Mamahood vs. Full-time Work: what helped me decide.

maxwell twin shirts maggie whitley

Max and I are kinda like “two peas in a pod” these days, soaking up the last few weeks where it’s just he and I at home together during the day. When I reflect back on the last 17 months I have so much peace over what we’ve learned and how we’ve bonded. Of course, so much has changed too, comparing what I thought would be to what actually is. These changes have me so, so grateful for the support in making one of my biggest decisions ever: to focus on our family instead of also trying to run two handmade businesses (and write a blog). Naturally I did slow down big time once Max was born last March, but as he became more of a toddler (and less of a little baby) I knew I needed to adjust exactly where my attention was going each day. I like to refer to that time as, learning the art of saying “no” :)

Every woman experiences mamahood differently. And while we each have our personal preferences, one thing in common is the number of hours that fill each day — it’s exactly the same. Before Max was born I knew I wanted to take an eight week maternity leave from handmade, but as that mark neared I found myself not quite ready to jump in with both feet. A few more weeks passed and still, I wasn’t ready.

When you find yourself in a mamahood vs. full-time work dilemma, like I did, I think it’s important to listen to your body and heart for guidance. We each have totally unique experiences, requirements, support systems and family needs. My story is probably different from my neighbors, which is likely different from their neighbor, etc. It can be hard to know exactly what to do, but knowing there’s beauty and grace in customizing my new plan was so encouraging for me.

Before having my first baby I was incredibly organized and (let’s be honest) a scheduling pro. Now, I’d like to think I’ve hit a more realistic balance with all of that advanced-planning stuff ;) But, trying to do too much each day during that first year absolutely frazzled me and I constantly questioned if I was doing it right. Come bedtime I didn’t feel like I had been creative enough or rested enough to continue with my previous schedule. My emotions felt uncontrollable and nothing I was doing felt like it was being done well. (Not a good feeling.)

Really, what I wanted to focus on was this precious new baby — and that felt like “enough”. Working full-time, in addition to be a mama, was something I felt could be put on hold, at least for now. I encouraged myself, saying as my need for more creativity rose my new schedule would help me be able to say “yes”. I felt peace in this decision, and the peace was constant. Success! (I also reminded myself this new schedule is what works best for me, for my family, for now, but we could make changes at any time.)

A friend shared something with me a few months ago. In summary she said, “your children won’t wait for you to grow up; they’ll do it regardless of how you prioritize your time.” That was hugely powerful for me and helped to propel me forward.

Am I nervous for another little baby to join our family? — totally. But I know my days have room for this kind of exciting growth, so that’s what I’m leaning on.

fine print: I know many mamas who work full-time and have peace over that decision, and I fully encourage them to continue with that personal decision. I believe part of what makes someone a good parent is their ability to do it well, and consistently. This blog post is in no way a “my way or the highway” post, but it IS a post that I pray will encourage you to move forward in confidence with whatever decision your heart is guiding you to do. There is nothing worse than the guilt of self-doubt. I’m cheering for you :)

Comments

  1. 2

    Erinmarie says

    I quit working after my second was born and that’s when my handmade biz was born. I was diagnosed with PPD after my second and it was a struggle. The ability to be creative helped me through a terrible time. Now that my kids are a little older and I am free from depression (yay Jesus!) I find myself feeling like Im doing the bare minimum with my shop even though its busy. Especially over this summer. It’s the last time they will be like THIS and we have just a few days before school/preschool starts. Enjoy the season you are in. It won’t always be this way and I have never regretted spending a day loving on my littles and putting work to the side.

  2. 5

    says

    “your children won’t wait for you to grow up; they’ll do it regardless of how you prioritize your time.”
    I love that!

    I work full time so my partner is able to be a stay-at-home dad. Other than working hours, I make sure that I am really present and spending time with my daughter because I know children can grow up all too fast. It is nice to see that you have made parenting a priority and know that your working can wait until your kids are older.

    • 7

      says

      I would agree we each have our own experiences with mamahood and work, but for me I wasn’t able to both at 100% and have them both done well (so I personally needed to make them exclusive). Thanks for your comment Katie!

  3. 8

    Becky says

    First of all, let me say, I’m a huge supporter of you and have been following your blog for several years now. I love your writing and think it is awesome that you made the choice (and are able) to stay at home with your babies!

