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Wasting potential as a SAHM. It's true.

post #1 of 91
Thread Starter 
Hear me out, okay?

I am happy being a SAHM and believe 100% that it is the best thing for *everyone* in my family: Ds (2.5), for all obvious reasons; Dh bc he works his a$$ off as it is and could not possibly take on any more household duties, plus he wants this for me and ds; and Me, bc I do not have the work ethic or the stamina to be a mom AND WOH *or* WAH. I see how my mothering changes (for the worst) when I'm trying to get to LLL on time ( ), so there's no WAY I could leave each day for a job.

And it's working well.

EXCEPT . . . that I must admit, (and would be SO happy if someone else would just AGREE with me and not try to talk me out of feeling this way!) that I have gifts which are being wasted. There is just no way around it.

I will not post my resume or toot my own horn too much, but some days I am painfully aware that I have quite a bit of potential (academic, leadership, artistic, activist) that is not being used.

And I KNOW that many of you will want to rush to my rescue and remind me that I have my whole life to persue these areas -- and change the world, if I see fit -- but can we please admit that at least for now, I am not actually changing anyone's world beyond my own family's?!? NOT THAT THIS IS A BAD THING (please, no one take offense -- I'm talking about my deepest mama feelings, not judgement of ANYONE else), but it is a reality with which I think I'm trying to come to terms. (still, after 2.5 years!)

You know, I'm pretty sure that I'm feeling this way tonite bc I've been reading some fabulous stuff -- Ayun Halliday, everything in Brain, Child -- and I'm realizing that SOME mothers manage to SAHM *and* do their art, or their writing, or their activism. Guess I'm feeling a little like an ugly duckling, bc "all" I do is SAH.

Sigh. So what am I hoping to accomplish with this thread? I guess I just want to know if anyone else ever feels this way. Are you a talented person with all your talents on hold? Do you harbor secret thoughts that you're wasting your potential? (guess mine are not so secret anymore!)

If I get flamed for this, I'm telling you now that I don't have the energy to defend myself or my feelings. I just hope that no one will take my musings as criticism of *their* choices . . . you'll note that I'm not even critisizing mine, just reflecting on them.

To post or not to post? That is the question . . .

post #2 of 91
I feel you. I do.

I have friends in real life that I joke with about this. And genuinely commiserate, depending on our moods. Some days it is easy to be philosopic and look forward to the great, wonderful things we will do when our time is more our own but some days... ya just gotta wallow. It's just silly to pretend that anyone, high school drop out or with advanced dgerees, is going to be deeply, joyfully satisfied with an endless string of days in which their paramount accomplishment is creating a healthy snack that gets eatten all up.
post #3 of 91
Thread Starter 
Thank you, kama'aina mama! I needed that!
post #4 of 91
I'll post...

I am struggling with returning to work in May 2005 when dd will be 3 years old. I have a leave of absence until then. I am a (yes, a bit of back patting) good computer programmer/analyst and some days I SOOOOO miss those days of algorithms, problem-solving and bug-finding. I think about how good I was at my job and how much money I made. And now I am thinking about not going back so I can be home summers with dd. "So much code to write, too little time because I'm now a mama" is my motto. I hear you Breathe! I feel a tug towards my CAREER and sometimes wonder if dd would be better off in daycare, and me back to work, doubling our income.

But then... I still get to pull dd in my arms and watch her take her nap... and it's all worth it.

Yeah, I'm wasting potential, but if I were at work all day, I'd still be wasting potential too. I'm right there with you, though. I'm an LLL leader and just that seems overwhelming at times. How could I work and be a mother and an LLL leader? I guess our potential expands as we grow.
post #5 of 91
I totally hear and understand ya! : Hope I don't get flamed too! I could have written that post myself, with the exception that I am now doing things that give me balance. That's the key, at least for me and my family. Otherwise, I would totally feel the same way. What you are doing is so incredibly important, as you already realize , but it really only affects your family right now. I won't go into the details of how wonderful it is to be a SAHM, because that isn't what your OP was about. You also seem to have a very good grasp of the benefits to your family.

