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Dr. Phil Stay-at-home mom vs. working mom show

I just finished watching the Dr. Phil show on stay-at-home moms vs. working moms that featured bloggers like Jessica Gottlieb (@jessicagottlieb) and Heather Armstrong (@dooce). Although the show touched on some important issues, I found it rather polarizing and one-dimensional. There were a few short mentions of women who work part-time or who do shift-work and share raising of their children with their spouses, but for the most part it seemed to focus on women who are at home all the time or women who are at work all the time.

Some points that need to be made

There are a few points that were made on the show and need to be emphasized. There are others that were severely lacking from the discussion.

  • Dads are parents too: With the exception of one woman who mentioned that she worked in law enforcement and shared child care activities with her husband, there was no mention of these women's spouses at all. Shouldn't there have been just as many men in the audience defending their decision to go back to work or their decision to stay home? I think it is ridiculous that it is still a novelty for men to stay home and that our society still assumes that a working mom = kids in day care. Read more: Feminism, fathers and valuing parenthood.

  • Employers need to be supportive: Dr. Phil briefly touched on being a supportive employer and ensuring that his employees (or at least the female ones) are able to put their kids first. He said that he tells them not to miss any important events with their kids for work and encourages them to leave to be with their kids for important activities. More employers need to do this. A lot of employers act like it would be a hardship. It does take a bit of creativity sometimes, but if you want the best employees and want to get the best out of your employees, you need to take into consideration the fact that they have a life outside of work and that life doesn't always happen only in the evening and on weekends (that goes for both child-free employees and parents).

  • Maternity leave is still lacking: I don't think parents should have to choose between staying at home and going back to work when their children are small. I think that the government should have laws and support systems in place to allow a parent to choose to stay at home with their kids. Read more: SAH or WOH? How can we stop restricting mothers' choices?

  • Affordable quality child care increases women's economic opportunities: Whether a woman chooses to use it or not, ensuring affordable quality day care is available does increase women's economic opportunities and by virtue of doing that it also improves outcomes for children (less poverty, better educational results) and creates greater equality (more women are primary breadwinner, more men choose to take leave). Read more: Pauline Marois: Profile of a feminist, mother and leader of social change.

  • Build the right village: Whether you are a stay at home mom who is suffering from isolation or a work out of home mom who needs to be able to trust the people that care for her children, creating a village is so important. It isn't always easy to build that village because the natural villages that used to exist have disappeared. In my opinion, if you don't work at building that village, you will suffer over time. You need people you can turn to for adult conversation or to give yourself a break. Read more: It takes a village to raise a child.

This issue is far more complex than can be dealt with in a one hour Dr. Phil show. It is far more complex than saying that staying at home is right or going to work is right. It is also more complex than saying that every choice is equal.

Our choices

People make assumptions all the time. I am a working mom and most of my clients and friends that do not know my husband just assume that my kids must be in day care. That is not the case. Here is what we have chosen to do:

  • I quit my job: I was always a model employee (okay, except maybe when I worked for my dad). I always put in 110% at the office. I feel the need to impress my superiors. I knew that if I kept my job, I would constantly feel conflicted between my parental responsibilities and my work responsibilities. I knew that I put enough pressure on myself to do well and I didn't need a boss putting pressure on me too. So I quit my job and started my own business. That way I only take on as many clients as I feel I can handle. I can take 2 months of vacation each year. I can take days off to do things with my kids. It isn't a free-for-all and I do have responsibilities to my clients, but a lot more is in my control than it was when I was someone else's employee. Read more: A working mom seeks balance.

  • I stayed at home during the early days with both kids: I stayed at home for 3 months with my son and for 6 months with my daughter. Being at home during the early days helped with bonding and made breastfeeding easier. I am the primary breadwinner in our family and that was the longest amount of time that I could afford to take off without the bank taking our home away from us. Sure, there are people out there that say "you could have sold your home and moved into an apartment", but losing my home just so that I could stay at home instead of my husband seemed a bit ridiculous. He is a capable parent too.

