9 reasons why I have no regrets about being a stay-at-home mother

My four children holding hands

Lisa Endlich Heffernan, a British banker, airs her regrets about the years she spent at home with her children.

Because of her regrets, she’s trying to warn young women not to give up their careers for their children. If I’ve learned anything at all from 25+ years as a mother, it’s that there are a lot of different ways to successfully mother children. Therefore, in the interests of presenting the other side to young women, and following the structure that Enlich Heffernan used, I offer my 9 reasons why I have no regrets about giving up medical practice to stay home with my four children.*

I stood on the shoulders of the women who came before me. Although I entered medicine at a time when there were few women doctors and scientists, I was not one of the first. I never questioned my ability to handle college, medical school, internship and residency because other women had done it before me. And although I am grateful that they paved the way for me, I don’t for a moment think that they did it because of me or my generation. They became doctors and scientists because they deeply, fiercely wanted to practice medicine or engage in scientific research. They were willing to make sacrifices that I was not prepared to make (no marriage, no children). My generation wanted something more: they set out to have the careers of their dreams WITHOUT having to sacrifice the rest of their lives. In other words, they set out to be just like professional men.

I did not do this to inspire future generations. I did it because that’s what I wanted. And the fact that I and other women refused to compromise in the ways that the first women doctors and scientists were forced to compromise sets a new standard for professional women.

I used my driver’s license far less than my degrees, but I used it a lot. Yes, I spent years driving my children around. Lots of years doing lots of driving. But I discovered an amazing phenomenon: Children believe that when their mother is driving a car, she cannot hear. Therefore, I learned a great deal by listening to my children talk to their friends about the events of the day, the squabbles at school, and the worries of my children and their friends.

I used my degrees nearly every day and in every way during the years I stayed at home. In the first place, I never stopped being a doctor. I worked at night until my oldest was 8 years old and was home during the day. Even when I stopped practicing obstetrics, I always worked as a writer, both for pay and for my own enjoyment.

Second, I, with my husband, was my children’s first teacher. My education prepared me to give them knowledge and experiences that I had not had. My years as a professional gave me confidence to advocate vociferously for my two children with special needs and I think it made a tremendous difference for both of them. It’s not that I was more committed to their success than any other mother; it’s simply that I had a great deal of experience in how “the system” works and knew how to navigate it.

Third, it’s really convenient for a mother to be a doctor. I was able to diagnose ear infections with my otoscope, chest infections with my stethoscope and to tell the difference between mild and serious illness based on my clinical experience.

My kids think I did nothing. Erdich Heffernan complains that her kids think she did nothing. My kids think I did nothing, too, but not because I stayed home. They were also distinctly unimpressed with their father, even though he worked long hours at a prestigious job.

When my oldest was in the 3rd grade he came home with the results of his standardized tests and we discussed them while his 1st grade brother was present. The 3rd grader had done very well. The 1st grader asked me if I had taken those tests when I was in school and whether I did well.

“Yes, I did do well,” I replied, “but Daddy was an even better student than I was. In fact, when we graduated from college, Daddy was one of the top students in our class.”

My son was shocked.

“Really?” he inquired. “Our Daddy?”

Children, even children who have grown to adulthood, don’t see their parents as people. They see them as parents. It’s the nature of the job. If you think your fancy credentials and long hours of hard work are going to impress your children, you are doomed to be very disappointed.”

My world opened up. The author of the HuffPo piece claims that her world narrowed on leaving the work force. Mine opened up. I finally had time for something else besides practicing medicine. I was able to keep up with current events. I did graduate work in medical ethics. I read — voraciously, and still do.

I did a mountain of volunteer work. It was good for me, good for my children (setting an example for them) and good for my community.

I did not worry more. I am a Jewish mother; I could not worry more if I tried. If anything, I worried less, because I was there to supervise and observe. I spent time in my children’s classrooms, went on field trips and hosted playdates. I always knew what was going on.

My marriage remained exactly the same. Actually it got better, because I had more time for myself and more time for my husband. When I was working, he came after the kids and work and frankly, I was so exhausted I didn’t have much time for him. When I stopped working we had more time simply to be together and that was good for us.

My marriage never changed because I was no longer making as much money as I had earned before.

When my daughter was small, she asked me if I felt bad that Daddy made all the money and I had none.

I gently corrected her. “Daddy makes all the money, but it’s all MY money!”

“How does that work?”, she enquired.

I told her.

“If you marry the right guy, who believes that marriage is a partnership, not a business deal, it works just like that.”

I did not become outdated. If anything I am more up to date on the scientific literature than I ever was when I was practicing. Sure, I couldn’t go back to practicing obstetrics without a period of honing my surgical skills, but I could go back if I wanted (though I have no intention of doing so).

I never lowered my sights and I never lost confidence. Why should I? I have lived my life on my own terms, making the decisions that were best for me and my family without regard for what others thought I should do.

I have no regrets about being a stay-at-home mother. That doesn’t mean that it is the right choice for every woman and her family. As for advising younger women, I would say that the right choice is the one that works for you.

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

 

*It goes without saying that having the option to stay home with children is the result of  privilege. That’s a topic for another discussion.

  • Katie

    I found a great company that focuses on living a natural and healthy lifestyle. While being able to earn an income staying home with your kids. Take a look at http://sob.momsprovide.com

  • http://paleocrush.com/ paleocrush

    Excellent post. I share your sentiments. I love spending time with my
    daughter, reading, playing, taking walks, going to parks. I do not, for
    one moment, regret leaving medicine for being a mom. Although I have
    less time now because I cook everyday and I would never let anyone else
    do my laundry (a daily thing) or clean the house (once a week) – that’s
    the perfectionist in me.
    Yes, it is a luxury and I am lucky – just like you – to have a loving husband who makes it all possible. I worked from home for the first 2 yrs after our daughter was born but it was detracting too much from our time together.

  • Guest

    Excellent post. I share your sentiments. I love spending time with my daughter, reading, playing, taking walks, going to parks. I do not, for one moment, regret leaving medicine for being a mom. Although I have less time now because I cook everyday and I would never let anyone else do my laundry (a daily thing) or clean the house (one a week) – that’s the perfectionist in me.
    Yes, it is a luxury and I am lucky – just like you – to have a loving husband who makes it all possible. I worked from home for the first 2 yrs after our daughter was born but it was detracting too much from our time together.

  • Anonymous

    You should only be a stay home part-time because everyone needs there own money. I never care for stay home mothers. I love being a working mothers who has her own money. If you husbands leave you and you do not have any money to support you children, you are in trouble. Plus, working mothers are better than stay home mothers. People do not have a choice but to to work. It gives me something to do.

  • Em

    What a great post! I would really have liked to know the woman who wrote it.

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  • toute_suite

    This article has SO MUCH win.
    Thank you.

  • RN who has seen too much

    I would argue, that you weren’t “really” a stay at home mother in the sense of the word that the author was speaking of. You kept abreast of recent developments in your field, worked some of the time at night, and some of the time writing regarding your field. You never really “left” work, you just changed the way in which you worked. I say this with great respect, as I am doing something similar by working nights as a labor and delivery RN. However, my kids ARE impressed with what I’ve done. I just finished nursing school, and got my dream job in the obstetric field. My kids watched me follow my dream and work hard in school to accomplish it. I find that very valuable, even if I wasn’t “working” or “staying at home” during nursing school. I think the author is talking about many stay at home moms that I know from playgroups, and the library and such. Those who have completely left their fields of study, who have lost their skill sets, who are financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands for their self worth. I see a lot of people like this. I find them to be generally happy in the place they are at this moment, with small children and a happy marriage….I do wonder what would happen if something happened to their husband, or what they are going to do when their children are grown. If i had a daughter, I would not encourage her to be a stay at home mom.

  • Lisa Murakami

    LOVED THIS! Read it and loved it even more when I saw who wrote it. You do have a typo in the second to last sentence “As fors”

  • Jennifer

    Thank you! So refreshing to hear a balanced view on the trade-offs between working in a profession you love and working “at home” with the people you love. As I consider making the decision to leave a great job, I find this very inspiring.

  • hannah

    I love you! This post has just put a lot of things into perspective for me. I was feeling quite low and pessimistic about my future but now I see things differently. My ‘career’ is not going to run away, its there if I still want it but there is a time for everything. God bless you x

  • Rebecca

    Terrific post. I’m inspired by your words, and I am not even a SAHM. How we interact with our children, and how we teach them about the world, is so strongly influenced by where we have been in our own lives. I am certain your kids have a wealth of knowledge and life skills that are drawn from your years of training and work as a doctor.

  • visibility

    Dr. Tuteur,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m also an MD (not an ob, but another surgical subspecialty), and I’ve often wondered about whether I will continue on in medicine after I have children. I have none yet, but I am hoping for someday!

    The thought of being a stay-at-home mom with passionate outside interests, like you, sounds very appealing to me. I would love to continue in a strictly teaching capacity if possible. But if I didn’t have so much in student loans it would be a much easier decision.

    When I interviewed for medical school, one of my interviewers (a male) asked me if I intended working full time and I told him I did. He then said “That’s good, because when taxpayers are paying for your education, you let them down when you work part time.” I knew he was wrong then – highly educated women raising healthy, excellent citizens sounds like a fabulous use of that tax payer money – but sometimes I will admit his words give me pause and some guilt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Have you ever thought about going back in a strictly teaching capacity – staffing resident clinics, leading journal clubs, etc?

    Keep fighting the good fight – for what it’s worth, you have the support of this doctor 100%.

    • Dr Kitty

      I, personally, think that you have an obligation to USE your medical education for the benefit of others.

      That doesn’t mean you have to use it 9-5 Mon-Fri at work, but you DO need to put it to use.

      If that means being the club doctor for your kid’s Sports team, or giving educational talks at local schools or community centres, or tutoring high school students who want to go into medicine- I don’t think it matters, but you have to do something with that knowledge.

      I do think you have to put the knowledge you worked so hard to gain, and that society as a whole paid so much for to good work.

      You got that spot in medical school and someone else missed out- don’t ever forget that. You owe it to them to make that mean something. Because if they could have been a great doctor, and aren’t because you took that spot and you never use that degree- it’s a shame.

      • Lisa Murakami

        I disagree with this response, to an extent. It’s true that tax dollars subsidize everybody’s medical education, which is a unique situation. But nobody starting grad school has a crystal ball. At that point, you may not even know whether you’ll ever marry, let alone whether you’re fertile. To say nothing of how hard it is to know whether you’ll really want to stay home with your children until you actually have them and you have half a clue what it entails. Or how much you’ll love or hate your ultimate position in the ever-changing field of medicine.

        Take someone in law school on a merit scholarship. Not tax payer dollars but still a spot that someone else missed out on. Regardless, that law student earned the spot fair and square and male OR female it’s not fair to make them decide at that point “Oh I can’t go to law school because I think I might want to stay home with my children.”

