Regret about working or not was equal to both stay-at-home moms and working moms. Meaning, the same number of stay-at-home moms who regret their work life balance was equal to that of their working mom counterparts. What’s most surprising is what determined whether a mom—regardless of staying at home or working—would be happy with her work-or-not situation:
Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising, considering how freeing it is to be able to determine our circumstances and to have options.
I certainly had a, “Yes, that’s right” moment when I first heard about KJ Dell’Antonia, a blogger at The New York Times’ Motherlode. She had surveyed her Facebook fans on whether they would, in hindsight, work or stay-at-home.
And guess what? The answers were equal across the board: both working moms and stay-at-home moms regretted or didn’t regret their choices. However, those who were most happy with their work life choices mentioned a word over and over: Flexibility.
I talk often about my own satisfaction with my work-life balance. So much so that Kristen said she had thought of me while writing her post—perhaps I’m a typical result of what happens when a mom has flexibility in her life.
What makes me happy about my work life balance
Namely my hours. I asked to work an earlier shift so that I can still hang out with my kids in the afternoon. Sure, I don’t see them in the morning, but with the time we spend in the afternoons and evenings, I don’t feel the painful pangs of missing them.
I also get to work and make income. There’s much to say about the freedom in earning income. We’re not rolling in the dough, but financial flexibility affords us some breathing room than not having any. I know what it’s like to feel financially stressed, and much of a family’s happiness is dampened when they’re burdened with money constraints.
And I’m lucky—my work environment itself isn’t stressful. It’s challenging, but not overwhelming. I work with good people. And the flexibility extends into the day-to-day, so that sick kids and special occasions aren’t stressful occurrences but something a simple email to the office can solve.
One of the common complaints of working moms is the lack of flexibility. Some working moms aren’t able to choose their own schedules or work from home. Others find it difficult to request time off to tend to sick kids or school programs. Even more are required to work long hours on top of already long commutes.
And like I mentioned earlier, happiness about our work-life choices doesn’t differentiate between working moms and stay-at-home moms.
What does a stay-at-home mom without flexibility look like?
She might suffer from burnout. Responsible for the kids all day, stay-at-home moms sometimes don’t have an outlet or a break. She might not have family nearby, and hiring a babysitter may not be an option for a date night or time to pursue her hobbies.
Career choices may also be limited to stay-at-home moms, or their leaving the workforce doesn’t give them the flexibility to look for a job should they decide to re-enter.
Working mom or not, the lack of flexibility in our arrangements impacts our happiness with our work-or-not choices.
As a working mom, I can only vouch for these work life balance tips:
- Doing work you enjoy and can do well. Rest assured, I don’t mean working with your “passion,” though that should help. Doing something you enjoy and excel can add much joy to your work.
- Having time for yourself, your partner and your kids. The biggest complaint working moms can relate to is the lack of time they see their kids. Couple that with hardly any time to pursue hobbies or past interests, nor time to hang out with your partner, work life balance suffers when our time seems overwhelmingly devoted to work.
- A good work environment. In addition to enjoying your work, a non-toxic work environment is important in balancing your time between work and your time at home. Does your work offer flexible hours? Are they flexible with time off for your kids’ health or school functions?
- Liking your child care arrangement. How happy are you with your child care arrangement? Do you trust your caregiver? If you’re unhappy with your caregiver, or feel like they’re always doing something wrong, or that you could do this so much better, you’re likely to hate being at work.
How interesting care giving would be if we had more access to flexibility. Imagine a work force that lets you choose the hours you come in. Or gives you room to tend to doctor’s appointments and Halloween costume parades.
How about affordable child care or kid camps that offers stay-at-home parents much needed time to tend to other tasks, even if it’s just to catch a break?
Or part-time work where moms can put in some hours making income with the rest of her day devoted to her kids?
Maybe it’s not income that makes for a happy work life balance. Nor the hours you put in to your work, or even whether you work or not.
Rather, it’s the flexibility that gives you some breathing room, a cushion. So that whether you’re a working mom who wants the option to be with her kids or the stay-at-home mom who’d like some time to freshen up her career skills, the flexibility to do so is what keeps the points of her work and her life in balance.
Do you feel frazzled with all the things you need to bring to work each day? I made a FREE to-do list and packing list you can print as a reminder of everything you need for the next day. Download it below:
Get more tips on work life balance:
- Why We Need to Ask Dads about Their Work Life Balance
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- How to Explain to Your Kids Why You Work
- The Biggest Reason Parents Should Have a Life Besides Kids
- Can You Actually Work from Home with a Baby?
Your turn: In hindsight, are you happy with your work life arrangement? How much flexibility do you have, and how much does it play a role in your overall happiness? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Get time management strategies, FREE!
Do you feel overwhelmed balancing the needs of your family and your role as a mom? Struggling to find the time to get everything done? Get organized with a FREE copy of my ebook, Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom!