That’s my cheeky baby when she was about 5 months old. Waking up to a face like this is what makes me feel staying at home with her is all worth while.
Of course, not every day is a breeze. When Phoebie was younger, there were many days when I would wish I was working. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy taking care of her and it wasn’t that I was bored at home. There were just some reasons that made me want to give up being a SAHM.
This was my work station at the Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) where I worked as a counsellor before Phoebie was born. The work environment was wonderful and I was surrounded by very good colleagues who are now my dear friends. Working there had its challenges but my colleagues never failed to stand by me and encourage me whenever I was down. I remember having dreams of being back at work after I became a SAHM, and after I woke up from the dreams, I would miss my colleagues and work so much.
Another reason that would “bug” me about going back to work full time was money. This was probably a pretty big reason too. As a SAHM, obviously I have no income and my husband is the sole breadwinner. Of course, we had decided for me to become a SAHM because we knew that we would still be able to manage financially, but there were some days that were just a little tighter to get by. And when things were tight, I would always be overwhelmed by a sense of guilt, thinking how things would probably be much better if I was working and could contribute to the finances at home.
It didn’t help that my Father had a relapse of cancer. His first cancer experience had pretty much drained his savings and insurance claims because he needed a lot of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Looking at how my parents had to struggle about their finances really ached my heart and I felt useless as a daughter when there wasn’t much I could do. I can only thank God that we have relatives who are very generous and helpful and my parents managed to tide over while my Father underwent another round of treatments.
Thankfully, my husband was and still is, very supportive and insisted we would be okay. I did some calculations and figured, if I really did give up being a SAHM, putting Phoebie in an infant care or getting a nanny would probably use up a portion of my salary. Plus, working means I would need money for transportation, food and knowing myself well enough, I would want to spend money on snacks and other things that I may not truly need. So, we might end up back at square one, even if I did go back to work.
So, with that thought, I persisted on and stayed home to be the full time caregiver for Phoebie.
That was Phoebie’s 1st Birthday, celebrated when we were living in the US. And yes, we all dressed up. Phoebie was Elmo (whom she loved at that time), I was Snow White (and I don’t know why) and Ben was… Iron Man… Hahaha…
Being a SAHM away from family and loved ones wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Hundreds of miles away from family was that when I needed help when Phoebie was sick, I didn’t know who to turn to, or at least that was the case when we initially relocated.
I was surrounded by fellow Mums who had their own kids to look after and I didn’t want to disturb them with my own problems. I remember Phoebie having a bad teething experience and she fell sick and threw up. I panicked because that was the first time she was so sick that she threw up. I didn’t want to disturb my husband who was at work but had no choice in the end. He managed to take some time off and came home early to help me with Phoebie.
As time went by, I realised and learnt that everyone around me would render help if they were able to. Just as I would offer to help them, the fellow Singaporean wives with me in the US were more than willing to lend a hand. And precisely because they have children too, they knew how difficult it can be sometimes to cope with a cranky and sick child. Even if they were not able to help care for Phoebie when she was sick, they were able to help with other things, like cooking a meal, or getting some groceries. Knowing this certainly helped me cope much better.
This kind of support didn’t only apply to times when Phoebie wasn’t well. It pretty much applied to all times. I got to know some of the Singaporean ladies who lived in the same apartments facility better and we soon became very good friends. And having kids who were around the same age was certainly a bonus. Because of similar developmental needs, we were able to exchange tips about caring for our kids, recipes for different dishes we cooked for our families and even shopping information that would help us save money.
These ladies are still my very close friends today now that we are back in Singapore and because of them, I have learnt the importance of surrounding myself with good support.
I would like to think that this applies not only to SAHMs but to all Mums. Whether you are staying home with your child full time, or working full time, you need a good support network to keep you going as a Mum. This network can be your family or friends who are able to share and empathise with you on your down days as a Mum. I feel that it especially helps if your support network consists of fellow Mums. They may not go through the same thing with you, but something similar may have happened to them.
Being a Mum isn’t easy and there are some days that almost every thing will frustrate you. Having people you can grumble to and seek encouragement from certainly helps to make things better. Or at least it works for me.