Aside from that, however, IMHO you are an individual too. You were a person with talents before having kids. Those talents don't just go away (whether academic, artistic, leadership, etc), but they can certainly stagnate if not used. You can certainly use those talents later on in life, but that is also easier said than done. Offering that as an excuse is just a little too pat, IMO. In many fields, out of sight is out of mind. Sad but true. Someone else is always there to do the work, write the book, paint that painting, etc. Also, as you get older, and have more kids, responsibilities, bills, etc, it is not as easy to "get back into the field" whatever that field may be. In my experience, I have seen too many women who devoted themselves completely to hearth and home, and now that their kids are teens and in college, they have nothing for themselves, except maintaining the house. That's fine, if it is for you. But, if you have talents that you don't use, then it might not be enought for you. KWIM?:

Maybe you can get back into using some of your talents. Do you have anyone who can help you out with babysitting if you choose to get back into doing some things. IMHO, I think a balanced woman makes a balanced and happy mother. We were women before we became mothers. Being a mother is a blessing and a bonus, but it shouldn't take away from our individuality as women. Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. Just wanted to let you know that I hear you and I understand!
post #6 of 91
Can I just say how excited I got using Excel for a purpose the other day? I was a math major, so it really did something for me. I actually was using my brain the way it used to be used. Now, I don't want my old job back per se, but I do need to use my brain in a more efficient way. And it was moments like that when I began to really think about what else there is to me that isn't being tapped into right now. I hear you Breathe!!!
post #7 of 91
I understand completely, Breathe. I drive myself crazy being a part-time WAHM to two young children (both with asthma so winters are nuts) so that I can stay involved in my field, which fascinates me and I'm really good at (since we're not indulging in false modesty in this thread).

During the times when I've been a full-time SAHM (several months after each child was born plus a few months while we were getting ready to move and my husband was already working in the new city), I really enjoyed the connection to my kids, being in that rhythm of full-time caregiving. I also am very domestic, and actually love shopping, cooking and even most cleaning. Laundry is like a meditation for me. (I know I need help.)

But when I was at home full time there was always that other part of me that needed to be attended to. My work both is intellectually very analytical and challenging and, I feel, contributes to making society better. I couldn't get along without it and I don't believe there would be any way for me to get the same things out of an activity that wasn't work. I have passed up some really great job opportunities to stay part-time (I work for myself and consult) and have enough time to keep my family happy and everything running smoothly. But even with part-time work I feel like my talents are on hold and I hope to make full use of them someday.

Hugs to you and good luck. I'm glad no one flamed you.

Beth, Mom to Benji and Maggie
post #8 of 91
Yep, I understand. I've been there at various times over the last five years. Not going to try and make you feel better by talking about the future because you asked us not to.
Just wanted you to know you aren't the only one to love being a mom, to know you are doing the right thing for your family, and to still grieve for your own personal losses and sacrifices. Whoever said we can have it all didn't have a clue.
post #9 of 91
Well, add me to the list of people who are cruisin for a big ol flaming!

Because I agree with you. (There, I'm out of the closet.)

In fact, I've done a lot of thinking about this recently.

Let me start by saying that I do WOH about 14 hours a week - a teeny fraction of my former 80+ hour weeks as a management consultant, but still it's 14 hours/week (spread over 3 days). I was home with dd and ds full time until they turned 1, then I went back on a VERY part-time schedule (and do some more work from home but ONLY when dd and ds are napping - a very firm rule) which remains. So I've kind of seen it from every perspective recently: the successful business woman... the stay at home mom... the mostly SAHM who is also struggling to have a very part-time career too.

Don't get me wrong, I think being a mama is the most important thing that has EVER happened in my life, I am extremely proud to be dd's and ds' mother, and it gives me tremendous joy and satisfaction to spend lots and lots of time with them (quality and just plain old time LOL). But... I really can't help but wonder if I could have been just as good a mama without ever graduating from high school, kwim? As in, what was the point of all that education and training just to sit around my house with my kids all day... no one needs to go to college and business school (or law school, or med school (or any kind of education) for that! And I actually mean that literally. As in, I don't think that being formally educated makes you a better mother and I have a very hard time believing that all mothers from the dawn of humanity until the 1960's were terrible.

