Embarrassing Feeling Going to Work

Updated on October 21, 2018
T.A. asks from Amherst, MA
25 answers

Hi, I am 46yr old woman. For past 15yrs I have stayed home, not worked. Now that my kids are big, one in high school and another in college I started for work. I joined retail as an associate. We need money now for kids college and also I thought I could build up on my retirement savings social security and all that. I was initially happy that I could find work at this age. It’s not even a month and I feel so low. The women who are of my age have great careers and I feel I have really done such an irreversible blunder by staying home so many years. At the same time I feel happy I could be with my kids through out their childhood and well into teenage years. But again I feel like a failure when I compare myself to other women. I am in retail working with people in their 20s. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to bump into someone I know in the store. I don’t feel really great thinking of going to work these days.

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So What Happened?

I really needed those words of encouragement and reassurance. Comparing myself to others after all that I have done so far happily and willingly.....hmmm....No I shouldn't be doing this. Thank you all wonderful ladies out there. Love you all! Your words will keep me moving forward. I have been reading and re reading your replies and that is making me feel better. Just love all of you!

Featured Answers



answers from Washington DC on

Start to take note as you go from place to place. I see women in their 60 's and 70's working all over the place and you know why? It's because they have a great work ethic! Never, ever be ashamed of a hard day's work, no matter what you are doing. And be proud of the mom job the most!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I have my MBA and an undergraduate degree in marketing. If I ever go back to work, I would not want my old corporate job back.

I have a friend that is super wealthy. Her kids are grown and her husband travels for work. She got a job working the front desk in a full service beauty salon. She loves it.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Baton Rouge on

every option comes with an opportunity cost.
You did what you felt was best for your family.
You can't undo the past, and if you could, then you might regret that path when you were older as well.
You have no reason to be ashamed.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I just love Reality Chick's response. I guess she never cooked, cleaned, did yard work, drove kids everywhere, maintained household repairs, finances, volunteered, etc. Because unless you can afford to pay someone else to do all of those things there's nothing "vacation" like about being a stay at home mom. Or maybe she just kept a shitty house and watched TV all day.
Any who, it's perfectly normal to re enter the workforce where you left off. I have done it myself. And yes, at first there's a bit of a feeling of being behind, of having missed out on opportunities. But really at our age why dwell on it? I'm 50. Most of the people I'm working with are 25 to 35. I love it! They are fun to work with, energizing and honestly I wouldn't want to trade places with them. Things you and I took somewhat for granted (like having kids and buying a home) are MUCH more difficult for them to achieve. We are past all of that. Earning money now is more of a way to make EXTRA money, not a way of life. I know LOTS of women who are doing this kind of work so it's not that big of a deal to run into them. Try not to be embarrassed and just enjoy this time of life. And remember how nice it was when you were able to breastfeed all night and not have to rush into the office at 6 AM. And how fun it was to help organize a school play or work on fundraisers or coach your kid's soccer team without worrying about how much it would take away from your job performance. Working, not working, neither is better or worse than the other, each has it's benefits as well as sacrifice, so just keep that in mind.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's sort of a mid life crisis thing.
Everyone thinks about the roads not taken.
You question the choices you made.
But after awhile you see the grass really isn't any greener on any other side.
You know you are over it when you once again come to a sense of pride with how you lived your life.
And once you have reached that point - you are ready for a new adventure.
You are doing something new and it can be a bit daunting at first.
You will learn to embrace it and find a new comfortable normal again.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

A job is a job and if it's paying bills or creating retirement savings it's worth it. Who cares what anyone else thinks??
When I worked retail, 20 something's were the minority. Most of the women I worked with were mid fourties to mid 60's. So you are fine. Stop comparing yourself to others. You were there for your kids and that's all that matters

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We have this huge dichotomy in this country about valuing women's work and women's choices. You made the choice that was right for you, raising kids. Value that! You made a choice to go back to work. Value that! What's embarrassing about having a career? You seem to value other women who work, but not yourself when you work - if you have friends who are shaming you for working, then they are not your friends. (Don't think of it as "needing to work" - think of it as working, period!)

Stop comparing. You have life experience these young women don't. They may know some things about retail - learn from them, but also demonstrate the sort of maturity and non-excitability that comes from managing a household, 2 teenagers, and a bunch of home emergencies.

