“When are you planning to return to work?”
This question never fails to jump at me even though it’s been one year since I left my last job. After all, it is an unusual choice to be a stay-home mum for a child who is not a baby, but a young tween who is turning 10 this year.
Most first-time mums stop working when their children are at the infant stage and depend on them as the main caregiver. I, on the other hand, took the reverse route and only hung up my working heels when my only child was on the brink of her teenage years.
Even though my daughter was a full-fledged student who was independent and well taken care of by her grandparents, I felt she needed me now more than ever: not to meet her physical needs but her emotional needs. At the same time, I wanted to be her main influence in these critical years so that she’ll feel comfortable turning to me for counsel even as an adolescent.
While I had a clear purpose, it felt like a part of my identity ebbed away after I switched gears to stay home.
I am not my job
Back when I was working, my job shaped a huge part of my identity. While my work didn’t define me, it gave me fulfilment as a working mum juggling family and work. But once I stepped into the shoes of a stay-home mum, I felt I had to constantly justify my choice to give up my career for my family.
Among friends who are stay-home mums, it was common to hear them struggling with feelings of insignificance especially in our society where economic contribution of all ages is prized. The contribution of stay home mums is often downplayed because it is so intangible and hard to quantify.
Conversely, mums who seem to hold a successful career and a loving family in perfect balance are often glamourised in the news and on social media, leaving us feeling side-lined and green with envy.
Perhaps these are feelings you’ve been struggling with as well.
Feelings of insignificance as you watch your peers advancing in their careers, while you are tackling a mountain of laundry, breaking up fights and ensuring no one gets hurt. The untold frustrations of feeling stuck in the rut. Where your daily KPIs look uninspiring and nothing close to what you used to deliver in the corporate world.
What you do for your family matters
But mothers, what you are doing for your family matters. Motherhood isn’t about doing it all but doing enough for my family.
After I adjusted my mindset to one where my purpose precedes the position that I hold, I embraced my role with greater clarity. My definition of success may look different from what society upholds but that’s alright by me.
After crossing the one-year mark as a proud home maker, I see the value in raising a child who is well-cared for physically and well-adjusted emotionally.
My daughter looks forward to seeing me after school and my availability for her has helped us developed a stronger bond. When I caught teachable moments to impart important values and life lessons to my daughter, I began to see that the sacrifice has been worthwhile.
Motherhood isn’t about doing it all but doing enough for my family.
A less hurried life
One of the positive changes that have made a huge impact to our family is having a less hurried life. While we still have 24 hours a day, I feel like I have more time for play and heart to heart conversations with my daughter.
I’m no longer the frazzled mum who’s always hurrying my child around without even stopping to ask how her day was. As I speak my daughter’s love language by being more intentional in spending quality time with her, I can feel her opening up and confiding in me in matters both big and small.
Even though there are days I wonder if being a stay-home mum is worth it, I remind myself to focus on the joys of motherhood and to treasure my time with my daughter.
The last thing I want is to look back at her growing up years and realise that I was absent. While I can always return to work when my daughter is older, I can never turn back the hands of time.
As the popular saying goes, “Your greatest contribution to the world may not be something you do but someone you raise.”
The last thing I want is to look back at her growing up years and realise that I was absent.
There will come a time for me to pick up my career where I left off. But for now, I’ll wear my stay-home mum badge with honour and the next time anyone asks about what I do, I’ll let them know that I’m raising the next generation of confident and self-assured young girls.
Susan is a self-confessed C+ mum who lives for coffee, chocolate and heartfelt connections. As a mum of one she believes that the best parenting style is parenting with intention and shares her motherhood journey on her blog A Juggling Mom.
Dear Mum, when was the last time you dreamt for yourself? Today, take some time to rediscover your dreams, motherhood, and ultimately your story. Try the guided tool for mums at www.family.org.sg/MumandMore.
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