I’m a stay-at-home-mom. I have been for a little over year, and I go back and forth about my decision to stay home on a weekly basis. Part of me thinks it’s better that my daughter is with me instead of stuck in daycare with strangers all day. The other half thinks she’d already be speaking in full sentences if she were forced to communicate with other kids on a daily basis. And this is the battle I wage with myself every day: is it better to stay home and love on my baby all day, or leave her in someone else’s capable hands and get back to work?
There are benefits and drawbacks to both situations. An estimated 69.9% of women with children work full time and run the risk of missing major milestones, yet they’re able to afford more opportunities for their children. Those who stay home benefit from being around to watch their children grow firsthand, but sacrifice their careers and risk losing their identity outside of motherhood.
Of the 85 million kick-ass mothers in the United States, 5 million of them stay at home, but in a Pew Research Center Study, Mother’s and Work: What’s “Ideal?”, moms who worked part-time were happiest. Though economically, they’re making little profit: the average cost of childcare in New York is $10,400 (and rising by $790 each year), while Glassdoor estimates that the average part-time salary in New York is $23,663.
While part of the stay-at-home or go-back-to-work debate comes down to simple dollars and cents, much of it becomes a question of what’s truly best for our children. A highly-publicized 2015 study out of Harvard University revealed that kids benefit from having a mother who works outside of the home. Specifically, the study claims that “adult daughters of employed mothers are more likely to be employed, more likely to hold supervisory responsibility if employed, work more hours, and earn marginally higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.” This is the first study of its kind, and no doubt made many working mothers breathe a huge sigh of relief.
For those of us who’ve traded our rolodexes for swaddles, don’t worry, all is not lost. Taking time out of your career to raise your children doesn’t necessarily mean you’re permanently out of the game — even though it may feel that way. There are return-to-work services, like Après, that can help you return to workforce when you’re ready. If you don’t want to stop working altogether but need to slow down, sites like Werk can help you find flexible jobs.
Sometimes I feel guilty about my inability to contribute financially to my household, and then I think of all the money we would’ve spent on a housekeeper and daycare, and I feel more confident in my choice to stay home and smother my kid all day long. At the end of the day, women should do what they feel is right — for themselves, for their families, and for their bank accounts. When it comes to childrearing, I believe that what really matters is not that we give our kids all of us, but the best of us.