BTW My widowed mother left her home in Florida at age 80 to move closer to me. She got a place in a senior independent living complex, with a nursing home and rehab unit attached should she ever need them. Within a few months, she got a job. In retail! She learned to work a cash register, swipe credit cards, and use terms like "BOGO." She was 40 years older than her coworkers. She loved it. She did it to stay active and involved, not to make money. She was never embarrassed about it. I should have her call you!

Some of what you may be feeling is the empty nest thing, even though you still have a kid at home. They don't need you as much, but that's because you did your job, making them independent! Now it's your turn! Value what you did and value what you are doing.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I spent the first 5/7 years of my children's life at home with them. It was NOT a vacation. Rude.
If we spent all of our lives comparing ourselves to everyone else...we will be disappointed! There will always be someone with more money, more prestige, better vacations, better jobs, a bigger house....you name it!
How do you know that these women that have been working the past 15 years don't envy you? You stayed home with your children and got to see them throughout their childhoods! That's something some woman may wish they had been able to do.
You MUST stop comparing yourself or you will never be happy.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

If anyone says anything simply tell them the kids are all grown up and I decided to go back to work. I had way too much time on my hands and I love my job.

I loved working in retail. I got a 20% discount on my purchases and I could watch the clearance racks and buy super presents for little money. I would buy all year round and at Christmas and birthdays I looked like the real hero. My grandkids always got huge bags of clothes in a variety of sizes + shoes and jackets and their parents were relieved at not having to spend so much on the kids clothes.
If someone is judging you for working they are not your friend, friends don't judge. As far as these women's careers ... well you had one also your career was raising your children.
BTW: I'm 63 and still working and loving it. I'd go crazy if I retired.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I can understand how you feel, but it's because you're comparing yourself to others. I think this is "the grass is greener" situation. Have you considered that those women with great careers might be regretting not being a SAHM or wished they could've done what you did? You shouldn't regret the time you got to spend with your children.

I'm in my late 30s with a 6 year old and a 3 year old and I wish we could afford for me to stay home with the kids the way you did.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

if the issue is that retail isn't your bag, find something that rings your chimes better. i'm back in retail because i found the right little shop with the right little hours and it fits nicely into my life. i was never a huge career gal, so it doesn't bug me that i'm ringing up jewelry and art purchases instead of trying cases in court.

if the issue is that you regret being a SAHM, time to put that aside. i worked when my kids were little. went back when each of 'em was 5 weeks old, because we just couldn't afford for me to miss any more work. it sucked.

no such thing as a Big Life Decision that doesn't come with caveats. we all make the best decisions we can make at the time.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

One thing I have always thought is that if I decided to re-enter the workforce I would choose something like Target or Walgreens. Something where I could leave work at work and possibly get store discounts.

I did the big corporate world right out of college and then I taught school for a few years until I had kids.

Staying home with kids is no vacation, HA!! I've worked harder at home than any job in the world. I used to tell my husband I wanted to go back to work and I did for a bit substitute teaching while my kids were in elementary at their school. It made a bit of extra money for vacations and things.

Anyways, I would never feel embarrassed about being at home with my kids. And never feel bad about a hard days work anywhere. Most of my SAHM friends are highly educated but when they go back to work they choose retail or sales with regular hours and the leave work at work type jobs I describe and all seem to love working.

If you run into anyone at work just play it off as, "well the kids are grown so I'm working for fun" sort of a lassie-fair attitude...

You aren't a failure you are hero giving your kids the gift of you!! They won't get that until they have kids of their own. Also, you can work your way up in any organization, aim to be manager in a year or two...you have these young working kids beat with life experience and work ethic. Big hugs!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Welcome to mamapedia, T. A.

Stop worrying about what others have "accomplished" - you did what was right for your family and you. While you may not realize it? There are some women out there that are jealous that you got to stay home as long as you did. being a SAHM is no vacation. It's a job - a hard job that you don't get paid for. You get the rewards to see your work in your kids now - college and high school - succeeding! You did the right thing mama!

I wouldn't be embarrassed at all. If people ask what I'm doing? I'm getting back out in the working world after raising my kids.

