You’re taking a big step ― making the move to become a stay-at-home-mum, or SAHM.
You have to consider a host of factors. For instance, are both you and your husband on the same page? Is he on board with your plan to stay home with junior? How will it affect your relationship? How will the chores at home be divvied up, if you do become a SAHM?
Plus, there are the financial concerns: Will your husband’s salary be able to support your family? Do you have a financial safety net ― what happens if your husband falls ill, is unable to work, or loses his job? Will you be able to afford luxuries like a family vacation?
You’re also making a huge personal commitment. Are you ready to put your career on hold and let your kids take priority? Then, you’ll also have to deal with the inevitable judgments people make about your new status.
Indeed, many unenlightened people hold certain perceptions about stay-at-home mums ― from what they do all day and how “free” they are, to what they want in life. But many are myths, rather than facts.
These are the most common misconceptions:
1. “Your husband must make a lot of money.”
While the husband certainly has to make enough to support the family on a single salary, making the switch meant making financial sacrifices, says Hilda Chee-Yosako, a mother of two.
It was “an educated choice” to become a stay-at-home mum, Chee-Yosako adds. “We had to put a lot of thought into how much we had to give up for me to stay at home.”She says that they considered the amount of money they would save in terms of childcare costs and hiring a domestic helper, and tightened the budget when it came to running the household.
“All the money we spend is now accounted for, and we slowly save up for our family holidays. We didn’t do this when I was in the workforce!” She adds, “So, when people say my husband must be rich, I laugh!”
“I deal with crazy tantrums, crying toddlers and I lose my temper on a daily basis, just like any other mum would!”
2. “You must be really good with kids.”
Being with your kids for the better part of the day is pretty much makes up an SAHM’s job description. And whether junior is a baby, toddler or an older kid, they all require a fair amount of attention.
“One thing I get told a lot is that it must come naturally to me,” says Yvonne Ong, mum to Kevin, 2, and Kayla, 4. “I assure you, it doesn’t!” says Ong, who used to be a computer engineer before quitting her job when her second child arrived.
3. “Aren’t you wasting your education?”
“I have a friend who once said to you, ‘You got your MBA to manage your kids’, and she laughed,” recalls mum of two Lee Yun Ni. “But it’s not easy to be a SAHM. There is a lot of sacrifice. You give up on your career, your finances and your personal time.”
Diana Fang, mum to three Primary school kids, says that managing her family accounts and coordinating her kids’ schedules is even more demanding than some jobs out there.
“I used to work in HR, and I spent most of my time at my desk in the office. Now, I’m running around, sending kids to school, enrichment classes, while managing finances and doing chores. This is more deserving of my education than my previous job!”
4. “Your home must be so clean.”
“You must be joking,” laughs Carmen Loo, mum to Cassandra, 4. “I’m constantly picking up after Cass, yet it looks like a whirlwind has been through the home.”
Indeed, it may seem like SAHMs spend most of their time at home, so cleaning and organising seems like a walk in the park. But don’t forget that the time at home is not spent alone. Yup, those little mess-makers are the reason why these mums are at home in the first place!
Says Chee-Yosako, “My home would definitely look a lot better if my kids were in day care, and I was at work. But nope, cleaning house is an impossible task when they are around.”
5. “Why aren’t you available?”
Just because you don’t rush to work each morning, doesn’t mean that you’re standing by the phone, waiting for your pals to call, or for someone to ask you out for lunch.
In between diaper changes, wiping up spills and doing laundry ad nauseum, SAHMs are always occupied. So, one thing that SAHMs hate the most is for people to assume that they have more time on their hands compared to those who work.
“One of my friends got married last year, and because I don’t have a regular job like the other bridesmaids, a lot of the tasks somehow ended up on my lap,” says M Chew, who has a 2-year-old daughter.
“So, I was running around organising her Hen Party, liaising with her floral vendors and putting together gift bags for the bridal party. I didn’t mind because she’s my friend, but I didn’t like that the big tasks automatically fell to me, just because I ‘don’t work’,” Chew recalls.
"Parenting is not a one-woman thing, just because mummy doesn’t work.”
6. “The husband doesn’t have to pitch in.”
Just because the man is the one bringing home the bacon while the wife stays home with the kid, doesn’t mean that he gets a free pass when it comes to chores.
In fact, SAHMs should make it a point to divide the chores at home, says mum of three, Kushantha Chouhan. “The husband should realise that it is not easy staying home with the kids! Split the work with him ― maybe he can wash up after dinner, bathe the kids, or put them to bed at night. Parenting is not a one-woman thing, though mummy doesn’t work.”
Chouhan, for one, takes two nights off every week to catch up with her girlfriends, work out or pamper herself. As such, she “trains” her husband to look after the kids, as the family doesn’t have a domestic helper. “He knows that it’s part of the deal. Mummies need a break sometimes, too!” she laughs.
7. “What a luxury!”
SAHMs hear a lot of this. “That’s because the image people have is that the SAHM doesn’t have to wake up early for work. They think she wakes up leisurely, gives her kids breakfast, then watches TV on the couch,” Ong laughs.
The real luxury, however, is that you get to be there with your kids for all the important moments. “It’s the reason why I chose to stay home. I missed too many of my first child’s milestones and I didn’t want it to happen again,” Ong says.
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