by Tiffany Markman, who is mom to a delicious one-year-old, a book reviewer and a freelance copywriter, editor and writing trainer who tries to balance her workaholic tendencies with addictions to smooching her toddler, salacious non-fiction, caffeine, her iPhone and more. Follow Tiffany’s tongue-in-cheekery on twitter.

There’s a lot of contention in the mommy community. Breast-feeders vs bottle-feeders. C-sectioners vs natural-birthers. But perhaps the biggest chasm, and the one we tend to get tense about, is: working mommies vs stay-at-home mommies.

This is a letter to a stay-at-home mom, from me, a working mom. And I’m going to say something that isn’t said often enough – certainly not in public:

Dear Home Mommy,

I couldn’t do what you do.

You have my respect. I know people say, tritely, that motherhood is the hardest job of all. Blah blah. It’s always people who a) don’t have kids and are trying to make you feel better about the Jungle Oats on your sunglasses or b) were parents so long ago that their sanctimony isn’t helpful. I’m neither of those. I’m a mommy who loves her kid to distraction – and values our precious two hours together morning and evening during the week – but I still couldn’t be an 8am-5pm largely-solo mommy.


1. Motherhood can be BORING

The repetitiveness of it. Wake, change, feed, dress, change, feed, nap, change, feed, nap, change, feed, bath, sleep. Yes, there’s playing, cuddling, fun and activities in between, but yikes. It’s the same every day. Even on Sundays. At work, I do different stuff every day. Different people irritate me. And on weekends, there’s a different, kiddie-led routine. The only constant is the coffee.

2. Motherhood can be LONELY

I have a friend who spends all day with her daughter. The little girl is clever, pretty and full of personality. But she’s ONE. There are limits to the conversations you can have with a one-year-old. Especially when you need advice. Or change for parking. Or someone to take a flipping message. At work, I talk to (mostly) interesting and intelligent grown-ups. Yes, there’s social media for support if you’re at home, but at work you don’t even have to try.

3. Motherhood is NON-STOP

The relentlessness of it. There are no breaks. Nap-time doesn’t count. (Because that’s when you wee. Answer emails. Brush your teeth.) At work, even when I’m heading for a deadline and you can’t see my pretty nail-polish for the blur, I’ll stop every few hours for a snack, a coffee, a chat, or a trawl through Pinterest. When I feel like it.

4. Motherhood is MISUNDERSTOOD

South African stay-at-home moms have (at least some) help. It’s not like Europe or the States – I don’t know how those brave souls have any kids at all – so you’re seldom obliged to become passionately intimate with the vacuum cleaner.

But that doesn’t make full-time mothering less demanding, especially when people treat you like you’re constantly ‘on holiday’/‘free all day’, like you’re too stupid or lazy to work, or like your husband’s so obscenely wealthy that you don’t have to.

Bottom line? I work because I love it, because very few families can live comfortably on one salary these days, and because I simply don’t have what it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. In that order. My hat’s off to you.


Working Mommy

P.S. This letter requires a Part II. Look out for the next installment: a letter of congratulation from me, a work-from-home mommy, to a corporate mommy.

17 Responses to “Why I don’t envy stay-at-home moms”

  • michelle penlington says:

    dear working mom

    I am a stay at home mom to four children. My 3rd and 4th children are twins that recently turn 2years of age. My eldest child turn 7yrs and 2nd eldest turns 5yrs.

    When I had my first born, I went back to work 6 weeks after he was born only to realize very quickly that my “workaholic” tendencies weren’t as prefound as I thought that they were.

    I don’t admire working mom’s at all. I was extremely career driven and motivated and gave my all to my work. But when I had my first born something changed in my and at the time I was extremely distort as all I knew was my work and my career. Anycase, I did fight it and tried numerous times to go back to work for all the reasons that you have mentioned above, but I failed in the working world as I realized I couldn’t handle handing my baby over to a stranger to hand raise my child.

    Over the past 7years I have been a full time stay at home mom. Taking care of my children, rasing them to their best ability and finding a different meaning and purpose other than a workahloic / career driven personality.

    It’ been the best 7years of mylife. I have valued what my children have taught / shown me about myself. I have discovered things about myself I never knew exzited and I am extremely grateful that I have been able to have the opportuntity too.

