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The most expensive decision of my life I made alone.
July 17, 2014 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Now, on the downslope of parenting, I have misgivings about my decision to stay home. It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets. I don’t know any parent who regrets time spent with their kids, especially kids who have moved on to their own lives. Although I am fully aware that being a stay at home mom was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse.
posted by stoneweaver (103 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's sad that this person made such a huge decision without giving it much adult, responsible consideration despite years of higher education and an apparently healthy relationship with a supportive spouse.

I regret nothing about my decision to run our household while my spouse works, but it sounds like I put years more thought into it.

It's a also a bit scary to think that a realtor or car salesman "helps" you make good decisions...seriously?
posted by trackofalljades at 7:57 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


You don't go through life with no regrets. I like this piece, it's a fine retrospective but, of course, it is monumentally hard to have two full time careers and raise children. It really sucks. I agree with her final assessment -- if you have the ability to "keep your toe in" while caring for the home/family, that would give you many more options. But her industry is especially unforgiving in this regard -- male dominated and "traditional" in that home affairs are to be managed elsewhere, by someone else and work pretends that sphere does not exist.
posted by amanda at 8:02 AM on July 17 [17 favorites]


It's a also a bit scary to think that a realtor or car salesman "helps" you make good decisions...seriously?

My realtor spends time gaining and maintaining precise market knowledge that I do not because I have a different job. So both times I bought/sold property, I relied on him (he explained the analysis and pointed out his sources) to help inform my decision. Why is the supposition that you would rely upon specialists to help make good decisions scary or unbelievable?
posted by Kurichina at 8:05 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Life is sort of like a piñata filled with regrets
posted by thelonius at 8:05 AM on July 17 [61 favorites]


I regret reading the article

Really, although this piece seems to have 20-20 vision, and I can understand her 9 reasons to regret, it seemed to lack any insight into what she would have done differently besides stay employed. Or any ideas about how it will shape her future.

Is she warning her audience? Giving us a chance at schadenfreude? Wishing for time-travel? What?
posted by warm_planet at 8:09 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: sort of like a piñata filled with regrets
posted by stoneweaver at 8:10 AM on July 17 [12 favorites]


Why is the supposition that you would rely upon specialists to help make good decisions scary or unbelievable?

Because most Realtors© are morons ? Same with car salespeople. It comes with the low barrier to entry.

I was a single parent for a long time, so I never had a choice on staying home or working. But, there were a few months when I was laid off that I pulled the boy out of daycare and just took care of him myself.

Those were among the best days of my life. I regret not having more of them.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:10 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


The most expensive decision of my life I made alone.

Let's be clear here: The actual most expensive decision of her life was the decision to have children. That was the reason she felt compelled to leave the work force, to say nothing of the direct costs it incurred.

Later she refers to the decision to drop out of the workforce as "[her] most expensive mistake" (emphasis added). That seems more defensible, at least inasmuch as "mistake" is subjective while "decision" is not.

My kids think I did nothing. They saw me cooking, cleaning, driving, volunteering and even writing, but they know what a “job” looks like and they don’t think I had one.

Not to blame the victim, but if children don't see raising children and managing a household as work then that's at least partly their parent's fault for failing to teach them to recognize the value of that work. Although I recognize that it's a tremendous uphill battle against social and cultural pressures and norms.
posted by jedicus at 8:11 AM on July 17 [43 favorites]


Jobs are not structured with family in mind. I had to make enormous sacrifices in my career because a member of my family is disabled. I greatly sympathize with this author, even though I don't have children, but you have a system that functions on bachelor-mode, whether it is entry-level or CEO and when you are neither, you will burn out om the job if you stick with it, or you get cast aside if you place once grain of consideration to your family. In the long run, this base assumption doesn't work for anyone, but we go along with it because that's the way it has been set up. It should not have to come down to making that kind of decision -- people who are emotionally sensitive have enormous contributions they can make to the workforce, but everyone else gets denied their insights because we cling to a system that hinders more than it helps...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:12 AM on July 17 [31 favorites]


"3. My kids think I did nothing. They saw me cooking, cleaning, driving, volunteering and even writing, but they know what a 'job' looks like and they don’t think I had one."

That "saw" strikes me as super unfortunate for everyone. I don't know how she raised her kids and I am not going to comment on what she did right or wrong because I have no place to do so. But I hope that "saw" doesn't imply her kids never had to cook or clean or run errands or volunteer. Because honest to god I am not sure how anyone who just had to scrub a bathroom could leave that activity thinking a person who does it does "nothing."
posted by griphus at 8:13 AM on July 17 [11 favorites]


Well, what's really important is that, by writing this blog post, she has found a way to make other women feel bad about their own life choices. So she has that going for her.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:16 AM on July 17 [14 favorites]


Because most Realtors© are morons?

Then don't hire a moron.

Doesn't change the fact that there are specialists for a reason. I'm a damn good privacy adviser and public sector business planner. I'm working at becoming a good project manager to compliment that. That takes up enough of my time. If wanted to be a carpenter, realtor, mechanic, etc, I'd train for that instead, but it's a better use of my time to rely on those people who have chosen to develop those skill sets. Just because some people doing a job suck at it doesn't mean that it's not valuable, or that it's stupid to rely upon specialists (with your own critical thought filter). It's more stupid (and egotistical) to think you can personally do everyone's job.

I once had a moron lawyer. It didn't lead me to the conclusion that all lawyers were morons or that I should be doing armchair law myself.
posted by Kurichina at 8:20 AM on July 17 [24 favorites]


I don't think it's about making other women feel bad, very honestly. Regrets about staying home are a pretty taboo subject, and so it's really nice to read about someone thinking about it retrospectively. Once all the fun little kid years are over, what does it look like? Having space to be able to talk about remorse is hard.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:20 AM on July 17 [54 favorites]


This shows how screwed up our society's values are, where the only things that are valued are what makes money. Working on wall st making the big bucks is so much more important than raising your children, yerch.
posted by Joe Chip at 8:22 AM on July 17 [9 favorites]


Not to blame the victim, but if children don't see raising children and managing a household as work then that's at least partly their parent's fault for failing to teach them to recognize the value of that work. Although I recognize that it's a tremendous uphill battle against social and cultural pressures and norms.

Yeah, no. You're basically blaming the victim for not succeeding in Swimming upstream against what is a cultural tsunami.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:23 AM on July 17 [30 favorites]


Kids don't respect her work because she doesn't. Running a household is serious business; as her children will learn for themselves one day. My wife opted to leave the workforce and stay home once kids came along, and not a day goes by that I don't praise her abilities in front of the kids. Not that she needs my praise, but the kids need to hear that their beds don't make themselves, the laundry doesn't do itself, our property doesn't insure itself, our bills don't pay themselves, the garden doesn't plant and harvest itself, and delicious meals don't plan themselves or just appear on the table---mom does all that and does it very well.
posted by resurrexit at 8:25 AM on July 17 [37 favorites]


a piñata filled with regrets

I'm not 100% serious but, if she had made a different choice, she'd have different regrets. Also different positive things, though.
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


Well, what's really important is that, by writing this blog post, she has found a way to make other women feel bad about their own life choices. So she has that going for her.

She has the right to express her reality, and if you feel bad that easily, the problem isn't her, but something in your life.

But I hope that "saw" doesn't imply her kids never had to cook or clean or run errands or volunteer. Because honest to god I am not sure how anyone who just had to scrub a bathroom could leave that activity thinking a person who does it does "nothing."

