After 9 months of mood swings, weight gain and pure exhaustion, my little boy is now here with me. For many women, like me, I received three months of maternity leave. Thank goodness I had AFLAC short term disability and had enough saved sick time, otherwise we would have been hurting financially. The miracle of birth is expensive!
I was told by many people that the three months would fly by, and boy were they right. After the pain of a C-section, emergency surgery for my newborn at 4 weeks, dealing with insurance issues and having the flu go through the house of five, the three months vanished before my eyes. Now it was time to go back to work.
As the date crept up, I kept thinking how can I go back to work? I have been waiting all of my life for this baby, and now I am going to back to 60 hours a week?
Before having my son, it was a no brainer. Of course I was going to come back to work. I loved the people I worked with and had built up a good reputation. I really enjoyed working, and let’s be realistic, some disposable income is nice. Of course it never seemed like disposable income at the time. Oh how little I really knew. Outside of the extra income, I always thought being a stay-at-home mom was too intense for me. The day to day social aspect of work had always been important to me, and I had relished in leading a staff to success. I worked hard and had been fairly successful in my banking career. In my head I knew I had a lot more to learn and accomplish, and as a go-getter, I lived for a challenge. And now my life had been turned upside down.
Every woman who had said “you just won’t understand until you have your own child” now was saying “I told you so”. One of my most hated terms. But, they were right.
I had many, many sleepless nights, tossing and turning. What was I going to do? Was I really even contemplating the idea of wanting to be a full time stay-at-home mom? It was just such a strange feeling for me and something I completely did not expect.
In the ongoing debate for new moms of staying home or going back to work, I believe there is no right answer. Most women have no choice but to go back to work. Others feel as though, the only right thing is to stay at home with their child. If you do any type of research online, you will find many articles written about these topics. Most of all these articles focus on the negatives and are extremely one sided. I truly believe that there is no right answer. For this reason, I have chosen to focus on the benefits of either decision: going back to work or staying at home. There are great cases that can be made for both decisions.
Benefits of going back to work:
- Increase in self-esteem for parent
- Childcare promotes early socialization outside of the home
- Children show more independence earlier
- Education and work ethic is promoted early
Benefits of staying at home:
- Will be there for all of the important firsts
- Children have less sick days
- Children show less signs of stress
- More family time is available
After many long conversations with several moms, I have come to my own conclusion with this long time debate. I think the well-being of the child really comes down to the character of the parent (as a general rule), not the idea of staying at home or going back to work. If the parents (single or couple) instill good morals in their children and pick childcare providers that share their character and style of parenting (or substitutability of parental care (Becker 1981)), they will have strong and well-adjusted children. There are too many examples of amazing working parents and equally amazing stay-at-home moms, that have raised exceptional children, that I can come up with no other conclusion.
Finances, of course, are one of the biggest things families need to think about. As with the miracle of birth, childcare is expensive. Whether a family chooses a nanny, a friend, family member, or a childcare center, many times money makes the ultimate decision. The costs range widely, and many families recommend starting the search early. Costs differ from type of childcare, and where in the country, city or rural area.
In my case, due to our concerns about my son’s health, we needed one on one care (in other words a nanny), which is by far the most expensive option. With childcare estimates pretty much taking up my paycheck and barely being able to see my family, the difficult decision was made. I would be a stay-at-home mom, for at least a few years.
I chose to come back to my work and give a five week notice, hoping to clean up any loose ends and prepare a smooth transition. My first week back, I saw my newborn son, on average, one hour a day awake. My husband definitely missed my role at home, and I had little time to spend with him and my precious step kids as well. My mom and girlfriend had been my angels for those five weeks and I am so thankful for their help. If I had any hesitations, the first week made me realize that I was making the right decision for my family.
I pray I have made the right decision for my son, my family and me. But either way, this is going to be an adventure.
Since I originally posted this in 2015, we have added one more child to the mix. I have no regrets, but I do miss working outside of the home. And I can’t wait to get back to work.