My son turned 8 months recently. Eight months and I’ve been missing him desperately during my work weeks. Not only just missing him, but feeling like I’ve been missing out on him.
I was home during the day when my daughter was his age and I remember appreciating each and every day with her as she discovered new things. However, at the time, I also had this longing feeling inside of me. Feeling like I needed to be more than a mommy. I was really worried that by the time she started school, I would no longer be relevant in my career field. I felt like I was missing out then too. Not on her, but on me.
As moms, I think we have it so tough. I always wonder, either way – working mom or SAHM – do we miss out on something?
I think the answer is complicated and filled with feelings of guilt from both sides of the mommy world fence. Often it’s an internal struggle within ourselves that comes out during deep conversations around coffee and wine.
I hear a lot of SAHMs say they wouldn’t change things for the world, that they love being home with their kids. I don’t doubt that for a second. What I do doubt is when those kids are older, and off to school, do they wonder what they will have left for them? Do they wonder who they will be when their kids don’t need them as much? I certainly did.
The same goes for working moms who love to work. They are probably professionally pretty fulfilled. But I know it’s hard for them. I cried when I left both my kids to go back to work. Even my VP, who LOVES to work, once told me that she calculated exactly how much time her kids were spending with her versus the nanny. The outcome of that exercise wasn’t good and created a lot of mommy guilt. (I have since done this. I don’t recommend it unless you want to cry yourself to sleep.)
In talking with friends, we all struggle with the same issues. We would love to stay home fulltime with our children if we could be independently wealthy and somehow maintain a sense of self without getting lost in the everyday mom life (I do see the irony here).
As women, we have been told for decades now that we can have it all. But can we really? Much of the time, I think this is a lie we have been told that makes it impossible for us to feel fulfilled in life no matter which path you pick. And I realize in some cases, it may not always be exactly your choice. I know some moms have to work to make things work financially and some moms have to stay home for the same reason.
It’s possibly why the “mommy wars” have been such an issue in recent years. Each side blaming the other because we can’t actually have it all, which leads to each side having some issues with fulfillment, regret, guilt and longing.
Therein lies the problem. Fulfillment often leads to confidence in life and in actions while regret often brings guilt along for the ride.
So, what if we throw away the idea of having it all? Maybe it isn’t about having it all either way. Maybe it is about realizing that you can’t have it all and coming to terms with that idea. Knowing that if you work, you will miss out on some things with your children. And knowing if you decide to stay at home you will miss out on somethings for yourself.
Either way, I believe having confidence in the choice leads to the least regret and the most happiness. Just as any other choice in life, embracing the decision will allow you to live more fully, whatever pathway you go.
Author Henry David Thoreau is famously quoted as saying, “Go boldly in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
I love that quote, but he was an unmarried, childless man living in the 1800s. Let’s be realistic. I believe it won’t always be the life we have imagined. We all have our days and there will always be something to miss if you decide to be a working mom or a SAHM. But, if you can travel your pathway of choice boldly and with confidence, you will probably walk down that roadway a little lighter, with less regret and a lot happier than you could if you are always worried about missing out.