  • I worked at home a lot: When I first went back to work, I worked at home a lot. That allowed me to be there to breastfeed and to have lunch with my kids. I could take breaks to spend some time with them. I didn't lose time with them due to a commute.

  • My husband is a stay at home dad and my mom helps out: My husband is a stay-at-home dad while doing his Masters degree (done!) and now his PhD. My mom comes over 2 days per week and helps out.  So, over the course of the week, there are generally 2 days where my mom takes care of the kids, 3 days where my husband takes care of the kids, 1 day where I take care of the kids, and 1 day where my husband and I have them together.

  • Our kids start school at three years old: We have found a wonderful, small elementary school that we love. It has small class sizes, a family feel, and has full-day preschool starting at 3 years old. We decided that we would enroll our kids there starting at 3 years. Our son is in his third year there now (he is in Kindergarten this year) and our daughter will start next year. That allowed us to have our kids at home during their first few years, but also allows us to pursue our careers and have them in a trusted and nurturing environment.

I won't pretend that the choices we have made are the best choices or the ideal choices in absolute terms. They were the right choices for us. They were choices that didn't involve catering to society's assumptions about which parent should stay home, about needing a job to be productive member of society, about traditional day care being the only alternative to staying at home.

We need to start thinking outside of the box. Parenting shouldn't be about stay-at-home moms versus working moms. That is so one-dimensional and boring. Let's look instead at the societal conditions that are preventing more creative solutions and that keep boiling it down to a shallow mommy war.
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Reader Comments (100)

Dads staying home is against the will of the Creator. God wants men in the office, stapling things, else Hell, damnation, and surely the End Times will follow.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

like i said over on jessicas blog...this is an argument that is never going to be won. not ever.
i'm not going to go into the whole essay that i wrote on her blog. but i've been on both sides. now, i work a few hours per week. but all 5...FIVE...of my children are in school full days. four of them are in middle school and my youngest is in kindergarten. so my working is not having an impact on any of my kids. only my own little bank account.
my whole issue w/this is...
if you can afford to stay home. then you should. at least for the first few years.
if you can't, then you shouldn't.
but. and i'm going to reiterate what i said on jessicas blog. BUT. the moms that, when their baby hits 6 weeks old, they put them into daycare and go back to work...even when their husband can support them perfectly fine. when the choice is made that the job is more important than the child. that is where my ONLY problem with this whole thing is.
other than that...it's all about choices. and none of us will ever agree with the others choices.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa


You said: "BUT. the moms that, when their baby hits 6 weeks old, they put them into daycare and go back to work…even when their husband can support them perfectly fine. when the choice is made that the job is more important than the child. that is where my ONLY problem with this whole thing is."

Couldn't you equally say: "BUT. the dads that, when their baby hits 6 weeks old, they put them into daycare and go back to work…even when their wife can support them perfectly fine. when the choice is made that the job is more important than the child. that is where my ONLY problem with this whole thing is."

I am so tired of this being a women's issue. It shouldn't be. It is a parents issue. There are usually two of them. Not always, but usually. I don't understand why one gets judged and the other gets a free pass.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is such a wonderful post. I am starting to see more dads out at the playground with their kids on a weekday morning, which is great, but there i still such a long way to go-- and I'm totally with you, we need to be asking the MEN these same questions.

For my husband and I, the decision was fairly simple. I had always wanted to stay home with my kids for the first few years, he wholeheartedly supported that. It made sense both financially (his jobs brings in about 3x what mine would) and personally (he probably would not be able to handle being at home with a young child. I can... though barely lol). But the conversation was had. I'm hoping more will have that conversation, as well.

As for Melissa's comment above-- I know many wonderful mothers who simply would not be able to handle being at home all day with a baby. It would drive them crazy. They are better mothers because of their ability to go to work every day. (I would argue the same is true of many fathers, like my husband).

Ultimately this is a decision that can only be made within that family unit, and should not be judged from without. And we need so much more societal support for families in general to help make this whole issue easier (like employers being more family friendly, better parental leave, and on-site daycares which allow parents to be able to see their babies and even breastfeed them while at work-- I have a friend who can do this right now, it's awesome).