I have heard that refrain so many times in my life, and from people who ought to know better. I heard people lament how it was great to come home and relax because mom made the bed, laundry, and cooked the meals and life was grand...for them, never for one second stopping to consider how it was for mom to have to do all of that in the first place. And if mom doesn't do it, it just doesn't get done and, if mom doesn't hire a cleaning lady, everyone in the house would rather live in squalor than pick up a mop, iron, or put food in the fridge, and I have seen my fair share empty fridges in well-to-do houses because mom doesn't have time to do it...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:26 AM on July 17 [20 favorites]


"In some cosmic way I feel that I let down a generation of women who made it possible to dream big even though I know the real goal of the Women’s Movement was to be able to dream anything"

This is twaddle. The previous generation of women doesn't really care. We all have our lives, you have your own. Mommyblogger angst.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I'm sure it's not *purposely* about making other women feel bad, but the primary effect of the Mommy Blogosphere is judging other women and making them feel bad for their choices. I can imagine any of the following reactions to this post:
  • A stay-at-home mom, who has previously felt good about her decision, beginning to question whether she'll feel as remorseful as the author when her kids grow up
  • A stay-at-home mom suddenly feeling like she is "letting down those who went before" even though she'd never considered that before (and it's BS, because third-wave feminism is about choice, including the choice to stay home)
  • A working mom feeling guilty because she wishes she could be home spending more time with her children, reading this and feeling even worse about her choice because she's supposed to be appreciating her career rather than missing her children
And so on. I'm sorry the author feels the way she does, but by writing this post, she's feeding into the narrative of Every Decision a Mother Makes Is Wrong. The decision of whether or not to stay home with kids is a complex one, and every family's needs differs greatly depending on location, work availability, finances, etc.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:28 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


I actually think this is a good discussion to start having in terms of the 40-hour workweek and moving toward basic income. I think if we never start talking about these things in terms of child-rearing and family, the conversation's never going to move forward.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:28 AM on July 17 [23 favorites]


Alexandra Kitty: She has the right to express her reality, and if you feel bad that easily, the problem isn't her, but something in your life.

It's not that simple. Yes, she has the right to express whatever she likes. But young mothers today are inundated with messages about how they're Getting It Wrong. I've seen it over and over with my wife and friends. Even if you feel totally confident in your own decisions, it's hard not to get worn down by all the negative Mommybloggery out there telling you how you should and shouldn't be doing things.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:30 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I felt like I was short-changing myself, those who educated, trained and believed in me by doing this.

Just the other day, I was thinking about a talented, accomplished acquaintance of mine who has some very strong opinions (with which I often disagree). Among her opinions: if you are a woman with a college education, you should absolutely be a stay-at-home mother. Or maybe the argument was that if you want to be a stay-at-home mother, you shouldn't go to college. Like, you owe it to the world to use your brain. Someone else could have gotten that education in your place, and could be contributing to society. I am pretty sure that, at the time, I was working in a crap-ass low-pay admin job that a fifth grader could have done, so I was like yeah, fuck that noise. Right now I have a much better job that requires more brainpower and I'm still pretty sure I use my college education more when I comment on MeFi. Practically speaking, not everyone can use their education even when they want to. This is a bogus argument.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:31 AM on July 17 [13 favorites]


This is one example why I do not hold with "choice feminism": the idea that feminism is about women having choices and therefore a woman choosing her choice is exercising feminism... because, simply, not every choice a woman makes is a feminist choice; not every choice a woman makes advances the cause of women's equality, or at a personal level, her own equality. Some choices are clearly not-feminist choices. (Let me add, emphatically, that this does not mean, in any way, that the woman making a not-feminist choice is therefore Not A Feminist. At all.)

All too often we make choices and don't absorb, don't consider - would never think to consider - that we're not making these choices in a vacuum. I have a very strong hunch it never crossed her husband's mind at any point that he should give up his career to stay at home with his small children because "...I wanted to be with them. I had a job that allowed me very little time with them on weekdays and I felt our time was short. I did not stay home because I believed they needed me or that the nanny I had hired could not do a great job." This is a thought I see mothers struggle with all the time, but I rarely see fathers deal with it, or seriously consider it an option. Why would they? That pressure is not there for men. That example is not there for men. Their worth is not measured so heavily by their parenting choices.

We are raised to think "women can do anything men can do". We are told this over and over, all of us - although it is not true because structurally, for centuries, women have been held back. Saying suddenly "we're all equal!" doesn't magically make it so, practically; doesn't change those centuries of mental & emotional cruft or "instinctive" (learned) behaviour & reactions; certainly doesn't change the laws or customs that impact women with careers & families (daycare, taxes, maternity/paternity leave, health insurance tied to work, falling off the promotional ladder when you take time off, and on and on) but many people don't think any more deeply than what they're told. Any woman can do it if she tries hard enough! She made the choice to have kids! She should take the consequences square on!

So the lesson we walk away with is that since some women have the opportunities line up in such a way that they achieve what many men of their cohort can achieve without trying half as hard, with tradeoffs those men often do not have to make - therefore any woman who does not achieve that equality is held back through her own individual actions, her own weaknesses, her own failure, she should have known better.

This piece is great. This woman is very honest & self-aware. Her takeaway is sobering. What she has learned is cautionary. Men & women should read this and realize the impact of these choices we expect women to handle as if it's not as huge a deal as it really is, both societally & in shaping the course of her own individual life. What we ask of women is huge; and that we do not materially & practically value it is huge; and women cannot be equal to men until this is recognized and structurally changed.
posted by flex at 8:32 AM on July 17 [104 favorites]


The perception that if you don't grind it all the way through every day of your available working adult life is very real. So is the economic reality. We saw multiple generations of women with no savings, underutilized degrees, and no job prospects after they were done raising the kids (and sometimes right in the middle if their marriages broke up) and are ourselves now trapped in an economy that makes it tough to make it on anything much less than two full time jobs without a lot of effort and luck.

I'm paid about 2/3 of what my male colleagues are paid in my current work environment (about half of what I made at a more industry-standard company). I have spent multiple years here working to reform the environment to make it easier to do my job and their job, and return higher value to what we do. The most recent manager I was dumped on ignored my team for 6 months until my old boss threw my work at the new boss and pronounced it rubbish and told the new boss to fix us. Old boss still thinks of me as a glorified secretary instead of a trained professional with contributory skills.

Lucky for me new boss knows that old boss is an idiot and my requests to change our system actually make sense and are industry standard. Lucky for me the new boss is flexible on our present and working hours so I can both work and see to the days and hours the brood needs me outside of schooling hours. Or I can quit and go back to making double but use half of that to hire a nanny to do the rest of what I need to do (shopping, driving, volunteering).

Officially I earn about half of what I used to. Take home is even smaller than that, however, as we knew this lower scale job (after being a stay at home parent for a few years while freelancing to keep my hand in and prospects open) would have repercussions down the road. I put 10% of each check in discounted company stock, and 20% in a partially matched 401k. Another 40% pays for medical insurance and health/childcare prepay (though not much longer as the kids are on the cusp of aging out). Figure 20% more for taxes and I'm getting enough to rent a studio apartment in a shitty part of town. If we don't eat. Add back in the spouse's salary and we aren't in that studio apartment. I'd take even less money if I could convince The Company to let me work 30 hours a week. But I already know they will never do it.

We all have external jobs - at an office or learning in school. We all have home jobs - laundry, dishes, cooking, shopping, recycling, and we take turns. I learned from folks who alternated staying home in just the same era she did (so I suppose I'm her childrens' age).

I hesitate to victim blame, but I have to agree with some of the sentiment above. She and her spouse should have presented a united front and not perpetuate the "boys do boy stuff" raising her three sons. Or put up with "ridicule and eye rolling" from her teenage tech support crew. Sounds like quitting precipitously, not expanding retirement savings from her husband's pay, and letting herself be bossed around by what she perceived she thought she was fighting in the way of societies expectations and not reassessing their current and financial situation frequently is all on her and her spouse. Reading Friedman isn't the same as actually trying to apply it, even in the Dark Ages Before The Internet Lived In Your Pocket.

mothers today are inundated with messages about how they're Getting It Wrong.

More eyeballs with her version than a helpful one.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:32 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


That "saw" strikes me as super unfortunate for everyone. I don't know how she raised her kids and I am not going to comment on what she did right or wrong because I have no place to do so. But I hope that "saw" doesn't imply her kids never had to cook or clean or run errands or volunteer. Because honest to god I am not sure how anyone who just had to scrub a bathroom could leave that activity thinking a person who does it does "nothing."

