Does Full-Time Parenting Make You Happier Than Working Motherhood?

Working Mum Or Stay-At-Home: Who's Happiest?
21 June 2016

I've tried pretty much every permutation of the working vs stay-at-home motherhood 'debate'. I've been a full-time mum bringing nary a penny into the household coffers, and I've also worked so hard on building my own business that I've barely glanced in the direction of my sprogs, never mind had a second spare to properly parent them.

But interestingly, in over a decade of trying both life as a stay-at-time mum and full-time working motherhood, I'm still a bit conflicted about which suits me best.

So I was a little surprised to read about research by the Yorkshire Building Society which suggests that full-time mums are happier than us working mothers.

Now I'm not about to go pitting y'all against each other in a 'who's got the best deal' forum but I do wonder if the lives of Playpennies parents bear out this data.

So without resorting to scrapping over this, can we conduct a little experiment to see whether full-

time mums are truly happier than working mums? Or, as I suspect might be the case, is it in fact true that there's no one-size-fits-all arrangement when it comes to having kids and earning a living, and that consequently different things make different mothers happy.

Now I can only speak for myself, of course, but I wasn't really cut out for full-time motherhood and I definitely didn't consider myself happier then (when I was a stay-at-home mum) than I do now that I get to fit a freelance career around caring for my kids. I feel like a have a peachy deal right now but it's a mix of both full-time parenthood and being a working mum. It brings its stresses and strains, of course, but it means I'm able to be at my kids' sports days and assemblies at the drop of a hat without having to ask anyone for time off, yet I'm also getting to use my grey matter and avoiding the soul-numbing boredom which I found set in when I was at home with the kids full-time.

But what about you? If you're a working mother would you agree with this data which suggests you'd be happier if you didn't have to work? And if you're a full-time mummy, do you think it's true that you've got things made - or do you ever dream of having an income of your own?

We'd love to hear your thoughts. Take part in our poll, leave us a comment below or come and join the debate over on our Facebook page. Just please, remember to play nice.


69 comments

  • Faye B.

    The grass is always greener. If you work full time maybe you have a lot of guilt, work part time and you feel like you are not giving your all to either equally as guilty and run ragged (my current position) and stay at home to alleviate mummy guilt but maybe you have other qualms like not being financially independent, housewife stigma or loneliness for adult company. We should just support each other, very few are 100% happy and we are all just doing what we can to keep our heads above water.

    • Helen M.

      I've done both. Each has its challenges and I doubted and congratulated myself for different things. Do what makes YOU happy. You'll be a better parent for it.

    • Sharon B.

      Yup. Both = stress of different types. Now im a SAHM (redundancy) and we are circling the drain financially I am more stressed and I think a worse mother than when I was working. At least then I wasnt as stressed and 90% of time with kids was doing fun things. Now as its more time 70% is probably stressfull for me, and them as they see me stressed or breaking down.

    • Siobhan M.

      Definitely! after having my first I felt like everyone was judging me because I fell pregnant at college so never looked for a job while I was pregnant. I thought people thought I was just a benefit junkie. I got my job when she was 2. Now after having my second and going back to work after 9 months I feel even worse. I took the days I had with my daughter for granted and now I don't get them with my son. I would love to be able to afford not to work and spend every second I can with them. Either way you always think the other side is getting a better deal. Other "perfect" mothers just make us all feel worse. They probably feel the same as everyone else but hide it better

    • crabs

      ive done both....with my first i was a working full time single mum.................with my second im a part time working mum (no longer single)...i think i missed out on loads with my first as my daughter was put into nursery at 8.30 am and then i picked her up at 6pm....its not just the nursery time its the rushing them of a morning....to get them dressed and have breakfast...and getting to the nursery.....by the time you pick them up at 6pm and then get home make the tea bath them its time for bed.....felt like i never saw her.......ive got the right balance now working part time.........i see them both of a morning....breakfast and dress time is not all rush rush rush....still time for cuddles and chats......im home when they come home at 3.30 so we have play time and tea and bath etc is not rushed......

      it getting the right balance...........no harm in working full time, no harm in being a stay at home mum and no harm in working part time..........the children know no different its just what they are used too....but if you blink you miss them growing up.....