        I agree that the ideal is to continue to use your education to some public benefit somehow, especially in the altruistic and publicly subsidized field of medicine. Still, if that ends up only possible to a marginal extent, I see no injustice. Subsidized or unsubsidized, nobody taking out today’s medical school loans and putting themselves through the insane amount of work and lost life and time with family and friends would ever do so without a good faith belief that they had good cause.

        • Nicole

          That’s a false comparison to a law degree. An MD degree and a spot in a medical residency program are scare resources, controlled by a guild-like governing body — totally unlike your example of a JD or even an MBA where there are far more people with the degrees and training than there are jobs for them. The employment data show there’s hardly a societal need for more lawyers at this time, and one can certainly run a business without an MBA. The cold hard reality is it’s actually the exact opposite in the case of doctors. Someone takes two spots and doesn’t practice, we all lose. Look around – there’s a doctor shortage, particularly in the subspecialties. Due to the doctor shortage, we make too many patients see a PA or a nurse practitioner (or heaven forbid a homebirth midwife) instead of an MD. Sure, sometimes the patient fares well, other times not so much. I’d prefer to see a well-trained MD, thank you.

          The truth is, it takes at least 8 years to replace every internal medicine doctor (longer for specialists) who stops practicing medicine, for whatever reason (that’s 1 year for the MCAT and application process, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of residency – at a minimum). Clearly, we need to train more doctors, break up the guild’s tight control of medical education, and give more MDs the option to work flexibly rather than not at all. Maybe we need to encourage the type of woman who could never see herself hiring a nanny or putting a kid in daycare to train as an RN instead of an MD.

          How nice that we can all “support the choice” of professional women who “choose their choice” to leave the paid workforce. But let’s not kid ourselves – once they choose to take a spot, their choices don’t suddenly exist in a magical vacuum. There’s something special about being a doctor. yes, sometimes our choices hurt other people and deny them opportunities in a concrete, measurable way.

          • Lisa Murakami

            I’m not going to disagree with any of that, but why are you accepting that the burden should be on women to choose whether to stay home before they even know if they’re capable of bearing children? The solution(s) IMO, is/are the rest of what you list above, but not that. I don’t personally know any female who trained in medicine and then stayed home full-time, permanently – maybe that’s because the burden of the calling becomes clear to people who start down that track, and most women who are inclined to stay home (for awhile) *do* sense that about themselves even as they’re fresh out of college – I don’t really know. But I do know lots of mom physicians who work part-time. By your argument above, we should be half as angry at them as we should be at those who have “opted out” entirely. They’re only fulfilling half of the debt they now “owe” to society. Not to mention the fact that it is difficult to maintain medical expertise if you only practice part-time (this is what I’m told by other physicians, anyway).

          • Lisa Murakami

            By the way, I don’t think we’re that far apart here. My posting ends with noting that those who undertake a medical education, considering the debt they will have, must have a good faith belief that they’re going to take it “all the way.” I’m assuming that’s why it’s rare to opt out entirely as a physician, even though myself and my closest two law school friends – both of whom graduated top 5%- have all done so in the legal field. I just don’t think we need to shame the few and far between female physicians who do make that choice. Maybe they’re going to go back eventually. Maybe they contribute in other ways like Dr. Tuteur – or like my husband, he worked Saturdays at a free clinic during medical school. I don’t think the burden of the doctor shortage falls on those women. And again, I’d be interested your take on the part-timers. Was their education a societal loss? Because every two of them would equal one complete opt-out. 50% isn’t much, especially if it affects your competency (*if*).

          • Lisa Murakami

            One other thing (sorry): I studied Heath Care Law in law school, and my understanding is that the use of PA’s and NP’s is due more to increasing efforts at cost control – and increasing ACGME medical residency hours regulations – than it is to a doctor shortage.

          • Nicole

            The burden to think thorough the consequences of one’s choice should be on anyone with enough privilege to make the choice. Since this post is about ex-MD SAHMs, we’re talking about women here, hence in marriages where women fail to negotiate with their spouse they do seem to disproportionately bear the burden. It’s all about examining one’s privilege as Dr. Amy mentioned. I said nothing of women who truly don’t know can/if they’ll have or adopt or foster kids someday – I don’t expect women to be psychic – however, there are women who are already certain ex ante that they 1) will be mothers by some means and 2) cannot fathom nor stomach using daycare or a nanny. They would do us all a favor if they chose a degree other than taking two spots as an MD and then resident. That’s the core subset of privileged women I’m talking about.

            Unlike you, I personally know 12 women who trained in medicine and are staying home full-time, seemingly permanently (or at least until their hubby’s divorce/death/disability whether they realize it or not). They all trained in internal medicine, peds, psychiatry and are married to male surgeons and anesthesiologists who make more money than they do because they have prioritized their husband’s career over their own.

            Why am I fine with part-timers, you ask? Because they’re more likely to keep up their skills and go back to full-time someday. The ones who quit entirely and don’t continue to re-certify generally don’t go back. Where I live, the medical center directors have to hire PAs, RNs, and high school graduates because of the doctor shortage. They could bill more if they could hire an MD. I don’t disagree that cost control is also a key factor in the aggregate.

          • Lisa Murakami

            Well I think we pretty much agree then. I completely agree that women who already know they want to stay home shouldn’t go to medical school. I guess one thing I would say on that topic, though, is that it’s not politically correct to tell college-aged women that they might want to consider whether they want to stay home as they make a career choice. I guess you would agree with me that so advising these young women – and young men – shouldn’t be as taboo as it is. I was raised by a staunchly feminist mother and for that reason I never considered that I might want to *not* be the lawyer because I might enjoy staying home – and I stay home because I enjoy it, not because I “couldn’t fathom or stomach” daycare or a nanny. Part of me wishes I had thought about it before racking up all this debt, especially since my husband wants to be a PI (have a lab) and we are now a family of 4 in a 2-bedroom apartment. But a bigger part of me would rather have the education than all that money, because my legal education has been invaluable to me even as “just” an at-home parent. Plus, as you mention, my husband could die or end up disabled, etc. I would need to fall back on my legal education were that come to pass, even if it meant “just” being a paralegal since I would have missed many years practicing.

            But anyway I think we largely agree; you say you’re not expecting women to be psychic, and that’s the only point I’m making. I completely agree that if you plan on staying home, you shouldn’t go to medical school. I would have thought the astronomic debt and comparatively lower salaries would have provided enough incentive to avoid that situation, but I guess not. It makes me wonder, actually, how many women are still practicing medicine full time but would really rather be at home, if their husbands made big bucks like the ones you mention. I have to say that I have friends who LOVE practicing medicine and wouldn’t want to be at home. But I do think that in our best-intentioned efforts to equalize the professional world, we’ve paid lip service to “balance” but refused to tell women that they might want any balance whatsoever until they’ve already committed to a career path. My husband is a heme/onc fellow at Dana-Farber and did residency at MGH, med school at Wash U. It has taken a huge toll on his relationship with our oldest, in particular. I’m thankful that he’ll finally be in the lab starting this January. While I don’t expect the world to be full of physicians who are both as perfectionist as he is and who happen to go into oncology (especially leukemics) I do feel for their families. My husband says the oncologists he’d send his family members to “never leave the hospital.” I’m thankful he won’t be one of those, and I wouldn’t want to be one myself as a parent either. I actually have a blog about our life out here in Boston called “Married to Medicine” and I have had a few women doctors contact me and tell me they really regretted going into medicine because they saw no good way of balancing it with family – much like my husband. They have all stuck with it and sort of made other sacrifices to “make it work” and I’m hopeful that they’ll be happier once they are out of residency and practicing. But I do think we do a disservice to young women by telling them that they’re “sexist” or simple-minded if they at all consider wanting to stay home as they map out their career. The fact is that a lot of my lawyer friends, including me, DID end up wanting that, and I believe a lot of medical women do too if what you’re saying is true and many of those who *can* choose are staying home. When men make career concessions for family, we applaud them. I applaud my husband for foregoing a PhD so that we could get on with residency while our kids were too young to remember it. When women do the same, we assume they’re victims or they don’t know their own mind – or that they married men who won’t pitch in enough.

          • Nicole

            Yes, we agree! I love when women are right on the internets. :) You raise a lot of interesting points. The taboo you mention – yes, it’s complicated to tell the truth, isn’t it? Good to also bear in mind that one woman’s opinions alone can never equal “feminism” – not all feminists agree on every issue. (i.e. Sarah Palin is a self-described feminist, but Marissa Mayer says she is certainly not. Hmm…) Real feminism is a big enough tent to include people who are genuinely happy and fulfilled by staying at home with their children, as well as the ones living out their career dreams like the most badass female surgeon I know with 4 awesome kids. Real feminism is about truth-telling, but also about seeing the full range of possibilities and knowing what one must do to get there – such as not believing for a minute that a nanny or daycare can’t help us raise well-adjusted kids, and that proper financial planning is essential.

            Honestly, we also need to tell MDs who are dating other MDs training in a higher-paying sub-speciality (who are still almost always male BTW – hoo boy, feminism still has work to do there), to beware – they are most likely to leave the practice of medicine and the paid workforce entirely – and not earn as much lifetime income as a couple because they’re saddled with 2 med school debts instead of one. Some of the cheapest people I know have a MD dad and a SAHM who is an ex-MD – they practice all kids of false economy and waste so much of their precious time trying to save pennies when the simple solution would be for mom to go back to work part-time or do locum tenens, or to stop couponing and making their own detergent (insane). They should instead use that valuable time to start going for big financial wins like having an adequate disability policy and an investment plan, and refinancing where appropriate.

            Also, folks say internal medicine gets boring and seeing all the evidence of child abuse/crappy parenting in peds is depressing if you love children. I actually think the MDs who are most engaged with their work are ER docs, surgeons, but not everyone has the skills for it – and there are certainly specialties that pay so much better and demand far fewer hours (derm, urology – but only the uber-smartest, best test takers ever match in those specialties).

            The research says mothers want to work part-time – real part-time hours where the work does not come home with them. I can think of no better field for that honestly, than the shift-work practice of medicine.

            Having a real choice to leave the paid workforce and have a spouse support you financially is a great privilege. You’re right that for many female breadwinning MDs they never get to make that choice, so I can see the appeal of marrying a rich man just to have that choice.

          • Lisa Murakami

            Yes, we do agree! Completely agree about feminism’s big tent. And the need for adequate financial planning. Not sure how others are doing it with 2 med school debts, that’s why I was so surprised that they even were. We can barely do it with 1 med school and 1 law school debt and that’s only because we double-paid my loans while I practiced, my husband had a hefty med school scholarship, and we are expecting about 1/3 of our remaining debt to be relieved over the next 2 years since my husband is going into research. I may still have to go back someday though. Not going to think much on it until we’re back in St. Louis where I’m licensed and my husband isn’t working 24/7.

            Totally off-topic, my husband’s original plan was to be an ER doc but he has really hated those rotations out here. He dealt with so much self-inficted stuff and mistreatment of medical staff by patients, at least in our urban hospital. I wish he’d done that (sometimes) because our brother-in-law who is an ER doc in Michigan has an amazing house and his wife (my husband’s sister) pretty much stays home (she only had dental school debt) – she subs for people to pay for upkeep on her dental license. And it really is shift work, as you say, that you can walk away from when it’s over, unlike so many other things. But oh well, he’s following his heart.

