I think every woman can make up her own mind on this topic and what works for her. In my own case I have a degree… and in the 20+ years that I had kiddies at home, I did a variety of things career wise, mostly dictated by WHERE they were at (in their individual development), and whatever FACTORS come into play in your own life (Career or Marriage)
I have found having been-there-done-that there isn’t a one size fits all solution.
In my case, I tried to be home with them when they were first born for several months (mind you Canada has a great Maternity Leave program). Then if things went well… I’d go back to work full time thru their toddler, pre-school and elementary years (with the occasional situation where a child might need me for a period of time if they had an ongoing health issue, or situation where they weren’t getting along in a particular period of adjustment… nursery school / particular grade with a Teacher or Peers etc)
As much as I loved to work… I ALWAYS PUT MY KIDS FIRST !!
Sure it meant sacrifices… but work is a 40+ year endeavour… with kids you only get one kick at the can… and it is the fastest moving 20 years in your whole life !!
And by the time they were in Middle School / High School I was far enough along in my career to be working freelance and either setting my own work schedule / contracts… or doing most of my work from home. It is this period of time I consider myself to be a Stay-At-Home Mom, because quite honestly, I saw that as my primary focus.
I believe that my personalized plan where I was home more in the later years than the younger years was a better plan for our family all around. Especially in the Pre-Teen and Early Teen Years when they are so imperssionable / Peer driven. My kids weren’t angels, they certainly had their issues, but being home most of the time, meant I was ontop of what was going on with them (in the years, when they don’t talk so much). My knowing what was going on, meant I didn’t have the wool pulled over my eyes… and I wasn’t wearing self imposed blinders either. My knowing meant, that I was proactive, and involved to keep them out of harm’s way… or to help them understand what were and were not good choices that they were faced with (other peers were making). Lol, kids are funny at this age, when they do talk, if you listen you can learn a lot of things…
Anyhow, no regrets. I did the best job I could with my kids with the skills and knowledge I had at the time.
I also kept my work skills up to date, and was involved in Professional Associations etc so I was always in the loop with new developments, and my name never faded from anyone’s mind.
Hope this helps someone,
EDIT TO ADD – I also have women in my immediate circle who are full time SAHMs, and have well off Hubbys (the ladies mostly worked for awhile then somewhere around 35 to 40 got sick of the grind… having a fulltime job, kids and family responsibilities… especially older parents… at some point becomes exhausting… you can only go so many years on 5 or 6 hours sleep, before you are on the road to being a walking zombie… statistically that is what they say, most Working Moms get… 5 Hours a Night). Anyhow, almost none of these well educated women are doing nothing… most of them are very busy with their volunteer positions within the community. Be that doing stuff for their kids (Sports / Clubs etc)… or some other worthwhile endeavor (community service / local politics etc). None of them are truly stagnent just because they are a Stay-At-Home Mom or not working full-time… they are indeed using their Post Secondary Education (ability to think on their feet)… just in other ways… ways most of them seem to find very rewarding… maybe even more so that the 9-5 “pigeon hole” jobs that they left.
Sometimes being appreciated for what you know and can do, can be oodles more rewarding than a pay cheque, and struggling to stay firmly on the corporate ladder at work.