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jca's avatar

What do you think is a harder job - staying at home full time with several preschool-age children or going to work full time?

Asked by jca (27858 points ) July 24th, 2011

I have thought of this question on several occasions, as I think about my life working full time, and comparing it to some people I know who are stay at home moms. I think of the pros and cons of working full time vs. the pros and cons of being a full time stay at home mom.

The cons of working full time include, but are not limited to, having to get up early, dress, the stress of the commute, being on someone else’s schedule and having to be supervised by another person, and being away from home for the majority of the day. The cons of being a full time mom are that there are no breaks, it’s physically demanding and exhausting, and you are most likely with the kids only during the day, so limited in adults available to talk to .

I was never a full time stay at home mom, but I know when I am home for short periods with my preschooler, it’s tiring, and she’s good, so I can imagine being with several rowdy children, it must be extra tough.

In your experience, what is harder: working full time or being a full time stay at home mom?

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25 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

You might enjoy the discussion we had recently here.

I think they are both difficult and rewarding in their own ways. I think it depends on the individual circumstances.

keobooks's avatar

I’ve done both, and to be honest, it’s just DIFFERENT. It’s different enough that I have trouble comparing the two. Right now I’m staying at home and a downside is that you never FEEL like you get any time off. Because I have a baby, there are many projects I have to leave behind because I am taking care of her all the time. When I get a “break”, I feel like I need to be catching up on all those projects instead of taking a break.

When I worked my job, I could feel a sense of accomplishment, like I could get something DONE and it was over with. Sometimes I feel like the best I can do is catch up to SOME of my tasks here. It never gets done and whatever I let fall behind shows. It sometimes can feel really depressing. I sometimes get in a rut of—why do this task? It will just need to be done again in a few hours…

jonsblond's avatar

For one thing, there are no 15 minute breaks or an hour lunch when you are at home all day with the children.

that’s all I’m going to say ;)

AmWiser's avatar

Give me the full time job anyday.:p

Supacase's avatar

Trust me, when you’re at home with young children, you’re still on someone else’s schedule. Getting up early is usually part of the deal, too.

woodcutter's avatar

Staying home all day with kids is more work, or different.Depends on what the “outside the home” job is. There were times when I would get home after being out all day in the heat and after two steps inside the house hearing “here, you take him, I’ve had him all day.” Whaa?

athenasgriffin's avatar

What about the women who do both, and do both alone? I think they have the hardest jobs of all.

Cruiser's avatar

Several pre-schoolers for sure! A full time job no matter how difficult is 8…maybe even 10 hour shift with breaks and you go home. Being a mom is from morning till bed time with no breaks and it ain’t easy!

Dutchess_III's avatar

They’re equally hard. Stay-at-home Mom is a 24/7. But one gets respect from society while the other one doesn’t, which is SO wrong.

keobooks's avatar

Daughter just woke me up at 2 AM screaming. She had pulled off her diaper and made a huge mess in the bed. It took an hour to clean up and she’ll still wake me up at 6:30 or 7:00 AM tomorrow morning.

I know that if I were working and I really needed to, I could drop her off at daycare, but go home and sleep this one off. I couldn’t do that too often, but if she were already slotted for daycare, I would just take a sick day and sleep in tomorrow.. then catch up on some housework. As it is, I already know it’s going to be a LONG day tomorrow and it’s only 3 AM here.

Bellatrix's avatar

Impossible to say because it depends on the job, the children (ages and temperament) and what the mother does with those children.

For instance, I would say a nurse working in an emergency room would have an incredibly hard job and I am sure if there are people coming in with heart attacks, road traffic accidents they aren’t going to be going off for 15 minute breaks or lunch. Such jobs are incredibly stressful. Similarly, in some jobs people don’t get regular breaks. I very often have days where I am too busy to stop and have my lunch or to go and have a cup of tea away from my desk. I am sure there are many people in that boat too. Not complaining, I love my job. Then there are people who go to work, do a 9–5 job with those 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch and finish at 5pm. It should be considered though, many people who work outside the home will go home and then have to cook dinner, do housework, pick up groceries (however busy their job is), help children do homework, do the washing etc. after they have finished their paid work shift.