            Anyway thanks for the great discussion! I’m always fascinated with EVERYTHING related to the health care industry; I was close to completing a “concentration” in Health Care Law in law school and one thing I’d consider doing if I go back is getting my LLM in it.

        • jr023

          we need doctors and this good mother can go back into practice after the children but lawyers are for the most part a piranha on society and there’s many that quit the practice due to the corruption and the burden on society
          we could close the law schools for 20 years and we might have a balance .
          congratulations to this doctor may she have many grandchildren to enjoy in her later yrs

      • Nicole

        Well said, @ Dr. Kitty. I’d glad Dr. Amy here has used her education and training to benefit others via this blog. I also think it’s salient that she has 4 children – after a certain number of kids having a SAHP starts to make a lot of logistical sense I suppose. Kudos to her for not giving up on medicine!

  • Ashley Wilson

    The thing that has always absolutely driven me INSANE about your detractors is how they look down at you for being a stay at home mom, while equally raising themselves up for doing the same. They completely wash away any work you do by saying “What does she know? She doesn’t practice medicine anymore, because now she’s just a stay at home mom,” yet at the same time, they post all of the BS memes on their facebook pages about how they are better than working mothers because they stayed at home. If you (or anyone) were to treat their non-employment status the same way they do to you, you would bet there would be a rally cry against you.

    How can they go from saying your experience both as a doctor and as a mother doesn’t matter and yet their experience as only a mother make them know so much more than you (other than the obvious “Your MEEEEEN!!! i h8 how u takl about me bcuz u no what ur talkikng abut & it makes me loook dum” [ow that hurt]). If you were a CPM on their side and you gave up a very lucrative practice to raise your four children, you would be hailed as a hero and an icon. A paragon of all they hold dear. Stay at home mom, delivered thousands of babies, breastfed all of your kids! Even the rather upfront and brash way of talking (which I can see why people object to that) would be idealized if it was done for their side. But it’s not because you have more education and experience than them and you know better.

    I’m a SAHM myself. And I love it. But I don’t have this vision of it being the hardest thing I have ever done. Maybe the best. Definitely the most important. But the hardest? When I screw up, now I only have one angry customer instead of a mob, and I am also upper management so she can’t go complain to the boss (Dad was demoted within the first few weeks to supervisor). I will reassess the idea of this being the hardest thing once we hit the teenage years.

    I think that this post even shows how challenging your career was, simply because everything else in your life had to take second place, including your kids and you decided that that wasn’t okay. And as a result you got even more of your life back that you didn’t have when you practiced medicine.

    But most of your critics like to paint being a stay at home mother as being just as hard if not harder than being a working mother. And they are a better mother (and thus a better person) than everyone else because of that. I just don’t understand that. Even with the best job I have ever had, that I have truly love and had every intention of making my career, it was still work. Yes, I had colleagues who I admired and could socialize with. A field of work that stimulated me intellectually. The chance to travel and explore the world. But I also had that jerk who ruined everything, the bad days where everything goes wrong, epic screw ups that sometimes were and sometimes were not within my ability to control. If I had to top all of that off by coming home to have to clean the house, feed and put the baby to bed, and my weekends are just me doing my other job, I don’t know how that being a SAHM is harder than that. At least with being a stay at home mom you have that magical time known as “Back to School”.

    BTW, I have always wondered why you don’t have an interest in going back to practicing medicine now that your children have grown. Was if for all of the reasons listed here (more time to yourself, your husband, your children, your blog, etc) or some of the things you have written about in other posts about some of the mismanagement within the medical system, or that you think the work you do with this blog (and your other sites) is more important and you are fulfilling a niche that no one else is paying attention to (which I fully agree!) or that you just feel that part of your life has past and you just don’t want to?

    • Certified Hamster Midwife

      The good doc has mentioned that she’d have to go back for additional training in surgery to practice again, since there’s been a lot to learn in the last few decades. If I were her, I wouldn’t take the time to do that until the homebirth fad has subsided somewhat.

  • Lori

    Great post. Glad you mentioned the privilege part too, something I often have to remind myself that not everyone is afforded the amazing options I have been given. Also, I totally rocked those sandals your boys are wearing as a kid, to the point I would get big pale (un)tan-lines in the summer where the straps were.

  • suchende

    I read Lisa Endlich Heffernan’s piece, and I think her ultimate conclusion is that she wishes she had done what Dr A did: kept one finger in the working world (in Dr. A’s case, by writing) so she had something to transition into later.

  • NatalieRW

    I love this post so much. Staying home with my daughter isn’t a privilege I have had for any substantial amount of time, but I have an enormous amount of respect for the women who do- it’s the most exhausting, mentally draining, demanding, difficult, rewarding, amazing, fun job there is.
    I had my daughter in undergrad and I remember my friends saying “are you so excited for winter break!?” my response: “you don’t understand. School, and talking to adults is my break!”
    My mom was a stay at home mother, and her resentment of leaving the work force came through sometimes in her parenting, but I don’t blame her. It wasn’t her choice to stay home (my dad forced her in a way)… I would be resentful of that situation too. But I grew up seeing my mom all the time, and that was awesome.
    My husband and I are trying to figure out how and when to have more children. I’m constantly told “well you can’t be pregnant for residency interviews, no one will want to hire you” and “you can’t have kids in residency” and “if you take a year off in med school for kids it looks bad to residency directors”. So I wonder- when CAN I have a baby? And actually, you know, see it?
    Luckily my academic advisor is an awesome female doc, and she told me “don’t put your life on hold for medicine. live your life the way your family wants to live it, and make medicine fit around that. If you want a baby, have a baby, you’ll make it work”
    So, still trying to figure it out. Hoping I can be a good mom and a good doctor. I’ve got it figured out with my 6 year old, but a baby is a whole separate ball game.
    Wow. that was long (sorry), but any and all advice on how to balance family in medicine would be greatly appreciated.
    And again, I seriously love this post. What works for one mom may not work for another, and that’s okay. Stay at home moms do have a job, and they’re awesome.

    • Guesteleh

      Don’t know what part of the country you’re in but if you’re in a Kaiser service area I hear it’s a great place for mothers to work. Paid leave, call schedules are civilized. It is very corporate and you have to learn how to practice within their ecosystem but not a bad place to be while you’re launching your family.

  • http://whatifsandfears.blogspot.com/ Doula Dani

    Loved this. I love reading personal posts like this from you, Dr. Amy.

  • http://www.europeanmama.eu/ Olga Mecking

    I loved this piece. I am also a SAHM (even though I have a blog that consumes a lot of my time), but I never regretted it. My mom was the primary bread winner in our house, she loved her job (and still does), and as a tenured professor in Poland, she can work till she’s 70, and I know she will. And guess what? She never criticized my decision to stay at home with the children, on the contrary he’s happy for me that I have the chance. And I know how lucky I am to be able to do this… my children go to daycare every day for half a day so that I can run errands and spend a little time by myself, and learn some Dutch, so I have the best of both worlds, and love it.

  • Dr Kitty

    Wonderful article.
    Personally, I enjoy work too much to stop, but I enjoy no longer having to work more than 36 hours a week.

  • elyssaelizabeth

    What a great article! I especially appreciate that you a) acknowledged that your choice was right for you, but not necessarily right for every woman, and b) that getting to be a stay at home mom is a result of privilege. I’ve found that many articles on this subject neglect those two points, and they are very important!

    My mom hated being a SAHM. She tried, a couple times, and within a few months, drove herself (and the rest of us) so crazy that she always went back to work. Which was good, because there have been several periods where she had to work, to make ends meet at home. However, she also always worked jobs that had very flexible hours, and almost all of her jobs allowed her to bring us kids to work with her. She was also able to finish her education and finally get her degree, although it took her ten years, and she’s doing her graduate work, now. (She worked as a church secretary, a treasurer, and eventually, an assistant pastor and now as a senior pastor.) So she had the best of both worlds.

    But even so, she got a lot of criticism, when we were growing up, from my aunts, from her friends, because she worked out side the home. I feel bad because people have even blamed her because I grew up to be a lesbian, and an atheist! A couple years ago, she actually asked me if it was her fault, that I was a lesbian, if she had messed up my ideas of gender, or if I was searching for a connection to another woman because she wasn’t around all the time when I was growing up. (Which, gross, if you think about it. I’m not gay because I want to sleep with my mom, OMG.) But someone she loved, her best friend at the time, had fed her all this crap. I couldn’t be mad at Mom, she was in tears, one of the only times I’ve seen her cry, but I was furious at her friend. I tried to explain that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being gay, that she didn’t “break” me because I wasn’t broken! Eventually, I had to call my therapist and let him talk to her, reassure her that it wasn’t her fault. She was also told, when we were young, that it was her fault my dad lost his job, because by working outside of the home she was rebelling against God and showing that she didn’t trust God or trust my father to lead and provide for the family. Funny, how even though everyone said she would destroy her marriage, and that it’s impossible to have a relationship without someone being in charge, their egalitarian marriage has lasted longer and is much happier than the vast majority of the marriages their Quiverfull friends had. (And they wonder why I’m an atheist, now?!)

    It’s funny, though…as much as I’m a lefty radical feminist lesbian atheist or whatever, I’m still the one who wants to be a stay at home mom. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to manage it, if I’ll ever find someone who wants to build that kind of life with me, but if I had my druthers, I would love to have a house filled with kids. I want to be a foster parent (I loved growing up with foster siblings), especially for older kids, kids with special needs. I’ve dealt with addiction and mental illness myself, I know what it’s like to be gay, and I know that kids in the system who are older, who have those issues, have a very hard time being placed (if not impossible), but those are the kids my parents tended to get, and those are the kids I’d like to have come live with me. But I think to really be successful at it, I would have to make it my job. And I can’t imagine anything better.

    We’ll see. I’m a long way from there. I just think it’s funny that my mom had to work outside the home, even with so many people expecting (and demanding!) that she be a SAHM…and with everyone expecting me to go out and have a career (because in my family and community, I am the token feminazi), I would rather be a SAHM than anything.

  • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

    I think part of the problem is that people have become so focussed on what the decisions are that they have forgotten how to make the decisions that will be right for themselves in their own particular circumstances. It doesn’t matter if its birth, choosing a career, choosing to have children or remain childless – doing something because it was right for someone else is almost a sure fire way to be dissatisfied in life. Do something because its right for you in your circumstance. Thats what you did, and I applaud you for it.

  • notahomebirthlactivist

    cheers for writing this. currently grappling with my own decisions in this area.

