Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Great SAHM vs. Working Mom Debate

Today as I was reading a short blurb on Dr. Laura's blog, I was led to view a few clips from Anderson Cooper's recent show that featured a debate between working and stay-at-home moms. The question at hand was whether stay-at-home or working moms were happier. Apparently word on the street is that working moms are happier than us stay-at-home mamas. (Darn - I missed that memo!) I did not get to see the whole show, only a few of the clips which you can see here. What I did see was that a couple of the working moms labeled the SAHM's as lazy. Irritating (to say the least. . .)

I have always been open and outspoken about my opinions on this topic. My sophomore year of high school, my honors English class received the assignment to write a research paper on any debatable topic of our choice. After writing our paper, we had to present our findings with our classmates in a speech and respond to opposition in a questions and answer session. My stance and topic? Pro traditional family structure - moms should stay at home with their children. You can imagine that this topic lit a fire under the bellies of many of my classmates. I remember one of my classmates saying in a sort of exasperation, "But Jami, you're so intelligent! You could do so much with your life! Why would you want to be a mom?!" The fact that that question was being asked at all told me more about the successful brainwashing our psychotic individualistic/materialistic/feminist society has done than anything else. Because we all know that we don't need any intelligent moms devoting the majority of their time and energy to raising up the future generations . . . Yes, I realize how fair and objective this post is coming across to everyone. ;)

Let me be fair and acknowledge the other side here too. I have friends in both camps - full-time and part-time working moms and stay-at-home moms. Even some single mamas. And my heart goes out to the moms who wish to stay home but cannot. I understand that some moms work outside the home by choice and they are happy doing so. I had an amazing professor at BYU who worked - obviously - and had quite a large family. When I was at a crossroads of deciding whether or not to start my family and/or go to grad school, she talked with me in length about her spiritual journey of choosing to pursue her PhD and of choosing to be in the workforce. In telling her story she was calm, happy and spiritually reassured of her decisions. Her children are turning out to be great, productive, intelligent, happy members of society. From all outward appearances, it seems she has made the best choice for her situation, but most importantly - that she chose what God wanted her to do. Even though it was a choice against the grain - in LDS culture, especially. Yes, I can appreciate and sympathize with the exceptions. Though at the end of the day, I am not the judge of each individual or her choice.

Ultimately, everyone has to make their own decisions for their own family. I believe it is possible for two different families to take different paths with their child-rearing decisions and both be in line with what God wants them to do. Though, I cringe every time I hear about how "all choices are equal" as some cry. No. All choices are NOT equal. Some people simply don't make the best decisions for themselves or their families. (I feel silly even feeling like I need to write that down.)

I realize there are exceptions to the rule, but my overarching belief on the topic of SAH motherhood is this: I believe that as a whole, more marriages would be successful, and fewer children would get in to trouble if families made the decision and sacrifices for moms to stay home with their children. I respect the right for women to choose - it's a good thing we have agency and choices and go to school and work and on and on. It's great in fact! I love that I have my undergraduate degree, and that I had a few years of true me time before I became a mother myself. But for families, for society, my opinion has always been that - loving, engaged, and spiritually in-tune, quantity-time stay-at-home motherhood is almost unequivocally the best choice. Here's how I figure.