  • Rachael M.

    Having the best of both worlds is good. I only work part time. This really works well for us.

  • Kerry-ann B.

    Well said and very true x

  • Lynsey S.

    Part time work is the solution for me. Works well. X

  • Lesley D.

    As a mother of four i have tried both sides of the coin and to be honest i enjoyed both but part time work and motherhood work better for me now.x

  • Natalie M.

    Myself and my other half both work full time hours but we are very lucky one drops child at school the other picks child up so he has either parent everyday and Fridays he had his grandparents.

  • Laura D.

    I work full time and I have very little guilt about it. I'm extremely lucky to work for a very flexible company, and my two year old goes to a brilliant nursery. He loves going and coming home. I couldn't stay at home with him and stay sane. It works for us.

    • Jean C.

      Laura don't feel guilty. Your 2 year old seems really contented. The nursery experience will make him a rounded little boy, and he will be fine. When I was ridiculed in 1972 for 'farming my daughter out' I used to say " what is good enough for the Queen is good enough for me". It is the quality of the time you spend with him, not the amount.

    • Victoria S.

      Snap

  • Heather J.

    Part time working mums x

  • Donna M.

    I work full time but I think id definitely be happier part time.

  • Jayne S.

    Some people don't have the financial option to be a full time mother.

  • Michaela G.

    I'm a full time parent. I also work full time. I don't stop being a parent while I'm at work. That language is nonsensical

    • Jennifer C.

      Totally agree I am a full time parent that works full time. I don't like this wording either. If anything should be used then please use stay at home mum

  • Gemma H.

    I work part time and spend lots of quality time with my children :) Works really well for me and im lucky i have well paid job and hours that suit us. Full time would mean paying a fortune in childcare costs :/

  • Alex L.

    We're all knackered so don't compare

  • Nicola M.

    I only work part time and is the best decison i ever made. Works well for us and our kids

  • Sarah R.

    I work at night once or twice a week so im at home to take my kids to school and nursery and there to pick them up and spend the rest of the day with them

  • Colette L.

    I work almost full time & my husband works full time & we have an 8 year old son who goes to breakfast & after school club 3 times a week & grandparents twice a week. He loves this as much as weekends & holidays which he spends with us as he gets to spend extra time with his school friends & grandparents plus I earn some money for a few treats. Basically as long as you can afford it do what's best for you :smiley:xx

  • Louise H.

    My hubby works full time, I used to work part time but I was jus working to pay for childcare so I quit to become a full time mum, best decision I made. It's not for everyone n I must admit some days I wish I did work. It's different for everyone as some ppl have to work n some ppl chose to work n some don't. But like micheala said above even if u do work u don't stop being a full time mum them kids are alway on ur mind n if they need you u will be there no matter what!

  • Suzanne E.

    Ugh really, people still want to quibble over this stuff?? Do what suits you and your family, its got nothing to do with anyone else!

  • Catherine B.

    I work two days a week and find it extremely difficult. I would rather either work full time or not at all. (But I'm swayed by the money I earn part time!) my daughter is generously looked after by family so it should feel like the best of both but it doesnt. If I'm lucky enough to have more babies I will most definitely be a full time mummy! I do think it's each to their own and I don't pass judgement but I personally couldn't entrust my daughter to full time childcare; I'd feel like I was missing out too much! Again please don't interpret that as judgement working mums, just a different choice :slight_smile:

  • Kelly-Marie S.

    What ever suits your own family is what makes you happier were all made to feel guilty whatever we do so best to ignore everyone else's thoughts and opinions and enjoy what you've got in your own life

  • Kelly B.

    Do what suits you and your family!! It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else what your choices in life are! I am incredibly grateful to be able to say I've brought my 2 kids up from day 1 and they have been by my side 24/7, I have witnessed every first milestone and beyond! This was my choice to do this and I can honestly say I wouldn't have had it any other way! My other half works incredibly hard and let's face it they are only little once so your damn right I want to be there every step of the way! Being able to go to school appointments, be there for them when they are sick, comfort them when all they want is mummy, watch them grow into little people! Why would I want to miss any of that! Everyone has their own balance that works for them! This is mine :muscle:

    • Kim H.

