I've just witnessed an online arguement between a group of work outside the home moms and stay at home moms. It invariably turns to an all out war with each group being hypersensitive about who has it the easiest/hardest and which choice is the best for the children and blabbity blah blah.
I never get involved in these discussions although I have a lot to say on the matter. I am, in fact, probably an ideal spokesperson for each group as I have been in both positions. I worked outside the home when my first children were little. I went back to work when my oldest was 3 months and when my second daughter was 6 months. Those were the days before the one year maternity leave here in Canada. My husband at the time was a seasonal worker, we lived in a small apartment and we didnt' have much money. My income was necessary to our livelihood. Later I moved into a career that I loved and the livelihood aspect became less important. I needed to work for my own personal satisfaction. I loved what I did. I enjoyed the year I went to school while my daughter was little as well. I needed to have that experience. Was it at her expense? I don't think so. She was a happy, healthy baby and child. She seems to have come through it well. My second daughter is also happy and well-adjusted.
I have been a stay-at-home mom to my children for five years now. I have found it to be very rewarding. My younger children are happier and well adjusted as well.
So as a mom who has been in both positions how do I feel about SAH vs WAH? Both are ok as long as the children are taken care of and loved. A WAH mom who is happy with a career and is able to balance the life/work issues well will have happy, well-adjusted children.
The SAH mom who balances being at home with the children with doing things that are uniquely hers to avoid mommy burnout will also have happy, well-adjusted children.
Where things fall apart is in how we, as mothers, in the end feel about our decision to stay at home or work at home.
Personally, I've let go of the mommy guilt on both ends. I do not feel my children will suffer from seeing a mom who had a career and I don't think they'll suffer from seeing a mommy not have a career and think that's all mommies do. It is what it is and it will be what it will be.
I do have an internal struggle. I do feel sad for the young me who missed a lot of moments. Had I not stayed home with the younger children I don't know that I ever would have known what I missed with the older ones. Little things like the first step were missed with both my older ones, they walked first for the nanny and I missed that. It wasn't until I witnessed the joy of seeing it first with my younger children that the full impact of what I missed hit me. It made me sad.
Of course the fact is, there is always a parent who works. There will always be someone who feels sad that they missed out on the firsts. My husband now misses almost every first as a long-haul truck driver, a job he chose so I could stay home. He knows what he's missing and he's sad about it. The children however, are thriving.
The jist of it is, the kids will be ok whatever the choice. The parent misses out, either on those first moments and time you can't get back or on the career we want so badly that satisfies our very soul.
The key, I think is to make the choice based on which need is strongest at that point in your life and then move on from there.
Mommies count too.