A friend of mine recommended that I write about whether to stay home with your kids, because she secretly hates me and wants to put me squarely in the middle of the Mommy Wars. Just kidding! Despite how controversial it is, I think there is a simple quiz to assess which lifestyle choice is best for you and your personality style.
[Quick Reference Tool:
SAHM = Stay At Home Mom. Acronym doubles to refer to the endless sah-ing you will do as you engage in such scintillating activities as picking up yet another piece of mutilated string cheese from the floor and rushing to get the baby because you forgot to lock the gate again.
WAHM = Work at Home Mom; acronym doubles as a reference to the sound of the toddler wah-ing that you will hear when trying to focus on work in your office.
WOHM = Work Outside the Home Mom; acronym doubles to indicate that you will often think “woh, how do I keep all these balls in the air?”]
Now sit back and pry that toddler off your neck. It’s quiz time.
1.) When you think of a fun activity you would enjoy, your first thought is:
a. I would most enjoy getting criticized by my kids for not making them the right lunch, not giving them the right color sippy cup, and not putting Frozen on the TV the right number of times (hint: the right number is infinity).
b. I would most enjoy getting criticized about my powerpoint presentation by people who are able to stay at the office working late because they don’t have to worry about pickup at daycare.
c. I would most enjoy getting criticized by both my boss for working too little and my nanny for working too much.
2.) When you want to feel invalidated, which of the following passive aggressive questions do you wish someone would ask you?
a. What exactly do you do all day?
b. How do you stand being away from your kids all the time?
c. God, your life sounds so easy. Best of both worlds!
3.) When you envision a knock-down, drag-out fight with your husband, the worst thing he could say is:
a. I have a job, I need my rest.
b. Maybe if you were home more, the kids wouldn’t be acting out.
c. I don’t understand why we would hire a house cleaner. You can do it in between calls.
4.) Rank the following in order of abhorrence to your very soul:
5.) On the last snow day when your children were entirely housebound, at what time did you consider pouring yourself a drink?
a. 9:00 a.m.
b. 9:15 a.m.
c. 9:30 a.m.
6.) You feel most comfortable with the following mantra of self-denigration:
a. What did I even go to college for?
b. The kids are going to remember that I was never around.
c. I am going to get passed over for a promotion and the kids are going to remember I was never around.
7.) Your self-medication hobby of choice is:
a. Compulsive crafting
b. Exercise addiction on your lunch hour
c. Reading mommy blogs between conference calls
8.) You enjoy complaining with friends about the following:
a. toddler tantrums
b. your jerk of a boss
c. the fact that you see nobody else, ever
9.) At night, your kids say:
a. I love you, Mommy.
b. I love you, Mommy.
c. I love you, Mommy.
I hope that this serious, psychologically valid quiz will be invaluable in guiding your career and parenting decisions. As you can see, you’re screwed whatever you choose.
The good news? Your kids don’t care what choice you make. Research shows that as long as you’re happy, your kids are happy. A huge body of research literature shows a strong association between maternal depression and kids’ life functioning. Children with depressed moms are worse off in most areas, showing increased depression and anxiety, poorer academic achievement, and more behavioral problems. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose whichever life path will bring you’re the most joy and fulfillment.
And if you choose to work, in or out of the home, don’t feel guilty. In fact, when you ask kids themselves what they think, they rate stay at home and working moms equally. Interestingly, according to a large national sample of children of working parents, children’s greatest wish is not more time with their parents, but that their parents would act less stressed (Ask the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parents).
Of course, not only working moms feel guilt; stay at home moms often feel they too aren’t doing enough with their kids. Take a look at Pinterest to see what I mean. But this goal of “intense parenting,” a consuming focus on parenting and the goal of providing constant stimulation for your children, whether working or not, has been linked with depression.
Basically what all this research means is that the best way to parent your kids is to relax and be confident that you’re a good enough mom. Whether you work outside the home or not is much less important for your kids than the calmness and happiness you will feel if you’re confident in yourself, your life choices, and your parenting.
Until next time, I remain, The Part Time Working Blogapist Who Has The Best of Both Worlds and Is Never Stressed Out.
Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in Maryland and a mom of three sweet/demonic kids under 4 1/2. Guess which job is harder? She blogs at Dr. Psych Mom, and is on Facebook, and tweets @DrPsychMom.