When I first stepped out into the workforce, I was fresh-eyed and bushy-tailed, career-driven and ambitious. I was working for one of the largest MNCs in the world where no dream was too big and I could be promoted from the lowest of ranks to helm the company if I paid my dues. I loved my job which entailed designing skincare for the future and rolling out creative campaigns across the world.
In those high-flying days, never in a million years would I have imagined becoming a Stay-Home Mum (SAHM), let alone being immensely proud to be one. But Fate works in its own mysterious ways. It gave my husband a dream job that uprooted us from Singapore to Seattle, then gifted us a teeny weeny baby to love and raise in this foreign land away from kin. I stepped into the role of a mother, a stay-home one.
Becoming a full-fledged SAHM shattered all the stereotypes I had about this job. I am now ashamed to say that I once held such a narrow, distorted view of SAHM-hood.
I used to think mothers stayed home only because they didn’t have a career going for them and SAHM was something they “settled for”.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
This might hold some bit of truth for homemakers of the previous generation in a patriarchal society but today, countless of educated, driven millennial women in positions of power and authority are putting their careers on hold and becoming SAHMs by choice. For them, career advancement and promotions can wait; their babies’ childhood can’t.
And what most people overlook is the fact that these strong women intend to join the workforce again at some point in time. Mothering full-time is a pause in their career journeys, not a full stop.
I thought SAHM-hood wasn’t as important as a “real” job.
I was brought up in a society that placed more value in having a career (and making the most of our education and breaking the glass ceiling for women!) than staying home and raising children. It is a world that thinks nothing of outsourcing childcare and in fact mothers have to defend and validate their choice to stay home and take care of their flesh and blood. Like many others, I thought it didn’t really matter who the caregiver was so long as baby was alive, fed and healthy. Simply put, I trivialised the role of motherhood and saw full-time mothering as a replaceable role.
But it isn’t.
Now I could kick myself for once thinking that all caregivers are equal! A mother is uniquely qualified and predisposed to be her child’s best caregiver and first teacher. Mothering instincts and the natural bond with the child aren’t substitutable. A mother can do more than ensure baby’s survival, she has the strongest vested interest in instilling the right moral values and bringing up her susceptible little humans into independent, ethical and responsible beings. Now if that isn’t one of the most important jobs in the world, I don’t know what is.
I thought it was easy to be a SAHM.
In my mind’s eye, I visualise SAHMs having an “easy” life, socialising with other mum friends over coffee while their babies played together.
The reality is that it’s extremely difficult to organise coffee breaks or playdates when there’re doctor appointments, nap schedules, feeding schedules, pump schedules and household chores in the way – all of which are time-sensitive. Even if SAHMs do meet other mum friends, they’re busy multi-tasking – trying to hold a decent conversation while entertaining or pacifying their babies who could be screaming for their attention.
As a SAHM, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have my eye on my baby every single minute, ensuring she isn’t happily putting herself in harm’s way. Anything could happen in a split second – being bitten by an insect, choking on a toy or bumping her head. Caring for a child is a 24/7 surveillance job.
Hands down, SAHM-hood is more and tougher work than any other work out there. It is no surprise for surveys to conclude that a SAHM is equivalent to holding 2.5 full-time jobs in childcare, education, administration, accounting, communications, finance and more!
For such a difficult job, it doesn’t even come with breaks (not even sick leave!) Financial compensation is also out of the equation! Because SAHMs aren’t robots but normal, sane (but sleep-deprived) humans, it takes insurmountable mental strength to perform the same unfulfilling, repetitive household chores everyday without complaint.
“Easy” can’t be further from the truth.
Having had a taste of what staying home with a child is like, now I have mad respect for SAHMs.
It takes a SAHM to know a SAHM. SAHMs are really unsung heroes, for the sacrifices they make and hardships they bear in exchange for spending time with their children and being there for every little milestone.
To my fellow stay-home mamas: You give so much meaning to this rewarding, challenging, fulfilling job of stay-home motherhood.
It is not a job for everyone, and you do it with so much love and grace.
(It’s easy to be envious of FTWMs because… the grass always looks greener on the other side! FTWMs have their own sets of struggles. Read “A Real FTWM Story: I Struggled Everyday” here.)
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