Mom Regret

Lately I’ve been stewing. I keep returning to the same pointless, irrational line of thinking: “I wasted 3 years of my life struggling, stressing, and straining to work part-time when all I really wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom.”

I know some people, especially those thoroughly invested in the corporate world, hear my stay-at-home mom career goal and think, “Oh, she’s lazy. She just wants to hang out at home all day.” Let me attempt to stifle my laughter. I’m sorry… I can’t.

Being a stay-at-home parent isn’t glamorous, easy, lucrative, or even widely valued. People assume that there’s endless spare time and immeasurable ass-sitting. They think about their days off and assume that must be the stay-at-home parent’s life. Maybe that’s the case for some mythical stay-at-home parents but I know no such existence.

This week, when the neighbor girl I drive home from school each day asked me how my day went, I said, “It was pretty good. Your standard day of a stay-at-home mom; both shoulders were smeared with someone else’s snot by 9:30am.” And that’s my life. Pick-ups and drop-offs, meal planning and playdate arranging, errand running and snack making, school calendar tending and social calendar pruning. I wipe butts and feed faces. I tame emotional swirls and referee skirmishes. I kiss boo-boos and read books. I balance activity time with learning time, with quality time with quiet time. I’m a chauffeur, hairstylist, counselor, nutritionist, human facial tissue, and 24-hour wet nurse but don’t get paid a dime.

But do you know what? I love it.

Even on my worst days — the ones when my throat is scratchy from yelling, my clothes are a petri dish of bodily fluids, my dark circles have dark circles, my mom guilt is raging — I still love it. “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life,” they say. I work… I work my ass off, but I cherish the opportunity and would never trade it.

Instead, I look back at the years I worked part-time, out of both financial necessity and fear of change, and I lament the stress, the loss of time, the things — imagined and real — that I missed. Still, not only can I not undo the past, I shouldn’t. My life and myself are the way they are now because of all I learned, did, and experienced then.

I grew from those struggles. I met some wonderful people. I developed a greater appreciation for the ability to be a stay-at-home mom instead of standing with a foot in both the stay-at-home and corporate world, not truly belonging to either.

My children got quality time with their grandparents and great-aunt because I worked part-time and relied on them to care for my children. My husband, who also provided childcare while I worked, became adept at caring for our children on his own and developed a profound awareness of the demands of being a stay-at-home parent.

I wouldn’t trade those things. I wouldn’t change them. So why am I lamenting something I wouldn’t undo?

Because I’m a mom. And that’s what we do. Even when we give all that we can, we strive to give more. So much so that we delve into our past — one thing we can never change — to examine how we could have given more… how we failed. What a waste of energy and mental function!

I need to take a cue from Elsa and “Let it go!”

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