    Yes, like you say Motherhood can be boring, but not all of it is boring. My almost 7year old and I have the most incredible bond. We build 500 piece puzzles together. Read all about the most dangerous and wildest animals in the world (extremely interesting facts let me tell you even I learned something new). And so on.

    I have given myself the chance to change all the above “issues” that you address about motherhood and let me tell you, only partly what you say is true. I don’t agree with what you are saying. And it almost feels like you are belittling “stay at home” moms.

    Like I say, the past 7years have been the best in mylife. Yes, the road isn’t always easy, yes, sometimes it’s lonely but it’s the most rewarding job ever. To be able to be there for my children 24 /7 is a blessing beyond belief and I am so grateful that when the school phones to say my child is sick I can reply sure I will be there in 10mins instead of saying sorry please send them to the sick bay as I can’t leave the office now due to work responsibilites.

    I hope and pray that you find some proper perspective on that you intend on saying in this but, I do feel you haven’t seen the bigger picture yet.

    I do understand that some mom have to work etc and I respect that completely but in this letter it almost feels as thou you are down trodding what stay at home mom do and what they are.

    Kinds regards,

    Michelle Penlington

  • Tania says:

    Dear working mom,

    Please can you respond with why you went back work?
    As often it’s the moms who have no other choice financially that make comments like the ones you have put out ie. staying at home is boring, lonely, misunderstood etc. very often these moms say things like that to feel better about themselves for not having the choice to stay at home.
    If you had to go back to work and leave your 3-4month old at a creche, please dont make staying at home mommies look boring, lonely, misunderstood etc because you didnt have a choice.
    If you went back to work because you were bored, lonely, misunderstood etc, and you wanted to, then say so, dont make the statement that we are all bored and lonely stay at home mommies who have rich husbands, because to me it seems like you are a little bit envious.

    I am a stay at home mommy and i love it. I have a full time live-in maid who cooks as well, so i am definately not the vacuum conversation type! My day is filled with teaching my son everything, going on outings, meeting other moms for play dates or just taking the kids to the park and having a glass of wine with my stay at home mommy friends.

    Yes there is a part of me that cant wait for my son to start playgroup for 3 hours in the mornings so i can have my nails done in peace or watch my pvr’d shows, but then i’ll prob be busy looking after my next baby who will get exactly the same amount of attention as the first! Something the germ infested cresche doesnt offer.

    Moms who have to go back to work – please find the best school money can buy or a reliable nanny so that you dont have to feel guilty for not staying at home, or make stay at home mommies look like desperate housewives.
    Moms who choose to go back to work – please know that we all know that certain people are not cut out to be the stay at home type and that you will not be judged for doing so.

    Kind regards,

  • Michele Mistry says:

    Hi Tiffany and Michelle,

    Sometimes I wish that we could turn back the clock to an era when life was simple, choices were few. We complicate things.

    I believe that most parents want to do the very best for their children, in their capacity to do so. Perhaps if we could acknowledge that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing, until we see a different way of being. Its all good.

    There is no contentious issue,aka SAHM vs WM, we are mums, doing what we believe to be best for our kids and ourselves at this moment in our lives. I feel we are often manipulated into confrontations unnecesarily.

    I’ve been exposed to lots of literature that explores the relationship between mothers and their children and the bond that exists. It is quite phenomenal and almost scary.
    There are libraries full of this stuff, but one particular author just brought it home to me with such clarity. His name is Joseph Chilton Pearce, he wrote Crack in the Cosmic Egg. You can search for some of his talks on Youtube. Simply fascinating.
    He looks at the causes of American societies deterioration (child violence, child suicide, child obesity, child illiteracy) and plots it back to 3 things: Television, increased medical intervention in child birth and the seperation of children from their mums (creche). It has made me look at the way I treat myself, my children, and all other children very differently.

    I encourage you to read up, listen in and maybe we can talk again.

    Love and warmest wishes, because we are all one
    Michele Mistry

  • Tiffany says:

    Hi mommies.

    Tiffany here.

    Thank you all for the feedback on my post. What wonderful, interesting diverse responses – both positive and negative. I’ve written a follow-up post, which JoziKids will publish early next week. Look out for it. I’d love to hear from you again.

    Have a lovely Mothers’ Day!



  • Ela says:

    Hello ladies,

    If only we could escape in life from the constant US vs THEM debates.