I am starting to think there may be a downside... not meaning I'm going to go throw the baby out with the bath water, but it's just a downside or something to consider... about the AP SAH mothering style which I am trying to embrace: it's the complete unabashed (and amazing) selflessness of it and the expectation of continual supression of your own skills or ambitions for the good of your children or family. A little part of me hates to admit that I find something very un-feminist about that, which I have a hard time reconciling for myself. My mother and her generation fought like the dickens to get equal rights and strive for equal pay, and for what? So their daughters whom they went into debt to put through college and/or graduate school can quit their jobs and choose to stay at home after less than 10 years in the workforce???

On the one hand, I think there is nothing more important than being a mother, and for women who decide to stay home and never have one regret, I truly believe that is wonderful. But for the many women I know who feel like we have to make a choice - family over X or Y - I wish our society were able to support ALL that we have to offer and not make us feel like we have to constantly choose family over our own ambitions.

Like tax credit for SAHMs!!! OK, now I'm really done.

Sorry this was so long. I guess everything poured out and I was really so happy to read someone else had been pondering the same types of ideas I had. Not that I have any answers though. Just understanding.

Edited to add: I just discovered Brain, Child myself. I love it!!

And I do feel strongly that it IS possible to have it all.... but that doesn't necessarily mean having it all RIGHT NOW. Now I'm focusing on being a mama, but have my foot in the door so I can pick back up my career when my youngest child(ren) goes off to 1st grade. This seems to be working for me/us so far.
post #10 of 91
It seems to me that one of the things our feminist foremothers fought for was choice. I honor mamas who work in the home, out of the home, or both, whether by choice or circumstance. If you enjoy non-domestic work and you have a good system that works for you, whether it be a great caregiver, working at home when the babes are asleep, or working opposite shifts with your partner, more power to you.
Me, I was a SAHM until my babe was 6 months old. Now I work outside the home with DD 4 hours a week, and work at home 9-12 hours a week. I don't make much, but it buys us groceries and I enjoy the mental stimulus of working very much. I also like that I have a variety of jobs - I run a toddler playgroup one morning a week, I do childcare in my home for a little boy 1 afternoon a week, and I work part time doing shipping for another WAHM's business. I hated working full time and I won't again if we can avoid it, but I like having something else to focus on for awhile.
post #11 of 91
Thank You Thank You Thank You Breathe! Thank you for giving voice to my deepest (darkest?) feelings. I love my family and my life but it gets lonely and, lets face it, dull sometimes. I occasionally find that a whole day has gone by and I haven't uttered a multisyllable word. I know that my choices have a profound effect on my daughter but my little corner of the universe seems awfully small. Somedays I swear I can hear a cosmic clock ticking, ticking, ticking. Margaret Atwood once said "Potential has a shelf life" and sometimes I hear that refrain in my head as I'm trying to get some much needed sleep. Don't know where I'm trying to go with this but thank you for the post!
post #12 of 91
Breathe, that was a beautiful, eloquent post. You gave voice to something I struggle with constantly, and am often too afraid to voice.

Balance. I'm forever seeking balance.
post #13 of 91
I guess I do not see the stage of full-time care of young children as a permanent one (unless you're going to homeschool).

When I feel frustrated at the repetition of my life right now, I try to focus on that. This is just a stage of life. It is allowing me a huge impact on four lives, guaranteed, though I may not see the fruits of it for a couple of decades or more.

You always retain your potential (unless you're a supermodel I guess). It's frustrating to not feel that you are living up to it as much as you'd like. But why should we feel like there is a "shelf life" on potential? The most creative, interesting, and dynamic women I know blossomed in their 40s and 50s. I might have weird friends though.

I view the four years I spent getting my B.S. as a huge waste in many ways. I jumped through the hoops, did the drudgery, so that I could get my piece of paper and move on. I figure spending 5 years tending full time to my little ones might be drudgery 80 percent of the time, but the finished product is much more dynamic and interesting, and I still get to get on with my future.