    However, as a mother who has a full-time job and is a full-time mother, I found this particular blog post to be short-sighted. I really wish that I would stop seeing posts like this from bloggers which, although I’m sure not intended, make us working mothers feel guilty for our decision to have a career and a family. I love being a mother. I also love my career and feel that my choice doesn’t make me any less of a mother.

    Again, although I’m sure it was well-intended, even your “fine print” statement really comes across as a “dig” against working mothers.

    I encourage you to really re-read this blog post and think about the message you are sending.

    • 9

      Andrea says

      Hey Becky, I think I understand where you are coming from — since being a mom, I have worked outside the home and from home. Both were hard!

      However, I think what Maggie is trying to say in this post is that we ALL need to do what works best for us because that’s what will make us the best parents. When I worked outside the home, I did feel a little guilty, but at the same time, I could devote all my “at home” hours to kids.

      Now, working from home, I’m there for all the milestones BUT I’m always multi-tasking and often don’t feel like I’m giving 100% to either.

      It sounds like you’re doing what you love and making the best choices for your family. Maggie is too — you just have different “best choices”

      Also, I personally think that we are the only ones who can let ourselves feel guilty — no one else can place that on us.

    • 10

      says

      Becky- It makes me wonder why those of us moms who have made the decision to stay home with our children cannot talk about that decision freely, why we chose it, how to make it work, and even that we are proud of our decision, without working moms trying to make us feel bad for making them feel guilty (I’d also like to note that even though we don’t work outside the home, we are still working).

      Maggie shouldn’t even have had to add the disclaimer at the end, but we all sort of feel like we have to these days. If there is guilt over the issue, it’s not coming from us. “Mom guilt” is so much a thing that it actually has it’s own name. Magazine articles are written about it. TV segments are done on the topic. None of that has to do with stay at home moms talking about staying home.

      And I saw absolutely nothing in this post that even remotely seemed like she was trying to make anyone feel guilty. I don’t think you have it in you Maggie; you’re so incredibly sweet and kind!! The message of this post was beautiful and encouraging.

    • 11

      says

      I appreciate the emails you have sent since writing your first comment. This is such a hard topic to write on, so many angles and emotions and outside “things” that influence how we interpret these kind of topics. I know you meant well with your comment. For me, what was the hardest — and ultimately what made me choose between the two — is I didn’t feel like I could work full-time (even in the evening for 8+ hours) and be a happy/nurturing mom during the day. I struggled to find enough hours each day to do both. And I didn’t want to multi-task. So :) I pray this explanation helps a little, but please know I welcome opposing comments/feelings. We are all unique mamas and we ALL have value, regardless of our differences. xoxo

    • 12

      says

      This is such a hard topic to write on. Obviously there’s rampant mommy-guilt on both sides, but I think part of the problem is that when we hear one person’s story about what works for them we instantly feel what isn’t working for us, especially if there’s a bigger something that’s not working.

      Sure Maggie’s choice allows her to spend more time with her kids and be a less-frazzled mom, but that doesn’t mean by choosing to work makes you a bad mom or even a less good one. In my case I see being a working mom as giving my children the opportunity to experience the outside world early (like they’ll have to do when they start school anyway) in the home of a licensed childcare professional (I realize not everyone has great childcare options and I got lucky here). They’re getting a much better preschool curriculum than I could offer. They’re making friends and learning interpersonal skills that will be crucial as they grow up. Plus, when I do see them at the end of the day I’m a much less frazzled person because I got to deal with adults all day and find their slavish need of my constant presence adorable.

      There really are as many ways to be a good parent as there are kid-parent combinations. Sometimes we can tell what we’re doing isn’t working, but it takes awhile to figure out how to fix it and that’s no fun. I hope you’re able to find your balance.

  4. 13

    says

    I love this, Maggie. I wish you didn’t feel the need to put a disclaimer at the bottom of the post, or have to read comments asking you to rethink what’s clearly your own personal experience.

    I’m proud of you for opening your heart to friends and strangers alike, and for sharing what is good for your soul, for your family, and for your babies.

