Regret of the stay-at-home mom?

Regret is a strong word. So I was intrigued by the title of an op-ed piece last week in the Huffington Post: “Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom.”

The article is written by a woman who was once a Wall Street trader exchange and who gave up her career entirely to be a stay-at-home mom. Now as her children are moving out of the house, she finds herself looking back and wondering who she is. Undoubtedly, that’s a hard moment for any mother who wakes up one day to realize that the intense, day-in, day-out era of her motherhood is complete.

This woman goes on to say that she feels deep remorse that she ended her career so abruptly. She feels her world narrowed, her kids didn’t think she did anything and she used her drivers license more than her education.

At the end, she writes, “If I could wind back the tape, have a do-over, what would I have done differently? Looking on at my grown and nearly-grown sons, I am grateful for the gift of time we had. Yet, I wish I had tried to keep a finger, a toe or a hand in the working world to ease an eventual return.”

This is where I think the inflammatory headline is purposefully misleading. This woman doesn’t regret being a stay-at-home mother. I doubt she would trade her memories or her relationship with her children for her career. What she regrets is not keeping some part of her former self alive.

All moms struggle with this. Some plunge headfirst into motherhood and forsake any part of their former self. I chose to continue writing, teaching and editing from home while raising my children. I am lucky to have a career that suits this flexible work and the technology to do it, as well as a husband who helps me so I can work at nights.

Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I don’t want to stay up late making a deadline. Sometimes I want to be part of bath time instead of grading English tests for my online class. Often I consider just forgetting it and focusing all my energy on being a mother.

I keep at it because I am afraid of exactly what this woman in the Huffington Post now faces. I want to be able to work full-time again one day and I know re-entering the job market after 10 years is intimidating and borderline impossible.

So instead of coming to the conclusion that stay-at-home moms are going to someday regret their choices, I think the message in this woman’s story is this: being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean giving up who you are. Even if your job can’t work as a part-time gig, find something that is yours. It may be gardening, volunteering or rock climbing. Find something that makes you happy and will be there for you when the kids are grown.

Then, when that empty-nesting period begins, you won’t have regret. You will find that you have preserved and cultivated a piece of your former self while also raising your children.

How do you keep a toe in the working world? What jobs or activities keep your pre-mom self alive?

4 comments

  1. Danny Chipman

    Like you, Erin, I’m a writer, a babysitter, and a piano teacher “on the side”, but I got the dream job I always wanted–that of being a stay-at-home mom. I have no objection to entering the work force at some later time when my kids are older, though the skills I gained at college will need some major dusting off. I’m also considering going back to school for another degree once my husband finishes with his. Just because I am a SAHM doesn’t mean I cease to want to learn, to want to contribute, or to want to improve myself, and while I have to balance the times and seasons, being a SAHM does not prevent me from doing those things.

  2. citygrrl

    I read the article in the Huffington Post and the author sounds like one big whiner. When will people realize that no one is going to hand you a life? The author made the choice to end her career outside the home, but she could have laid the foundation for her post-housewife life as the demands of motherhood diminished. I don’t understand the mentality of so many women who believe that it’s either stay home forever, or juggle an intense career with motherhood. Maintaining job skills doesn’t have to be full throttle. It takes energy and commitment to keep your foot in the working-world door, as you know, Erin, when your children are young, but yes, the kids move on, into their own lives, and it’s up to women to make the transition. And in your 40s or 50s it’s not too late to find something new — be it a consuming hobby or career. Think of Julia Child — her seminal book on French cooking wasn’t published until she was in her early 50s.

  3. John Charity Spring

    The author of the so-called Huffington article has shown that she is petty, mean, and selfish.

    This woman clearly values material goods over the welfare of children. She should be condemned in the strongest terms.

    Sadly, this woman is not alone. Far too many now work simply to buy bigger cars and bigger houses than they need. In the meantime, their children are warehoused in daycare. How sad that the children well experience greater rates of crime, substance abuse, and immorality, all in the name of avarice.

  4. Suzie

    It might just be me, but being exclusively a stay at home mom seems unnatural. You stay at home and hang out with your offspring day after day after day. When you’re feeling ambitious, you might take your child to the park or on a playdate. I totally believe that kids need to spend lots time with their parents and that parents are their children’s best caregivers, but your life shouldn’t revolve around your children. As I’ve seen on this blog before, mommy is a person too. (Please note that my example is dramatized to get the point across. Don’t get offended by the generalization.)

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