I'd say there's a lot of responsibility incumbent on the parent who is going to the job that pays cash money to ensure that his/her kids understand that the only reason he/she does that is so that the other parent has money to do the actually important job of making everyone's life livable. That the parent who leaves home every day and comes back in the evening in order to get money is making a sacrifice of not participating in real day-to-day life in order to sustain real day-to-day life which is having a home and a family and meals and sliding around on the floor in your socks and stuff.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 AM on July 17 [19 favorites]


flex - Just to make sure I don't argue a straw-man, I want to make sure I understand. Are you suggesting that a woman who considers herself a feminist should not stay home with her children even if she wants to, because such a choice would be anti-feminist?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:38 AM on July 17


And so on. I'm sorry the author feels the way she does, but by writing this post, she's feeding into the narrative of Every Decision a Mother Makes Is Wrong.

No, she has hit upon the problem: that Every Decision a Mother Makes is Wrong. It is because the work system is not based on the needs of employees who are married women with children, but on single men or men with wives raising the children. Deal with it.

There is no right answer in a system whose very essence never took that reality into consideration and the sooner women face that reality, the better.

I recall my own childhood. As an only child being raised by my mother and grandmother with no outside help from anyone whatsoever, they had to jump hoops just to make my life a good one. I remember having to get up in the dark, get in the car with my blanket and sleep until mom drove grandma to the factory job to do her shift and drive me and her back home where I would go to bed and wake up a couple of hours later to go to school. Then after school, my mother would drive us to the factory to pick grandma up, drive us back home and mom would be a driving instructor working afternoons until late at night so I would not be left alone.

I won't put a sunny spin on women's reality -- work is Hell for women who always have to make the sacrifices because we do not have the system that should have a default assumption that people actually have loved ones in their lives who need and want them.

So yes, women cannot do right in a system that is rigged from every angle. That is truth. That is reality, but the nice thing about both is they can change if people first demand, and then do the things they need to do so we never have to have this discussion ever again...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:39 AM on July 17 [34 favorites]


you have a system that functions on bachelor-mode
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:12 AM


That is such a great way to put it, and I'm going to start using this at once.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:39 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


Staying at home is insanely risky, for you and for your kids, unless you're independently wealthy (you, not Dad). It benefits Dad, who gets cheap childcare and cheap household labor, and he usually doesn't even bother to contribute to a retirement account or do much at all to ensure his spouse's financial security. God forbid he should lose his job. This woman and her kids got extremely lucky.

# A stay-at-home mom, who has previously felt good about her decision, beginning to question whether she'll feel as remorseful as the author when her kids grow up

God forbid people think about their enormous choices and their possible repercussions!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:40 AM on July 17 [27 favorites]


you have a system that functions on bachelor-mode

and/or "has a full time wife at home" mode.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:41 AM on July 17 [12 favorites]


Also, maybe she and her spouse should have done a lot of things.

Was she in any place to insist? With no economic power of her own? No. She was intensely vulnerable.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:42 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I'd say there's a lot of responsibility incumbent on the parent who is going to the job that pays cash money to ensure that his/her kids understand that the only reason he/she does that is so that the other parent has money to do the actually important job of making everyone's life livable. That the parent who leaves home every day and comes back in the evening in order to get money is making a sacrifice of not participating in real day-to-day life in order to sustain real day-to-day life which is having a home and a family and meals and sliding around on the floor in your socks and stuff.

This. We are super careful about this in my house, and my kids definitely see us as equal contributors to the family, or even that my wife's job is more important than mine in the long run.

No, she has hit upon the problem: that Every Decision a Mother Makes is Wrong. It is because the work system is not based on the needs of employees who are married women with children, but on single men or men with wives raising the children. Deal with it.

While I definitely agree that that is the underlying problem, I don't read that in her blog post. To me, it just reads as "I thought I was doing the right thing, and here are all the reasons why I now think I was wrong." I think that a blog post about how society forces women into Kobayashi Maru decisions would be a very different post.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:43 AM on July 17


This piece resonated with me. I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom in 2002 because the money I was making was less than I would have had to pay for day care. The surprise I honestly didn't see coming was that after the Big Crash, I became de facto unemployable because of years out of the workforce. I had thought I'd be able to start working again when the kid hit kindergarten, but now he's in 6th grade and it's a no go. I made what seemed to be a good decision at the time, but now there's pretty much no way back in.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:44 AM on July 17 [16 favorites]


Seeing daycare as being mom's expense so mom can work (instead of something she and dad both pay half of so BOTH of them can work) is very typical.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:46 AM on July 17 [48 favorites]


It's a also a bit scary to think that a realtor or car salesman "helps" you make good decisions...seriously?

I think what she might be saying is that no one else actively pushed her toward the decision she made. But the meaning is ambiguous, and I think you can reasonably read it as meaning that no one helped her make the decision. Either way, the point is that she feels like it was a decision she made alone.

Is she warning her audience? Giving us a chance at schadenfreude? Wishing for time-travel? What?

It's tough to think about, write about, and make the decisions that pull you between two things that you value. I see a lot of ambiguity in the piece. The article describes "regrets" and "real remorse." But the writer also says, "It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets."

Feelings aren't always well-sorted and well-defined. What you actually feel sometimes conflicts with with how you expect to feel. People don't need to have agendas when they talk about how they feel. Neither do listeners. Sometimes the point of talking and writing is just to get things out of your head and to share them with other people.

The piece didn't really click with me either, but I come from a totally different world and have a totally different set of experiences from the writer. But look at the comments. For example:
This. This is my biggest nightmare and I applaud you for being so brave in sharing this. Once upon a time I was a young, 20 yo SAHM who dropped out of college to raise her baby for a few years. Now I am pregnant again 7+ yrs later and I’m currently placed on maternity leave with my son who’s due anytime now. This really hit home bc now I am remembering those years of lost youth, missed opportunities finding a good career, graduating college on time (I’ve got two semesters to go), making more friends while in school, and not slipping behind. This is the first time I’ve had a job I’ve liked and now I’m slipping away. I don’t know if I will be able to do this all over again. But your post has inspired me to be conscious of not letting this happen to me. Thank you for making me aware that being a SAHM is an arduous and thankless job, but we do it for the betterment of our kids. I hope I don’t slip away for too long.
This world does a great job of making people feel alone in their decisions and circumstances. But the reality is that these are shared experiences. A writer doesn't need an agenda to convince the reader of that truth. Nor does the reader need a call to action.
posted by compartment at 8:48 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]


I'd say there's a lot of responsibility incumbent on the parent who is going to the job that pays cash money to ensure that his/her kids understand that the only reason he/she does that is so that the other parent has money to do the actually important job of making everyone's life livable.

Yeah, I think that says what I tried to say a lot clearer and less judgmentally. Both parents in whatever kind of two-parent household system need to actively make sure that the kids understand the value of the labor the parents are providing. It's hard for me to get into her mindset -- I grew up in a different culture with different values than the one she raised her kids in -- but if there's a Mom and a Dad and Dad works the Job then, yeah, it would fall on Dad to instill in the kids the value of the labor that isn't as culturally obvious as his. The perpetuation of the invisibility of home labor is super pernicious, but unfortunately it's not like any parent gets to have some sort of cultural omniscience for the choices they make.
posted by griphus at 8:52 AM on July 17


Also, maybe she and her spouse should have done a lot of things.

Was she in any place to insist? With no economic power of her own? No. She was intensely vulnerable.


Another sad reality that economic power may trump over what's generally better for everyone in the family.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:52 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Another sad reality that economic power may trump over what's generally better for everyone in the family.

That is still a pretty debatable point.
posted by winna at 8:54 AM on July 17


I would cheerfully trade regrets with her. My husband and I both work full time. I have the best, most fulfilling, and best paying job of my life. I'm the primary wage earner in our household (I make 2/3 my husband makes 1/3). Not a day goes by when I am not CERTAIN that I've gone down the wrong road. Like, dead certain. Bottom line is: I know that I am failing my child by working full time.

The flip side is, of course, that I could simply quit, we could sell the house, and try to live on my husband's wage, which would put us below the poverty line for a family of 3. We could radically downsize, move out of the city to any of a few neighboring towns with worse schools and fewer resources to educate my whip-smart but also special needs son. We could live in a smaller house and probably still pay the same heating costs we pay now. We could choose to be poor (even if we called it something else). And then I'd be failing my child as well, because I wouldn't be giving him access to all the opportunities he needs to succeed.

