Even though I was living my Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) lifelong dream, I was losing sense of who I was.
I had always wanted to be a SAHM because my mum was one. She was a very capable mum who did everything on her own, as my dad was often working late nights. I wanted to be like her.
But when I found out about my first pregnancy, I was shocked. I couldn’t accept it. I was not ready to have a kid so soon, as we were only married for 6 months then.
“All my dreams about spending time with my husband before kids came – travelling and haivng lots of freedom – were gone.”
I cried and got angry at us.
Things only got better when I first felt the baby move. It brought a whole new sense of wonder that there was a life within me, depending on me and connecting with me through all his movements. It was just amazing!
This helped me come to terms with my pregnancy. When I delivered and could now put a face to my baby’s name, I was able to push on with the mentality that “Alright, I’m a mum. I’m going to be a SAHM.”
However, this energy did not last very long.
When my second child came along and we moved to our new home, I pushed myself very hard as the household depended largely on me. My sense of fulfilment was seeping away, drastically.
My husband was often busy with work which left me alone at home all day. It was also too hard to bring my young boys out. I could not bring myself to give up staying home because this was what I said I had wanted.
These thoughts were constant echoes in my mind:
“I’m just a SAHM trying to run the household and parent the boys.”
“I’m just a work machine completing the same daily routines.”
“I’m just attending to everyone’s needs except mine.”
“Although people told me that I was much more than that, I struggled to believe it.“
It came to a point where I was crying every week in the shower, wondering to myself if this really was all there is to being a SAHM? I cried out to God asking if motherhood was really meant to be this hard and without joy.
I can coach, teach, and train my kids, but I really struggle with playing at their level. During pretend play, I found it hard to imagine a storyline and role-play with them. I was dead tired after one story, but they kept wanting more. I was overwhelmed with frustration as I felt I didn’t have enough rest to keep sane the next day and needed alone time to recharge.
My reality seemed so different from some SAHMs who looked like they were winning at motherhood. I knew I needed help to break out of this dark hole — believing there were mums like me — but no one was talking about it. I desired to hear from these mums to learn perspectives and practical handles to cope.
Life had to go on and I was exhausted being stuck in a rut.
I decided to share my struggles on Instagram in hopes others would open up as well. This gave me opportunities to meet with mums who resonated with my struggles. And I knew I was no longer alone.
One of them shared that I was a stay-at-home-mum and not a butler. She asked, “Wanxin, you did everything like your mum, but are you a happy mum?” This stopped me in my tracks and helped me reframe being a SAHM. It should be about my kids and not the endless list of chores.
Another mum shared that there is no fixed definition of how a mum should be, much less a SAHM, and I need to walk through this process and make this journey mine. While there is an overwhelming amount of information telling us the “correct” or “best” way to parent our children, it reminded me to be selective and see what fits my family, not the other way round.
I also asked my mum one day, “How did you do it all back then?” It was their culture at that time to serve their in-laws and live with them. So partly, she had no choice but to do it. To my surprise, she mentioned that she enjoyed cleaning and scrubbing every tile and grout to perfection.
My mum also said she regretted not having enough time with us. If she had the choice, she would have wanted to plan how much time to spend with us versus doing chores. I had misunderstood things all along… Cleaning to such high standards was her preference, not something I should expect of myself!
Through these conversations, I’m slowly understanding the kind of mum I am.
Gaining understanding of my own journey has put me in discovery-training mode now.
“I’m letting go of some expectations that I had placed on myself.”
I’m learning to set goals and set aside time for myself. In the morning, I’ll change out of my pyjamas and dress in something I like. I try to eat, rest well and do what I enjoy (like pilates). I’m working towards finding more joy in this season I am in.
I also affirm and encourage myself: You did well today. Your son needed to hear that, and you said that to him. You were very tired, but respected your body and didn’t force yourself to finish that household chore.
I may not enjoy chores, but I enjoy cooking for my boys and feel appreciated when they say, “I love your food, Mama!” Now, I try to prioritise connecting and listening to what my boys are saying, and not get distracted. I’m working towards finding a balance between taking care of my family and myself, so that I can be a happy and fulfilled mum.
If I could encourage myself today, I would tell myself: Motherhood is unique and personal, there is no mould to fit into — no comparison, no competition, no condemnation.
© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Does articles on “Parenting” interest you? Add them to your favourite topics to get articles recommended for you.