Making Choices

This is my family.

Valerie is now almost 2 years and 7 months, while Isaac turned 9 months young a week ago. Kevin holds a full-time corporate job and is the main breadwinner of the family.

I work from home. I have my own General Insurance business, while helping my husband with the administrative aspects of his work baby – Affinity.

I resigned from the first position I held post-graduation in September 2015, after 2 years 3 months. I was in my first trimester with Valerie then.

My resignation was planned, and I had actually decided to leave prior to finding out I was pregnant. Fun fact: my resignation letter was rejected by my superiors two times before they finally accepted my decision to leave.

I took up a part-time position in October that same year but I left after a month because I was constantly nauseated and dizzy, all thanks to pregnancy hormones.

And I’ve not been back to the corporate world since.

That said, I wouldn’t say I stumbled into the role of a stay-home parent as I could have easily gone back to work a few months after Valerie’s birth. (I did have a promising job offer from Gleneagles Hospital.) Becoming a SAHM was a deliberate choice by Kevin and I.

In my two mummy groups, I have shared countless times about my experience as a stay-home parent, the reasons why we are doing what we are doing, and the sacrifices we chose to make just so that Valerie and Isaac will always have their mum around through their growing up years.

I am documenting my various thought processes here, in the hopes that – when the going gets tough, and when the routines get mundane – I will always remember why I chose the road less travelled.

I am thankful that Kevin and I have always been on the same page about this since day one. I wouldn’t be able to thrive as a stay-home parent if it weren’t for his unconditional love and support.

With that in mind, our preference for having at least one parent be with our children at any one time is different.

For Kevin, having his spouse be the primary caregiver for his children has been a long-time desire of his. He was a latchkey kid and his parents were always busy working. He rarely spent time with them, and yearned for some form of parental guidance as he grew older. That’s when he promised himself that if he ever had the privilege of becoming a father, he would very much prefer his children to be brought up by their own mother.

For me, the choice to be a SAHM was a no-brainer. Those who know me would know why. My mum herself was a SAHM for 15 years. She quit her 9-year job when I was born, and only went back to working full-time when I was in Upper Secondary. When I was young, I took her presence for granted (because what did I know – I thought everyone’s mum stayed home too). But as I grew older – especially as a mother myself now, ironically – I started appreciating her being around for my sister and I all the time. Whenever we needed her, she was there. Rain or shine, she was there. And this continues to this day. What a powerful impact it had on my life; and I wanted to be able to do the same for my own children.

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I will not lie to you. Having one parent stay home and not hold a stable full-time corporate position is really not easy. It involves deliberate lifestyle changes and choices.

Here are some truth bombs that I would like to share.

1) We have a tighter budget, obviously.

I have not bought anything I’ve wanted for myself since I quit my job. That’s three whole years of adding things to my cart and then not carting out because I have zero financial independence. Though Kevin allows me to buy things without consulting him, I just don’t because I rather save that money for stuff we need instead of stuff I want. 100% of the things I now buy is for the house, for the children, or for our meals (ie: groceries and/or wet marketing). And… I used to be a shopaholic, once spending $400+ just on makeup during the Christmas period in 2014.

2) We will not vacation further than Malaysia for the time being.

We have decided not to go for family holidays further than Malaysia when the children are young. Firstly, do you have any idea how tiring it is to travel with young children? I won’t want to take flights with them – as much as I can help it – until they are both in primary school, capable of walking on their own and willing to follow our instruction. Maybe I will consider flying with them if we have extra helping hands on board… But we will decide if and when the opportunity presents itself. Next consideration is of course, cost – holidaying in Malaysia stretches our dollar! And lastly, beach holidays will suffice for our family for now. After all, our children are still young. All they will want is just the sand, the pool, the bathtub, and US. They don’t care where they are; they just want to be in our presence. Plus we have their teen years to take them to see the world anyway… For now, shrewd financial planning and building up our savings come first.

3) We eat in all the time.

Yup, you read that right. We don’t eat out. Except Kevin when he’s out on the field working, though I’m already making plans to pack him meals daily from our kitchen. (Healthier + saves money… Win-win!) We don’t have brunch in cafes, or coffees at Starbucks. I consider even a meal at Sun Plaza’s Kopitiam a luxury because someone else prepared it and I didn’t have to shop for the ingredients nor meal plan! Bubble tea? I have it like once in two months… And it does taste like heaven.

4) Stay-home mum depression is real.

This is a real struggle of mine. I wrote a little about it here, you can jump over to that post if you’d like. To many, being a SAHM might be the dream. And shouldn’t I be happy that I get to spend all day with my children?

Well. While I am truly honoured that Kevin has given me the chance to be a full-time mum, life can get extremely routine after awhile. And man, is it emotionally draining! In case you were wondering, my job scope includes…

Constant attention, constant vigilance, constant scrutiny, constant touch, constant use of my voice, constant relegation of my needs to the second tier. It’s needing an hour to do what takes others 15 minutes. It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything – language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, competency, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy, and everything else in between.

This space is as real as I’m going to get, and I will be the first in line to tell you that being a mum is not easy. I have struggled, heck, I’m still struggling!

And yes, I am also here to tell you that SAHM depression is a thing.

And no, it is not because we hate our “job”. It is because sometimes, just sometimes, the overwhelming mental load of motherhood is simply too much.

5) There’s absolutely no shame in admitting we need extra help.

I have a helper. Her name is Anita. She started working for us in May this year, a mere three days before we moved.

This begets a whole lot of questions because the assumption is housewife plus helper equates to rich housewife. Firstly, that is a load of bollocks. Secondly, with two children under the age of three and with my physical and mental health not doing so well recently, having an extra pair of hands to help out around the house has been a huge blessing and I am thankful we took a leap of faith and decided to engage her at the recommendation of a friend.

Yes, no doubt a helper increases our cost substantially… But we engaged her precisely because we saw a need.

Anita now does the physical work of running our household (cooking, chores, grocery shopping, errand-running), while I focus on the children and on expanding our side businesses.

These are the choices I have made for my family.

What choices will you make for your family today?

Author: joannaerin

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

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