Some people, I think, luck into getting it right. Most of us, though, no matter what path we choose, will always find it easier to see the mistakes we made than the things we did right.
posted by anastasiav at 8:54 AM on July 17 [14 favorites]


Semi-related question - do stay-at-home dads have an equally hard time returning to the workforce after the kids have grown? I could see it going either way.
posted by dialetheia at 8:55 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


but if there's a Mom and a Dad and Dad works the Job then, yeah, it would fall on Dad to instill in the kids the value of the labor that isn't as culturally obvious as his.

Yeah this is the part I left out-- it's incumbent upon the parent with the paying job because every single cultural message surrounding the kids tells them that that is what Work looks like, whereas the other parent is at home doing chores or whatever, and not Working. So the parent who benefits from this privilege of the title of Worker needs to go to extra lengths to ensure that the other parent's work is not devalued.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Has your husband ever considered quitting and staying home with your child, anastasiav?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:56 AM on July 17 [15 favorites]


a system that functions on bachelor-mode

As a former bachelor for a more than a decade, I'd disagree. Sixty hour work weeks are brutal for self-care if you have no support system. This system works, assumes, that you have someone to support you, to the cook, clean, run errands. It's full-on husband-mode. If both spouses want to be "husbands", that means family life requires housekeepers, nannys, gardeners, and short shrift to everything.

I think a sustainable family-oriented job is 30 to 40 hours a week. We have a number of folks in our office (moms and dads both) who are able to make the choice to work a short week for less pay. That allows either partner to take the kids to daycare, stop at the grocery on the way home, etc.. and still have enough time for an evening trip to the ball game or a camping trip on the weekend. It works out ok as an employer, the same work gets done for near same cost as full timers (a couple of desks and computers extra, really), we just have more people doing it.
posted by bonehead at 8:56 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Not to nitpick... (ok, fine, to nitpick) but the title of the article: "9 Reasons I Regret Being a Stay At Home Mom" does not compute with this sentence from the article: "Now, on the downslope of parenting, I have misgivings about my decision to stay home. It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets."

I would dare to venture that she is totally regretful of her decision (and perhaps fearful her kids will read the article), and has spent quite some time in the empty nest days thinking about it. Kinda sad, actually.

The funny thing I learned about regrets is that they have much more to do with how I currently view my life than what I did in the past.

I have an extremely checkered history, and I regret nothing, because I like where I am today.

Ask me on a day where I'm fed up with my job, arguing with the wife, sleep-deprived and embroiled in self-pity, and you'll get a completely different story.

I think this article could have some positive impact on a parent (yes, Stay at home dads too..) who is considering leaving the workforce to be with a child to carefully consider all angles... but for this individual, she should take it to AskMe, get some input, and maybe consider some therapy to get another perspective on her thinking (and I honestly mean that in the gentlest way possible, speaking as someone in therapy themselves).
posted by Debaser626 at 8:58 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


God forbid people think about their enormous choices and their possible repercussions!

Yes, people should think about their choices and repercussions. But until men and women are subject to equal expectations for career-family balance, it is unfair to end the conversation there.
posted by compartment at 8:58 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Has your husband ever considered quitting and staying home with your child, anastasiav?

I have a really great job with terrible benefits. He has a low paying job with a big company that offers gold-plated benefits. He continues to work mainly for the excellent health insurance, which is even more important now because it covers all my son's therapies, etc. at 100%.
posted by anastasiav at 8:59 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]


winna hence the "may".

There are a few marriages out here that don't treat disparate paychecks as disparate rights within the decisionmaking realm of the relationship.

Most of the rest of voting society in the United States doesn't appear to agree, see people who vote tax cuts for the 1% and corporations while nuking the social safety net and us serfs' rights and/or who vote for representatives who vote for tax cuts for the 1% and corporations while nuking the social safety net and us serfs' rights.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 9:00 AM on July 17


I think some background on the writers is needed. While this essay might say how isolated and out of touch they became, trapped with small children, it's not true.
Lisa Heffernan left Goldman Sachs as a VP in 1989, has written three books, and numerous freelance pieces besides starting their blog.
Harrington also had some big jobs and I doubt that she's unemployable. She told HuffPo that cutting back on work helped her have another kid earlier this year.
Maybe Arianna Huffington can weigh in on how hard it is to build a business based on not paying people?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:00 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Yes, people should think about their choices and repercussions. But until men and women are subject to equal expectations for career-family balance, it is unfair to end the conversation there.

I care way more about communicating with other women who have or who might end up having kids than I do about communicating with men.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:01 AM on July 17


you have a system that functions on bachelor-mode

and/or "has a full time wife at home" mode.


Yeah, I am not sure I agree: $AMERICAN_WORK still seems to require job execution over everything.

I was just in a meeting with a few other men (at least four of us have kids at home) and someone suggested with a straight face that we do a site visit in the afternoon, have dinner, and come home late. I flinched. What? Your family doesn't need you after 5:00? My boss gets me during the day, sure, but these salesguys never thought twice about expecting me to prioritize this deal over time with my children & wife!

You want me to drop those plans with my kids so I can wander the halls of some colocation facility and look at other people's server racks? And ride in a van to eat a hasty expense-account dinner with six guys? That's the night that my we all go help harvest at the town farm; another night we are going to a family party.

I know what's most important to me: my "at-will" job can fire me and I will go back to my family, but if my family kicked me out would my job be waiting there for me? Who will be around in my old age? Feh!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:01 AM on July 17 [17 favorites]


Yes, people should think about their choices and repercussions. But until men and women are subject to equal expectations for career-family balance, it is unfair to end the conversation there.

"Unfair"? Isn't it more the case that these are two slightly different discussions, in fact? I mean, it's fine to argue about how the world ought to be and how we might go about moving it in that direction, but ultimately arguing about how the world ought to be has no particular bearing on a decision I might make now with respect to how I will act in the world as it is.
posted by yoink at 9:02 AM on July 17


Like, I'd like to believe that the conversation ends when I stop talking, but it doesn't.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:02 AM on July 17


the young rope-rider: Very typical? Holy shit, that sounds insane, yet sadly not unbelievable. How is that not automatically a household expense?

My mom stayed home to take care of my sister and me until we were both going to school. My father is a small business owner so he often worked late hours, especially in the early days. I'm incredible grateful, but unfortunately don't have many memories of that time. My dad did quite a bit of the household chores while I was growing up though and that definitely had a positive impact. (Sometimes when he was away on business my mother would say, "That's odd, the floor is sticky. Oh right, dad is out of town.")

My wife and I just took a two week vacation with our 2 year old and holy shit were we ever exhausted and looking forward to the office by the end of it. We both took and enjoyed parental leave for a year (combined) with her and we will again with our second, but man kids are busy, demanding little people.
posted by ODiV at 9:02 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


We should note, quite often headlines are not written by the author. They're written by an editor who's thinking flashier, definitive headlines get more eyeballs than nuanced ones.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:02 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Greener grasses fade from where you wind up.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:03 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


dialethia - I don't have any empirical evidence, but I expect it would be more difficult for stay-at-home dads to return the work force, because a (male) employer would be likely to look at another man's choice to temporarily exit the work force in order to care for his children as a sign of weakness or lack of commitment, whereas it's more typical for a woman to make that choice. I have a friend who is a SAHD who says he struggles a lot with the perception that people think there must be something wrong with him for deciding to stay home (there isn't - he was a rocket scientist before his kids were born).

anastasiav - I hope you can reframe and come to believe that you are doing what you have to for the good of your family. These decisions are not always easy, and you shouldn't be so hard on yourself. I will refrain from harping on how universal health care would eliminate some of these issues.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:03 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Frankly, I wish more women who have children talked openly about their regrets about having children or about working while they had children or about not working while they have children. If women are not able to talk openly about any part of being a woman with children with a career or a woman with children without a career, there is a part of them that gets no understanding, no room to breathe, and the adults they love and rely on for support have no access to a dominant part of their inner lives.

