SAHM vs Working Mum: Who wins?
Us mums seem to constantly be fighting the never-ending battle over who parents best – Stay At Home Mums (SAHMs) or Working Mums? Then of course there are the WAHMs (Work At Home Mums) to throw into the mix too.
For some reason we’re either putting ourselves on a massive guilt-trip about which path we’ve chosen, or we’re criticising the mums who do it differently. SAHMs criticise working mums for not being around for their kids whilst working mums are convinced that all SAHMs do is laze around all day, living off their husband/partner.
So I’ve decided to wade into the SAHM vs Working Mum argument. I get really angry when women criticise others over which type of mum they are. I’d say that few of us have arrived at this path by choice and that most of us feel guilty about it on a regular basis. Often SAHMs are forced into the role as the cost of childcare is so extortionate. Equally many working mums daren’t step off the career ladder for fear of never getting back on at the same level.
What do I know about being a SAHM vs a Working Mum?
I have been a mum for nearly 8 years now; in that time I have spent 20 months as a SAHM, 4 years as a working mum and 14 months as a WAHM. So I like to think I’m quite well placed to share the various ups and downs of each option.
Working Mum experience
I became a working mum when L was 3 months old. It was a decision that was pretty much out of my hands. We were living in France where our full-time childcare cost us a mere 70€ / month, and my maternity pay + holiday pay came to an end the week L turned 3 months old.
Whilst I enjoyed my work I found it incredibly hard to be away from my very young baby.
I worked 4 days a week until L was 2 when I upped it to 5 full days. Before L was even 3 I would leave the house at 7.15am (while she was still asleep) so I could dash out of work at 5.30pm, catch the train to be at her (French) school to collect her by 6.30pm. I would see her for 1.5 hours every day which was basically bath, supper and then bedtime. At this stage I was a very unhappy working mum.
Before going on maternity leave with C I was working 5 days a week and L was at school/looked after by an au pair. Despite only seeing L for 1-2 hours a day it worked out well as I was happy in my job, and L was happy with her au pair. So I really feel like I’ve experienced the best and the worst of being a working mum.
What are the Pros & Cons of being a Working Mum?
- You are not dependent on your husband/partner financially
- You get to escape a messy house to go and spend time with grown-ups
- Someone else has to deal with your child’s tantrums/messes
- You can (often) take a lunch break / go for drinks after work and have a bit of a social life with colleagues
- Your brain gets used (however this can be an issue if your small people have stopped you from sleeping!)
- Your CV doesn’t suddenly having a gaping hole in it
- You will be expected to look presentable
- Someone else will see/hear your child’s firsts
- You often miss out on assemblies/plays/sports days because you have bosses that don’t understand or meetings that can’t be cancelled
- You miss the everyday moments
- You may only see your child for an hour or two a day
- You get the worst of your child – when they’re tired in the morning and when they’re exhausted in the evening
- You are on a never-ending hamster wheel of being your child’s PA, shopping, cooking, tidying, cleaning and general home/family admin around your 9-5 day job
I have been a SAHM on and off, starting with the first 3 months of L’s life. I then dipped back into it for 5 months when we moved back to the UK from France, when L was 3 and 1/2 years old. Most recently I returned to being a SAHM whilst on maternity leave with C when I was 6 months pregnant and L was 5 and 1/2 years old.
I have to say that I have loved being a SAHM and I have hated it. I loved it when L was a newborn as I was lapping up the time with my new baby. I hated it when we first moved to the UK as I didn’t know anyone. Then when I was on maternity leave with C there were times when I loved it and times when I wanted to scream (seriously, Show and Tell at school? Shoot me now!).
What are the Pros & Cons of being a SAHM?
- You get to see your kids day in day out – you see/hear things first, you put plasters on bloody knees and wipe away tears
- You enjoy all the those ordinary moments – your baby’s laugh, cuddles with your older child after a bad day at school, and more
- You get to have a real say in how your children are being raised
- You can get away with wearing whatever clothes you found on the bedroom floor and no make-up
- You can see your kids when they wake up in the morning, enjoy breakfast with them and collect them when they come out of school
- You never have to miss an assembly / school play / sports day
- You have no money to call your own
- You are likely to have little respect from anyone – not your kids, not your husband/partner, not fellow mums, not society (you may get some from fellow SAHMs and your own mum if she did the same)
- There’s a big risk that your career options are seriously reduced as and when you go back to work
- You are never off-duty, you get no sick days and holidays tend to look just the same as work days but in a different location
- Not only do you have the role of looking after your children but also of shopping, cooking, tidying, cleaning and generally being the family’s goffer
SAHM vs Working Mum, what side do I fall on?
Having done both I am happy to say that I am where I want to be. For now in any case. I am currently a WAHM. I work 3 and 1/2 days a week as a childminder, looking after our two girls and 2 other children. The other 1 and 1/2 days a week C goes to nursery and I work on this blog, Hubs’ and my food blog, Franglaise Cooking, and my bilingual children’s books, “The adventures of Elodie“.
SAHM vs Working Mum, which do I recommend?
Having been a SAHM, having been a working mum and having been a WAHM the answer is simple. You have to be whatever makes you happy and works best for you and your family.
I have friends who couldn’t be anything other than a full-time working mum, whilst I know others who can’t bear the thought of not being with their kids.
Whichever you choose don’t feel guilty about it, and don’t criticise others for not choosing the same path as you. Most importantly, remember that being a happy mum = being a good mum.
What about you? Did you know what you wanted to be? Are you happy with your choice? Have situations outside of your control forced you to take a path that doesn’t suit you? I’d love to hear how you handle being a mum.
If you’re struggling to make a decision around the whole work/life balance thing, or are not sure which path is the best for you, don’t hesitate to get my free video guide to decision-making and facing your fears, as I talk a lot about these issues in there.