Ten Terrifying Things About Going Back to Work and Why You Should Not Be Scared

Lisa writes: For some time now I have been obsessing about going back to work. I have ruminated on my misgivings about being a stay-at-home mom to anyone who will listen and then spilled my guts on national television. While I have been spouting off, a number of my friends have been listening, sending out resumes and have actually returned to the working world. All were excited, none were without trepidations. They were good enough to share their thoughts with me because they are very kind people, have all been thrilled with the transition back to the workplace and they hope to kick me into action.

Grant Central Station, New York City

1. Time

While the demands of a SAHM are many and, at times, overwhelming, there is the opportunity to set some of one’s own priorities and schedule. Back to work and someone else is the boss, your time is in their hands and your schedule is not longer your own. The trade-off between time and money is rarely perfect in our lives and at no time is that clearer than when returning to work. But here is the cold hard truth, nobody juggles better than a mom, so while it may be daunting at first to cede your calendar to your new boss, moms have got the skills to make it work.

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Six Ways a Stay-at-Home Mom Can Remain Connected to the Job Market

Lisa writes: There are many things I could have foreseen about my life, but what I never could have imagined was that I would be one of the one in three moms  who opts out of the workforce after their children are born. I am a cliché, the stay-at-home mom who moved to the suburbs and, facing a second or third child, becomes overwhelmed and chooses to stay home. According to research, I was a classic opt-out, a woman who had never before imagined herself outside the workforce but found that the long hours and inflexible schedule left her feeling overworked, overwhelmed and devoid of options.

I became a stay-at-home mom with itchy feet, happy to be with my adorable sons, but highly cognizant that there was someplace else I wanted to be. I drive 22,000 miles a year without leaving my home turf in Westchester County, New York and, before long, I felt like I was not going anywhere literally or metaphorically.

Stay at home mom can keep a pilot light under her career

When Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie asked me what I should have done differently my answer was simple. I should have left a pilot light on under my professional life. As a stay-at-home mom, I should have nurtured a flame, no matter how small, that could later be fueled into a fire. I should have realized that my profession could not be my children’s lives.

It sounded good, I thought, but what does it really mean. Leaving the workplace for some period of time was not my mistake and, as I tried to point out, I have never met a parent of either gender who regrets time spent with their children. My mistake was not failing to stay in the job market, but rather failing to stay in touch with the job market. Walking away entirely, that I regret.

Life affords few do overs, but were I to be granted one, here is how I would have nurtured my dormant career. Here is what any parent who wants/needs to stay home with their kids can do to keep a toe in the water, without drowning.

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Stay-at-Home Mom With Rebuttals and Regrets

Lisa writes: After pondering for 17 years my decision to be a stay-at-home mom, I put my thoughts on paper.  At no point did it occur to me that I would not work outside our home or that one decade or even nearly two would pass before I returned to the workplace.  But days turned into months, months into years and suddenly nursery school applications became college applications and I would be hard pressed to say where the time went.

I was asked if this post was hard to write.  It was hard to face, but easy to write.

HuffPost Parents put up “I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom” and the Today show and Fox and Friends asked me to come speak about it.  The thrilling part was the hundreds, now thousands, of comments that have been generated by readers reflecting on their own experiences.

Today SHow, Stay-at-Home Mom, Regrets staying at home

Since posting my confession, women, and a few men, have told us how much it has meant to them to hear these thoughts laid out publicly. Then, and this has to be the very best part of the internet, they have shared their stories and their lives with us.

We have heard from women on maternity leave and women nearing retirement. Some have been mothers reflecting, as I have done, but many have been young moms with infants and toddlers who have the question of returning to work still swirling in their minds. Below we share their voices.

Readers wrote articulate, thoughtful rebuttal posts, and we have gathered them here or they can be found above under the tab “Discussion: Stay-at-Home Mom.

Lest this look like a love fest, a few comments were venomous, as readers suggested I should not have had kids.  A few were a bit touchy, suggesting I just needed to grow up.  And many vehemently disagreed with me, with one particularly astute writer (mom of five, physician, and thought leader) offering up what she felt were more important family issues that should focused upon.  I have tried to reflect their voices as well.

Rather than describing what some incredibly articulate women have said, I offer up their heartfelt insights…

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Nine Reasons I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom

 

Lisa writes: The most expensive decision of my life I made alone.  There was no realtor, no car dealer and no travel agent when I chose to leave the paid workforce and become a stay at home mom.  There was just me looking at my husband, my children (those inside and outside the womb) and the chaos that was our lives. At no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects.  I looked at the year we were in and the following year, and I bolted.  No part of my brain sat itself down and thought, what is the price both in both this year’s dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce and is it a decision that a decade or two from now I might regret?  At no point did I examine the non-monetary cost which would loom just as large. At the time it seemed forgone, two demanding careers, two small children and another on the way, two adult lives hopelessly out of control.

One day I was working on the massive trading floor of a London bank, the next I was on the floor of my children’s playroom.  And while it meant I would forgo a paycheck, not once did I think, at age 33, of what the job market would look like for me in years hence and therein lies my most expensive mistake.

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The Mommy War Within

Lisa writes: Many young women are engaged in something characterized by the media as the mommy wars.  In this “war,” women who have continued to work full-time while having children look down at their stay-at-home counterparts for backing away from the workforce. In return, those women who are caring for their children full-time, denigrate the parenting of women who have combined work outside the home with motherhood.

I don’t believe that women are at war with each other, but rather that any hint of a clash sells copy.  If there is a conflict, it is inside each of us, not between us.  The only mommy war I waged was with myself.

mommy wars, sahm, working mom

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