9 Reasons I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom

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vintage-mother-and-daughter

The most expensive decision of my life I made alone. There was no realtor, no car dealer and no travel agent when I chose to leave the paid workforce and become a stay at home mom. There was just me looking at my husband, my children (those inside and outside the womb) and the chaos that was our lives. At no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects.  I looked at the year we were in and the following year, and I bolted.  No part of my brain sat itself down and thought, what is the price both in both this year’s dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce and is it a decision that a decade or two from now I might regret?  At no point did I examine the non-monetary cost which would loom just as large. At the time it seemed forgone, two demanding careers, two small children and another on the way, two adult lives hopelessly out of control.

One day I was working on the massive trading floor of a London bank, the next I was on the floor of my children’s playroom.  And while it meant I would forgo a paycheck, not once did I think, at age 33, of what the job market would look like for me in years hence and therein lies my most expensive mistake.

I stayed home with my kids because I wanted to be with them. I had a job that allowed me very little time with them on weekdays and I felt our time was short. I did not stay home because I believed they needed me or that the nanny I had hired could not do a great job.

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Now, on the downslope of parenting, I have misgivings about my decision to stay home.  It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets. I don’t know any parent who regrets time spent with their kids, especially kids who have moved on to their own lives. Although I am fully aware that being a stay at home mom was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse.

1. I let down those who went before me. In some cosmic way I feel that I let down a generation of women who made it possible to dream big even though I know the real goal of the Women’s Movement was to be able to dream anything.  One summer in the 1970s, I read The Feminine Mystique curled up on a couch in my grandparents’ home. The book spoke to me, and my mother and grandmother spoke to me warning me not to tread the path they had taken, leaving the workforce after their children were born.   But the book and my mother spoke to a young ambitious preteen, not a young mother.  Betty Friedan or not, I stayed home for almost two decades raising three sons.

2. I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees. I got my driver’s license after a short course and a couple of lessons in 11th grade.  My post secondary education took six years of hard work and yet, for years, I used my driver’s license far more than my formal education.  And on one level I felt like I was short-changing myself, those who educated, trained and believed in me by doing this.

3. My kids think I did nothing. They saw me cooking, cleaning, driving, volunteering and even writing, but they know what a “job” looks like and they don’t think I had one.

4. My world narrowed. During the years at home with my children I  made the most wonderful friends, women I hope to know all of my life.  But living in the suburbs among women of shockingly similar backgrounds, interests and aspirations, narrowed the scope of people with whom I interacted.  In the workplace my contacts and friends included both genders and people of every description, and I was better for it.

5. I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work. Some of this work was deeply meaningful and some of it trivial in the extreme. It is very easy to feel as though you are doing something whether it is sitting on a hospital board or raising funds for a nursery school.  Volunteer activities involve a flurry of activity but, at the end of it, those who are running the organization carry on and your job is over.

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6. I worried more. Being around my children so much of the time gave me the chance to focus on them at a granular level. And I feel fairly certain that neither they nor I benefitted from the glaring light it shone upon us. Helicoptering takes time, and I had the time.  If I had worked outside our home I would have still worried about them but might have confined my concerns to more substantive matters.

7. With my husband I slipped into a more traditional marriage. Before our children were born and when they were young, my husband and I did the same job. We left in the morning together and came home together to stare at each other and at our small children through a blinding haze of exhaustion. In every way my husband sees me as his equal but in the years that I have been home our partnership has developed a faint 1950′s whiff. He doesn’t ask me to run to the dry cleaners or fish store, but let’s be fair, they are both closed by the time he gets home.

8. I became outdated. Through the 1980′s and into the 1990′s, I worked in banking on Wall Street in a technologically cutting edge department. Just as I mastered every new computer it would be whisked away and replaced by newer faster models.  I was au fait with software the public wouldn’t see for years and anything I didn’t understand was explained to me by MIT-trained analysts. I have kept up with technology but not in the aggressive way I once did in my job.  In my world I often use my young adult kids as tech support and endure their snide remarks and eye rolling, knowing deep inside that at one time it was very different.

9. I lowered my sights and lost confidence. But far and away my biggest regret about my years at home was that I lowered my sights for myself as I dimmed in my own mind what I thought I was capable of.  I let go of the burning ambition I once held because I didn’t feel as though I could hold it and three babies at the same time. My husband did not do this, my children did not do this, I did this.  In the years that I was home I lulled myself into thinking that I was accomplishing enough because I was.  I was raising my children and, as any parent who had spent a day with a child knows, that can fill all of the hours in a day.  What I hadn’t realized was how my constant focus on my family would result in my aspirations for myself slipping away. And despite it being obvious, I did not focus on the inevitable obsolescence that my job as mom held.

