Moms Debate: To Stay Home or Work?


It's clear from the response to "Good Morning America's" series on the "Mommy Wars" that the decision to stay at home to raise children or continue working is a hot topic among parents, and the issues involved are numerous and complex.

In order to sift through all the different ideas "Good Morning America" recently invited several viewers to come to the Times Square Studio to share their opinions and to try to reach a consensus on the issue. The viewers were joined by three experts: "GMA" workplace contributor Tory Johnson, "O" Magazine contributor, life coach and social psychologist Martha Beck and Wendy Sachs, the author of "How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at Work Moms."

You can read about the issues discussed below.

Is It a War?

Many moms felt very strongly about the issues at stake. Debbie Cureton said she thought it was vital that mothers be home for their young kids.

"I want women that have children -- and I'm going to get pounded for this -- but I want women that have children to raise them themselves. I have older children and I know it's fleeting, and the bottom line is I think moms should be there for those younger years."

Kimberly Abram agreed.

"I only get one chance with them (my children), to nurse them... to be there for them for those formative years," said Abram, who is a licensed attorney in New York and New Jersey but chose to leave the workforce to raise her children.

Shelly Winters, a single mom, said economic factors complicated the issue, however.

"The bottom line is that there are a lot of women in this society who cannot (stay home with their children), myself as one of them, and I don't want to be looked down upon or made to feel guilty about the fact that I have to go out into the workforce," Winters said.

Martha Beck said mothers need to stop letting others make them feel guilty for their decision to work or stay home.

"I think society is going to continue to be polarized on this," Beck said. "I think there will continue to be angry, judgmental minorities on each side. So what I'd like to say to individuals out there who are struggling with this is, 'don't wait for society [to] stop judging you. Stop judging yourself.' Get away by yourself and ask, 'How today can I love my children, love myself, love my life?'"

Mom Shani Binkowski agreed.

"I think the underlying thing that bothered me was seeing the ... pitting against each other," Binkowski said. "I have friends who have ended a friendship because of all the judgmental -- you know -- about the way they mother, and being home and not being home."

Is There a Risk To Staying Home?

In the 1970s, Terri Hekker was a vocal advocate for the view that all mothers should stay home and raise their children. She even wrote a book about it -- "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Glories of Being a Full-Time Housewife." But on her 40th wedding anniversary, Hekker's husband left her for a younger woman. And Hekker, who hadn't worked since her children were born, was left emotionally and financially blindsided.

"Most of us who are full-time homemakers [who wer] just supporting our husbands were left with nothing," Hekker said. "I mean the courts do not recognize a contribution to a marriage by a woman my age. I was 63."

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