Stay-At-Home Mom vs. Working Mom

Ah, the mommy-wars. The most passive-aggressive war ever fought, and no end in sight. Why do we get so hung up on what all of the other mommies are doing? Maybe we should all take a deep breath and try to understand why all of the main issues actually have multiple good options. With that in mind, I give you: The Battle of Work vs. Home!


According to Pew surveys, 71% of mothers work outside the home, leaving 29% of mothers as Stay-at-Home moms. But this is a jump from 15 years ago, when only 23% of moms stayed at home. There was a long time when the number of Stay-at-Home moms was decreasing, but the numbers have started moving slowly back in the other direction.

In my opinion, women (and men) should be allowed to decide if they want to work outside the home or stay home with their children. Not everyone is suited to everything, and most people are pretty good at figuring out rather quickly if they or their family is better served by staying home or going back to work. But for many families, that decision is made by circumstances. Some families can’t afford living on just one income, forcing a wannabe Stay-at-Home parent back into the workforce. For other families, the cost of childcare is equal or even greater than the salary of one of the parents, making it more cost-effective to stay home—even if that parent loves their career and does not want to give it up.

So before we get mad at each other over the absurdities of parenting decisions, let’s talk about how we can empower families to make the decisions without feeling coerced by circumstance: Paid family leave.

Did you know that the United States of America is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid family leave after a baby is born?

  • Somalia pays mom 50% of her salary for 14 weeks. Somalia. Where they have pirates. And not much by way of a functioning government.
  • Sudan, recently rocked by civil war, pays mom 100% of her salary for 8 weeks.
  • Afghanistan pays 100% of mom’s salary for 90 days.

How about Europe?

  • In Denmark, mom gets 18 weeks paid at 100% of her salary, and dad gets 2 weeks at 100% of his. Then, they get 32 weeks to split however they want, also at 100%. Do the math, it’s a full year.
  • France has a scale, with mom getting 16 weeks paid for a first baby, up to 26 weeks paid for a third. Dad gets 2 weeks. And they send a baby nurse to check on you after you bring your munchkin home.

The UK is about to increase its leave time, but it’s currently 39 weeks paid (90% for 6 weeks, flat rate after) for mom, and two weeks (flat rate) for dad. Unless mom goes back to work—then dad can take up to 26 weeks.

Note that I am only listing paid leave time. Most countries also allow unpaid leave time, in which they will hold your job for you but not pay you. Which is what America does—the Family Medical Leave Act (if you qualify, which not everyone does) offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave. For some families, that is too tough financially, so mom goes back to work sooner. Even if she wanted to stay home. For other families, the cost of childcare makes it impractical for them to return so soon, and therefore no one holds their job. Even if they want to go back to work. And once you are out of the workforce, it can be very difficult to get back in, which keeps many moms home permanently.

So I think we are fighting the mommy-wars all wrong. We aren’t enemies—we should be allies. Allies in the fight for better workforce conditions for parents. It’s better for moms, better for dads, and better for children when families can make decisions from a place of confidence rather than fear. And if that’s our battle-cry, sign me up for the army.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>