My Story: Working Harder to Stay at Home

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I never expected that ‘staying at home’ can be so much harder than it actually sounds. Three years, two months and zero off days — yet I’m far from being Best Employee. While I was paid to “clean up sh*t” at work, being a stay-at-home mum (SAHM) and in the comforts of my own home I realised I was a free labour doing exactly the same thing, both figuratively and literally.

The silent struggles

The first few months were a breeze. Everything went according to plan and by noon of everyday, I was already sipping tropical fruit shake while sunbathing by the pool reading my favourite book. Well, people say if karma’s a b*tch, then reality must be her bestfriend. Truth is, by noon of everyday, I’m soaked in sweat, smelling like I haven’t bathed in ages with multiple unidentifiable stains on my shirt and wondering what happened to “I want to be there to witness her every milestone and give her the best I can”.

Never mind the lack of physical endurance to last through the whole day without forgetting, spilling, cursing, over-heating or under-cooking something. The house was in a mess; my head was in a bigger mess. The mental adjustments were just as challenging — major shifts in the ‘family’ equation, the uncertainties, the variables and the occasional vulnerability. Friends telling you that “you’re not made for this.” It took me close to a whole year to come to terms with the fact that life will never be the same again. That this is what I wanted to do because of that funny little thing called L.O.V.E.

“So what do you do the whole day??”

Besides the 1,001 chores that go unnoticed most of the time (and that single one which I missed out and makes the newspaper headline the very next day), nothing much actually. But to be very honest, it’s not what we SAHMs do that’s tiring us out. It’s what we’re expected to do. For example, beautifully decorated bento sets with animal cutlery. Hand-sewn, Frozen-inspired, turquoise-laced birthday outfits. Homemade cupcakes with home printed Hello Kitty or Transformers cake toppers. Just because we are stay-at-home mums, we should be doing all these, they say.

I dream of a 2-hour nap every day or maybe just half an hour of uninterrupted TV watching. In reality, I spend my time on Google finding out how to remove permanent markers from leather sofa. I scout around Pinterest for ideas to create home-based learning activities for her. I join multiple Facebook groups to see what nutritious food other moms are serving their kids and how I can incorporate them in her meals. I browse through the App Store looking for the best educational apps for her. I ask around for homemade play dough recipes or natural remedies when she is unwell. I bring her out to the park, the mall, play dates, play school, swimming pool, bookshop and everywhere else. So, there you go. Don’t ask again. Ever.

“Growing up” at home

Watching my girl grow was rewarding. But realising that I was growing alongside her was an unexpected bonus. It took me less than 36 hours to decide to buy a new car when I was 27. But a pair of new shoes I’ve been eyeing since last September? I haven’t mustered the courage to click “buy” after surfing the same site and clicking on the same item so many times. Because I know every single dollar I spend will either come from our single source of household income or my own savings. “Maybe they’ll have a discount tomorrow.” Or perhaps I don’t really need it. I’ve reignited my passion for writing, though it doesn’t even buy me a week’s worth of groceries. They used to say, it’s a DARK tunnel. I’m beginning to think, maybe they are wrong.

I believe there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. There will be sparks and sparkles to accompany and guide you through your journey. But guys, if your wife comes up to you and says, “You go to work. Let me stay at home,” give her a big hug and your credit card. Really. Because she’s worth every single cent of the new bag she is about to swipe for. Like mine.

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Lai San is an ex-marketer living in Jakarta but her heart has never left KL. Mother to 3 years old Doughnut, she is close to total cure of her OCD with a toddler to clean up after at home. When not stuck in a jam, she writes freelance as a cover up for her total inability to cook, bake or sew.

Image Credit: Wrap It Lose It

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