Sweet and simple. If you must work, work. If it fills your cup to work and you feel like you are a better mother for your children because of it, then work. If you worked hard to build a career and feel like it's risky to walk away for 5-7 years until your kids might be in school, that's totally valid. If you want to stay home and you can do so and still provide basic needs, stay home. If you have to make sacrifices to stay home but feel they are worth it to your family based on your values. Stay home. If you want to be at home sometimes and work sometimes, out of need or for personal gratification, then work sometimes. Be your best self, and teach that to your child. He or she may grow up and tell you that they wish you had set a different example, that can happen no matter which one you choose. Working full time, working part time or not working. You have to live your life according to the lifestyle you have chosen (which can be malleable if need be), modeling true authenticity, and making yourself happy so that the time you spend with your children is a reflection of that happiness. Of course Mom's happiness can't come at the unnecessary expense of others, but if your cup is empty, you truly have nothing to give.
As for judging other women. Just don't waste your time or energy on that. Trust her to make the necessary and/or personal choices for herself and for her family and allow the natural consequences of that choice to unfold. I do wish for a world where all women have the opportunity to choose work they are passionate about, choice about how they balance the role of motherhood with other work, and a love relationship that allows for her strength and her vulnerability. I want that. A fulfilling life for all mothers in whatever combination that means for her, freedom to choose. That is not true for most women right now. Please, please, don't waste time with judgement. We aren't elevating each other with pettiness and self-righteousness. Maybe you are doing it "right". We'll see, and even if it turns out that you aren't, and something happens that you later realize was caused by a choice you made, how could you possibly know that now? I will hold your hand if that happens. I will understand. Would your version of "right" work for someone else? There is literally no way to know that. Some of the best mothers (both working and at home) that I know, have had to face some of the hardest challenges, so don't let yourself get too comfortable believing that because you raise your family in a way that you think is "correct", that you will somehow be protected from the challenges that lie ahead. We need each other. Put petty differences aside. Whether or not someone works outside the home is a petty difference.
I had a divine experience a few years ago...I'll share it to make my point, between you and me, I haven't told ANYONE, outside my family, this story. My daughter had a rather tumultuous few years between the ages of 16 and 19, you'd be surprised at how hard (for me at least) even the common teenage issues really are. Looking back I can clearly see that because we spent so much time together in her childhood, and likely because we had (still do) a close relationship, she had to pull harder to define her self and build her own independence. It was painful for me. One night she left on foot after an argument during which I took her car keys. I was frantic. It was a cold dark night and my baby was out there, really hating me.
I should mention here that I'm a scorpio, not a great recipe.
I called around to her friends nearby, and they said they had not seen her. One of them was lying, protecting her, but I couldn't know that at the time. I was a wreck, standing outside my house, pacing up and down my street, tears streaming down my face. I was so sad, so scared, and so mad, all at once. To be honest, tears are streaming down my face right now, just recalling it. Nothing prepared me for the "letting go" part of parenting. I was not ready. As I stood outside in the night crying and wandering, two of my neighbors happened by, I live in a nice little neighborhood but I've felt less than acceptance over the years, largely due to religious differences, but that extends into parenting choices etc. It's all good, just a related point. These two women, one a stay-at home mom of 3, one a hard working nurse and mother of 4, stopped and asked me what was wrong and I told them that my girl had run off. They could have judged me, easily, I was seriously a hot mess. One could have been thinking that I was home too much and too involved, the other could have been thinking I was not there enough, since I work at times. They could have passively said, "I'll keep an eye out" and gone on their ways. They could have offered me superficial support of the "I'm sure she's ok, she'll come back, don't worry", variety. Not what happened. In my most vulnerable moment, this was it so far, they stopped, they got out of their cars, they hugged me in the street and let me cry. They asked for my permission to pray for me, respectfully acknowledging that it was not my faith, and they made a circle with me and prayed for my little girl to be safe and to come home, they prayed for my peace and comfort. And I was comforted, in that moment at least. I later found out that my daughters' friend who lived in the house we were standing in front of in our little circle, was harboring my girl. She came home, it wasn't over but the storm had passed. I will be grateful for that moment and for those women as long as I live. It was beautiful, unexpected, and very heartfelt kindness in my moment of weakness from women who I thought didn't really accept me because of petty differences. We can be there for each other, even if we don't run our households in the same way. Be strong for yourself, your family, and for each other.