When I was a little girl, I dreamed of marrying my prince charming and having two children – a boy and a girl. Together with that, I had lofty ambitions of becoming a doctor, an engineer, a banker, an accountant… my ambitions changed as I uncovered my interests and discovered my strengths. I dreamt of earning enough to provide my family with life’s little luxuries… nothing overly extravagant. Maybe just the average middle-income family with nice holidays overseas once or twice a year.
What I did not consider, was how I was going to balance being a full time mom and doing my full time job. It never crossed my mind that it would be a delicate balancing act that will require lots of planning and careful execution. In the end, an engineer I did become. I pursued postgrad studies fully sponsored by my then employer, married my prince charming and discovered I was pregnant about a year later. The timing was just perfect. I finished serving my bond just as my maternity leave was up. That gave me the option of leaving to look for a job that would allow me to do my job as a mom, and build my career. I switched to another job that offered more flexible work arrangements and for almost two years, I was a full time working mom. We decided against hiring a domestic helper, so my son went to an infant / childcare centre while I was at work. Those days were physically exhausting and mentally draining to say the least. But we managed well... until I had my second child.
As I was the one with the predictable schedule (as opposed to my husband whose hours were long), I was the one who'd drop the children off at daycare before going to work and then pick them up at the end of the day. I remember leaving the house with a baby, a toddler, two of their bags filled with things they'd need at school, my own hand bag, a trolley bag filled with my laptop, breast pump and mini fridge-to-go every single day. I did not have enough hands! I was not able to excel at work given the responsibilities I had at home and I was missing out on spending time with my children and watching them grow. I agonised over leaving full time employment.... Will we have enough money? What will become of my career? What happens when the kids are older? Do I return to work? Can I still find work? I hung on to my job for another year before leaving for good.
I have been a SAHM for a little over two years and I'm enjoying (almost) every moment of it. I miss the corporate world, the lunch breaks, the satisfaction of a project well done... but am glad that I get to be a greater part of my boys' growing up years. Ideally, I'd like to be able to work on a part-time / flexi time arrangement, but such work arrangements don't seem all too popular in Singapore. For now, I'm thankful to be a SAHM, and have no plans to return to full-time work anytime soon.
I'm not sure if seasoned SAHMs will find the following useful... but if you are a newly minted SAHM, the following 'tips' might make your journey as a SAHM a tad bit easier... From one SAHM to another... you're not alone!
We have a routine established since the boys were born and we stick to it religiously. This means fixed times for waking up, showers, meals, play, nap times and bed times. As they got older, we added things like time to practise the violin/piano, time for doing math, time for reading... The sequence is fixed. For example, after school, we have lunch, then shower, then practise the violin. After which, we get to either play for a short while or read a book before taking an afternoon nap. Somedays, Nathan might try to wriggle his way out of violin practice, but he knows that if he doesn't complete his practice, he can't move on to the next activity. Having a fixed routine helps me in planning my day.
Set aside some time each day to be alone. This is actually really hard for a SAHM... with little ones following you everywhere you go... even when you need to use the toilet or take a shower. I get a little over 2 hours every weekday after dropping the boys off at school, but there's so much that needs to be done in this short time... I spend one morning at BSF and another one/two mornings at the gym. The rest of the mornings are filled with household chores. Occasionally, I arrange to have breakfasts with friends (usually fellow moms who have mornings free). My social circle has shrunk ever since I stopped work, and I do miss 'adult conversations'. But for now, it is hard to take time out, and I just use whatever pockets I have left to 'recharge'.
Adequate rest is a necessity for me. When I'm well rested, I find that I am less impatient with my boys and am able to engage them in meaningful activities. My boys still take one afternoon nap in the afternoon, and are usually in bed by about 9pm. I try to sleep by 11pm. Somedays, I'd be so tired by mid day, that I end up taking a nap when they nap.
"Homework" & Play
My children do not bring home any work from school (not yet), but this mama dishes out homework. I make my older son do work that he's able to complete without help while I am cooking (usually stuff from his math workbook, writing exercises or dot-to-dot puzzles). While he's at it, my younger son will be playing with Lego blocks. Having them engaged in separate activities minimizes the chances that I have to arbitrate fights.
Showers I shower both boys together, much like in an assembly line. Spray water from head to toe, shampoo, soap, rinse off, towel dry. So much faster and saves water.
Everything is machine washed. When the boys were babies, I used to separate the baby clothes from the adult clothes. Now, everything is washed together and tossed in the dryer. As much as I'd prefer to hang the clothes out to dry under the hot sun (to save on my electricity bills), I do not have time to actually hang them out. It is so much faster to transfer them to the dryer then move on to other chores. Can someone invent a 2-in-1 washer and dryer, so I don't even need to do the transferring? Very often, we pull the freshly laundered clothes out to wear before they even get to return to the cupboards. Saves me the hassle of packing them back in the cupboards.
The only meal that I cook at home is lunch. It is usually one of the following: Marconi soup, rice with japanese curry, tomato based pasta, soup based noodles, pizzas, stews or porridge. It takes under 30 minutes to prepare, and uses no more than two pots (to minimise washing up). I find that boiling water using my electric kettle is much faster, than boiling it over the stove. So to save time, I'd boil water using an electric kettle, then transfer it to the pot on the stove to boil pastas, cook soups etc.
I've mastered the technique of eating fast ever since I became a mom, and I'm usually done before them. So I'll start washing the dishes while they are still eating, and by the time they are done, the only items left to wash are the bowls and spoons that they were using. It helps that we have a food preparation island in the kitchen which doubles up as our dining table. I can keep an eye on them and we continue our meal time conversations while I wash dishes.
With laundry and meals out of the way, the other major chore left is cleaning the floor. I recently acquired an iscooba. It vacuums and mops the floor when I'm out, saving me lots of time (and sweat). So thankful for technology. I get my boys to help by packing up their toys after they play, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket and returning their used utensils to the sink.
I gave up my full time job to stay home with the kids, to spend more time with them, to teach them, to watch them grow. Spending time being a mom, being a teacher, being a playmate, being a friend, is far more important than getting the house spick and span. My house is not as neat as I'd like it to be, not as clean as I'd like it to be... but that's not what I'd like my boys to remember me for - a good house keeper. Rather, I'd like them to remember the things I've taught them, the fun we had, the laughter we shared...
This post is part of a blog train hosted by Gingerbreadmum where 31 stay-at-home mums share their survival tips. We hope that you'll find our tips useful and remember that you're not alone!
Felicia will be sharing her story tomorrow. Felicia, a stay-at-home mother of two, is aspiring to be their greatest teacher. She occasionally dreams to be a fashionista in her too big maternity T-shirt and shorts while she indulges in some jewellery designing and crafting. Her two children, the Princess and the Rock are her main inspirations for her blog. Princess and The Rock aims to detail some of her thoughts and learning on being the parent of Princess and the Rock and her homeschooling journey with them.