My Guiding principles/common sense on the Stay-at-home vs. Working Mom Debate:
  • Happy Mom = Happy Baby. Sure. Just remember that the things that ultimately bring the most self-fulfillment in life require the most selflessness.
  • We love those we serve. We serve those we love.
  • Not all choices are equal. Choosing God's will is the best choice above all other choices. If we are in line with His will, we should feel peace about our choice, whatever that may be. If peace isn't there, maybe it is time to reassess.
  • Supermoms! are a myth. You cannot give 110% to everything, no matter how much you wish you could. We are all given the same amount of time each day. Energy and time are like priority votes. We can tell a lot about who we are and what we value by how we spend our time and energy. Spending should be as consistent with our priorities as possible.
  • Quantity vs. Quality time argument: the most beautiful quality moments with children are sporadic and more scarce than abundant. It takes quantity time to be able to recognize the quality moments and energy to fully be there to appreciate them.  
  • Common sense: Moms know, cuddle, teach, and love their babies better than their hired help ever could. Babies love to be held, cuddled, taught and loved by their moms best.
  • Children only grow up once. Whether you are there (to see, experience, love, endure, connect, treasure, capture, remember, record, share, contribute, understand . . .) or not. 
To tie this opinion post up - and for all my LDS peeps - I want to share this quote I came across from Boyd K. Packer (an apostle in our church) - who said this about the power of stay-at-home mamas. It has been warming my heart all week:

". . . I would go back to the home that has a mother there . . . I ask you . . . what good is a big picture window and the lavish appointments and the priceless decor in a home if there is no mother there? The mother as a mother, not as a breadwinner, is an essential figure in this battle against immorality and wickedness. I would also go back to the family where children were accountable and where father was the head of the family.

Would you think me naive if I were to propose that this battle ultimately will be won on such simple grounds as the children coming in after school to homemade bread and jam and Mama there? Or on such grounds as Daddy and Mama taking their youngsters to Sacrament meeting? Or that tender hug as they are put to bed and Daddy and Mama saying, "We need you in this family. You are a part of us, no matter what your troubles are, you can come home."

I really believe this stuff. (Can you tell?!) I know my own mom was that "essential figure" in "the battle against immorality and wickedness" in our own home growing up. 
As a SAHM myself now, I'm working (haha!) to be that for my own baby boy. :)

So, you've read what I think, but what do you think? Are all choices equal in the mom debate? 


  1. As a senior in high school I was a finalist for a pretty big scholarship. It came down to another girl and myself. The committee debated who the winner should be for three hours. The reason I ended up not getting the scholarship is because I included having children in my ten-year plan. They said that it would be a waste of an education and therefore, a waste of their scholarship money. This has been over six years ago but I still think about how wrong they are. I know that my mother's education greatly impacted all of her children's choices in education and greatly improved our lives. Anyway, I think you are right that it is a very personal decision to work or stay home, but I believe that your degree will be beneficial to your kids whether you are in the work field or not.

  2. Wow Deidra that is quite an experience! I think Lincoln is lucky to have such a good, loving mom. I also think that working mom on Anderson Cooper's show (the one who goes to the gym) looks like the evil Disney woman character on Snow White (the one who likes to look in the mirror).

  3. I'm not a mother yet, so my opinions could completely change when I am. But for me I think I'll want to work only because I'll want a little time out of the house, time to myself. At least with only one of 2 babies. But I definitely wouldn't want to work full time, I want to be the one raising my children (not a babysitter or daycare) so I would only do that if I was able to work while my husband stayed home, maybe like 10 hours a week.... but like I said, who knows what will happen. Also, I think its personal, I definitely loved having my mom home with me, but when I was in school she started teaching and substituting and that worked great to give our family a little extra money and give her some thing of her own.

  4. I haven't actually listened to this yet, but a friend posted it on her FB: who's a bit of a feminist, so I don't know what's in it. But, I think motherhood is underrated. People don't respect what we are really doing. I however do make some money on the side selling art, and might be teaching some art classes in a few months, and may even be watching someone's kid in the fall... but I'm still a stay-at-home mom. Even doing those things I don't consider myself a "working mom."

  5. Love this. I stumbled on this from the Anderson Cooper website. I too blogged about this. I wish I would have thought to include this side of the argument in mine. I do think there are different types of mommies and what works for them, but I fully agree our nation is on a downturn when it comes to even basic manners and I definitely attribute this to when society decided to tell all women and mothers they really should enter the workforce. Good post!

  6. Go Jami, Go Jami, Go Jami! (also: You are wonderful and missed.)



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