Bringing up a child is one of the keenest pleasures in the world and most women want to do this as perfectly as possible. However human beings can only do so much physically and along the way women very often have to compromise on their roles as professionals and mothers. So in the end, which is better for raising kids, a professional or a stay-at-home mom?
You are there for your kid
The first and most obvious argument in favor of being a stay at home mom is that you are the best possible person to raise your child. No one – not any teacher, nanny or a grandparent - can do it better than you. Indeed some would go even so far as to suggest that given a choice between a dad and mom as the primary caregiver, it is the latter who is sure to do a better job. It goes without saying that in everything you do, you will have the best interest of your child in mind – unlike a professional nanny who will be bound by number of hours of duty and other such limitations. Similarly a grandparent or another close relative bringing up your child becomes something of an obligation - a favor that they are doing to you which is why you cannot openly object to any of their rearing technique or principle. As a stay at home mom, you are involved in hands-on parenting which gives your child the best role model and best opportunities to grow into a healthy being. You can give your baby or toddler the most intellectually stimulating experiences and personally observe the various development stages. This not only keeps you abreast of the growth of your child but you are the first one to notice any development delays and thus take appropriate steps if required.
It is safest for your child
Mothers who depend on professionals or outsiders to take care of their children are always vulnerable to fears about their kids’ safety. You never know whom to trust completely and ever so often there are reports in the news media of disgruntled or greedy au pairs planning the abduction of children, either by themselves or in collusion with professional kidnappers. Even if such fears may seem exaggerated, there are very real possibilities of sex offenders prowling around, waiting for any opportunity to prey on little children. Thus it is no wonder that working moms are always checking and double-checking with nannies and daycare centers about their kids’ safety. As a stay at home mom, on the other hand, you have complete control over your children’s movements and can personally supervise their security.
You are not pulled in different directions
One of the main reasons why smart women give up high-flying jobs to become a stay-at-home mom is because they feel that they are doing justice to neither role. Thus in your workplace you are likely to be distracted by concerns of your child’s wellbeing while at home, you feel guilty about not having prepared for the next day’s board meeting. And then there are days when your child is sick or you are required to work long hours or maybe go out of town for a client meeting. All this leads to a feeling of being pulled apart in different directions which creates unimaginable stress and frustration. On the other hand stay at home moms benefit by smaller limits of their responsibilities. They are not juggling a job, an irate boss, dirty dishes in the sink and a colicky baby. A stay at home mom knows that her main job is to take care of her child and if her baby needs extra attention today, things like a messy cupboard and piles of laundry can wait. Also a woman who is at home can manage a snooze or go for a quick job to unwind when things get particularly overwhelming unlike a professional mom who is in a rush to get back home as soon she leaves her office.
However this is not to imply that being a staying at home is entirely unproblematic for mothers. The primary challenge presented by this option is a smaller, disposable income. Staying at home involves raising a family on one income instead of two. This not only means that funds are limited and have to be stretched for buying the necessities, but that you have to think twice before splurging on yourself or allowing your family to have certain luxuries. You need to make the single income go as far as possible which could translate into fewer trips to restaurants, cineplexes or shorter vacations. And with kids growing up, this means that you find it difficult to set aside money for their piano lessons, soccer gear and summer camps. Working women on the other hand have larger funds at their disposal which not only allows them to hire professionals for housekeeping and childcare but later on, their children can participate in a wider number of co-curricular activities like music, sports and camps, without family finances feeling the pinch. Thus the children who have been exposed to varied hobbies and interests and grow up to be multi-talented adults are usually from the better off families.
Suffering from low self-esteem
While limited finances may not be a problem where the father is earning enough for the whole family, the mother who stays at home can go on to suffer from crippling sense of low self-worth. In the intensely materialistic culture that we live in, a person is almost always evaluated in terms of what he/she does and how much money he/she makes. Also apart from the money, the absence of formal job titles, public appreciation and a wider forum for recognition of her efforts may feel disempowering for a stay at home mom. This is especially true for educated and qualified women who feel that they are wasting their abilities simply sitting at home when their less smart friends are being promoted and earning ridiculously high salaries. The situation gets particularly depressing when a stay at home feels even her own husband and children do not take her seriously. While this may seem to have nothing to do with her children, if a mother suffers from acute dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and even depression at her situation, her children are bound to suffer as well. They will grow up feeling unhappy because their mom is upset all the time and may even develop a guilt complex if they are used to hear her complaining that she had to give up everything for the kids. As opposed to this if a working woman is self-assured and satisfied with her life, even though extremely busy, she will definitely be setting a better example for her kids who will most likely grow up as better-adjusted beings. Indeed these days’ child psychologists and counselors believe that it is not the length of time but the quality of time that a mom spends with her child is what matters in the end1.
In the final analysis, whether a woman is a stay at home mom or a working mom, she should be a confident and happy person for her children to grow up healthy. If she is stressed, dissatisfied and suffers from low self-esteem, no matter what her professional status, her children are bound to feel the impact of her unhappiness.