Mama, Should You Return To Work, Or Stay At Home?

Should I stay or should I work?
Moms all over struggle with the decision of whether to be a stay at home mom or to return to the work force. As a mom who had this struggle, I'm gonna give you the 5 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to stay home or go back to work.

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Let me give you 5 questions to ask yourself when deciding between being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom!

I was asked a lot of annoying questions when I was pregnant with my son. One of the most common ones was one I thought I had the answer figured out. “Are you gonna be a stay at home mom, or are you gonna go back to work?”

Initially, I had an immediate answer. Heck yeah, I’m going back to work! There would be no way you’d catch me dead or alive in a mom group wearing leggings and a baseball hat every single day! Domestic life was the absolute LAST thing I wanted in my life.

Until I actually had my son.

The minute I had my son, my entire outlook on my life completely changed. The desire to further my career and conquer the world of education changed to a sudden primal desire to homeschool my son in the future. As I thought about going back to work after my maternity leave, I realized that the working mom life was not a life I wanted. My soul was changed.

The decision to become a stay at home mom was quite possibly one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I had so many people giving me so many opinions that it was keeping me from developing my own. I was so worried that if I made the wrong decision that it would forever affect my child. It took me honestly way too long to just pull the trigger and stay home. I know for a fact that if I had just made the decision sooner, I would have saved myself so much stress!

Once I finally decided to be a stay at home mom, I looked back and thought about the things I did to drive that decision. So I have 5 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether you should stay home or go back to work!

Should I stay home? Or should I work? 5 questions moms should ask themselves when making this decision
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Does science say I should stay home or work?

I remember when I was deciding about returning to work or staying home full time, I immediately turned to Google for help. As a hardcore type 5 enneagram, research is KEY to my decision making! I didn’t care about what other people thought about my decision, but I did want to know if my decision was a scientifically sound one.

I poured over article after article weighing out the pros and cons of working and staying home. Pretty quickly I discovered the quiet war between working moms and stay-at-home moms (which I think is just silly.) But the most important thing I learned is that there’s really no perfect answer to whether a mom should stay home or work!

So many studies have been done on behavior in children in daycares, maternal employment and academic success, and even maternal employment and childhood obesity.

Most of these studies have simply shown that there are many factors on how a child turns out, not just whether their mom stayed home or worked. Which leads me to this conclusion:

Either decision isn’t going to ruin your child’s life, so just choose the one that works the best for you and your family!

Now that we know that the right decision boils down to what is best for you, how do we find out which decision is best for you? I have 5 questions I want you to ask yourself when deciding whether you want to be a working mom, or a stay at home mom.

Have you prayed about it?

I HATE it when I ask for advice and I get the “just pray about it” response!

That’s probably the most un-Christian way I could think about it. But in my experience, a lot of people who tell you to just pray about don’t have anything else they can add to the situation. But prayer is STILL vital to discovering what it is you should do. Therefore, prayer should be your first step in making this decision. It won’t be the ONLY step, but it should definitely be the first thing you do when making this decision.

I have found that in these huge decisions, God doesn’t always speak in an audible voice. Most of the time, I believe God uses peace to speak His will. The only way you’ll truly know if a decision is God’s will or not is by asking Him.

Does the thought of being a stay at home mom leave you with joy? Maybe God is trying to tell you something. Does the idea of going back to work and furthering your career make you feel at peace. Perhaps God is telling you the answer right then and there!

Ultimately, God has a perfect path lined out for you. He knows exactly what it is you should do. I know that if you take a little bit of time and ask Him to show you the path you should take, He will lead you to it.

It really is that simple!

When we first pray about the situation, I believe God gives us more clarity when we begin to think about the other factors in this decision. So don’t just stop at prayer, continue to dig into these other questions to ask yourself.

Related: 7 Practical Ways Busy Moms Can Study the Bible

Which way of life gives you the most life?

Simply put…does dropping your baby off at daycare and going to work make you feel dead inside? Is staying home with your little ones draining the life out of you?

As Marie Kondo would say, which way of life sparks joy for you?

I said above that God speaks through peace, but I also think God can speak through joy.

When I was working, I honestly felt so drained every day. I didn’t love my job, and I didn’t love being at home. I was miserable about everything! My life situation was sucking the life out of me, and I had to change something before I just withered away into a shell of a woman.

It was one day in November of 2019 that I had a snow day. I got to spend an entire day at home with my son! No obligations to anything except hardcore playtime with my then 11-month-old. When that day was over, I sat on the couch with my husband and discovered something I hadn’t noticed in a long time.

I was happy at the end of the day.

Yeah, it was a good day, but it was a different kind of happiness. It was like I was walking in a deep, primal calling. I felt fulfilled.

I felt more fulfilled in one day of being home with my son than I ever did 6 years in my classroom.

For you, it may be the absolute opposite! You may love being home with your kids, but there’s something about accomplishing a huge task at work that just makes your soul smile. If that’s the case, maybe God is speaking at that moment for you.

Take some time and see which way brings the most life to you. Does you 9-5 drive you and motivate you, or does it suck the life out of you? Is staying home fulfilling, or is it soul-sucking?

What does your spouse think?

Let us not forget that this decision is not just between you and God! You should honestly let your spouse have a say in this decision too!

I KNOW that for some women, this is NOT an easy point. You may have a spouse who wants you to stay home, but you don’t. Or maybe your man wants you to keep working, but your soul is longing to be home. I know you’re having a hard enough time making yourself happy, so asking you to also make your spouse happy can be a lot to ask for.

