As a writer, I read a lot of various pieces written by people from all over the world. I recently read a piece entitled “9 Reasons Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom” by Lisa Endlich Heffernan. While I can certainly appreciate the value in our freedom of speech as Americans, I am also a mom…of seven children. I am a military spouse as well, which means when my husband is gone for work the odds are 7:1 in our house. After our move this summer, we will have relocated our family 11 times. I home schooled our children for 8 years and then enrolled them in public school. Three months later I started my own virtual assisting company from the ground up. With only the help of my dear friend Amanda, about $150 worth of “for Dummies” books, and the internet, I taught myself everything I needed to get started. I mention these things not to be boastful, but to prove a simple point. As the saying goes, “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.” Simply put, it can be done.
After the children went off to school, I found myself in the opposite position as Ms. Heffernan. I stayed home with my children because I knew in my heart my job first and foremost was to be a mother. We did without lots of times because money was tight with me not working, but the investment in my children and their lives was well worth it. Children cannot raise themselves, nor do I believe they should be raised by strangers. Instilling core beliefs, discipline, and the basis for a strong education is a parent’s responsibility; it is their duty to their children and to the rest of this world who will eventually have to interact with their children on a daily basis.
In her opening paragraph, Ms. Heffernan states how she failed to “…calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects” when she made the “…most expensive decision of my life..” to leave her job and stay home to raise her sons. Is this really what we have come to as a society; where diminished earnings and job prospects trump the impact a mother’s love and attention has on the raising of her own flesh and blood?
She goes on to discuss how, when she made her “most expensive mistake” she didn’t consider “…What is the price, both in this year’s dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce, and is it a decision that I might regret a decade or two from now?” I find this baffling. Who thinks about that stuff when you are faced with three beautiful, healthy sons who are depending on you to show them how to grow up to be strong, independent, contributing members of society? How can one’s life time earnings or the state of this year’s dollar come close to the importance of being a mother? Money comes and money goes, but you only get one chance to raise a child.
One of the saddest statements, in my opinion, is when Ms. Heffernan states that she “…did not stay home because I believed they needed me or that the nanny I had hired could not do a great job.” At this point in the article I literally had to stop and take a few deep breaths. She didn’t believe her own children needed her? Whom else would a child need the most in their lives? It’s certainly not a stranger who comes in and takes care of the physical care-taking tasks but could not come close to giving those boys the love and closeness…the bonding experience that only a mother could give. I feel Ms. Heffernan may be selling herself short on this one. Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t realize how much better her boys are for her choice to stay home with them. Of course I can’t begin to assume how they would have turned out had she gone back to work and they had been raised by a nanny. Women do this every single day with perfectly wonderful nannies and their children turn out just fine. It may do her some good to take a moment and ask her boys how they felt growing up knowing their mother sacrificed a job she loved and was very successful at to stay home and raise them; to see them take their first steps or say their first words and not have to come home from work to find out she had missed them. I bet their answers would surprise her. I bet you they valued having their mother home with them more than they would have valued her being at work. She gave them an extraordinary gift that they can cherish for a life-time…a gift not so many children these days have an opportunity to receive.
The article goes on to read, “I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees.” She also mentions later in the article how she felt she had become outdated. Now this I can relate to as well. While in the midst of raising a house full of toddlers, pregnant with the next one, I remember having a conversation with my mom about how I felt my college education was being wasted. The simple truth was I wasn’t using my Exercise Science degree to raise kids. My mother told me this: “Education is never wasted. At least you finished college and got your degree. You will always have that, should you need it to fall back on one day.” Sure enough years later I am able to use my degree to help others live healthier lives. My degree even helped me understand my daughter’s congenital heart defect more clearly. Maybe it would have been a good idea for Ms. Heffernan to keep up with the changes in her career so when the day came for her to go back to work she would be ready to go. She could have stayed in touch with old work contacts or even taught herself how to use the computer and developed a LinkedIn account to keep her “foot in the door” so to speak. Again, it was her choice not to make any effort to stay current in her field.
Ms. Heffernan says, “My kids think I did nothing.” Let me tell you something. When my kids start taking me for granted, acting like I do nothing, I just don’t make dinner. I don’t do their laundry or pack their lunches or clean the house. It only takes a few days of that for them to realize exactly what I do. Just because I don’t get a paycheck doesn’t mean I don’t work.
My favorite part is when she says, “I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work.” What? Sucked in to volunteer work? Does she know what the word “volunteer” means? Last time I checked there was no such thing as “mandatory volunteer work”. She needs to learn the magic word “no.” Problem solved!
In the next part of the article, Ms Heffernan says she worried more; that being around her children so much gave her the chance to focus on them on a “granular” level. What does that even mean? You’re telling me it is more worrisome to have your children around you all day than to have a stranger taking care of them while you are a 30 minute drive away? I’m sorry but I disagree. I would much rather have my children within my sight and in my care than not. There are just too many stories about babies suffocating because their caretaker put them down for their nap improperly or inadvertently left them in the car when they went grocery shopping. We’re not even going to talk about how many children die ever year from shaken baby syndrome. I just don’t understand how she can worry more about her children when she’s right there with them.
“I slipped into a more traditional marriage.” She says this like it’s a vat of poison. She says “…in every way my husband sees me as his equal…” but wait, they’re not equal. He can’t carry a child to term and then give birth to it. He can’t nurse and soothe a crying baby. Mothers and fathers are not equal. They were not meant to be equal. Mothers are good at some things, fathers at others. There is meant to be a balance; a complimenting if you will of each other, but it’s definitely not equal. Sometimes it’s 60/40 other days it’s 90/10. The important thing is not remaining equal, it’s making sure that at the end of the day it all adds up to 100 percent.
Motherhood is oftentimes looked upon as a weakness. Those of us who are mothers know differently. In this particular article, I got the sense that the writer felt resentful for the choices she made. The worldly qualities of being a successful businesswoman seemed to far outweigh the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom. The word “value” seems to relate not to time spent with the boys but to a dollar amount or the lifetime earnings lost. She didn’t consider how much money it would cost her to stay home and raise her children, and this is referred to as “my most expensive mistake.” I beg to differ. Ms. Heffernan’s most expensive mistake was admitting to her boys that she regrets giving up the money and prestige that her “technologically cutting-edge” Wall Street job brought with it to stay home and raise them. Becoming outdated or losing sight of her dreams is just as much a choice as staying current in her field or surrounding herself with people who encouraged and inspired her. Everything in life comes down to the choices that are made. My hope is that the Lisa Endlich Heffernan’s of the world stop and take a moment to truly appreciate the gift they have been given as a stay-at-home mother. “Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.” –Lin Yutang