Response to "The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In", an article in the New York Times. Part 2: Sense of Purpose
I can totally relate to the women who said they were searching for a sense of purpose. When you're working out of the home, there's a sense of doing something big picture; something greater than yourself. When you're a SAHM, you're with your children, which is awesome but it can feel very self-serving. You're very focused on your own little circle and you don't think much about the world outside. It can make a person feel one-sided, underutilized and alone.
One husband who was interviewed continually mentioned that his wife was on a 10- year journey of self-discovery. I would argue that she was on more of a 10-year journey of self-redefining. Being a SAHM can suck all the uniqueness from your being. For me, I lost a large part of my identity, and almost 2 years in, I still haven't figured out who I am. Face it, when I told people I was a cancer biologist doing research at Vanderbilt University, that was awesome. Now I say, I stay home and they have know idea what I've achieved in my life. I'm "just a mom". It honestly doesn't do much for my self-esteem. I think it's sad that for me and many other mother's who were interviewed that raising our children isn't enough. We are all part of the "and" revolution. We want to be mom "and" a successful member of the work place.
Adjusting to being a SAHM can also play havoc on your marriage. Things change, rolls change and you have to start all over as a married couple. It was very difficult for me to go from a very demanding job where I was a leader to a different very demanding job where I am the leader. The difference being the former was controlled by me, the latter is a daily roller coaster ride where I have virtually no control.
The world today values money and making money. Staying home to raise a family is not viewed as a "worthy" choice. It's hard enough when you struggle internally with self-worth, but when the world and maybe even your family feels you should be doing more with your life, the struggle can turn into an all out war. The notion that we can "have it all" has morphed into we should "do it all". That's a lot of pressure for anyone. I have chosen to put my past in the past. It was something I did, that I'm proud of. But it's a life I will likely never return to. Being a SAHM has forced me to find my self-esteem in who I am and not what I do. I am not saying that staying home is not a worthy profession, but even that job will end some day. The kids WILL move out eventually and I'll have to start over again. Ugh.