When scrolling through various women’s forums, where career women chat with stay-at-home Moms, many of these Moms shared their stories of regret. While they didn’t regret raising their children, they did regret their estrangement from the larger world. These women felt that although they had initially made the right choice, over time, the significance of their decision also had an unexpected consequence–they began to feel out of the loop, spectators of life, rather than participants.
Here is a list of their top 10 regrets:
- Letting their gender down.
It took a generation of women to develop equal rights for women in society. The goal of the Women’s Movement was not to militate against men, but to secure the freedom of self-expression.
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan jolted middle-class American women during the turbulent 60s to reexamine their roles as housewives and mothers. Based on her own experiences, Friedan spoke in great depth about the many ways women experienced frustration, repression, and depression about their limited roles in life.
In her book, Friedan poses the following provocative question:
“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”
She also outlined, the discrimination faced by women who flew out of their gilded cages:
“In almost every professional field, in business and in the arts and sciences, women are still treated as second-class citizens. It would be a great service to tell girls who plan to work in society to expect this subtle, uncomfortable discrimination–tell them not to be quiet, and hope it will go away, but fight it. A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex, but neither should she “adjust” to prejudice and discrimination”
Since the 60s many women have changed the way they live in the world, with many women leading countries and major corporations, making invaluable contributions to humanity through science, and pushing for a more cooperative and peaceful world through thought leadership.
- Shortchanging their education.
Stay-at-home Moms either regretted not completing high school or going on to college but not using their bachelor’s degree. Some who had been teachers longed for a master of science in education, but felt that they had taken too long to make a decision.
- Failing to impress their children.
Children whose friends had career mothers were not impressed by their own mother’s devotion to cleaning, cooking, volunteering, and driving them around to their extracurricular activities. Children knew what jobs looked like and they thought their mothers didn’t have one.
- Living in a limited world.
Although women were not isolated in the strict sense of the word, but mingled with other women, they felt estranged from the larger events of the world. Their world narrowed to their children and other women like them who had focused on becoming housewives and mothers.
- Volunteering offered only temporary relief.
In order to cope with the boredom of staying at home while their children were at school and their husbands at work, many women chose to volunteer for worthy causes. Although the flurry of activities was meaningful and the work provided a sense of contributing to the social good, at the end of the day, they returned to a sense of feeling fulfilled.
- Experiencing more negative emotions.
The negativity women experienced was subtle but uncomfortable. With no pressing agendas to fulfill, these Moms often regretted the past, worried about the future, and experienced mild depression over not living more purposefully. They also experienced guilt over watching too much television or surfing Yahoo Answers for answers to life’s questions.
- Feeling unequal to their partners.
While husbands did not necessarily treat their wives as inferior, they also found it difficult to talk about their work at home. Women, in turn, did not feel they could contribute much to the conversations and they also regretted having to ask for money to meet simple needs.
- Feeling behind the times.
Work often forces people to learn and adapt, use technology, and become proficient in many ways. Neither housekeeping nor child raising requires complex skill sets. With no challenge, women often found themselves bewildered by the latest changes in technology, lifestyle, and paradigm shifts.
- Loss of self-confidence.
Since housecleaning, meal preparation, shopping, and driving are not confidence-boosting chores, and over time, women began to feel inferior to their working counterparts.
- Insufficient motivation.
While the world of media, education, and opportunity was always open to stay-at-home Moms, there was no sense of urgency to do more, learn more, or be more.
There is nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home Mom, especially when children are little and need care and feeding; however, when they are older and attending school, it’s difficult for many Moms to feel that they are playing an indispensable role in their young lives. At a certain point, the urge for greater self-expression also demands to be heard. While there are no easy solutions, what is clear is that the problem of feeling estranged from the fullness of life has to be addressed.
Were you a stay at home mom? Did you experience any of these regrets? What tips do you have for new stay at home moms who may be feeling them now? Share in the comments!