Settling the Working Moms vs Non-Working Moms Dilemma Once and for All

by Claire Minnaar

I’ve come to the realisation that we most definitely can’t please everyone and, no matter how hard you work at being a Mom, you will be judged by others. One of the most regular THOUGHTS / DILEMMAS I’m faced with is whether I am being judged for not being a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM).

Is this possible?

I have had numerous instances where I make it known, because I’ve been asked or it’s a topic of conversation, that I am a Mom who works. I have found myself in situations where I have managed in one sentence to offend another Mom who is a SAHM, leaving them with the feeling that I think they are stupid or crazy for staying at home because I choose to work, and I feel I am a better Mom because I work.

Here are a few facts about yours truly:

  • I am someone who will be your friend for life. You may not see me often, but I will always be here if you need to talk, share a story, have a shoulder to cry, etc… I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, but that’s the type of person I am. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea either and I’m OK with that too 🙂
  • I am very careful about what I say to people. Offending or hurting people is possibly the last thing I would EVER do. One of the things that I live by is that if I do happen to say something about you to someone, it is something I will say directly to your face. You can ask the people who work with me or have been long time friends. We are all guilty of gossiping, but I work very hard to ensure that I watch what I say as I know how I have been affected by people gossiping about me and vice versa. It’s a respect thing at the end of the day.
  • I do not judge Moms who work and Moms who do not work. I respect Moms’ choices and will not judge you by them. I have MASSIVE respect for Moms who do stay at home and raise their kids – they have something that I just do not have.
  • I have chosen to work. I work because, on most days, it makes me happy. I work so that I can sustain the life my family lives (we like our Woolies meals and the odd take-outs) and I work because it’s what makes me a good Mom. I give my son every hour of every day that I’m not at work and I have a very happy, relaxed son who has the best care I can afford at this point.

Those of you who do not know me personally may not know that I am quite shy when you meet me. Until I get to know you, I can be very quiet and when this 6ft tall BFG lands up in a social gathering of sorts, she withdraws completely. One of my main tricks to getting out of my so-called withdrawal mode is to ask people what they do. I’m genuinely interested and it’s always nice to hear what other people do with their days.

Recently I attended a kiddies’ birthday party. I only knew the parents themselves and their family. I didn’t know any of the other Moms there. Eventually, I started making conversation with my age-old line, “So, what do you do?” The response I got was that the lovely lady was a SAHM. I asked her about her family, her husband, her daughter, etc… Then, she asked me the inevitable… “What do you do?” to which I just answered the same as always “My hubby and I run a business together”. I left it at that and I moved onto the snack table and then outside to play a bit with my son. I asked a few other Moms that morning, just to make conversation, and I pretty much received the same response each time. I was possibly the only working Mom there.

I heard later from my hubby that he overheard one of the Moms saying that someone had asked her what they do and she had said that she was a SAHM. Her next sentence is what blew me away – she apparently stated “Being a Mom is a job too”. What I don’t understand, and perhaps I’m being a bit stupid here, is WHO SAID OTHERWISE?

Here are some questions, and I really would appreciate some input back regarding them:

  • Do SAHM feel inferior to or judged by working Moms? If so, why?
  • Do working Moms feel judged by SAHM and, if so, why?
  • If you work / don’t work, does that make you worse or better as a Mom?
  • Why does there seem to be this separation of working Moms to SAHMs?


I have friends with kids who work full time, part time (at an office or at home) or are SAHMs. I love and respect each of them for their choices and how they live their lives.

I think that Moms are under a lot of pressure nowadays, and perhaps judging others is a way to make ourselves feel better. Every Mom raises their children differently and has a right to choose what they want to do.

I choose to work and I am a good Mom. I make mistakes, I am sometimes wrong and yes, I suffer from Mother’s guilt (just as some SAHM’s who suffer from different types of Mother’s guilt).

I hope this blog post will have opened an opportunity for a conversation – I invite you to leave a comment if you have read this blog and share your thoughts / experiences with us.

Join the List

Subscribe to our mailing list and stay informed on what's happening on MomTalk!

Awesomeness! Thank you for subscribing!

Oh dear! Something has gone wrong. Please try again.

You may also like


Karen April 20, 2011 - 8:38 am

I think there is another catagory to consider as well: The “Working from Home” moms! Try juggling work, home and kids all at the same time. My work does not stay at work, my kids come to work every day and I deal with household crisises …and work queries simultaneously. I think we are a breed on our own. I crave being in a situation where I can concentrate on JUST my home and kids, or have a job where I don’t have to worry about Armageddon breaking out in the passage during a business call!

Kirsten Miller April 20, 2011 - 8:40 am

I read your blog with great interest. I have been both a stay at home mom and a working mom. I can tell you for sure that neither option is easy.

Stay at home mom’s work full time at raising their children and developing all areas in their lives. This takes huge dedication, imagination, patience and creativity. Not to mention that they still have to take on more of the household responsibilities such as grocery shopping, cooking, dry cleaning collections, pets etc. It truly is a remarkable and exciting job and one that I cherished with all my loving mommy-heart, but it was incredibly tough and took every brain cell I had to keep it going as successfully as I could.

I am now a work from home mom and my little one goes to a day mother. So I know how it feels to want to be with your child even when you can’t. I have to work to help my husband out with our bills so although it is a choice it really isn’t in the bigger picture as someone has to earn the money to keep us going and my hubby can’t do it alone. We have to keep going because we want to give our son the best education and opportunities in life that we can afford. I love working and I really enjoy the challenges I face each day. But of course the best part of working is knowing that I am doing this for my son.

