Stay-at-home mom vs. working mom: Which is harder?


Fact Box

  • estimates that in 2019 it would cost $162,581 to compensate for all the different jobs that a stay-at-home mother does.
  • A recent Gallup poll revealed that 28% of stay-at-home moms identify as being depressed, while only 17% of employed mothers do.
  • Many working mothers feel they must be available at home and at work 24 hours a day.
  • Some kids spend upwards of 10 hours in daycare while moms are at work.
  • An increasing number of women are underestimating the difficulties of balancing motherhood and a career.

Elaine (Stay-at-Home Mom)

There is a vast misconception out there that being a stay-at-home mom is equivalent to a life rich with sleeping-in, lounging in pajamas all day, drinking coffee, snacking at will, and having all the time in the world to get housework and child-rearing done. The reality, however, is very different. In actuality, stay-at-home moms sleep-in because they were up all night nursing their baby, checking on a sick toddler, or trying to get an anxious child back to sleep. They lounge in pajamas all day because they can’t even shower or get dressed without a baby crying for help or attention. The unending coffee and snack consumption replaces regular, peaceful meals, and usually it is only after the kids go to sleep that any mom has a chance to catch up on housework. Staying at home with kids all day is no easy task. 

In fact, it is so challenging that estimated that the cost to replace a stay-at-home mother would be upwards of over $100,000. Six figures are required to compensate for all she does. And this is a conservative figure, as a mom must be “on” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. 

But stay-at-home moms are not paid for all their hard work—and oftentimes aren’t even recognized for it. There is no internal promotions system or annual review. And there is no mental break from caretaking. It is a lonely role bereft of socializing with coworkers or having stimulating conversations. Instead, one must settle for that rare hug from a sleepy toddler or the social dynamics of a stuffed animal tea party. Perhaps this is why stay-at-home moms identify as being depressed more than working moms do. 


Melissa (Working Mom)

At a time when most families need more than one stream of income just to get by, many women are finding it necessary to work. While arguably most enjoy their careers, there are many difficulties that come with the territory.

Before deciding to work or return to work, many mothers grapple with a long decision-making process, which usually includes feelings of guilt. If they choose to stay at home, they feel guilty about not providing financially for their family, but if they choose to work, they feel guilty about spending less time with their spouses and children.

Those mothers who ultimately decide to work face impossible schedules. Sleep deprivation is a constant battle. Sick days are used not only when the mothers fall ill, but when a child is sick as well. Even with a partner who shares the responsibility, this can mean several days away from work at a time. Unfortunately, this can cause conflict.

Employers also frown on workers who tend to not be able to come in early or stay late. Mothers often are unable to put in additional hours at work, especially if they are dropping off or picking up children from childcare. 

Working moms also tend to be the primary caregivers, housekeepers, and cooks. The reality is that working mothers not only have all these challenges, but they share many of the same pressures, stressors, and challenges that stay-at-home moms do. Just because working moms are away from their kids more often, doesn’t mean they have things any easier.

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