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

i guess, when i'm responding to this, i'm looking at it from the type of life that i and the vast majority of people i know, have.
but yes. the dad is MOST DEFINITELY equally responsible. he did partake in that special hug which created this human being.
it is interchangeable, absolutely. whichever situation is best suited for that particular family.
so let's call it the way it is. whoever gets the bigger paycheck with better benefits works. the other parent stays home and takes care of the kids.
the subject, however, is moms who stay home or moms who work out of the home.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

If everyone would just work on being happy and stop judging other people to make themselves feel better about their own lives the world would be a much better place! Take all that energy and work on bettering yourself. I find that the most judgmental people are usually the least fulfilled. Seriously, I'm so sick of the Stay-At-Home vs Working Mom thing. Do what makes you happy and is best for your family. Because at the end of the day, if Mom and Dad are happy the kids will be happy too!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Fenton

@melissa: *special hug* .... first time I've heard it called that! :)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

my sister would rather work. and she does. so, i get that. i just don't agree with it. but that's ok. we don't have to agree on everything, right?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

@Liz: I partially agree and partially disagree. I agree that different things will work for different families. But I don't agree that "if Mom and Dad are happy, the kids will be happy too!". That isn't always the case. Selfish parents often neglect their kids. The parents may be happy, but what are the kids getting from that? I'm not saying that double-income families are neglecting their kids, but I don't think we can wholesale say that happy parents = happy kids.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

well, you see, my 5 year old wanted to know about how babies are made. (this is SO not the post for this!!). he was...maybe 4 when he asked about it. and i told him that mommy and daddy give each other a special hug and it puts a baby in the mommys tummy. it worked...for a bit. but yesterday, he asked if daddy had to be naked when we did our special hug. *head desk*
omg. and he is learning all this stuff from a kid in his kindergarten class. did a whole post on it.
see, told you it wasn't for this post!! :)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

@melissa: Technically you don't have to be naked... :)

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

technically, you are right. ;) well, not completely naked, at least. technically.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Oh, absolutely! Stapling things is very important..... ;)

(This sounds like something my stay at home husband would say.)

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Thank you for this thoughtful post on the real issues. I'm really tired of the media generated "mommy wars." Being able to have a choice in the matter is a privilege and leaves out the real issues - paid family leave, flexible working environments, a family friendly work policies, affordable heathcare and childcare, etc. For those with the privilege (and this really isn't a choice for many women, specifically low income families - those traditionally left out of this type of debate) to be able to choose between paid work and the unpaid work of staying at home, then I think we should support one another. One size doesn't fit all. I also think you have a good point about happy parents vis a vis happy kids. Perhaps the issue isn't the SAHM vs working parent. Maybe it is a question about whether or not you are engaged in your child's life.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Nice thought-provoking post, Annie. Full disclosure - I'm a full-time, work-outside-the-home mom with a full-time, stay-at-home-dad husband, with our three children. I have crappy maternity benefits but a supportive working environment for getting home when I need to be home and for pumping. So I'm fairly lucky, all things considered.

However, while I agree that dads almost always get a pass in the home vs work debate, and while I'm really sick of the debate itself, I think it IS more important to look at mom's role - not from the pointing-fingers perspective but from the how-can-we-do-this-better perspective. It's a biological fact - mom IS more important to a child in the early months/years. How many moms do you know of who've had to supplement or wean completely due to an early return to work? How many moms do you know of whose bonding or relationship with their children suffered due to a return to work? Babies need their moms. Dad is helpful, but is definitely second best (in most cases - not talking about illness, abuse, etc).