On the flip side a mother who has more than one child under five has a very big job. It is very challenging to try to keep little people occupied and engaged and deal with tantrums while trying to make sure the shopping, housework and the like are all done. It can be exhausting and thankless. Picking up after others and trying to keep a home neat and tidy with little children around is not easy. Of course, there are SAHM and SAHFs who don’t do those things. We have read threads here about those parents who stay home but don’t do the housework or play with their children. And of course, once children are at school, unless the SAHP is doing some real voluntary work can then I find it hard to believe that that is as challenging as someone working in a busy job and then coming home to housework.

So, it is impossible to judge. Everyone’s situation is different. I would not want to judge either situation as ‘easier’ than the other. I don’t really see why it has to be a competition either.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Definitely home with the teeny-tinies, because there is very ltittle consistency of thought or activity, no breaks at all, and the sheer physicality of it can be overwhelming. I guess there may be a few jobs that might compare, but very few that you don’t leave after your shift. With the kiddos, the shift lasts for years.

cookieman's avatar

oh no you don’t. I’m not going down this road again.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

^Haha. That made me laugh out loud.
@cprevite I hear you.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@cprevite : Now I want a cookie. Can I have a cookie, please?

cookieman's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf: Amen to that.

@JilltheTooth: Absolutely, but first cookie goes to @jonsblond.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is really no one way to answer this. I will only speak to myself – it is harder to be with pre-school children all day at home. It wears you out more, emotionally and I work with cancer patients, not for nothing.

jca's avatar

@Bellatrix: It’s not a competition. I was not arguing or discussing this with anyone, just mulling it over in my head. I’m sure it’s a situation of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@cprevite I think I just made a poopy…and I’m going to start crying if you don’t fix it!

cookieman's avatar

@Dutchess_III: Please…I’ve submerged entire digits looking to displace a bit of constipation, only to be deluged upon. Bring it on sister. I’ll go get the diaper cream for your sensitive behind.

Bellatrix's avatar

@jca, the problem is, the way the question is posed sets up a them and us situation. If a respondent says SAHPs work harder, they are saying working parents have it easier and vice versa. The only way one can answer this question is with a generalisation and it is those generalisations that hurt people. We had another thread just recently that did the same thing but was based on the fact that the questioner was (I am guessing) fed up with the negative generalisations posed against SAHPs.

Everyone’s situation is different. Not all SAHPs work tirelessly all day. Some do. Some are fabulous and paint, bake, read and play with their children and keep a beautiful home. Others do not do this so well and some do it very poorly. Similarly, some working parents have full on, stressful jobs but then come home and do the housework they couldn’t do while working and look after their little children and still do home reading and all those things. Others have jobs that are an absolute doddle and come home and don’t worry terribly about the housework. There is no one-size-fits all situation.

How does one say which of these parents works harder though? We can only ever make generalisations and as I have said, those generalisations will upset someone. While posted with mirth, there are people in this thread who have opted out of answering because they recognise by doing so they will cause upset or arguments. I have a WW1 metal helmet and am wearing it at this moment so I am prepared to stick my head above the parapet and take the shots if they come :-)

If I really had to point at a group of parents I think do it especially hard, regardless of whether they work in the home or out, I would say single parents who may have little or no support from their ex. They don’t have a partner coming home to offer at least emotional support. They often really are the only person doing the work in that family for 24 hours, 7 days a week.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I just figured we were speaking to our own experiences and perspective. When KatawaGrey was a toddler I went through full-time SAH, part time SAH and work full-time all in less than a year. I personally found it hardest to be full-time at home, but I missed her terribly when I was working. There’s no “right” answer here, and I see no need for a conflict.

jca's avatar

I see no need for a conflict either. I deliberately tried to be objective when asking the question so as to indicate that I was just mulling over the issues, and not taking sides. I do only know one side, however, and so I don’t know all of the issues, but I try to view the other side fairly.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good observation @jca.

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