So you made the big move and quitted your job - the one main stream of income that you have been depending on for years, the one role that you have worked so hard for all these years since graduation - so that you could stay at home and get pelted by spilled milk and soothe your wailing toddlers. It is no easy feat, we hear you, and we also understand that many stay-at-home mothers have complained that "it would've been easier to go out and work, like before".
You may or may not be aware that while you lovingly nurture your kids at home, devoting all your precious time to care-taking for them, a lot of odds are against you, right? We hope this article here helps you to overcome the possible issues you may have now, with your new role in life.
Disclaimers first - by "SAHMs" here we don't mean the taitais who have domestic helpers running behind them or changing babies' diapers while they get to shop or enjoy leisurely afternoon high-teas, immaculately groomed. We are referring strictly to the ladies who have to handle everything from taking care of the babies, educating them, doing the marketing and household chores etc.
1. PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION
From the moment you wake up at 7.00am until the moment you manage to crawl into bed, past midnight, you spend the entire day moving about. Those who choose to work or have no children do not see your physical exhaustion - they believe it is easy job lazing around at home merely keeping an eye on the kiddo and feeding them periodically. But your duty goes beyond all that - from preparing the kiddos' meals to bathing them, cleaning up after them, running after them to pry their fingers away from hot oven doors or rotating fan blades, sending them to playgroup or Elsa Shows at the malls, and then teaching them basic mathematics - yes, that is a handful, and these tasks are not always pleasant.
Suggestions: take a breather, a chill pill sometimes, as impossible as it may sound. Do something for yourself while they are at playgroups, or catch a short shut-eye while they are napping. Talk to other parents or your spouse, and try to work out a reasonable rest day every week where you can enjoy some "me-time", head out with friends, and recharge. Engage a part-time domestic helper if necessary, to ease some load off your hands.
2. MENTAL FATIQUE
Do you find your own temper flaring up more easily, or shouting at your (sometimes naughty) kids without meaning to? Even when you are bathing them or physically attending an Elmo performance with the kiddos, your mind never stops reeling - what to prepare for dinner? What time is your husband coming home? Did I remember to feed my son his vitamins? Which day is his swimming lesson again, and have I bought him swimming trunks?
Things never go smoothly always, do they? You plan to teach them 3 times 3 equals 9 by, say, dinnertime, but they seldom sit through the entire lesson without some tantrums or wandering attention. You may be cooking and then the kids begin a shouting match which requires your expert intervention. Before you count calmly to 10, the threatening cane is in your hand and you shut your eyes in anger, shaken by all the drama created by the kids.
Feels like too much on your plate, keeping track of their schedules and emotions. At the end of the day you are drained, both physically and mentally.
Suggestions: change your way of handling them. There are parental courses, books and support groups that teaches the various approaches to tackling kids these days. They are more brilliant, more curious and less ignorant like how kids of our generation probably were - they question when asked to do something, especially if we are caught doing the same things. It can be tiring for sure - so talk to people, like other parents. It helps as you empathise with each other and offer advice to each other on how to manage certain situations together; you can even organize activities together so you have someone else to keep your mind off house-chores for a while. Get a scheduler to pen in all the kids' activities and lessons - or simply make use of your phone's Calendar function; it saves you the pain of trying to memorize the time tables.
3. PARANOIA / LACK OF SELF-CONFIDENCE
Between changing from your pajamas into T-shirts and changing the kids' bedsheets, you barely have time to run a brush through your hair, much less apply makeup or exercise. As the months go by, you look like you now, and nothing like the well-groomed marketing manager your husband fell in love with 8 years back. Oh, he doesn't mind? Oh, he still thinks you are beautiful?
Really? When you meet his colleagues and admire the jewellery they sport, do you ever wonder if OT hours were really OT hours? Do you have wistful flashbacks of the past, when you could afford anything you liked, and would've looked as polished as theses office ladies if you hadn't stopped working?
