Why I [Don’t] Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I’m compelled to offer my reaction to this, “Grown and Flown: Why I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom,” by Lisa Endlich Heffernan. I offer this to SAHMs out there who might feel swayed by their own regrets and lose their balance.

We all do exactly what we want, need, and are able to do. My family has the benefit of being able to do all three. As I’ve written before, I am lucky to be able to be at home with our children. I made a privileged choice. More important, I made an informed choice.

But I, unlike Ms. Endlich Heffernan, had the benefit of starting my tenure at home in 2005, and not (roughly) 1993. I not only had more information about SAHM-hood at my disposal, but I had a job that required skills that could be used at home. (I had visions of part-time telecommuting the minute I saw a positive pregnancy test in 2004.)

So, I have not remorse, but affirmations and expectations.

I let down [nobody] who went before me. If the SAHM lets down the women’s movement by not “dreaming big,” then the woman who accepts 77 cents an hour for the same work a man does for a dollar lets it down, too. After all, shouldn’t that working woman demand a raise, loudly and regularly? (Pay inequity apparently grows, for college-educated women, in correlation with the very prospect of motherhood, not because of a person’s actual SAHM status.) The women’s movement is far from over. Nobody is letting anybody down.

I use my driver’s license [as much as] my degrees. I learned to drive in high school, and I drive defensively and with authority. I earned (and paid for) my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both of which taught me to do my research, think critically, and write and speak quickly and effectively. With this training and education, our children have better educational and economic prospects than they otherwise might have enjoyed. And I am a better parent than I would otherwise have been. I parent like I drive; I parent like I think.

My kids think I [do everything]. They see me work at home–writing, taking care of the home, and of them, and of their dad. They see me at their school, working with their teachers and their principals. They brag about me. They know damn well that I work. It helps too, that I tell them so. (They know their dad works, too. Because he tells them so.)

My world [expanded]. I worked with people exactly like me, all with the same organizational goal, all with comparable (if not more) education and experience. I worked with men and women. They were lovely. At home, in the suburbs, I have made some of my best friends, who are nothing like me. Who grew up differently than me. Who think differently than me. Who teach me humility.

I got [inspired] by a mountain of volunteer work. I spent two years on our PTA board. In the past six months I helped changed the way the PTA presents itself to parents. I had an impact on the PTA culture. I was offered a job at the school because of it. We may not stay here for much longer, but volunteering, and seeing that my donated time reflected well on me and my abilities, gives me great confidence that I will land on my feet, professionally, wherever we go.

I worried [as I have always worried]. I have the time available to know our children on a granular level, but I do not have the inclination to ‘helicopter.’ I want them to be happy, safe, eat healthfully, sleep regularly, and be nice to themselves, to each other, and others. And clean up. They better flippin’ clean up after themselves. Other than that, they’re on their own.

I [dove head first] into a traditional marriage. My parents had a traditional marriage. So did my husband’s parents. Unlike our respective parents, my husband and I have the same amount of education, and now, the same amount of work experience. His happens to command a far higher salary than mine could, even if I had stayed in the work force full-time. I take care of him. I do. I make sure he takes coffee, breakfast and lunch with him to work. I do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the bills, and most of the day-to-day child rearing. And I know about his job. I ask about it. He tells me. He knows I am his equal. Anybody who sees the two of us standing next to each other would know we are equals. He knows we’re lucky I’m home. (Picking up the dry-cleaning does not need to be a political act.)

I [fear becoming] outdated. I read. A lot. I read things I never used to. I keep up with current events and technology. Because it matters. I need to know about things before my children do. Every parent does.

I [changed] my sights and [gained] confidence [from new sources]. I could have continued to work full-time. I would have done it just fine. I know that about myself. But when presented with the option of not needing to, I made what most economists would say is an irrational choice: unpaid work (parenting) over paid work. Go figure. I remain engaged with the outside world. I continue to gain confidence as a writer. I watch our children grow and I continue to gain confidence as a parent. (They are happy, nice, healthy, safe, eat and sleep well, and clean up most of the time.)

I am a rock star in the blinding lights of my own mind.

I regret nothing.

Though I wish Ms. Endlich Heffernan’s piece had been titled, “Why I Regret the Way I Stayed at Home.”