That said, I think the answer is not to simply push mom to stay home. It's time for a paradigm shift. How can moms combine working and infants? What kind of telecommuting or alternative work schedules are possible? How can we improve maternity benefits? Job-sharing? On-site childcare or acceptance of children in some workplaces? It's time to think creatively. Hopefully your post will encourage the kind of change that is accepting of the biological norm of mom needing to be with her baby while still encouraging her to pursue a career.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

I agree with you that men need to be brought into this conversation much more seriously. As a working mother, I've always found my workplaces very sensitive to my parenting responsibilities. BUT one thing that has made it very hard for me to work is that my husband's workplaces are not sensitive to his parenting responsibilities. So, for example, any time our son is sick, I've been the only one to stay home with him. My workplace understood, but it was really difficult to have no one to share the burden of missing work. Or if I occasionally need to work late, I can rarely count on my husband to leave early to pick up our son. I think really for both parents to be able to work outside the home, it takes two parents with flexible jobs. (Or local grandparents, but we don't have that.)

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

Outside the biological reality that pumping is inferior to nursing (immunities are developed at the breast, breastmilk composition changes according to the baby's needs - not the pump)

How many fathers actually WANT to be home as full-time caregivers to infants though? Where is that question, and qualitatively, what do they think being primary caregiver means - parenting or free time to write that novel they've always wanted to write?

My partner admits he doesn't have the multitasking skills and maternal calm I have that allows me to still function on next to no sleep (our youngest has reflux and I haven't had a full night's sleep in 2 years). I know part of that is personality not gender roles. When I suggest returning to work and us splitting childcare duties he looks a little wild eyed.

My ex and I traded time when we had one child and he was close to 3 years old. We worked alternate shifts. He always worked more hours than I did and when we started homeschooling I was working 20 hours a week. Once there were two children his interest in primary or shared caregiving went out the window. After we separated his interest in parenting didn't return until he was living with another woman (and I'm thankful their step-mom is as involved as she is).

I know plenty of awesome involved fathers. They don't want to be primary caregiver. What they want are more opportunities to telecommute and work from home so they can be more involved, but they don't want the "primary caregiver" role. What I'm seeing around me are more and more young families making the decision to find work that allows them that kind of lifestyle. It often involves a community that welcomes children as participants and ends the isolation of "home" too.

I say we need a revolution that stops marginalizing the FAMILY altogether. The social experiment of the suburbs has failed dismally.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermudmama

I HATE the Mommy Wars, thanks Dr. Phil. My mom was a work a lot single mom (out of need, not want) and I am a stay at home mom (out of want ). I do wish people (men and women) would feel like they could stay home if they wanted (and could afford it). See the list written in the blog.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

Such a great post. I think its important for both parents to be involved, for employers to be more sensative to family life, and for parents to be creative with their time. We have been lucky that although both my husband and I work, we both have supportive work envioronments and family and friends to help us with raising our daughter. Because my maternity leave sucked, my husband and I both stayed home during the early days - I was home for the first 7 weeks and then my husband was home for the next 7 weeks. I was able to pump for a year and a half at work without comment from my employer. We didn’t want a traditional daycare and were lucky to have our neighbor, my sister and my parents watch our daughter while we worked. My husband and I were also able to stagger our shifts so that our daughter wasn't away from us for more than six hours. She started a small montessori school this year that all three of us love where she goes from 9-3pm. It isn’t perfect but it works for our family and our daughter is happy (which is our biggest concern).

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen Dugan

All good points! I especially wish there would be more recognition of stay-at-home-dads (mine, like yours, stays home with our daughter while working on a Master's). If more SAHDs are shown to be a normal, logical choice for some families, more men will be willing to take on that role, or at least take on more responsibility for the care of their children.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia


What you say about breast milk is true. However, those same immunities and other benefits are available when you nurse 5 or 6 times per day and give 3 bottles a day.

With regards to whether men want to stay home or not, I think the same could be said of women. I know plenty of women who do not want to be full-time stay at home moms. If a family decides that it is better for one parent to stay home, I do not think it automatically needs to be the woman that does that.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Elizabeth: I do agree that it makes more sense for the mom to be at home during the first few months (nine in, nine out?) and that is why we chose to have me stay at home for as long as I could. However, for a toddler or preschooler, I don't see any reason why it should be a mom instead of a dad. I think both parents need to spend a significant amount of time with their children to promote a strong bond. I do know moms whose bonding or relationship with their children suffered due to a return to work. I also know plenty of dads whose bonding or relationship with their children suffered due to a return to work. I see many stat-at-home moms despairing that their child won't go to Daddy on the weekend. That is because Daddy hasn't been given the opportunity to develop a strong bond in a lot of cases.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have no problem presenting the 100% folks--and I think that both get a bad rap at times, which is (mostly) not deserved. But a lot of the folks I know are trying to find the-in between, so it is puzzling as to why they completely ignored the vast field of compromise in between the two full-time options.

