“Regret for the things we did can do can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” – Sydney J. Harris
Being a SAHM is a lot like being a patriot in the Revolutionary War. We don’t do it for the pay, we don’t do it for the recognition. You can't even really call it a profession. We do it because something inside of us tells us it’s the only way it should be for us. We commit to it with our whole hearts, devote every waking hour to it, and tirelessly work to build something bigger, more beautiful, and longer-lasting than ourselves. It's called being altruistic. And it's a life-changer.
With this kind of dedication, love, and tears going into our families, I think we would all agree that if we could do it well, and do it right, the first time, we would. Regret is so insanely difficult to live with. And when it comes to something as important as raising your children, I sincerely want to help every SAHM avoid regrets.
Following is a list of regrets SAHMs could likely have after their days at home are done, if they don’t pay attention along the way.
1. Regret stuffing your personality and your passion in a drawer to take care of your children. So many of us nurturing care-taker types do this almost instinctively. “Put myself away so I can be there for everyone else,” we tell ourselves. But deep inside a hateful resentment or a pious martyr takes hold. Do we really have to lose ourselves to be attentive to those we love? I say no. I say that we can be silly, creative, compassionate, intelligent, and curious at home, and still raise children and love our husbands well. I don’t think it’s us or them. I think it’s all of us together.
Avoid this regret by: Infusing your personality into your home, how you mother, and what you do with your free time. Hang one of your paintings on the wall. Use your sense of humor to teach your kids life lessons. Read books that make you think, or at least never want to put down. Write in your journal or to a pen pal. Take a plate of food to an elderly neighbor. Find ways to use your gifts while you’re home. Hey, if you are smart enough to find this blog post, you are certainly smart enough to figure this one out.
2. Regret neglecting your husband. As much attention as children need when they are young, it’s never a good idea to throw your marriage under the bus. Children grow up. They move out. That’s what is supposed to happen. And favoring the kids over your husband is simply short-sighted. The long-game here is for you and your husband to grow old together, to raise your children together, and live side-by-side. God bless the kids, but you and your husband are the architects of the family, and if the two of you aren’t on the same page, the whole thing will come down.
Avoid this regret by: Staying connected with him. Having regular date nights, even if it’s on the patio or in front of the fireplace or even on the couch watching a movie you rented from YouTube. Having short little meetings with your husband at night when the kids go to bed to coordinate schedules, pay bills, or figure out what to do about the toddler refusing to take naps anymore. Also, think of little ways to be sweet to your husband and let him know that you think he’s one hot man that you adore.
3. Regret spending too much time on housework instead of really being with the kids. This one is hard to forgive yourself for, because SAHMs are home because they want to be with their kids. But how many times have we put off reading a book, or playing in the sandbox, or pretending with our kids to get dinner ready or do dishes or fold that millionth load of laundry. (I’m guilty, I’ll admit it.) Any woman with grown children will tell you, if she has any sense, that she would give anything for one afternoon with her kids when they were young. When they were under her care and needed her still.
Avoid this regret by: Reading a sweet little poem or looking at a picture or telling yourself that your children are only young for such a short time, and it’s up to you to invest time with them now. If you’re a major Type-A, I suggest you plan this unstructured play time with your kids on your calendar. Google calendar has an alert feature that will even email you or pop up on your computer screen to remind you. Whatever it is you have to do to be relaxed and playful with your kids, do it. It’ll be worth it down the road (for the both of you).
4. Regret that you didn’t take good care of yourself. At the end of the hands-on, daily mothering season of life, many women look at themselves in the mirror and wonder what happened. They are tired-looking, overweight, have health issues, and probably have bad posture. We rarely look at ourselves, much less actively take care of ourselves, when we’re so busy taking care of our families. I get it. But if caring for others is coming at the price of your physical health, your emotional well-being, your spiritual connection, or your mental health, then something is out of balance. And honestly, hasn’t even been a good model of care taking anyway.
Avoid this regret by: Treating yourself with kindness and respect. Including your children in exercise or meal planning. Getting up a little earlier to go for a walk or workout in the basement – even if it’s for 12 minutes daily. Try to connect with a good friend once in a while that is encouraging or makes you laugh. Imagining what you look look like, feel like, and think like 10 years if you continue on the chocolate-binging, stressed-out, lonely person you are today. That's motivation right there.
5. Regret ignoring your dreams for the sake of your family. Let me explain this one. I want every SAHM reading this to be excited and committed to being home, yet I also want her to be clever enough to find ways to fan the flames of her dreams all along the way. Dreams aren’t meant for drawers or under rugs. They are meant to be shared and reached for, and to transform us. And that includes you.
I don’t ever remember reading anywhere that there is some sort of rule that says you can’t pursue your dreams and still be a deliriously happy Stay at Home Mom.
Avoid this regret by: For me, this means writing to you when my kids are in bed at night. It also means journaling before I go to bed, and drawing house plans on Sundays when I dream about building a Craftsman style home someday. It’s teaching my kids to love reading (because I most certainly do), and because I wanted to be a teacher when I was young. For you, it might be reading every possible book you can get your hands on about Benjamin Franklin, or watching Tim Ferriss on CreativeLIVE today because you want to learn how to hack the writing process. With technology and the point in history that we live in, it is absolutely possible to pursue your dreams while you are still home raising your kids.
Rarely do we stop and consider at the beginning what we could regret in the end. The Stay at Home Mom gig is long-term and so taking a moment to survey the long-range picture is super smart and helpful. There are so many good things about being a Stay at Home Mom, and I hope that reading this list of regrets gives you greater resolve to really own your personality and passions, be sweet to your husband, really be there with your children, take good care of yourself, and continue to pursue your dreams. All while you are home. It's doable. Especially for you.
What do you think about regret as a Stay at Home Mom? Do you see yourself avoiding these regrets altogether? Do you see any of these regrets slowing beginning to build up in SAHMs you know? I’d love to hear your ideas for being proud of your time at home in the comments below.
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