I have talents that aren't utilized in my parenting. It's frustrating for me because they are things that I enjoy and that help me to feel alive. But yet, this pain of not being able to totally focus on them is giving me new ideas of how to use them and how to incorporate them back into my life and I see this as a source of strength.
post #14 of 91
Well, personally, I wish you'd post your resume AND toot your own horn. What is wrong with THAT?

post #15 of 91
I'm absolutely with you. Being a full time sahm is actually not at all natural in today's society where we don't have extended family and community around, where we are not busy engaged in work with the kids on our backs, etc etc...so I'm not convinced it's the best or only way.

I try as much as possible to do my "normal" stuff while taking care of DS (I practice trumpet, do yoga, write, research, etc), and I think that's as healthy for him to experience as dragging him to yet another mother-toddler group. But it's hard, sometimes impossible, and at this point (DS is 2.5) I'm desparate to work. DH and I strive to share childcare by both working 20-30 hrs each, but that's the dream. We'll see in reality.

Here's the things I never really did but wish I had;

- held onto my job at least a day or two a week, rather than quitting completely thinking I could happily put my career aside for 5 yrs. By the time DS was 6 months I already realised that was a big mistake.

- hired babysitters early on (DS has never had one) so he got used to it and we got used to doing our own thing. Even if they just take him to the park and I stay home and practice, write, whatever.

- used Dh much more; I am only now getting in the habit of getting out in the evenings to pursue things; yoga, meditation, etc, so that during the day I have that time to look forward to.

- stayed more involved with my profession, through conferences, reading, meetings etc.

I feel I'm just getting a grasp on all this and now as I'm feeling ready to go back to work p/t we're also ttc another, so I'm nervous of going back to where I started. But I do aim for it to be different second time around. I've always known that to be the best mother I can be I need to pursue my dreams and career.
post #16 of 91

Re: Wasting potential as a SAHM. It's true.

Originally posted by Breathe
but can we please admit that at least for now, I am not actually changing anyone's world beyond my own family's?!?
No. :LOL

Seriously - by staying at home and giving your son a stabile, loving start in life (btw - I'm not saying this isn't possible if a mother works out of the home. It just appears that, according to you, it wouldn't work so well in your case), you are raising a secure child. As a result, you are making a difference in the world that my son is going to grow up in. I really appreciate that. REALLY. Especially after I go to the playground and see the throngs of hellions that he might have to go to school with one of these days.

Sigh. So what am I hoping to accomplish with this thread? I guess I just want to know if anyone else ever feels this way. Are you a talented person with all your talents on hold? Do you harbor secret thoughts that you're wasting your potential? (guess mine are not so secret anymore!)
Yes. Absolutely. And I'm even in law school right now. I still feel like there's so much more or different I could be doing. For example, after 29 years, I'm finally coming into my creativity. And I just don't have the energy to do anything with it. And, to be honest, even if I wasn't in school, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the energy for it. It's as though whatever I absolutely HAVE to do is the sum of the energy I can muster.

But, you know, your child is still quite young and user-intensive. This time period is exhausting. Fairly soon, he might start doing more by and for himself... and then you'll be freed up a little to focus on other things that are important to you. It's a waiting game.

In the meantime, I hope you can find some solace in the fact that your child is going to be a positive contributor to society largely because of what you are providing for him now. That means soooooo much.
post #17 of 91
I feel this way, too at times. It is one of those darkest deepest feelings and I fear them, like the feelings being true is too much to handle.

I think there is much sacrifice of the self in order to mother children. Part of the problem is there is little in our culture that affirms mothering children and I have received precious little of that affirmation over the years.

About a month ago I started going through this, it's sort of a depression. I feel as though I have nothing tangible to show for my life. I haven't accomplished much of anything and if I even attempt to try now I am so wasted away I would fail miserably.

Three things came to mind as failures for me (and they might sound petty) my karate has been sucking. I have been in the midst of preparing to paint my daughters room since before Christmas, and I have been purposing to register for classes at a local University but the trip to the U has been postponed over and over again. I actually got prayer for this because it was hurting me so badly. The week after getting prayer I painted the ceiling of the room (dh was mad at me for that) I went to get info for classes, and I broke two boards at once so I felt better about my karate.

I admit I'm an extreme case because I've been mothering children for the past 25 years of my life (basically my entire adult life) and I wasn't even involed in a self-fulfilling activity until almost two years ago (karate and I'm not sure that counts since six of my children train as well)

If I had to re-live my life (and I wasn't going to get the children I have now because it was a complete restart with the outcome completely open) I would at least finish my education and establish myself in some career.

