Life of a SAHM, worth it?

The damp laundry from yesterday dangled before me. I pushed them to one side to make space. The rain had been pitter-pattering outside for a few consecutive mornings now. No wonder, ancient generations prayed to some weather god for rain or sun, because livelihood depended on the outcome. Today, I prayed to Jesus for the sun to dry my laundry. From the bursting load in the washer, I pulled out a baby romper and put it on one of the faded pink children’s clothes hangers. Discoloured to be exact, and my guess, from the prolonged exposure to the sun.

The pastor went on in my wireless earphones while I hanged my laundry. I wasn’t sure what he was preaching. My mind had wandered off to the question my friend texted me earlier, “How did you survive being a SAHM* to one baby?”

If she had asked about surviving alone with two babies, my current exasperated self would have shown her my white flag rising up by the minute. I probed for the reason behind her question and she shared about her dilemma of sending her baby to infant care/playgroup and being a stay at home mother (“SAHM”). I’m glad we have the freedom to choose to be a SAHM, working mum, or stay at home working mother. I’m sort of in the right era and country to choose, sort of anyway. In the retro days, a working mother was judged, in modern societies, it’s swung to the other side, SAHM was the anomaly and she was now the one being judged.

“What are you working as?”

“I’m a stay at home mother.” I quickly added, “But I do some writing on the side.”

“For which publication?”

“I blog as hobby,” I said softer, and quickly tried to change topic.

It seems like only having a full time job, or even a part time job with paycheck justify my existence on this earth. Even I believed that. If not, why did I bring up my hobby and passed off as work, only to be exposed?

The notification to pay the childcare fees popped up in my lock screen. Another reminder of how SAHM is discriminated and discouraged from staying at home. The subsidies received as a working mother is double that of a SAHM. The meritocracy of this country rewards those who are of immediate economic use, and not simply those who sacrificed to build up children that form the social fabric of the future. Short term progress reflects better on the report book than the long term.

I hanged the last piece of laundry and went on to the pile of dirty dishes. My tears welled up in my eyes. I scrubbed the dishes hard, and along with the dirty water, I washed my accounting degree down into the sink. As if to console me, God opened my eyes to other realities, of university professors opening laundromat as they fled to the US to become refugees, and closer to home, of degree holders coming to Singapore to be construction workers.

I’m fortunate to have parents who can support themselves and not demand money as an entitlement. They even alleviate our burdens at times in dollars such as buying cod fish for their granddaughter. I’m thankful for that. But my Asian roots strangled me into guilt, of not being able to repay them in pride and money, after years of their financial, mental, and emotional investment in me.

I made myself a cup of tea and headed to the living room to rest my aching legs, and sore mummy’s wrists. The moment my bottom kissed the sofa, a loud wail made me jumped. I left the piping hot tea on the table and rushed in to scoop her little body in my warm embrace. Her cries tapered down and eyelids drooped back to a close.

“Kudos to you, it’s not easy to be a stay at home mother.”

“It’s not easy on you too,” I replied. She had a double portfolio, of working in office and a second “work” shift with the kids at home. The have it all woman is stretched all around.

I was not sure how to reply my friend’s question. Most mothers survive motherhood, be it stay at home, or out there working. But whether or not the mothers and children thrive because of the choices made vary from family to family. We justify the paths we chose. If not, we regret them.

Raising children is like running a business, except children are multi-dimensional stakeholders. They are our “products” of how we made them to be, and also are our customers, of whether they are satisfied with our parenting “service” down the road. For now, they are our employees, as we lead or dictate them to follow our leading or instructions.

Bystanders said, successful business prosper because of luck, like how certain kids are dealt a better hand, or have a better disposition by nature. They’re lucky they’re born this way. In both cases, onlookers flippantly dismiss the hard work that was sweated into building up successful business or children. They chose to ignore the nurture behind the scenes and credit to the small role of nature.

“They just turned out well. Wished my kids were like theirs,” as they compared and not celebrate their own children’s strengths. Measurable successes such as professions and bank balances became the yardsticks of comparison. Most don’t care about what they don’t see — the spiritual and emotional well-being. Yet, what’s seen is temporal, what’s unseen is lasting. In raising glimmering trophies, parents neglect to nurture a well balanced soul and spirit in their children. Without these, a well taken outward appearance is just a well taken care empty shell.

“Personally, I believe the first 5 years is an important developmental period for children. That’s when they are highly malleable and foundations are build. That’s how I sustain as a SAHM when things get tough. I want to be there to guide them as often as I can, as best as I can,” I replied my friend’s text.

My body swayed and rocked the baby in my warm arms to sleep. My hands ached, and tears streamed down my cheeks. I was not sure if all these sacrifices were worth it. I knew the sense of achievement comes delayed, yet would circumstances change and all my efforts down the drain? It’s the same in business, you can try your best, but external factors come in to affect the outcome.

“Lord, I lift my children in your hands. Give me patience and daily grace to live through each day. Give me joy in what I do. Give me wisdom on how to raise them out to be godly, full of grace, joy and love.” I prayed a prayer silently in my heart, hoping things will get easier as I rest in my heavenly Father’s warm arms.

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