My career? My dream was to become Brenda Starr, newspaper reporter, and a month before my first son was born I completed my master’s degree in journalism. But Brenda Starr is a full-time job — and that’s not what I wanted. As my kids got older, I realized that "staying home" didn’t mean I had to stay in the house every minute. So I started teaching one journalism course every semester, working just a couple of hours a week. Between transportation and the babysitter, I lost money on the deal. But it allowed me to keep a finger in the professional world while being a stay-at-home mom.
I did feel at times — from friends, the media — that I had made a politically incorrect choice. The inevitable question when I met new people back in those years was "And what do you do?" My "I'm a stay-at-home mom" often resulted in a blank look or another question: "When are you going back to work?"
I did return to more demanding work when my kids were in high school. It may not have been the high-powered career I might have had otherwise, but I earned a significant enough paycheck to renovate my kitchen and to help pay for my children's college. I fully expect that I will work full time into my 70s, partly to make up for lost wages and partly because I like my job.
I have no regrets. One recent morning while out walking, I saw a somewhat harried 30-something mom loading her two young sons and their equipment into her van for summer baseball camp. I remembered those days; I know they held their fair share of frustration, exhaustion and drudgery, but only the sweetness remains.
"Enjoy them," I told her. "It goes much too fast."
Mary Quigley is the author of the popular blog Mothering21.com about life with grown kids.
"I Was a Working Mom." A mother looks back on her decision to pursue a high-powered career when her children were young.