Dear 31-year-old self I used to be, circa 1997,

You are about to have your first baby, and you’re planning
to be a full-time, at-home mom, just like June Freaking Cleaver, minus the
heels.  I want you to know you are doing
the right thing.  That baby and the one
you will have a few years later will benefit greatly from your dedicated care
and attention.  You will see their first
steps, you will hear their first words, you will comfort them when they hurt
and cheer them when they triumph.  You
will guide them, nurture them, and love them into the marvelous people they
will be in 10 years.

And you’re lucky to be able to do that.  Not everyone can.  There’s financial pressure and social
pressure that sends mothers back to work, sometimes a matter of a few short
weeks after birth.  You will be 100% with
the kids for several years, and you will find a flexible part-time job you
enjoy once they are in school.  The best
of all worlds, right? 

I’ve got to tell you, though, you are making a huge
sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice will hurt more than others.  The other day, for example, I was trolling
job boards in my field, just to keep an eye on the state of the market.  And there I found a job I wanted.  A job that would entail working on projects
that dovetail with my interests and stretching the skills I’ve developed in my
part-time work.  A job that requires
someone with exactly my qualifications. 
A job I can’t get, because it’s full time and I have an
almost-10-year-old and a six-year-old who need me most afternoons.  So I’m feeling the pain right now.

See, once you have kids, your life will cease to be about
you and become about them.  You won’t
regret having them.  Not at all.  But you will think wistfully about those
prime personal and professional development years that you gave over to
somebody else.  You will wonder where you
would be if you’d spent that decade as just you instead of as somebody’s wife and mother.  You will wish that you could split into two
separate people so that you could take that job without putting your kids into
after-school care every single day.

Sure, you can go back to full-time careering once the kids
are grown, but by then it is too late to reach your full potential.  You will have lost too many years to diapers,
school plays, and chauffeur duty.  Will
you mind?  Will you still feel a sense of
loss, or will the pride and accomplishment of having raised your kids well
suffice?

I’ll let you know.

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29 thoughts on “

  1. I hear you. But then, this makes me wish employers could read your blog and see the fabulous employees they’re *not* getting because of the time demand required of full time employees.

  2. Heh.  You definitely need a wife.  If I could only find some way to start a business called “Wives for Sale”! You could get that job you want, while the wife stays home and does all those motherly things that you’d do.  What?  Sounds like a nanny? Nah. It’s a totally new and different idea, I tells ya!
    But seriously, I agree with neuroticfitchmom.  I think that this is something that women don’t really think about–I’ve seen it with the daughter of my boss.  Whenever Baby’s sick, she takes off work to take care of her (or my boss does–it’s gotten me quite a bit more $$$, but still…).  I’m not sure of their financial situation, but if she could at least stay home until Baby’s in kindergarten, things wouldn’t be so stressed.  But what do I know?  Just because I believe in the old school ways doesn’t mean that would work for everyone. Also, I’m single with no kids–my advice doesn’t really count for all that much.
    Great entry!

  3. Well, I for one think you got the sweet end of that lolly.  I mean yes, there may be a few career things that you may have to pass on for a period of time, but what you got in return is worth far more.  I envy you having the choice, and while yes there are some things that you may have taken a pass on, you got to choose what you wanted to do.  Kids being one of them.  By the way I’ve met your kids… and the world needs more like ’em.  You made the right choice!

  4. It’s true and something women have struggled with for some decades.  Many forestalled pregnancy until later years, only to find they wish they’d done it sooner.  Others, doing it younger, wish they’d waited.  Being a man, it’s admittedly hard for me to speak with any authority on it but I empathize with the dilemma.

  5. My sister is a writer who freelanced when he kids were young and now is back to work making over $90,000 a year so maybe you are not past your prime. maybe you are just gaining outside experience.

  6. March does this to us, you know! So, recognize first the seasonality of this thing. And I’m sure you do. But I’m troubled by the “full potential” line at the end. Having children and husband who, quote “Rise up and call you blessed”, (to borrow something I read somewhere), is not going to be topped by anything the economy can offer. But I respect the dilemma it poses for women, my daughter will have to work out an answer to this too.

  7. RYC: I should’ve put a notice at the top of that entry stating that I didn’t read the article because the idea angried up my blood. So I’m basically talking out of my ass, because I haven’t read it yet. (Several minutes later)So it appears that both pro-choice and pro-lifers are screwed. Liberals who claim they’re okay with homosexuals won’t feel so okay when they may have a swishy baby, and those who are pro choice are faced with a dilemma of committing the sin of abortion, or knowingly having a gay baby (if treatment can’t be done in utero). You’d think that this wouldn’t be such a big deal in this day and age, but….

