“In hindsight, my decision seems flawed. Although I am fully aware that being a SAHM was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse.” — Lisa Endlich Heffernan
If you’re a stay-at-home mom who is 100% confident in your family’s decision for you to opt out of the workforce to raise your children — and your partner has a secure job with a pension plan and benefits they will have until retirement — and you have a roadmap for what your plans will be after your children start kindergarten, stop reading right now because you’re not going to like what I have to say.
Quitting my job cold turkey was the worst financial and career decision I’ve ever made. Romanced by a vision of idyllic small-town life, feeding my children organic farm foods, then pursuing my dream of becoming a paediatric nurse after my children trotted off to school, I drank the SAHM Kool-Aid. By uprooting our lives and careers because I thought I’d be rewarded with a scrapbook full of Instagram-worthy snapshots and future employers grateful for my sacrifices to my children, I gambled our greatest asset — financial stability.
So when I read Lisa Endlich Heffernan’s Huffington Post blog about the remorse she feels over leaning out instead of leaning in, I found myself nodding in agreement rather than shaking with rage. In her blog post, Heffernan lists nine reasons why she regrets her decision to quit her Wall Street job. While I don’t agree with all of the reasons (for example, I don’t feel as though I failed the sisterhood by choosing to stay home), the loss of income from being a stay-at-home mom, now combined with my husband’s job loss and weak job market, is a heavy mental burden. I too have a case of the “what-ifs?” like Heffernan. What if I had negotiated with my employer to work from home? What if we stayed in Winnipeg, where it was easier to find a well-paying job? What if I had followed through on all those jobs I wanted to apply for? Instead, I find myself eating Kraft Dinner and carrot sticks alongside my family at the dinner table, thankful for the small things we do have, while nevertheless wishing for the pretty things we don’t (honestly, I miss having colourful hanging baskets and new lipsticks). And yes, I know money can’t buy happiness but it does make paying your mortgage easier, which is the same thing.
Perhaps the hardest thing about being a stay-at-home mom is not forgoing the pretty things, but admitting to missing them. Like Adriana Velez said in her blog post on Cafe Mom, “I can’t remember the last time I heard a woman admit she regrets being a stay-at-home mom. It’s almost not allowed, I think.” Like admitting to being depressed or scrimping on groceries, feeling remorseful about the decision to be a stay-at-home mom — and daring to voice that regret — is considered letting down the sisterhood.
But if there are any takeaways from either Heffernan’s post or my own, it is that it’s OK to admit that this SAHM gig isn’t as sweet as it looks, that money does make things easier and that there are genuine career risks to leaving the workforce to raise your children. And maybe, just maybe, the more we talk about the things that scare SAHMs, the less alone we’ll feel.
Agree? Disagree? Tweet me your experiences @jenpinarski.