Stay at home motherhood is the talk of every mommy blog these days. Whether a woman chooses to stay home and raise her kids or go back to work after maternity leave, everyone has an opinion on it and is happy to use the internet to vocalize their views.
There’s no shortage of articles discussing the daily snide comments both working mothers and stay at home mothers (SAHMs) endure for pursuing life choices that make them happy and benefit their family best. Every topic of motherhood seems to divide what should be a unified group: vaccinations, potty training, using formula, TV time. But none is so debated as the working mother conundrum. Both sides express guilt over their choices; working moms don’t feel they’re home enough and are missing out on growth milestones or the ability to take off for sick days. Meanwhile, stay at home moms feel they should be on top of every chore and worry that others and even their children view them as unambitious, less intelligent and anti-feminist. A woman shouldn’t be criticized for doing what’s best for her individual situation, and this catch-22 leaves many mothers wishing there was a better way to have balance.
“Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I’ll show you a man.” – Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
In a time when sharing any detail about your choice in motherhood opens you up to judgement, many women are seeking a middle ground on the overly stigmatized “stay at home or return to work” topic.
Returning to the workforce with young children has its downsides, but is often necessary for a family’s income as well as for the mother’s personal fulfillment and career goals. Of the 74.6 million women in the workforce, more than 70% are mothers with children under 18 years of age. Many women state that money aside, they continued working because they love what they do. Other women also feel the need to work in response to the innocuous observation their kids make that they are “just” a mom or “not working like daddy.” Then there are the judgemental implications of spending a partner’s money, rather than the reality of being a team that shares a joint bank account to give their children quality time and material things as they see fit.
For some women, returning to work doesn’t make financial sense. The cost of child care is extremely expensive, especially for multiple kids, not to mention many women state they have trouble finding reliable child care. It’s no secret that many women also face challenges in the workplace once they have children: more sick days and a flexible schedule are needed, breastfeeding and pumping at work is often not accommodated, plus what the New York Times refers to as the “mom penalty and fatherhood bonus” – a study showed that women with kids had a harder time advancing their careers while men with kids received more bonuses to provide for their families.
“The idea that one has to strive for professional success in order to be a feminist is so myopic and ridiculous. Women from all walks of life, not just those climbing the corporate ladder, are capable of effecting and fighting for positive social change.” – Jamie Kenny, Romper
Being a SAHM is simply a matter of preference. Many women who choose this path feel it is an honor to womanhood to do the child rearing that men can’t or typically don’t. It is largely felt in the mom community that women who say their career is the most meaningful work are insulting those who do dedicate their lives to being a homemaker. Enlightenment and empowerment disguised as sexism, say SAHMs as the gap agreement gap on lifestyle choices continues to widen.
A noticeable shift is happening with women who have to choose between careers and children. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey shows that 48% of SAHMs today consider being home full time the ideal situation, compared to 10 years ago when only 39% did. For working moms, just 21% say working full time is ideal, compared to 32% in 1997. Susan Shapiro Barash, a women’s issues expert and author, says, “In my research, there seems to be a backlash among the millennial generation; in a sense, they’re modeling themselves after their grandmothers, not their mothers.” Many of these young women look at their baby boomer moms and question their life choices that led to struggling marriages and an imbalance of work and family, she says. Today’s women are more concerned about living a balanced life than proving they’re Superwoman.
It’s 2018. In such digital centric age, there are more and more options for women to have the best of both worlds. Call it what you will, telecommuting, digital nomad, working remotely, there are increasingly more options in every career field for women who wish to work from home.
The best part is the options: freelance writers and graphic designers can get paid per article or project, allowing them to budget their time around when the kids are occupied or sleeping. Other popular occupation options include social media manager, crafting entrepreneur, accountant, remote customer service, blogging influencer, virtual assistant, web developer and tutor. When loss of sleep is in full force, flexible work from home schedules can be a saving grace. Such options are also ideal for women who have a husband whose health plan they can benefit from but still wish to have financial independence and make contributions to the savings. The majority of the downsides of this career are high self discipline to work when exhausted, kids being distractions and unforeseen wifi or tech issues. WAHMs also need a support system to be able to meet deadlines when the kids are running around, which could be a husband or a grandparent or a neighbor.
Women looking for different options of employment also seek to eliminate a resume gap that could deter companies from hiring them in the future. Two companies have devised solutions for this: Apres and The Mom Project. Apres comes from the French word “after” and is designed specifically for women returning to the workforce after taking time off. Many companies seek mid-senior level candidates who could add more diversity to the company, such as women. A study by Vanderbilt University found that being honest that a resume gap was for taking time off to raise kids is more likely to get them the job than not offering any explanation. The Mom Project was created for companies who want educated and experienced women for temporary projects, permanent posts or to fill in when an employee goes on maternity leave (a “maternityship”). This allows women to keep a foot in the working world while still focusing on their children.
With digital options and the ability to connect women with temporary positions through opportunities on the internet, the worry of SAHMs that they are seen as less intelligent than working moms is easier to dispel. Stay at home mothers no longer have to choose between work and family, income and quality time, career goals and child relationships. The internet has brought many things, both good and bad, but none have helped the “perfect mother debate” as much as digital and remote employment, which finally gives women a third option to get the best of both worlds.