As a mother, I’ve always hoped that one day when my kids were grown and gone, I’d look back at my life and time spent with them and have no regrets.
I didn’t want to be the person who wistfully remembered doing the dishes instead of cuddling with them. I didn’t want to lament time spent stressed and exhausted, instead of planning fun adventures with them. I didn’t want to be the person who wished she would have enjoyed her kids more when she had the chance.
So what I am about to say is very difficult for me: I regret working so much when my children were little.
At 3, 5, 7, and 9, my children are still “little,” but in a way, I feel like the most intense phase of motherhood is over for me. That constantly-pregnant/nursing/dealing with diapers/tantruming toddlers/feeling-like-my-brain-was-about-to-explode phase of parenting very young children has passed. I feel like I’m waking up in a way from that intense baby and toddler stage and taking a look around, wondering what the heck just happened. I can see clearly now that I was operating purely on survival mode during those years. And while I was living through them, I honestly had no idea how truly challenging that time was.
Those early years of motherhood were marked by a frantic fervor for me. Despite having four kids in six years, I was determined to make enough money to stay home with them. So I worked on an at-home business to make it happen. In the middle of breastfeeding, stomach bugs, potty training, and trying to keep a clean house, I worked. And worked. And worked some more. I was constantly rushing and stressing, trying to fit in 10 million things as I sprinted from one kid to the next — all while checking email, attempting to work “real quick,” and crying to my husband about how stressed I was.
I did all the things that work-at-home moms are “supposed” to do. I got up early to squeeze in work … but a baby would wake up. I tried to stay up late to squeeze in work … but a kid would refuse bedtime. I’d arrange for a babysitter for a few hours … and a kid would get sick. It was a relentless march of exhaustion, but I was determined to make it work. And during my frantic rush to succeed as both a stay-at-home mom and working mom at the same time, I worked myself into the ground.