Dessy Barnaby


The kids are finally grown up, and you’re thinking of going back to work. But somehow the thought of reclaiming your career life sends a shiver down your spine. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many stay-at-home mothers find going back to work after many years rather challenging. To help your transition, we spoke to some of our favourite iron ladies to find out how they did just that, after years of absence from the workforce.

Keep yourself up-to-date and reclaim your confidence

First, call up your working friends or even ex-colleagues. Invite them over and get yourself up to speed. There’s no harm in sharing your plans of going back to work and to seek some positive input. They can fill you in on current common corporate practices, of what is new in your field and of possible vacant positions.

Good friends will also give you the dose of encouragement you need to regain your confidence. Their input can help you realign your plans and make the thought of going back to work easier to face.

Explore and don’t be afraid to “migrate”

When you have been a stay-home mother long enough eventually a sense of talent expiry comes into play. Is what you used to do still relevant today? At the same time, have your areas of interest shifted or expanded?

Take some time to explore and rediscover your interests, as well as career options . Do not be afraid to move away from what you were initially trained or qualified to do.

Being a stay-home mother may have also allowed you to master other valuable skills, such as meeting multiple deadlines, managing the schedules of 5 people simultaneously, and staying within your monthly budget.

Explore and do not hesitate to consider positions such as Customer Service, Project Planner, Assistant, Administration and any other where these self-taught skills can be put to good use.

If you are still nervous about going back to work, start by finding something more flexible, like a part time job. The point is to be objective and not restrict yourself by what you were doing before.

Work out a system

You need to have a system that helps you balance work and home responsibilities effectively if you’re going back to work.

This is where tag-team parenting comes into play, especially when juggling house chores and the kids’ schedules.

Prepare and work out a schedule that works best for the both you and your spouse. List out the things that need to be addressed together right from the beginning.

Plan out routines such as who sends or picks up the kids. Be ready to share house chores with your spouse and include the kids. Kids can start doing simple chores like putting out the laundry, writing out the grocery checklist or taking out the trash.

Include other trusted family members and even close friends. Appoint one or two who can act and respond in the case of an emergency.

Ultimately don’t hesitate to hire help like a regular weekly cleaner, a gardener to do the weeding, and standby babysitters. Have them on speed dial. Believe us: Money spent on hiring help is a far better trade off than losing your sanity.

Communicate and have faith

When you are a stay-home mother, you’re on top of everyone’s schedules. Now regular  and consistent communication between you, your spouse, your kids, their caretakers, and their school, is essential to keep track of everyone’s whereabouts.

If you’re an overly meticulous helicopter parent, take a step back and have faith. Have faith that your spouse is capable in helping out with the kids too. Have faith that in your absence, your kids and your trusted caretaker will keep the ship afloat.

Don’t fret the small stuff

Finally, remember that no matter how meticulous you try to be, some things will give somewhere. You can plan each day to a T, but expect changes or delays. Kids will still get sick, the babysitter might have an emergency or the school might call. Roll with the punches, as they say.

If there were times in the past where you assured yourself that “one day I’m going back to work again” and the time has finally arrived, we hope these tips will help you feel better prepared. Others have gone before you and it is indeed possible to gracefully transition yourself into the workplace. All the best!

Deciding to become a stay-at-home parent can literally turn whole lives around. Yet as they say, ‘Something’s gotta give!’ and parents have to make these kinds of decisions.

People often say that stay-at-home parents are so lucky to be able to spend time with their kids. However, there are many unspoken challenges and sacrifices aside from mothers just giving up their career. We found a few stay-at-home parents who shared their least discussed struggles.

Someone’s Gotta Give

For Sherry Tjandra who has been an overachiever her whole life, leaving her career as an executive marketing manager was not a calling that came overnight. But there had been a tipping point that made her decide to take a step back.

Stressed from having to juggle between being the top-gun in her company and a highly functioning mom and a wife, the challenges became too much to bear.

Her biggest challenge was the rat-race against time, where 24 hours was not enough. “I should say that my relationship struggled the most when I was trying to be all 3 at once.

On top of that the kids often fell sick, there was a time where they were sick for months from dysentery and repeated typhoid. It got so overwhelming, we (the marriage) nearly lost it. In the end, I decided that I need this – the kids and husband come first!”

For Pete Teo, the story was not quite the same. After losing his mother, who was always the one caring for his children, he decided to be a stay-at-home parent.

“Alice is a higher earner and although it is rare for a father to stay back with the kids, by the end of the day, RM6,000 will see us through the month, compared to me earning RM3,500.”

It was a lot for him to digest initially, but having had a bad experience employing a domestic helper, he knew he wasn’t going to risk his children over his ego.

The Struggle with Image & Expiring Talent 

From being a pharmacist to a stay-at-home mom, Mandy loved every single moment caring for her kids and family.

But she remembers the personal struggles.  “It has been 8 years. I guess the toughest was during my earlier years. There is a struggle about image, especially when we go out and people often ask what I do for an occupation.

“This was quite a challenge to get used to but I am blessed with a supportive husband, close-knit family and friends who do not pass judgments.

“But now, however, my challenge is different. I often feel concerned that my talent is expiring as a license pharmacist, I am no longer hireable. All that, from time to time, will creep up and haunt you once in a while to make you feel insecure. Other than that I completely love being a stay-at-home mum.”

The Social Struggle

Pete, however, was not so lucky. He felt like the whole society raised an eyebrow when he told them he was a stay-at-home dad.

“For a Malaysian, if you tell people you are a stay-at-home dad, they will immediately think you are lazy or a loser of a man who can’t find a job.”

