By Shola Okubote
To stay at home with the kids or go to work? Many mothers have had to deal with this question at one point or the other, and it has also been a hot subject at the heart of a fierce debate in many homes and in the society for decades. It is one of the most difficult decisions for many mothers to make, trying to work full time and raising their children at the same, is undoubtedly overwhelming. Women of older generation faced the untold frustrations of trying to do both, and the younger women of this generation are probably having it even tougher because of the many expectations of our modern living.
As expected, so many concerns come to mind before making a decision on whether to work or stay at home and these are common questions women ask themselves before they make a choice; Would staying at home affect any future job possibilities? Could the family afford to live on a single paycheck? Would there be a sense of fulfillment for me? What sacrifices am I willing to make? Would I feel inadequate for not contributing financially to the household? Would I feel guilty for leaving my kids with caregivers? Would I lose my identity as a total woman?
How do women weigh the pros and cons of their choices, and what influences the final decisions to determine which one is good enough for them and their families? We take a look at these through the eyes of three mothers.
A look at the topic from Titilope’s perspective gives us a very interesting view. The 31 year old Advertising Executive and a mother of two, says she is proud of being a mother, she is proud of her career, and while being a mother is part of her life, it is not all. I don’t want to be fully defined by motherhood, she says, “I also want to build a highly successful career and I can’t achieve that if I choose to stay at home with the kids. If I am happy, fulfilled and financially independent, the truth is, my children will be better for it”. She strongly believes that women shouldn’t let go of their dreams in life just because they have children, although it’s not going to be easy, but they just have to keep putting in their best.
She, however, agreed that it is a difficult decision to make, she feels guilty every time she drops off her three months old with a caregiver. She often feels like she is missing her children’s growing-up years, but then she tells herself it’s for the good of her family, and she tries her best to give her kids concentrated time and attention in the evenings and on weekends, and teaches them responsibility and independence so they can cope when she is away.
Titilope’s world is an unacceptable place for Ogechi to live. As a mother of three and a stay-at-home mother, Ogechi believes the place of a woman is at home with her children. When asked about the financial implication of choosing to stay at home, she says they live solely on her husband’s income which is enough to take care of their basic needs and to pay their bills. They can’t afford any form of luxury, but that is a price they are willing to pay to give their children a mom who is devoted to their needs at all times.
According to Ogechi, the modern culture rarely values this role of the stay-at-home mother and instead seems to tell mothers that they need to be everything they can be by pursuing a career at the expense of their family. Yet there are many benefits to the family should a mother decide to be a stay-at-home mom. She feels really fulfilled being a homemaker; she keeps her household running, and says there is never a boring moment. She is happy she didn’t miss out on any precious moments with her children. She saw their first steps, first words and all the other experiences mothers are proud of. Being a part of her children’s milestones and everyday experiences gives her the satisfaction that is more than what she can get from any job.
For Dammy a stay-at-home first time mother, she wishes she could agree with Ogechi that there is never a boring moment, but her own experience as a stay at home mom has been a rather boring and unfulfilling one. She was forced to resign after having her baby because she just couldn’t cope with motherhood and her job at the same time. She was always late, always distracted and not as productive and efficient as she used to be at work. After many queries from her boss she decided to quit her job to stay at home till her son starts school. It was so overwhelming for her, she felt like she had bitten more than she could chew, and didn’t want to cut herself while trying to break the glass ceiling by pretending to be a do-it-all supermom.
Staying at home has however not been a fun experience for her either, she keeps feeling like she is missing out on life by staying at home all day, she says, “sometimes I feel like I’ve done myself a disservice by quitting my job and it continues to be a difficult inner struggle for me, I miss the sense of professional fulfillment I enjoyed when I was working and I also feel insecured that I don’t have a source of income, because I think it is important for a woman to be financially independent, so you will be able to take care of yourself and the kids in case of your partner’s death or divorce”. She however has plans of going back to work, but knows that it would be really hard, staying away from work for so long may affect any future job possibilities, so for now she is working on starting a home business which will ensure she is close to her kids, affords her a source of income and gives her an outlet for her energy and passion.
After all said, it seems none of the two options is without its own advantages and disadvantages, the most important thing is for mothers to carefully examine their needs and what works best for their families before making their decision on whether to work or stay at home, and also to find satisfaction in whatever they choose.
If you’re convinced that you’re the best person to care for your child, and your financial situation allows your family to survive on one income, and you’re willing to make the necessary emotional and financial sacrifices, staying at home is probably for you. But if you think you should be at work for financial or other reasons important to you and you don’t have a problem leaving your children with a trustworthy caregiver, then by all means go to work.
Make the choice that best suits you and your family, and don’t feel guilty about it. Also view other women’s decisions with the same kindness and understanding, what is best for you is not always best for others.