In 2011, the median monthly income in Singapore was S$3,249, according to Manpower Ministry data. So the average stay-at-home parent is giving up S$3,249 a month for the privilege of 24/7 supervision of his or her children. Over 20 years, that’s almost S$800,000 — which could buy you a brand new two-room condo unit in the suburbs.
It’s money you could have spent on yourself. Having children can reduce the number of gadgets and fast cars you can accumulate. So why on earth would anyone deprive themselves of the chance to consume more stuff by quitting their job to look after their kids?
This is an argument long rehearsed and repeated, but despite anything, we know stay-at-home moms make very big sacrifices. Stay at home mums (and stay at home dads), we salute you.
1. It’s OK to vent.
It’s actually necessary and healthy. Just because you complain sometimes doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids or wouldn’t move mountains for them. It’s just that they can make you feel so freaking stressed and tired you want to scratch your eyes out sometimes. That’s normal. Complaining about it helps.
2. It’s OK to ask for help.
This is one I’m trying to get better at myself. When the baby is sick, and so are you, it’s OK to ask your partner to take a day off to help. It’s OK to ask your neighbor to walk your big kid to school if your toddler is having a tantrum about pants. It takes a village, truly. Don’t try to be a martyr all the time. You’ll break from all the pressure.
3. Don’t compare yourself to other SAHMs.
The stay at home mums who seem to have it together really don’t. We all struggle to be organized and patient on a daily basis. We all struggle with worry and fatigue. It’s part of the job. So are yoga pants with holes, and no showers for days on end.
4. Try to get out of the house when you can. You need to talk to other adults.
Listen, I know how impossible it can feel to get out with kids. No one will get dressed, everyone is hungry at the wrong time, you have no clean underwear, and the dishes are piled up to the ceiling. But just put your jacket on over your pj’s, scoop up your kids, and take a walk around the block. Even striking up a conversation with the mailman will help break up the monotony of it all.
5. Throw the guilt in the trash, where it belongs.
I struggled for years with my identity as a stay-at-home mom. Shouldn’t I be doing something more prestigious, something using my college degree? I felt racked with guilt because I wasn’t contributing to our household salary. It’s all bullshit. Careers can be picked up later. Some of us find that motherhood bring gifts to our careers we didn’t expect. And as for the no-income thing? Think about how much you could cost if you hired yourself. See that? You’d break the bank.
6. Take time for yourself.
Here’s another one I’m still working on. And I know it feels impossible to do, especially when your kids are little. But you must do it. If you don’t fill yourself up, you’ll have nothing left to give. Take a 15-minute bath. Take your dinner to your bedroom so you can eat in peace for 10 minutes. Do anything that reminds you of who you are outside the role of mother.
It can be enormously fatiguing and overwhelming to be the sole caretaker for young children. It can be lonely, isolating, and just downright boring. But it’s also beautiful. There are moments I have experienced with my children that are pure magic. I know that however hard it is, I will look back on the whole thing fondly and wish I could relive it all over again.
So, to the brand new stay at home mums: It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. But you are doing it. You’re making memories. And you might not see it yet, but you’re kicking some serious ass. So cut yourself a little slack and bask in the awesomeness of doing some of the most important work on earth.