44 thoughts on “Why I [Don’t] Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

    1. Thank you to both of you!!! To you, grownandflown, for showing me what has gone wrong !!! Your blog post is me! Right now ! 😦 feeling so overwhelmed, in a house full of clutter caused by poverty mindset, caused by living on 1 income for so many years! Feeling lost, my dreams, desires, past visions of what my life would be… Gone! I’ve been home for 11 years, I guess that’s not too long, but I am EVERYTHING you wrote about!!!

      And thank you to acorporatewife, for showing me that I CAN turn this all around!!! Often, I sit and think.. “It’s too late? I’m 40, I’m too old to pursue my dreams, to regain ME.. Life has past and I’ve missed it, in sacrifice to be home with my 3 kids”. I love being home with them, but I have lost me! Thank you for showing me that it’s not too late to reverse that CHOICE! And pray for me as I now begin the uphill battle to reclaim the life I’ve always dreamed of for all of us!

  1. Thank you so much! And yes, I am wary of my rock-star status fading in years to come. 🙂 Your post I think prompts all of us “freshmen” SAHMs to stay alert and focused on our own goals. It is brave, and clearly strikes a chord with many of us, if my facebook feed is any guide.

  2. Thank you for your post. I read the other one and I have to agree that it was the way she stayed home. I am learning so much now that I am a home based business person. I am mastering social networks and (re) discovering my passion for writing. These are things I would not have done had I stayed at my government job. (Some days my biggest challenge was staying awake). Also, we have twins and it doesn’t make financial sense for me to go to work. Read my post on homemakingasanart titled The Mathematics of Staying Home.

  3. Thank you! I’m a sahm to two under 2. Wow. This article was so encouraging compared to the first. Thank you.

  4. Always knew that I wanted to stay home and really raise my kids. Did it. Loved it. Would do it all over again. Just remember, you can never relive your children’s childhood again. Enjoy it while it’s there. They are 21 and 19 now, and we get along very well, lots of laughter. I thought that with having me as a mother my kids would end up with great senses of humor or rack up many years in a psych ward. Thankfully, they have great senses of humor. And I am the one in a psych unit…as a nurse, just so you know.

  5. Thanks for this! I’m faced with the privileged decision of whether or not I want to stay home with my children for an extended amount of time and I am so torn about what to do. Great insight!

  6. Wonderful article! You are a rock star and I’m so glad you eloquently wrote how incredible and important stay at home momma’s are. You are awesome!

  7. Wow. Really, WOW. Thank you for writing this. I’m currently seriously contemplating life ahead as a SAHM, and Lisa’s piece depressed me tremendously. Your writing has literally changed me.

  8. Woah! love this post! being pregnant with our first baby in the middle of our migration to a new country I’ve been debating my self in the becoming a sahm or doing lots of courses and hopefully gain back my career(have to do it as my job experience has some different legal requirements in our new country). My mom took care of my brother and I, and I do believe she did great, dont think she is any less than our dad, and I admire them both for very different reasons. Love the point about letting the women before us down, my husband keeps telling me that that doesnt matter(he even refuses to tell me if he prefers me to be at home or back at work), that he only cares that I choose whatever is going to make me happier. Also, both my husband and I grew up with lots of family around, something our son will not have as often, so I thin it would be a great thing for him(and me) to be around more.

    1. Great to hear from you, and congratulations on your new baby and his or her upcoming arrival in your new country! There’s nothing like knowing you have choices and a supportive partner, whatever you choose. Good luck and stay in touch.

  9. Thank you for writing this response! I ‘m a freshmen SAHM with a masters & 2 bachelors. I left a very good, rewarding career as a nurse & many have asked me “don’t you miss it?” I loved what I did, I love what I do- period.

    Like you said, I use evey bit of knowledge & experience to guide & teach my son. We even moved to another state to better afford this way of life- that took strength, determination, planning, research into fields I’m not familiar with & meeting many people with very different backgrounds. This is work, hard work & it is incredibly rewarding because I choose it to be. Keep on doing your wonderful writing!