I would work to change the basic structure and expectations of work and home. My ideal model would be both parents working less (ideally about 30hours each) and the overlap of hours would be daycare hours but it would be relatively minimul (10-15 hours in daycare with the parents soloing 20 hours/week)

I would definately give more to myself because as things are I get little respect from people, I'm not taken as seriously. I, for example, am expected to do most of the work around the house and generally all of the parenting responsibility ismine. For example, dh has been working too many hours. I really need to train tonight because it's the advanced class, I get to train with my daughter I don't see much, and I'm testing next week and I need as many trainings with our main sensei as I can manage. My son has a wrestling meeting at the same time. DH doesn't even consider taking Jon to the meeting, he has his work (he could take his work home with him especially since the majority of the family will be in karate.) but I'm guilting because I'm leaning toward going to karate (Jon's involved in several sports and has recently taken an interest in wrestling) Jon thinks he could get a ride but I think he is feeling that we aren't interested in him because of this and I'm guilting about it.

And Dh isn't.

This is one of many numerous examples of what encompases the dark side of my choices.

post #18 of 91
Thread Starter 
Wow. I am overwhelmed by your responses! I have SO many thoughts and want to reply to each of you, bc I feel a really awesome conversation coming on (!!), but sadly, we were up ALL NIGHT -- not an exaggeration, it was my first all-nighter since grad school -- with a sick child. And so today I must survive and get this child well.

heavy, heavy sighs. Yet ANOTHER reason I could not hold down another job. How do WOHMs do it?!?!

More from me as soon as I can. Keep it comin' Mamas!

post #19 of 91
Okay, I agree - I am not reaching my full potential as a SAHM. But to be quite honest with you (and myself), I'm not using my full potential as a SAHM any less than I was at any job I have ever held. I mean, is there really an ideal job out there that would perfectly use my talents to the fullest? I don't think so. I was happy to quit and be a SAHM because every job I've had has been dumb in one way or another.

The last company I worked at, after being there a year, I was paid 25% more than I was when I started because I got raises at every evaluation (3 months, 6 months, and a year) - according to the employee manual you are only eligible for one raise, but apprently my boss convinced them that I was pretty good. And when I got pregnant, they BEGGED me to return and told me I could have a flexible schedule and work whatever hours I wanted. Currently, I'm working exclusively from home via internet for about 10 hours a week because that's about all I manage to get in, but if I put in 20 or more they'd be just as happy. I've held various positions with that company, from auditing to working on special projects where I'm troublshooting different issues that come up. So I'm very good at what I do, but it certainly is not a passion for me. I wouldn't say I love my job or that I would even think of going back to do it full time and putting DS in daycare. I do it because I know my time is a huge help to them, since they can't hand my tasks to just anyone. But I would quit in a minute if I didn't need that little "extra" in order for us to afford my being a SAHM. I've certainly found my "niche" at this company where my abilities are put to their best use for them, but I don't think I'm reaching my potential there any more than I am being a SAHM. Frankly, I'd rather not have to worry about making the time to put in those 10 hours every week. I know I'm appreciated and I make good money, but I don't feel like I'm fulfilling my potential any more at that job than I am as a SAHM.

So yes, I'm wasting my potential as a SAHM, but no more than I have at any job I've ever had. I mean, can you really come up with an ideal job that would perfectly use your potential, much less actually find that ideal job?
post #20 of 91
Ugh. I could cry. I feel like this, and more so as of late.
I am very creative, artistic and talented. And I am doing NOTHING with it, b/c all I do is be a mom. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that and wouldn't trade it for the world, but to be able to do something crafty or artsy. I have been told numerous times I should do something with my 'talent', people rave about my stuff...but when? I SO admire the work at home Mamas who can do it all. Maybe someday, but right now I feel I am TOTALLY wasting time! I do work out of the home 1 day a week, but its at a job I don't even like! I just do it b/c its for a friend. I also am a massage therapist, which I could do at home, but do you think I am? Nope. Maybe we should start a MDC support group :LOL Kidding...well, maybe not...
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