This morning I was wandering around the internet and came across Lisa Endlich Heffernan’s excellent article on Huffington Post, Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom. I’ve been doing a fair amount of looking back lately so the article appeared in my path at an opportune time. I have a child in college and another looking at colleges so now is a natural time to reassess the decisions I’ve made and think about what I could have done differently.
One of the big things I regret was not having an independent life of my own. I’ve never lived alone or had a time where I was not responsible to anyone else. I went from being a daughter, to a girlfriend, to a wife, then a mother.
When we got married, my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our children when they came along. I still think that we made the right decision for our little family by arranging our life together around the traditional ’50s ideal family. After all, it seemed to work okay for our parents. It was not an option for me to be the breadwinner. My husband studied engineering in school. I studied psychology and philosophy – both of which came in handy as a parent. With me at home, my husband had the ability to concentrate on his career knowing that I was willing to pack up our family and move at any time. His ability to work at all hours of the day without worrying about picking kids up at day care allowed him to advance in his career.
It was the great for our kids to a have a parent spend the last twenty years focusing solely on their well being. I was the mom that went to every sports game, every choral concert, made sure they were exposed to art and music. We’ve taken them all over the world and encouraged them to explore their interests. Unlike many kids, my girls always had someone in their corner. When one kid had trouble coping with the public school system, I was able to pull her out and home school her until she was ready to go back. If I had an office job, I would not have been able to drop everything and focus on her. She still says that she learned more about how to learn in those years than at any other point in her education. I was a tough task master. Bottom line, our kids have a great life.
We knew we wanted what was best for our children when we decided I would stay home with them. We didn’t know we were compromising our lives for theirs. We made decision that changed the trajectories of our lives when we were too young to know any better. I was 23 when I got married. I was 25 when baby #1 came along. I barely knew how to tie my own shoes. I kind of wish someone had given me a clue that our decisions came a cost. In one fell swoop, I gave up my ability to financially myself and my husband took on the weight of supporting a family by himself. I am completely dependent on my husband and that weighs heavily on him. He loves to travel and would like to change careers so he could pursue some of his passions. He can’t. He has a wife and two kids to support. Financial burden breeds resentment.
As I look back at what I’ve written here, I feel I have to acknowledge that I sound a bit whiny. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have a wonderful life. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay home with the girls. I don’t want you to think I sit around eating bon-bons all day wallowing in regret. I’ve kept busy. I had a small interior design business when the girls were in elementary school that kept my brain going and made a little money. I’ve been an active volunteer. Now, I’m writing with moderate success. On the other hand, I will make it abundantly clear to my daughters that they need to follow through on their dreams. I don’t want them to turn around 25 years from now and realize the bus to Happy Independencetown left without them.