As for SAHD, I think part of the reason few men take on this role is upbringing; my husband was raised by a dad who had to work and mom who wouldn't, even when her kids were in high school and college. This ingrained in his mind that the role of the man is to work a stable job even when it isn't what he really wants to do. He sees the ill logic of this, but has a hard time overcoming it. The other aspect that society doesn't really talk about is how many women tend to aim lower in their professional goals (even before they have children), and therefore not be as equipped for a position which can adequately support their families alone. This may seem like a sexist statement, but lately I've seen several articles talking about this: how women's financial goals tend to be lower (they shoot for lower salary ranges and are far less likely to negotiate for higher salaries when being offered a job), and even women entrepreneurs rarely set goals that are as lofty as their male counterparts--which almost guarantees that their success will be more modest.

Men need to break past the mindset of the past, but women also need to put away their reluctance to be bold, tactically-oriented, and self-promoting. Doing so will help both men and women to have truly equal choices, both at work and in the home.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndi

i agree - different horses for different courses and please let's put the mummy wars thing to bed. recognition by society and employers of the family as the employable unit rather than as an obstacle to productivity

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

Well done! Thanks for writing this. I am a working mom. It shouldn't vs. the other. We as women and parents should support each other!

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcela Beatty

@Marcela: I do agree in general that women and parents should support each other. I do think it is appropriate, however, to have discussions about the pros and cons of different choices. I do a lot of that here on this blog. My issue with the Dr. Phil show wasn't that the issues were being debated. My issue was that it was too one-dimensional/patriarchal/kyriarchal in its construction.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Yes, I'm thinking more of the infant stage where mom is more "important." Beyond that, I agree that the focus should be on BOTH parents and their work/life balance choices.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Amen, amen, and amen! Seriously. I really think that what we need as parents (regardless of our gender) is flexibility and options. Maternity leave, parental leave, affordable childcare, and flexible work arrangements should all play a role. If working full-time is working for you, great. If staying home full-time is working for you, also great. But I truly believe that a lot of parents fall somewhere in the middle. We want or need some income. We enjoy having pursuits outside of home. But we also like to spend time with our kids and be there for them when they're young.

I think that the 'mommy wars' are mostly fabricated, anyway. They keep it one-dimensional because it's easier and sells better than having an actual nuanced discussion, or facilitating real change that is family-friendly.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I'm a full-time work-outside-the-home Mom.... And I really like working. I also like being a parent. I disagree with the opinion that if a Mom CAN financially stay home then she SHOULD stay home... she might find a great daycare (mine is fabulous) or have a loving relative (like grandma) to take care of her kids during the day, letting her be free to do something she enkoys (like work!)

Saying that "every mother should stay home" is like saying "every woman should be a nurse" or "every woman should be a teacher"... not everyone is born with the natural ability to stay home, be a good mother, support a husband.

It is certainly evident that many parents could benefit from better/improved parenting skills... society could benefit from more fabulous daycares (like mine) or fabulous schools (like phdinparenting's).... and working mothers could benefit from more options such as the ones outlined in this post and Elizabeth's comment.

I work for a big company with not-so-great-benefits. We don't even have true maternity leave for parents -- just medical leave and FMLA. However this year, the company started employee support groups and I am one of the leaders for the Working Mothers Support group. Besides supporting each other we are advocating for changes. So maybe I and my fellow working moths will be able to make some changes at our company -- at least we hope. It's amazing how oblivious we have found some of our executive leaders to be when it comes to supporting working mothers... our CEO did not even realize his company did not offer true maternity leave to mothers. Other executives didn't realize that some managers forbid telecommuting or any kind of flexibility in arrival or departure time.