If we haven't faced the same decisions--which many of us never will, either being women who won't have children or can't have children or being men or being independently wealthy or whatever--we can't know how the decisions are made and what effect the decisions really make if women don't honestly air their regrets about one or the other decision.

The very best thing my mother ever did for me was tell me honestly how ambivalent she was about having children. Especially in the context of our very strong relationship and her residual but very real grief over the baby that died more than 40 years ago. We need real stories and honesty about what's wrong about becoming a mother. Not slick things about smelly diapers, lack of sleep, and angst over screentime. Or misty things about the precious moments. Contrast Gwyenth Paltrow with Angelina Jolie--Scroll down.

That's sort of the point. Women make these decisions and live the rest of their lives in the wake of these decisions. But they open their mouths about what they did not like about how the decisions played out, and there's nothing but a line of people telling them they did it wrong. That her regrets about how her children value the work she did are her not raising her kids right. That her regrets about her industry passing her by are her not staying appropriately involved. That if she just just actually thought more about the decision she was making, she would have made the right one, instead of the one she did.

You know, maybe it was the right decision for her and her family and her marriage, considered carefully enough in the context, and she still regrets how it turned out. That's not because she did it wrong. That's because life is hard. And as noted above, it's easier to see what you did wrong than what you did right.

Especially since no-one is allowed to talk about how they made bad choices as a mother and a working woman.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:04 AM on July 17 [43 favorites]


This is a thought I see mothers struggle with all the time, but I rarely see fathers deal with it, or seriously consider it an option. Why would they? That pressure is not there for men. That example is not there for men. Their worth is not measured so heavily by their parenting choices.

Not to be all whataboutthemenz, but this is straight up wrong.

Almost every father I know would rather work part time for the same money and benefits than put in 50-60 hour weeks and never see the kids. Nearly every father I know feels intense pressure to be around and feels incredible guilt at not even having the luxury of a choice.

Hell, I felt that. My dad felt that. My grandfather felt that. I'm trying to think of a father I know who doesn't wish he had more time for the kids and less time for work. Fathers feel intense pressure to provide, and their worth is measured explicitly in that ability.

Work culture sucks all the way around. It sucks for women and it sucks for men. I don't think there is anything good that comes out of trying to compare who has it shittier, because it still shitty any way you cut it. Having kids involves a faustian choice of sacrificing your career/income or sacrificing your relationship, whatever gender you are.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:04 AM on July 17 [18 favorites]


My best friend, well, other than my wife, is currently struggling with the mother-decision problem. She has one child. When she took her full year maternity leave, a lot of people kept at her about going back to work to make sure she didn't turn into a stale worker with no recent experience and a shit resume. Her mother told her on the regular that she regretted not returning to work after she had her kids, and that SAHM is the worst thing ever.

Now she's back at her (well paid, good security, union) job and she's getting shit from different people about how her kid is being reared by strangers and that real moms stay home. Her husband, who I work alongside on occasion, tells me privately that even though her income is far more than they pay for daycare, he would rather she stayed home and raised their son like his mother raised him.

The way she puts it, is she gets to choose what group of people will lose respect for her. In conclusion fuck the kyriarchy.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:05 AM on July 17 [36 favorites]


Or maybe the argument was that if you want to be a stay-at-home mother, you shouldn't go to college. Like, you owe it to the world to use your brain. Someone else could have gotten that education in your place, and could be contributing to society.

That argument just strikes me as another version of devaluing the work of stay-at-home parents (with a side of "education is only valuable insofar as it is economically instrumental", which I also reject). My very educated mother chose to stay at home, and I saw her use her education every day -- not least to educate me and my sister.

I'd say there's a lot of responsibility incumbent on the parent who is going to the job that pays cash money to ensure that his/her kids understand that the only reason he/she does that is so that the other parent has money to do the actually important job of making everyone's life livable. That the parent who leaves home every day and comes back in the evening in order to get money is making a sacrifice of not participating in real day-to-day life in order to sustain real day-to-day life which is having a home and a family and meals and sliding around on the floor in your socks and stuff.

While I agree with a lot of the sentiment here, I don't think it's necessarily honest or a good message to say the only reason a parent works is to support the family, or that that outside work isn't real day-to-day life.
posted by aws17576 at 9:07 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


What does she think she should have done instead? As amanda points out, she probably didn't really have an opportunity to go part-time. Part-time is either non-existent or kind of a fiction in most professions. (For example, if you want to teach part-time, good luck getting your committee work and so on reduced to half.) Around here a lot of mothers do consulting, or "consulting" as a way of having some type of just, and that may have worked for her as someone with an MBA (or something like that) and a lot of experience. Or not.
posted by BibiRose at 9:07 AM on July 17


It does "suck for everybody" but it is much, much riskier for women. Hence the number of single mothers who live in poverty (like me, whee!)

I mean, if you think you're failing your kids by working full-time to provide them with a decent life, try working full-time and still being poor.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:07 AM on July 17 [20 favorites]


Ben Trismegistus flex - Just to make sure I don't argue a straw-man, I want to make sure I understand. Are you suggesting that a woman who considers herself a feminist should not stay home with her children even if she wants to, because such a choice would be anti-feminist?

I am suggesting no such thing. I am proudly feminist (as anyone who knows me knows quite well). I have a university education - which my husband does not. I am also a stay-at-home mother of a large family of young children who is mostly dependent on his one income. Staying at home was not a feminist choice. Having all these kids was not a feminist choice. I made those choices without entirely understanding the impact of them because I was young and inexperienced and - lots of reasons.

I would actually say that I became a feminist directly because of my motherhood. Once you are in that position it is hard not to realize how many unthinking ways simply being a woman impacts you in this society.

My choices to not use my education, not have a career, be dependent on my husband, have children, stay at home to care for them - these were not bad choices, but they were not feminist choices. Those choices have profoundly impacted the course of my life. Those individual choices impact my family (and my locality, and society in general) in the example I set.

I am still feminist. My choices do not diminish my feminism because I live my feminism in other ways. Every feminist will make not-feminist choices in her life. Every one of us. There is no "pure feminist" life in a patriarchy. We have to make not-feminist choices in order to get by. Sometimes we make not-feminist choices because making the feminist choice is not viable, or it is too exhausting, or we have thought about it and the feminist choice isn't going to work for us right now, or maybe we actively can't get past disliking the feminist choice. All good reasons.

The issue with choices is being thoughtful & self-aware. Why are you making that choice? What's your reasoning? What's the feminist choice? Why aren't you making that choice? Then you do it and get on with life. You're going to do that thousands of times in your life and you'll do the best you can in the environment you exist in.

Handwaving that any choice a woman makes "of her own volition" is feminist really ignores the structural inequalities of our society. It allows us to put it back on the individual's shoulders - and what's more, questioning the problems at all turn into "don't make these women feel bad about their choices!" No, no one should make me "feel bad" I had kids or stayed at home - that's pretty nasty.

But no one should be feeling bad anyway that I'm questioning why having children or staying at home is something primarily women do. Or that I question how much society actually values doing it, since we don't get support or pay for doing it, and we give up so much of our lives to do it. My asking those questions starts the improvement in all our lives - my life, her life, our children's lives, and throughout society as a whole.
posted by flex at 9:08 AM on July 17 [36 favorites]


I'm trying to think of a father I know who doesn't wish he had more time for the kids and less time for work.

* raises hand *

My job has pretty reasonable hours, though; 40-45 hrs. The balance is plenty of time w/ the kids, especially because I usually take them all weekend. By Sunday afternoon I'm ready for Monday morning.
posted by jpe at 9:17 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I cried last night thinking about how limited my choices are because of my children. I love them and can simultaneously regret and second-guess and mourn what I have up for them because running a household and raising children is an exhausting profession that self-destructs by it's very nature. I found some of her points jarringly close to how I feel late at night, struggling to stay awake to do something that is mine and knowing my choices had a cost that I have to live with. Sometimes I deeply resent my husband and children for benefiting from my unpaid and frequently unacknowledged labour. It's not entirely true or fair - my husband does a lot, my kids reward me in other ways, but at 3am, the thought of being paid for non-mom skills seems as distant and glorious as the moon.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:18 AM on July 17 [17 favorites]


Oh, and the fear of divorce. Sure you might get decent alimony/child support but chances are you'll be an involuntary single parent or suddenly reinventing your life and identity with an empty resume and an empty bank account. Divorce at the empty nest stage is like a silent creeping terror. It would be a nuclear bomb for me as a sort of SAHM and just a skirmish financially and socially for my husband.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:23 AM on July 17 [19 favorites]


Just want to say I really appreciate all the sharing here! I'm (sort of) nearing the end of my grad school time and (sort of) talking about marriage and offspring with my boyfriend, and am terrified at the thought of making a choice one way or the other regarding kids and working and job searches. It is incredibly helpful to hear all these perspectives.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:27 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


flex - Fair enough. Thank you for the thoughtful response.