  • Ducky

    Thank you for this heartfelt article, Dr. Amy! It’s honest and models a really healthy attitude toward life, I think… the one thing I really dislike about the HuffPo article is that it’s encouraging women to second guess their choices. I think to some extent we have to embrace that we make the best decision we can at the time… we can’t know we’re making the best choice. I appreciate her honesty in describing her regret after her intensive parenting role ended, but I feel her article undervalues both parenting and the role of stay-at-home parents in communities as organizers and volunteers. I respect that’s how she’s feeling, but it’s also propagating a particular set of values that is not particularly healthy for young people. Mother Culture is always whispering at us to “be someone” and “do something important” .. but what does that really mean? And what is it really worth? And do you really need a professional income and career in investment banking or academia or law or obstetrics to achieve it? I resent that women my age are meant to feel their life has less meaning if they do not have a professional identity. As always, it should be about finding what works for you and your family.

  • http://www.minecraftgames.co/ Minecraft Games

    How good this article is! I like it. I will share with my
    friends. I hope that many people also have hobby the same as me.

  • Meerkat

    Great post, Dr. Amy!
    I read it in the morning and spent all day thinking about it. I am currently a stay at home mom. As a child of a working mother I have a different perspective on this issue.
    I was born in the Soviet Union in the seventies. My mother had one year of maternity leave after which she returned to work, and I went to a state sponsored kindergarten. It was a very typical experience- all parents worked (with very few exceptions), and all children went to kindergartens. I remember my thoughts and feelings from quite a young age, and I remember always missing my mama. I missed her so much, it hurt. It was almost a physical pain in my heart. She felt the same. Unfortunately she didn’t have a choice of being at home with me, my father wasn’t making enough to support our whole family. And so, I spent my whole childhood missing her. I didn’t feel the same about my grandparents or my dad. I adored them, but I needed my mama. I often dreamt that she quit her job, and could spent as much time with me as I wanted. To my mom’s credit, even with working full time, long commute, cleaning, cooking, and chronic migraines, she always always had time for me. She read to me, told me stories, listened to me, played with me, encouraged me, and took me to countless classes after work. She was, is, and always will be the biggest influence on me. Would I have been better off if she stayed at home with me? I think so. I would be less anxious, more secure.
    I disagree with you that children don’t view their parents as people, just parents. It is somewhat correct, but not quite. As a child I thought my parents were special. They were my universe. They weren’t human, of course, they were super human. I was very proud of their accomplishments, and remember being very proud of them when I was little. I thought my parents were the most beautiful, smartest, and kindest people on earth. I am pretty sure every child feels the same about their parents, even if they don’t say it.

  • rh1985

    I would love more than anything to be a full time SAHM to the baby I am trying to have. As it is, not financially possible, but daycare would pretty much take what I can earn. So I am going to work at home. Hopefully it will work out ok.

    • suchende

      I am trying to study for the bar while staying home with my 7 month old, and it’s going very, very badly. I hope you find it more workable than I have.

      • NatalieRW

        Oh brutal! GOOD LUCK! My friend/classmate just had a baby in April, and she’s been trying to study for boards… not going well for her either.
        If only breastfeeding wasn’t more potent than nyquil.. or if they would actually sleep at convenient times.
        Good luck! I hope you have some family or friends that can help you out for a few hours at a time so you can get some studying in.

    • AmyM

      Will you be able to have someone in the house to watch the baby while you work? Or do “shifts” like work when your husband gets home?

  • Morgaine

    This is the most honest, loving thing I have ever seen you write. Its hard for me to see that, as sometimes I feel that you antagonize for the sake of the argument (which, as I accuse you of this, I recognize that I am also guilty). None ltheless, I find it truly wonderful that you have clearly led a very fulfilling life.

  • Val

    Lovely post. Always interesting to get a glimpse of your life, too. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • attitude devant

    From what little I know or your marriage (from the bits you’ve shared), it seems that you and your husband have a remarkable marriage, possibly because you both seem to be remarkable people. You are both fortunate in your selves and in each other. Color me jealous!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I am very, very fortunate!! We will celebrate our 32nd anniversary in two weeks.

      • Box of Salt

        Congratulations in advance!

      • Lindsay Beyerstein

        Mazel tov.

      • GuestB

        Congratulations!!

  • StephyM

    Thank you for this. I’m having a little struggle at the moment with a whole do I stay at home/is it worth the nursery fees/what do I want to do anyway and this helped. It’s always interesting to see what works for other people and have differing perspectives regardless of what the final decision may be.

  • http://www.sltrib.com/cat/justice Erin Alberty

    I just got back to work after 6 months of maternity leave. I feel like a plant getting sunshine again! I didn’t realize how much I missed doing my job — or how lonely I was at home. Now I am functioning much better at home, even though I have less time (and sleep as I work night shifts). We have enough money for me to stay home, and I don’t make much anyway. But I can see now that work is part of me. I need to be able to show my daughter a model of a person who is functioning at her best. I don’t want her to watch me wither in a situation that’s a bad fit and then think, “That’s what life looks like.” I want her to expect to be happy.

    • AmyM

      I hear you. I was home on bedrest for 2mos before my twins were born, and then for 12wk mat leave, and I was going starkers. It didn’t help that it was winter time, and dark and cold. It was very isolating, lonely and boring. I was busy, at least after the babies came, but not doing anything mentally stimulating. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t get any kind of good sleep, and while awake, everything I was doing was essentially chores: feeding someone/prepping food, cleaning someone or something, etc. with no thanks, not even a smile in return.

      I looked forward to going back to work…not to leave my children (by then, they smiled at me), but to do something interesting and to interact with other humans. The only thing I was really concerned about was messing up due to sleep dep. It is true that the year of my children’s birth was probably my least productive year, but things improved. Now, I do wish I could spend more time with my children (at 4yrs old, they are way more fun than infants and being with them is very rewarding. Plus we are well past that sleep dep thing. Though I will never get over my sleep dep paranoia), but my job doesn’t lend itself to part time.

      • Antigonos CNM

        I really think it is all about balance. Because I began reproducing at a fairly late age — 33 — and we thought in terms of 4 children, I had to have them very close together [ultimately, 3 in 3 1/2 years, all C/S], and took a total of 6 years off work. At the time, I could afford to do this financially, but it was a mental purgatory. I’m not a very “motherly” mother and the possibilities of intelligent and intellectual conversation with a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a 6 month old baby are rather limited . I found that I was talking to myself quite a bit, and and going to the nearby mall in the most circuitous route available and driving as fast as the roads allowed, just to GET OUT!
        My daughter, who is much more able to get down on the floor and play endlessly with her daughter than I ever was , with my three, says that she learned her lesson by taking almost 6 months off work and when the next baby arrives, will go back to work after 3 months and leave me in charge until the child is a year old, at which time she will arrange for daycare [we both think it is very important for social reasons for children to be with other children from an early age]. That’s her opinion and it works for her. There’s no one way; it all depends on the situation.

        • http://www.sltrib.com/cat/justice Erin Alberty

          My good friend and I had babies a week apart. She’s about to be laid off, and she seems pretty happy to become a SAHM. But she’s really good at domestic things. I’m a decent mom but have major deficits in other domestic skills. During maternity leave I spent most of my time on tasks that I suck at, and then I’d lose sleep feeling like a failure. My friend, on the other hand, will do very well as a homemaker. She will be proud of at the end of the day, and I don’t think she’ll miss her old job too much.

          It baffles me that a mother (or any person) would believe that any one choice about work is universally *the best.*

          • Lizzie Dee

            This is such a complicated issue that the idea that there could be a universal “best” seems absurd to me. One of the reasons I gave up a bit on feminism is that they didn’t seem to be very interested in answers to this conundrum.

            It depends on so many factors – the ages of your children, how many children, what job it is you are giving up, your own temperament, and of course, whether you have a choice in the first place.

            I was a SAHM for six years, but “choice” was removed because I had a child with very high needs. After that, I taught part-time for the fun of it. I abandonned a near complete Ph.D thesis because of family. ( I came across a quote: You can write and teach, you can write and look after children. You can’t write, teach AND look after children. That was only too true for me, sadly.) Dr. A, you are not exactly to be described as a SAHM – you are a doctor who has chosen not to practice full time, but you still have your professional identity, can put your education to good use, still have choices. There is now, for most of us, a lot of life left over after your children are grown, so sacrificing a career is perilous. But I absolutely would not have wanted to work long, tiring days when mine were small. That takes a degree of organisation beyond me, and I did want to be there, observe their growing. For me, not for them. Children are very adaptable, mothers are good at felling guilty.

            One of the things I remember is being admitted to hospital two days after I stopped work, and being very indignant at being put down as a “housewife”. I refused that description for years, though didn’t mind “mother”.

          • Lizzie Dee

            In passing: our current Government is busy bullying mothers into work – or at least the poor and ill-qualified ones. I think this is appalling. Part time is no longer good enough, they are urged to work longer hours at a time when child care is expensive and often of poor quality, – and there aren’t many jobs, either. And shamed if they don’t, while being blamed for any social ills caused by the breakdown of the family.

          • KarenJJ

            Similar in Australia. Single mums get moved to a lower ‘unemployed’ payment when their youngest turns 8. For mums that started having kids young, missed out on education and have been trying to get a degree once the kids start school the loss of income has been devastating.

          • Lizzie Dee

            Used to be 5 in the UK, but I THINK they have moved it to 3. It always seemed to me that arranging care for school age children was MORE of a hassle.

            Childcare is a mess, too. Informal arrangements are frowned on, private care is ludicrously expensive, and they want to make changes that fewer (ill paid) staff look after more children. Child benefits will in future be paid to fathers not mothers and it is generally estimated that women are being disproportionately affected by the various cuts. So much for feminism.

          • Dr Kitty

            It seems that the government forgot what Child Benefit actually WAS.

            It was introduced as a payment to MOTHERS, so that even if your husband was an abusive drunk who squandered his wages and kept a tight rein on the family pursestrings, you would always have a little independent income which you could use to feed and clothe your children…or save up and use to leave him.

            I no longer qualify for the Child benefit, and I’m fine with that, but I think the system should look at combined household income, not just if one parent meets a threshold or not. Currently a household with one working parent who makes £60,000 won’t get the benefit, while a household with two working parents who each make £39,000 will…which seems nuts to me.

          • KarenJJ

            In Australia there was a family payment based on one income because it was recognised that two family incomes could claim two tax-free thresholds (the amount you can earn before you start to pay income tax). I think some countries allow income to be shared across two people and two people can claim the tax-free threshold?

            We don’t get anything because my husband and I earn too much. If it was just my husband’s salary I’d get a small amount from the government.

          • Lizzie Dee

            I don’t think this government “forgot”. I think they are hell bent on putting the clock back – like NCB.

            Don’t get me started on what they are doing to ill and disabled people…Maybe that, too, comes from the same mindset. Things should be peachy for the fit and priveleged, anyone else kindly leave the gene pool. Very OT of course.

          • Eddie

            To what degree do you think this is based on cost, vs being based on ideology? Or perhaps a nice (to them) alignment of these?

