Evie 15Comment

Originally published in June 2013

When I read the title of Lisa Endlich Heffernan’s post, “Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom,” I immediately wanted to hate it. The editors at the Huffington Post had done their job of choosing a title that was inflammatory enough that I just had to keep reading. What I found was that Heffernan’s piece is extremely personal to her own life’s circumstances and not actually a piece with an obvious agenda for other women. Still, I’ve spent the last week talking with friends and family about her “regrets” and how little I relate to the outlook she expressed about her time at home with her kids. So, here are my own very personal thoughts on why I’ll never regret being a stay-at-home mom:

1. As I’ve written before, the feminist movement didn’t make a woman’s place in the workforce mandatory. Instead, it gave us the choice to work or stay at home in a more traditional arrangement. What would be the benefit of a movement aimed at liberating women from the shackles of one lifestyle only to force them into another? Duh.

2. I was raised by a SAHM, for whom I have the utmost respect. I certainly wasn’t spoiled or oblivious enough to think that even though my mother didn’t leave our home to do her work, raising us and caring for our home wasn’t a “Job.” I must have always respected my mother’s work, since I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t envision becoming a SAHM myself. And had my mother left a true career behind to care for us, I know I would have admired her decision, not questioned it.

3. My “1950s marriage” has strengths that weren’t there before I became a SAHM. When my husband and I were both working, we spent a lot of time arguing over domestic chores, since I always felt resentful that I took on a greater load. “Why shouldn’t things be 50/50,” I thought? Well, because that arrangement wasn’t playing to our relative strengths. I’m good at (and enjoy) working with my hands: finely chopping vegetables for dinner, hemming pants, even mopping the wooden floors until they sparkle. On the other hand, my husband would much rather be stationed in front of the computer, paying bills or figuring out how to allocate our retirement funds (boring). Now, our marriage has new strength because instead of fighting over who’s going to do what, we respect each other’s contributions.

4. My kids do need ME. As a friend put it, if you take the attitude that your kids don’t really need to spend their days with you in particular, then maybe they don’t. But in my case, I want nothing more than to spend my days with my children, showing them affection, teaching them new skills, celebrating their victories. No one else could really give them what I’m giving them because no one (except their father) loves them the way I do.

5. I haven’t ever had as many close friends as I do now. I tend not to be the kind of person who has a ton of acquaintances, but a few really close confidantes. But since becoming a mom, I’ve connected with a truly amazing group of women who have children the same age as my oldest. We met when we were all still pregnant, so we’ve seen each other through the transition into motherhood. We’ve celebrated our children’s birthdays together. We’ve swapped sleep training horror stories. We’ve prepared dinners for each other when we welcomed our second babies. These are women I love and trust, enough to leave my children in their care, and that says a lot! I’ve never had such a large, yet tightly-knit, group of friends in my whole life.

6. I didn’t ever want to be defined by a job. Even when I was a teacher, it would irk me to introduce myself as such, not because I was ashamed of my profession in any way, but because I didn’t want my job to be what defined me. Upon meeting a stranger, why shouldn’t I have begun with, “Hi, I’m Evanthia. The last book I loved was Gone with the Wind. I find it therapeutic to cook an elaborate dinner nearly every night of the week. And my favorite place on earth is Paris, closely followed by New York City.” Who cares if I was a teacher by day? If I died now, is that what I would want to have defined my life? Not in the slightest.

7. I’ve never been more ambitious than I am right now. When I was working, I had a tendency to get all wrapped up in my job: I wanted to be the perfect teacher, designing the perfect lesson plans, making endless time for tutoring students after school, sponsoring student groups, and attending school functions. But what I was really doing was devoting myself so wholeheartedly to my career that I was overlooking the fact that I might want to leave room for other dreams, too. In the last year, I’ve made time to dream bigger, about writing books and making this blog into the next big thing (it’s true!). And I know this has something to do with not having a traditional “job” to obsess over.