Stop comparing yourself. Stop beating yourself up. You did what was right for your family. Enjoy this time!! Learn! If you don't like retail? Find a class you can take to get you other skills that you can do! You're 46 - not 66. You've got time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Don't be embarrassed. Being a mother is the most important job in the world. Someone once told me that - and if you were lucky enough to be able to do it full time, then embrace it. It's the one job that matters the most to your children. Working provides women (especially if it's a career/profession/job you enjoy) with esteem and satisfaction, friendships, social contact, etc. not to mention pay - and that makes us stronger moms and people for sure - but if we chose or had to be home with our kids - we can be just as strong and feel good about it. Don't ever feel down about being home. It bothers me when women do.

There's no right or wrong way to have raised your children. We should not compare - however we all do it and judge ourselves.

I hear you. I had a career and had to leave work at one point. It was hard for me. I am sure I was judged, but the worst judge of myself is me. I had to let that go. I look at my kids and realize ok they can be little jerks sometimes, but I've done my best regardless. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

Feel pride - you did really well - and who cares what these other women have done. They've made mistakes, aren't perfect, and are just people - like you. It really doesn't matter. Own your success! You've raised great kids. You're a fun, positive person entering the workforce again. Just own where you are and don't look back. Don't compare. That never makes people feel good.

As others have said just say "Yup, I raised my kids, and now I'm doing this as something to do for myself". Good for you :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

That makes me so sad and frustrated! I think being a SAHM is an amazing thing to do for your family! I am a teacher, so I work full-time during the school year and have my summers off. So I'm kind of a SAHM during the summer. It is not an easy job! Even as the kids get older, it is not an easy job! But it's an important job. The things you do for your family add so much to their lives. It is so important that you know that what you did for years was a huge thing to them!!!

Every choice we make in life means saying no to something else. You just can't do everything. You had to sacrifice some things in order to stay home. In the same way, I might be earning a salary, but I work later in the evening that I want to and sometimes miss out on my kids activities. I also feel like I don't give them enough attention when it comes to school work. (It's really tough to get the housework done, too.)

When you start to feel down and have trouble remember how much you have done for your family and just how amazing that is, maybe it will help to know that there are many, many moms out there who do know how hard you've worked and how valuable you really are!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

Comparisons can be the quickest way to steal joy in life. You’re either going to come up short or think you’ve come up better and either one is damaging.

I was at a homeschool conference and a speaker talked about how people who started on cathedrals knew they wouldn’t be the ones to finish. The fruits of their labor seemed small. Yet every day they came to work, contributed their best skill, and knew it would be beautiful when completed. They wouldn’t see it, but it didn’t take away from the importance of their contributions to the masterpiece.

You chose to INVEST in your kids. I’m hoping you’re not questioning whether that was time well spent. You can offer a wealth of knowledge through life experience that the 20-30 group doesn’t have. As far as the ones your age, you think you come up short because they continued balancing work and family? They question their choices too. It may not seem like it, but they do.

My aunt started over again when she only had 3 years left at Texas Instruments to retire. She hated what she did. She decided to become a deputy sheriff. She was the oldest in her class. She had to lose 30 lbs and pass the physical fitness requirements that her 20 something class was doing. Her classmates called her grannie and she inspired them. They came to her for comfort and encouragement. She passed and did what she loved for less than 10 years before cancer took her. When I asked her if she would’ve done anything differently she said become a sheriff sooner.

You have an OPPORTUNITY. View it through a different lens and determine to make a difference. I tell my kids please, whatever you choose to do, do it with all your talent and energy.

Best to you!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Nothing embarrassing about working a decent job, and getting an honest day's pay. Also, think of the flip side -- some women are embarrassed to tell others they are SAHMs, because they think the moms will assume they have no marketable job skills, no education, a low-paying, dead-end career, or a jealous husband who doesn't want them to work. There have been very highly-educated women making 6 figures who decided they wanted to be SAHMs and raise their kids themselves and had enough income saved up to be able to do so and still live comfortably, but most people would probably not guess that. So see, it works both ways, there will always be judgmental people on both sides of the grass. Ignore them and worry about yourself!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Being a SAHM isn't for slackers and its NO VACATION! Its hard work and no time off. You were there for the kids which is awesome and what a gift that is.

There is nothing wrong with retail. It has flexible hours and discounts on the stuff you sell. You are providing a service to those who come in same as your career lady friends. Nothing to be embarrassed about!! Hold your head high!!!