        • Ashley Wilson

          I think it depends on just what kind of person you are. I picked a career that would be pretty isolating to begin with, with much of my time being spent researching and stuck in a book or on the net. That was because I hated working retail in my younger days. Hated hated hated. I like individuals but “people” are horrible. I never wanted to work somewhere where I had to interact with a lot of people unless if it was by choice. So switching to being a SAHM with a great internet connection works fine for me. I still see my friends fairly regularly (maybe a little less, but that has to do with money rather than the baby herself), I still get to read ton of interesting stuff, more even because now it’s what I choose and not just relevant to what I’m researching at the time, and this way I’m don’t have to burn gas anymore. I know some people who this just wouldn’t work for them, but it’s fine for me. I just wish there was more social structure built in to support families choices (e.g. affordable daycare for those who wish to go back to work, the ability to support a family with just one income, even just the ability to support an individual on minimum wage even!)

          All that said, while I love being at home, I too count the minutes until bedtime (5 hours to go).

    • Leica

      I feel similarly. Due to 2 military moves in short order, I stayed home with my toddler and baby for the past 7 months. It’s isolating and frustrating. After a 12hr ER shift, I feel exhausted and like I’ve accomplished something, and I love getting home to see and play with my kids. After all day of just me and the kids, I feel exhausted and beaten down and I’m counting the minutes until bedtime. It doesn’t help that my husband deploys for months at a time, so it’s just me and them, 24/7. Me working barely contributes to our finances, once childcare is taken out, but I don’t care. I work because I love it.

  • Charlotte

    Thank you for this. I don’t regret staying at home either, no matter how disappointed my parents were that I made that decision and how much my friends criticize SAHMs as lazy burdens. It’s what’s best for my family for all the reasons you list above, especially the part about having more time and less stress. When I worked. I was too tired to even take of my dog, much less my husband, my kids, or even my self. The three hour commute didn’t help.

  • Rachel Mills

    Yeah, for some its privilege to stay home. For others, its just this rotten economy. But even though the transition has been VERY hard, I’m starting to hit a groove and find the charm in stay-at-home-mommydom. Some people don’t have the choice to stay home. Others don’t have much choice about having a job.

    • StephyM

      Are you UK? I feel like I have to stay home because of nursery fees and economy and I both love and hate it at the same time! Very tricky!!! :D

      • Rachel Mills

        No I’m US. Same issues though. Good way to put it – I love it and hate it at the same time, but at first I was sobbing several times a day, I’ve tipped more towards loving it now. It’s been 6 months. I’ll be OK.

  • I don’t have a creative name
    • Eddie

      The anti-science, “I know better than all of the scientists,” thinking and rant is indeed depressing to see. I didn’t watch the video, just read the rant underneath it.

      • Lizzie Dee

        I did watch the video, and found it very confusing.

        I read the rant first, and as you say, depressing, in its “Don’t tell me anything I don’t want to hear.” The rest of the comments were just as predictable. But the video changed my reaction. I could come up with a similar collage of still photographs – the beautiful, bright eyed, vibrant child I had up to the age of two, when her fits started and she went on to anti-convulsants, and the glazed, dazed child she was in some later photographs. But the pictures would lie, over-simplify a much more confusing sequence. The fact that the timing of vaccinations coincides with the stage when developmental lags start to be obvious has always seemed to me an obvious refutation of the Autism link – but what DID happen to this child? Is that how autism manifests itself, with no clue in the infant, no retrospective re-interpreting of prior signs? If autism is genetic, can vaccination trigger something in an autistic child? Obviously vaccination doesn’t cause it – but I can see why people believe it might.

        After years of being fit-free, vaccination for Rubella set off a not particularly troublesome fit in my daughter. The connection was obvious to me – not that the vaccination “caused” it, but I have a daughter who is susceptible, so risks and benefits have to be calculated.

        Is much progress being made in finding the causes of autism? To what extent is it useful to lump it together as one spectrum? This tends a bit to be something I am also a bit fascinated by because I don’t know much about it.

        • Michellejo

          ” Is that how autism manifests itself, with no clue in the infant, no retrospective re-interpreting of prior signs?”

          I don’t know about in every case, but it was certainly like that in my child. She developed beautifully at first, she was charming total strangers with her smile at two months old, and continued developing perfectly until eight months old. Then she slowed right down. She didn’t regress though, just got to each milestone very late and couldn’t put two words together by the age of three.

          • Squillo

            My son hit most of his developmental milestones until around age two. But when we started taking him to a playgroup, we noticed that he was not interacting the same way the other toddlers had begun to. He preferred to sit in the corner lining up blocks than to see what any of the others were doing. We had him evaluated around age three and discovered that he had speech problems, which we hadn’t really noticed, thanks to his off-the-charts vocabulary (his first recognizable word, after “Da Da,” was “gorilla”) and echolalia, which we hadn’t recognized as such.

            In retrospect, with all its bias, it seems there might have been subtle clues earlier, with his utter rejection of any but bland, pureed food, his extreme hatred of baths, and intense reactions to certain sounds, all of which were apparent earlier.

            (He’s 11 now, and doing absolutely swimmingly, thanks to lots of OT, speech therapy, and a small army of fabulous teachers and aides.)

        • grenouille

          I wonder sometimes if there are different issues that produce the same set of symptoms, for lack of a better word. I used to belong to an online group for parents with kids with hypotonia and there were some kids who started out with a diagnosis of autism and were later found to have other issues. Genetic syndromes, etc. It can take a long time to find answers.

          My neighbors have a young adult son who has autism. She has told me that they thought he was developing normally, but that they didn’t recognize the importance of the fact that he didn’t point at the expected time, that he didn’t develop shared attention as a toddler. If they had known what to look for, they might have raised alarm bells earlier. From looking at that slideshow, it’s difficult to tell whether she was meeting some important milestones.

  • Michellejo

    This is just what I needed right now.

    After moving to a country where my college degree was not recognized, I tried going back to college in a different field. But now that I have kids, I was finding a college schedule far too strenuous. I was starting to feel worthless about not being a professional. I slowly came to the realization that what really counts once you have children, to take of them. And I could feel just as accomplished putting my energies into that, as if I was a professional.

    I am currently taking a vocational course which will allow me to work freelance and supplement our needed income, whilst at the same time put most of my energies and effort into my home and children. No, I won’t have a fancy degree, but I am coming round to the fact that I am doing the right thing.

  • Elle

    Love this piece! Thank you for sharing. :-)

  • Felicitasz

    THANK YOU.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    ( It is one thing to read you about your topics and quiet another to read about you as a person. Thanks for sharing all this.
    For someone with graduate degrees, living an expat life for more than a decade, more than five years as a SAHM and liking it very much, this was just so great to read. I liked the “my money” part, too :) – and, yes, this opportunity is a privilege. I am so grateful for it, every day.
    Thanks again.)

  • HolyWowBatman

    Every able adult should be working, whether for pay or not…I was a linguist and translator before choosing to stay home with my kiddos…now I run my home very much like a small business. I am satisfied in my occupation, and couldn’t wish anything better on any other parent. Kids are always better for having content parents.

    • SkepticalGuest

      Taking care of a baby or toddler is much harder than almost any job I’ve ever had.

      • Anj Fabian

        The one thing I missed most were my OSHA mandated breaks and lunch. Knowing someone was out there taking care of business so I could have some peace and quiet, and that this would happen every single shift – wonderful.

        • Antigonos CNM

          When my kids were small, my husband worked from 3 pm to 3 a.m. Once the kids were in bed [as early as I could arrange it], I made myself a really nice meal, propped up a book in front of me, and ate it all, slowly, with a glass or two of wine.

          It saved my sanity, I think, but in 5 years I gained a lot of weight.

  • Angela

    Thank you for this post! As a Ph.D. scientist who is (temporarily?) leaving a tenured career in academia to be a stay-at-home mom, I was greatly encouraged.

  • Guesteleh

    *It goes without saying that having the option to stay home with children is the result of privilege. That’s a topic for another discussion.

    Actually, it doesn’t go without saying. So I’m glad you said it.

    I worked full-time for six years while my husband freelanced and now we’re switching roles, with me at home freelancing and my husband working full time. We are incredibly lucky in that a) we are both in careers that lend themselves to freelance work b) we both earn pretty good salaries for what we do–not rich but solidly upper middle class. Also, we are not caring for a disabled child, no one has lost a job due to an imploding industry or downsizing, neither of us has a serious illness, etc.. There are so many factors that come into play and it’s rare for someone to truly have a free choice about whether or not they stay home.

    • AmyM

      I think there are two ends of the spectrum really:
      the privileged who can choose to [have one parent] stay home because they aren’t dependent on the 2nd income and on the other end, the ones that have to stay home because they cannot find a job that will earn enough to cover the costs of daycare, so having both parents working would be MORE expensive.

      • Rachel Mills

        Yep. Before kids, I could take just any old job for something to do. Or I could volunteer to get experience in something. But those options incur childcare costs. Now I have to get paid to cover taxes, childcare and enough above that to make it worthwhile. Not easy.

      • Charlotte

        I’m in that second group. I’m a teacher in a state where the starting salary is just $28,000. With two young kids and another on the way, our daycare bills would run about $3,000 a month. There’s no way we could afford it.

      • BeatlesFan

        I’m in the second group. I have a GED, no college whatsoever, and no career. My jobs over the years have ranged from retail to asst. supervisor of a screen printing shop to processing immigrant visas to CPS, with a myriad of other crap jobs mixed in. My most recent job was for CPS, which was part-time for crap pay. I left for my (unpaid) maternity leave and, to make a long story short, a babysitter fell through due to health issues. I wasn’t making enough money to justify paying for daycare for one kid, let alone two- and the odds of me finding a job which would still be worth working after paying for daycare, gas and tolls are slim to none.

        I enjoy staying home with my kids, having so much time with them and being able to raise them myself. That said, unlike with a “real” job, I don’t get days off. DH is working all the OT and side jobs he can get his hands on to help us try to make ends meet, which means neither of us really gets a break.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “the other end, the ones that have to stay home because they cannot find a job that will earn enough to cover the costs of daycare, so having both parents working would be MORE expensive.”
        Well actually real “other end” is parents who can’t afford the cost of daycare but can’t afford to live off one paycheck either. People in that situation end up doing staggered shifts, i.e. one works days and the other works nights. It’s miserable. The 2 parents almost never see each other and the one working nights is often very sleep deprived when caring for the kids. But if both of you can only earn minimum wage there aren’t a lot of other options.

        • AmyM

          True, but I was referring more to the families with a SAH-parent (usually a mom), and Dr. Amy said they exist because of privilege, because they have a choice. So, I wanted to point out that is not always true. You are pointing out another situation of a two parent working family, just with staggered shifts. My husband grew up with that for a while…his mom was a nurse at the time, and she did the afterschool to late evening, while Dad did the daytime shift.

  • theadequatemother

    Intellectually, I can see support for both choices, working in or out of the home for either parent. But for me personally, I can only find support for one of those choices. For others, including my husband, should they chose to work within or outside the home, well, as long as that’s what they want and it works for the family, that’s fine with me. People are different with varying needs and wants and priorities. I have no reason to get offended or upset by anyone’s argument about why being a SAHM was great or not good in retrospect.

