There seems to be this image of the Stay at Home Mom as a fun-loving, yoga-pant-wearing, dry-shampoo aficionado with not a care in the world, other than the dishes in her sink and maybe a pile or two of laundry. Sure, money might be a little bit tight, she doesn’t have as much time for herself as she may wish, and her car isn’t super fancy, but she’s happy. She’s living a great life at home with her kids, right where she wants to be. And as a SAHM, yeah, that’s all true, but what’s also true is the guilt….at least for this mama.
Questions pop into my head when it’s quiet and the kids are sleeping. Am I letting everyone down? What about the women who fought for my ability to go to college and to law school? What about my parents? who gave me a wonderful education, and were so proud of me as I followed in my dad’s footsteps through law school and passing the Ohio State Bar. What about my husband? who married a woman with ambition and drive, a woman who loved to conduct research and read. Is that woman still around?
I can’t help but wonder in those moments when my mind wanders late at night and “all” I’ve accomplished that day is one load of laundry, a successful snot extraction, and a taco dinner if I messed up. Each month when I pay my student loan debt it’s hard not to contemplate how much quicker that debt would be paid down if I had pursued a career, instead of pursuing my self-centered dream to be a Stay at Home Mom.
Don’t my sons need to see that the woman closest to them is capable of more than just a homemade dinner and arranging play dates? I want my sons to grow up understanding that the girls and women around them are capable of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. But will be it be enough to tell them this, without showing them?
Am I reaching my full potential each and every day? What happens when my kids are in school all day, every day, and I’m at home with no one to care for until 3:30 p.m.? Will I become obsolete?
And perhaps most importantly, and the question that haunts me the most… Am I letting myself down?
The fact is, I don’t know the answers to most of these questions. Only time will tell how my sons turn out, and how I’ll balance life with school-aged children. Perhaps I’ll return to the workforce, or perhaps I won’t. My husband and I always talked about having one of us “available” to our children, and I know my parents are proud of me no matter what I do with my life.
I believe that my kiddos have many excellent women role models in their lives who do work, some while raising kids, and hopefully, this will be enough to show my sons the power of the working woman.
I believe strongly that the Women’s Movement and modern feminism is about more than equality in the workplace. I believe it’s about choice. Women should not be forced to take one path simply because of our gender, we should be able to own our lives and do with them as we wish – work, stay home, work from home, leave the workforce, re-enter the workforce, whatever.
These questions disrupt my life at times. They make me question myself, my decisions, my parenting skills, and my future. It concerns me that I don’t have answers to these somewhat disturbing questions. Some days, it’s hard not to check the job boards or to compare daycare and nanny costs with what I could potentially earn. It alarms me that I allow my guilt to take hold, and I’m not always sure how to handle the pressure I put on myself.
What I DO know, and what I hold on to in order to bring myself out of the storm of mommy guilt, is that I made my decision to stop working and to stay home, for my family and for myself.
I chose this life, because I want this life.
I doubt I’ll ever get over my insecurities, or that the guilt will magically disappear one day. Or if it does, it will quickly be replaced with another form of guilt – perhaps because I’m a working mom, or because we chose public school over private (or vice-versa), or maybe because I bought second-hand instead of new. The fact is, motherhood is filled with guilt based on decisions that no one has the answer to – in many cases, you won’t know the outcome until it’s much too late to change course. But you do the best you can with the information you have at the time.
So to return to my most haunting question – Am I letting myself down? No. I’m not. I’m doing this for me. This is where I need to be, this is where I want to be. And so long as I continue to want this, and to be happy in my choice, despite the guilt, then I know I’ve made the right decision.