Choosing between work and children is never an easy feat. And in this day and age, it is hard to even imagine why women still feel the need to choose between advancing professionally and having a family. Can one really ever have it all? Here are 20 moms who, at different levels in their work lives, felt the need to make the difficult decision between continuing on as a professional woman or making the transition to an almost exclusive full-time mom.
Their decisions were not easy ones, and after lots of trial and error accompanied by endless research and a few twinges of guilt, many of these moms feel they finally made the right decision. Believe it or not, education and professional experience do not factor into how many of these women made their decisions. The Pew Research Center reports that 10 percent of highly educated mothers, those who earned a master’s degree or greater, stay home, compared to only 1 percent of men.
So, facing a similar decision? Or just dreading what life will look like once the maternity leave is over? Read on for some interesting stories and to see how at home life plus the little one stacks up to the lives of other women around the world.
19 The Overachiever
For a lot of new moms making the decision between careers and a child seems simple in the beginning. Of course, I can still be myself and work and manage a family, many will think. For mom Alex Blackie it wasn't so easy. "I had arrived full of pride at making it to pick up Bella from childcare for the first time in months. I got there a couple of minutes before it closed, daydreaming of applause at my achievement."
"Instead, I had to avoid the staff's pitying looks as I took in the fact that the room was empty and Bella was the last child there. 'Oh, I haven't seen you for a long time,' said the manager. "It's usually Daddy these days, isn't it?" I knew something had to change."
18 The Single Parent
"I got pregnant with our twin boys and had always imagined having help from their father. But when they actually came he was slowly moving farther and farther out of the picture. I never expected to be a single mother of two but that also meant I had to work. For me, choosing to work and place the boys in daycare instead of staying at home was more of a necessity than anything but it's what we have to do."
"I make every night special by making sure we eat dinner together even if I have to pick up something pre-made on the way home from work. Weekends are tough and I am tired but as they grew older (they're 8 now) it got easier," said mom Zakiha Sanders.
17 The Large Family
"I had finished my studies and fell in love with my now husband who is in the Air Force. He travels a lot for work and when our first son arrived I felt it only natural to stop my job as a real estate agent to stay with him for his first year. Only then I fell pregnant every consecutive year for five years."
"Now our youngest is 2 and I haven't worked in nearly 8 years. I don't even know where to begin. I don't regret staying with them but I wish I had something for myself," said mother of four Nadia Salam.
16 The Teacher
A new mother, Sarah Litfield told The Atlantic that despite her being a teacher and devoting her life to the education of other children, finding a balance between her job and the education of her own child seemed impossible until she finally decided to stay home.
“I never [thought I would want] to stay home with my kids, ever. But then I went to a job interview after my first daughter was born and cried the whole way home. I called and told them I didn’t want the position. I was lucky, because my husband made enough money that I could stay home.”
15 The Lawyer
The Atlantic reported the story of a lawyer in a patent-law firm in Kansas City gave birth to her first child a few years after making partner. “Something’s gotta give. I can’t give 100 percent to everything," she was reported saying.
Even though she believes the firm would have allowed her to work part-time and still retain her partner status, she says she couldn’t imagine not being available to her clients around the clock; nor could she imagine letting anyone else take care of her child during the day. She walked into her supervisor’s office in tears, and delivered her resignation. “I was not thinking this was temporary,” she said. “I knew I was leaving something big.”
14 The Stay-At-Home Mom
"I did not have children to have someone else raise them," said mother of 5, Laura White. When I had my first child I knew that I needed to take care of them and that putting them in a daycare was the last resort. However child after child I found myself feeling less fulfilled by taking care of them (and I don't like to say that out loud)."
"I started looking for positions that allowed me to telecommute but even that felt like an injustice since I was only 50 percent present while at home with them. Talking to my partner is not really any help at all since it seemed only logical that he works and I don't. I am just waiting for them to all go to college."
13 The Ex-Student
One mother had worked very hard to earn her degree when she realized that doing both would not be something she could continue doing, she explained to The Atlantic. “I was studying for an exam at the library, and making a grocery list at the same time,” she recounted. “I couldn’t handle it. I called my husband and said, ‘I’m dropping out.’”
She now has three children, is a full-time stay-at-home mom, and would “love to go back to work,” but doesn’t see how her family would function logistically. The truth is, children need someone who is around, regardless if it's a mom, dad, grandmother or favorite teacher, but when they are that little this mother still feels that finding a balance is not something that's feasible.
12 The Not So Good Old Days
"Back in the day, working after you had a baby was somewhat frowned upon. I don't mean the 1960s or so I mean in the 1990s, unfortunately. At the time I didn't care what others thought and started back to work shortly after I had my daughter. Her father stayed home with her."
"I breastfed, and pumping was exhausting because they did not have all the laws they do now so I could never take time at work to do it. I remember thinking to myself, I'm leaving my baby at home, what am I doing?! I quit my job and her father went to work full time. I did it for four years. It was the best decision I ever made," says mother of one Patricia Karen.
11 The Village
In other parts of the world, there is a lot of help for new mothers. Family members jump at the opportunity to help care for a new baby. It is a particularly foreign concept for a lot of Americans so when mother Julie Trinchaw moved abroad to her husbands home country she was in awe of how much liberty she had to work.
