Years ago, if you would have asked me about my ideal version of parenthood, I would have answered, “working part-time or staying home”. As much as I admire working parents, especially moms, I could not envision pulling off working full-time and raising kids. Of course life rarely works out as planned and I’m a full-time working mom. My husband has a very flexible schedule and we have help from family.
While on a day-to-day basis, my life can be quite exhausting, I have to admit that staying in the work force probably makes me happier. This is not an easy thing for me to admit either!
This recent epiphany is why I am intrigued by a recent report stating that full-time working moms enjoy better health both mentally and physically than stay-at-home moms. As with any research report, you have to be careful about the details and conclusions drawn. However, I am beginning to realize that this report rings true for me, especially when I focus on the long-term benefits. I draw mental strength from retaining my independence and contributing financially to my household. This strength and independence is something I’m very proud of and hope my kids will appreciate someday.
I also have a strong feeling that I would have a very difficult time getting back into the work force. Yes, many women change careers or dive back in and excel. However, many women I know are very lost after their hiatus from paid work. Truth be told, knowing my personality and priorities, it would not take me long to lose my network, lose touch with my skills and be out-of-date in my field.
This is not to say that I love office politics or always enjoy my work. This past weekend, my youngest kept climbing up on me just to lay his head on my chest; he was so content to just be with me and I love these little moments. Contrast that with my current mindset at work — sort of uninspired and deflated. I spent weeks polishing up a report and developing a business strategy for future projects that will hopefully counter this blah feeling. That has kept me engaged and reminded me I have so much more to learn!
I think the big lesson is:Sometimes what you think makes you happy isn’t what really makes you happy. This can apply to many areas in life, not just work/life/parenthood. Maybe not getting into your first-choice college turned out to be the best for you. Maybe not achieving your dreams of stardom led you to a more fulfilling career path. Have you experienced happiness in spite of your plans?
Yes, I would say not getting into my first-choice college ended up being awesome, if only for the reason that it turns out I’m happier without snow. Being anovulatory when I was trying to have our first baby meant I found out about PCOS and hypoglycemia, two things that are under much better control now. And my job has been much better than I ever expected it to be, especially given how all the people I know who were first choice at the places I was second choice have moved on.
Hmm.. it seems you have also experienced many cases of “accidental” happiness. I also had a great experience at my “second-choice” college!
I like this!
I have a weird habit of convincing myself that I’ve always got everything I wanted, first choice. Realistically, this isn’t true, but I don’t think about regrets and alternate choices in particular.
I do think I could be happy with a number of versions of my life. I do spend time, in general, wondering about alternate worlds I could have chosen. I think it is facinating, but also a little sad, just because I’d love to have a chance to experience a million lives, but I only get one. That is my biggest struggle in growing up.
It’s good that you don’t think about regrets too much. I’ve learned the hard way not to dwell on the past!
I am with you in wishing that we could choose 2 paths in life, although I suppose that desire has died down with age.
I very much agree with you here. I’ve made a lot of compromises over the years but am still happy with the general shape of what I’ve come up with now.
Like SP, I do wonder occasionally what the other alternatives would look like but I didn’t spend all that much time thinking about it. Perhaps in the wake of grieving my mother, yes, but other than that, it’s not my usual.
I do think more carefully about my future choices, though, as the years wear on.