The relationship with his wife remained great. Yet the social stigma was often the factor that got him down – sometimes so much so that it consumed every ounce of positivity in him.

“My wife is okay with this, but the rest of the world sees it differently. The hardest times was during a family or company gathering. It really affected me when people (intentionally or unintentionally) passed remarks on who was wearing the pants.”

Being a stay-at-home parent is often second-guessed, especially if you’re the father. Societal expectations, particularly from Asian cultures, can be tough. But Pete is determined not to lose out.

The Financial Struggle

Up until the moment he was retrenched, Andrew Kit never thought he would be the one staying home with the kids. He found himself venturing into the homemade food business to earn some income. “It was depressing at first. The financial struggle is the greatest challenge, not being able to be the breadwinner and provide enough kind of consumes you.”

Panda (not her real name) fell into depression for a period of time. “I was literally a stay-at-home mom! Baby was still small (not schooling) and I refused to go or meet anyone.”

The combination of a financial and long-distance relationship-communication struggle took a toll on her. Despite her normal functioning appearance, she had to go through series of counselling and had medication to help her cope and brave through the time.

“The stretch became tougher – having to settle as a single-income household, I felt helpless with no close family to help out. There was no so-called self-owned money to spend. I felt powerless, plus my husband was working away from us. It was a dark and lonely place to be, although it looked like I had it all figured out.”

To Be Seen

There are often great and wondrous praises for a stay-at-home-parent, but many still actually fail to see how underappreciated they are.

Many stay-at-home parents may not have the courage to share this openly, but to them, they just want family and friends to be supportive of their decisions and understand their struggles, big or small.

They may rise above the challenges they go through, day in and day out, and sometimes without a word or complaint. Sometimes a sincere ‘How are you?’ can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes, they just want to be seen.


Related Posts:

5 Reasons Why Stay-At-Home Mums Too Deserve Respect

How to Be a Stay-At-Home Mom Without Losing Your Marbles

5 Things to Consider Before You Quit to Be a Stay-At-Home Mum

Becoming a single parent is not always a straightforward choice, whether it resulted from divorce, the death of a spouse or through other circumstances. Being a single-parent is never an easy task.

We spoke to a number of single parents and ask them to share some of their bible-rules that have kept them afloat and thriving as a single parent. (Yes! They all are!)

1. Find a support network

Being parents is never a walk in the park and it is more challenging when you are a single parent. One of the most important things we need to do almost immediately is to establish a support network.

Include our family, allow them to help and extend their assistance to us. It is also important to have some close friends that we can entrust our child with in the event of an emergency.

Never be ashamed to receive help from others or to let them know when we need a hand. It is not a sign a weakness when we call them for help.

Support systems can also come from a community group, such as other parents from school that can help share plans and tasks.

2. A Positive Mind

Ultimately we have to keep our heads on our shoulders as there will be times when we think that everything is falling apart. The world can look like a dysfunctional place. Remember that staying positive is vital.

Yoga works to keep balance and perspective, and helps realign thoughts. Another plus is that it helps us stay healthy, not only physically but also emotionally.

We just need to know how to find our zen, whether it is through yoga, eating more healthily or doing any other sport. Whatever it is, keeping a positive mind is the ultimate fuel that will keep the ship running.

3. Discipline

Discipline is key when steering the ship on our own. It takes a lot of will power to start and, of course, to persevere.

Timekeeping has proven to be the hardest thing to do for single parents, especially if we have more than one child and/or they are at a young age.

However, if we can be disciplined and keep the daily routine and goal-oriented tasks going, it will save us a lot of unnecessary wild-goose-chasing in the process.

4. Keep Calm if some things don’t go as planned.

There will be times when nothing is going as planned. There will be bad days and there will be some completely messy days. The best thing to do when this happens is to take step back and remind ourselves to stay calm.

Reorganise tasks and re-prioritise. Some things will be beyond our control – we just need keep our perspective straight and realign our goal.

5. Take care of yourself, first.

When we think that everything is bouncing out of control, pause! Stop everything you’re doing. It is okay to leave our child with a trusted family member or friend while we pick ourselves up.

Go for a walk, treat yourself, take half a day off from everything, even caring for your child. Find your balance.

We will not be of much help when we are a wreck, so always make sure we are fit enough physically and emotionally before taking a lot on our plate, caring for one too many things.

6. Task sharing at home, with your child.

There is a saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”. That is no laughing matter. Raising our child alone can be quite an intimidating task so it is appropriate for us to share our tasks and chores.

Assign them enough tasks so they can take part, after all they too are living in the house.

Try task-sharing according to their age. For example: Let them help set the table for dinner when they are 4 years old;  they can sweep the floor of their room on Saturday when they are 5; have them wash their own plates after meals when they are 6 years old.

7. Communicate with your child

No matter what the reason is for becoming a single parent, there is no easy way to explain the situation to our child.

However, as they grow older, anticipate that they will want to know.

Allow them to know and understand – communicate and share with them what they would like to know.

Never attempt to brush their questions aside or pretend nothing happened. Sharing with them will help shape their mind and answer their natural curiosity, which is a lot better than having them assume everything for the worse.

8. Include your child

Never think their opinion is insignificant. Allow yourself to listen to their feedback, from the smallest decisions (why they like basketball instead of Taekwondo), to making some major ones, such as when we plan to move house.

Allow them to be a part of our decision-making process, to promote independence and problem solving skills.

Eventually if we do start seeing someone, always be honest and include them. Make their opinions matter because at the end of the day, we are all in this together.