Stay at home vs. work at home vs. work outside the home

“What do you do?” Four little words, one simple question…and highly emotionally charged. Whether you’re a stay at home mom forgoing an income (SAHM), a work at home mom (WAHM) or you have a career outside your home, chances are, you’ve either felt compelled to defend your position, someone has directly questioned it or you’ve passed judgment on another mom.

working mom

Motherhood isn’t easy. Anyone who says it’s ALL easy is either fooling herself or being dishonest. Sure, for some moms, a lot of it may be a cake walk, but there are definitely facets of motherhood that challenge us, stretch us to our limits and make us evaluate ourselves. No matter what your job title, we all share that common bond. Why, then, do we question each other’s — and our own — “job status?”

We’re all moms, but…

Moms are always moms. Whether you work at home, outside the home or don’t hold a paying job, if you have a child, you’re a mom. Most women can relate on that level. However, if the question of your job title arises, the situation can become touchy.

Kimberly Chastain, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and author of Voices of Christian Working Moms, believes that a lot of the problem is that women can feel judged when another woman does something differently. Basically, even if there is no judgment, perceiving it is just as powerful. And let’s be honest: when it comes to our kids, we can be a little protective of our choices or circumstances.

Which situation is best?

First, we need to recognize that not all situations are entirely the result of a mom’s preference. For example, being the sole source of income means most single moms have to work, whether it’s outside the home or at home, even if some would prefer to be a full time at home parent. Similarly, for some families, having one parent stay at home just isn’t an option. Losing one income could mean not being able to afford basic necessities. Finally, some moms, although they may prefer a work option, dedicate themselves to being at home moms because their child has needs that they believe requires their full attention.

Second, Chastain believes that the “ideal” situation looks different for each family. Not all working moms would stay home full time if income weren’t an issue and not all at home moms would work outside the home if they could choose any career they wanted. Sometimes our circumstances are the result of necessity…and sometimes, they’re the result of what makes us happy. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Different seasons

It’s also possible to fulfill different roles depending on your family’s needs — income, time or both. Chastain noted that she worked more when her children were toddlers and now works less because, as teenagers, they require more of her time for afterschool activities and practices. We’re not committed for life to what we’re doing right now.

Bottom line: stop judging

In the end, we all do what we have to for ourselves and our families. We need to stop judging each other, stop feeling defensive and begin supporting our fellow moms. Candi Wingate, President of and mother of two, sums is up perfectly: “Let us each make the decision that we feel is best for our families, and let us each validate the choices of others. By doing so, everyone wins: moms, children, and society.”


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