8. Call me an existentialist, but I think a lot about my legacy, and I know that’s my family. Life is fleeting, and any day could be your last. So I often think about how I can leave the greatest impact. Sure, if I were to become president, my name would be written into the history books, but on a day-to-day basis, the people we affect the most are our loved ones. So for me, staying home to be with those people is the only thing that makes sense.

9. My education was not wasted. The years I spent at a liberal arts college in New York City and then earning my master’s degree outside our nation’s capital certainly gave me book smarts that I wouldn’t wish away, but more importantly, those years taught me how to think: how to be introspective, how to question what I read and hear, how to be logical and methodical. But I also came into contact with so, so many people who weren’t just like me or the people in the small town I’m from. I gained an appreciation for diversity and human rights that will shape the way my children will grow up thinking about the world. And that is truly priceless.

10. And speaking of money, we didn’t really need my income, anyway. Heffernan talks a lot about lost wages and earning potential. But I wonder, what material possessions were really lost? A bigger house? A boat? A fancy car? Would those things have made her that much happier? I realize that having one parent stay at home is just not financially feasible for many families, but even those who do manage it make sacrifices. We just think they’re worth it.

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15 thoughts on “Why I’ll Never Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

  1. Great take on the Top-10 Tuesday theme. I like how you responded to the HuffPo piece. I think it is awesome that you have such confidence in your decisions! I am curious, if it is not prying too much, how you and your husband worked out the household chores thing (#3) and how you came to “appreciate your strengths” and not have the resentment that you initially had.

    1. Amy, the honest truth is that I do pretty much all the household chores now. Anything that needs to be done inside the house is my domain; anything outside (like yard work, washing cars, etc.) is my husband’s to take care of. Every time I ask for his help with something I ordinarily do around the house, like the dishes for example, I realize just how efficiently I can get things done: usually with about half the time and effort, and MUCH less complaining ;) So, to me, it just makes sense to do these jobs myself and set my husband to work on something he’s better at.

      Most days, if I’m not feeling totally overwhelmed by the kids, I don’t resent being in charge of the housework, because I spend my days in the space, I take a lot of pride in a neat home, and I’m just plain old good at it. And in exchange, I accept that my husband has long, stressful days at work when he’d much rather be a SAHD, and he handles our finances almost completely–making the money, keeping track of it, paying bills, investing it–which is an area I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever and he’s really good at!

  2. I love this post. I can’t imagine not being a SAHM. When Jack was born we had to REALLY discuss whether or not I would be going back to work. I remember recalling stories (with tears) to my husband of how the kids in my mom’s in-home daycare used to call her “mom” and would cling to her when their parents picked them up (I’m sure this is extreme). And when we looked into the cost of daycare it didn’t leave much left of my teacher pay anyways. I know I’ll go back to teaching one day and my boys probably won’t have vivid memories of these years at home, but I will. I feel so lucky that I get to witness every moment of their day even though many of those moments may be frustrating or exhausting.

    1. Thanks, Liz! You bring up a great point: as a teacher, almost your entire paycheck would be eaten up by the cost of childcare! So if you’re the type of person who would enjoy being home with kids, it kind of makes sense financially.

      On the other hand, I’m quite sure that even if I had had a high-paying job, I would’ve left the workforce when A was born. To me, having a job was about earning a paycheck, and not some feeling of importance or dedication associated with a career, so I can’t imagine a job I would’ve felt more committed to than being with my babies, no matter my income.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by to read my response and offering to share my post with your readers! I appreciate that you were so honest about your regrets since it’s never easy to look back and wish we had done things differently. You’ve created such a great opportunity for dialogue in the SAHM community with your post.

  3. I appreciate your thoughtful response to Ms. Heffernan’s post, too. As a former SAHM and current professional who now has an empty nest, I can speak to both lifestyle choices. I spent a decade at home with my babies, toddlers, and through my children’s elementary school years. When they were in school full days I began working outside the home, eventually earned two college degrees, and now work full-time.

    When we think about the choices women make, it is important to consider that those choices are not forever. Sure, I was young when my children were born, but I have enjoyed an almost 20-year career since my SAHM decade. I would not give up that decade that I dedicated to my young children for anything. We made tremendous sacrifices financially, but what my young family gained was well worth those sacrifices.

