04/22/2014 12:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is It Easier to Be a SAHM or a Working Mother?

My husband and I had decided that when my daughter was born, I would stay at home with her. I would leave the working world and enter into the world of being a stay-at-home mom. I loved the thought of it; I relished the idea of staying home with my little one and I just knew that I was cut out for it.

As the first few weeks at home turned into months, I began to realize that, in actuality, I most certainly was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I spent almost the entire first year of my daughter's life at home with her, and I wouldn't change that for the world. But I just knew, deep down in my heart, that I would be a better mother if I was working. I was so fortunate that the school that I had "retired" from had an opening and they were willing to let me come back into the classroom.

I have waited now, almost an entire school year, to write this post. It has taken me this long to figure out how I felt about re-entering the working world. I began my seventh year of teaching in August at a school that I dearly love, and have now entrusted with my only child.

And I still have no clue as to how I feel, with certainty, about being a working mother as opposed to being a stay-at-home mom. I have sat on both sides of the fence, and have developed a deep respect for both working and non-working mothers. My feelings towards both waver, depending on the day.

On some days, I feel like it is much, much harder to be a working mom. My days don't end. I rarely get a "break." During the workday, I have a slew of 8-year-olds to answer to, and when I get home, I am faced with a toddler who constantly wants to be entertained. I'd say more often than not, the first time during the day that I am able to sit down and relax comes after she is in bed. If she is sick, I am forced to take off work, leaving a substitute in my classroom. I hate having to do that, because we all know the level of instruction is far different with a substitute than it is with the classroom teacher. Every day that I am not in the classroom, I feel as though I am letting my students and their parents down. On the flip side, if I don't take off work, there is someone else watching my sick child, and I feel as though I am letting her down. It's a catch-22 with a whole lot of guilt on both ends. I love being at work, and I love my job, but there are some days when I am scared I can't be both a great teacher and a great mother at the same time. That fear has not only kept me up at night, but has caused a lot of worry and angst over the last several months.

But to be honest, there are days when I feel like being a working mother is easier that being a stay-at-home mom. I can use the restroom when I want, without a nineteen-month appendage in tow. I can have adult conversations without every other word being, no, or don't touch that, or mommy will be right there. I can leave the room without the fear that a finger will be severed, toilet water will be played with or something heavy will fall and cause an injury. I can get up, get dressed, put makeup on and leave the house feeling like a real person five days a week (new moms know how important this is). I don't need to worry about non-stop entertainment or planning a day around naptime. For at least eight hours a day, I can accomplish any and all necessary tasks with both hands (what a luxury!), rather than having a baby in one arm while trying to get stuff done with the other. It's as if there is a weight (a 22-pound weight to be exact) lifted off my shoulders when I am at work.

It's safe to say that after 10 months of being a working mother, I still can't pinpoint how I feel. People have often asked me my thoughts on returning to the working world, and it's gotten to the point where I completely dodge the question and quickly change the subject. I am typically a straightforward, get to the point kind of person, but this continues to be an enigma to me.

When it comes to motherhood, are there really any black and white answers, though? Are you a working mother? What are your thoughts on the topic?