      This is exactly how I feel :ok_hand:

  • Sarah B.

    I work part time and mostly take my boy with me, and my girl when it's school holidays :blush:

  • Carol B.

    Am a single mother with four kids so have done both. Was very happy to be at stay at home mum when my 3 older ones were younger as working was really paying for childcare which seemed a bit silly when i could be at home but i now work part time so have best of both have money for treats days where i can pick my kids up and spend time with all my children and 2 days at work where i get out of house earn money and adult company work suitable hours where i come home and spend tea time and play time before bed and very happy also its what suits familys every family is diffrent x

  • Danielle M.

    Didn't realise it was a competition. I'm just about to come to the end of two years off with my babies. I took mat leave then extended leave with my second and I'm going back part time. There are pros and cons to both but unfortunately for financial reasons I can't not work for much longer!

  • Andrea B.

    Part time work always worked best for me but not everyone feels the same. You've got to do what is best for you and your family.

  • Lorraine S.

    Work 31 hours a week.. travel into London at silly o clock everyday but get to leave early to be back to pick my boy up from school and the other at nursery. We still have a good few quality hours together each day.. it's exhausting but wouldn't change it for the world!!

  • Amanda R.

    worked full time till I had my two children then stayed at home being a single parent till both in school and now work part time,I managed to get a job that suits school hours and I'm home when they are except a few hours on Saturday while family have them,works for me and my children but each family is different.

  • Claire L.

    Surely it's about the individual family...

  • Neil F.

    As a stay at home dad I'm happier being at home than when I was in full time work. My wife, however, is happier in full time work so it's all down to personal preference.

  • Hannah M.

    It is as everyone says a personal choice but not always one we can choose, I work full time (shift work) but I am most defiantly a full time mummy as well! So lucky to have relatives and a great nursery for 2 afternoons for lg to socialise. She gets to see everyone but also never missed any milestones and she comes first. I'm very happy and extremely lucky :grinning:

  • Jean C.

    I worked full time for 49 years. Had two children. I had 4 months off with the first in 1972, and one month off for the second in 1975. It was hard work . No maternity leave for me. However, if mums are happier being a full time mum. I don't see a problem. It is whatever suits the individual. It's not the amount of time you have with your children, but the quality of the time.

  • Louise R.

    I work full time, not because I want to, but because I have too. In my opinion, stay at home or working full time, are both hard and tiring. Whatever suits you, we are all in different circumstances

  • Amy L.

    Whatever works for your family is best, no judgement either way here, but... can we please not use the term "full time mummy" when really you mean "stay at home mummy" I do not ever relinquish my parental responsibility when I go to work.... I'm still a mummy, full time, all of the time, I just work outside of the family home. We don't say "my husband is a part time daddy" because he works, and I feel the implication of the term "full time mummy" means that working mummy's are only being mummy's part of the time.... just something that bugs me lol x

    • Emma W.

      Totally agree being a working mum doesn't make you less of a mummy.

  • skia

    I think there's a huge difference between full time working Mums and part time working Mums and in fact Mums who have jobs that fit in around their children. 

    We aren't all lucky enough have the choice and as Mummies we do the best with the situation we're in. Given that choice however, I would not willingly get my child up in the morning to pack them off to nursery every day for a 7.30 start and pick them up again at 6 in time for a snack, bath and bed unless I really had to. 

    It's really not a criticism of those who do this and I really hope it doesn't come across that way. Could I do it myself if I didn't have to though? No I could not.

    However, a job that fits around your children is altogether different. If you are lucky enough to be in that position it provides a sometimes much needed boost to ones self esteem  (not to mention bank balence!) as well as allowing our brains to change format. I think we all need that at least once in a while.

    Anyway, that's just my view on the matter rightly or wrongly ☺

    • skia

      Apologies balance not balence!

  • Laura K.

    I'm a stay at home mum and think a balance of both is best. Mums need their own identity and to use their knowledge and skills while young children need to have a parent or close family member of possible caring for them the majority of the time. That's purely my opinion but I think each individual persons circumstances are different and they should do what is right for them and their children.