    I’m cheering for you too. :)

    • 14

      Becky says

      I’m cheering for her as well, and my comment was never intended to imply otherwise. I’m sorry that you don’t feel she should have to read my comments. I always find it refreshing to read other perspectives, it helps to broaden my own horizon.

      Honestly, I really just wish we could all cheer for each other. I applaud all mothers who made the choice not to work outside. I think it is more than a full time job and I would NEVER argue with that decision. I also applaud mothers like myself who choose to follow a career path because it is either necessary financially or because we want to continue down this path and be mothers.

      Just my two cents. I wasn’t trying to be overly negative, I read this post after spending the morning cuddling with my beautiful daughter and was on my way to go into my corporate job (which I love).

  5. 15

    Pamela says

    You are adorable and I have followed your blog for a long time watching your business and your family grow. I usually don’t comment (forgive me) but I felt I needed to share a little bit of been there, done that wisdom to answer your question.

    Even though there really isn’t a clear cut answer that is right for everyone, I thought I would share my own thoughts now that my kids are older, and I’ve been in your shoes. I have four kids, three daughters and a son (25,22,20 and 16). If I could say anything to my twenty something, new mama self, I would say… pay attention to every minute, every pudgy finger, every sleepy smile. Something I’m sure you haven’t heard a million times before. Right? ;) But to be honest, I did do that, and still, the years just seemed to faa-lie by. That said, after years of staying home and raising kids I also wish I had told myself to keep doing something just for me. Like one of your other commenters said, being a mom and working are not mutually exclusive.

    Now that my kids are busy doing what they dreamed of doing, or working toward those dreams, I often wish I had in someway continued to follow my own dreams. Now, I find myself trying to figure out what the next phase of my life will look like, and having to kind of start over in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade in any of the time I spent raising my children and I feel blessed that it was even a option for me, but I do think there is a way to find balance. That will definitely look different for everyone, depending on circumstances, but I don’t think you ever need to choose one or the other.

    Give yourself a break and don’t make any set in stone decisions until after new baby. And even then, you’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to do what FEELS right for your family, not what LOOKS right for everyone else. Above all, enjoy the little moments because no matter how much we wish otherwise, time flies, kids grow, we age. Enjoy the moments!

    • 16

      says

      I’m so incredibly grateful nothing needs to be permanent, that I have the ability to change my mind and try something new at any point. (And yes, don’t ditch your hobbies Maggie!) It is so hard to know what’s best, but when I felt a constant struggle to do too much I decided to make a decision and move forward confidently.

      You offer so much wisdom and I’m certainly grateful for your comment. Thank you :)

  6. 17

    Becky says

    I went from full time career woman to SAHM after my second was born. I struggled with guilt and figuring out what was right. What I learned was that no one could make me feel guilty. Each dynamic is different and there is no cookie cutter answer for all. Guilt is a choice! Follow Gods will for you and you will be ok. Thanks for sharing!

  7. 19

    says

    I always feel its a blessing when a mom is has the option/choice to stay home or work full-time or even part-time. Staying home with your children is so very important and if you can – wow amazing and wonderful. Whatever choice we make, it has to be right for our life – no one elses.

    I also think its important to understand that alot of mommas WANT to stay home but HAVE to work – they don’t have a choice and that is such a hard thing sometimes. That is how is was for me – I had to work. And I just didn’t see making the drastic changes that would have needed to be made for me to stay at home. The father of my children was not willing to make changes for that to happen and that was so hard for m. So, without saying any more about that — it just wasn’t an option for me and it was devasting, believe me and it still is hard even having a 15 and 16 year old – not being home after school and when they are school breaks is hard! I consider my full-time job a blessing because of what it provides and that still doesn’t make it easier.

    I am truly happy for you Maggie! Finding your balance is so important and seeing that you have such a supportive husband helps trememdously! I love reading your blog. You inspire me and I find your perspective very helpful – even though we are in different seasons of life!
    Have a great day!
    xo

    • 20

      says

      It IS so hard. We have definitely sacrificed a lot (a lot, a lot!) of things for me to be home. These sacrifices have been incredibly hard and are probably not the wisest for the long-term plan, but we are praying for a few things to change so it makes me staying home easier and wise.

      I value so much your comment. Thank you for taking a few minutes to type out your story.

