I Didn't Stay Home for My Kids

When I was fourteen years old I registered my first company, People for People, connecting babysitters to my overflowing client list. I’ve registered several companies since -- I love working. I enjoy the creativity, the problem-solving, and the interaction with others. I waited six months to go back to work with my firstborn, but took calls just ten hours after my second child was born, because we were in the middle of a merger which is not a good time to go on maternity leave (as opposed to all those other, great times to go on mat leave).

I was fortunate enough to be working from home as a consultant, which gave me the flexibility to design my schedule around my kids. When we were interviewed by Time Out NY magazine for a work-from-home segment, I thought I had finally struck the holy grail of work/life balance.

It didn't last long. My eldest had just turned eleven and was trying on her first pair of skinny jeans. As she pulled them on, I had a flash of her turning 15 and then 18 and then out-the-door! My stomach knotted up as it does when I want something. And I realized that what I wanted was more time with my kids.

The decision to stop working, like all of the decisions I make, was completely selfish. I didn’t think it would make life any better for my kids. In fact, I am aware of studies that show that being a stay-at-home mom might actually do them harm, resulting in lower pay and supervisory roles for my girls and a son who is a bit of a schmuck when it comes to helping out around the house. Pishy caca. Same goes for the studies that show that staying at home results in higher grades and better behavior for middle and high schoolers.

The thing is, I didn’t choose to stay at home for my kids. I chose to do it for me.

Thank goodness. Not because the experience was rewarding and my children are turning into beautiful, compassionate human beings (it was and they are, but that’s beside the point); but because now that I am merging back into the workforce I can feel the hit I have taken from staying at home. At this stage I am a little less cocky (and confident), driven (and determined), and eager (and energetic). In other words, I am older and wiser, and who I am today isn’t who I thought I would be when I first made the choice to stay at home with my kids.

Which doesn’t surprise me. After all, nothing in my life is how I thought it would be, why would this be any different? The me that made the choice to stay at home was younger (as were her adorable cherubs). The me that is dealing with that choice is older (as are my typical teens).

That’s why making the choice of staying at home or working out of the home (or any other choice for that matter) is easier to hold on to when you stick to the truth of what you want. So that when the consequences of your choices are revealed to you a year or a decade later, you can hold on to the fact that you did what you wanted. That you tuned everyone else out so you could tune into yourself. That you collected your data, discussed it with your trusted advisors and pulled the trigger this way or that - with an understanding that the future outcome was absolutely not guaranteed.

That making choices about where or what to study, or where or what to do, or whether you should work out of the home or stay home with the kids, may be better rooted in what you want than in what you anticipate the outcome will be. Because then, if the outcome is not what you want, you can hang on to the fact that you made the best possible choice in the moment. Which is good because there is no money- (or time-) back guarantee.

So all you can do is hope (or pray, or meditate, or manifest - whatever it is that you do) and hold on to the fact that you did what you wanted. And give your kids an extra hug as they run out the door, whether you are staying behind or running out with them. If they’ll let you.