why i chose to work instead of becoming a stay at home mom

To you working moms out there, I feel for you. To you stay at home moms, I feel for you. Whatever situation you are in, whether you don’t have kids, chose to stay home, chose to work, or have to work based on circumstances, I hope you are happy. I hope you don’t feel judged. I hope you are doing what feels right for your own situation.

The thing about motherhood is that we tend to project our own experiences, and what is right for us, onto other people.

I got pregnant with my first (and only) baby my third year of law school. The reactions I got from friends, family, and strangers were across the board. People offered support, excitement, condolences, said things like “oops,” but probably the most common reaction was this: BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO???” 

Allow me to educate you on pregnant women, in case you were not aware. They do not need your comments on how huge they are. They do not need every horror story you have ever heard about birth complications especially involving the death of mother or baby. They do not need the pregnancy police monitoring every ounce of food of which they partake. Finally, and relevant to our discussion here, they do not need you to add more stress into their lives.

So with that framework, being asked what I was going to do every five seconds made me want to punch everyone in the face, all the time. And cry.

I just thought it was a dumb question. What do you think I am going to? I am going to push this baby out.

And then I’ll have a baby.

I will be a lawyer with a baby.

This is not the first time in history that it has happened.

Now that I am not pregnant and my hormones make me less psychotic, I can see that most people asking this question were coming from a good place– they were concerned. They wondered what they would do in the situation. They felt for me, for how hard the situation could be. And the truth is, it is a tough issue. It is one that I personally go back and forth on ALL THE TIME. Daily. Do I work? Do I stay home? I am told to both LEAN IN and RECLINE and it is confusing and all I know is that I want off the couch. Here was my thought process as to why I chose to work instead of becoming a stay at home mom

These are precious years of my son’s life that I will never get back. There is a level of love and understanding that I have for him that I do not believe someone who is not his mother will have for him. Is that actually true? I don’t know. But it’s how I feel. I cannot put a financial value on that.

But at the same time, we are burdened with debt. Not only that, but I feel like I would not be reaching my full potential if I missed out on a career. This is obviously not true for everyone. Some mommas can reach their full potential and are wonderful at staying home. They have talents that thrive with the stay at home life. I find myself being jealous of these women– these are not my natural talents. By not working, I feel like I’m not fully developing the talents that I do have.

I, personally, have never been a “home-body.” In fact, I have a distinct distaste for being stuck at home. On days when I am not working, we are out doing things– running errands, playing at the park, picking out books at the library, etc. Indeed, you could say that one of my biggest fears in life (truly) is being bored. And for me, staying home full time just flat out seems boring. And I feel guilty for admitting that. There are people who genuinely are thrilled to stay home. And I think that’s great. We were all born different, with different interests, and that is a good thing.

And while I’m keen on the idea of not being home, it also grieves me deeply to think of missing out on snuggles before nap time, soccer games, kissing boo-boos, watching his reaction when he goes to the aquarium for the first time, meeting up with friends for play dates, and all of the other things that working moms miss out on. Because working mommas, whether we like to admit it or not, we do miss out on some of these things. I cringe at the thought of preschool and all the germs and behaviors he may absorb there. I don’t know  if he will get the attention he deserves, no matter how good the school is. Because no one else will do as good of a job of it as me. It is just a fact.

I have toyed with the idea of staying home for a few years while my babies are young. And I have still not ruled this out. But at the same time, I honestly feel like a better mom when I work. Working makes me a better mom and feeling like a better mom makes me do better work. I miss my son ALL DAY. Every chance I have I am looking at pictures of him, watching videos of him, reading articles on how to be a better mom. I don’t do that when I stay home. I don’t cherish it as much. I know that is not true for everyone. It is just my experience.

I remember listening to an attorney who spoke at my law school during my first year. She was a mother, and she was a partner in a big law firm. Someone asked her about how she made her choice of whether or not to stay home, and her answer has played over in my mind a thousand times. She said Well, you are going to have to choose your tears. You are going to cry over missing out on a career and the people you could help, or you are going to cry over missing out on staying at home. So choose your tears.” And that is really how I have felt every day since becoming a mother. I have never been torn between two choices the way I am with motherhood and a career.

I took a “Sociology of Occupation” class during my undergraduate course work. The only thing I remember from that class was a study (I found a similar one HERE) that tended to show that the quantity of time parents spend with their kids did not result  in more positive outcomes for kids. What mattered was the quality of time that parents spent with their kids. (Quality time meaning doing things like reading with your child or otherwise engaging with the child one on one). That has given me a lot of comfort as I worked full time this last year. When I’m home, I am home. I give him my full attention.

In the end, I have to believe that these two things are not mutually exclusive.  I can be a good mother and a good attorney. I will have to make sacrifices in both areas. There may come a day when I miss a soccer game, or when I show up late to court because I was up with a sick child all night. But I will keep trying and keep fighting.

For me, for now, I will work. I will work because I get satisfaction out of helping people and solving problems. I will work because we are in a financial crisis with the amount of debt we have. I will work because it makes me appreciate my son and my husband more. I will work because it is part of who I am.

I feel strongly that I will be able to find jobs with flexible hours so that I can be there for my family. I can create a job like that.