    The only thing I find offensive is when SAH is conflated to mean “being a better or more loving mother.” I have experienced more pressure in that direction than in the other.

    • Laura

      As a stay-at-home mother for the last 17 years and a keen observer of these specific issues, I can honestly say this: the devotion a mother has toward her children, and her willingness to put that into practical displays, is more telling of how well children and parents will get a long as adults than probably any other component. This is true for full-time working mothers and full-time SAHMs. I have known SAHMs who have not “had their children’s hearts” and the children have grown up aimless and/or self-destructive. They needed continual parental care in their adult years in extremely draining and at times distressing ways. Conversely, I’ve known full-time working mothers who have had multiple children become healthy, well-adjusted adults who have great relationships with their parents. This is the kind of result that ALL parents want. I understand why you would feel the pressure you do, but it’s not coming from me!

      • theadequatemother

        no, it’s not coming from you…warning: wild generalizations to follow.

        It’s been coming from:

        a) women like my grandmother and others of her generation who had children in the 50s…you know when intensive housekeeping was marketed as a measure of a woman’s worth

        and

        b) first time moms of my generation, usually of the white middle class urban (not suburban) variety, who have one child, and who haven’t even tried to balance work and motherhood yet. These are the women that gave me a hard time for partially weaning my son at 8 months to go back to work and fully weaning him at 12 months when pumping wasn’t working. Lots of comments implying that his needs and my breastmilk were more important than my career. Similar comments with respect to not bed sharing and choosing to sleep train and other random parenting decisions that really shouldn’t matter to those outside of our immediate family, lots of “poor you, your son is being looked after by strangers at daycare” too…but certainly decisions that facilitate my out of home career are poo-pooed quite a bit by other mothers of my generation.

        Of course, now that i’m back at work I have far less opportunity to be exposed to these women…and my fellow working moms are a different breed entirely.

        • KarenJJ

          The SAHM vs working parent dilemma changes between generations too. When my parents were young parents, maternity leave didn’t happen, people could discriminate based on sex in a job advertisement and part time options/childcare was extremely hard to come by. A lot of mums stayed at home and there was quite a network of mums helping each other. Most of the mums I know work part time while the kids are little.

  • Hannah

    “I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work. Some of this work was deeply meaningful and some of it trivial in the extreme. Whether it is sitting on a hospital board or raising funds for a nursery school, volunteer activities involve a flurry of activity, but at the end of the day, those who are running the organization carry on and my job was over.”

    I note that she used to be Vice President of Goldmann Sachs, so she certainly did more of value to the world during her years SAHMing than she ever would have professionally.

    • Felicitasz

      This gave me a laugh. No laughing matter looking at the economy etc.,but you are very probably right and I definitely like the point made.

  • DiomedesV

    Actually I think the notion that women should not stay at home because they “owe” it to their “sisters” is itself sexist. Do people appeal to the obligations of men to their brotherhood? No? Then let’s not do it to women. Women, like men, are individuals looking to maximize their own self-interest and happiness, balancing their obligations to their family, friends, self, and employers. Throwing the sisterhood in there implicitly assumes that 1) women should have loyalties to others in ways that men don’t, and 2) they should cleave to a higher moral standard than men as a group. Rubbish.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I get what you’re saying, but a desire to “pay it back” or “pay it forward” is a common concern in many disadvantaged groups, and I think it is admirable. Should African Americans refuse to donate to traditionally black colleges? Should Jews say “Screw the 6 million that didn’t survive, I did”? I suppose in a perfect world we would ALL be sending donations to Xavier, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. But as a woman I can remember what it was like to be a girl with scant role models and also what it was like as a shy pubescent having to be checked by a male doctor because there was no alternative. I’m a female physician and my presence makes a difference in the working world. I’m glad (and proud) to pay it forward.

      • DiomedesV

        Actually, one regularly encounters the notion that Jews should behave in a more ethical manner than other groups because they’ve experienced the worst form of discrimination. I believe that is a form of anti-semitism, another way of denying the humanity of Jews. Jews are the same mixture of violence, self-interest, and occasional altruism as other humans.

        But to get back to the point, many women do not believe that a difficult, tension filled life in a high powered career is a positive, or the only positive message to send to their daughters. As long as they’re giving the same message to their sons, I don’t see a problem.

      • DiomedesV

        I’m not working for the sake of anyone but myself and my family. And

    • fiftyfifty1

      ” Do people appeal to the obligations of men to their brotherhood?”
      Yes, it goes by names like the Old Boys Club.

      • DiomedesV

        I disagree that the Old Boys Club extends obligations to all men to behave in ways that benefit other men at the expense of women, to even sacrifice their own interests and desires for the benefit of Men as a group.

  • AmyM

    I work full time, and I think I would be unhappy as a full time SAH parent. I work in science, I enjoy science and being in the lab. I do not, however, have a PhD, largely because I wanted a family and the time and effort required to obtain the PhD could have prevented that dream from becoming a reality. Sure I know plenty of PhDs who make it work, but many of them of are men. And yes, there are women with PhDs too, but the family was worth more to me. Also, many of those women with PhDs are married to men with very high earning power, so they can afford the pittance that most PhD students are paid.

    It is kind of a moot point, because I don’t really have that choice. As long as my husband and I are both working, we are doing well financially, but we bring in close enough to 50/50 that neither of us could stay home long term. It makes for a very egalitarian marriage, but negates that whole “you can do whatever you put your mind to” thing I was always taught as a child. As I said, I want to work, but it would be nice to be able to make the choice. Still, I am privileged enough to have been able to go to college and choose a career path, so there’s that.

    • Jocelyn

      When I was a child, I was told over and over that I “could be whatever I wanted to be” when I grew up. I decided that I wanted to be a lion. I wasn’t sure how the mechanics of it would work (when would the transformation happen, exactly?), but everyone told me I could be anything I wanted to be, and that’s what I wanted to be. I didn’t get why they all thought it was so funny.

      • AmyM

        Ha! I always derailed that conversation with “Oh yeah? Well, I want to fly, but no matter how hard I work, or how much I put my mind to it, I’ll never be able to, so you are wrong. I can NOT do whatever I want, or put my mind to.” Of course, they would then say they meant I could be President of the United States! or something….but that’s not really true either. I could no more be POTUS than I could fly, or you could be a lion.

        I hope I teach my sons that they can be what they want to be WITHIN REASON, and that as long as they 1)are decent people who can take care of themselves and 2)are content (and preferably happy), I’ll have done my job as a parent. I want them to respect women and believe that their wives and daughters (should they have them) could be doctors or engineers or teachers…or SAHMs if that’s what they want and can manage, as long as everyone is treated respectfully.

  • stacey

    I always thought DH would be the SAHP and I would work.
    Then roles were reversed (not on purpose) and I found, much to my surprise, that I like being home.

    I only wish we had the privilege of allowing me to stay home longer. We cannot afford one income for very long, nor can my career take a many year absence without necessitating starting over. DH makes below poverty wages, and it sucks. I know I am losing earning power, but they are only babies once. DH is now sad he is missing DDs baby-hood, but since he was there for DS’s, we figure it is even.

  • Antigonos CNM

    My middle child, a daughter, is severely dyslexic — so much so that she needed to be in special education. For two years she was in a special school, and then in a special class inside a regular school. I insisted she be moved, because her special ed school also had a high proportion of physically disabled children, with obvious motor handicaps, and she was beginning to perceive herself as “defective” and physically repulsive.

    In the process of getting her transferred, I had to have an interview with the school psychologist, a woman, who had a Doctorate in Psychology. She was appalled when, in response to a question about what sort of adult career I expected my daughter to pursue, I replied that at age 9 it was a bit early to be sure, but it would not surprise me in the least if she married, had a large family, and became a happy and successful homemaker. “Just because she has a learning disability” the psychologist told me, “that doesn’t mean she can’t aspire to becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or a professor”. “Wait just a minute”, I said, “if Ahuva wants to go to university we will of course give her as much help as we can. But she doesn’t have to prove to us how she’s overcome her “handicap” by taking on massive challenges unless she herself wants to”.

    I feel that sort of encapsulates the dilemma women are in today. If you don’t become some sort of uber-professional, you’ve surrendered, you aren’t “realizing your potential”. Men [it is always men] have brainwashed you that you are “inferior”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spent nearly the entire period, with just one four year hiatus, working in my profession, midwifery. It was a cinch compared to being a mother, and trying to keep my marriage, which has always been a very volatile one, from disintegrating.

    I see it now in the fertility clinic which was part of my last job. The hormones tell 40-ish single women they must breed; and apart from all the stress of the treatments, etc. they have to make very painful compromises with their lives as they are living them before they decided to get pregnant. Many tell me, afterwards, that while they love the baby, they deeply regret leaving the high-flying executive world even temporarily. “My Filipina maid sees more of my baby than I do”, and sometimes even have a certain resentment against this tiny interference [and feel intensely guilty as a result] And, OTOH, I see SAHMs who are desperate to exchange their home lives for “something useful” because they feel somehow “negated” or lacking an identity by not having a Career [I've got a cousin who organized her block's recycling efforts and puts "garbologist" on forms because "housewife just sounds so awful". Men, AFAIK, don't have these conflicts. News items about promotions, new appointees to executive jobs, never note the marital state of a man; more often than not, in the case of a woman, it will be noted that she is "married to blah-blah-blah [if the husband is the holder of prestigious job] and has X children”. That “definition by proxy” is always there.

    It annoys me so much that those who don’t like Dr. Amy love to point out that she’s currently not practicing medicine, as if this somehow invalidates her as a person.

    • stacey

      ‘I insisted she be moved, because her special ed school also had a high proportion of physically disabled children, with obvious motor handicaps, and she was beginning to perceive herself as “defective” and physically repulsive.’

      OUCH, abelism is very hurtful. Scare quotes or not- you say you moved her due to this perception, and thought it worthy of inclusion into this comment.

      Next time you ought to leave that part out. There are moms here that have kids with CP and other motor issues, and I don’t think they need to hear that you moved schools because you didn’t like that DD identified herself with “defective/repulsive” kids- kids like their own. Come on.

      I get that you want your kid to feel good about herself. I also understand wanting your kid in the best school for her, but a talk about how the disabled aren’t defective or gross is necessary. I know you are a regular and post in good faith, so I am sure you did have this talk, and just left it out for brevity, but I still think it should be said. Just saying you removed her from the “offending” kids is not too nice.

      I am pretty sure you would not like it if the parents of NT kids made such remarks about YOUR daughter!

      • Cartwheel

        This comment interests me because that was not at all how I read Antigonos’ original statement. I had interpreted the statement as saying (or at least implying) not that disabled people actually are defective or physically repulsive, but that grouping disabled children at a special school leads to the perception that they are defective or physically repulsive, potentially in themselves as well as in others.

        Indeed, one of the arguments for desegregation of all kinds has always been that integration of different kinds of people leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to comfort and affection – whereas segregation leads to “othering” and disgust.

