Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom and wondering if I’d be happier as a working mom. I know it’s a grass is always greener situation, because when I was working I wondered if I’d be happier as a stay-at-home mom.
One of the reasons I’ve been questioning the stay-at-home mom choice more and more is my kids are at a tough age. At any given time at least one of them is angry, whining or tantruming over something. It wears me down very quickly to feel unappreciated day in and day out.
Last week something special happened. My son sweetly asked me to take him alone to swim lessons. He is a Dada’s boy big time and has never asked me for 1-on-1 time if Dad is around. It completely melted my heart that he wanted time with me when his Dad was available to go. He got to go down the slide for the first time at that swim lesson. After his lesson he told me they must have known his Mama was watching and that’s why he go to do the slide. It was so sweet!
Of course he spent most of the next day not listening to me and tantruming to try to get his way instead of asking politely, so my heart eyes have cleared up a bit…that’s toddler life, ha! 🙂
My daughter is just learning to walk, talk, and find her personality. She has started to experience a little bit of freedom and independence and desperately wants more than she is ready for. This has lead to many recent tantrums. My sweet angel baby is growing into a toddler, and I’m not ready.
I’ve recently started having my son do deep breathing with me when he’s upset and it has worked wonders! He immediately calms down and is able to move on. I tried it once with my daughter, but she is still too young to understand how to take deep breaths with me, so it didn’t work as well for her. But, it works great on me too. Whenever I’m about to start screaming my head off at the kids, I try to take a few deep breaths first to calm down and evaluate the situation.
All the kids’ recent moodiness combined with me recently signing both my kids up for (part-time) preschool in the fall has me daydreaming about going back to work as an engineer when they start school.
Whenever I’m trying to decide something big, I make lists. We did it before we moved to Australia, and before our most recent move to Houston. Deciding to continue as stay-at-home mom versus going back to work as an engineer is a huge decision, so it definitely needs some pros and cons lists.
I made lists of the 5 best things about being both a stay-at-home mom and an engineer and the 5 worst things about each.
5 BEST things about being a Stay-at-Home Mom
- Being with my kids all day everyday
- Never missing big moments – first steps, first words, first foods, first tantrums, class parties…
- I’m raising them my way – I don’t have to compromise or make sacrifices
- Playing with my kids at the park in the middle of the day
- Reading, singing songs, and rocking my kids before nap time
5 BEST things about being an Engineer
- Feeling accomplished and rewarded for hard work – that re-energizing high from being recognized
- Interesting and mind-stimulating work
- Daily interactions with co-workers – meeting new and diverse people who have become life-long friends
- Learning something new almost everyday – engineering is challenging and always changing
- Great salary and benefits
5 WORST things about being a Stay-at-Home Mom
- The morning rush – getting kids fed, clothed, brushed, and out the door on time for school. It’s pretty much impossible to do without a meltdown by at least one of us, but sometimes by the time we leave we’re all screaming and crying.
- Meal time clean up – my daughter is in the food throwing stage…need I say more?
- Whining kids – when I plan a fun day with playdates, parks, and ice cream, but the kids still end up whining about something…
- Kids not wanting to take a nap – I rely on the nap time as my precious <2 hours to myself during the day to shower, clean up, check emails, work on the blog… When they don’t want to nap it turns into an epic battle of wills that the kids often win.
- I’m always on the clock – my “workday” begins when the kids wake up and ends when they go to bed, so it usually is at least 13 hours, 7 days a week. I rarely (as in 1-2 evening a month, max) am away from my kids.
5 WORST things about being an Engineer
- Long hours to meet stressful deadlines
- Ratings and reviews creating competition and self-doubt – the bitter disappointment I’ve felt when the my rating is lower than expected (I’ve only ever gotten average or above ratings, but I have high expectations of myself and am proud of my work, so average can be heartbreaking).
- Management requesting answers that my work can’t justify
- Subtle unfair treatment because of gender or maternal status
- Working for “the man” – for my entire career I worked for large corporations. I wasn’t exactly helping people or changing the world like I originally pictured myself doing as engineer.
Writing these lists was very therapeutic for me. It’s scary to write the truth sometimes. When I was writing the 5 worst things about being an engineer list I started to get some anxiety, and I thought that was a good sign that I am not ready to bring those 5 worst things back into my life yet.
