Mom of three boys Lisa Endlich Heffernan has an astonishing confession. She regrets being a stay-at-home mom. "Although I am fully aware that being a SAHM was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse." Not mixed feelings, not momentary flashes of doubt. She feels remorse. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time I heard a woman admit she regrets being a stay-at-home mom. It's almost not allowed, I think.
Heffernan gives several reasons why she feels that remorse. She worried more, slipped into a more traditional role with her husband, her world narrowed, she lost her confidence, she got sucked into more volunteer work. She's not saying she wishes she'd gone right back to her job full-time after each baby -- just that she wishes she'd found a way to keep a "finger, a toe, or a hand in the working world."
If you admit you regret the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, you risk sounding ungrateful. But there's an even darker side: Women aren't supposed to love anything so much as spending time with their children. To admit that it's not enough for you, that you want more, is still not something many of us feel comfortable admitting publicly.
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But I can relate. I worked my way up the career ladder, had a baby, and returned to work full-time for a year. Then one day I quit. I missed my baby, and I'd grown to hate my job. For two years after that, I made my son my entire focus -- and faced a lot of the same consequences Heffernan faced.
I hated not feeling entitled to be in charge of the money because I wasn't earning it myself. I missed using my brain. I feel like those two years (plus a few more transitioning into freelance work) had an exponential effect of setting me back in my career by 10 years, though that's partly because I changed careers, too.
So then why, when I tell people I was a SAHM for a couple years, is my very next sentence, "NO REGRETS!" I blurt that out immediately every single time -- and I need to stop. Because actually, there are a few things I wish I'd done differently.
I'm glad I kept my toe in the working world. (As in a pinky toe.) I started writing a food blog back when blogging was still new. It was small, but it eventually led to paid work. And it kept my brain functioning between diaper changes. But I could have started looking for freelance writing work earlier. I think I have less regret than Heffernan does. I only have one child, and it was just a couple years of my life. I still treasure those years. But it's okay for me to admit I could have done better.
Of course, we all experience motherhood differently. And there are plenty of women who are completely confident about being a SAHM, even temporarily. It's just that I respect a woman who can admit she has regrets about her choices. I think that takes a lot of courage.
Do you ever have regrets or mixed feelings about the choices you've made as a mother?
Image via Lori Ann/Flickr