  8. Sorry to be hogging all the comments, but I do have to wonder why this is a dilemma for women? Is it simply because it is expected that we (the collective “we”) are to be the primary caregivers? If this is the case, why the guilt? Do men have this same guilt, or does their guilt stem from not being a good enough material provider?

  9. Not to be  redundant… but…. if you hadn’t moved 2500 miles away from your mother, you’d have someone to help you in the afternoons if you wanted a full time job.  Ok Ok,  I promise not to bring this up again.  Well, maybe I will, who knows.

  10. Dear (mumble mumble) year old wife,Thank you for the choices you’ve made, and for the commitment and perseverance that you display every day. Nobody could do it better than you.Love,Your Geek.

  11. What a great letter.  These are the things I’ve been thinking/worrying about lately.  I’m due in 18 days; I’ve planned to be a stay at home mommy; I worry there won’t be a job for me when I’m ready to go back; I worry I’ll have to go back before I’m ready.

  12. I was a stay at home mom until my youngest headed off to school. I wondered the same thing back then, but now my children are grown and on their own. I’m very proud of them and of me for sacrificing so I could stay home. They’ve been adults for many years now and I have been working on my career for the past 15 years. But as hard as I’ve worked to build my career, boom, I got laid off in January and now finding myself searching for a new job. So has I’ve been hitting the pavement I have time to reflect on my career as a stay at home mom and a career woman. Nothing is more rewarding than the years I got to stay home with my children. Those were the best career years of my life and looking back at my children’s lives I achieved significance which is much more rewarding than just success. I am blessed! You and my daughter are as well!Thanks for visiting!

  13. i was pondering this exact thing yesterday.  boy is grown.  i stayed at home.  after he left we started a business (made a profit!) that we have since decided to close so i can concentrate on the next stage.  i can tell you this:  you will have pangs of what have i done?!, but if you can calm yourself, you willl then realize that you can now do something that you have always wanted to do…and the amazing thing about that is it’s one more thing that not many have the opportunity to do.power on…

  14. As much as I dislike being told that I can always go back to doing x when my kids are grown, I hope it won’t be too late to reach my full potential. 
    I wonder if my pre-child self would listen to me now.

  15. RYC: Thanks for stopping in. To answer your question: It means something to me not to react in a way that makes me feel bad about myself afterwards. So I am try to grow spiritually with my reactions to the wrongs others may do to me. You see God dosent treat us as we deserve because of his love for us. I want that kind of character. Take care…

  16. My kids are now 20, 18, and 16—I stayed home, even homeschooled for several years—and am grateful that I spent that time with them.  You are the foundation—you’re building the future—what you do as their mom will matter for generations to come.  Motherhood itself is a pretty remarkable career!  Your children are lucky to have YOU when they need you.  

  17. Very interesting! I guess it is a good thing I didn’t know what I wanted for a career. I also didn’t suffer empty nest as most women who have raised children do.
    Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment.

  18. Dear 31-year old & present day T.R.,
    You are one lucky woman. I would give my left knee to be able to stay home with my kids &/or work at a felixible yet fulfilling part-time job, but for me, in this town, it is very near impossible. I’m still working on it though. Feel pride in what you’ve been able to accomplish with your children and your work, and don’t give up on being able to reach your full career potential. It’s a different world out there now, and the clock does not tick as fast as it once did. Have fun!
    Yours,
    Shah.

  19. Poignant.  You might think I cannot relate, and you’d be right, but I sure get what you’re saying.
    I’m reminded of an old Sally Forth cartoon.  Sally’s thinking about leaving work early to take care of her kid who has the sniffles, and says to her coworker friend that she’s just living up to the “Mother of the Month” award just bestowed on her (points to a certificate on the wall next to her desk).  Then Sally remembers that she’s also up for “Employee of the Month” and asks her friend if she thinks leaving work early will mess up her chances.  “Nobody’s ever won both awards,” says her friends.
    I know that’s not what you’re talking about, but I was reminded of the cartoon, anyway. 🙂

  20. went back to read some of your previous posts – thanks for sharing the bittersweet joy of staying home with your girls. It sounds like you are one of those “fun” moms… (-: Look forward to having time to go back and read/watch some of your previous posts!

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