And of course, this could all change at any given moment. Maybe tomorrow I will want to stay home. For now, I am going to go stare at my  son while he sleeps and soak in this time that is so fleeting.

Like what you see? Share Red Two Green with friends!

Gain access to all of our money saving hacks we are using to pay off more than $600k by subscribing to our newsletter.


  1. I think we are long lost twins. You just described almost exactly how I feel about everything from pregnancy to motherhood. I go back and forth all the time, just from the other end- do I go back to work or not? Power to you for making your own decision and doing what’s best for you and your family.

    1. we are for sure long lost twins. And thanks so much! It really is the hardest thing to figure out, ever. I try to always keep an open mind– if I decide I don’t want to work, then I will stop and vice versa. Miss you and our pool days!!

  2. Assuming no family lives around to babysit, do you have any tips for budget friendly yet trustworthy child care? One of the biggest things holding me back from working is worrying about the care my son will receive.

    1. By far, this is the thing I have struggled with the most. I had a lady from church babysit M this past year while I worked. She charged $4 an hour and she lived down the street so it was like double heaven. I was sick to my stomach over finding someone to watch him until I found her– good places (or one on one nannies) seemed to charge $10-$20 an hour (we couldn’t afford it) and cheap day care frankly frightens me because of the old adage “you get what ya pay for.” The best advice I can give is that you just have to ask around– ask friends/family and ask them to ask their friends/family. In the end I had a big list of people that I trusted, that all would have been great options, just by asking around. Lots of SAHM’s seemed to be willing to take on another kid in their home for cheap!

  3. Moms rock! Lawyers are scum! I’m having trouble balancing this one. 😛

    Whether you decide to keep working full-time, be a full-time SAHM, or do some combination of both, I hope you find peace in the decision and can ignore comments from the peanut gallery.

  4. My mom took life in seasons. She stayed home when we were little and then went back to work full steam and hasnt regretted anything. She would say that she values being around family more than being at work, but each person needs to choose what makes him or her happy. Way to go on working and raising a child Amber. Can’t imagine as I’m still living the bachelor life here.

  5. Yes yes yes! I feel all of this, but it was so comforting to hear other people say it. Especially about being a better mom because they work. I have been working on a similar post for myself!

    1. Totally! Obviously, it all depends on the person. I think some ladies do better staying home and I appreciate that. It just wasn’t the path for me, at least for now. Just checked out your blog! Looking forward to your momma post!

  6. I had both of my daughters while I was in law school. One mid-2L and my second at the end of 3L. They were planned because I knew that college life was much more flexible than working life. I had the ability to pick classes, so I had minimal travel/class time and live with my family. My husband was overseas while I was in law school. We managed to see each other every 6-10 weeks and during summers.

    We struggle now with having another mainly because i don’t have the luxury of almost 2 years off with my first and a year with my second. Having only 12 weeks off really stinks, but I know I want to continue working, so that’s what I have to do.

    Because I’m working we managed to pay off my $150k+ student loans in 30 months and that does take the pressure off of having unpaid leave should we go for 3. And we now have a great nanny who has been with us for 5 years and will remain with us for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to be without your kids all day, but I know that the time we spend together is great and working is doing what’s best for our family. Good luck on your journey!

    1. I totally agree! Having kids in school is the best way to do it because of the flexibility. I was also really lucky that I had professors who let me bring my baby to some of my classes and that really helped. Having only 12 weeks TOTALLY stinks. I think being away is absolutely hardest when they are so small. Thanks for sharing your story! I love hearing that you got your loans paid off in only 30 months! Congrats on that and thanks for the encouragement. People like you make me feel like we might be able to actually do this 🙂

  7. I know that you said that everyone has their own preferences, but as a stay-at-home mom, I do find it upsetting when I hear professionally working moms say that they are working because they want to set a good example to their children to “aim high.” What does that imply about moms who stay at home? That they settled, or aimed low? That we aren’t setting a good enough example to our kids? I try not to get defensive when I read posts like this, but I’ve heard it so many times. I have a college degree in international studies and economics and have traveled and worked internationally as well. I don’t take it personally when my son asks me if I will work again one day like Daddy, because I know that the work I do is valuable.

    1. Hey Jennifer,
      I think that is a really good point. In fact, I just edited the post to better reflect what I was trying to express. As a person who teeters on the edge of working v. staying home on a near daily basis, I did not mean that SAHMs have settled. In fact, I think SAHMs have provided a wonderful and inspiring sacrifice, not “settling” or “aiming low.” I think you are justified in feeling defensive, because of course the work SAHMs do is valuable,

  8. Hi there! I loved reading this! I love what you said that working helps you live up to your potential! I am really torn right right now my husband is just finishing school, I am working full time as a speech therapist assistant. We are out of debt and saving up for a house by the end of next year. It seems like the perfect time to start a family… But I also have this dream of continuing to get a Master’s and becoming a certified Speech and Language Pathologist. I feel like it will help me reach my potential, and be much more free to choose what I want in the long run. But right now it is a huge financial setback and I don’t know if it is possible or worth the trouble to have kids while I go to school. It is so tough to decide, because who really knows what the future will hold!

    1. Thanks Mary! It really is difficult figuring it all out! In the end I think each of us just has to do what feels right for us. Good luck with all of your endeavors!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *