SAHM Guilt: Wasting My College Degree

This was never the plan.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “Oh, I could never do that. I could never be a stay-at-home mom.” Yet, here I am. I’m so thankful that I have the choice to stay home with my babies. Many of my dearest friends do not and desperately wish they could. Please do not take this as an ungrateful whine from a mother who doesn’t know how good she has it.

But weaving in and through the layers of thankfulness and joy, always humming in the background, is the guilt I feel over wasting my college degree.

I attended a large, state university and graduated with a degree in early childhood education. I got into a competitive grad school program and graduated with a Master’s degree after a full year teaching internship. The time. The WORK. The money — oh the money. 

After graduating, I taught in the public schools for six years. Again, I was constantly poured into by mentor teachers, sent to expensive trainings, completed hours upon hours of continuing education. This was my calling. I was passionate about teaching children.

And then I had my first baby.

Staying home was not on my radar. Even as I was on maternity leave, I made plans to return. I wrote lesson plans while my baby slept. I pinned things I wanted to try on Pinterest. But just as I prepared to return to school, my husband got a job in a new city. I couldn’t fathom moving and starting a new job at a new school with a new baby, so I decided to stay home. “It’s temporary,” I told myself. That was three years ago.

I love being home with my babies, but I often find myself missing the “other me.” Teacher Me. Working Me. And when I think about the time and effort I put into becoming a working, professional adult, I feel so guilty. Did I waste all that time? All that money? My parents were so proud when I graduated. My professors poured so much into me. I worked SO HARD.

I recently shared this guilt with a group of moms and received some really fantastic advice. If you’re like me and feel like you’re “wasting” your college degree by staying home with your children, keep these things in mind:

  1. It can be temporary if you want it to be. 

    You can always return to the working world and use your degree in the future. How long in the future is up to you and your situation. I find the cost of childcare daunting, so I will likely wait until my children are in elementary school, but I have not ruled out returning earlier if our financial situation changes or I simply miss Working Me too much.

  2. You have a security net.

    Life can change in the blink of an eye. I am so thankful to know if my family were to suddenly lose my husband’s income, I can provide. On that note, I do have a piece of advice: if you have a professional license that will expire one day, KEEP IT ACTIVE. Find out what it takes to keep it active, and do it. You never know when you might need it on a moment’s notice.

  3. Find ways to use your degree with your children.

    This is obviously much easier for some, but I know you can think outside the box, you college graduate. I recently organized our playroom into classroom-like centers, and it gave me LIFE. Nutritionists: pack those beautiful healthy lunches that make the rest of us jealous. Medical professionals: do you know how much kids love to play doctor and learn the correct name of body parts? Whatever your degree is in, I know you can find ways to include your children in your passions and interests that existed long before they were born.

Maybe you desire to return to the working world someday. Maybe you don’t. Either way, you have set an incredible example for your kids to work hard and achieve big things. Your kids are so proud of you, and their opinion is the only one that matters.

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