Regrets of a stay-at-home mom. Consider this a warning to new mothers: fourteen years ago, I "opted out" to focus on my family. Now I'm broke.
So begins this Salon.com article, written by a woman with understandably mixed feelings about her choice to be a stay-at-home mom.
Sasha addressed the article recently from her own perspective as a working mom, and I've been thinking about my own take on the topic. Like Sasha, I can identify with both sides: for years I juggled daycare and commutes and sick days, and now I'm home full time.
It's certainly not a new issue, this question of whether or not we shoot ourselves in the foot when we put careers on hold to be with our kids, but it's taken on a new urgency in this never-ending shitty economy we're living in. As Katy writes in the Salon piece,
"The economic crisis will erode women's interest in 'opting out' to care for children, heightening awareness that giving up financial independence -- quitting work altogether or even, as I did, going part-time -- leaves one frighteningly vulnerable."
I can completely understand that point of view. With so much competition for every available job, and no real indication things are going to get vastly better any time soon, it's hard to feel confident that a child-raising gap in our resumes won't hurt our chances of future employment.
People assume I chose to stay home to be with my kids, but I didn't. My primary concerns were 1) eliminating or vastly reducing my terrible commute, and 2) finding a job that didn't make me want to gouge out my eyes with a grapefruit spoon on a daily basis. I happened to land something that allowed me to work from home (there goes that commute problem!) and was actually enjoyable (so long, grapefruit spoons!).
If my new salary had been the same as my old salary, I probably would have kept the boys in daycare, at least part time. The equation only worked if they were home with me, though, so that's what I did, mixing in some homeschooling plans along the way.
I tell you this so you know I didn't exactly choose to stay home with my kids, it's just how it worked out. But oh, I'm so happy this is the direction our lives have taken. I love being home with them, I love how much stress (and disease, my GOD) we've eliminated by leaving daycare behind.
So, what about my career options? Where am I going to be in a few years when both kids are in school? Or if my freelance jobs went belly up tomorrow, what then?
No way to say, really. I know that just in the last few months I've gained a lot of valuable experience that makes me more employable in the field I'm currently interested in. I spent years in marketing communications, and if that's what I wanted to do in the future, I guess I'd be worried about stepping outside of that track. I'm nearing the end of my 30s; if I'd wanted to make a name for myself in that industry, I'd be sorely behind schedule by now.
I guess it comes down to risk, and how much you're willing to take on. Yes, it's risky to leave the traditional job force, now more than ever. If my husband and I ever divorced, for instance, I'd be up a creek without a health insurance paddle.
But I feel like I've carved out a life that makes me happy, that pays the bills and lets me indulge in midday couch-wrestling antics with my boys. What's more important, enjoying the moment or looking ahead to a future that may or may not unravel in the way I expect?
I don't think there can possibly be one right answer to that question, do you?