Anyway, choices is the way to go and that's how I'm going to continue to encourage our group to approach this!

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

"I am the primary breadwinner in our family and that was the longest amount of time that I could afford to take off without the bank taking our home away from us. Sure, there are people out there that say “you could have sold your home and moved into an apartment“, but losing my home just so that I could stay at home instead of my husband seemed a bit ridiculous. He is a capable parent too."

Thank you for this. I went back to work when my daughter was 6 months. My job does not provide any maternity top-up and at the time, I was making far more than my husband. His job does provide a substantial top-up to parental leave. I got the same comments - that if I *really* wanted to stay home, we could manage it. Sure we could - but honestly, the benefits of ME staying home rather than my husband didn't outweigh the sacrifices we'd make (which had more to do with paying more in expenses to live in the country than anything to do with "luxuries").

This upcoming maternity/parental leave we're going to have me stay home for longer - we found the transition at 6 months tough as my daughter wouldn't take a bottle and wasn't eating many solids for obvious reasons. We're figuring an 8-month/4-month split - and while I'd love to take the full year, my husband really wants time at home with his kids too... and why on earth would I want to deny him something so special?

Anyway... thanks for this. I feel the guilt of going back to work "before I have to" and it's always nice to hear the voice of reason...

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

@Juliette: You're welcome...and I always love being called the voice of reason! :D

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks for posting this, and for looking at a more nuanced view. I also am one of those in an "alternative" situation, where my husband/co-parent and I both work from home in a family business, and both of us care for our son. It kinda works and kinda makes us want to tear our hair out at times, and it's meant that we don't earn very much, but it was a conscious choice we made to be together as a family all day long, particularly for me as the mother in these (still) breastfeeding years. I don't say this at all as a judgment of people who make different choices, by the way. Our business isn't something either of us is passionate about, which we used to think was essential to our psychological well-being (working for something we believed in), but we've managed to channel our need for fulfillment into non-paying or low-paying opportunities (writing, churchy things, etc.). I wouldn't tell every parent that they need to work from home, particularly if their career choice or circumstances don't allow for that, but I like to throw this option into the discussion, because I find that many parents don't know that it is an option: that is, that both (if there are two) parents can work, and both can stay home.

I still feel that mommy guilt when I don't love, love, love being around my toddler all day, though, and don't do astonishingly cute activities with him like I see some other SAHMs (not working from home) manage, and when I chose twice-a-week preschool to give my husband and me child-free work time, but...well, I try not to let it get to me.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

Oh, gosh, I'm feeling all nervous about what I said. Let me just reiterate that it might not be an option for all (most) parents to work from home and care for children full-time at the same time. I acknowledge that I write from a place of privilege, that we are able to afford to work from home because of our skills, background, small family size, etc. I really just wanted to echo your sentiments, that the work out of the home vs. stay at home debate often dichotomizes the two options and leaves fathers out of the picture, but that there are other options available. Sometimes families wondering what to do when kids arrive could find a better balance for working and childrearing if they asked questions and considered a fuller range of choices, and I just wanted to be another example of what is possible.

Ok, I think maybe that was clearer.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

You know, I have had so many people ask me why don't I do my job from home (it could definitely be a tele-commute role) so I don't have to pay for child care. They don't seem to get that I couldn't actually do justice to my job OR my kids in that set up! I'd still need child care. (Besides, my employer doesn't "do" that anyway...) It's wonderful you and your spouse are able to work together in this manner and have some balance.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

One question is whether unhappy mom/dad = happy kids. What about the mom who does want to work and resents dad or baby because she is not the primary breadwinner? I never saw myself as a "stay at home mom" and I'm the primary breadwinner. My husband would never agree to staying home. He loves his job and he just wouldn't "get" why it would be better for him to stay at home, necessarily. I maybe could have not worked...if we sold a car and got a smaller house in another neighborhood, but I just didn't see myself as a full time mom. I waited a bit later to have kids (over 30) and I didn't see stopping my career I worked for 10+ years for just a few years until the kids went back to school. I am VERY fortunate that I've been able to have a bit of the best of both worlds in that I work AT home and we have a nanny so I do get to see the kids more than if I worked away from home (like yesterday when I took a 15 minute break and played football with the boys) and I can oversee, but even if I didn't have this option I don't think either of us would have stayed home. I 100% agree with you that it's not just a mom thing but a parent thing, though. It's just not so cut and dry for the working mom vs. full time mom thing, though. I hate to think people think I'm a worse mom simply because I didn't choose to stay home with the kids, though. We have great quality time together and a very loving home. Kids can be just as WELL-adjusted with two working parents as they can be NOT well-adjusted with a full time parent. It really depends on the whole situation.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Johnson


I would NEVER say that unhappy mom/dad = happy kids. In fact, there is research that shows that the parent's mood does affect their children. I have written about that previously:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/03/24/you-are-not-a-perfect-parent/" rel="nofollow">You are not a perfect parent
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/07/09/wheres-your-smile/" rel="nofollow">Where's your smile

But I also think it is more complex than saying happy parents = happy kids. Not necessarily the case. I do think there are people who are so selfish that perhaps they shouldn't have had kids. If someone always needs to put their own needs and wants first, then I don't think they are the parenting type.

All parents deserve to have some selfish moments or some "me time" in order to preserve their happiness and their sanity, as long as they are respectful of their children's needs in doing so (e.g. choosing a trusted caregiver).

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well this goes without saying.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeth aka confusedhomemaker

I really don't get the dichotomy that exists or why it's perpetuated by the media, except that it reinforces stereotypes giving those who "control" capital a benefit. I know that sounds/reads conspiratorial but I've tried to find other reasons & it's the whole "private/public" thing that benefits capitalism (extreme capitalism) the most. At my house we parent together, I don't get this discussion, it seems so class based.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeth aka confusedhomemaker

I love what you wrote. When i used to work outside the home, I constantly felt guilty for not being there for my kids. My son was raised by my parents. When my daughter was born I decided to stay home. I also found that the bosses at work were not flexible and understanding about my family. At work what counts is to produce. Family does not count. Yes I agree, that companies should be more understanding and flexible when it comes to family. I too have drawn the conclusion that working from home is the best thing to me. Right now I have my own buisness and i absolutley love it. I love creating new stuff, taking decisions and having a flexible time. I love the way you have organized the babysitting, this is a big ey-opener for me and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this.


October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergalit

I think we have to try to do what is best for our family. It may be ideal for a parent to be available to the children all the time, but if being at home all day makes a parent unhappy, then that is not ideal either. I love that I have the option to work my own hours and do most of my work at home (when I AM, working...admittedly I don't have much work these days). Anyway, I think it's awesome if a mom can work and still spend lots of time with her children, but if she doesn't want to work, then I think it's totally fine to just be a stay at home mom, too! (either way it's work, right?)

October 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C

I do a bit of everything. Go into work once a week and work from home the rest of the time all so I can primarily be a stay at home mother and avoid childcare for my daughter. Every child is different, but I truly believe she would really struggle if I was away from the home anymore than I am now. And although I didn't think I would enjoy staying at home that much I find that on the days I'm in the office, those are the days that I feel like I'm missing out, not the other way around.

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterzoey

I was also on that show. I was the woman stating that although I respect Jessica's right to make decisions for herself and her family, I don't feel she (or anyone) can speak on behalf of all SAHMs. Every parent has to find what works best for them and their family. In the process, we all need to respect each other's choices. Parenting is hard enough without having total strangers criticize our choices.

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

How I would have loved me some Dr. Phil that very day. I too have lived on both sides of the grass is always greener cliche and it is most definitely a personal choice. If we continue to ask our kids how we're doing, than yes, we do have the power to be happy and make our kids happy.

My son thanked me three time for building a fort with him, and for sharing popcorn and a home movie. Three times he turned to me with complete appreciation. I wonder, if I had made myself completely accessible 24/7 would he have felt the same way? I think not.

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBradi Nathan

I'm not sure what you're saying here. That you shouldn't be 100% available so that your kids will be grateful when you play with them?