  10. Thank you so much for writing this much more reasonable view of staying at home with children. I’m also a “freshman” SAHM and like you, I made the informed choice to pursue this lifestyle. This is pretty serious stuff and I don’t regret it at all. I’ve witnessed the most miraculous thing: the growth of consciousness and the unfolding of a complete personality. What’s more, after earning (and also paying for) one undergraduate and two advanced degrees, I’ve found that parenthood presents the steepest learning curve of them all. It’s much more demanding work than I’ve ever done and I’ve grown in ways I didn’t think possible.

    Keep writing!

  11. THANK YOU for writing this article! I am also a SAHM of two girls under 2 and constantly worry weather if I am doing the right thing or not. I will read your article every day, to keep in mind what you said, especially that there is not need to have the fear of being outdated or less than others. I finished a masters two months before my first daughter was born and never worked since (outside home of course!). I am brazilian and we have a culture of “women should not depend on men, like NEVER”, but thats mainly because unfortunately the dynamic of brazilian relationships (I am talking about personal experiences I have seen around me all my life) are really off…the men has the power and women are submissive, men are “allowed” to cheat because that is “what they do”, and so on. Now I live in London and I am married to a wonderful englishman…and he has very different values than the ones of the men I grew up with. My mum still sometimes gives me some “hints” that I shouldn’t give up on anything because of my kids and husband. I think differently, I believe that staying at home will give me the chance to be close to my daughters (I am not close emotionally to my mum at all! she worked a lot and we never spent time with us), that this way I will be able to see them, truly SEE them. And that being a SAHM won’t make me less intelligent, efficient or current. Its a personal thing, I want to be with them, I want to see how they are, which personality they have, teach them to be secure, to be ok with bad feelings, to be happy from inside out. As you I read a lot, I talk a lot with my husband about his work (we are on the same field) and I am planning to next year start a small business from home, a couple of hours a day to make me full fill this need to have a professional side, not because of society but because I truly want it. Awww sorry the huge post!! 🙂 I love your page and what you write. I love the internet and how women are getting together here, giving each other strength and helping us to believe that our choices are good, that we can count on each other to keep our force moving mountains and building the next generation! And just one more thing, it is bloody hard work to be a sahm!!!!! 🙂

  12. I love both posts and can relate to both (as I first went into motherhood over 20 years ago, at a very young, still in college age, and then again in my 30s in the mid 2000s). First time around, during the 90s, I fluctuated between full-time student/mom and full time corporate manager/mom. Second time around, I fluctuated between full time WAHM and full time SAHM.

    First consider this. The options and opportunities you appreciate now, hardly existed in the 90s and the business culture certainly didn’t support part-time professionals, much less telecommuting, in any reasonable shape or form. You benefit from technology advances, societal evolution and cultural changes that weren’t even an option for the mother in Grown and Flown.

    Second, your children will most definitely look back on this time differently as they age, and go through phases and changes. No mother’s star shines 100% of the time for her children as they go through they normal life rebellion phase. That’s a fact. Some rebel harder than others, but they all do it, and it’s a healthy part of growing up. They will criticize your choices, no matter what you choose to do. Shouldn’t factor too much into your decisions, at the end of the day, a happy mother is the important thing.

    Third, children are smart, don’t kid yourself, they do know the difference between a working mother, a mother working hard at volunteering, a mother writing at home, a mother working from home, etc etc. Doesn’t mean this younger generation will be as judgmental as 90s children might have been, this generation (your children) will grow up with this culture and so your experience will be totally different from the pangs of deep regret that the other blogging mother feels. Her children are a whole generation older and a culture removed from your children. You could both do the same exact things in the same exact ways, and the outcomes would be different (if only for the generation gap that exists between your stories).

    My college grad kiddo is uber supportive of how our life progressed because I’ve focused on raising non-judgmental kids. That’s the key. If you set the tone of non-judgment in your household, you will later reap what you’ve sown ten times over.

    She didn’t have the choices that you do. Coming into motherhood in the 21st century is a blessing indeed.


