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To Stay at Home or Return to Work?

Ask, "Is This a Good Fit for Me?"
When I was single and ruled by my career, I thought it was ludicrous for my peers not to know, before their maternity leaves, whether they would come back to work. "How could a respectable woman not know her own mind? Could a baby turn a woman into complete mush?" I thought.

These days, I admire ambivalence in expectant mothers. These women grasp the enormity of emotion a child brings, and give themselves permission to feel what they feel, even if it is vastly different than what they expected.

Ultimately, according to several mom executives, women cannot "plan" the right mix of work and family life because life's many twists and turns require even the best plans to change. Take it from the president of Medalia Communications and the former vice president and group publisher of Working Woman Network, Delia Passi Smalter, who by thirty, had three daughters, divorced, and then functioned as a single mother. She says women shouldn't feel pressured to follow a prescribed path. "I never planned to have children so early, but when it happened my family took precedence and my career went into neutral for six or seven years."

Having adopted two children, an attorney and president of the New Ellis Group in Princeton, New Jersey, Karen Kaplowitz discourages women from thinking there's a certain method for combining career and children. "Having it all is always a goal, not a formula."

Start with a cursory review of what gives you energy and what you simply can't bear. My friends and I have spent many hours dissecting the mind and body of the fulfilled stay-at-home mom, since most of us consider her the "perfect mother." We've also isolated the factors and characteristics that buoy women in the other two roles – that of full-time or part-time work outside the home. See which list best matches you and your situation:

Attributes of relatively happy stay-at-home moms

  • A temperament suited to small children
  • Financial means and a support network that works
  • Faith- or value-driven desire to be at home
  • Desire for major life change
  • Easier hormonal/emotional adjustment
Attributes of relatively happy moms working outside the home
  • Economic need
  • High energy and good at handling stress
  • Long-held desire to be a working mom
  • Family-friendly job
  • Need to restore herself, away from child
Attributes of relatively happy split-time moms:
  • Adaptable personality
  • More flexible budget
  • Husband who's willing to help or meet his wife halfway
  • Independent-minded and comfortable with lack of firm identity


From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book, visit Amazon or click on the book cover.

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