Beyond “Work Or Stay Home?”: The Three Questions To Ask


Oh, {expletive}, I’m going to have to go through labor.” 

I’ll be totally honest.  That was the very first thing that popped into my head when I found out I was expecting for the first time.  If you know me personally you know I don’t typically use four-letter words, so that gives you a pretty clear picture of how freaked out I was about the labor process.

I’m sure you have your own memory of your initial, visceral reaction to that moment.  Your thoughts were probably varied and based on your circumstances and personality: surprise, excitement, elation, fear, confusion…maybe a mix of different feelings.

Though our experiences are all unique, what we likely have in common was that our very first thought was probably NOT “Will I go back to work or stay home?

But eventually, we all tackled that question.  For some, the decision might have been made for us based on necessity, or it might have been a quick and easy decision.  For others it might have been a longer, more evaluative process.

Regardless, I would recommend reflecting on the following questions (in this order) when wrestling with the decision to work or stay home, and continuing to ask them as you go through the parenting process – because children change, circumstances change, people change, and the decision to enter into working motherhood is rarely one we make once.  The first time might seem like the most significant, but every time we start to wrestle with our decision we make it anew.  So here’s how you can tackle that decision the next time it lands in your lap.

Question 1:  Who do I want my children to become?

I’m a big proponent of beginning with the end in mind, so it shouldn’t come as a shock when I advocate using the same approach in parenting.  How will you know what you’re aiming for if you’ve never identified it?  Your vision of a parenting success may look different from others’, and that’s okay.  But put a label on it.  Personally, my vision for my children is that they become people of integrity, character, and kindness.  People who love God, love people, stand up for what is right, show genuine compassion for others, and are generous with their time, their resources, and themselves.

Question 2:  Is it possible to achieve those results if I work?

We all know that there are no guarantees.  But do I believe that it is likely that I can raise children of kindness, integrity, character, and compassion if I’m not at home full-time?  I believe that yes, I can.  It takes intentionality, but that’s true of any parenting strategy.  In my family, in my circumstances, and with my particular children I believe that working will not negatively impact my desired parenting outcomes.

Question 3:  What do you want?

This is where you can finally weigh those other big-time issues; the ones that we usually skip to right off the bat.  My children are only small once; I don’t want to miss a thing.  Or I find a lot of value in my career and don’t want to give it up.  These are perfectly legitimate things to consider, but at their core they are personal preferences and should be weighted within the greater context of decision-making.

I’m not going to tell you that any of these questions are more important than the others; what I simply want to do is to give you a context to thoughtfully evaluate your individual circumstances and make an informed, intentional decision toward or away from working motherhood.

Would you add any other questions for women to evaluate when they’re trying to figure out whether to work or stay home?  Who do you want your children to become?  Or just for fun, – what was your first uncensored thought when the test came back positive?



9 thoughts on “Beyond “Work Or Stay Home?”: The Three Questions To Ask

  1. These are great questions, but I also asked myself, “What is the best choice for our family?” in making my decision to return to work full time. It was sooner than I wanted to go back for either me or my youngest son, but in the long-run, it’s been the best thing for our family.

  2. We also asked ourselves, “Who will be our extended support network?” Luckily for us, we had a lot of grandparent support in those early years – and continue to have that today. We also asked, “What do we want our kids’ futures to look like?” We really want to offer them many life experiences, a solid education and support with college expenses. I think your point about the need to revisit these conversations throughout the parenthood journey is spot on – I am always wrestling and thinking about what my kids need me most in the various life stages.

  3. What was my first uncensored thought when the test came back positive? Something along the lines of, “Holy crap I’m glad I didn’t drink that beer to make myself have to pee.” And then I hyperventilated.

  4. These are great questions, Kristina! You are absolutely right about checking in with ourselves over time. When I had my first child, I stayed at home and worked one night per week. After a while, I realized I needed more work time, and ended back in the workforce full-time. More recently I’ve been shifting to various part-time arrangements. I am sure I will continue to explore options as the kids grow, because as you said, our needs will change and our family’s needs will change. It takes effort to find the right “mix”!

  5. I was extremely nervous about giving birth but our baby was…unplanned. So I think my first thought was…….what is going to happen to us?!
    I’d love to stay home but it hasn’t been the case yet. For me there would need to be the question, “what can I handle?”
    It took me several years to be honest with myself about this part. I’ve never been good with large amounts of work put on me at once and going on four years of full-time work, mom, wife, housekeeper, is starting to really wear.
    You mommas who rock it are so amazing to me.

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