I came across an article in the week – not a new one and not a new topic, but one that got me going anyway. It was called 9 Reasons I Regret being a Stay at Home Mom*. For me the whole Working Mum (WM) v Stay at Home Mum (SAHM) argument is a bit tired, I’m not really that interested in either side’s moans or celebrations. Whatever works for you and your kids is my thinking. Maybe I’m too blunt about it but I’m a bit of a suck-it-up-buttercup type. Make the best of where you are or do your damndest to change it. No one likes any job all the time so why should WM’s or SAHM’s have to like what they do all the time? And why do some feel they have to convince the others that their side really is the best? And many times there just is no choice, women do what they have to. But enough time on my high horse. Being a compulsive list ticker, and an accidental SAHM, I had to check myself against this Regretful woman’s list. Just to see that I wasn’t in denial about the whole thing.
Want to go through her list of regrets with me? Just to see?
- Letting down those women who fought for the rights to work and have a family. So, truthfully, I did feel a bit of this. In my family, strong, successful working mothers were the norm and to be anything else was never considered as an option. To be a SAHM was certainly not an ambition. I imagined disappointment in my choice even though it was one rooted in privilege. But – and here’s the thing that a strong woman will also teach you – someone else’s disappointment should never be the reason for not making a choice that’s right for you. Check 1, no regret.
- I use my driver’s license far more than my degrees. So this is true. But not a regret. I friggen suffered for that driver’s license! I was so nervous that I failed twice but my mom encouraged me never to give up. “If you fail, just get back in the queue and make another appointment.” she said. Words to live by. My degrees proved to me that I could study and pass and enabled me to support myself. My driver’s proved that I could fail and still succeed. I reckon I need both in life. Check 2, no regret.
- My kids think I did nothing. This is also true. My youngest once asked me if I finished grade 3 and my smarty-pants 9-year-old was amazed when I pointed out my alma mater university as we drove past. But you know, I don’t really mind this. I love the element of surprise when I reveal what I have done and what I am doing, especially to the one who thinks he knows everything. There’s more to me than meets the eye, my boy. It might be a lesson worth teaching as my sons meet girls and women in their lives. Check 3, no regret.
- My world narrowed. This is half true, but not really. In some ways, my world was pretty small when I worked in a corporate. I met more or less the same kind of people, all interested in the same kind of stuff, motivated largely by the same things. Through my kids I’ve met all kinds, definitely some I would never have come across in financial services. True, the mental challenge and the stretch of working in a fast changing environment was energizing and I miss how easily that happened. These days I have to make my own wind to get the same thing. But taking responsibility for expanding my world means that I look for things and people that really interest me. It’s not up to HR or something that randomly comes across my desk to make things exciting. My world has expanded beyond what I could’ve dreamed. It takes effort, but it’s amazing what you can come up with when you get out the box you (and others) have put yourself in. Check 4, half a regret.
- I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work. Nope this didn’t happen to me. Okay so I have been to more bake sales and soccer matches than I can pretend makes a difference in my children’s lives. But hey, it’s a choice on how to spend forty-five minutes every now and then. What I regret more are the many hours of meetings I’ve sat in that I didn’t choose to be in that definitely made no difference to anyone’s lives. Check 5, no regret.
- I worried more around my children (cause being at home there its assumed there is more time to worry). Not sure about this one. As much as I would’ve loved to be the laid-back-no-worry-earth-mother it would never have happened. I’m not built that way. I’m a worrier. It’s unfortunately how I roll. I think my capacity to worry would have increased with more things to worry about. Check 6, I worry that no regret.
- My husband and I slipped into a more traditional marriage. This one was tricky. Obviously the financial story of not having matching incomes makes it more traditional. But there’s more to it than finance and hours away from home? It’s how you treat each other, how you value and respect each other, and whether you are happy with what you are giving and getting. And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard working mums moan about getting home the same time as their husbands and then still being expected to put dinner on the table. Being a SAHM and having a traditional marriage is not a foregone conclusion. This one, I’m definitely ditching as a regret. Check 7, no regret.
- I became outdated (tech etc). This is half true. I can see how it would happen but it hasn’t happened to me because of two things: my own impatience and my tech husband. See, I like things to just work. Tech doesn’t really happen like that. You have to fiddle it a bit, get through all the niggles. My husband is a techie of note and he is always ahead of the game. He can make anything work and he loves the process of it. The end result is that I have all the latest tech because he drags me into the new stuff kicking and screaming. Then, just as I figure it out he finds something new. Check 8, no regret.
- I lowered my sights and lost confidence. I thought I was home free but this one got me. It was definitely like this in the beginning. My old confidence was rooted in an identity – corporate lawyer blah blah – and without that identity I had to find my confidence in other places. It’s harder to be confident when there is no self-explanatory, immediately understandable title. So that is an ongoing story I’ll admit. But I’m reluctant to agree that it’s a regret because I’m learning to find confidence in something other than a title. To be confident in the qwerky bits of me has been harder but hopefully more useful in the long term. I haven’t lowered my sights; I’ve just moved it somewhere else. My ambitions are way bigger and more meaningful to me than ever before but it’s proper work in progress. Alright, Check 9, half a regret.
The woman who wrote the Regret article had some backlash articles from others, and I’ll post the links so you can read if you’re interested. But something she said right at the end stuck with me “the solution required imagination, not capitulation”. That sounded the most right to me. In my neck of the woods, the women of my childhood never ever gave up. They did what they needed and still found a way to do what they wanted. And I suspect that trait had nothing to do with working or staying at home. Simply Stubborn B*****s, the lot.I suspect I’ve got some of that and it’s probably the only reason why I don’t get all the Regrets.
How’d you do on the regret list? Drop me a line and let me know? If you’re a WM and you think its all a load of BS – I’ll be more than happy to hear that too!
Keep on keeping on,