    Whether it is cyclists versus drivers, or SAHM vs WM…

    At the end of the day, WE ARE ALL mothers and we have more in common than what could possibly cause us being split into 2 groups. What makes us mothers, and the best for our children, is the fact that we ALL love our children and want to do what is best for them. Each one of us tries to do the best we can with what we have, including the most precious thing (after our children) – TIME.

    I think the time is overdue, that we women and mothers stop wasting time on expressing opinions about which side of the same coin is better, and instead focus all that energy into lobbying the local Labour Laws and Employers into changing the working environment so that women are able to dedicate more precious time to raising their children while still contributing to the workforce, should they choose to.

    Concepts like part-time employment, work-share (2 part-time employees fulfilling one role), flexi-hours and working from home need to be promoted in the labour market on a grand scale. Outdated perceptions that an employee is only productive when chained to her desk from
    8-5,must be replaced with the view that the most productive employees are the happiest employees.

    For those mums who do wish to work, but struggle to be away from their children for an entire day, opportunities to return to work with more reasonable working hours could be a win-win solution. Children would benefit from more mum-time and mothers could still apply themselves in fields that may satisfy their professional ambitions.

    I decided to stop working when I had my son, had the experience of being a stay at home mum, and returning to work part-time for some time. During that time, I was subject to criticism for being at home and also envy from working mums. Seems like the grass will only be greener when society changes the views on how they treat the mothers of the future inhabitants of our world.

    During my precious home time with my son, I met dozens of mothers, who given a chance, would have given 150% effort to any employer who would have afforded them more precious time with their children. (They were not working because cost of creches and help was out of reach; or they could not find part-time employment.)

    The employers of the future need to be educated that amongst the mums at home they can find some of the most productive (and under- utilised) working resources. Similarly, employers who begin to understand that working mums are actually doing TWO jobs at the same time, and allow them to continue their professional careers while freeing up more time for their children, may find themselves with the happiest and most productive workforce in their industry!

    So, no more ‘us’ and ‘them’ please – rather we, mothers who are raising the future.

    Peace, Love and respect to you all.

  • Fatima says:

    I really believe that being a stay at home mom to my 3 kids is the best choice I have made. Yes it can be boring and frustrating,but I promise u that thru it all I know my kids better than most. I can pick up on an emotion in an instant, and no if I was spending 2 hours a day with them ,I would not know them as well. Please don’t treat SAHM as lazy,second class citizens. Many of us are highly educated who have chosen to put our children first.
    And my kids would be devastated if I wasn’t home to make them a warm lunch everyday.

  • jozikids says:

    Tiffany’s response

    Hi Mommies.

    Thanks for the interesting feedback – positive and negative – on the post I wrote. Your differing opinions are what all columnists secretly hope for. But because this is a deeply felt issue for all of us, I hope you’ll bear with me as I clarify a few things:

    1. My original letter is intended to applaud SAH moms for what they’ve chosen to do and how graciously they do it. I’m not sufficiently unselfish to give up ‘my’ stuff to stay at home. ‘My’ stuff is what makes me happy and therefore, a better mom. So, the letter is supposed to be a message of admiration. I do say in the beginning that ‘You have my respect’ and at the end, ‘My hat’s off to you’, but I should have made clearer that the letter is to celebrate SAH moms. Any misunderstanding of my feelings in this respect is completely down to me.

    2. A few of you mentioned that you aren’t boring, lonely, misunderstood. Please re-read my letter. I didn’t suggest that you were. I said that motherhood could be. And it can be. Anyone who insists that every facet of being a mommy is fascinating, perfect and blissful is, quite frankly, kidding themselves. I know motherhood is something we take personally – and we should! – but please appreciate that I comment on what motherhood can be, not what mothers are.

    3. For those who’ve asked, I went back to work when my baby was 12 weeks old. I run my own business, which I’ve built over 8 years into something I am proud of, and more than 3 months off would’ve threatened that. Having said that, I love working. And I was happy to go back to what has always been a comfort zone for me, while early-mommyhood was so new and so terrifying. My family needs my income, so there was no option in terms of returning to work, but I chose to work full day, which I didn’t have to do, because I absolutely love it. No question.

    4. I’m a lucky working mom. I am able to be with my daughter for an hour before work and two hours after work, and on weekends. I take her to a ClamberClub class once a week and she has a weekly playdate. She has a wonderful nanny, a hands-on daddy, and two amazing grannies, and is a happy, engaged, intelligent little girl. More important, though: I am a better mother to her because I work. It’s what I need to be fulfilled, stimulated, satisfied and functional, and by getting what I need I am able to give her what she needs.