    As joyful and blessed as the life of a SAHM can be, it is also a daily grind. It can feel like you’ll never reconnect with the adult world. I can tell you, my fellow moms, your children will grow so fast. There is plenty of life to live after your children are grown. My professional aspirations were postponed to stay home with children, but I could never regain what I would’ve lost in my SAHM decade. It was the right choice for me. My adult children today are an endless source of happiness and pride. I often say my children are the greatest achievement of my lifetime, my rewarding career outside the home is frosting on the cake!

    1. Thank you so much for providing your perspective! It’s so great to hear from another (former) SAHM whose children are now “grown and flown.” Hearing stories like yours just validates my feelings that my sacrifices now will pay off and won’t ultimately affect my career too adversely. It’s a matter of prioritization for me.

  4. I appreciate this article very much. I truly feel sorry that Ms. Heffernan regrets her choice to stay home. I think that we have many more opportunities now for part-time and contract work than existed in 1993. I have been home for 2 years and will likely be home at least 2 more. Some days are hard, but I do not regret my choice. My marriage has thrived since I became a SAHM because we no longer argue about chores or who is going to call their boss to cancel an important meeting because daycare is closed. My children get all of my energy instead of the 10% that was left after a very stressful day at work. All in all it has been a positive decision for our family.

    1. I’m so glad you joined the discussion, Lisa! I always think it must be so hard for mothers who work outside the home to finish a long day at work, pick up their child from daycare, go home and cook dinner, do the whole bedtime routine, and not feel burnt out. It’s got to be exhausting!! I’m glad that you’re happy with your choice to stay-at-home. It sounds like it was the right one for your family.

  5. Hi Evanthia, I really loved reading this post. It’s really funny because I have been working on my blog for some time now and I posted something regarding this article on my site as well. It’s funny how much we think alike! :) I think that as a mom/woman it’s so important to make a decision for not just your kids, but for YOU. Which is ultimately why I chose to be a SAHM. I felt like this is what I was supposed to be doing, and ultimately it led me to blogging which has been such a blessing in my life. My goal is to continue to empower and encourage moms with positive reinforcements. Sometimes we can be so hard/down on ourselves that we tend to become miserable with the decisions we make. If we have a strong support system and know that there are moms out there just like us, it can help us in the long run. Your blog post was really insightful and taught me that I did make the right decision and that a 9-5 job doesn’t have to make me who I am. Thanks for that!

  6. I absolutely love this article. I am expecting my first child in June and my husband and I have always agreed I would stay at home. That is how we were both raised, and it’s what we want for our family.

    Of course now that the time is here, it is still a very big decision to actually move forward with. But, I have officially decided to quite my job and become a SAHM. I have already told my employer so that they can prepare to replace me. My boss would like to me to work as a consultant, which might seem ideal, but I don’t even want to do that. This is my time to be home with my child, care for my husband and my house, and I couldn’t be more excited about it (and neither could he!).

    We actually do not need my income. We bought a small house and did not splurge on expensive cars so that we could afford for me to stay home. We live very comfortably, but not luxuriously. But we do not need luxury… what we need is me to be healthy, happy, and a great mom/wife. I agree with your statement of how exhausting it sounds to do the daily grind of dropping your kid off at day care, rushing to work, etc. I know I would be miserable doing that. I think it makes the parents exhausted/stressed and that can then be projected onto the child. Of course, I respect all women who choose to do that, or must do it for financial reasons. I just feel lucky I have the choice not to.

    I often search for articles about others like me, because mostly it seems that even if women quit their jobs they either regret it, or they have side businesses. Having a side business is not a SAHM…that is a mom who works from home. All of my friends returned to work after they had children and I do not know anyone who is staying at home. It makes me feel like I’m making a strange choice! I liked the section you wrote about making new friends who are mothers – that is something I really look forward to!

    Thanks for writing this positive article!!

    I was really able to relate to your article, so thank you for writing it!!

  7. You nailed it! I’ve read other people’s responses to that article, but yours said exactly the points that I was thinking negate it. Thank you for getting those points across.

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