Attending school is a load of fun and gains for her two kids, says stay-at-home mum Liang May.

Liang May
​“My second pregnancy was not at all smooth sailing, so whoever said that it would only get better, lied. I was four months pregnant then with Faye and my son Ewan was 18 months old.

Thanks to morning sickness, I was vomiting, dizzy, fatigued and my appetite was poor. I lay down on my sofa or bed most of the time while using eye power to watch my toddler self-entertain his days away.

When things did not get better after the first trimester, my husband and family urged me to send Ewan to a preschool where he would be better taken care of. Naturally, I was offended!

What do you mean? You think I am not equipped to care for my own child? I cast that suggestion aside just as fiercely as I‘d tossed out the proposal to hire an in-house helper.

It was such a stressful decision, especially when I received messages from different people on a daily basis ― my mother-in-law, cousins, my girlfriend, dad, husband, even aunts. They’d say,

“May, ah, send Ewan to school already. And hire a maid. You need this. You cannot do this alone.” Yes, I can ― I’ll show you I can!

We found one that we really liked ― it has a huge open compound for free play…and very energetic teachers.

Then, one day, my gynaecologist ordered me to have as much bed rest as possible, so as not to risk a miscarriage. I was leaking amniotic fluid by the day. I was crushed as I had to send Ewan to school. It was no longer a choice. Since it was just two weeks to January 2014, I could put Ewan in playgroup in the New Year.

So, I succumbed to the idea and started scouting around for a preschool for my son. Two weeks ― seriously? Which pre-school would have a slot for him? As if the stars were aligned, we found one that we really liked ― it has a huge open compound for free play, no white boards in the playgroup classroom and very energetic teachers. And they had one last spot in playgroup for the January intake.

No, it was not cheap. However, considering that we only had to cater to one child’s expenses, my husband felt that he could well afford it. We opted for the half-day childcare option because I needed to see my child more than just a few hours before he went to bed at night.

My pregnancy took a turn for the worse in the last trimester. Just before Faye was born ― I was admitted to hospital for total bed rest for and could not even leave my bed for a toilet visit. As I was ordered to lie down for 30 days ― there was no way I could be a mother to Ewan over that period. So, we had to put Ewan on full-day childcare. Because of the switch, his childcare fees jumped by about $600. With a new baby on the way, I had to do something to lower the cost.

Find out if this mum gets help with defraying her son’s childcare costs…next!

As a wedding business owner ― before I closed it to focus on being a mum ― I was considered a self-employed person. Unfortunately, I did not have a pay cheque to prove my working status in order to enjoy the subsidy. Later, I found out that I could make a statutory declaration of my man hours at the Supreme Court for a small $20 fee ― as long as I clocked in 56 hours a month, I would be eligible for the childcare subsidy!

Excited to learn that I fit the criteria, I went to the Supreme Court in 2014 to settle this issue. Instead of paying close to $2,000 for his full-day school fees, as a working mum, I would receive a $300 ‘discount’! That was really a great help!

But I questioned as well, ‘Why do working mothers get a subsidy while non-working mothers with zero income have to pay in full for childcare?’ I rationalised, ‘The reason a woman chooses to stay home for their family is to care for their children. Thus, no childcare services should be required unless the non-working mother is unable to perform the role of primary caregiver for her child [for example, if she is ill], and therefore requires full-day centre-based care.

“With endless school parties like their annual Colour Splash, Pirate and Fairy Tale themes, I couldn’t deprive my children of fun.”

Working mothers, on the other hand, have limited care arrangements for their children while they are at work. They are in greater need of full-day services provided by childcare centres. For this reason, they receive higher government subsidies, compared to non-working mothers, who are more likely to be able to care for their children.

Fair enough. I also learned that our government is open to hearing about an individual family’s predicament. If a mother had to undergo training, suffer from a long-term illness or disability, be the primary caregiver of another sick or disabled member, or in my case, be on full bed rest orders because of my pregnancy, I could easily make an appeal through the childcare centre and request a subsidy with the relevant supporting documents.

Later, I realised that it was a good decision on our part to send Ewan to preschool when he was 18 months old. He was thriving! Seeing his teachers’ passion made me feel at ease about leaving my young son in someone else’s care in school.

When I was hospitalised, his teacher got Ewan to hand-make ‘I Love You, Mommy’ cards and craft pieces when he visited me in hospital. Though the teachers were not allowed to give their mobile numbers to parents, Ms Melissa bent the rules and brightened my dreary hospital days with snippets of Ewan’s preschool activities.

Knowing how difficult it was for me to have him transition from half- to full-day school, she stayed beyond her working hours to settle a crying Ewan into an unfamiliar napping routine. I was touched and very grateful.

When Faye turned 18 months, I knew without a doubt that I should enrol her in playgroup, just as I had her brother. We were that confident that the preschool could provide a safe and joyful environment for our children. With endless school parties like their annual Colour Splash, Pirate and Fairy Tale themes, I couldn’t deprive my children of fun. As my husband pointed out, ‘You are not going to deprive Faye of fun by keeping her at home, are you?’

Three months after Faye was born, I restored my son back to the half-day option because I am a stay-at-home mother after all! As long as I am able-bodied, I am not giving up an opportunity to spend more time with my children.

We are loving this current arrangement now. Half a day in school and the other at home. Perfect!”

Liang May is mum to Faye, 2, and Ewan, 4. She blogs at A Million Little Echoes.

Photos: Liang May (Instagram handle: #mmlittlee)

This article is in collaboration with HeyBaby

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