        • Antigonos CNM

          I tried to be as brief and simplify the situation as much as possible. I could have written a book. My daughter was in a class of 12 — the only girl [girls are generally not so quickly put in special ed because they tend to be less disruptive in class]. The other boys were all extremely hyperactive and she was physically attacked on two occasions. A teacher and an aide were not enough to control the boys. A 9 year old sees, day in and day out, children in motorized wheelchairs, unable to eat unaided or who must be toileted, who cannot talk intelligibly, has an older brother and a younger sister who are in regular school and the younger one especially does not find the squiggles Ahuva perceives as pure gibberish as anything puzzling; doesn’t understand why she is laughed at because she doesn’t know right from left, because she thinks it is Saturday and she doesn’t have to go to school but it is really Tuesday, can’t go to the local grocery store because she can’t make sense of how much money to give the clerk or how much change she should have. She certainly couldn’t read a grocery list back then, and we had to get her shoes with Velcro because she couldn’t tie her laces, even as a teenager. Tying laces is actually very complicated. Her IQ is normal, however, and because she was eligible to take her matriculation exams orally, and was given extra time, she has full academic matriculation. She ultimately, after army service in the IDF, got work as a “gofer” for a firm of attorneys, and progressed to be a receptionist and general office manager at quite a good salary, but when she’s replacing files at the end of a day, she turns off her cellphone because she has to be careful not to make a mistake — the files are alphabetical. And she always pays cash; she cannot cope with a credit card. She is now 31.

          I don’t have anything against or wish to discriminate against children with severe physical handicaps. But my daughter was put into a school predominantly for them, while she has a learning disability — and it took us years to convince her that she wasn’t like a child who has to be in diapers. It was not an appropriate placement.

          • Eddie

            One of my brothers, with a severe but specific learning disability, was in a similar situation to your daughter for part of his schooling. I only learned as an adult that my parents threatened the principle that they would take me out of the school (I was a star student) if the school didn’t provide more appropriate care for my brother than just dumping him in a room full of children who were all unfortunately rather neglected by that school system.

            That school (central California in the mid 70s, outside Sacramento) seemed just plain neglectful to any child with any disability. The schools my kids are in are much, much better, and the teachers who work with kids with special needs seem to be much more appropriately trained.

            For my daughter’s preschool, all children were mainstreamed no matter what their condition, which I thought was fantastic. That way, my daughter, when encountering these children, will not think of them as, “that kid in the special class.” To her, they were just other kids. I know this doesn’t really work much beyond preschool, but I appreciated it.

            I don’t know if there are any easy answers here, but I appreciate that schools appear to be trying to do better today than in the past.

      • Lizzie Dee

        Having a daughter with CP, I did flinch a bit at this Antigonos. Not all physically disabled children are physically repulsive, and I am pretty certain they do not perceive themselves that way when young, if ever. This tends to be a lesson they learn when older from other people’s reactions to them.

        Nevertheless, I find your reaction to segregated education quite understandable – if not often spelled out quite so bluntly. When my daughter was young, I was heavily involved in a campaign for disabled children to be integrated into mainstream schools. Quite a few parents were very opposed to that and I now believe that they may have been right. Eventually, the Government did integrate many children, but badly and with insufficient funds. The situation now is that any half-way decent school tries very hard not to take them, because it can effect the “league tables” that funding depends on, they can’t afford specialist teachers, specialist services like physiotherapy and speech therapy are patchy, and a lot of the “extras” that a special school could provide are non-existent.

        I am not sure exactly what happens now, but when my daughter was at school, an able bodied child with dyslexia with a normal IQ would never have been put in a school for physically disabled children.It wasn’t appropriate, and my reaction would have been similar to yours. Special schools were themselves segregated, with separate schools for mild, moderate and severe learning disabilities (mental handicaps). Children with physical disabilites without intellectual impairment had their own schools, and as these were a minority, the schools were small and well resourced. (Only 6 children in my daughter’s class.) Dyslexic children survived as best they could in mainstream school, with special teaching if they were lucky! The ideal of integration I would still support, but the reality is not so great.

    • t.

      I think people should make the choices that makes them most happy, after having actually thought about it.

      If having a CEO career is making you happy, then go for it. If having a large family makes you happy, by all means follow your dream!
      Nobody needs to justify doing what makes him or her happy (as long as it isn’t hurting or harming anyone, of course). A SHAP (stay-at-home-parent) who is happy doing it needs no other reason to do it than that.

      But think carefully about your choices and the conseguences they have, and plan accordingly. Granted, sh*t happens, but this is not an excuse to not plan at all.

      I think the woman in the original articles made a truly important choice because “it seemed a good idea at the moment”. Had she reflected upon it before, maybe she wouldn’t have been in that situation.

      This is true for men and women alike. Men are just as likely to make hasty decision, and then regret them (including the choice of whom they choose as the mother of their children).

    • Mel

      I appreciate how you advocated for your daughter without forcing her to be the example students for all others.

    • Laura

      Imagine my challenge: I have 6 daughters! I encourage them to pursue their interests, talents, and academic success. Along with that, I try to instill and model the joys of homemaking (Martha Stewart didn’t become a billionaire because there isn’t a lot of interest for women to have beautiful and enriching homes for nothing!) because there are many, many delights in the care and keeping of a home. I encourage them to be patient with their “bratty” little sisters. Interestingly enough, they are also seeing me pursue a career in nursing and eventually midwifery, and this makes for interesting conversations as well. All I can say is that I pray a lot!

  • SkepticalGuest

    Thanks, Amy. I am (mostly) a SAHM too. Like you, keeping the skills sharp to the extent that I can without while working for pay only very part-time and juggling a toddler, infertility, and a few non-paying projects outside my field. I was just last night contemplating what I would do when my son was older, so I have a question for you: Why would you not consider going back to your field when your kids are grown? (Count me surprised since you are so passionate about your field!) Do you have other plans?

    • SkepticalGuest

      Forgive typos. Toddler under foot.

  • yentavegan

    Dr. Amy,
    I love this post. Thank you for being proud of your choices.

  • DiomedesV

    “Children, even children who have grown to adulthood, don’t see their
    parents as people. They see them as parents. It’s the nature of the job.
    If you think your fancy credentials and long hours of hard work are
    going to impress your children, you are doomed to be very disappointed.””

    This is simply not true, at least not universally. It was not true in my experience, and in my discussions with other working mothers, I know that my experience is shared.

    I was very proud of both my parents and their professional accomplishments. I remember feeling proud as early as 9 years old. I remember defending my working mother precisely because I knew she was a trailblazer in her field and I thought she was amazing — at the age of nine. I wanted to grow up to be just like her and work in the same field. Would I have loved her nonetheless? Of course. But for me, part of her identity was her profession, and this is still true. She still excels at what she does and I still love that about her. Similarly, I felt very proud of my dad, and have often wished I were more like him professionally.

    In my family, by the time I was a teenager, intellectual discussions/arguments that ranged from politics to religion to science were common. Both my parents trained me to think critically and my feelings were not spared when my arguments were perceived as weak. At that point I began to also identify and understand my parents’ different philosophical approaches. They were not simply “my parents.” They were a complex mixture of political views.

    I don’t think that anyone should apologize for being a SAHM, and I’m happy for the women who are able to afford it. I don’t think that it is lesser than being a working mother. I think they are an important part of my community, although I wish that were less necessary, since I see this fact as indicative of the willingness of state and local governments to exploit unpaid, female labor. I also know that as a working mother I will not have the same list of satisfying accomplishments. Mine will be different.

    But the idea that parents are simply Mommy and Daddy–people who make food, clear it away, give baths and read stories–and that their professional accomplishments fly far above the heads of their children is, in my experience, simply untrue. I’m sure my 1 year old does not know or care what I do. But I see no reason why that will be true throughout her childhood.

    • Box of Salt

      “My kids think I did nothing.”
      This I find funny. The nature of my job requires I do some of it from home, and my kids see me working here. The nature of my husband’s job requires he perform his at the workplace. I’m pretty sure my kids think that Daddy’s work is sitting around drinking soda and eating chips from the vending machines, because that’s what they get to do when they visit him at work.

  • PoopDoc

    After reading Lisa Heffernan’s post… Horrible that she does not have the insight to recognize that the grass is always greener. My husband and I made the decision that I’d continue to work and he’d be the SAHP. It works well most of the time. Are there times I regret it? Sure. But for now it works for us. And if change needs to happen, it can. And it makes me more than a little sick how she devalues volunteer work.

  • Jocelyn

    Great post. :)

  • AlisonCummins

    Pioneering women did not necessarily have marriage and families to “give up” in order to pursue their careers. The women who mentored my grandmother (a PhD microbiologist in the 1940s) developed their careers in the 1920s, after the slaughter that was the first world war. There were no men for them to marry.

    • KarenJJ

      That’s a really good point. I know when I was suffering from infertility, it was a very silent suffering as most people assumed it was because I was too career-minded to have children. I’ve been reading a few stories of women who have previously said that they were concentrating on their career and deflecting the questions on kids when they were actually facing a very private issue of infertility.

      • SkepticalGuest

        As someone who has struggled with both primary and then secondary infertility, I think there’s a real problem with infertile women pretending that they a) are too focused on their careers for children; b) hate children and mothers (this one makes me the sickest; or c) are so worried about overpopulation that they can’t bare to have another child. A little honesty would go a long way towards reversing this problem.

  • mollyb

    I loved this. I come from a long line of accomplished, feminist women who were “surprised” (read: repulsed) by my decision to stay home with my daughters. at a visit last month, my retired aunt was talking about some academic accomplishment of mine and added sadly “We all thought you were going to do something special with your life.” I feel like I am. Most days.

    • Kristie

      OMG, that sounds exactly like what my grandparents said when I ended up not pursuing my residency because of my daughter’s medical problems. Frankly, I thought taking care of my own kid’s health was at LEAST as important as taking care of other peoples’ sick kids, but what do I know??

      • Ashley Wilson

        In some cases, where you have put in a great deal of money toward your education (like medical school), I can see the objection. But equally you had another set of circumstances (your own child’s health) that also extends the circumstances.

        But unless if they put in their own money and your child wasn’t ill and you just wanted to stay at home, how is it really any of their concern? (I say this all while looking at my own student loans with no career to go with them).

    • Eddie

      It always offends me when a feminist says that, as if staying home to raising children, when a choice purposefully made, is not something special.

      SAHDs also get scrutiny and can be treated with suspicion.

      I look forward to the day when this choice to stay at home and raise children or to work outside the home, whether made by a man or woman, is simply seen as a choice.

      • Box of Salt

        I look forward to the day the workplace recognizes its very future depends on the next generation of workers, and the act of working will allow accommodating the needs of that new generation — through flexibility for the current workers.

        The gender of the individuals actively raising the new generation should not even be an issue.

  • slandy09

    It appears you have three boys and one girl–same as my family. I have three brothers :)

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I have always said that real power and freedom is manifested in the ability to choose, not in the choices that one makes.

