Working mothers and stay-at-home mothers are both facing different challenges and have their own unique benefits. The decision you make should, after all, be based on individual circumstances.
Despite nontrivial challenges, being a working mother and stay-at-home mother each has unique benefits. Working mothers are able to provide financial support for their families and may have access to certain job-related benefits, such as healthcare and retirement plans. They are also able to pursue their own careers and personal interests outside of the home.
Stay-at-home mothers, on the other hand, are able to provide their children with full-time care and attention. They are able to be there for their children during important moments, such as their first steps and first words. They are also able to help their children with homework and other activities, which is crucial for the child’s development.
In South Africa, more than half (53%) of the total female population is involved in the workforce. Many of these women are single mothers, making them the sole breadwinners and forcing them to place their children in the care of others.
Speaking about working mothers who are considering becoming stay-at-home mums, Professor Mehreen Mia advised them to weigh their options. She said it was necessary to do so as being a stay-at-home mum was almost like a “full-time job” on its own.
“If you are working at the moment, you have to weigh up your pros and cons. Some of the pros you can think about is that obviously you’re going to have less stress, as much as being at home is a lot of effort. It’s not easy; it’s a full-time job on its own. For some mothers, there is no time for themselves,” she said.
SMread: Nearly 30 000 educators unemployed despite vacant posts across the country
Being a stay-at-home mum has financial challenges. Since they are not bringing in an income, they may need to rely on their partner’s salary to support the family. This can be difficult for some mothers who are used to being financially independent.
“Especially if you are a mum who has worked, who has had the independence earning your income and now decided to stay home with your child, you obviously have this idea of what it feels like to be independent with your income [and] you know what it feels like to be in the corporate world,” she said.
According to Mia, it may feel constrictive to have to do without financial independence but a bonus would be being able to tend to the children.
However, working mothers often experience guilt and stress as they falter in finding a good work-life balance. Many working mothers struggle to find the time to properly care for their children and tend to their own needs while also trying to advance in their careers.
SMread: Adapting to new parenting challenges in the digital age
Supportive parenting is incredibly important for early childhood development. This is where being a stay-at-home mum is a rewarding experience, according to Prof. Mia.
She said, “Some of the plusses of staying at home versus your workspace would be that you are not as stressed as you are at work. You’re not going to miss out on the little milestones of your children”.
Mia said being a stay-at-home mum meant “you’re the primary teacher”, allowing you to be in control of what your child is exposed to. “It is rewarding when you’re watching these things; when you grow together with your children,” she added.
There are major differences between being a working mum and being a stay-at-home mum, but it is up to an individual to decide which method works best.