So from my point of view neither option is better or worse than the next. Both types of mom’s work equally as hard at their respective roles and we are not in a position to judge anyone’s circumstances or choices. I’m sure there are plenty of stay at home mom’s that sometimes feel frazzled and need a bit of a re-charge from their hectic lives – and equally there are working mom’s who yearn for some free time to re-charge with their little ones.

Thank you for this lovely article and as mom’s let’s celebrate each other for what we are trying to achieve – to raise happy, healthy, loving children regardless of our choices or circumstances!

lauren April 20, 2011 - 10:26 am

I’m not sure its always of wm vs sahm. I think its more of mom against mom. Somehow I think moms are too competitive and have to always outdo each other, or judge each other.
I’m a sahm who has doesn’t want to work. I feel I’m very blessed. I’ve often felt sorry for working moms… But lots of them that I know work by choice. I’ve always felt that they’re missing out (just being honest)

But I’ve been crtiticized by sahm’s and wm’s alike. I’m a 27 year old, mom of 3 who breastfeeds for years, homeschools and has had 3 kids in 3 years. 🙂 I’ve encountered a lot of flak from just about every type of mom. 😉

I really think moms have lost some kinship in todays world. We want to tear each other down instead of building each other up.
We’re all too flipping judgemental for our own good.

Let’s start a movement of moms who celebrate motherhood and all the different types of mothers out there. 😀

kittispike April 20, 2011 - 11:03 am

This is a contentious topic, but one that really shouldn’t be. Personally, I don’t think anybody has the right to judge anybody else on the choices they make – willingly or circumstantial.

The most important thing is to be strong in yourself and stand by your choice in the way YOU choose to live YOUR life.

Don Miguel Ruiz (author of The Four Agreements) has a wonderful philosophy:

“BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

DONT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY: Nothing other do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality and their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of other you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST: Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.


MamaSal April 20, 2011 - 8:14 pm

LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!

Renda Harding April 20, 2011 - 11:13 am

I’m not a mommy yet, but I do consider myself a very hard working, independant woman. And I have a question: What happens to a stay-at-home mom once her children are out of the house? Do you still feel like you have a purpose once your children have been raised?

Natalie April 20, 2011 - 1:26 pm

It’s hard to be a sahm and wm.. I took 6 months maternity leave and will be going back to work soon. My son already goes to a daycare mother, and he is so tired when he comes home. I don’t have to worry about stimulation activities etc.. I can just enjoy him when I collect him from school. What sucks is that she told me the other day of a new thing he did and I wasn’t the first one to see 🙁 but it’s ok.
Maybe I am one of those moms who need to work, because the last few months were really hard at home with babes, and I can feel the green eyed monster poking me when my hubby comes home from work and tells me about all the challenges he’s facing at work…

But hey! Let’s see shall we. 🙂 Being a mommy is a blessing…and hard work!!!

Tess April 20, 2011 - 4:19 pm

This is a difficult topic of discussion. Personally, I didn’t realise just how difficult it was going to be to raise children when we had made the decision for me to be a sahm. It was a huge shock to the system but at the same time the biggest and best blessing of my life. I am very happy with my choice to stay home and feel I am for once doing a job I feel very proud of doing and feel it’s very worth while. Not that other jobs are not worth while but this was my own personal feeling for my own life – before I felt I was working these hectic long hours and felt a great emptiness inside myself.

I had many mom friends return to work with mixed feelings. Some where quiet relieved, finally having some time back for themselves, managing to check their email in peace and having a full lunch break. Others where in conflict within themselves. I think it’s difficult when you haven’t chosen to go back to work but it’s been something that you HAD to do for financial reasons.

One thing I do notice happens every now and then is when a working mom assumes you are staying at home living the high life because you are so “lucky” to be able to be at home. I think this can strike a nerve with some sahm’s because you don’t always really know the sacrifices that have been make in order to stay at home and the financial struggles you go through every month. There ARE exceptions to this rule but I do find I get alot of these comments and have just decided to let go and let people think whatever they are going to think 🙂

Another thing I did notice in some working mom friends was that, because I had made the choice to be at home, some of them – not all of them – saw me as an oppotunity to be a day care mom for their own children or a full day baby sitter for their children. I have never taken the offer 😉 At first it was because I felt overwhelmed at the prospect since I was a new mother myself and looking after someone elses child all day long is a huge responsibilty. Later I also realised choosing to be at home is selfish as I want to give the best to my own children. If I am also having to look after other children then I am not able to give my own children the attention they deserve – which I feel they deserve since I have given up working full time to be home with them. Of course play date are completely different and I have many of these 🙂

I don’t feel that there will be nothing left for me to do once my child leaves homes since I still have personal interests such as I am a qualified Yoga instructor and am studying towards being a breastfeeding consultant. I think rather, staying home with my child has enriched her life and my life and taken me on a personally more fillfulling life. That’s not to say a working mother doesn’t experience this, perhaps to a working mother, her work gives her this personal satisfaction and fillfullment and this is what makes it such a personal choice.

Either way, I think we ought to respect each others decisions. We made the choices we have made to offer and give the best to our children, it’s what every parent strives for. We also all have different idea’s on what’s “good” for a child and what works and doesn’t work and so this is just as personal as whether or not you choose to stay at home or work 🙂

Clodagh Mannion-Nash July 21, 2011 - 6:27 am

@ Lauren I think you hit it on the head. There is a lot of competition between moms and it is strange that it is. I am both a SAHM and a part time working mom and the challenges are endless, however it is the same for the working moms and the SAHM moms. We all have challenges and neither one is better or worse.
It is sad when people comment and they make judgements!


Leave a Comment