I’m pretty lucky that I can be a stay-at-home mom to my kids, so I think I’ll stick it out a little while longer, crazy tantrums and all. 🙂
I am an Electrical engineer and I had to make the same decision as you. I stayed at home like you and it’s not easy. But I still believe it was the best decision I made. I miss engineering sometimes or the challenge of accomplishing big projects. However, I believe my relationship w my kids is my most important project now. Guiding them etc. I do sometimes think that if I worked part time close to home maybe would have worked. But I like you did not need to work away from home. So I dedicated to help my husband in real estate investment. I do all the accounting part from home and it has been pretty fullfilling for me. I managed the home, the kids, the job all in the same place. My husband was able to grow our business more thanks to my support. Now we are pretty much doing better financially than if I would have stayed working. Life has its way to put the pieces right. You do what your heart ❤️ tells you. Not what society is trying to make you believe is better for you as a woman. I do sometimes get the urge to go back. I think if time allows and the opportunity is right I will probably do it. But for now I just want to keep being part of my kids life. Blessings
Diana, Thank you so much for the honest comment. I makes me feel good putting my personal stories out on the blog knowing there are others in the same situation and we can learn from, support and help each other. I wrote that post a year ago, and I still often feel conflicted about whether I should return to work or not. But I know deep down when the time is right and the opportunity is right for myself and my family I will know and it will be what is best for all of us. Best wishes and please keep in touch!
I really appreciate this blog post. I’m a civil engineer for an energy company in Canada and I am expecting my first baby. I think about this stuff daily now because if I end up coming back to work I will be the first at this company. Most technical women have chosen to stay home after kids because work is too demanding and finding daycare that will look after your baby for 11-12 hours a day is very difficult. I wish there was more opportunity for part time work in the profession, like there is in healthcare and education. Or at least more flexible work options. Did you really love engineering before kids? Do you think you will go back once your kids are full time in school? Do you ever feel like getting back in would be difficult? When I think about how the industry & technology have changed in the last 5 years I worry of becoming irrelevant if I do choose to stay home. Such a big decision!!
All the best,
It is such a hard decision for anyone to make, and what is right for me, may not be right for you. I did love my job before I had kids. I was lucky enough to be able to continue to work part-time after my son was born, but I found part-time work very impractical for my position and ended up working more hours than I was paid for. I do think I will go back to engineering once both my kids are in elementary school. I know it will be difficult, and I will probably have to take a step back from where I was in my career before, but I have to be ok with that. It is a trade off for being able to be home and watch my kids grow for the last few years. There are ways to keep up with engineering while staying home, for example taking online courses or staying involved in professional organizations. I do not regret my decision to stay home, and I am loving the chance to bond with my kids, teach them all the things I want them to know, and take a break. When I go back to work in a few years I know I will be ready! 🙂
I am so thankful to have found this post. I am a mechanical engineer who quit my job literally today to stay home with my son and to help my family transition to a new life in Houston, TX. I am scared, excited, sad and joyful at the same time. Thankful to hear that I am not alone in these thoughts!
I’m so glad you found this article during this time when it is so useful to you. Even though I have been stay at home mom for over 4 years now, I still go back and forth about the decision. It’s a very personal and ever evolving decision, but I’m still happy with my choice!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too, particularly since Mothers’ Day was yesterday and I’m feeling a lot of gratitude, so googled to see what others have said and found your article. Great to read this and the comments over the years! I have a degree in Industrial Engineering but have been doing network engineering for various telecom and internet service providers since 1994. In 2004 I quit a job I had had for only 9 months (what timing!) when my first was born, because my approved leave was 6 weeks since I didn’t qualify for FMLA leave before a full year of employment. I am grateful that I had the support and other resources to do that, and that just a year later, an old colleague of mine approached me to do some consulting for a small company that couldn’t hire a full-time engineer in my area of expertise. As a result, I’ve never felt I had to choose between going back to work and staying home, and as the kids got older, I was able to add clients and work more hours. It’s maybe something to consider pursuing if you don’t want to go back full time but your old position is not suited for part-time work, particularly if your partner already has insurance for the whole family.
I’m so glad you found this article, and I appreciate you sharing your story. I think consulting is a great option, and I love that it has worked so great for you. It is definitely something I’d consider if/when I go back to work. Happy Mother’s Day!
I came across your blog post today when I was at home on a day off, and contemplating as I always do what my life would be like if I was a stay at home mom instead of working. I am an engineer of 12 years plus a manager for almost 5, and your “worst things” list really hit the nail on the head as far as what keeps my heart longing for home. I find myself pulled in both directions all the time, but I am so afraid of what would happen if I give up my career. Anyway, it was nice to see that some women have done it and to see the other comments from women who are still doing it or struggling with it. thank you for sharing.
Hi Katy, thanks for sharing your thoughts too! Stay at home mom vs working mom is a real struggle I think most working moms debate at some point. I wrote this post over 4 years ago, and still to this day wonder when/if I should go back to work and did I make the right choice by leaving…have I been away from engineering too long now? Anyway, I still believe it’s best to follow your instincts. If one choice is pulling you in (or pushing you away) more than the other, take it as your sign. 🙂