One 50-something mom, blogger and author posted a lament recently on the Huffington Post, listing nine reasons she regretted living her life as a stay-at-home mother. The youngest of her three sons is entering his senior year of high school.
In an interview from her Westchester home, Lisa Endlich Heffernan discussed the reaction she received to her post, "Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom." The comment she relishes for succinctly summing up her point is this: "When I look at how amazing my kids are, I do not have regrets. When I look at my career and passions, I have only regrets."
Among the 800 comments she received were three broad reactions.
"One of the big surprises was from young women," Heffernan said. "I had a rush of comments from women on maternity leave or just back saying, 'Every day I wrestle with myself, whether this was the right decision or not.'"
They are grateful. They told Heffernan they might have anticipated one or two regrets she disclosed, but not the full nine. "My world narrowed," was one. And another: "I used my driver's license far more than my degrees," including an MBA from MIT.
Other comments came from stay-home moms in their 40s and 50s who praised Heffernan's courage for speaking up. They felt the same way.
And then, she said, "There was the hate mail" from stay-home moms who felt criticized. To them, she responds, "I do not presume to speak for one other woman on this planet." The essay was purely personal.
But of course, we are living a moment in history when these "personal" questions have been dragged into the public square for a full examination. Heffernan, who blogs at GrownAndFlown.com, believes that's because baby boomers were mostly raised by moms who stayed home or held "women's" jobs instead of managing high-stress careers. So, the change is unsettling. Also, the Internet lets us converse with thousands — instead of two or three friends, who probably thought the same way we did, as in years past.
Work-family debates also likely draw so many defensive, injured voices because they affect a much larger group today. For economic reasons, having a parent at home is no longer an option for most middle-class families.
But even as the temperature of the debate mounts, so does the importance of holding it right out loud. Heffernan's openness does a service for younger people weighing their choices.
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