Women & Work

The Great Debate: Working Full Time vs. Staying at Home

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with our first, I joined a local Moms group on Facebook to see what kinds of things I should be thinking about. After a few weeks of reading comments about everything from breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding to co-sleeping versus sleep training, I was officially overwhelmed.

I saw pretty early on that when it comes to parenting, people have a lot of opinions. And there are some moms (and grandparents and in-laws) who have no problem shaming other moms for the choices they make, especially when it’s not something “they would have done.”

So when my husband and I started talking about whether I wanted to continue to work full time after the baby was born or stay at home, my first reaction (as a certified people-pleaser) was to be terrified of what others would think of whatever decision we made.

If I stayed at home, would people think I was wasting my education and throwing away the 10+ years I had spent building my career? But if I went back to work, would people say, “Why did she have kids if she’s just sending them off to daycare for someone else to raise?” (I actually heard a grandmother say this very thing when her daughter decided to go back to work full time and put her baby in daycare.)

Luckily, I have an awesome husband who helped me to see that there is no right or wrong answer to the staying at home versus working full time question. Rather, it was a matter of deciding what was right for our family, and we were the most qualified people to do that.

Where to Begin

First we prayed that the Lord would help us see what was best for our family. Then we got out a notebook and dove into the specifics of what was realistic for our situation. We created 4 columns — The Pros of Going Back to Work Full Time/The Cons of Going Back to Work Full Time/The Pros of Staying Home Full Time/The Cons of Staying Home Full Time — and we started filling them in.

One of the items in The Pros of Going Back to Work Full Time column was keeping my salary. Could we afford to live without it? (For a lot of families, the answer to this question is the deciding factor.)

In The Cons of Going Back to Work Full Time column we put the cost of childcare. Oftentimes, the cost of childcare exceeds a mother’s salary. So a question we had to ask ourselves was whether putting our baby in daycare (or hiring a nanny) was even financially viable. In our particular situation, my husband’s mother (who lives out of town) had offered to step in and provide full-time childcare, but we had to talk about boundary issues that arrangement might present.

In The Pros of Staying Home Full Time column, we added the quality time I would get with our baby and the chance to establish a solid routine with her.

In The Cons of Staying Home Full Time column I wrote the questions, “When we’re done having kids and they’re in school, will it be easy for me to jump back into the workforce? Or will my time at home make me less marketable to potential employers?” (I have to admit, this was a big fear of mine. Plus, I love working, so I had to honestly ask myself if I would be fulfilled staying at home.)

Other Factors to Consider

My husband and I also talked about friend circles I would develop if I stayed at home versus continued to work, how we would share the household responsibilities if I continued to work, and how we would we decide who would take the day off to care for the baby in the case that she got sick at daycare or the nanny called in sick. (My husband travels quite a bit, so the majority of this responsibility would be mine, which was something to consider. Would my job be flexible enough to allow this?)

As you can probably tell by now, I’m not going to tell you what you should do, because I don’t know. Contrary to what many believe, God may have designed one mom to work outside the home full time and another to work inside the home full time. I have friends who wanted so badly to be stay at home moms, and God provided a way for them to do that. I have other friends and coworkers — very godly women, by the way — who told me they were better wives and moms when they worked outside the home, and God provided a way for them to do that too.

To those of you who may be in a season of deciding where God wants you — at home or outside the home — don’t let the fear of others’ opinions cloud what you and your spouse decide is best for your family. God has entrusted this child to you, and He will give you wisdom for the road ahead. Seek the Lord, talk to your spouse, and determine what is and isn’t possible — practically speaking — for this next season of life. And then, with God’s help, make the best decision with the knowledge you have.

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