My wife chose to stay home with our kids after our second child was born. She had been a working mother for five years since our first child was born. At the time our first child was born, I was at the tail end of an unsuccessful performing career, and my wife had the steady job with good benefits. After our first child was born, we decided (together) that we wanted to change things. I went back to school for a better, more lucrative career, in large part for the purpose of making more money so that my wife could make the choice to cut back on work or stop entirely in order to raise the kids. I graduated from law school about three weeks before our daughter was born.

After a lot of discussion between the two of us, my wife decided not to go back to work. She was a stay-at-home mom exclusively for about five years, and her commitment to family made a huge difference to us. Around the time our daughter entered kindergarten last year, my wife started embarking on a new part-time career (she is now a doula and childbirth educator), which she is doing partly because she loves it and partly because she can essentially choose her own schedule and continue to be there for the kids when they need her.

I recognize that, from the outside, we look like we're buying into the patriarchy and making anti-feminist choices. But that's not the way it looks to us. Yes, we recognize that we are benefiting significantly from centuries of "traditional" gender roles, not to mention the middle class privilege that has enabled us to support our family comfortably on one income. But at the same time, it was a decision that was reached equally after a ton of discussion. (Yes, we briefly considered me staying home, but that wasn't what either of us wanted - she was no longer enamored of her previous career, and I doubted my ability to be a good SAHD.) No, it's not perfect, but it works for us, and we consider ourselves very lucky to be in the position we are. Everyone's circumstances are different, and what is the right decision for us is not the right decision for everyone.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:32 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


The main thing I question about this article is the "all or nothing" binary choice. So, the author had a banking job that left her with little time, but the only alternative to that banking job was quitting altogether? There are serious a million jobs out there, especially for someone with advanced education and experience in a white-collar setting. I don't understand why a career change wasn't ever considered an option.
posted by Kurichina at 9:32 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


I made what seemed to be a good decision at the time, but now there's pretty much no way back in.

This is my biggest fear. I've always wanted to stay at home for a couple of years and then return to work, but I'm not sure if my career is going to survive a gap that long. And my current employer is willing to maybe consider options that will make it easier for me to both work and care for a child - I'm not sure what I can get, realistically speaking, but it's rare enough to get as far as "maybe." And I'm clinging to that maybe so hard.

If I could get a year's worth of leave knowing my job would be waiting for me, it would be an easy decision. But instead my choices are to return after three months (which is generous by US standards!) and hope I can deal with the exhaustion, or to drop out and hope I can deal with being potentially unemployable.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:34 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]


The job market is such that any kind of ding is really, really terrible. I don't think it's even an actual choice. Maybe it was a better choice years ago or something and people haven't caught up.

That said, honestly, it's not that bad to work when you have a kid. I really prefer it to staying at home, and I really like kids. The amount of parenting you actually do is small compared to the amount of boredom and killing time you do trying to keep yourself and your kid entertained.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:45 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


There are serious a million jobs out there, especially for someone with advanced education and experience in a white-collar setting.

This is heavily, heavily location dependent. Coming from the NWT I used to be much more unsympathetic to people in Eastern Canada for not getting jobs. "How hard could it be? Just apply everywhere!" Then I tried living there for a while after university.

If I could get a year's worth of leave knowing my job would be waiting for me, it would be an easy decision. But instead my choices are to return after three months (which is generous by US standards!) and hope I can deal with the exhaustion, or to drop out and hope I can deal with being potentially unemployable.

Man that's awful. My wife and I can each get a year off. We get up to a year total of Employment Insurance. I think that's typical for Canada. On top of that her employer provides 8 months of "top up" to make up most of the difference between EI and salary. The Federal Government as an employer offers a full year of "top up". Unfortunately from what I'm seeing North of the border it looks like things are getting worse rather than better in terms of unions and labour relations in the US.
posted by ODiV at 9:47 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Because most Realtors© are morons

Or more charitably, a not-anymore-qualified-than-you person with access to some websites working in the most popular "get rich quick with no skills scheme" where the customer is always the person selling the house, always the bank, always the inspector. The buyer is not their customer and therefore the buyer cannot trust the agent implicitly.
posted by aydeejones at 9:49 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I let go of the burning ambition I once held

This is only ever a good thing to happen to a person. Honestly.

(Stay at home dad reporting in here).
posted by colie at 10:02 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


The job market is such that any kind of ding is really, really terrible. I don't think it's even an actual choice. Maybe it was a better choice years ago or something and people haven't caught up.

TYRR: I think you are right. It seems to me that the job market is much more unforgiving since the Great Recession. I might be remembering wrong, but I think it was easier pre-recession to be able to re-enter the job market for whatever reason - childbearing, caring for a sick relative, re-training or what have you. There were more jobs to be had and so employers weren't so picky and exacting. Post-recession, "entry level" jobs require a few years' experience, and many times a true "entry level" job is an unpaid internship or volunteer gig.

So many people are unpleasantly surprised at how hard it is to find work if you are not the perfect candidate. Re-entry SAHMS suffer, but not just them. People over 50 do, as well as young people looking for their first jobs, and people with disabilities.

I don't think most stay-home parents are being willfully obtuse; I think TYRR is right, they just don't realize how unforgiving the job market is now - much more unforgiving than even 10 years ago. I think there needs to be a greater awareness of this, so that parents and other caregivers can make an informed choice.

It's so important for anyone who takes time out of the paid work market to have a "Plan D:" what to do in case of Divorce, Disability, or Death. Thankfully, I'm single and childless, so I've never had the illusion that a man was going to take care of me or that my calling in life was to care for my kids. But, looking around, divorce, at least, seems to be one of those things that one would be foolish not to anticipate and plan for - less an "if we get divorced" and more like "WHEN we eventually get divorced."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:18 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


My kids think I did nothing.

If true, then her kids are unthinking, ungrateful little ass-wipes. I hope they will eventually be ashamed of what passes for their thinking.

(That was my first reaction and I stand by it. Now I've read the article a little more closely, I find her nearly as unlikeable as her kids. Self pitying, self-absorbed, and snobbish ("My world narrowed") is no way to go through life. Doesn't surprise me a bit that she worked in the city.)
posted by IndigoJones at 10:33 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


It does indicate something wrong with a person that they could leave the banking industry and say 'my world narrowed.'
posted by colie at 10:38 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Oh boo fricking hoo.
posted by headnsouth at 10:41 AM on July 17


While I agree with a lot of the sentiment here, I don't think it's necessarily honest or a good message to say the only reason a parent works is to support the family, or that that outside work isn't real day-to-day life.

Yes, aws17576, totally. I'm sure its the place where I live (the DC area is chock-full of NGOs doing everything you can think of) but I know so many people doing jobs that actually make change in the world and make it a better place for their kids and grandkids to live. That's a pretty good reason to go to work, instead of be at home, frankly.
posted by bijou243 at 10:54 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I don't have kids, but I empathize with her feeling that she made a choice that is irrevocable: if she continued working after having her kids, she could always decide to stay home later, but the other way? Nope. I'm looking for work now after taking a few months off and sometimes the reaction from prospective employers is a little side-eyed, like what happened, what's wrong with you, you're an American and should be working 24/7 for the rest of your life and thanking us for the opportunity! And we're talking a few months! I can't even imagine trying to reenter the workforce after 10+ years.
posted by sfkiddo at 11:16 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that the job market is much more unforgiving since the Great Recession. I might be remembering wrong, but I think it was easier pre-recession to be able to re-enter the job market for whatever reason - childbearing, caring for a sick relative, re-training or what have you. There were more jobs to be had and so employers weren't so picky and exacting. Post-recession, "entry level" jobs require a few years' experience, and many times a true "entry level" job is an unpaid internship or volunteer gig.

