Stay-at-home parent or working parent

October 22, 2007

by Jenni Sebora

With the increase of both parents working out of the home over the past years, the discussion continues as to what is better for families – a stay-at-home parent or both parents working outside of the home.

As I view it, it really isn’t a matter of debate. It comes down to a family decision as to what’s best for each individual family. And in many situations, it is not a matter of choice but of financial necessity that both parents work.

I have been in both worlds. When my first two children were younger, I was a “working” parent, which really means I worked out of the home, and my children were cared for by someone else while my husband and I both worked out of the home. (We all know or should know that being a stay-at-home parent requires a lot of hard work and dedication.)

A few years ago, our family made the decision for me to stay at home – whatever that means, because my children and I don’t necessarily stay at home on a constant basis, but nonetheless I am the primary caregiver of my children throughout the day.

I also do outside work from home as well as other part-time work.

There were many factors that played in this decision, and it was a decision that took much family discussion and planning. A major factor in the decision was that I really wanted to do this. I enjoy being around my children, not that other working parents don’t enjoy being around their children, but I wanted to be there to witness first hand their many “firsts.”

I wanted to be able to take them to school and pick them up or be there when they got home from school. This is something I really enjoy. I enjoy conversing with them about their day when they exit the school doors.

And, as a family, we wanted a little less stress and hecticity in our family life. It is difficult having two parents that must leave early in the morning, have evening meetings and try to keep everything together sanely.

I do enjoy this time with my children and will never regret the decision our family made. I also do understand that we, as adults, must make decisions in our lives based on what is most appropriate for our family at a certain time.

And I also fully realize that although I value my roles of mother and wife and prioritize those roles as most important, I also do understand and value my role as an individual with individual needs and wants as well.

I believe that we are better parents if we make sure we do not lose our individuality in our roles as parents and spouses.

Thus, my serenity is also found in running, reading and working with children in other roles and positions. I find personal happiness and fulfillment in engaging in these activities that coincide with my role as mother and wife.

I believe if you are happy with yourself, you will be a happier parent and spouse.

If a family has a choice as to if a parent stays home to care for their family, the question should be “What is best for the family?”

Some parents may be “better” parents if they can spend some time outside of the home, possibly working with other adults while their children are being cared for in a safe, nurturing environment, socializing with other children.

Some parents may be wonderful stay-at-home parents that provide love, care and nurturing to their own children, instilling their own values.

And as some psychologists put it, some stay-at-home parents are not really “there” for their children. They are on the phone or the computer, and they are not connecting with their children.

Some out-of-the home working parents are not connected with their children either. When they are with their children, they may not really be “with” them. They may be on the phone or on the computer engaging in work-related tasks.

I believe that each individual family must do what is best for the children and the family. Most importantly, children must be loved and cared for in nurturing environments where they thrive.

Whether a parent is staying at home with their children or the parents work out of the home, parents must connect with their children and be there for them.

And when parents say they want to have it all, they can, just not all at once.

I do believe this. I believe we make decisions and do different things in our lives at different times. It is an act of balance.

So, as I am not focusing on a full-time career at this point in my life, I value “job” as a mother, spouse and daughter deeply. It will forever be my most important passion in my life. Children are my passion, and I also connect this passion with other opportunities.

Whether we are stay-at-home parents or “working” parents, we must make the time we spend with our children a time of connection, love, support, and acceptance. That is what children need and deserve.