“Why am I doing this?” I ask myself with no small measure of despair, for perhaps the 112th time in my short four years of being a mother, as I click away on the laptop late into the night. The girl is sleeping, the husband is snoring and even my cats are curled up warm and comfy on the sofa.
And the reason I am up at this unearthly hour is because my work got interrupted by relentless cries to bring the little one out for ice-cream after dinner.
Not satisfied with just ice-cream, my little tyrant insisted that I had to read her one, and then two and then three story books before she nodded off to sleep. (And how could I refuse after having just read an article about how important bedtime stories are to children?)
Why, indeed? Why do us working mothers attempt to juggle these various duties? Why do we not choose to simply be stay-at-home mothers or simply career women and not have any (more) children? Why choose to bear the almost constant burden of guilt?
Okay, so there’s the money right? Living in Singapore is costly. Further, some mothers also have to take on the role of being the main breadwinner in the family — because such is life.
But at the same time, I think whether this is a personal choice or not, the fact remains being a working mother brings a ton of good to children. Let’s just say, even if we took away the dollars and cents factor from my decision, it would still be my personal choice to be a working mum.
Balance makes a happy mummy
Having to work and at the same time care for domestic issues creates balance. Dealing with different sets of challenges on a daily basis allows me to develop different aspects of myself.
I feel myself becoming a more holistic individual when I balance out work and home. Balance is important in keeping me happy and sane, and I believe happy parents make happy children.
My parents were working parents, I barely saw them. My husband’s mother, however, was always there. Even when he had reached the ripe age of 21, she was still chauffering him around.
I think that makes a big difference in the way we tackle problems. When I meet a challenge, my mother’s admonition reverberates in my head: “What do you mean don’t know? Nobody is born knowing. Go and learn la!”.
And because I was alone much of the time from early adolescence, I did learn a lot. I learnt how to navigate our transport system, how to manage my meagre finances (okay, pocket money) and even how to cook.
My husband, however, prefers to push the problem over to someone else, he calls it “delegation”. Hmm.
So, I’m not saying all children of stay-at-home mums are apron clingers, but I do think there is nothing like getting a child to learn independence than if you throw him into the deep end. It’s either swim or drown.
Children learn through imitation. I would like to show my daughter possibilities. Forget about women’s lib and feminism and all that, that’s not what this is about.
It’s about options.
Meaning, if you want to be a career woman, that route is open, if you want to be a stay-at-home mother, that route is open. The message I want to send to my daughter and her daughter, if she ever has one, is this – don’t limit yourself; you can develop any aspect of yourself you choose.
An important value I hope my daughter imbibes is a curiosity of the wider world
When my husband and I talk about our work problems at the dinner table, my daughter probably has no idea what we are talking about.
But she does have some comprehension that there is a wider world out there; that there are people who might not be quite so easy to get along with, that money is an important component of what makes the world go around, that the world can be big bad place and also a lovely warm one at the same time.
A sense of reality and broader horizons are fostered around the dinner table from a young age, in all its multi-coloured hues. I would like to intrigue her enough to want to explore this world.
So, yes. For all the guilt in the world, for all the late nights I pull and the irretrievable firsts I miss as a working mother, I believe the lessons I am trying to impart and model are far more valuable.
I’m going to have to remind myself of these tomorrow morning as I down my fourth cup of espresso.
Are you a working mum? Why did you choose to be one? Do share your thoughts on this matter in a comment below.