Friday, February 6, 2015

The Stay At Home Mom, The Working Mom, The Mom, Which One Are We?

"If two mothers; a stay at home mom and a working mom are doing the arm wrestling, which one will win?"


When I was in high school, I once had a conversation with my mother, it was about the choice she made to leave her job and to stay at home to care for me after I was born. Three babies later, she never returned to work. She's always been a full time stay at home mom. I never dared to ask her if she ever regretted her decision to fully dedicate her time for her husband and her four children. To be honest, I knew what her answer would be but I wished she would have done something that I wanted her to be....

I once wished my mother never quit her job,  I once wished she never dropped off from law school, I once wished my mother was a lawyer, I once wished she just did not stay home cooking every single day for her family, I once wished she would have done something more for herself.

But my mother is not me. She and my father thought that a baby was better cared for by a mother. It was a traditional family value but at that time, it was what best for them; a father went to work to make money, a mother stay home with the children. As a young couple, they struggled with only one income but they had faith as long as efforts are made, the door would open and they were right. We grew up to be good kids, when I was in school I made my parents proud so many times. Four of us went to college, we never had any problems.

Growing up, I always thought that there's no freaking way I would follow my mother's foot steps. There's no freaking way I would stay home everyday taking care of my kids, cooking, cleaning and waiting for my husband to be home. Growing up, I was dreaming of becoming a diplomat, traveled the world. In college, I was dreaming to work for UNICEF, I was dreaming of working in a field where I can help children from all over the world. I was adventurous. 

Then things changed.

I met a man. This man makes me want to build a family. Then we built a family. It was just two of us in the first three years, then there were three.

When I was pregnant with my first son, the way I feel about love changed. It was when I first learned that I carried a baby with kidney defects and my unborn baby had a slight chance of being born with down-syndrome. It's hard to explain but I can assure you only parents know this feeling. It's what they called the unconditional love. And that unconditional love has changed me. I've never in my life wanted anything more than raising that unborn baby even thought he'd have down-syndrome, I wanted to be there for him no matter what. All I wanted is to protect him and to ensure him there's nothing in this world would harm him. I made a pledge to him, to myself.
He was born healthy, his kidneys fixed themselves. It was a blessing. A huge one. Then my husband and I had a serious discussions about what's next for us, what's next for the baby. I had a job before I was pregnant. My first permanent job in a big corporation in America and we decided I stayed home with him until I was ready to get back to work.

I must say it was the time off worth spending with my baby. We did so many things together, we had so much fun but yet, every now and then, I missed being around adults, I missed having intellectual conversations with my co-workers. Then the economy went sour. I had the needs and the feeling of wanting to go back to work, I wanted to contribute more for my small family even though nobody ever asked me to.

When my son was almost two years old, I went back to work. At that time, I thought that what's best for our family. I was so grateful the same company that I left after he was born wanted to hire me back. I was a full time working mom from February 2008 through November 2014 with three promotions during that time. As I got more responsibilities, things were not as easy as it was before. More money means more works, more responsibilities and definitely not less stress. In 2010 my daughter was born and this is where things get harder.

Any working mothers would know how it feels to leave their babies or their young children in the hand of a caregiver in a daycare center or with a nanny. I am not talking about relatives or family who is there to care for your children. I would never think twice to go back to work if my mother can take care of my children but I didn't have that luxury. I looked and researched  for day care like a maniac just to ensure I would find the one I can rely on. After I found one, I couldn't count how many times have I cried every morning after I dropped them off. It was hard for me to do that to Owen when he was only two year old and it was even harder to do it to Madelyn who was only about 5 months old when she started daycare.

Give or take, two weeks was the time we needed to adjust. Dropping off were a lot easier after that but juggling between two young kids, a husband and a full time job is not an easy task to make especially when I could only depend on my husband to share the responsibility. There were times when they were sick and I had to call my bosses to let them know I couldn't come to work.  I had no one to watch them. I had good bosses, they understood. Even though I was home I couldn't focus on home and kids because I was worried about work. I was preoccupied with work- how things were at work, how many emails were awaiting my response, how many messages were on my phone. It was like torture. It is true, no one can deny that family is important, more than anything but to have another responsibility other than family is important too. I was torn. Then there were times when I had to take them back to the daycare when they were not fully recover from their sickness even though their pediatrician said it's okay, it's not contagious, I often surrounded by the guilt with the thought of what a bad mother I was. My kid was not fully recovered from their illness and I had to put them back to the daycare. Bad...bad...bad...mother.

Then there were days when I had to take care of them by myself. A couple of times in a year, my husband has to travel out of town for his business. These periods were hard, I was basically a single mom during his absence. These period were like life lesson to me, at those time I learned how it felt to be a single working mother with young children and no help.I was constantly trying to catch up with times, schedules and deadlines.