"My husband is from Trinidad, we both felt it was important to show our son to his culture and decided we could eventually move back to the states when he got older. So I quit my job thinking I would be a stay at home mom. However as soon as we arrived aunts, grandmothers, sisters, and cousins all offered to help. And not the, 'yeah sure I can babysit,' kind of help either, they really meant it."
10 The Identity Crisis
"For years when I met someone at a bar or just out when I introduced myself, I said Hi, my name is Ellen, I'm a lawyer, that was up until I had my daughter. Once my little Amira came I felt complexed introducing myself as a lawyer when I wasn't sure how to even continue being a lawyer and having a baby."
"I also felt a little silly saying that I was just a mother as well. After I left my position at the firm I realize that there is nothing just about being a mother," said newly stay-at-home mom, Ellen Patrick.
9 The Work-A-Holic
"I have four kids, one from my first marriage and three from my current. After 5 years of staying at home, I dove back into the workforce and my youngest is only two. Compared to my other children I really see how much me being at work affects my youngest. I work 12 hour days. He can still barely speak, but I am trying so hard to make time for everything."
"Honestly, I chose to go back to work so I can give my kids everything they need, but even more honestly I question every day whether I made the right decision," said mother of four Jasmine Pearce.
8 The Feminist
"Most of my time is spent wondering why in the world women even have to choose between their career and their kids when it seems that men are just expected to work and that is okay. Why is there such a stigma around working mothers and why is there so much judgment around staying at home mothers?"
"Honestly, if it works for your family, do it. For my family, I work when I can, part-time or consulting from home. This allows me to balance my sanity and my finances while nurturing my children. I still wish that men were expected to have the same level of consideration we are," said mother Anna King.
7 The Traveler
"I guess I'm what one could call a 'wondering mom.' I love traveling and have never felt the need to give that up since I had my children. I work full time as a writer and hire help for my kids in whatever country we travel to or live in."
"Sure, others don't understand how I can uproot my children from their schools or lives so often, but for me, it makes them more culturally aware and it allows me to really enjoy life. Happy Mom happy kids, is what I always say," said mother Natasha Linfield. Natasha travels to a new country about every five months she said.
6 The Star
Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar may be out of the spotlight but it is due to her commitment to motherhood she told FitPregnancy.com, "I applaud the women who can still make movies and travel all over the world, but that is not for me," the actress shared.
"I've luckily found a job where I can take my daughter to school in the morning and still be at work. And for me, it is the best of both – I mean, the ultimate job I could ever ask for." Even celebrities can have real people, real life problems balancing home and work life. So don't be so hard on yourself, Mom.
5 The Singer
Singer Carrie Underwood is full of questions when it comes to wearing all of her hats. From working to songwriting to mothering the actress confesses her struggles to the Associated Press. "I think mom guilt is rampant in my life. I am sure it is in any mom's...I still constantly wonder, 'Is this fair to him? Is my life fair to him?'"
Underwood discussed how exhausting it was to be up with a baby all night and then on tour to launch her new album, Storyteller. "He's my no. 1 priority," she said. "But it's just a question of how am I going to do this."
4 The Ball Dropper
Celebrity mom Felicity Huffman says that there is no such thing as the perfect balance, in fact, although on the small screen the actress may look like she's got it all together it really is just a green screen. "First, I have to recognize how lucky I am to have to navigate these sorts of issues. I have a job that I love and a fabulous family that I love."
"But people always ask, 'How do you balance home life and work?' I tell them, 'I don't. I just drop the ball all the time.'" I'm worried I'm not doing well as both a mother and an actress. But I do what I can to stumble forward joyously."
3 The Team
For us, when it came to choosing between a career and our kids it wasn't a unilateral decision which I am constantly thankful for," freelance journalist Amanda Weber said. "My husband and I are a team and we both understood well before we got pregnant that it needs to be a joined effort."
"Unfortunately, both of us quitting our jobs was not an option nor would working around the clock, so we both got flexible jobs which allow for us to take one or two weeks off and one or two weeks on, we alternate parenting and our kids love it. I am still so thankful."
2 The Childcare Believer
For this one mother, giving up her career as a top level executive in the fashion industry was just not an option after she had her first child. "I worked too hard and for far too long to just quit," fashion industry leader Jane Beckman explained.
"I interned at every magazine in New York it seemed, carried coffee and pushed rolling racks up fifth avenue for years, now that I am finally doing what I love and have a baby I love I think childcare is the best option. I chose my childcare carefully, but working while I can to make the mark I feel I'm destined to do is just as satisfying as being a mother."
1 The Blogger
"When I first had my baby I had no idea what it meant to be a mom, I worked some pretty odd jobs before becoming a mother and needed something to keep bringing in money after my baby was born. If felt only right to start a blog where I talked about everything. After a short while, my blog took off."
"I can write when I want and mom all the other time. I love it. Moms today have options it's just about finding what works best for you." Blogger and street photographer @prettyinpics said of her motherhood and professional journey.
Sources: The Atlantic, The Pew Research Center, The Guardian, Fast Company, Parents.com, Fit Pregnancy, The Associated Press, People Magazine, Huffington Post