Stay-at-Home-Moms vs. Working-From-Home-Moms: Who’s Telling Lies?

I recently received a pretty provocative inquiry from one of my followers, Megan, and I’m hoping you all can shed some light on this for her, because I’m unqualified to do anything other than make uninformed and judgmental speculations. Which of course I’ll do anyway.

Here’s Megan’s question:

So this is something that I think about a lot lately. You hear a TON about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom, how a lot of women who left the workplace say it’s the hardest thing that they’ve ever done, nobody appreciates them, blah blah blah. But then I also know a couple of moms who work full time from their house for an external company, and who ALSO watch their kids all day. So my feeling on it is that someone isn’t telling me the truth. Either being a stay at home mom isn’t really that hard (or the ones that say it is are making it way harder than it needs to be), OR the work-from-home moms are working about 10 minutes total at their money-earning jobs while they’re running around after their kid all day. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but I’ve been wondering about this apparent dichotomy for a while. Since you seem to be pretty fearless* about talking about these things on your blog, I was wondering if you’d ever given any thought to it, and if you’d consider writing a post about it.

Feel like I’m stepping into the lionness’s den with this one, but here we go! To start, some abbreviations:

  • stay-at-home-mom = SAHM
  • working-from-home-mom = WFHM

We’ve all heard (repeatedly) that being a mother is the toughest job in the world. We’ve all known at least one SAHM who cannot go without a nanny and/or a maid (or is that an LA thing?), and still manages to look like a frazzled wreck by the end of the day. We’ve all heard horror stories of new moms not being able to shower for 3 days at a time or going to bed and realizing they didn’t brush their teeth all day. We’ve all seen these greasy-haired wits-end zombies falling asleep standing up at the grocery store. And I don’t dare roll my eyes or shake my head, because I’m 99.9% sure that would be me if I joined their ranks. But I do question how these same women find a spare 8-9 hours to do some clear-headed, high-level corporate work.


To be clear, I’m not saying it’s hard to believe that women with kids can work 8-9 hours (or more) a day – AT AN OFFICE. In fact, many working moms I know say the office is a pretty nice 8-9 hour break from their kids.  And when they’re there, most of them are happy to disconnect a little from their homelife to throw themselves full-force into projects that don’t involve removing fingerpaint from white carpeting.

What I AM saying, and what Megan is saying, is that in the face of such overwhelming evidence (and reminders) that being a SAHM is a rather difficult full-time job requiring full attention, how can they hold down another full-time job at the very same time, in the midst of all that chaos? What could REALLY be going on in that house all day? Let’s examine the options:

  • They’re parking the kid in front of Nick Jr. for 6 hours and letting them nap another 2 to squeeze in a full 8 hours of work
  • They’re only working about 4 hours, but since most people are so wildly incompetent at their jobs, the super-efficient WFHM produces the same volume and quality of work as some of her peers can in twice that amount of time at the office
  • They work as much as they can during the day given the kiddie interruptions, and make up for lost time by hitting the Blackberry hard after Dad gets home, determined not to receive any special treatment as a WFHM.

Frankly, they all sound pretty awful. Someone’s getting shortchanged here, whether it’s the kid, the company, or the WFHM herself – right?

Maybe not; there’s a lot of variables here. Some WFHM’s are probably built with superhuman abilities. Some kids are self-directed, well-behaved and solid sleepers. Maybe the Moms who’ve chosen the WFHM route have done so because they know they’re better equipped to handle it than some of their SAHM counterparts.

And maybe part of the reason that those who choose to remain SAHMs feel so overwhelmed, is that they don’t have the distraction of work or a break from the insanely constant demands on their attention. Or perhaps the expectations are higher – you’re expected to be nanny, chef, laundress, maid, chauffer and maintenance crew if you’re home all day, while WFHM’s may have more opportunities to hire out for tasks that they strongly dislike or aren’t good at. I also suspect that our stress levels swell to fit whatever room we’ve made for them. If being a mom is your sole occupation, you’re going to squeeze the full load of stress into that. If you’re a working mom, you’re going to divide your stress between the office and home. The strange thing is that from the outside, the latter of these is the only one that seems to get any credit.

What do you guys think – are WFHM’s not really working a full day? Are SAHM’s overdramatizing? Or is every mom and kid just different, and some can have it all while others will always struggle just to get through the day?

*PS, I love that Megan thinks I’m “fearless”, when in reality, I’m quivering on weekly tightrope between speaking my mind and being ex-communicated from every friend group and family circle I have. As Drew is fond of saying, “The ironic thing is that you’re going to alienate so many people with your blog, you’re actually going to have to have a kid so someone will love you!” Oh, Mister Maybe! So clever.

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