I think there are obvious reasons why a Mama decide to remain a WOHM (work-outside-the-home Mom) after having kids.
1) The family needs the second income.
2) The mom needs the daily adult interaction provided from the work place.
3) The mom needs to continue to build her career because she enjoys it or for the just-in-case situation.
Singularly or a combination of each, every single one of these reasons is sufficient to defend the working Mama position, not that either position needs defending. Each one of those reasons above play some role in my decision to keep a job outside the home after having kids. However, I will divulge one additional reason why I continue to do so.
I don't think it's fair for one person to shoulder the responsibility of being primary provider.
Yes, there is always the argument that working inside the home is just as equally hard as working outside the home. I'm not refruting that fact, and in fact, I would agree with it. However, what doesn't gets acknowledged or emphasized enough is just exactly how hard it is to work outside the home and shoulder the responsibility of being the primary provider. It is freaking hard, and sometimes, even if you work outside the home but is the secondary breadwinner won't provide you with the perspective of how hard it is.
Since I got married and took on a role of spouse within a two person family unit, I have always been the primary provider in our household, by definition of the amount of income coming in. It is a fact and not a bragging right. When we decided to expand our family, some thing in the universe was also at work and our circumstances changed. I became the sole income provider in our family when my husband became unemployed. I cannot even began to describe what this time feels like - to me as an individual and to our family as a unit - to have our income cut in half, to face the stress of stretching our dollar to cover our living expenses, to know that our financial security is at risk.
We eventually got out of it. My husband got a job. We again reached the point of monthly surplus instead of deficit. Security came back and boy was I glad to see it again. We have even reached a point where we could even look back and say that it was a blessing in disguise because Joe was able to spend some very good bonding time with his daughter day in day out while he was unemployed, alongside my maternity leave. It worked out.
But that bleep in time did leave me with one impression, and that is financial security is important to our family and particularly me as an individual. So at that point, I vowed that I will never willingly allow my spouse to feel the pressure and stress that comes with worrying about our financial situation so that I can indulge in the luxury and dream of being a stay-at-home-mama to my girl. It was our reality, and facing it as a primary provider provided an different perspective, and it's not something I wanted to replicate on myself or on my spouse.
One other perspective that I also get through working over the years is that working is hard. It is called work for a reason and I think my perspective mirror those who are in the role of a primary provider position. I don't enjoy my job, and I do it to earn an income, and the amount is decent. Through a lot of hard work and sacrifices, I am in a decent position on the corporate ladder and continue to climb steadily. Having said that, with great position comes great responsibilities, one of which includes taking a lot of crap from the people in greater positions. This is where it makes working outside the home, in my humble opinion, much harder than working inside the home.
Along side the social interaction that some SAHM crave is the present of a different kind of interaction. The work place politics. The mean bosses. The disgruntled colleague. The unbearable workload. All of these can make for a very stressful and very unproductive work environment that leaves you exhausted by the time you get in your car to go home each night, only to face the foreboding day ahead of having to deal with it all over again the next day. And you know what, being the sole provider in your family leave you with another layer of stress that your stay-at-home spouse can never begin to fathom, and it is the prospect of having no way out of an already stressful situation.
I cannot in good conscience force my spouse, who I love dearly, to shoulder that single responsibility alone, especially having been at the receiving end of it. I hope that in me staying a working woman, that it provides our family with the extra security of flexibility. That if the situation at work becomes unbearable for my husband and he wants to get out of it, he has the flexibility of my income to do so. Or if my situation at work becomes too unbearable for me to deal with, that I have the flexibility of experience to move around fairly fluidly. Both of which would minimize the disruption to our children and family dynamic.
Sure I dream of being a stay-at-home mom - to be able to provide my children my full attention, to indulge myself the full luxury of raising my children, to sleep in, to take naps when my body craves for it, to go to the park, to have picnics in the middle of the day, to have every single day be a weekend day, but I don't think it's fair for me to get these things while my spouse get none of it, and on top of that faces the hardship of being a provider.
Maybe it is the feminist in me, but I believe in shared responsibility in a marriage - in child rearing, in making a home, in providing income. I believe it is healthy for both spouses to get a full spectrum of perspective, so that we can relate to one another, and be more willing to share in life's responsibilities because our perspectives are not skewed one way.
This is what works for our family. I believe my sacrifices are rewarded with a more willing spouse - who never mind doing the laundry because I have to stay at work late, or put the kids to bed because I had an exhausting day and just need to roll over and sleep through the night. But equally, I think his willingness to share in those traditionally female responsibilities is rewarded by my willingness to share in the traditional male responsibilities.
I am confident that whatever each family decides, it will always work if both spouses are in agreement.