A few months ago, I was grabbing lunch with a new mom friend, and we commented on how much we had in common as working moms in similar industries. We were able to “talk shop,” share experiences, and express our struggles in parenting as working moms. And while it was certainly much easier to relate to a mom in a similar situation, it also got me thinking about how we (society) tend to look at moms as falling into one of two buckets: You’re either a “working mom” or a “stay-at-home mom.” I’m definitely guilty of categorizing myself, and maybe making assumptions about what I will or won’t have in common with someone because of what group they fall into.
But, I wanted to change that.
So, I got input from a number of moms in these various categories to get their thoughts. It was definitely enlightening to hear about experiences from women who aren’t in the same situations as me, and I thought it might open some other eyes as well.
Explain why you’re a “working mom” or “stay-at-home mom.”
Stay-at-Home Mom 1: My main role has evolved to being the primary caretaker. I have a part-time job, but most of my time is dedicated to “staying home” which involves taking care of the home and all the kids and animals within it.
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: I had to leave my career to care for my son’s health needs and appointments.
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: I was a SAHM initially because I had already been laid off from my job due to COVID, and sending twins to daycare was too expensive. I continue to be a SAHM (kids are now 16 months) partly due to the costs of childcare, but also because we don’t plan on having more kids, so I want to soak up as much time as possible with my kids while they are babies.
Stay-at-Home and Working Mom: I wanted to hang onto my job! I loved it, and I get so much satisfaction from it. I worked hard for my degree and didn’t want to lose years of career experience. I saw my parents struggle on one income through the 2008 recession and wanted that security net. I did work with my company (who was AMAZING) for a reduced schedule while my kids were little. This has looked like a reduced workweek schedule with some very late nights and weekend work (especially during COVID).
Office Mom 1: Even though I always wanted to be a mom, I also wanted a career. Staying home with my kids wasn’t something I really considered an option, both from a financial perspective and because I felt I’d be a better parent if I worked.
What does your daily schedule look like on a typical weekday?
Stay-at-Home Mom 1: Preparing meals, driving kids places (school, activities, etc.), working out, running errands, work time and relax/down time.
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: Parent pickup, run errands, pick up medicine, go home to clean, pick my son up, go to therapy appointments, head to swim lessons, go home, make dinner, and then drive to school (for me).
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: Kids wake up around 6:30am. I make breakfast, we play, then they nap from about 10:30am–1pm. This is when the majority of my “me” time happens, although chores are absolutely not self-care, so I don’t know if you’d really call it “me” time. Clean up the house, run out to the store, I do some very part-time work from home, etc. Kids wake around 1pm, and we have lunch, play, then dinner around 4:30pm, put them to bed around 6/6:30pm. I am typically in bed by 8pm, watch some tv, and go to sleep around 9:30pm.
Work-at-Home Mom 1: Honestly it depends on when I have meetings. But I try to do it in chunks. Morning, afternoon, and I’m lucky if I can finish it after the kids go to bed.
Work-at-Home Mom 2: I work from home most days from 7am to school pickup time, about 3pm. One day a week I go to the office. I work from home in the evenings for a second job.
Stay-at-Home and Working Mom: Right now, summer looks a little different! Half day school/camp dropoff, work like crazy, pick kids up, work during naptime, log off before dinner to play with the kids and try to pick up. Sometimes after bed or after my husband gets home I make up any additional work and check email.
Office Mom 1: My husband drops the kids off at school in the morning, and I’m at the office between 8:30 and 9am. The kids are in extended day, so we pick them up between 5:30 and 6pm unless we have soccer, which means pickup before 5pm. Whoever gets home first starts dinner (we try to have a plan ahead of time on what we’re cooking), we eat around 6:45pm, get the kids bathed, read books and have them in bed by 8:30pm. Then my husband and I clean up, and I sometimes work a bit more while we watch a show. We’re usually in bed around 11pm. Rinse and repeat!
Office Mom 2: I leave at 7:15am, drop off oldest daughter, work until 4:30pm, do ballet/baseball/whatever kid activity, make dinner, baths, books, bed for four kids. Make lunches. Maybe do laundry. Fall asleep by 9:30pm. Repeat.
What are things you love about being a stay-at-home mom or working mom?
Stay-at-Home Mom 1: I love the freedom of being a SAHM. I’ve been both and while as a working mom you have more alone time, you’re still giving up your own time (8+ hours a day) to someone else. Having that time back is incredibly freeing and makes the money not even seem worthwhile.