If you aren't happy in retail, what interests you? You have plenty of time to start your "career". You need to decide what interests you and find out what the requirements are for that career. You are still plenty young!!

Good luck!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

If you're really in Amherst, then I can understand how you might feel. With all of the schools there, your social circle probably includes a lot of highly educated women with "big" careers - professors, law, medicine, etc. As the other responders have already written, there is no shame in any kind of work and the grass isn't always greener. I've been a "career" woman my entire adult life because I was a single mother, then was the breadwinner when I was married, and now I'm the head of my household again as a divorced mom. I never regretted my choice to work outside the home, but I always admired moms who were able to stay at home and was grateful that they were there for not only their own kids, but the greater community. Those moms were able to volunteer in the classroom during the day, or drive a sick friend to chemo, or run around picking up fundraiser donations during business hours or give another kid a ride home from an after-school activity, etc. Those are the parents whose houses my kids could visit for an after-school play date, or could declare a beach or pool day in the summer and bring some of their friends' kids along. Those are the moms who help keep childhood going, beyond the ways that moms who work outside of the home can cover with baby-sitters and drivers and paid camps and paid programs can do. You got to be a part of that, and that's truly special.

As my kids have gotten older (middle school through college now) I see more and more of those moms getting back into the workforce. Some are substitute teachers or work at school in the office or cafeteria, playground or library. Some work retail, everything from Target or CVS or other big chains down to little boutiques. Some do side gig businesses (selling makeup, lettings, etc.), some learn a skill like cutting hair or doing nails and join a local salon or open up a shop at their house. Some go to school to learn an entirely new career - I have a friend in her late 40s who is in school to become a nurse practitioner after 18 years of taking care of her kids, and a friend's mom went to law school in her 50s. Another friend started working with a local florist recently, another is an admin at a local insurance company. Honestly if I didn't need the salary and benefits of my field, I'd work at a bakery. I would love to decorate cakes and cookies and deal with customers and then go home at the end of the day and not think about project plans and revenue projections. These jobs are all normal at our age, and I don't think anyone judges someone for being in them.

You're young enough that you reasonably have almost 20 working years left (unless your husband is significantly older and you plan on retiring at the same time he will). You have plenty of time to figure out what kind of work will be fulfilling and meet your needs in terms of schedule and pay. If that's retail, there's nothing wrong with that, and enjoy it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

(Sorry this is so long)

Does it occur to you, that they feel just as intimidated by you?

I am in the same boat as you. I am in a training program and have two superiors over me. One is in his 30’s, the other brand new out of school. Both are struggling to find out who they are. It’s nice, being older that I am past that. It’s nice, being older that I don’t have that pressure to prove myself. I returned to the work force two years ago, and became inspired to pursue a new career goal. To get into this training goal I had to take the part of the ACT, yep you read that right. Talk about intimidation....sitting in a room of 300 teenagers , who are really thinking ‘kid pick up is not for another 3 hours, gramma’. Even the proctor sought me out during break to ask me why I was taking the test. Yep, seriously. Not to mention retaking another state test I passed 20 years ago (I let certification I worked so hard to get expire...SMH) and then also had to apply to a college amongst all these 20 somethings.

But when the proctor started talking to me, he then told me he restarted his career in his 40’s and again in his 60’s. He told me how courageous I was. Since pursuing my ‘second career’ I can’t tell you how many of my working friends have revealed to me how miserable they are at their jobs and wish they could take a chance and redo their job/ career.

You now have this opportunity!

Never ever be embarrassed pursuing a goal that is bettering you! Big or small....you make this yours!

This is just the beginning paragraphs in a new chapter of your life!

What inspires me? The women who have come before me: the 40-something woman who was an undergrad intern with me when I was in my 20’s, my former coworker in his 60s stuck working a job he hates to get insurance coverage because he never pursued the job he wanted, the 3 teachers I know who started teaching in their 40’s, my mentor who was sharp as nails and force to be reckoned with in her 70’s! She was incredible!

So these women, who have careers....network with them! I bet they would love a trust worthy mature person to recommend for a job. Especially if you are not happy in retail. Maybe this store is not for you or maybe retail is not for you, but six months is not that long. Maybe you need more time to develop more of a working relationship?