But hear me out. You do not just share a life with your child. Your spouse is also a key factor in the atmosphere of your home. We all know the saying, “if mama ain’t happy, nobody is.” But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let them be a part of the decision making process.

When I first had the thought of staying home full time, my husband was a little apprehensive. Mainly because he was around when I was in college working on my music education degree. He remembers the countless hours with my clarinet in a practice room, and staying up until 3 am with my music theory homework. He knows that I really wanted to teach music for a living. I think he just didn’t want to see my hard work supposedly go to waste.

Over time, he started to notice a change in me. The vocabulary I used when describing my workday changed from mostly positive to almost completely negative. I went from coming home happy to coming home totally miserable. He saw me cry almost every night because I hated only spending 2 hours a day with my son. Once he saw the effect that being a working mom was having on me, he changed his tune.

He went from “stick it out” to “whatever you need to do to be happy.”

When we were all on the same boat, it no longer felt like staying home was a betrayal, but it felt like a unified decision.

Your home needs to make unified decisions. Try to level with your spouse. Figure out why they may lean towards one decision and not the other. Work together in creating the best decision for everyone involved. When you two come up with a decision together, it’ll eliminate the tension and create a positive environment that everyone will appreciate.

What does my bank account look like?

Let be real. You gotta have money to get by. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out how to grow money on trees yet.

For some of you, going down to one income will be no big deal. For others, it may not even be an option. This is why you need to take a hard look at your finances to see if it’s even a possibility to go to one income.

For us, we discovered that we could get by on one income, but we would have to make some radical changes to our lifestyle. Since my husband and I agreed to have me stay at home, we decided to make some big changes to our finances to make it easier for us to do so.

We tackled some major debts that we had, and we sold our house and moved into a much more affordable house. Once we did that, we saw that we could live on one income, but it required us to make some big life changes. I’m still learning how to manage our money well, since it’s not quite a plenteous as it used to be. Because it was a decision we came to together, we were willing to make the sacrifices to make it together.

For us, the decision was worth it, because changing our finances to make our home more unified was a decision worth making.

For others, though, you may not be willing or even able to sacrifice an income. In that case, then have peace knowing that you’re doing what is necessary to provide for your family.

If you’re struggling with the idea of being fully present as a working mom, check out my blog post, 3 Ways To Be More Present In the Important Moments.

What’s driving your decision?

There’s a lot of factors that drive moms to make certain decisions, but I think one speaks louder than the others.


Mom guilt is so real! For many of us, it is a nagging voice that drives our every move. But many times the direction your guilt drives you in is not the right decision.

Let me give you an example…

Let’s say you REALLY want to be a stay at home mom. You literally dream about your alarm clock wearing footie pajamas and yelling “MOMMY!” You intensely crave afternoons playing chase with your kids while microwaving your coffee for the 7th time. Yet behind that intense desire to be home, there’s a loud voice telling you that you’re useless if you don’t make money. You’ve looked at your finances and know staying home is feasible, maybe even your spouse is on board with it, but you just can’t get past that nagging guilt.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you just had your firstborn child. It’s been a few weeks of being home with your sweet little chunk, but you are itching to have adult interaction. Frankly, tending to your baby all day long leaves you feeling empty inside. You get kinda excited about the idea of going to work again, but there’s also the little voice in the back of your head that says that good moms stay home with their kids.

There is NOTHING wrong with either mom! One mom wants to stay home, and one mom wants to work! They’re both FANTASTIC moms! But they have the guilt factor in common. Guilt is pulling them towards making a decision they ultimately know they should make.

When it comes down to mom guilt and deciding whether you should stay or work, I want you to remember one thing.

No matter what you choose, your child is going to turn out just fine!

So go ahead and do yourself a favor and just get that guilty thought out of your head.

Guilt is not the only thing that can drive our decisions. Maybe one of your parents is pushing you towards a direction you’re not so sure about. Perhaps your spouse is leaning one direction, but you’re leaning the other. Maybe you had a more traditional upbringing with a stay at home mom, but you want to be more progressive and advance in your career. All of those things can drive you in the opposite direction that you know you want to go.

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So go back to those first two questions. When you pray about it, where do you feel like God is leading you? When you think about your possibilities, which lifestyle brings you the most joy?

That is what should drive your decision. Not guilt, or relatives, or tradition. YOU make the decision for YOUR family!

So come on and let me know….should I stay or should I work?

Did you like my Clash reference? Anyone?

The bottom line is that I can’t make that decision for you. What I tried to do with this is to give you some things to think about when making this massive decision. I’ve spent a lot of time researching whether it’s better for children to be raised by a stay at home mom or a working mom. The amazing thing is that research shows that neither decision will greatly impact how your child turns out! So take that pressure off yourself! Your child will be fine no matter what you choose! But we still need to answer one very large question when deciding to stay home or work…

Which way of life makes you the happiest?

So at the end of the day, when you’re trying to decide whether to be a stay at home mom or to be a working mom, it boils down to one prevailing point. Which way of life would make me the happiest?

Whichever way you choose, you will be amazing at it! I know it.

Don't lose your mama mind!

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Emily Maggard

Emily is the voice behind The Overcoming Mom. This music teacher turned stay at home mom has made it her mission to give moms practical and Biblical solutions for overcoming what overwhelms them. After a long battle with postpartum depression, she has learned many tips and solutions along the way to help moms through the tough realities of motherhood. She shares her life with her husband, son, and two cats.

Don't Lose Your Mama Mind!

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Don't lose your mama mind!

Get your free copy of the "I'm Triggered, Now What?" Checklist

Get a FREE copy of the “I’m Triggered! Now What?” Checklist, and get 4 simple steps to find your calm when motherhood is triggering.