      • 21

        says

        you are so sweet!! my momma heart is reaching out to yours and giving you a hug!

        I believe you are savoring this time – and that would be my advice – I have a boy and girl 15 months apart and they are now 16 and 15 – each stage and phase doesn’t last all that long – so embrace and savor the time – I admire your choice and the sacrifices it brings and I am pretty sure you will look back in 14 years, you wont regret the time you spent at home! Even though I worked full-time, I did make choices and sacrifices and I don’t regret them because they always led to time with my kids. :)

        xo

  8. 22

    Mara says

    You are just one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever “met” ;) you’re honest but sweet and encouraging and supportive – all just through your posts. I’ve never regretted taking time to read your posts and I love that. Cannot wait to see you in your new role as momma of 2!

  9. 24

    says

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and its one that I anxiously await new posts from daily. (I may stalk your instagram, Facebook & twitter too!) I hate to see people being so negative regarding your post. I am a full time working mother of 3, on top of being a full time student. I applaud you. I love my children and want to spend as much time with them as possible, including more than I get to now because of school and work, but financially its not feasible for my family. Everyone’s situations are different, no 2 families or mothers are the same.

    WE, as mothers, need to learn to embrace each other. SAHM, Working mom, stepmoms, adoptive mothers, everyone needs to unite. Not judge or criticize each other. We are all trying to do the best that we can. And some days, each and everyone of us is struggling. Struggling with decisions, struggling with making sure the laundry is done… Even struggling to get out of bed.

    Thank you for your post Maggie. You are a great mother. I will continue to stalk your blog and watch you grow and inspire others!

  10. 26

    says

    Those words are some of the best advice. When I had my son, and tried to wrestle with what amount side work {if any} I could take on I was speaking with Darcy and she said something I’ll never forget… for every hour you work on design stuff, is an hour away from your babies… that was a turning point for me and letting all this creative stuff go for this season in life wasn’t so hard. Anyway, I have so much respect for you!

    • 27

      says

      One of my mentors has shared nearly the exact same thing with me — and it has helped me so much with knowing what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to, all knowing that as life goes on we are free to make changes. Thank you so much for your comment. xo

  11. 28

    says

    Love your heart, Maggie. I’m thankful that you are following Jesus and waking peacefully into this season! He knows what we need in every season, and I love that you are walking with Him AND encouraging other mamas to do the same–whatever that looks like for each of us. Your words are gracious and full of the freedom you have experienced. Thanks for sharing! XO -Ann

  12. 29

    cindy whitley says

    Maxwells’ momma,
    Your babies are the most precious decision you will ever make, it is truly a blessing for a husband to wholeheartedly agree and make it possible. Maxwell and Zack deserve all the love you have to give and your lives will be forever blessed by this time in your lives, and the big decisions and sacrifices that make it all a possible.
    Hugs from Grammy!!

  13. 31

    says

    Thank you for this. I really needed to read it this morning. Honestly, I started reading, and then stopped, realizing that I should be spending the time playing with my kiddos instead. That was were I needed to be this morning. I struggle, being at home with my babies each day, but still wanting to pursue my other passions. It’s hard to say no to somethings for a season or time, and fully live each moment that God has given. And truly, it changes from week to week, month to month. Sometimes my kiddos get on a schedule that allows me time for writing, while other times I can barely drag myself out of bed after all the middle of the night wake up calls. They’re all truly seasons, and I’m trying my best to be content and enjoy each one of them to the fullest. You’re right, babies truly don’t keep. Listen to your heart Maggie, and be present. I can’t wait to hear what God has planned in the future for you!

  14. 34

    says

    Maggie, as my kids have grown, with each passing year, I have never regretted for a moment our decision to forgo careers and finances. We have a tiny house. Old cars. And don’t travel much. We carefully budget our food bill. I work part time, just enough to keep a foot out in the big kid world and keep me moving. We have an ABUNDANCE of everything we need and don’t need, a roof over our head, plenty of nice clothes and shoes, food on the table, a car that runs, we have enough (even though my now teens don’t agree) But between my husband and I, one of us has been home with our kids until they were old enough for school, and we have greeted them at the door everyday as they get off the bus. I think because my sister died when she was 15, I realize that life is short and I don’t want to miss a single day. For each of us, God has a plan and leads us where He needs us, where we can best be of service to Him. As a work at home Mom or a work out of the home Mom – you’re on the right path for you and as time passes, you will clearly see why it all worked the way it did. Hugs.