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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. I did not have a job well suited to part-time work, and work at home was technologically impossible at the time. But, the solution required imagination, not capitulation, and with hindsight, I would have recognized that over time, my parenting and career would both ebb and flow, but neither would — nor should — ever end.

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  1. 1

    Kathea says

    I hope no one blasts your for a thoughtful and honest post. You shared your heart with us and I appreciate that. After two weeks on maternity leave, I knew I could never be a stay at home mom. It takes a better person than me. I also knew that I’d devoted a decade to a career and education and staying home for a few years would mean starting from scratch. I couldn’t fathom wasting a decade. I’d watched my mom be a great mom and professional. I knew it could be done and I’m determined to do it. My husband supports that entirely. Plus, I like the lifestyle that two incomes gives us. I don’t want to give that up.

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    • 2

      Tash says

      Same here! When I was pregnant I considered it because I was so tired lol. But after 3 months at home I was going crazy. I didn’t want to do anything but eat and watch series. Its exhausting to work and look after a baby but my husband and I share all household chores and I feel it makes us closer. I have somewhere to be during the day that does not involve dirty diapers and I have my own ambition in the workplace. When I am at home I give my full attention to my family. Some of us are not stay at home moms. And there is NOTHING wrong with either choice :)

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    • 3

      Jayle Ward says

      While I respect your decision and opinion I disagree that time spend home with children should be called wasting a decade. Anytime spent with children is hardly a waste.

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      • 4

        Maria Carlson says

        I have also stayed at home with my daughter, then after four years, took a low-level factory job because its hours worked best for spending time with her and minimizing the need for outside childcare.

        Now I’m ready and very much want challenging work–I have a degree, graduate credits, computer skills and a great work ethic, but I feel like I’m being penalized for taking care of my child.

        I believe women and men should be able to stay home without having to give up a chance to do interesting work. Because that’s what’s happening. Staying home doesn’t mean taking a step back career-wise, or even taking an entry-level job, it means forgoing a career, forever, in many instances. I think most of us understand our job as parents is to prepare our children for their own lives, not live in homage to our sacrifices for them.

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        • 5

          KristenP says

          It probably depends on the field you’re in, as well as where you live. Some industries and regions are more progressive than others. I am a stay at home mom, but I started working part time as a freelancer in the last year. I have a gap in my resume and I’ve had to explain it and work hard to show that I still have the skills required to do a job well done. It has taken a lot of determination and hard work to get my foot in the door. On the other work, my field is great for telecommuting and part time work. Not everyone is trained in such a field. But I truly think that if you’re determined enough and work hard enough, you can restart a career after becoming a mom. Maybe I’m unrealistic.

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        • 6

          Katie says

          I understand feeling frustration and even anger about the difficulty of re-entering the workforce (and being under-appreciated). However, imagine being someone who put years of hard work and sacrifice into their professional career (perhaps even sacrificing time with their children) to get a position with “interesting work”. Who should be preferred for the position? There’s nothing wrong with either choice but they both come with different sacrifices and rewards for a reason.

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      • 7

        Jodi says

        I think what the author was trying to say was that it was a waste of her education, efforts & time spent moving up in the workplace… not that her time with her children was a waste. Just saying… there are 2 scenario’s playing out here.

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    • 8

      Ashley says

      I appreciate this post. I have 3 children 7,5 and 2 and love them dearly. I also cherish the time I can spend with them, especially 1:1 – but it takes a special individual to be able to devote the bulk of their time to the home / family. I was asked recently if we were to win the lottery and money wasn’t of concern, would I play more of the “stay at home” roll. After honest consideration, the answer is no. While I may not continue in my existing job, and their would be less stress associated with deadlines etc, I find it rewarding to lead a team of 200 in a field that I love, and would worry that I would feel less fulfilled by not contributing to the industry in that way. I’ve found that you have to define your balance. For me I feel balanced at about a 60/ 40 split (work / home) of waking hours. I actively schedule my kids activities on my work calendar and make those that I can, and talk to my kids upfront about those events that I cannot attend. I also partner with other parents (fortunately there are many moms and dads that stay home in my kids’ classes) and ask them to video tape or take pictures of events. We’ll review the event as a family and its awesome. I hope my kids understand my values (at least down the road) and it inspires them to focus on their balance and aspirations, whether its to stay home with children, charity work or private industry.