So many people are unpleasantly surprised at how hard it is to find work if you are not the perfect candidate. Re-entry SAHMS suffer, but not just them. People over 50 do, as well as young people looking for their first jobs, and people with disabilities.

posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:18 PM on July 17


This is a great point, one that shouldn't be overlooked. We see things like this chart floating around tumblr and this FPP on unpaid internships and all of these FPPs on the economy and jobs. The cumulative effect of the problems in our economy has been, among other things, to make the consequences taking time off work just plain punitive.

While my recollection is a little different than Rosie's (the blue-collar side of the economy was taking a lot of lumps in the '80s and '90s as manufacturing moved overseas or became automated), there certainly didn't seem to be the pressure to be "perfect". And increasingly, "perfect" is defined as young, unburdened by familial obligations, able to move to any location at a moment's notice, and willing to be paid less so long as nebulous "opportunity" is dangled in front of them.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:24 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


she has found a way to make other women feel bad about their own life choices.

She is describing in honest language why she regrets her choices. If other women choose to interpret her personal account in a way that makes them feel less-than, that is a choice. I don't see her finger-waggling at the rest of us gals.

What I'm finding galling about some of the comments in this thread is the idea that the writer is supposed to wrap it all up nicely with a bow, package her experience in a way that doesn't make US feel uncomfortable, and also, while she's at it, provide actionable advice for other women to make better choices.

As ever, when women talk about their lived experiences, they are told they aren't doing it good enough.

I appreciated her putting into words, out in the public realm, thoughts that I've heard my women friends in similar circumstances tell me sotto voce only, lest they be overheard and judged.
posted by nacho fries at 12:16 PM on July 17 [35 favorites]


The most expensive decision of my life I made alone. Where does the Dad figure in to this choice?
My world narrowed.
I lowered my sights and lost confidence

I stayed at home for 6 months with my son; that's all we could afford. It was isolating, but that was before the Web and Metafilter; it wouldn't be so isolating now. The library had books and magazines, and I had time to read the paper most days, so my world wasn't so narrow.

It's a thoughtful article. I wish she was more appreciative of the options she had available to her. This Mom lost her confidence. She reflects our culture's lack of respect for parenting, women and children. I feel bad for her, but she sounds like she has a lot of options, and she'll be okay. Her regret is only possible because she had a choice.

The US is going in exactly the wrong direction on parenting leave. A lot of women take short maternity leave because otherwise, they'll lose their (underpaid) jobs. A lot of those low-wage jobs have crappy hours, so women have to create a precarious patchwork of childcare, then spend their time picking up the kids, dropping them off, and finding time to do laundry, shopping, cooking, housework in between. A lot of women are parenting by themselves, juggling all this while being scorned for not staying home with their kids, for not volunteering at the school.
posted by theora55 at 12:42 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Ben Trismegistus: It's not that simple. Yes, she has the right to express whatever she likes. But young mothers today are inundated with messages about how they're Getting It Wrong. I've seen it over and over with my wife and friends. Even if you feel totally confident in your own decisions, it's hard not to get worn down by all the negative Mommybloggery out there telling you how you should and shouldn't be doing things.

Yes, it is that simple. It is truly that simple. It is called reality. We have problems that explode out of control because there are people who take offense when problems are brought up in the first place.

You have problems with someone telling the world they are drowning? Too bad. Imagine what they are going through. Grow up and face things. People want everyone else to lie and spin and make things seem they are functional when they are not.

I refuse to lie, downplay, or appease anyone because they can't face the truth.

Deal with it before it deals with you...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:01 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


Nobody in our home really reads any mommyblogs that often but the few times I come across one I can't shake the feeling (as with certain Pinterest Boards about crafting/sewing/epic cupcakes for toddlers) that there is some aspiration/performance shit going on that skirts perilously close to the same kind as those vile "thinspiration" boards.

Although it would require her to run her own business, I'm fairly certain my wife's skillset would enable her to earn at least as much (if not way, waaaaay more) than me, and I'm a mid-career IT professional with good prospects/credentials/etc. We make good money and are fortunate that only one of us has to work.

We've had the conversation regarding who is the at-home provider and who is the not-at-home provider --this is relevant because we both came from very conservative backgrounds (staunch Mormon) where women are generally expected to eschew careers of any kind for the Greater Call of Motherhood*-- nevertheless we've had the conversation numerous times and I've seriously recommended switching it up. I would be utterly thrilled to be a SAHD and let my honey do the moneymaking...only it turns out she also loves being a SAHM and doesn't really want to give it up. So we continue as usual, ever grateful for the fact that we can even discuss these options at all, as so many of our friends and neighbors can't.

Consequently we both make certain that our two youngins really get and understand that Mom's job is just as important and integral to the family welfare as Dad's job is, and ALSO ALSO that Kids' Jobs --primarily education but also chores-- play an increasing role in this each year. A family is a team, and we all pitch in and we all have equally important jobs to do and nobody's work or accomplishments gets ignored. This is both easy and difficult to do, depending on the day.

Mrs. Creature, naturally, does have days when she'll declare "Ok I am now ready to get a day job and spend my waking hours with adults" and likewise there are times when I, usually on long weekends or extended staycations where I think to myself "sweet fancy moses I can't wait for Monday morning to come"

Also, the most successful businesscritter I personally know (currently CIO at a mid-sized company) has often said "I can't do this job alone. I am successful at work precisely because of the support my wife provides. This is a team effort and this is her job as much as it is mine." That strategy has worked well for him and I have often seen him re-schedule meetings because it's too late and he needs to be home with the family.

Then again, especially here in Utah, too often I see the complete opposite opinion and it's disheartening to say the least. My brother is currently at home with his daughter, because his wife makes vastly better money than he can (he's still in school) and you would not believe** the kind of shit he gets from my parents for that decision. Turns out he's a pretty kickass stay-at-home parent and in fact it may be his true calling in life. His wife clearly enjoys outside-of-home work way more then he ever has.

The popular narrative of American Work is shifting, and I believe it will continue to progress (perhaps glacially) toward better outcomes.


*which is complete bullshit, natch
**ok you probably would

posted by Doleful Creature at 2:17 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


I hope people who appreciate stay at home mothers put their money where their mouth is. Retirement accounts, disability insurance, significant income above and beyond household expenses, money set aside for job training should she decide to leave.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:29 PM on July 17 [13 favorites]


"Running a household is serious business"

No, no it's not. It's repetitive administrivia -- some people like it, and thrive on it. Folks from Emma Goldman to Angela Davis and beyond have written about the trouble with housework -- the main problem being that so many people are forced to do it when they cannot see any value in it other than "it has to be done."

Yes, IF we paid homemakers a decent wage, and materially rewarded expertise, I can see there being a percentage in it (figuratively as well as literally).

But if you haven't had to do it day in, day out for more than 5 years, don't try to argue that ladies should feel fulfilled if they get the blessed opportunity to do laundry, cleaning, cooking, and write checks to pay bills. Especially if they have to do it all on the money that someone else makes and brings into the household -- that is demeaning as hell.

It's bullshit.
posted by allthinky at 3:51 PM on July 17 [16 favorites]


Well, now I feel like a terrible mother after reading this thread because apparently I'm the only one who was thrilled to be back at work after 6 weeks. Although it looks like I'm not alone in finding home more stressful than work.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:21 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Well, now I feel like a terrible mother after reading this thread because apparently I'm the only one who was thrilled to be back at work after 6 weeks.

When I had a baby I worked in CT and they have a 16 week leave for the state, and I was encouraged to take all 16 weeks because 'you can always come back early'.

LOL; try telling that to people: 'I hated it. I went back eight weeks early. Despite my c-section.'

When I went back to work, people were saying things like it's okay if I wanted to go to the bathroom and cry for a while. Someone brought me flowers. Inside, I was DANCING.