  • Therese C.

    With my own child I worked part time when he was 2 , then I worked just the hours he was in nursery, but when his dad came home I worked 4-8 . I work for myself now as a childminder and I can see both sides of the pros & cons . Kids from 8am to 6pm 5 days a week is hard work . Anything up to 6 kids a day . No adult conversation , just kids . Even though it's busy & exhausting , it's still I think a very lonely job . I know I wouldn't be happy not working when I was bringing my own child up , even though I took jobs that worked around his life , I.e nursery hours /school . I'm happy I set a good example , being a good role model by working . I do understand though how hard it is to miss your child's first steps , words , etc and I would never tell a parent this happened in my care . I do think stay at home mums get slated a bit for not working , but seriously , i only have kids 10 hours a day & I'm exhausted , I take my hat off to parents who have no break till bed time .

  • Kathryn R.

    The grass isn't always greener. The grass is green where you water it.

  • Becky S.

    Object strongly to the wording of this. I'm a full time mum who works full time. I don't relinquish my mum title the minute i walk out of the door to go to work. I'm a mum who happens to work.

  • Julie O.

    Full time mum and full time worker, having a family isn't a job it's a lifestyle choice!

  • Emily M.

    I am blessed I have a full time job that fits in with my children . I never miss sports days or nativity plays as my work allow me time off to see this. I have every holiday school holiday off to spend quality time with them. If my children are sick I leave work I collect them and it's me they snuggle with . Best part of it all when my daughter is asked what her mummy does " my mummy is a teacher " she is so proud to tell her teacher / class that. I am hoping excellent work ethic and independence passes onto my children from this and that its ok for a women to work , run a house hold and have your own money and also aim for a career what's wrong with that. I would never say I am a part time mummy , I just work as well to be able to have the nice rewarding things we do :)

  • Hannah C.

    When my kids were little I worked part time, partly because we needed the money but mainly because I didn't want to be a stay at home mum. Now, 20 years later, I would love to be a full time grandma (shame I still need the money and have to have a full time income to help support the grandbaby!!!) x

    • Lteee

      I'm a sahm after being made redundant after the birth of my second child. Prior to that, I was a full time single mum but was extremely lucky to have had a very generous flexible company with generous holidays and flexitime that meant I rarely missed any times my nursery-going son needed me.  Redundancy came when he started school and I had a newborn so saved a lot money by not paying for childcare then, and then when I did get a disastrous part time job for a year, it was only part time so I didn't miss school events then either ... As the job didn't pay enough to cover the childcare fees for my 2nd son, and I hated the place anyway, we took the bold step of me being a sahm and I've never looked back.

      It does get boring at times when the kids are at school and nursery (15hrs free nursery, desperately needed for my 2nd son who is autistic and needs to develop social skills)  but I keep myself busy with keeping fit,  maintaining my house and finding ways to help my youngest with his life and autism.  I do really want a job when my youngest starts school in 18 months, but I don't know what I want to do, and the thought of anything impeding my ability to be able to plan or attend anything I want to for my kids scares me as I don't want to miss a second of their lives! I suppose I am very lucky that my partner has a well paid full time job, which means we see very little of him at times, but having one parent around 24/7 compensates for that. The biggest issue I find is my own embarrassment of not having a job and the deadly silence that follows when someone asks what you do for a living and you say you dont! 

  • Emma M.

    I started my new job (with Royal Mail) as full time after my maternity leave doing 39 hrs a week and walking 12 miles a day left no quality of family/home life as I was so tired. I now do school hours only, less money but more time with my children and not stressing about chores at home is a winner for me :wink:

  • Hayley S.

    Whether we work or not, we are all still mums, we all still get up at silly hours in the night when our children need us, we all still nurse our poorly children and cuddle, feed and care for them. There's no such thing as a full time mum, working mums don't get in from work and spend the evening pampering and relaxing after a hard day, they get in and instantly carry on caring for their children. It's all personal preference and like somebody else said either way we are all exhausted x

    • Sarah R.

