The stay-at-home versus working mother is such a debated topic. I thought I would add my story. Maybe it will resonate with someone.
I grew up in a very traditional home. My mother stayed home and my father worked. I was taught that a woman's role was in the home and that's what I planned on. But, education was important and there was no question that I would complete college. I did. Then I went to graduate school and finished, still with no prospects for marriage that would lead me to a stay-at-home path. Fortunately, I was excited about a career path by then, which I pursued. And, I found a career that I enjoyed and was successful at (market research, if anyone wants to know). I did get married a few years later, at which time my career moved forward and I was really enjoying it. My husband and I actually had discussions about who would stay home full-time. We made the exact same amount of money, so that wasn't part of the discussion and my husband loves kids. But, it finally came down to the fact that I had more training and desire to organize the home. One of my criteria, however, was that I wanted to be making a choice to stay home, not feel like I was running away from a bad job. I can honestly say that it was totally my choice, not that it was easy to quit working in a field that I really enjoyed.
The transition was more difficult than I had imagined, but I still felt good about my decision. Then, when we added 3 children to our family within a span of 4 years, going back to work wasn't even an option. It's not that I thought I couldn't manage it all, but it would have meant a much more harried life. It's not that I don't like harried – sometimes I get really energized by harried – but mostly I wanted a more calm life. When it's calm, I feel as though I am able to get more of the important things done, because my time isn't completely taken up by the urgent (Stephen Covey time-management training anyone?).
I remember telling a woman at church when my child were babies that I fully intended to return to work full-time when my children were all in school. She gave me that look that seasoned mothers give new mothers that indicated that she thought I would realize eventually that wasn't possible. And, I have to admit that so far, she is right. There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal recently that reinforced my thinking.
This was the first year all three of my children were in school full-time. I had my mother living with me most of the year and taking care of her made working impossible, but even now I wonder how I could possibly juggle it all. I'm involved in a lot of community things, plus volunteering in the school. I did renew my teaching license (that was my undergraduate) and if the right teaching job came alone I might take it. Actually, if the right opportunity came along either in teaching or research or even something totally new, I would take it. But, the timing doesn't seem quite right yet. So, I'll wait for the right timing. Meanwhile I work at enriching my children's lives and exploring other personal interests and feel glad that in this economy I still have the freedom to make my own choices.