Making the Decision: Stay at Home or Work Part-Time?

I recently returned to part-time work after the birth of our second daughter, but now I'm concerned I didn't make the right choice. In my heart I believe being a stay-at-home mom is best for my two daughters and my husband. How can I be sure I made the right decision?


Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

There is no "right" or "wrong" decision. If you choose to stay home with your children, particularly when they are quite young, that does not mean you will not want to pursue work or other activities that interest you outside of motherhood as your children grow.

Consider the ages of your children and their needs, as well as your own needs and desires. Ask yourself these questions: Are you enjoying it or are you missing your children more than you are gaining emotionally from your outside work? How are your children cared for while you are away? Are they in the care of their father or another relative who has a loving investment in their development? If they are in paid care, what is the quality of caretaking? How are the children adapting to the current situation?

Talk with your husband about this decision. You are a team. What do the two of you believe to be in the best interests of your children? What are your needs and desires?

Be suspicious of basing your decision on "all or nothing" scenarios. Life is about change. The purpose of family is to nurture the development of all of its members over the course of a lifetime. Determine what the most beneficial balance is in your present family system.

You may choose to appropriately delay or slow down your pursuit of a career -- or other interests -- while your children are quite young, but this does not mean that you can ignore your own development as a person. Be careful not to "pigeon-hole" your identity. Very often, when women become mothers they forget they are people first, with needs outside of the role of mother. You are a woman who is also a mother. Not the other way around. Motherhood is an expansion of your sense of self. Do not back off from fulfillment in motherhood; this is a part of your new identity. But, refrain from making decisions based on guilt for either staying home or working. Enjoy your role as "mother" fully, in whatever form contributes to you being more of the unique woman that you are.

Remember, nothing is set in stone. Remain true to your values and beliefs. You know what is best for your family as a whole. And expect this balance to change over the course of the family life cycle.


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