Making the decision: To stay home or not to stay home

book cover Reprinted with permission from Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent, Copyright (c) 2001 by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen, Spencer & Waters

Many women think this is the toughest decision they’ll ever make: whether to stay on the career fast track, or to turn their backs on the workplace and head for home. Although it can seem that way, the decision to become an at-home mother is not as black and white as it appears. There are any number of possibilities-- from taking a few month’s leave of absence, to staying home for a year or two, to staying home until all your children are in school or longer--and these decisions can be modified at any time. Often a woman does not make the decision to stay home until her second or third child comes along.

When starting to think about choices, it is important not to let parenting experts or society's expectations dictate what you ought to do. You must make decisions that are compatible with your own personal and family goals and circumstances. You'll be much happier in the long run if you take the time to evaluate your options and choose what is best for you.

In researching our book, Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent, we surveyed 300 women across the country. We found that while there are some broad similarities, not every woman stays home for the same reason, or comes to the decision in the same way.

More than half (51.3%) said that they had always known they would stay home as soon as they had children. Contrary to popular belief that only women in dead-end jobs willingly leave them, we found that women who establish successful careers before they have a child are often the most eager to stay home. They feel that they have accomplished what they set out to do and are ready to take on the new challenge of becoming a mother.


For many women, an early decision to stay home with their children is based upon memories of their own childhood. Women whose own moms were happy at-home mothers are more inclined to see full-time parenting as a positive role. And some women, who were themselves latchkey children, have had firsthand experience with a lifestyle they do not want for their children. One woman recalls that she and her sister "hated going to the sitters, especially during the summer. We felt like outsiders all the time. Then, later, I was a latchkey kid, and as the oldest, I was responsible for the house and our safety. It was too much stress for a twelve-year-old."

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