      I am so glad someone else has said this! I really hate the phrase "full time mum" as you said we are all full time parents regardless of whether we work or not. I'm not a part time parent just because I work!! Thank you :) x

  • Jemma C.

    My kids are just 4 and 2, for me it's important to be at home with them. My wee girl will be going to school soon, the first few years go way too fast. When my youngest is at school I'll go back to work.minfeel very lucky to be able to stay at home. On the other hand if you want to work then great, we're all different

  • Amanda B.

    I work 30 hours and I tear my self apart everyday leaving my princess at home to work but then again if don't work we can't do all the amazing this we do at weekends when am off. Half of me wants to work to support her and half me wants to stay at home everyday think it's about trying to balance it. Witch is really hard and since Bering back at work since oct2015 I have just found a balance that seems to work ok the now. For us. Xxx

  • Cheryl M.

    I worked full time after my first child and I hated it, felt so guilty that I was hardly spending time with her. So reduced hours, had second child and work around 30 hrs, I'm really lucky as my job is flexible, I can do school drop off and pick and have the time to spend plus weekends. Personally I think I'd go crazy staying at home, but even now I still feel guilty that in not there enough when I feel tired after pick up and school holidays are a nightmare!! Lol But don't really have the choice to not work as couldn't afford it. Everyone is different and everyone has different views. Think we all do our best, children sadly don't come with instructions!

  • SJ P.

    I went back to work after each of my 2 children as I thought I wasn't cut out to be a SAHM. After the second it didn't make much difference financially which I did so it really was down to where I thought was best for the children (and for me!) But after being pretty ill for most of last year, and still making it into work every day, my mind and my priorities changed, and I'm now a very happy SAHM. Not saying mothers who happen to also go out to work don't have their priorities straight, not at all; I mean it really is about what is best for the individual and their family at any point in time, not about any general "this is definitively Best"

  • Michelle B.

    It's a personal thing, for me working part time is a MUST!

  • Kylie G.

    As a Single parent I'm much happier working although money is extremely tight, we don't have the luxuries/holidays we just manage to scrape by me and my little man are very happy :blush:

  • Tracy M.

    I work from home. Definitely the best of both worlds :blush:

  • Pondy J.

    I'm a full time parent and work full time. Work stops at 5 but being a parent never stops & quite rightly so!

  • Kwhite

    I'm a working mum. 

    I have shift work but I've made sure my time with my kiddies comes first. 

    My mornings are full of cuddles, racing cars, jumping in puddles and what ever else we put on the agenda and then late afternoon and evening I go to work. 

    This means my husband gets his one to one time with the kiddies as well which he loves. 

    We had a big discussion about me returning to work and it's worked out well, we both appreciate family time more and make sure we plan adventures when we are both off together and we appreciate each more. 

    Don't get me wrong I miss them so much when I'm at work and times would rather be at home and then I think of what we are able to do more of with me bringing in that extra income.

    It is a hard one but I'm happy doing both x

  • danimoo

    I am a full time working mum. I previously worked 50 hours a week. Dropped down to 40 hours when my oldest started school. I have one day off to do the school run and anything needed. I hate it, I want to be home. I don't want to miss another sports day or be made to feel bad because yet again I've missed something at school because I just can't take everything off. 

  • Danielle M.

    I am a full time working mum. I previously worked 50 hours a week. Dropped down to 40 hours when my oldest started school. I have one day off to do the school run and anything needed. I hate it, I want to be home. I don't want to miss another sports day or be made to feel bad because yet again I've missed something at school because I just can't take everything off.

  • Georgie C.

    No- what makes YOU happy is different for each individual mother. Drop the judgement and allow other mums to raise their families in the way that works for them. At home, work, or both- does it matter? As long as we raise a great family, and our children turn into independent adults, does it matter!? Do what's best for you and let the haters hate!

  • Sam C.

    I work full time but at least I'm home for lunchtime, I miss my baby girl so much I hate leaving her. But I put food in her tummy, clothes on her back and a roof over her head. She will learn the value of hard graft, that women are hard workers, and I did it all for her, I hope one day she appreciates that :blush:

  • Victoria C.

    Can one not be a full time parent AND a working mum? I work, part time but am by no means a part time parent. :rage:

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