I Loved My Years As A SAHM, But I Have Regrets Now

I Loved My Years As A SAHM, But I Have Regrets Now

regret-sahm-1
Katie Smith/Instagram

I met my ex-husband while he was in college and I was working full time. One evening while we were sitting at a table sharing gallons of margaritas with his friends, he mentioned a paper he’d written in high school.

As I was chasing my alcohol with some flaming fajitas, my ears perked up. The essay he’d written was about the pros of having a stay-at-home-mother. He’d had one as a child, and so did I. “I’ve always wanted to have a wife who stayed home with our kids. I mean, I wouldn’t argue if she wanted to work, but it would be my choice to provide for her and have her stay home,” he said.

I’ll be honest, this was music to my ears. Even since I could remember, I wanted to be a mother. I also wanted to be able to stay at home with my children. So, the fact we were in agreement and he was telling me when he got married and had kids, he wanted to provide for his family so his wife could stay home (if that’s what she wanted), my uterus started doing the “let’s make a baby right fucking now” dance.

We got married, we bought the house, we got pregnant, we started planning on me quitting my job, we had the babies coming fast and furious for three years. I loved my life. He loved his role as the provider and I did everything at home.

It worked. Until it didn’t.

Staying home with my children was what I wanted, dreamed of even, for a really long time. But I had no idea how much it would affect my self-esteem when I stopped received paychecks with my name on them.

I was married for 16 years and didn’t work for 15 of them. Before I quit my job, I’d always made more money than my husband. I’d walked into a dealership and bought my own car. I paid for our wedding with money I had in my savings account. I bought a new dress for the fuck of it if I wanted, and decided how to spend my Christmas bonus.

That kind of independence felt really good. Then it was gone.

Staying home with my children was what I wanted, dreamed of even, for a really long time. But I had no idea how much it would affect my self-esteem when I stopped received paychecks with my name on them.

Instead of feeling empowered and independent, I felt like I had to ask permission every time I bought something because I didn’t make any money. This was mostly self-induced, I’ll admit. My ex-husband never told me I needed to ask him for anything. Over time, it was something that crept up on me. It was as if I thought because I hadn’t earned an income for so long, I didn’t deserve to get my nails done or buy a new purse.

I began to feel restless. I wanted something more out of my life. My identity was tied up in being a wife and a mom and because I wanted more, I felt guilty and like I should just be happy with my current position. After all, I didn’t have work stress or a commute.

But I wanted to grow and evolve. I needed more in my life to feed my soul. I missed working. I missed being more than my role as “mom.” I missed making money.

I never thought I’d get divorced. Not before I met my husband. Not after our buzzed talk over Mexican food, and certainly not after I gave birth to three beautiful children, but it happened. And because I hadn’t worked in so long, I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be.

Zach Lucero/Unsplash

I now know I could have focused on my career and been there for my children — the two aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s what I’m doing now because I have to. More than that, I want to and it feels really damn good.

I needed more in my life to feed my soul. I missed working. I missed being more than my role as “mom.” I missed making money.

I feel liberated. I feel in control. I like walking into a store not feeling guilty about unplanned purchases because I can afford them. I like putting money I earned into a retirement account, so I know that I can secure my future for myself.

I had no idea how helpless not making my own money would make me feel. And all that helplessness was exacerbated when my marriage started turning sour.

I could have saved myself a lot of worry had I invested in my career during my kids’ younger years. Not only would the paycheck have been nice, it would have made me a better mother.

I can say, now that I have a full-time career, that I’m a better parent to my three kids than I was when they were younger. I am happier. I am more fulfilled. I have more confidence. I don’t feel like a servant-bitch all the time. My anxiety has lessened.

I like knowing I can live comfortably on my own, and still provide for my family independent of their father.

If I’d kept up with my career, it would have been an insurance policy of sorts. I was someone who never took into consideration the possibility of being a single parent, so I stopped investing in my career. I didn’t think my marriage would ever end (does anyone?), so I was caught off guard when it did.  When the rubber hit the pavement, I was scared as fuck. 

I don’t care if I meet and fall in love with Diamond Jim Brady and he wants to take care of me forever and buy me a Rolls Royce filled with expensive chocolate and we hire a private chef, so I never have to think about dinner. I will always make my own damn money. I will always support myself, and my kids. I will always invest in myself and believe that I can do it on my own regardless of where I am in my life. I will always be financially independent.

I know now that ”til death do us part” is never truly a guarantee. I am open to love and relationships, but I have been humbled.

But most importantly, I know having the peace of mind that comes from being able to take care of myself is what makes me the best mother to my children. For me, that’s what really counts.