Many women ponder over this question even before they conceive a baby. Some women dread having kids thinking that their life, or at least their career path, is going to be dead on their baby's arrival. Women stress over it in a way that men could never understand no matter how open and progressive they may be. So what is the answer to this question? Hint: You are the only one who knows.
The traditional model of stay-at-home moms caring and attending to their kids' every need while their husbands go out to work to bring home the bacon is long gone. Many women have careers now and some are even the main breadwinners in their household. But the notion that "good" moms are supposed to sacrifice their personal hopes and dreams for the sake of their kids is very much alive. The interesting and sad thing is that the criticism and shame inducing comments don't usually come from men, but from women themselves.
Many stay-at-home moms criticize working moms for letting nannies and daycares help raise their kids, thinking they are selfish for choosing their careers over their kids. Many working moms look down at stay-at-home moms as shallow and lacking ambition. They are puzzled by how anyone can be satisfied with "just" being a mom, changing diapers all day long and making sure there is dinner on the table when the "king of the house" comes home after work. Moms can't catch a break no matter what decision they make. Why is that? In my opinion, a big part of it could be explained by cognitive dissonance.
Women who choose to stay home with their kids don't necessarily do it because it is the right decision for them. Many women do it, because society or their family values taught them that is what good moms do. Even when the decision to stay home is right for them, many moms still feel isolated and overwhelmed. They believe that sacrificing for their children is a superior value to self actualization or one's own happiness. This belief doesn't live in harmony with the feeling that motherhood, and most importantly their kids, aren't enough to make them happy. They feel tremendous guilt which often leads to depression and other dysfunctional coping behaviors. Putting down working moms that don't carry the same burden they are feeling may be one of the coping mechanism they have adopted to make themselves feel better.
Working moms deal with their own guilt and constant questioning of their worth as mothers. They share the stay-at-home moms' guilt of 'why aren't my kids enough' and have additional guilt over leaving their kids with other people. They come back from work and may not have as much energy left to play and interact with their kids as they wished they had. They hear the criticism from stay-at-home moms of how selfish it is to choose your career over your children or why even bother having kids if you are going to have other people raise them? They may try to ease their guilt and negative self talk by minimizing stay-at-home moms.
Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom you may be dealing with a lot of emotions around your decision. But I can assure you, there isn't just one way to be a good mother. There are as many ways as there are mothers in the world. You are the only one who knows what is right for you. Finding peace in your desired path is a choice you have the ability to make. I work with many stay-at-home as well as working moms and help them find acceptance and appreciation of their style of motherhood.
There are advantages and disadvantages to any choice you make. One thing is absolute and cannot be argued; the best mom is a happy mom! Joyful and fulfilled moms are great role models and positive influencers in their kids' lives. The confidence and contentment happy moms exude will make their kids feel safe and secure. Happy moms will generally be more available emotionally and will make their kids feel loved and worthy of love. That is the best gift you can give your kids. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes you happy!