    Please note: I’m not saying that all moms should work or that SAH moms have horrible lives. I’m saying that, to be the best mom I can be, I need to work. And that, for me, staying at home would be horrible. I’ve made the choice that works for me.

    Thanks again for the interest and honesty. Look out for my follow-up piece on work-from-home mommying vs corporate mommying. Bring on the comments ☺


    aka Working Mommy

  • Kirsty Marais says:

    Hi Tiffany,

    Wow, you sure did cause a stir! Here’s my 2 cents worth: I am a mother to 2 beautiful little girls, one is 3 and the other is 2. When I was 6 months pregnant with my first born I was retrenched from work. I felt like my world was shattering around me. My husband had just started his own company, and we sorely needed my minimal salary. Besides the financial aspect, I was on a company medical aid, no medical aids accept new members who are 6 months pregnant! I managed to convince the company to keep me on the medical aid until after my baby was born, and once the baby arrived, we used every credit available to make ends meet, including buying nappies & formula on my Edgars account. LOL, I am glad to say that I can laugh about it now, those were not fun times. My husband’s company started picking up and after that I just decided it wasn’t worth my while to try to find another job. Just as well because 9 months later I was pregnant again. In the first 2 years I was simply too busy to even think about missing work, but now I think it might be getting to me. I agree with everything you said, I do get bored of doing the same thing day in and day out, and not having challenging, intellectual conversations or simply having one chain of thought that goes uninterrupted! :)But having said that, I don’t think I would ever be able to leave my kids all day long, only to see them for a few short hours every day. As bored as I might get, those little giggles and precious moments come out tops for me!

    Have a lovely day Working Mom!

  • Michele Mistry says:

    Hi Tiffany,

    I came back to the post and read your last response. I got your article the first time around and agree with what you said about being a mum. I felt this too in my early days of being home, I still feel it after 5 years. I appreciate your honesty.

    Please go to the link I shared, the talk is amazing.

    Perhaps what I havent shared in my earlier response or in my post ‘Its the hand that rocks the cradle…” is the motivation behind my doing what I do. This makes all the difference.

    There’s an old story in Hindu tradition about young brides. The story goes that young brides, like old wives, try to make (ghee)butter out of milk. They will both stir and stir and stir. The young bride inevitably gives up and says its hopeless because of the frustration she endures during this experience. The old wife, because of her wisdom/perserverance/lack of an alternative, whatever we want to ascribe it to, persists, she turns the milk into butter. Sometimes we need to hold on a little longer, to see the fruits of our hard work. When we do get this ‘reward’ it makes doing the work easier.

    Michele Mistry

  • Rowena says:

    Hi All,

    I am a working mom like some of you. Not by choice though, but because we want a financialy comfortable life.

    However, I would like to share with you from a “child’s” perspective of having a stay home mom. I had had the best of both worlds. My mom worked, and after a few years stopped working, while I was still at school.
    She would be up with us for school, sit with us while we had breakfast, and see us off. Sometimes she drove us, sometimes we walked, it was always our choice. She was however fortunate to also have a helper while she was home. So she was able to join, a craft group here and there, go for “health” walks around the block with other ladies. Spend time on her own hobbies as well. Do shopping in the week when the malls were emptier than weekends.

    But what I as kid loved most was that, we spent quality time with Mom. Not just on weekends. On Wednesday for example was PIE day, so we would go and get pies for lunch after school. On Friday was waffle day. We did homework with her in the kitchen while she cooked, and spoke about the days events with her, without her ever saying she is too tired to listen now. We were able to get extra things for school the same day, because the shops were still open. Often the other kids at school had to explain to the teacher that they can only get extra things on the weekend, when their parents area off work. Our friends, love coming to our home, because “Our mom always had homemade, cookies & goodies”.
    Mom was also serious with regard to school work, and because she was home, she had more time to really sit and explain things to us. Whether it be Mathematics, or just general knowledge about the world around us. I felt extremely privliged for this, as many a time at school, I would know just one or two things extra for my exam, which proved to be a huge positive.

    Because we did so much together but in moderation, our bond is stronger and the bond between my siblings and I are stronger as well. Even my brother learned to cook from a young age, becuase we all loved sitting around the kitchen, chatting away while mom cooked. I have so much more to say, but I would probably write a book.

