Stay At Home Mom Or Career Woman – Do It Because That Is What You Want To Do

Posted: February 5, 2016
SAHM or career woman? Choose keeping your own happiness in mind. Not what other people think, not how you got here and not how it is going to effect the kids.
Should I be a stay at home mom, a working mom, or a work at home mom? There are many factors that go in to making this decision. But, in my opinion, the one that really matters is the mother’s happiness. A happy mom makes for happy children.
I never thought of being a stay at home mom. It just never occurred to me. My mom worked and the natural thing was for me to work too. But I quit my job in the 5th month of pregnancy for a relocation. So I decided to get a job only after the baby was 6 months old.
As I was nearing that 6 month mark, I was in two minds. Should I get a job or not? It is my nature, that, if I am doing something, I need to give it my best. This was true when I was a student right up to the time I finished my doctoral degree in physics and continued as a postdoctoral research scientist.  My attitude was the same to child rearing. If I was going to do it, I wanted to give it my best.
I quickly found out that caring for a baby is a full time job, if you want to do it all yourself and if you want to be a part of all the moments good or bad. I wanted to really experience motherhood with the hands on approach, watch my baby grow, come up with interesting ways to teach and entertain her and see all her firsts.
But there was another part of me struggling with all these new ideas. What, not work? That is crazy, right? How old fashioned! I never envisioned myself being just a mom. Just a mom! I have a Ph.D for god’s sake. All that education for nothing? Most did not say it to me in so many words, but I saw it in the looks they gave me (May be I was seeing my own guilt and misgivings in their eyes). I struggled for a long time, wondering if I should at the very least get a teaching job, even if I could not make time for research.
My husband was extremely supportive. He was open to me working, or not working. He even mentioned the option of working enough to keep myself happy, even without earning, so I did not feel pressured or obligated to anyone. I most unfairly chided him for not being being at all helpful to the decision making process, since he basically told me I should do whatever I want.
The wise man, that is my husband, said, “You need to decide this for yourself. I will support in whatever you choose, but the decision is yours. Don’t let your education count against you. You had a whale of a time earning that Ph.D and loved doing it, so it was not time wasted. But if research or teaching does not appeal to you as much as bonding with our child then don’t do it. The Ph.D is a cause for celebration, not future suffering. If you interests have changed, then don’t be a slave to that Ph.D”.
But he also cautioned, “Think this through though. 7 years down the line, when the kids are in school all day, will you regret this decision? I don’t want you to be bitter. So if you are doing this, do it for yourself. Because you are sure this is what you want to do. The other option is to get a job and see if you prefer that. If you don’t like it, you can quit.”
“When you make the choice, keep your own happiness in mind. That is what matters. Not what other people think, not how you got here and not how it is going to effect the kids. This decision is about you and that is the only person you need to think of.”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to be a stay at home mom. But I had to battle my earlier prejudices and there was the worry that, what if in 7 years it seemed like the wrong decision. Would I be bitter?
Again I voiced my worries to my incredibly patient husband. We talked about it and he said, “Say you do want to get back to work in 7 years, what would you want to do? Is it something to do you care about, or a successful career?”
“Something to do I guess.”
“So, what is to stop you from doing something then? It may be hard but if you really want it you should be able to do it. Do you have that faith in yourself?”
I thought about it. What had the Ph.D really taught me? A whole lot of specialized physics for sure, but also that I could do anything I really wanted to if I put my mind to it. Why should that change in 7 years? Besides in today’s world, people change jobs every few years. The permanent job  we heard our parents celebrate is quite non existent today.
So I took the plunge. I decided not to work. But, I did I for myself. No self sacrifice. No martyrdom. Just a selfish choice.
Since then, I have found parenting is an interesting job too. Any job can be made interesting if it is done with thought. I evaluate my parenting methods, come up with new ideas for teaching  and entertaining  my kids, experiment with the ideas, assess them for effectiveness. If they work, I try to improve them. If they don’t, then back to the drawing board to find new ideas. I also learn something from each new teaching method or entertainment activity I come up with.
Parenting also led me to discover my love for writing, one of those things I always hoped to do, but never quite got around to before now. I write a children’s book series that explores anything that I can think of including, cooking, friendship, teasing, science, art, craft, ethics, fun, adventure, enterprise, independence and health. Some subjects like science, enterprise and fun I am well acquainted with. Others like ethics, health and friendship are no strangers to me. And still others like art and craft are new learning experiences. Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places. I would never have imagined, that my 2 year old would be the reason, I finally became an author.
Hmm, teaching, learning, innovating, experimenting and then writing about it. My physics grad school days seem to have worked their way back in to my life. Oh well, you can’t really get away from the core of what you love. I no longer fear what not working will do to me, because I have learned that I will figure out a way to follow my passions, as long as I am true to myself.
Anyway, my reason for sharing this story, is not to say that  being a SAHM is the correct choice, but to celebrate the choice any mother makes because there is no right or wrong here. The mother’s happiness, peace of mind and personal reasons for making the choice are all that matter.
Published earlier here.

Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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Comments

4 Comments


  1. Often life has a way of putting you in a spot where making a choice becomes irrelevant. The choice seems obvious so you go ahead and make it because it seems the right thing to do. You may often swing between regretting and applauding yourself over that choice and that is normal. However, making peace with your decision is often what we struggle with and that is something we have to work on. There are no full and final verdicts on these decisions and circumstances may yet change you in other directions throughout your life but making peace with yourself for whatever you choose, is a must for happiness and moving forward. Enjoy the moment for what its worth and embrace change whenever it becomes imperative- that is what nature and the Tao teaches and there is much wisdom in that philosophy I think.

  2. Hi Kanika! I love what you said, “The Ph.D is a cause for celebration, not future suffering. If you interests have changed, then don’t be a slave to that Ph.D”. It definitely is a cause for celebration. I love that you’ve seen that you don’t have to be a slave to it. Our degree does not have to define us! I used to work as a professional but am now at home with my kids and have reinvented myself to have a business at home. It makes me happy because I have something for myself 🙂 Thanks for this post! I can totally relate. I think it’s awesome that you have such a supportive husband. -Gina

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