Am I missing out by having kids so young?

An armful of boys -- see the constructive things I spend my days doing?!
An armful of boys — see the constructive things I spend my days doing?! Just kidding. I know I’m doing valuable work.

There are countless benefits to having kids young that I’m well aware of. Though I didn’t plan it this way, I’m now very glad that my pregnancies, births, and early child-raising years are all taking place in my early- and mid-twenties. Judging by how tired I get on a daily basis, I can’t imagine attempting it in my forties, so kudos to the brave women who do.

Where having kids early doesn’t help, however, is when it comes to developing one’s career. Even though I’m doing important work at home — ensuring that the next generation is raised to be intelligent, conscientious, and compassionate — I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed the boat on something bigger. I hear of my friends continuing on in their post-graduate studies, or finishing up law school, or attending medical school, or transferring overseas for jobs in exotic locations. These friends are in what I think of as “acquisition mode,” acquiring important letters after their names and big dollar amounts in their bank accounts. They’re gaining, growing, expanding, conquering, exploring. Meanwhile, I’m in “giving mode,” where my daily crowning achievement (besides a blog post) might be a loaf of homemade bread or some cookies, which are quickly inhaled by ever-ravenous little boys. I exist in the present, focusing on each day. It’s difficult to think of grander schemes beyond the next load of laundry and the menu plan.

Some people offer reassurance to my voiced concerns, saying, “Just think, when you start working you won’t have to stop for maternity leave. You’ll have nothing holding you back.” That’s true, but in the eyes of an employer I’d also be entering the workforce as a beginner, with no previous workplace experience. I’d be on equal level with any recent university graduate in her early twenties, except that I’ll be in my thirties, which doesn’t make it any better, also because I will have spent a decade “out of the loop.” The overarching problem is that stay-at-home moms are at a disadvantage because our at-home years aren’t given enough credit in this society.

Now imagine if there were enforced gender ratios in the workplace — not necessarily a perfect 50/50 split (it depends on the type of job), but a certain mandated percentage for women. Suddenly women like myself, who have chosen to raise our own children, wouldn’t feel so lost when we start up our careers later in life because employers would be searching specifically for women to fill important roles. Even better, the valuable skills we would have gained throughout the years at home might be acknowledged and respected, instead of seemingly ignored because they don’t translate easily onto a résumé.

As much as I love being at home with my little boys, I can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed and shy when I tell people I’m a stay-at-home mom. I sense ever so slightly that I’m being judged. The interesting thing is to see people’s transformed reactions when I add that I’m a writer for Discovery Communications (that’s my job for Parentables). Instantly, they smile and nod and say, “Oh, that’s wonderful,” whereas, before I said that, they nodded patiently and said, “Yes, well, raising kids is very important work.” No matter how important it is, raising kids and working for money are not considered equal by many people I’ve met; the latter takes precedence and is treated with greater respect than the former. Because I personally think it should be the other way around, that’s why I do the job I do. I just hope that someday my future career doesn’t suffer because I made this choice in my twenties.

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9 thoughts on “Am I missing out by having kids so young?

  1. Stay at home mom is the hardest job I have done in my life … and the one that pushed beyond my limits. I bet there are many women there they agree with me. And I have learnt so many things -time management, leadership, group dynamic, organization, communication, entertainment to say the least. Unfortunately, our generation have not seen yet the important of the stay at home moms and the wisdom that derives out of their experience.

  2. This is sad but very true. I feel so embarrassed whenever I meet my husbands friends (who are considerably older than I am) and they ask what I do only to reply that I am in Retail Management, but actively seeking a job to utilize my degree. I know it is not the same as your situation but I do feel a similar dread. Hang in there. Life will work itself out for the better. Try to remember this plan was mapped out in stars for you.

  3. What’s your dream future career? If it’s as a writer, it’s your current one and you’re doing it right now, with kids!
    I found the stay-at-home years tough, but I’m so glad I did it. I include the seven ‘Nappy Years’ on my CV – it was a valid part of my growth as a person and makes it clear in black and white to any client that while work is important, family is more so.

  4. I’m REALLY against mandating minimum percentages of either gender in the workforce, as well as any other practice that gives a group of people an unfair advantage over everyone else for a reason beyond their control. Your time as a stay at home mom may or may not be considered as relevant job experience, depending on what job you apply for. Either way, the experience of raising children will have given you a certain work ethic and perspective on life that most recent university grads won’t have, and that definitely will be taken into consideration. Spending those early years with your kids is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has undeniably enriched both your life and theirs. Isn’t that worth a year or two of playing “catch up” in the rat race?

  5. I think the most important thing is to make life choices with heart and mind engaged. If you do what feels right, rather than what feels expected, then it is the right thing for you, and you’ll make it work. Yeah, some things might be harder, but others will be easier…it all falls into place. (and don’t pay attention to societal bs. No one really has it all, anyway.) Keep writing, though!

  6. I think the opposition between women who work outside or inside the home is a tool of the patriarchy that prevents women from recognizing the value in other choices, and makes women feel bad. The reality is that most women do most of the work at home, regardless of whether they also have what we would typically consider a job. Women attempt to recognize this false dichotomy, and say patronizing things like “oh that’s so great you stay at home” which you have evidently experienced. At a rhetorical level this division between women becomes even more powerful (see for example the recent article on feminist housewives). Moving beyond this opposition would allow for more creative possibilities for women, and, perhaps also for men.

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