  • Ainsley Nicholson

    One of the gifts my generation of women has recieved from the hard work of previous generations of doctors and scientists (and bankers, etc) is that we don’t have to make the sofie’s choice between pursuing a career and having a marriage and family. I know women who stayed home with children, women who worked part-time, women who stayed home for a few years then returned to work, women who worked full-time from the time the children were tiny, etc. It is never an easy decision how to balance career and family ambitions, but I am grateful to have so many more options that were available in times past.

  • PrecipMom

    I love this post.

  • Elizabeth A

    I’ve been back and forth over the past few years – some working and some not, usually working when I have the choice – and I can absolutely see both sides. With unlimited funds, I’d be home, but I absolutely can’t make that choice for everyone.

  • Maria Miller

    Love it!

  • T.

    I do believe that women should be aware that they have choices. Those choises includes:

    1. What kind of career to choose: University? Not University? Science? Humanities? Business? All good. I am angry that some people say “don’t do this or this because you are a woman”. I am a woman and I work in construction business. So, what? Yep we build houses. Many men here. So?

    2. To have or not to have children. Not to have children is ok if you don’t want them. But one choice is not allowed. I am still searching for an OB that allow me to make a tubal legation. I am 27, work full time and live by myself. Would I want to have children, no OB would question me or tell me I would change my mind.

    3. To stay at home or continue to work. Both are acceptable. Both can end up in regret. Some women regret staying at home. Some women regret working. Some women thought they would regret working and didn’t, and the other way around.

    And it goes on on: breasteed or formula-fed, have or not an epidural…

    NONE OF THOSE THINGS DEFINE HOW GOOD YOU ARE, AS A PERSON.

    Other things do. How kind you are, how much you try to impact positively in the life of others, and so on. But the choice of staying at home, or working, or formula feeding, or having or not children, doesn’t make you a better person.

    She has every right to regret staying at home. That was her experience. I am glad yours was different :) But still, it some women regret a choices, other women don’t. Whenever choice is a possibility for regret.

    She is, however, claiming something very true:

    Before making choices, one should think about them. One should think “Is this career good for me? Can I see myself doing this in 10, 20 years or the idea make me want to hang myself?” or “Well, is it a good idea having children? At all? For now?” or “Should I, personally, stay at home/work? Should perhaps my partner do it? Do I truly want it?”
    This is what I think :)

    • KarenJJ

      I’m of the opinion that career choices should be made based upon your strengths, interests and values and less about whether it will be ‘family friendly’ and fit in with future lifestyle choices. I thought my career was not at all family friendly, however I now work part time, can swap days so I can make it to hospital clinic appointments with my daughter (who has a rare disease), have been able to stagger start/finish times with my husband so the kids aren’t in care for eight hours a day instead of ten.

      I’m a happier mum when I’m also working. I’m grateful it’s been able to all fit OK. This type of working arrangement also comes from a place of privilege – university educated, technical role with expertise that has been in high demand.

      • Jessica

        I’m not sure that I totally agree that one shouldn’t consider the family friendly nature of certain career fields before pursuing them. Of course, one’s personal/professional strengths, interests, and values are important considerations, but one must think about the bigger picture, which is life outside of work. Slate’s recent article on the baby penalty women pay in academia is a prime example. If one has spent $100k pursuing a particular career field only to discover that professional advancement in that field means not having the personal life he or she hoped for, has that truly been the best choice for the individual in question?

        I’m a happy working mom, and like you I have greater flexibility than is typical in my profession (I’m an attorney). I pay for that flexibility in other ways: my salary is significantly less than what I could be making in a bigger city and in a larger firm. But I still have the student loans to pay off, and for me that’s the rub. Young adults are increasingly expected to borrow significant sums of money to finance their education, which may push them into careers that may not be compatible with their ultimate life goals. I love being an attorney, but if at 18 I’d understood that my choices were 30 years of debt in exchange for a flexible family life or a high salary but long hours away from my kids, I might have become a pharmacist instead.

        It’s okay to be a working mom. It’s also okay to be a mom who finds family time more important than work and makes choices accordingly. I wish we as a society were more honest and less judgmental about both of these paths.

        • Antigonos CNM

          I think medicine is in a class by itself because of the nature and frequency of shift and weekend work, particularly in hospitals. Here in Israel, our HMO clinics are very highly staffed with female doctors, who are almost always married with families and want decent working hours. Not a few dentists and pharmacists that I know chose their professions because they could count on not working nights, holidays, or weekends. Ditto the nursing staffs, who just can’t hack the really insane working schedules Israeli hospitals tend to have and still have any family life whatsoever. The pay is less, but now as I look back, I think I worked in hospital far too long and should have gone to clinic work before I did. My family needed the money, but my kids needed me too.

          Attorneys, as I understand it, have long hours but they are not REQUIRED to absent themselves from family for periods of 48 hours or more. Much of the reading and case preparation can be done at home, nowadays via computer.

          • Jessica

            Well, there’s the absences from home required of physicians, which it is true are not demanded of attorneys explicitly. However, law has its own special pressures, especially in large firms with billable hours requirements and in certain practice areas. The expectations are subtle and implicit, and if one makes the wrong choice, she can find advancement impossible. If you work in a firm with a minimum billable hour requirement of 2500 hours per year and the senior partner walks the halls at 7:30 AM to see who’s already in the office, working from home may not be a realistic option if you hope to make partner. Ditto with vacations, maternity leave, leaving at 5 or 6 every day, and so on. The culture of some firms is not conducive to family life, which is why there is this constant hand-wringing over the number of young attorneys, especially women, who fail to make partner or leave the profession altogether.

            But your point about the nature of medicine as a profession is well taken. For a long time as a child I wanted to be doctor. Then I slowly came to realize how much time I would spend in school and in residency, and the impact that would have on my desire to raise a family. So I chose law instead – and happily landed at a firm where I work 8-5, Mon-Fri, and don’t have minimum billable hours.

          • Dr Kitty

            It’s why I enjoy being a Locum GP- I work when I want, and can decide not to work Xmas or public holidays if I feel like it.
            I work 08:30-18:00 full days or 08:30-13:30/14:00-18:00 if I do half days, and I can pick and choose my shifts (and where I work).

            If I wanted I could work evenings, nights or weekends (which pay better) and do less during the day- at the moment I don’t have to do that, but it might be more attractive down the line.

            It is about as family friendly as medicine gets.

            Personally I can’t imagine doing anything EXCEPT medicine- I like the patient contact, the diagnostic process, everything about it. GP is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to get, from a well baby check to a palliative care call to a self harming teen- it’s the most interesting and rewarding thing I could do.

            The 6 months I spent at home on maternity leave were not for me. I just can’t get excited about cleaning and tidying and cooking.
            Caring for my child- yes, but all the other bits that being at home entails- no.

            However my choice is my choice, it works for our family, and I’m not implying that it would be an appropriate choice for everyone.

            The most important thing is to make your choices MATTER and to be as happy and fulfilled as you can be, doing whatever it is you choose to do.

      • T.

        Thank you, Karen&Jessica :) I think it is perfectly fine to be a woman who has made choices based on what she thought best, after having actually thought on it.

        As a matter of fact, the same is true for men.

      • Eddie

        I tell all of my kids the same thing: Whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy doing it. Every job has crap parts. If you enjoy the rest, the crap parts are no problem. If you hate your job, then the crap parts are unbearable.

    • Hannah

      “I am still searching for an OB that allow me to make a tubal legation.”

      Just as an aside Tubal Ligation has a higher failure rate than most long term reversible forms of contraception.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods#cite_note-33

      • T.

        Yes, but sadly enough I can’t use hormones. I have, however, been thinking on Essure… Same problem than tubal ligation, though. OBs are very unlikely to allow you to do it. Apparently, women can’t choose for themselves.

        Men have a lot less trouble getting vasectomies.

        • Michellejo

          I had a social worker sent to me when I was scheduled to have a tubal ligation when I had FIVE kids, and I was 33. So no, don’t expect anyone to happily do it if you don’t have kids and are 27.

          • T.

            Yeah I am very aware of that. I just find it very insulting and belitting.

            But… a social worker?! Why?!

          • MIchelllejo

            Go figure. She said that she has to discuss what they are about to do with everyone having a TL. Why? Who knows. Maybe they think we are coerced into it. Maybe people think that anyone who has a TL has got to not be in her right mind.

            It’s kind of like the law some idiot in the Israeli Health Ministry is trying to get through the knesset. Any Mom who wants to formula feed will only be give formula once she has watched a film showing the benefits of breastfeeding. Good job it wasn’t in my time, NOTHING would have got me to watch a stupid film like that. It’s demeaning, useless and credits mothers with about as much sense as their newborns.

          • Lizzie Dee

            I spent weeks ..er..months in hospital with my two, and have been heavily involved with the NHS through my daughter, the ONLY person who ever behaved really disrespectfully was the young woman OB who tried to talk me out of a a TL. I had been told that while my chances with second child were reasonable, I mustn’t have a third, and at the time that made sense. I wanted a larger family and might have risked it if I had not closed of the option. But this woman was horrible about it, put on a lot of pressure to get me to change my mind. She bounced out of the room, yelling “All right then! No more babies for you!” As I was not at that time sure the one due to be born would make it, I found her behaviour so astonishing as to be comic. I am not a sensitive little flower, and at that time had better things to worry about, but I have never quite forgiven it.

            If I were a doctor (and it is as well that I am not because I would be hopeless) I would be unhappy at doing a TL for a young childless woman because people do change their minds, and it is such a big deal. But I couldn’t defend that. Whatever the reason, it should be respected.

        • Dr Kitty

          Copper IUD.

          No hormones, similar failure rate to TL, and it lasts for 10 years, but which time you may be old enough for someone to feel more comfortable about the TL.

          The contraindications for Copper IUD are Wilsons Disease, active pelvic infection, anatomical abnormality of the uterus and some cancers.

          One of the main reason young women have difficulty getting TL is because of the huge malpractice suits that can result if someone changes her mind and claims that she didn’t REALLY understand the implications of opting for permanent, irreversible contraception.

    • Eddie

      A friend of mine was able to find a doctor who gave her a tubal ligation at the age of around 25. The doctors are out there. The first time I saw her after her surgery, she was wearing a white tee with the card symbol for “spade” on it. Only her husband and I were in on the joke. :)

      She had just a horrible childhood with a crazy mother was felt as strongly about not having children as anyone I’ve ever met. I thought at the time and still do that she made the right choice. On the other hand, I do understand the reluctance of doctors to do this operation on her.

      • T.

        Lets hope I’ll meet one :D thank you, Eddie.

    • Kalacirya

      For various reasons, I will not be having biological children, although I think I would like children at some point. I’m hoping in the next few years to get a tubal ligation. I’m only 23 now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I can’t get it done until I’m in my 30s.

      • T.

        I know many people that don’t want biological children (for example, because of an awareness of genetic problem). If this is the case, you may get perhaps a note from your family doctor and that could help, when you will want to do it :)

  • Jenna

    This may well be my favorite column yet! I’d say more but I have to go and put my driver’s license to use.