Talk to any SAHM you know, and you will probably find that not one of them entered this new phase of their life without some fear and trembling and a great deal of uncertainty.
It’s not just about entering the great unknown of childbirth and motherhood – for first-time mums – it is often a lot to do with the letting go of long-held dreams, past achievements and current realities.
You may feel that you are watching all your hard work in your job the past X number of years go up in smoke. You might wonder if you are sacrificing your security and sanity for a life with no guaranteed returns.
You may find yourself weighed down by the opinions of many and the incredulity of a few. You might worry that you will “lose yourself”.
These are all valid concerns, and definitely questions to be wrestled with, but let me be the first SAHM to tell you that these questions will probably never go away. Indeed, with every stage of parenting, they will resurface again, in some form or other, triggered by the experiences of parenting, the needs of your family, and the realities of others in your community.
In seeking out the answers, you may question so much that you have taken for granted all your life thus far.
- What is the role of a parent?
- What is the value of work?
- Who are you living for?
- Who or what defines you?
- Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
- How do you want your children to remember you?
I welcome you to explore each of these questions, while recognizing that the answers may be difficult to articulate, and even when articulated, may not resolve the tension and uncertainty you feel within you.
But it is an essential step in this process of “knowing”.
Know that it won’t be easy
Becoming a SAHM is not for the faint-hearted. That’s not to say that working mothers have it easy – but the challenges are quite different.
It’s not easy being the only one at home with an infant who is completely dependent on you. It’s not easy having no one to turn to for encouragement, advice or help. You will be “forced” to quickly develop your own confidence as a parent, to make the million-and-one decisions that will need to be made every day.
Being able to competently manage the housework, cook healthy meals and still find the space for the things you love is definitely something to aspire to, but not something that many SAHMs can attest to. For most of us, it’s a constant struggle to juggle the many “balls” in the air on top of family and other commitments.
As the kids grow up, there will be fights to break up, learning to do, naughtiness to discipline, and so on. The house will be pretty noisy and probably messy. If you’re an introvert who relishes your peace and quiet, this will be one of the hardest adjustments you have to make as a SAHM, as you will be bombarded by noise and requests 24/7. After all, you’re the only one they can turn to.
It is virtually impossible to become a SAHM without the support of your husband and family. Your family needs to be able to get by on a single income – some lifestyle changes might be necessary – and your husband needs to be fully on board with the decision to put your career on hold. When the only (adult) person you have the opportunity to talk to the whole day most days is your spouse, your husband’s support and encouragement will be vital to making this arrangement work. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way in restoring your peace after a long, harried day.
Know that it will be a priceless experience
Despite the grit and exhaustion that every SAHM will face, ask any SAHM and you will hear that this journey is truly a priceless one.
1. Your child’s first smile, first roll-over, first taste, first steps, first words – you will be able to witness these precious moments first-hand, a privilege that many parents don’t get to enjoy.
2. It’s not just physical milestones that matter – you will get to see your child trying to get there too.
That almost-first step, the struggle to fit a shape through a shape sorter, the dismay when his carefully stacked tower of blocks collapses, the joy of finally being able to spoon a scoop of food into his mouth, the frustration of not being able to draw “like Mummy”, the valiant attempts to comb her own hair in front of the mirror. All these special snapshots of a life that is growing up right under your nose.
3. Then there is a flexibility of your time.
Without job deadlines to meet and schedules to keep, the life of a SAHM can be very free-ing, allowing you to meet up with other SAHMs or friends during the week and arrange playdates with their kids. This means zoo trips without the weekend crowd, and the occasional brunch in a quiet café (which won’t be quiet for long once you and your kids arrive!).
4. And what about the parent-child bond that you will be building on?
There is significant research that backs up the view that the foundation of a happy, healthy and well-bonded parent-child relationship are vital for a child’s overall development, with far-reaching consequences in his or her adult life. And the best time to build that bond with your kids is when they are young, before the stresses of education and friendships come in. Quality time is important, but so is quantity time.
Becoming a SAHM is not something to be taken lightly, and some see it as a “calling”. Not everyone can be a SAHM and adapt to being around children 24/7, and for some of us, the contributions we make at a job we are passionate about are strong factors to favour staying on in the workforce. It is not an easy decision to make. And yet, at the end of the day, this is something that many SAHMs would wholeheartedly agree with.
Despite the upheaval and change that becoming a SAHM may have brought, it really is all worth it.
By Dorothea Chow.
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