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.

SAHM vs Working Mum: Who Wins? Business couple at a trade fair l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

As a working mum, with Hubs at a trade fair when L was nearly 2 years old

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.

SAHM vs Working Mum: Who Wins? Small baby on baby gym l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

L at the end of her first week of childcare, aged 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.

SAHM vs Working Mums: Who Wins? Girl asleep sucking thumb l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Saying goodbye to this every morning as a working mum was so hard

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
SAHM vs Working Mum: Who Wins? Colleagues in pub l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

I loved the social side of working – with my colleagues in the pub for my birthday


  • 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
SAHM vs Working Mum: Who Wins? Young girl with graduation hat and certificate l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Being a working mum meant I missed L’s graduation from Reception

SAHM experience

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
SAHM vs Working Mums: Who Wins? Big sister cuddling baby sister in the morning l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Being a SAHM means spending lazy time with these two


  • 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.

SAHM vs Working Mum: Who Wins? Mum with two daughters l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Me and my girls when I was a SAHM

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.

Sophie x


16 Responses

  1. What a fab post! It’s really interesting to read a post from the perspective of someone who has done both. I was always a working mum – I went back when all of my kids were 6 months – and at the time that was right for me. I actually found it harder when they went to school – the shorter days and not being able to do the assemblies/ plays/ sports days etc. Taking the decision to work at home now is definitely the right thing for all of us, but I probably couldn’t have done it when they were tiny.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…London, travel and crowded tubesMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I definitely think it’s a case of what is right for that mum/family at that time, as you say it works well for you now but wouldn’t have done when the kids were younger.

  2. Nikki Thomas says:

    Great post and you have really summed up the pros and cons of each choose perfectly. It is very easy to criticise other mums for their choices but sometimes, the situation dictates the choices that you make. Being a SAHM doesn’t suit everyone and that is fine, I m now a WAHM which is brilliant in some ways but I find that I do miss the company of other adults. Like everything when you are a mum, it is a balancing act and as long as you are doing what is best for you and your family, that is the main thing.
    Nikki Thomas recently posted…The Duchess Necklace from Merci MamanMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It certainly is a balancing act and I really hope that the majority of people are beginning to accept and respect mums’/families’ decisions when it comes to this. I hadn’t realised you were a WAHM now, what are you doing?

  3. Justine Allen says:

    Really interesting reading. I became a SAHM in 2007 when our eldest was born and didn’t go back. Our youngest is now 5 and at school and I am desperate to go back to work but struggling with such a large gap in my CV (I had a phone call from a HR manager about a job I’d applied for and they were enquiring where the last page from my CV was as it stopped in 2007!). I also find there’s no respect for what you do if you’re a SAHM and I’ve really missed earning my own money. If I could turn back the clock, I would have gone back to work albeit part-time and I would say the same to my daughter.

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that you regretted your decision. It’s so hard to know what the best thing to do is, I know that it was only really as I’ve started blogging, and therefore analysing my life as a mother, that I’ve realised things that didn’t work out for me in the past. I really hope you find something for you moving forwards. Good luck x

  4. 76sunflowers says:

    Great post on a subject close to my heart! I have written about being a SAHM in the past and about the ‘joys’ of being a working mum. The pros and cons are interesting but they can be very individualised – I wish I had money of my own as a working mum!! – that’s a whole other issue though 😉 I’m interested in seeing that you work as a childminder – I currently teach but have questioned whether to child mind for more flexibility to be at home??! Great post 🙂
    76sunflowers recently posted…Festive Peppermint Chocolate BarkMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I can really recommend childminding, it’s something I love doing and get a lot out of. It’s definitely worth looking into if there is a need for more childminders in your area.

  5. Great post!
    I am lucky enough to be a part-time teacher so I both understand the “two groups” and it doesn’t matter what age your kids are, they are both tough, just in different ways. A decision about returning to work after having children is never a decision taken lightly and totally dependent on individual circumstances and I completely agree with you, we need to accept other people’s decisions have been made based on what is best for their situation and stop arguing about which type of mum is “better”
    Karen (@karenjwhitlock) recently posted…Pumpkin PieMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      The “better” mum is definitely the one who made the decision based on what works best for her family, and is therefore (hopefully) happy. (Well that’s the way I see it anyway!)

  6. HPMcQ says:

    you know what irritates me?
    not you sophie clearly you don’t irritate me, but the who wins bit.
    why does there have to be a winner?
    why is the conversation always about what’s best?
    why do people have to have an opinion and ask what category you fall into?
    the winning status is surely the option that makes that person, that family the happiest at the moment in time. things change you know! x

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      The “who wins” bit was supposed to be tongue in cheek as I’m so sick of it being a battle over who’s the best mum. The one who wins for me is the one who gets to do what works for her, and what makes her happy. I’m so fed up of hearing that working mums aren’t good mums as they’re “abandoning” their kids, or that stay at home mums are lazy. I just wish we could all support each other in whatever our path is, and stop the battle and the “who wins” of it all x

  7. I really hate the whole debate thing! I don’t get why anyone would have an opinion of what someone else chooses to do work wise, it’s odd!

    I think another important consideration is that often it’s not a choice, some people have to work as they need the money.

    I’ve done both and currently work 3 days a week which is perfect for me 🙂 Although i do miss my boys when i’m not with them x
    Hurrah For Gin recently posted…The lowdown on BlogfestMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I hate it too! Like anyone should have any kind of say in such a massive decision, and as you say for some families it’s not a choice, whether to work or not to. I’m glad you have found your balance 🙂 x

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