These 20-somethings...You remember what that is like right? Unsure of your identity, want to be taken seriously so needing validation and guidance. You have that! Give them that validation and assurance. Start with what you have in common, you are both there to make money. Show them how to be a leader, how to be mature. I know in my 20’s I craved a mother - like friendship.

The reality is that woman can’t have it all if they decide to have a family. Either we miss out on our kids lives growing up or miss out on career development and have to start at the bottom when we return to the work force. Women need to build on each other’s strengths. I feel society loves to pit women against each other on this issue, but honestly.......thank God for those women who trail blazed in the work place that are allowing me to return to work, make a job more family friendly and help crack the glass ceiling. While I was a SAHM I was able to form great relationships with the schools and communities and I shared my resources and time with the working moms so they felt connected and supported. There was so much value in that also, and to this day working moms still text me for school/community information. I ‘got’ my current position, I honestly believe, because the woman who interviewed me was the same age, but had always been in the work force. I feel she got my return to work situation in its entirety. Pickins were getting slim before her interview. Thank goodness she pulled me through the ceiling.

Diane B., i love that story about your mom!

REALITY CHICK...you build much better bridges building each other up then tearing each other down

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I see that your concern is not so much the fact that you're working but your line "the women who are of my age have great careers". You probably have friends who are businesswomen/doctors/lawyers/etc.

Well, there are a few ways to approach that concern:

First of all, I think retail seems like a nice job around the holidays! I personally have never worked retail but it seems like anyone in those positions can benefit from getting holiday shopping done at a nice discount - I can be envious of your employee discounts!

Secondly, you are *only* 46. You can certainly go to business school or law school or a Masters degree etc, if you can afford that and you want to do that. You could be settled in a "fancy job" by age 50, if you choose to focus on that.

And the main thing - you have spent the past few years doing an awesome and difficult job, be proud of your successes there.

You have options!! Great options!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Greensboro on

Hi. I took the career route and I regret it. I would have much rather been home with my kids. I also have one in college and one in high school. Hold your head up high and if you love it, do it. Don't compare yourself to others.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I’m one of those women with the big job. I was lucky that I was able to switch to part time so while I had guilt for many years, it worked out I can still work and be with my kids a ton. But my message to you is to please not be embarrassed. Be proud. My mother did similar to you and I always refer to her with my girls to show how any work is great. I only look down on one mother I know bc she doesn’t work even though her kids are older now and in school all day and ride the bus so she has time. Yet she doesn’t work at all and her daughter can’t do things like spend $20 to go to the school dance bc they are so short on money. I tell my girls I would go work in the supermarket part time if I were her. Why in the world not make a little money for extras or college etc? I would have no shame and if anyone looked at me funny I’d shrug and say I have some free time now but don’t want full time. If some full time working mom makes you feel bad, turn it back on them. Say you can’t imagine not having been home. I’m not suggesting this randomly but only if someone is being snotty. Both choices have their sacrifices and downsides. Don’t be embarrassed yours is not having a big job now. You did other great stuff. Be proud. I think it’s great you’re making some money. I want to scream at this other mother whose daughter can’t do stuff “get a job!! Any job!”. She’s very educated and healthy so pretty sure she could get some job. Someday maybe I’ll find out there is a reason but in the meantime I’d have way more respect if she worked anywhere doing anything. Her poor daughter is constantly left out. My mom got great discounts when she did retail! And she didn’t need to work. College was covered. But we weren’t rich so why not?? She made some good friends too. And eventually she trained for some part time office work. You could consider preparing for something else just bc retail is so hard on your feet after a while!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

So you were basically on vacation for 15 years hanging out at home. That’s a luxury most people can’t afford and dream of doing every day! They are jealous of you, you lived the dream. Hold your head up high you have now joined the drudgery of the working class.

Update: So just for the record, responding to some post above, I am a single mother with a high powered career working 60 hours a week. I do everything SHAMs do, plus much much more, and all by myself.

It’s bizarre that some SHAMs take offensive to doing the basic task and responsibilities of being a mom that us working mother do on the side in addition to our day jobs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Don't compare yourself to other people! You are doing great. They could be comparing themselves to you...that you got to stay home with your kids all that time and they didn't. Really. Just think about yourself and what you are doing. There are many moms who take off many years to raise kids and then go back to work. They didn't do the career thing. This is ok! Both ways are ok. You just can't compare. I think you are doing great.

1 mom found this helpful
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