I reluctantly returned to work shortly after having my first child. Although I lost a large portion of my salary to childcare and transit fees, it was quite clear that returning to work was the best move financially for me and my family. In saying this, the decision from a logistical perspective was much more difficult. It would be a large schedule adjustment for me and my partner to ensure we were on time for pick ups and drop offs. We couldn’t afford the luxury of an in-home nanny and the idea of leaving my child behind for the day made my mind run in circles… hopefully it’ll get easier by the second.
Which brings me to the point of this blog- what are the pros and cons of being a working parent and being a stay at home parent? Is one better than the other? In this article, I will outline the pros and cons of being a stay at home parent vs being a working parent in hopes to help you with this difficult decision.
Deciding whether to return to work after having a child is undoubtedly a very tough decision. It is important to weigh certain factors to ensure that you are making the best decision for not only your child, but also for your mental health. Although it may seem like you’re taking a huge financial hit by losing an entire salary, when you factor in all costs associated with returning to work it may not be as significant of a loss as anticipated. Let’s consider some benefits and draw backs of being a working parent and a stay at home parent.
The Benefits of being a Working Parent
It’s very rewarding to know that your boss is as reliant on you as your newborn child. Although nothing is more important than family, not everything in life revolves around them. Consider doing things that piques your interest to ensure that you remember to take care of yourself. Going straight back in to work reduces your employment gap and satisfies our natural quest for intellectual stimulation. Returning to the work force is not only good for you, but also your child/ren. By introducing your little ones to a day care environment, you are exposing them to social interactions and teaching them to take instructions from people who are invested in their best interest; their educators.
Kids tend to learn to do things by themselves earlier and faster in a social setting than kids of stay-at-home parents. Plus, the more people who love your kids, the better! Children will learn confidence accompanied with learning by trial and error. A common argument that arises in families with a stay at home parent is the fight for who is more exhausted. Both partners clock in long hours and tiresome days, but neither truly knows the extent of the others day. It’s easier to stay in sync when both parents contribute to hours on the job and hours at home. There is a mutual understanding of each other’s day and you both work towards a common goal when you return home from work- get the baby fed, bathed and in bed in time for an episode of The Block.
The Drawbacks of Being a Working Parent
I returned to work after the birth of my child and I felt an immense amount of guilt. When introducing your child to childcare, your mornings are riddled with an anxious toddler screaming your name and clinging to your leg, desperate for you to spend the day with them. You run the risk of missing out on monumental life moments that you bought the baby scrapbook for. Not to mention the exhaustion linked with rushing home to cram in some quality time with your child before and after long hours at work.
Unfortunately, being a working parent means that your baby will miss you. There will be times when your child is crying at childcare, whether it be because they fell or someone stole their biccy, which will require the comfort from one of their educators. Thankfully there is something very healthy in this where your child will be connected with people who care for them when you are away. When juggling a busy working life and a newborn child, your relationship with your partner will inevitably change. Bid adieu to perfectly homecooked meals, neatly folded laundry, and certain signs of affection when all you want to do when you get home is get the house organized and crawl into a warm, cosy bed.
Benefits of Being a Stay-At-Home Parent
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent is watching your child grow and develop into their little selves. You will likely know them better than anyone else and you will be around for every milestone, whether it be big or small. Having a parent take care of their child for the day is very soothing and comforting for the child. Even the most dedicated day care worker can’t come close the to sense of security that a parent can provide their child. There are no shifting gears in the morning; no daily separation anxiety, no inconsistencies in routine (i.e when nap or snack time is.)
Children can really benefit when it’s the same person discipling and instructing them. Not only does this consistency benefit your child, but it also benefits your relationship with your partner. Because it’s your job to hold down the fort, both you and your partner will have clear roles within the household. These roles must be mutually agreed upon and allocated by both you and your partner to ensure consistency and that you’re both on the same page.
What Do Statistics Say?
A recent study has found that being an at home parent not only benefits younger children but extends to older children as well. The study examined the educational performance of 68,000 children and found an increase in educational performance all the way to high school aged children. Upon further investigation, the study found that children aged 6-7 reaped the most benefits from stay at home parents, stating that a parent at home gives children an academic edge over children with working parents.
Any parent is willing to make grave sacrifices for their children, but when you sacrifice too much of your mental health it gets to a point where it could affect not only the individual, but their family as well. A poll was released which surveyed 60,000 parents and concluded that stay-at-home parents report experiencing sadness or anger in their day at a higher rate than parents who work outside of their home.
However the statistical difference between a stay at home parents and a working parent wasn’t very drastic. For example, “The number of stay-at-home parents who feel they’re struggling is 42 percent, compared to 36 percent of working parents. The number of stay-at-home parents who smiled or laughed a lot the previous day was 81 percent, compared to 86 percent of working parents. A majority of stay at home parents, 50 percent to be exact, reported stress in their previous day and 26 percent reported sadness.” If you do decide to be a stay at home parent, be sure to establish a support network, including regular excursions outside of the home, preventing you from going stir-crazy. Associating yourself with likeminded individuals in similar situations will allow you gain perspective and advice, while also letting off a little steam because your partner forgot your anniversary… again!
Drawbacks of being a Stay at Home Parent
The most difficult part of maternity leave was boredom. Not boredom over having nothing to do, rather boredom with a constant routine that changes very little- eat, clean, poo repeat. Your job never stops, and you often have little time for lunch breaks. If you do decide to be a stay at home parent, be sure to allocate some time for yourself every week. Although its great and extremely rewarding to have a dependent child, it is an incredibly hard habit to kick. This might complicate your child’s transition to preschool. According to April Nesin, Ph.D in Paediatric Psychology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, it’s important that “your baby gets to spend time with other children… so they get a taste of life when they’re not centre of the universe.”
A Happy Medium with ToBeMe?
At ToBeMe, we understand the stress and weight of this decision. As parents, we can never know if we’re making the right decision for our children, causing any decision to be extremely difficult and worrisome. One option that is a happy medium between the two is enrolling your child in childcare. At ToBeMe, we offer our families enrolments anywhere between 2-5 days a week. When you enrol your child in care for two days a week, you child will still get the social benefits associated with care and you still get that one on one time with your little one. On your spare time, you can have a part time job or even start your own business. At ToBeMe, we are here to assist in any way possible to help support your decision.
The decision to return to work or stay home with your child is more than just a financial one- it is important to consider emotional and logistical implications as well. Taking a break from the work force does come with benefits that you couldn’t have if you were a working parent and vice versa. If you decide to be a stay at home parent, you have more hands-on time with your children, zero job related stress. If you’re willing to give up certain indulgences and budget wisely, staying at home may not have such a crushing impact financially. Only you know what’s best for you and your family and not every family is the same. So, don’t stress about what research, strangers, or John from down the street thinks.
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