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: More time with my son! I get to be an active member of his health team, his growth, and his development.
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: I absolutely love being a SAHM and getting to see my kids learn new things and grow everyday. I love the flexibly of being home and having that time to get things done during the day while the kids nap. I also rarely have to do my hair or makeup in the morning!
Work-at-Home Mom 2: I love my flexible schedule that allows me to be able to take time for my kids, while also earning an income.
Stay-at-Home and Working Mom: I loved being the one there for naps and diaper changes as babies. I’ve loved occasionally having the flex time to give my kids some morning weekday fun. I also love the satisfaction of working — I really enjoy what I do!
Office Mom 2: A paycheck. Health insurance. Retirement. College savings. Showing my daughters that you have to be able to take care of yourself.
What are some challenges you face as a stay-at-home mom or working mom?
Stay-at-Home Mom 1: Juggling all of it!
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: Isolation, lack of understanding or support from other moms, the idea that it’s all so glorious, and we do nothing. The mental health factor of it all.
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: It is very hard to separate my identity as “Jess” vs. being a mom. I feel like I am always in mom mode. My daughter in part is very attached to me because I am always there, so I have thought about sending them to daycare soon (just part-time) to get used to being without me sometimes.
Work-at-Home Mom 1: Since I’m working from home and have my youngest, it’s hard to balance. Also friends who work and have a sick kid or need someone to pick up their kids expect me to be able to since I already have a kid at home.
Work-at-Home Mom 2: Not enough time. Always having to be the on-call parent, even when work is busy. Household chores seem impossible to accomplish.
Stay-at-Home and Working Mom: I’ve been doing both roles (stay-at-home and working mom) a lot thanks to part-time childcare not being as reliable, COVID, etc. I am so tired of trying to juggle being a good mom and a good employee and feeling like I’m failing. My house is always messy.
Office Mom 1: I have mom guilt and work guilt; I never feel like I’m giving enough to my kids or to my job, and it can be a really hard balance to strike.
Work-at-Home Mom 4: Trying to work while all the kids are home is insanely difficult.
Office Mom 2: Lack of time for anything fun or for myself.
What are some misconceptions you’ve heard about stay-at-home moms and working moms? How do they make you feel?
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: “We are glorified trophy wives with nothing to do.” I feel like that is one big misconception. I didn’t choose to step away from my career or my social life or anything of the like. My child’s health demanded it and as a parent, it is my responsibility to do what is in the best interest of my child. I get that we are fortunate enough to be able to do that, but to say that it’s all margs and tans is a low blow. The sacrifices we make are still there, you just might not hear about them as much.
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: That people don’t think being a SAHM is a real job. I hate that because as I saw in a meme recently, people don’t think being a SAHM is a real job, but yet if you don’t do it, you have to pay someone else to do it. It is definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. People will ask what you do all day as a SAHM as if you have all this free time. Umm, well, half the time I’m making sure my toddlers aren’t killing themselves, so there’s that. As a mom of two toddlers especially, there isn’t much time for sitting, so I am constantly on the go.
Office Mom 1: I’ve definitely heard it said that working moms would rather pay someone else to watch their kids than do it themselves, which is super hurtful. I do work partly because I want to, but also to provide for my family.
What is something you wish moms in the opposite situation knew.
Stay-at-Home Mom 2: The sacrifices we make are still present, relevant, and real. You may not understand our reasons for being a SAHM or you may have done something different, but that doesn’t make our sacrifices any less important.
Stay-at-Home Mom 3: I wish more working moms realized why I’m choosing to be a SAHM. Not so that I can stay in loungewear all day (although that’s a perk!) or because I’m “lazy” and don’t want to get a “real” job. It is so I can have this literally once-in-a-lifetime experience with my children. I can always get a paying job later (I realize I am very privileged to be in this position), but I can never get back this time with my kids.
Stay-at-Home and Working Mom: I love you guys, but I can’t go to brunch or the spa on a Tuesday, or I’m going to miss that deadline.
Work-at-Home Mom 4: How hard it is to juggle work and parenting at the same time.
At the end of the day, we’re all just moms trying to make it through, one day at a time. With that, I’ll leave you with these wise words from Jenna Hager:
“All of the terms that we use to separate women make me mad. Like the ‘stay-at-home moms’ versus ‘working moms.’ Don’t divide us! We come together. Guess what? We all work! So, let’s just call us moms.”