    I would do almost anything to be a stay home mom and give my child the same quality of life that I had.

    Kind regards

  • Nicky says:

    Fellow Mommies

    (Please read with colorful character voice, as being a stay at home mom and working mom can be extremely amusing)

    How I envy you on most days!
    I sometimes wish to escape what one may call a good choice, (being a stay at home mommie)
    Really and honestly, being a parent is such hard work, now you have got to contend with which choice is better.
    Reading your post just enlightens the experience gives you good giggle, and a another burst of energy, for future days.
    All Moms should be respected, deciding to stay at home, work from home, go to work, homeschool, play school…blah blah yada yada fish paste…all in all, its a decision neither one easier, or harder!
    Trust me, I have been both Stay at home mom and working mom, sent my kids to school then homeschooled.
    Its all hard work I tell you!

    Now I homeschool two boys, one six the other four.
    Try to grow my food.
    Try to make everything from scratch.
    Sew, read, teach, HANDWASH and HANG my laundry…
    Am I better, plain stupid, or doing what works for me?
    I choose doing what works for me.

    A shout out to all Moms and participating Dads.
    Whatever you do, its all in good faith, and it works.

    Love and Light

  • Carisha says:

    Hi Ladies

    I am a working mom in an environment that often requires very long days. I have a fantastic housekeeper, but that does not make up for the time I am not at home. My two girls complain that they miss me and ask what kind of work is it that requires mom to come home so late. (I often even miss bedtime and mornings are just a big rush to get ready to go.) I agree with them. I miss them very much and even when I am at home, I am too tired to give them my best.

    I have recently decided to resign and start a small business that can operate from home. This would mean scaling back for a while in terms of finances and focusing on needs rather than wants, but they are worth it!

    I want to be the major influence in my children’s lives. I want to instill values and morals and that will require more than the few rushed hours a week (getting ready for school or bed) I now sometimes have.

    I have missed out on too much already.

    (This is by no means a reference to anyone else’s choice or situation. This is what is best and what is possible for my family at this time.)

  • Michele Mistry says:

    Good job Carisha!

    Courage and strength to you.

    Michele Mistry

  • MAGGIE says:

    Wow, Tiffany! Sounds like u had a peek-a-boo into my life!! I really identify with everything you speak of as I’m not fortunate enough to have the pleasure of a maid or any extra help, not forgetting when hubby has to work late. It is soooo gratifying to know that someone out there has seen the plight of SOME of us stay-at-home mums and recognises what we miss out on and how we get taken for granted by others. I wonder sometimes whether its the fact we dont bring home ‘the bacon’ that makes us look like the stupids we’re assumed to be (???)…like we’re not contributing (?)..well, I’m convinced of it!

    Thank you for writing this and letting me know there are hearts out there for mums like me!

  • Candice says:

    Hi All,

    I just happened to stumble onto this post as I am battling inside with what to do. I have just started a new position after being a stay at home mom for a year due to circumstance. I really thought that going back to the corporate world was what i wanted but now i realise that my family is the most important thing to me. I want to be a stay at home mom,to have a meal cooking for my baba when she gets home from playschool and to not be too tired to give her attention.

    I am looking at work from home options as I know that 8-5 just isnt my life anymore. I respect working and stay at home moms equally and believe that you must follow what is true for you.

    Good luck to all mommies!

  • Bella49 says:

    Wow, I’m glad I read this and all the responses. I’m a STAH mom to two boys, 3 years and 9 months old. I’ve experienced envy from working moms and condescending remarks from people who think STAH moms sit with their feet up watching soapies all day!

    In the end, people must remember a choice always means giving something up. If you choose to stay at home, you gain a lot by being with your children, but if we’re honest we also lose something in terms of intellectual and career stimulation. If we choose to work, we lose time with our children and gain an enormous sense of guilt.

    @Ela – I couldn’t have said it better. We lived in the UK for 5 years and there you can have maternity leave for 12 months (the last 3 months being unpaid); you can job share (wouldn’t that be a fantastic job creation idea for SA?); and working from home is supported much more than here.

    As for myself? I chose to stay at home. Some days I know I’m blessed; on other days I long for a career where problems are solved simply by hard work and logical thinking (try applying that to a toddler refusing to eat/have a nappy changed/sleep/stop throwing things/stop screaming…)

    As I said: a choice always involves giving something up.

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