By, Leah Arnold-Smeets, PayScale
The decision to give up your career to raise kids or return to work is a daunting one that seems to be a lose-lose situation for women nowadays. We’ll take a look at why women shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to return to work.
The idea of staying home with the kids instead of working full-time is very appealing — pajamas all day, no makeup, and no morning commute — who wouldn’t want that life, right? Well, if the reality of that scenario was as dreamy as it sounded, then maybe more women would willingly quit their 9-to-5s and happily live in their yoga pants until their dying days.
The reality is, most career-driven women find more balance in their lives when they are pursuing their careers rather than staying at home with the kids, making them better mothers and partners in the end. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that the “labor force participation rate — the percent of the population working or looking for work — for all mothers with children under age 18 was 70.5 percent in 2012,” which means there are far more women nowadays seeking out employment than choosing to stay at home. So why is there such a stigma behind mothers wanting to pursue their careers rather than stay at home with the kids?
It’s easy to hear only the critical voices, and disregard praise. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) get labeled as lazy or selfish for not wanting to work, while working mothers get chastised for leaving their children in the hands of others to selfishly pursue a career. It is stereotypes like these that cause women to find themselves guilt-ridden no matter what path they choose.
For Instance, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer had the media in a frenzy when she announced her pregnancy announcement shortly after signing on with the tech conglomerate. Everyone wondered how she was going to run the company after giving birth. The business world was chomping at the bit to see whether Yahoo! could survive postpartum. Not only did Mayer return back to work shortly after having her child, it’s reported that she has almost doubled Yahoo’s stock since taking a seat on her throne. If more women followed Mayer’s suit and ignored the critics, then there would be a whole heck of a lot more empowered working mothers sitting in corner offices.
It’s also true that not enough credit is given to stay-at-home moms for dealing with the realities of a screaming, needy child on a daily basis. Christine Ryan Jyoti, a SAHM who quit her job to raise her two kids, hits the nail on the head in her post for Forbes as she explains how “mom guilt” affects her on a daily basis:
“Despite my ranting, I understand that I’m lucky — many women would love to be in my shoes. But it’s hard to be grateful when you’re cleaning up yet another stinky diaper, dragging two screaming kids around or slugging through daily domestic drudgery. It can be challenging to think up interesting things to discuss with my husband after a day of mind-numbing activity. I frequently struggle to stomp down the negativity that bubbles to the surface when I finally have an adult to talk to. I just don’t get paid enough for this.”
The likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are gleaming examples of women who are proving that motherhood does not have to dictate your professional life — women can excel at both, if they choose. Ultimately, mothers should be encouraged to make the decision that is best for their families, while also not compromising their own life-long dreams, because regret is a terrible thing to face.
Tell Us What You Think
Are you a SAHM who gave up her career to stay at home with the kids? If so, share your perspective and any lessons learned.