    • 35

      says

      This is an incredibly moving comment Trish, I’m sitting here with tears flooding my eyes after reading your words. You are wonderful, thank you for taking a few minutes to write out your heart. And all the encouragement you consistently share with me, thank you for that also :)

      • 36

        says

        Aww…I didn’t mean to make you cry. I totally get where you are. Stuff doesn’t fill you up or make your life complete but people do. Relationships. You get one trip around the sun so why squander it? Do what makes you happy, no regrets. You’re a gifted writer and connector – just ride the ride wherever your heart takes you. Yep, you’re doing good. Just be you and the rest will fall into place. You’ll never regret being fully present and living simply. You just won’t. xo

  15. 37

    Carmen says

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I’ve wrestled with this and cried quite a bit…so grateful for this – it’s what I needed.

  16. 38

    says

    Maggie,
    This is a beautifully written post!

    You are following your heart. I worked before I had babies, I had babies, stayed home with babies, worked at the school so I could have the same hours/vacations as the babies. Now those babies are 12 + 15 + guess what, they don’t need me every moment of every day. They feed, dress, shower, clean themselves. I did exactly what you are doing now. Those babies were my world. Live with no regret. Live life on purpose are a few of my mottos.

    My business is 4 years old. It started out as a hobby because time became available as those babies grew up. You will not loose yourself raising these babies. But for you now, you can loose yourself in each and every milestone.

    I don’t work at the elementary school anymore. I quit there in Dec to have more time with my handmade business. I clean houses a few of the other days during in the week. I love making my own hours + working around the schedule of my kids. Life is constantly changing. I can always sense when a change is nearing. I just never know what it will look like.

    I am working outside the home doing what I love.
    I am working inside the home + serving those that I love.

    It’s different for everyone + we need to cheer each other on instead of feeling guilty or jealous.

    Period!

  17. 40

    says

    Good words friend. So happy for you and that you have found your place. As I have started watching my other nephew I am seeing my schedule shift. It is a natural change as the needs have changed. I am encouraged to hear how you have handled this situation as I tuck away these lessons for when I am a momma one day. I know this is a controversial topic, but I am thankful for you for opening up. I think in the blogging/self employed/online working world it is easy for many of us to get sucked into a job we maybe did not intentionally want to take up so much of our time. it is encouraging to hear you continue your work but do it at your own pace. Blogging has gotten a lot more pressures over the years and I want to be wise enough to stand back and analyze what is right for ME. xo

  18. 41

    Tammy says

    My babies are all grown. You will never regret the decision you are making, Maggie!
    My 24 year old daughter gave me the greatest compliment on moms day this year when she told me she hopes she can be as great of mom to her kids (someday) as I was to her and her brothers. It was the sweetest thing I have ever heard. Did i make mistakes? MANY! But the one thing your children want and NEED most Is YOU. You can see in the pics the special bond you have with your little blondie. You will never regret the time you spend with your kids!

  19. 42

    says

    I think you are amazing. The fact that you took the time to step back and figure out what was best for your family shows what a caring and loving wife/mother you are. Whether you decided to continue working full-time or be a mom more full-time, you are doing what works best for your family. That is fantastic. Maxwell and new baby are so lucky!

  20. 43

    says

    The work will always be there and you may find bonus time when you can exercise your creativity. Children expand you creatively in new ways, don’t they? Motherhood is a job in itself and you won’t regret your investment there. Blessings to you and your growing family!

  21. 44

    says

    I love this post, Maggie! As a brand new mom who just made the decision not to go back to my job, it is just good for me to hear how someone else processes this whole thing. It is kind of a mental struggle for me- I went back to school and got my masters degree and really do love being a social worker, but feel so strongly that being home with my little guy is what I need to do. But letting go of the expectations I didn’t even know I had for myself, it’s kind of hard!

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  1. […] gush over today’s giveaway I want to say THANK YOU for the support on Wednesday’s post, Mamahood vs. Full-Time Work: what helped me decide. I treasure this community and there is so much wisdom in the comments, consider reading through a […]

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