Was I a bad mother? 

Was I a bad mother if I decide to work, being away from my children 8 to 10 hours five days a week?. Was I a bad mother if I worried about my work when I was carrying for a sick kid? (was it made me a bad employee too if I could not concentrate working because I was thinking about my sick kid?). Was I a bad mother if I can not show up as many time as I wanted to at my son's school to do some volunteer works?. Was I a bad mother if after a stressful day at work I just wanted to be nowhere around my kids or my husband and decided to spend an hour or two at a mall instead of being home and share my bad day with my family?

Then I look at my two children. They are well behave kids, they have their manners, they are happy kids, they are well dressed, healthy, well fed. I cooked for them most of the time regardless how tired I was after a long day at work. They do good at school, they never seemed to lack of love, they are expressive, they told me they love me, they told me they love my cook, they appreciate things I do for them, they hug me and kissed me every time I picked them from schools.

I wasn't a bad mother after all.

Being a working mom made me feel good about myself. I provided good health care for my family. I contributed financially to my family. I took my son to see my office a few times to give him an idea of what I did. I set a good example for my children; aiming for what they want to accomplish, teaching them about work ethic, about taking a job seriously, about how important it is to dress appropriately to work (or to school), about how important it is to show up on time (I have to say, Owen has never been tardy at school).  I teach my kids if they want something they have to work hard to get it.  All of that on top of doing my other duties as a mother at home when I cooked, cleaned, read them bed time stories or help them with their homework.

Earlier last year, my son asked why I haven't spent more time at his school, doing volunteer works. I explained to him why and I assured him I will never miss any important events at his school and I kept my promise. He seemed to understand. Also earlier last year, someone who works at his school (not the teacher) told me that she has never seen me in the school office before, as though I was invisible, it was just like a slap on my face. 

And then things changed again.....

After so many considerations, lots of discussion, the pros and the cons, last November,  we've decided for me to quit my job. Do you know what harder about this? it is to give up my financial independence. I worked my way up in a big corporate. I was proud of my accomplishment as an immigrant in this country. I probably made way more than the average Americans. I was not ready to give that up, but life is about making choices.

I did both roles. I was a SAHM for two years, I was a full time working mom for almost seven years. I am back to a SAHM for 3 months now. I know two years is nothing compared to seven years but I have been enjoying my time spent with my children. I am actually looking forward to summer when I can spend more time with them. I am excited about it. So if I was asked which one is harder?, which one is better?, which one is more rewarding?, which one is more tiring?, which one is more stressful? My answer will be being a MOTHER is harder, being a mother is better, being a mother is rewarding, being a mother is more tiring, being a mother is more stressful (how could I not be stressful when I can't stop worrying about the safety and the well being of my children?).

MOTHER, that's it. Not SAHM. Not WM. It's MOTHER. We are equal, we are the same. There is nothing wrong about staying home full time to care for our children. There is nothing wrong about wanting to have a career while also being a mother. What's wrong is to compare our roles as a mother with other mother because everybody's life is not the same. What's wrong is not to be able to provide quality time with our children. What's wrong is not to be sensitive to their needs. What's wrong is to THINK that other mother is less better than us because we are SAHM, what's wrong is to THINK that other mother is less intelligent than us because we are working moms

Being a mother after all is NOT an obligation, it's a life CHOICE.

"If two mothers, a stay at home mom and a working mom are doing the arm wrestling, which one will win?"

a MOTHER will.


  1. Eritat, this is beautifully written. I love your honesty and I can relate to an extend. I was a stay at home mom until my divorce, then I became a working mom full time. No choice. I have to provide. Then I tried working from home. While it is great it's just not enough. I returned to the corporate world. Quit again and now trying to make another comeback. Nothing is easy, such is life. Motherhood is complicated, messy, hard yet beautiful and worthwhile all rolled into one.

    You are an amazing mother and I so admire you but yes I feel more confident when I am working full time, I was happier too. It doesn't mean that I am not happy being home with my son no, but there's a different type of personal satisfaction and a pride knowing I can provide for my son.

    1. Thank you Maureen. I might go back to work force someday. Maybe when the children are a little bit older and more independent on their own.

  2. Nice writing, Mak. I'm freelancer, I work at home. It's difficult to work at home sometimes. Especially when the kids around me :))

    1. Thank you Fita. It is difficult but somehow, we mothers can manage. We are jugglers, aren't we? :)

  3. Imho. It's not a fighting between WM and SAHM, because we don't have competition in this area.
    But we are intimidated by what people think about us. As long as we have a faith on what we believe in we will stop judging each other. Women sometimes become a victim of the latest trend in society.

    1. Well put. I couldn't agree more. The media also plays important part of creating the gap.