I got it all done, though the doing came out of my end. For almost two decades I had scant me-time. I made a lot of cookies with my boys and now have chops as a baker, but I never became a quilter, a gardener or the mom who was elected head of the PTA. In fact, none of the working moms could attend PTA meetings, which — to our chagrin — were always scheduled during the heart of the workday. I never learned to play tennis or golf. For exercise, I got up at 6 a.m. and ran in the park. Vacations were always served up family style. A romantic trip alone with my husband? Uh-uh. I would have missed my kids — and sweated guilt bullets leaving them behind.
But guilt and regret are not the same. Unquestionably, I felt I was a better mother than I would have been if I stayed home. I thought a lot about my own mom, who I sensed would have been a lot happier had she not given up her job as a social worker. I read a subliminal warning in the depression she faced at middle age. I see it reflected today in friends who quit their jobs when they had kids and, especially in this economy, have seen their hopes of re-entering the work force sidelined.
For me, working has felt beshert, the Yiddish word for destined. I liked everything about my career, including the fact that it allowed me to become as much a breadwinner as my husband. I took pride in knowing that I was an equal partner in taking care of my family, providing for their excellent educations, the summer camps the boys adored and the sneakers they outgrew quicker than you can say “MasterCard.”
Regarding work, I fiercely believe that each mother should make the right decision for herself and her family. I’m not keeping score — though I can’t help but wonder why some moms who choose not to work outside of the home claim the moral high ground. I couldn’t love Jed and Rory with any more fierceness had I met every school bus, every day, snack in hand. I’m proud of them, as they say they are of me. Do I have regrets? Not yet.
Sally Koslow is the author of the novels With Friends Like These; The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; and Little Pink Slips.
"I Was an At-Home Mom." Read the reflections of a mother who gave up a promising career to stay home with her young children.