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    • 9

      jan says

      I like how you said it takes a better person to do this full time. I agree 100%. I stayed home for 3.5 years. No regrets but didn’t exactly like the job :-)

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  2. 13

    Alicia says

    This. This is my biggest nightmare and I applaud you for being so brave in sharing this. Once upon a time I was a young, 20 yo SAHM who dropped out of college to raise her baby for a few years. Now I am pregnant again 7+ yrs later and I’m currently placed on maternity leave with my son who’s due anytime now. This really hit home bc now I am remembering those years of lost youth, missed opportunities finding a good career, graduating college on time (I’ve got two semesters to go), making more friends while in school, and not slipping behind. This is the first time I’ve had a job I’ve liked and now I’m slipping away. I don’t know if I will be able to do this all over again. But your post has inspired me to be conscious of not letting this happen to me. Thank you for making me aware that being a SAHM is an arduous and thankless job, but we do it for the betterment of our kids. I hope I don’t slip away for too long.

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  3. 15

    says

    Worked full time with my first, chose to stay home full time after my second. Best decision I ever made. These years I will never get back. Sure, there is a loss of earnings, but I’m raising children, and this is more important to me. There will always be a job.

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        • 18

          MIssE says

          What’s more important is the happiness of the family structure, the well being of all people in the family mentally, physically and spiritually. How someone gets to that well being is no one else’s business.

          Being a working mother does not hurt children. Being a SAHM does not hurt children. What is more important is feeling happy and fulfilled.

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          • 20

            KristenP says

            I’m a SAHM and I agree. A happy mom means happy kids. If you’re depressed and unfulfilled, then you’re not doing your best for your family. If having a career means you’ll feel fulfilled and happy, you’ll be able to do a better job taking care of your family. Trust me, it’s terribly difficult to take care of others when you’re unhappy. So many moms get this idea that they have to sacrifice their own happiness for their children’s sake. Well, you’re actually not doing what’s best for your kids if that’s your mindset. Taking care of yourself and your well being should be your first priority.

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        • 21

          Junie says

          A working mother values and loves her Children, also sacrifices to create Balance since her Children are Important. Some couples switch out; Dad stays at home for a few years then goes back to work when the child reaches pre-school age. There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with NOT being a stay at home parent until your kids leave the home. Children are in School all day and are involved as they get older; leaving plenty time for Mom to work and raise her children. In a two income economy many don’t have the Luxury of staying home. So keeping a roof over the families head, Food on the table is Important and Funds to help send your Kids Off to College is also Important.

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    • 22

      says

      I practice medicine as a Family nurse practitioner, and with stuff changing constantly in the medicine world, if I took even one year off, I would not be up to date with any of the current changes that currently take place with medicine. Prior to being an NP I stayed home 2 years with each kid, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s made me reconsider a 3rd child now that I have this career because it is so intense and it will be hard for me to get back into this if I took a few years off. Too much change.

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    • 26

      KMommy says

      That’s not what she said. I think you are being too defensive. She simply said she felt her marriage began to take on more traditional roles. I think that’s inevitable when you stay home. Nothing wrong with it, if you’re okay with that. It bothered this author somewhat, as it would/does many others, and that’s okay, too.

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      • 27

        Tomi says

        I dont think that being a stay home mom means that you inevitably become a more traditional marriage. I have no problem with traditional marriages. Our marriage isnt traditional. I stay home. My husband helps with cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I realize that I am maybe not the norm and that am very blessed to have a husband that particpates like mine does. There is a place for everyone and everyones family. Your’s, mine, the family with a “traditional” marraige. Instead of judging eachother, or feeling guilty or judged for the choices we make, own it. I chose to stay home, work part time from home and do a ton of volunteer work. I hope that the skills and contacts i have made and used will help my resume and job hunt in the future. I am in a different field, so my rejoining the workforce may be easier. Some others will have a harder or easier path. The modern stay home mom is way different than the picture a the top of the article depicts.

        Instead we get a bunch of bloggers with the interwebs as their platform espousing their opinions like it means something. The masses are riled. The debate between working moms and SHM continues. throw in the kind of diapering and feeding and we have a full on mommy war frenzy.

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    • 33

      LeAnne Walker says

      I have a full time job in which 3 out of 5 days a week I work from home, and I agree that it is the best AND worst of both worlds! I am so thankful that I get to be around the kids in the summer (right now both my 6 and 7 year old boys are right outside my window playing in the sprinkler). But it’s a hard balance, especially if you’re like me and have a hard time telling your kids to leave you alone so you can work. My husband is also home 3 days a week with his job (2 days working from home and Wednesdays off) so we are always around for the kiddos. It’s bittersweet! And it’s a good thing my hubby and I get along. Lol

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