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterzoey

[...] it didn’t really talk about anything we moms need to hear. A great post was written on the blog PHD In Parenting that brought up some of the notable topics that were not discussed by Dr. Phil on the [...]

I wonder, if staying home is so important, why more people aren't willing to go to a system that guarantees that. Sweden & Norway, one parent can be home for 1 year at 80% salary; you can even split that so if dad wants to take 4 months and mom 8 months, sure.
The reality is the U.S. doesn't feel it is that important.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichi

I think "people" are willing, but corporations aren't. The U.S. has unfortunately allowed corporate greed to pull a lot of the strings of our daily lives, starting with the types of legislation that get introduced and passed in our Congress. Corp's don't want to pay for "no work." They want to squeeze out a maximum of productivity for a minimum of investment from real workers (CEO's are excepted, naturally). I think that's the main reason why the U.S. system hasn't caught up to the rest of the more civilized family leave systems of other countries.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndi

Do you really think it is fair to stay at home moms to have their representive be a judgemental person who comes across as a nut. I am a stay at home mom of three girls 17,15 and 11 and I can assure you that women does not represent me. As far as childen whose mothers work being more successful in school I can assure you that is not true in all cases my two older daughters are in the top 2% of their class. My middle is ranked 2 in a class of 400. My children also have a strong faith and attend mass every week without any fighs. I have instilled in my children that being nice is the most important thing they can do in school. My children have been bullied often in school because they are not cool and I taught them that it is better to be bullied the to be a bully. I have to tell you that most of the bullies in their schools are children of working moms.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergeorgianna mcardle


I get that not everyone agrees with Jessica and she certainly has strong opinions, but I wouldn't call her a nut. That said, I think you are making some unfair assumptions too.

I was bullied in school. http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/08/01/the-bully-who-defined-me/" rel="nofollow">I wrote about my horrible experience here. Almost all of those awful bullies had stay at home parents.

http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/10/no-sinners-in-my-house/" rel="nofollow">We have chosen not to raise our children in any religion and think that they are better off for it. I would expect and encourage them to fight it if anyone tried to drag them to mass.
Different people have different values. If you are religious, that is fine with me. But people who do not have "strong faith" can be exceptionally compassionate, caring and ethical human beings that are driven by their own compass rather than a list of religious edicts.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Okay, for one, I usually steer clear of tv discussions of any topics, because they are meant mostly to sensationalize not to inform, invoke change or even give real helpful advice. For another, there is much discussion and debate on that which triggers insecurities in us. That's where all these conflicts come from. The insecurity that someone else has it all right and we are doing it all wrong. In fact, the MORE insecure one is, the MORE defensive one becomes protecting one's position.

I have done both, worked out of the home with two children, then stayed at home. I just recently reprinted my "story" about why here: http://raisingsmartgirls.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/female-attrition-in-the-stem-field/" rel="nofollow">Female Attrition in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field.

It's not the fact that I care what others think about me being a WOHM or a SAHM. It's about me being an educated woman in an tough field walking away temporarily but wanting back in because it's what I LOVE to do. I'm suffering because I know EXACTLY what I gave up.

The thing that makes me most upset is not whether or not I should have quit my job (I know why I did and am grateful to do so), but it is the fact that now that my children are getting older, it will be tough getting job re-training so that I can re-enter the laboratory. That's the thing that really pisses me off. I have 12 years of experience, I was excellent at what I did, I feel confident I get back up to speed when I do, my husband is willing to shift his schedule around so one of us could drop off the kids before school and the other could pick us up after school - but I need someone willing to take a chance on me. It literally scares the pants off me thinking I'm never going to get back in, after all I did to get where I was.

After 5 years of being at home, teaching them about nature and science, nurturing a love of reading in them, advocating for my selectively mute daughter, it's nerve-wracking to think that I won't be able to get back on the on-ramp to a science career again. Is the door of opportunity closed? Who knows. At this point, I'm willing to wash glassware, just to be back in a lab again.

As usual, thanks for the lively discussion.



October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRaising Smart Girls

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