It is a fantastic debate...withdraw from the paid workforce for family care giving or opt-out of the playground years to provide for the family. Katy Read's recent article, "Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom" (salon.com) re-sparked the debate of stay-at-home vs work-in-the-world. So what will it be?...play ground or pay cheque?
Mothers are generally, historically and stereotypically the main caregivers in a household. As such, Ms. Read opted-out of full-time work to care for her children. However, after 14 years of stay-at-home-dom (during which time she did work as a part-time freelance writer), she regrets her decision; feeling a financial crunch and hitting her career glass ceiling.
This article hits home to me because I, too, have struggled with that same debate of whether to stay-at-home or work-in-the-world. We (and I say we because this was a joint decision by my DH and myself) finally decided that it was best for our growing family that I stay-home after my 2nd child was born. And I will freely admit - I have regrets.
I have regretted taking my kids to amusement parks because the crowds were crazy.
I have regretted hosting play dates which caused more clean-up than fun.
I have regretted driving in snowstorms to kids' Karate classes.
But I have never, ever, regretted opting-in to the playground years.
It is a privilege to have the option to stay-at-home. An option many parents do not have. And I think Ms. Read misses this. It's difficult to read the grumbles of someone who was able to enjoy the playground years and successfully work part time. I know a few Moms & Dads who would give their right arms (and a bit of their left too) to have the option to have more time for family...without a minute of regret.
One doesn't commit career suicide because one exercises the option to stay-home. And alternatively, one is not a bad parent if they chose to return to full time, in-house, employment if they love their job.
I don't believe there is a clear solution to the great debate as to whether to stay home or not. However, I do know there should be no self-pity in parenthood. One should never lament "what if" but simply conclude "what now".