The Best Of Both Worlds: Stay-At-Home Mother Or Working

By

Prema Jayabalan

10-03-2017

5 min read

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Being a Mother and a Working Female

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Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or working, you know what to do!

When I was asked to write this article by my colleague, (bless you Tammy) I decided that this was going to be an ode to all the working mothers (WMs) and stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs).

I have an amazing group of wonderful friends who consist of WMs and SAHMs. I fall in the former group. I am a mother to an adorable, feisty almost four-year-old Shakthisri who has her mind of her own. I hold a full-time job and I am one of those lucky moms who have Shakthisri’s grandmother looking after her while I am at work.

Nevertheless, I do get overwhelmed with a sense of guilt when I don’t spend enough time with my child.
My SAHM friends are inspiring women who were lecturers, corporate executives and journalists but they made a conscious choice to take a break and tend to their children simply because they wanted to.

Hats off to these women. There is one mother who is pursuing her PhD, on top of managing the household. These women face the dilemma of guilt when they do not spend quality time with their children, because they are bogged down with household chores and attend to the needs of their families, from sunrise till sunset.

We all take guilt trips due to the situations we are in.

For example, I once saw a friend post on social media on how she and her kid were having a blast splashing water paint on the canvas at 3pm and I was at work. I will be honest here, I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to do the same with my daughter. At the spur of the moment, the hidden competitive streak in me surfaced as the little voice within me screamed, “Oh no, Shakthisri has not tried her hand at water painting yet and now all the other kids, whose mothers are at home, will master the art before she does.”

Yes, that’s me when paranoia sinks in. Thank God for my practical husband who knows how to knock some sense into me when these little gremlins emerge. Thanks papa!

The writer with her husband, Gunaseelan, and daughter, Shakthisri.

Lately, when I met my friends and their children for play dates, I noticed a few valuable characteristics that were being displayed by the children and I ended up chatting with the mums about this discovery. We then realised that we may be WMsor SAHMs, but we are instilling leadership traits in our children directly or indirectly.

Here are a few examples that I’ve discovered and I am sure that as a WM or SAHM, you will have your own stories that relate to this.

Being independent

I was on leave one day as my mother was away. Shakthisri came back from playschool and I was about to help her with her shoes but was surprised to see her remove her own shoes and place it on the shoe rack.

Her socks went into the laundry basket, her bag was placed in her room and she proceeded to put her water container in the dishwasher. I was gob smacked. This is the same child who whines when is asked to put her toys away.

She then turned to me and said “Amma, I am a big girl now and I know how to put my things away neatly. Aatha (her grandmother) taught me how to do this once I come back from school.”

Her sweet explanation was enough for me to reward her with a hug. I realised that my coping mechanism – my mother whom I sought help from while I was at work – played a big part in getting my child to be independent

So, dear WMs, I am sure the ‘coping mechanisms’ that you picked will help instill the art of being independent in your child, whether you realise it or not.

Have any of you gone through this dilemma where you’ve tried to get your child to be independent but they’ve refused to listen? Perhaps you could share a successful trick or two with us.

Volunteering to help

When my cousin, who was an aspiring journalist, told me six years ago that she was quitting her job to look after her newborn, I literally laughed my head off. She is an ambitious, go-getter who is always in need of an adventure to stay occupied. Well, I guess she met her biggest challenge because she is still a SAHM and an amazing one at that.

I was at her place one day and was shocked to see my six-year-old nephew helping out with chores and even asked her if she needed any help.

I realised that when he saw his mom on her feet all day, it prompted him to offer a helping hand. I am sure this is one of the traits he will carry throughout his life.

Likewise, a few SAHMs have also shared that as their children grew older, they voluntarily offered to help when they saw their mothers juggling too many things.

Adapting and problem solving skills

My friend who is a SAHM always plans the play dates for our daughters. Thanks to her, Shakthisri who is an only child has formed a special friendship with her daughter, Riya. My friend had always wanted her child to mingle with others her age since she is always home with adults.

The first time the two children came together, they hit it off well. The arguments and complaints about each other came much later. When her daughter complained to me about mine, my friend was wise enough to ask me to ignore it.

I was surprised, as I thought she would rush to sort things for her child. When I got up to see what was going on, my friend told me to take a backseat. “Relax Premi. Trust me, these are petty arguments that they will have. Let them sort it out for themselves.”

She was right. After a while, we heard them negotiating and compromising. It was a simple issue of who gets the bicycle first, but my friend’s action actually empowered these little girls to find a solution and move on. At the end, they took turns to ride the bicycle. Not only did they learn the art of problem solving, they learnt the beauty of sharing as well.

Another incident was when I had to bring my daughter to work one day. She was extremely shy and refused to speak to my colleagues. She wanted me to play with her, but I firmly told her that I needed to work and that if she did not want to speak with the nice aunties, she can just sit beside me and do her colouring.

Eventually, after hitting the pinnacle of her boredom, she slid down from her chair and started wandering around. Next thing I knew, she was happily chatting with a group of interns and helping them with some decoration work as it was close to Christmas.

I was happy to see my daughter, stepping up and happily interacting with an older group of people. I was glad to have brought her to the office that day; I exposed her to a new situation and empowered her to adapt.

To all WMs and SAHMs, we will always question ourselves if we are good mothers and if we are doing the right thing. We are human after all, but rest assured, that no matter what situations we are in, we are constantly seizing those moments to instill valuable lessons in our little ones.

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