  13. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I have respect for your personal decision. I was a SAHM from 1996 until 2012 and I was privileged to have that opportunity being married to a successful corporate man. Though I am grateful for that time with my children, I would have done things differently if I could do them over. I left a promising career to parent my children and had an extremely difficult time reentering the workforce after my youngest entered middle school and decided it was time to do something for myself. The negativity from employers about my gap in employment was disturbing, especially since it was from other women. It took two years of rejection, despite having a BS degree, to finally find employment. I am still married to a successful man, but I know the importance of being able to support myself. In the past decade, I have seen corporate wives lose their husbands to divorce or death. My advice to other women: Never give up working…even if it’s just one day a week. Explaining the gap in your resume, even for the admirable task of raising children, is NOT respected by employers. I am raising my daughter with the mindset to never expect a man to provide for her. Best wishes to you all.

    1. Yes, it is vitally important to remain connected to the workforce in some capacity. It’s equally important to take nothing for granted, in terms of one’s health–whether physical, mental, or social (relationship-wise). I have a daughter and a son, and they are learning the importance of working and parenting, in equal measure. They have several friends who have only one parent at home, they have friends who have dads who are home while moms work… they are learning–by seeing–the importance of adaptation to circumstances, of being prepared… Thank you for your comment.

  14. You totally missed the point of Heffernan’s post. It matters little that she quit in 1993 and you quit in 2005. Her point is that now that her children are grown and independent, she regrets having quit. You can’t possibly have that perspective, because your children evidently are still young.

    1. Not sure I totally missed it, but thank you for reading. (Ms. Heffernan had seemed to appreciate my post, and I hers.) My point was to offer a perspective *given* the different time in which I chose to stay home. (Regret is something that can be anticipated and planned for–maybe even avoided–given how much has changed since 1993.) That was my hope in writing my response to hers. Again, thank you for reading.

  15. Thank you for this! I am 6 weeks out of the corporate banking world and still adjusting. My 18 month old is worth every dime, but until we get all of these boxes unpacked from our recent move due to my husband’s work I can’t embark on any of the volunteer work I have my heart set on. However, My family has had wonderful dinners and my son gets to nap in his own bed. I currently miss my work tons and I definitely do not feel the same accomplishments but I know with a few more weeks that will change. Glad to know someone else is in the same boat! 🙂

  16. Hi there. I stumbled upon your post by searching “learning to like being a SAHM”. I was having one of those days where I felt worthless, watching my life pass me by, and even texted my M.D. friends if they looked down on me. I have a PhD in health psychology and was a rock star at stats and a few months after I graduated, I found out I was pregnant and soon the job applications turned into searching for baby stuff. I was happy but disappointed all at the same time. I became sick of looking at blogs of women who “simply loved being a SAHM” and many of my friends, their dream come true was to become SAHM. These posts only made my feel sick to my stomach. It made me feel like an awful mother because those weren’t my feelings, those weren’t my dreams. I went to school for many reasons, waited to get married till after I was done for many reasons and now my dreams were put to a halt.

    A few months ago I read Lisa’s article and that made me feel far worse than any of those “SAHM life is the best, and I LOVE it!” I felt the tunnel with the little light at the end black out. I saw my whole world implode and just felt like I had to accept that this was it. Everything I’ve ever done, gone.

    Sure some days are great. Some days are very hard. Some days I resent my husband for putting me in this place. Other days I am grateful we have the opportunity for me to be at home and live comfortably. Yet other days, I feel I have fallen all the way at the bottom of the ranks of society. The reaction of “Oh, you don’t work. Must be nice” and “oh…. you just stay home”. Those ppl don’t even know what it means to raise a child, everyday, and run a home. Having a house is simply, but creating a home is the real challenge. There are so many fine lines that people just can’t and don’t understand. I am a mother at home, not because I have no education or meaning in life, it’s because this was a thoughtful decision made in the best interest of everyone in this family.

    You have made my perspective turn around- I am worthy. I am important. I am very much an equal to my husband. I am a Dr. I am a mother. A mother who stays home isn’t a someone to be looked down upon. She is worthy. I am SO worthy. I didn’t miss Lisa’s point in her article, but I definitely hated her perspective. It made someone like my own mom, an accomplished nurse who gave everything up to raise 3 children- 2 PhDs and 1 who is a editor in chief for lakernation.com, feel also accomplished.

    Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart and I hope you continue to inspire. I finally cried tears of happiness and joy and for the first time in 2 years, thought highly of myself. Best wishes to you.

    1. Kate, I’m so gratified by your comment and sincerely happy that your perspective has turned. I’m glad I could play a small part in that. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience.

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