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The Great Mom Debate: Moms find pluses, minuses for kids in working, staying home

Kimbra Amerman assembles a puzzle with with her children Avery, 5, and Mackenzie, 7, at the family home in Kindred, N.D. (David Samson / The Forum)

FARGO - Kimbra Amerman looks at how well-behaved and kind her daughters are, and she knows she made the right decision in staying home with them.

Amerman of Kindred, N.D., was a stay-at-home mom for eight years. Now that her daughters, 5 and 8, are both in school, she works in home-based businesses she owns so she can still arrange her schedule around her children's needs.

"When I see what kind of people they are growing up to be, I know in my heart that this was the right decision for us," she said. "I will never judge anyone else's decision, but Dave and I set goals for what kind of people we wanted them to be and how we wanted them to behave and I wanted to be the one guiding them."

Colleen Lanners of Fargo works full-time and has a 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. She said it's been beneficial to her children that she works outside the home.

"It is hard to have someone else care for your children, but it makes all the difference when it is the right people," she said. "My children love their caregivers and their caregivers love them."

Whether women work outside the home or stay home with their children, there are advantages and disadvantages for their kids.

Some of the advantages for kids of having a parent home are consistency, predictability, more bonding time with the parent, and the ability to participate in activities.

Also, as Briannan Gahner of Fargo, who stays home with her 4-year-old daughter and infant son, has noted, less exposure to other children often means fewer illnesses.

"They rarely get sick, which is nice for medical bills," she said. "It's been wonderful for our family, with me staying home. They are happy and healthy - all I've ever wanted for them."

Danielle Odenbach of Thompson, N.D., has three sons, 5, 7 and 9, and works two days a week. She says the biggest advantage to being home with her children is the time they have together.

"They love it when I am watching them play sports. They appreciate a home-cooked meal for supper. I am able to help them with their homework, and they have friends over to play all the time," she said. "There is just more free-time when I'm home."

Some disadvantages are that children may become too dependent on a parent.

"Sometimes I think I do too much for them," Odenbach said. "I don't want them to rely on me to keep things running smoothly. I want them to learn responsibility and be independent."

They may also have a tougher time transitioning into school, but Gahner said she hasn't experienced that.

"My oldest is in preschool now and she was able to transition from staying home to being away for two hours with no problems and she's just as on track for kindergarten as everyone else," she said.

Some advantages for children of having both parents work are having the opportunity to socialize regularly with other children, getting used to other caregivers, and developing a sense of independence.

Carrie Stange of Fargo works full time, has a 2-year-old son and is pregnant. She said her son enjoys his child care and being around other kids his age is helping him developmentally.

"It's sort of like how kids with older siblings often seem to develop quicker than the first or only child," Stange said. "I think it helps him better understand how to do things when he sees kids his age doing them."

Kari Dahlen of Fargo, who works full time and has a 2-year-old son, said she can also provide more for her child by working.

"We can afford to take trips or join classes that we may not be able to do with one income," she said.

And some would argue there are health advantages to child care, too.

"I also think that because my children have been in daycare, they have amazingly strong immune systems," Lanners said.

Some disadvantages for children of having both parents work are that they miss out on time with their parents, they have to deal with sometimes hectic schedules and they can't always participate in activities or events that take place while their parents are working.

"It's a daily struggle to get them out of the house and to daycare. It's hard on us and even harder on them," said Erica Cermak of Bismarck, who has a 3-year-old son and an infant son. "Having a parent figure to count on would be a big plus, whether it's when they're sick or they need something, there is no replacement for a parent."

"Working eight hours plus a day can make a person tired and not 'fun Mommy'," Dahlen said. "Being away for that long can also take away from the bonding time between us. That makes the time we are together so much more special."

To make up for having fewer hours with their kids, working moms often try to make sure the time they do have is quality time.

"The biggest drawback to being a working mom is the lack of time we get to spend together during the week days," Stange said. "But it makes our nights and weekends together that much enjoyable. No matter what time of day we spend doing stuff together, all the matters to him is that we are doing stuff together so making sure we do a lot together after work and daycare really helps balance that."