Mom Admits She Regrets Being a Stay-at-Home Mom -- Is Everyone Else Lying?

Mom Moment 55

diapers clotheslineMom 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.

More from The Stir: Stay-at-Home Moms Have a Lot to Learn From Working Moms (VIDEO)

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

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nonmember avatar anonymous

No matter what there will be moms who regret their choice-working, at home, or some combo. To think otherwise is stupid.
Guilt and worrying that you might have done things differently, better, is part of the Mom package (generally). Women writing that stay at home moms should continue with some form of paid work or consider returning to work is old news. Many stories have been written on the topic-surprise divorces, your spouse dying, a financial crisis.....all reasons to not stay home. Great for women who have a career in the first place. Doesn't mean much to women in the lower classes who work in retail or similar fields. Also note that life sends surprises that you can't plan can be working and still get hit with a crisis. Life can throw you a curve no matter how prepared you think you are.

LadyM... LadyMinni

There will always be those who regret which decision they made. There is no real way to know if you're going to regret it. I am so lucky and I know it, because I work for my fiance. I have a job now and I will work until the twins are a little older, then I'll stay home with them and focus on my Master's/PhD. After that I'll go back to work for my fiance until I can find a college that needs me. That is a luxury. I'm sure she did what was best for her family at the time, and for that she should have no regrets. Now she just needs to find a job with minimal qualifications or go back to school.

miche... micheledo

No regrets here. And for me it certainly isn't aluxury . :) Work would be a vacation. :) But I can't really get someone to hire me so I can have a little vacation once or twice a year ,can I?

I don't think I will regret staying home. I've only been home for seven years (and will have six kids in a couple of weeks), but I really can't see regretting it. I'll let you know in ten more years! :)

MrsRo... MrsRoberts413

I'm expecting our first, and I have spent 2 years out of college as a Title 1/Instructional assistant (read: I'm a licensed teacher and our job market sucks right now!), and I am very blessed that we will be able to have me stay home with our children until they're in school.  However, while my kids are young, I am planning to continue taking on private tutoring clients (as I do now) for supplemental income and to be able to show future employers that I have been keeping up with my teaching skills!  Even though I plan on just going back to an 8-3 assistant job, as opposed to a classroom teacher, after my kids are in school, it will still be important for me to show them that I never truly "left the game." 

SaphireH SaphireH

i know for me when i have to go to work this christmas after i start school to work in a daycare im gonna regret it and i feel like im gonna be cheating my youngest out of time with me, my older 2 got me as mostly a stay at home mom with only working about 7 months during my oldest son growing up and then working for 3 months while my daughter was growing and nothing changed until they got to pre k at 4 which my daughter will start this fall and now with my youngest son at 18 months old now and 2 by the time i start work hes gonna be cheated out of 2 years of just me and him time. im gonna hate it but after going over our money and such we have no choice but for me to work.

nonmember avatar Lizzie Borden

Micheledo, it IS a luxury not because it's easier (doubt anyone would say being a SAHM is easy!) but because sometimes money and circumstance doesnt allow it.

I want to be a SAHM for the first year of my baby's life but it's not financially possible, even a six week maternity break isnt financially possible without saving up money before hand. Good ol US of A doesnt do paid maternity leave for us low-end rats who work in the service industry for big corporations. All hail corporate greed!

SuzyB... SuzyBarno

I think that women have regrets and anxieties no matter what they do. If you stay home and something happens, like your spouses death, then your screwed money wise. And if you work then you regret not being home with your children and missing something important or your kids holding it against you later. It's all a gamble!

Siste... Sister_Someone

I think the main problem is that the society we live in is so strongly suggesting that women should want to stay at home with their children that some of them forget that it is, in fact, their choice to make.

An older mom-friend of mine, who is staying at home with her two children, ages 11 and 8, asked me the other day don't I just wish that I'd been able to stay with my 12-year-old (which I wasn't, because I was a single teen mom struggling to make rent and college). She was genuinely baffled when I adamantly said that no, I wouldn't have chosen to stay at home even if I could have afforded it. She replied something along the lines "Really? How could you not want to spend time with your child?", in a tone that heavily implied that she thinks of me as a lesser mother now that she knows that I wouldn't have stayed home with my child. At that point I chose to disregard her comment and I changed the subject , but it did get me thinking.

The truth is that I love my son to death and I cherish every second I spend with him, I love and cherish every second I dedicate to my work just as much and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. My job isn't "a vacation from being a mom". In fact, it's equally as consuming and fulfilling as motherhood. And while it is true that I don't spend as much time with my son as moms who stay with their children, I think that the time I spend away from him makes me cherish the time I spend with him a lot more than if I weren't working. 

nonmember avatar Lena

I can completely relate.
I had at one time thought about becoming a SAHM. Only a few months later I realize it's not for me. I was lucky enough to be back to the work force pretty soon. When I explained to my friend how being a sahm just makes me feel unrewarded, he did have that reaction that I just broke the taboo. But after all we all have to respect who we are and what our preferences are and feel less guilty about being a little selfish. What this episode did teach me though is that SAHM is one of the most demanding jobs ever and all SAHMs need to be respected by their family and our society.
My mom once told me that she chose to change career and to teach so she can get vacation days to take care of me. I had mixed feelings after hearing that. On the one side I am very grateful for her sacrifice but on the other side, I feel bad for her and feel that she might have been a happier person after I left home had she got something else she held onto. And it gives me much emotional stress to learn that and feel almost responsible for her depression. She is actively pursuing other hobbies now so things are getting better but I just want to make the point from the kids point of view that sacrificing mom carries an emotional price for the kid too and if we decided to keep our career we should really feel less guilty about not making all the sacrifice we feel we should make.

Desere Olson

I have 2 children, and i tried working after i had my first but i just couldnt do it. I would get too emotional from missing my baby. i am a SAHM and no way do i find it a luxury. I ofcourse get my inlaws telling me to go to work because "its what i did, you need to get away from the kids" if they werent my inlaws id slap them sensless because it gets annoying to repeat myself. But every mother is different, just the one thing i wish would stop is working moms acting like they are better than us stay at home moms.

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