids fly the nest (‘cuz they will) I am still involved in something that gives me joy
  • Influencing tons and tons of kids (hopefully for the good)
  • Making some money (okay, I’m not a materialist, but you have to admit the draw)
  • Doing what I totally love – and showing my children how to choose a career they take delight in, and that Mommy is a person with skills and strengths outside of the home

And I know there are more to this side too.

What do you think?  Why did you choose to be an SAH or WOH?


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angela
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 11:46:32

    Hmmmm. Such a difficult choice. I am not a Mom yet so my opinion is not one that comes from personal experience; but I am also a teacher who loves their job and happens to have had a stay at home Mom myself. I can see both sides of your debate. Bullet #4 from the stay at home perspective is, to me, the biggest one to weigh – as all of the others I have seen working Moms find creative solutions to and do very well. Bullet #4 from the working perspective also stands out to me – as with raising daughters I feel this one is pretty important.

    It seems to me that working two days one week and three the next would allow you the best of both worlds. Would child care be tough to find?


    • Crystal
      Oct 13, 2011 @ 20:49:16

      Thanks, Angela. I think I mostly agree that #4 is one of the most significant ones, although I don’t necessarily agree that you remain primary influence over your kids if they spend the majority of their waking hours in someone else’s care. I think that’s a really significant one to me, also.
      Child care would be tough – especially for Aliyah – i don’t know if I would feel altogether comfortable with leaving the stringency of her routine in someone else’s hands. Have to really consider that one. I do appreciate your thoughts. Why would you say it’s pretty important in light of raising daughters (as opposed to sons?) Did you have specific needs of daughters in mind? (Curious…).


      • Angela
        Oct 17, 2011 @ 15:10:22

        Hey. Just realized you replied to this – sorry for the delay. It is a tough decision to make for sure and I do see both sides and have no idea what I will do with this crazy career of yours when I have kids. No doubt that something will have to give – and I won’t let that be my children so I might have to look at ways to lessen the teaching burden. If only job shares were so flexible on my side of the country! The reason I said bullet #4 was particularly important for girls is complicated to articulate, but I will try. Firstly, I read somewhere that the biggest influence on a child is their same sex parent, so girls naturally look to their mothers. Secondly – because I feel that while society has come a long way, girls are still shown in the light of constant service to others. Not that service is not important, it is!, but it seems as if their identity is always shown as being morphed/lumped in with/in relation to someone else. In other words, their value comes from how valuable they are to others in many cases. This doesn’t seem to be the same for boys!

  2. beth@redandhoney
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 03:00:01

    Hey Crystal, you probably already know that I am pro-stay-at-home. I know each family has to weigh that decision for themselves, but (since you asked for our 2 cents…) I think that every single one of the things on the WOHM list could easily be accomplished when your kids are in school (like kindergarten and older), whereas the things on the SAHM list are things that will not necessarily be available later – like being your kids’ primary influence when they are this young, or seeing their “firsts”, etc. I personally want to homeschool my kids, so there will not be a traditional career path on my horizon for a looooong time. And I’m more than ok with that. I see my kids as my career, I guess. And when they are grown and gone I trust myself to be smart enough and interesting enough not to be bored. I’m definitely not worried about that! Also, I just can’t see myself loving anything more (or being more fulfilled by) than being with them full-time. But, all that said – I can’t find it in myself to say that it’s absolutely wrong for every mother ever to work outside the home. You have to decide for yourself…. but from my limited perspective it seems that the arguments for not working outside the home in these early years are stronger.


    • Crystal
      Oct 13, 2011 @ 20:47:17

      I really appreciate your insight, Beth. I think that the problem with this career offer is that it is less likely to be a possibility when my kids are school age (because i won’t be employed by the schoolboard anymore at that point), and I do feel totally fulfilled being at home with the girls. I don’t know if I necessarily see being a stay-at-home mom as my career (although I totally understand why you would say that), but I can’t yet articulate the difference. The other big issue I have is that I still am seriously interested in homeschooling, which of course would not be a possibility if I were working outside the home. Lots to think about. I have until, I think, December.


  3. Catherine
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 15:22:23

    I’m a first-time reader of your blog, but as a mostly SAHM of two (now) teenage girls, I thought I’d weigh in on the debate. Both sides are valuable, and both have merit. When my girls were tiny, I thought that 15 years of my life at home sounded like a really. long. time. I did work part time (some evenings when my husband was home), but made it a priority to be there for most of thier ‘firsts’. I am NOT the crafty, homeschooling, cookie-baking type of mom, but I was there to go on field trips, host play dates, and put warm soup on for lunch on cold days. More importantly, I was there in junior high to wipe the tears and make sure my girls ate more than celery sticks (’cause that happens!). I will never, ever, regret those things, and when I look back on my life, I think the little things I did with them will make me proudest. But, I also knew that there was a different purpose for my life, and that I was supposed to ‘give’ to others outside my home as well. So, when my youngest was about 10, I started on my Nursing degree. I wanted my girls to see that moms can be smart, gifted, and professional. I wanted to demonstrate hard work and give them a heart of compassion for others. I’m a nurse now. I love what I do (part time) and I still love to spend tons of time with my (now almost grown) girls.
    I remember the debates about this subject when I was in your stage of life, and I remember the guilt that SAHMs and WOHMs seemed to inflict on each other. Don’t buy into the guilt. Do what your heart is telling you to do. The tough thing about doing both, is having the energy to be 100% present in the moment wherever you are. If you start to feel frazzled and impatient with your kids when you’re trying to hold down a job, then stop working and go back to those pyjama-mornings together at home. But if your heart is drawing you back to the classroom where you could build into some of those celery-only eating teens who don’t have a mom waiting at home, then you go girl!


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