Saturday, March 8, 2014

Working Parent vs. Stay at Home Parent: Who Has it Tougher?

Before our son Caden was born, we had no plans of me staying home with him. We toured local preschools, interviewed nannies and did the usual research on care for him.

Of course, once he was born, things changed. We were fortunate that my wife Susan had an incredible maternity leave of five months. During that time, we decided that I would leave my job to stay home with Caden. Even thought it seemed like a difficult decision, it was quite an easy decision: Susan had built a successful 10 year career at her company, we had health benefits with her company, and she had an easy 10-15 minute commute. Although I was doing well at my job, my job at a non-profit could not provide the pay and benefits needed to support our family. Plus, my job had a 45 minute commute and also had early morning and late night meetings. 

We made our decision not only because we believed it was best for Caden (and now Eloise), but because it was the best decision for us. If our nanny was sick, our child was sick or both of us had late night meetings or travel, this would have led to constant stress and debate of who was going to watch Caden. Add to that who was going to make dinner, clean the house, walk the dog, etc.  We were truly lucky that I was able to stay at home.

After four months of transitioning out of my job while we had a nanny for Caden, I was now the stay at home parent. Which led to a discussion or perhaps a debate that we never would have expected to have: who has it tougher: the stay at home parent or the working parent? Not only has my wife and I had this conversation between each other, we have engaged in the same debate with other parents where one works and the other stays at home.

Working Parents
Working parents must deal with the daily stress of the job, commuting, and working a 10-12 hour day at the office. Then they come home dead tired and spend time with the kids, getting baths and off to bed. Even after that, they are often on their laptops working until 10:00 or 11:00 PM.

There is more stress and pressue when you are the sole provider. Like many families, we went from Double Income with No Kids (DINKs) to Single Income with Kids.

On top of that, working moms even have it tougher! My wife continues to feed our 8 month old daughter Eloise. So she has to pump at work and feed Eloise in the morning and night. Plus, Eloise is still waking up 1-2 nights expecting to be fed. Working Dads: you are lucky in this regard!

Working parents must also deal with the constant feeling of guilt.  This is especially for working Moms, who often feel guilty for working instead of being at home with the kids.

However, working parents do get some valuable quiet time in the car and the office, get daily adult interaction, change fewer diapers, can easily get coffee without needing a drive thru and get a one hour lunch break to do with what they choose.

Stay at Home Parents
As has been covered by others, being a stay at home parent is no walk in the park. The day begins when the kids get up at 6:30 or 7:00 AM if you are lucky. The day ends when the kids are asleep at 7:30 or 8:00 PM.  Again, if you are lucky. In between you are feeding, clothing, running after, carrying, escorting, changing, bathing, disciplining, talking with and loving your children. Add to that teaching your kids to share, not hit, and hopefully some day be potty trained.

If you have two or three kids, you are not likely to get any breaks as both kids will not likely nap at the same time. If you do get one of those days, you will probably use the time to clean the kitchen or bathrooms, prep for dinner or do dishes. You will be lucky to take a shower during the day or make yourself a proper lunch. The dishes and laundry will likely be piling up and your dog will wonder if you will ever walk him again.

If you do not met other stay at home parents, you might feel isolated and alone.  So it is best to get out during the day and meet other parents. Stay at home parents might also draw tired of the daily grind of watching children and doing household chores.

Even though it is a tough job being a stay at home parent, you get moments during the day like this:

And this....

Both Working Parents
Of course, 58% of families with kids have both parents who work full time. Raising children is so expensive that most families need both parents to work, especially for career growth, retirement savings and health insurance. Of course, some families may have parents who both want to work and not stay home with the kids! Families with two working parents strive to find that "life/family/work" balance.

Final Verdict
So who exactly does have it tougher? There is no easy way to tell. Raising kids and working are equally astough. As parents, the best we can do is recognize our partners are doing their best as parents and tell each other that we appreciate all the work they do: rather at home or at an office.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting the site, glad you like the article. I can certainly relate with you here as well. I've been an SAHD for 5.5 years (two kids) and it seems often in my relationship and among others in similar situations that there is tension surrounding "who's working most" or something. At the end of the day it's just apples and oranges. Very difficult to pin down and easy to judge the other parent on, but no can ever be the "winner." Figuring out the family unit is a team is so crucial, and it seems like you guys are doing a good job at that. Marriage, especially with kids, to me seems to work best when we treat it like a 3 legged race. We have to be on pace and work together or we all finish last. I'll follow your page here, you should check out this FB group for SAHD online and ask the admin about another group "Dad Bloggers" as well. I think you would enjoy the groups and having a lot of other dads to relate to. Like the page, keep up the good work.