Oh, he wouldn't dare, you know him very well? Oh, your role and contribution is 100% as significant as him bringing home the dough, perhaps even more? Really? Do you talk about anything else besides the bills and what the kids did at home to annoy you at home today?
Do you remember how you met and the woman he was attracted to? Do you not think he might still like that kind of women, but unfortunately you no longer look anything like that? Men are, after all, visual creatures. Or are you afraid to face your fears, and hopes he really sees your sacrifice as importantly as you view it to be? Do you fight more with him because of your paranoia, or do you fight less because you feel that you are dependent on him for livelihood - or worse yet, are you not fighting at all because you don't even talk anymore?
Finally, your kids' classmates' mothers are "gym instructors", "accountants", "doing advertising" etc, and all your kids could describe you is "My mommy stays at home." It pains you when they come running back after school to inform you of this, or you feel a little awkward when you meet the other parents.
Suggestions: spend a little effort to look good - you don't have to be drop dead beautiful. But just spend time to give yourself back more confidence, remind your partner of the woman you were and still are (just more mighty now because you have one more role to play), and remind him that you still have "market value". No kidding, darlings, men need to know that their women are still attractive and it makes them try harder to hang on.
Spend time talking to your partner, not just about household or children's issues. Imagine he is also overwrought from a hard day's work, yet still has to come home nightly to your complaints, progress reports or "let's decide on his school now" pressure. Soon it would make him dread a sit-down session with you. Instead, talk to him about his day, let him unburden and vent, and remember the reason he is working so hard for - an understanding wife who appreciates his efforts in the corporate battlefields. Surprise him sometimes with a new recipe or lacey nightie - who says married life cannot be spiced up, still?
4. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE / DROP IN MARKET VALUE
You don't want to admit it, or are not aware that your knowledge and maybe social skills have slipped since you left the corporate workforce 4 years ago. No, you don't have to admit it right now. But if you reflect and the only conversations you have are either with your kids or about parenthood, then you might have an issue.
Needless to say, if you attend a function at your husband's company and find yourself tongue-tied or immensely bored because you have nothing to say to anyone else there, it should trigger a small alarm in you. If it doesn't, we are alarmed (unless he is in a niche industry or his colleagues are all males without partners).
Not only do you dislike the idea of socializing with office ladies and other taitais, you start to drift with your single friends as well, because it seems that the frequency of connection has shifted completely. She no longer understands your thinking, and you can't grasp her theories (when you used to easily).
Staying away from the workforce also decreases your market value, as you disassociate from the latest technology, workforce culture, updates and skills are rusting. If and when you need to return to the workforce someday - be it due to necessity, financial issues, loss of sole breadwinner, or your kids have reached schooling age - you find that you are no longer to command the same pay and position as you used to because of the gap in your resume.
Suggestions: while your kids are napping or watching cartoons during their allocated play slots, take some time to read up. You can choose to read news, business books or simply catching up on what's happening currently in your industry. Broaden your circle by taking up a hobby (i.e. cooking class, gym) etc where you meet more people other than your children's classmates' parents. Start a small home business as it is both a good learning process and helps generate some income for yourself; you would feel more empowered and more of an equal to your bread-winning spouse when you have "my own business", no doubt.
The business or freelance job approach may also be your solution to the above scenario, where your children's classmates all have mothers holding good careers and no one else stays at home full-time. Now your kids can proudly announce that "my mother is a business owner" or something along that line.
5. WAY TOO TOUGH
The pointers and suggestions above don't work? You have much more serious issues than that? Your husband is seldom at home or in the country, you have to take care also of sick parents, or your spouse is abusive, etc? Everything is driving you nuts and you feel like collapsing at any point in time, feel like you are going berserk soon, or just selfishly taking your life to put an end to it all?
Suggestions: sorry then our guidelines do not help of course. You require professional help such as counselling or a solution to your family issues that perhaps only the law or mediators can settle. Please approach one before anything happens.
Remember that when there's a will, there's a way. Stay strong and hang in there!