So no -- you're not alone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:47 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


I don't think the poster who called running a household serious business meant that homemakers should just be content with whatever fulfillment it brings. They seemed to be saying that the work is hard and should be appreciated, which it is and it should. The idea that looking after a house and family is uniquely demeaning seems to me to ignore the reality that there are millions of people out there scrubbing toilets, chopping onions, engaging in endless, meaningless correspondence -- only they're doing it for meager compensation and for the benefit of total strangers. When does that kind of work have value? Never? When it's paid? When no one is around to do it? I concede that lots of people will feel more fulfilled by doing any kind of work outside the home, but it seems to me that this conversation always has a really weird slant, being dominated as it is by people who do, or at least envision themselves doing, interesting, fulfilling, useful work for an appropriate reward.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:47 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


No, no it's not. It's repetitive administrivia

So's a lot of her unrealized career in banking. And also bullshit. Better paid, but arguably less respectable.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:14 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Work required for the support of life, esp. when it is smelly and/or never done (as in, "a woman's work is...") should be shared by all those who benefit from it, and are capable of it.

Nobody's arguing that "the business world" is more inherently rewarding, but extrinsically, salary, fringe benefits, promotions, and even the chance to make lateral moves offer a range of rewards that housework cannot have.
posted by allthinky at 5:47 PM on July 17


Running a household is serious business
No, no it's not. It's repetitive administrivia


It's not so repetitive. It's more like "never a dull moment", especially when you might be called upon to replace a broken thermostat, prune a hedge, remove drowned rodents from the pool, entertain business acquaintances, be on call at all times if your special needs child decides to run off from school or threaten to blow up the world, repair the vertical blinds that said child decided to pull off their rails, make sure the house is presentable at all times in case people decide to stop by, take the cars to get their scheduled maintenance, remember that cars actually need to have scheduled maintenance and you can't just drive them for a year without them dying, pay the bills on time, make sure all the homework is finished properly, plan, shop for, and cook meals that everyone in the household will find at least tolerable, make sure the laundry is always done, make sure the dry cleaning is picked up and dropped off, make sure the garbage is out for pickup before you go to bed, figure out why the ice maker in the refrigerator isn't working, exercise so that you don't get too fat, buy and maintain clothing that rises to the level of middle-class respectability, read up on the latest sex tips in Cosmo so your husband doesn't get bored, plan playdates and summer camps and therapy and doctor and dentist appointments, navigate the relationships between teachers, school administrators, and district-level special-needs coordinators, make sure the IEP is up to date, take time out to defend your usefulness on Metafilter.

Specialization is for insects^W people who have a job outside the home.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:46 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


And, you know, yeah, first-world problems. I don't have to figure out how to get water and firewood without getting shot. But it's still not exactly mindless.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:49 PM on July 17


It's not mindless but it's also very very endless. On a busy day, it feels like when I waitressed as a teen. A very busy shift would end, and I'd be surprised how fast it went by because you are just endlessly doing lots of small things and juggling an overview of all the tasks needed, which is mentally consuming. Like playing civilization with your body involved, but also with a constant monitoring to jump into crisis mode. I think that's where the satisfaction of DIY projects comes in - you get something done. When I didn't work, I would repaint the house or plant a garden or build (crappy) furniture. I had to make something that existed outside of the day to day. I think that's one of the reasons SAHMs do so much volunteer work - it's flexible around your family priorities but you get to accomplish something and recognised.

I hope people who appreciate stay at home mothers put their money where their mouth is. Retirement accounts, disability insurance, significant income above and beyond household expenses, money set aside for job training should she decide to leave. - the young rope rider

This, a thousand times. Sure, you get paid in satisfaction and spiritual glory etc. But having an actual recognition that has money in it is SO MUCH BETTER.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:58 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Well, now I feel like a terrible mother after reading this thread because apparently I'm the only one who was thrilled to be back at work after 6 weeks. Although it looks like I'm not alone in finding home more stressful than work.

I hate staying at home. I actually work with kids, but it's better when you get paid and appreciated and some time away from your particular kid, IMO.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:44 PM on July 17


Well, and for all the mother is the backbone of society (and daycare can't be socialized in any way of course), if you're a stay at home mother you don't qualify for Social Security Disability. The government certainly does not consider it a job. It's fucked. Retirement? Only if you're married to the same guy for 10 years.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:45 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


It's so important for anyone who takes time out of the paid work market to have a "Plan D:" what to do in case of Divorce, Disability, or Death.

HEAR, HEAR. I remember one period of time where every single SAHM I knew was in peril because of her marriage breaking up or things being rocky with the husband. Honestly, it scares the shit out of me any time a woman decides to stay home. Like my ex-cousin-in-law who was married to my jerk cousin and decided she wanted to stay home. Let me tell you, he is NOT a guy I would trust to take care of me if I were her. And seeing that she's my ex-CIL, I was right on that. Even folks I know who are happily married/in love have had rocky times. I still remember the day one friend called up and said they were getting a divorce, but since she hadn't had a job in 10 years, her only option was to move in with her first ex-husband. Thankfully, they got back together, but still, it's terrifying. Even if you're happy and schmoopy, someone can get hurt or sick at any damn time.

I know it's incorrect to think it, but I wouldn't advise anyone to stay home with the kids no matter how badly they wanted to. Or at the very least they have to be doing some damn thing they can put on a resume so it looks like they are still working. Once you go down that hole, these days you just can't choose to get back out again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:45 PM on July 17 [8 favorites]


I think the structural devaluation of domestic labor in patriarchal capitalist cultures could be mitigated, if not eliminated, by abolishing the 40-hour work week.

Hear me out.

In the contemporary world, unspecialized labor is often categorized as unskilled labor which by and large is less well-remunerated than specialized labor.

Many aspects of homemaking--child-rearing, food preparation, domestic budgeting, cleaning--are devalued both because they are primarily done by women in a patriarchal society and because they do not require extensive training or education.

By itself, fairly remunerating such skills will not bring about the social and cultural change needed to more fairly value such labor, nor will shifting homemaking activities to men. For example, fairly remunerated daycare often encourages people to quit their jobs and do the daycare themselves.

Upthread someone noted that the work system is the problem and I couldn't agree more. The instant that the 40-hour work week is no longer the cultural norm (no longer legal) and people are able to earn enough by working 20-30 hours per week (regardless if they are raising children or not) is the moment that much of this handwringing becomes unnecessary.

Couples and singles would be better able to strike a balance between making their homes and pursuing their careers.

Of course, some people would decide to hold two jobs, etc. and (overwhelmingly in a patriarchal culture) women would yet again be encouraged to specialize as unremunerated domestic laborers…

I still think redefining full-time employment as 20 hours per week would ameliorate structural sexism (among a thousand other things).
posted by mistersquid at 11:43 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


mistersquid: Many aspects of homemaking--child-rearing, food preparation, domestic budgeting, cleaning--are devalued ...

…until you do them for someone else, at which point they become Just Another Job (e.g., nanny, line cook, cleaning lady), for which you are paid a wage.

I want to know: why do we so sharply devalue the people we know and love?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:57 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


…until you do them for someone else, at which point they become Just Another Job (e.g., nanny, line cook, cleaning lady)

Not that those are particularly high cultural prestige jobs (until, of course, the "cook" job becomes a "chef" job). In fact, I'd say that it's a lot easier to find cultural idealization of that work when it's done by "Moms" than when it's done by hirees.
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Before I was an at-home parent I was a scientist. I spent three or four intellectually stimulating hours a day reading papers, processing data, discussing research with colleagues, planning future experiments. I spent maybe eight hours a day somewhat on autopilot, running experiments. Pipetting things, turning on instruments, culturing cells, whatever.

Now I spend a chunk of every day doing stimulating things with my kids, and a chunk of every day doing the laundry, making the sandwiches, changing the diapers. It's not that different.

I'm honestly kind of bewildered by the assumption I see in so many conversations about this issue that educated women should be bored out of their skulls staying at home. From my perspective the level of repetitive minutiae involved is roughly the same.
posted by gerstle at 1:59 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


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