SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting
“Working Mum or Stay-home Mum: Which Should I Choose?”
“Of course you should be a working mum! Do you know how expensive it is to bring up a child in Singapore? Staying home would be a waste of your educational qualifications, plus you never know when your partner might get retrenched. A woman should never depend on her husband financially.”
“Stay at home and focus on your family. You only have the first few years to influence your child, to provide security, and to train their early minds. Money can always be earned later; time with your child, on the other hand, is something that once lost, cannot be recovered. Anyway, kids are closer to stay-home mums.”
Which of these statements tugs at your heart more?
Do What Serves YOU Best NOW
That’s my answer. And notice it’s not what serves your family, husband, in-laws, or even your job. Do what serves YOU — the mother.
Most young mothers tend to look outwards for validation of what is right or go with what is socially accepted. Why do that? No one knows you, your family’s circumstances, your personal dreams, long-term plans, or daily lifestyle.
A friend may urge you to work because she grew up in a family where finances were tight. Envious of what her friends had, she resolved from young to be financially independent. Another may offer a slew of parenting theories to support her belief that family is more important. Her — equally valid — opinion comes from years as a latchkey kid, pampered with material possessions that never filled her deep, emotional void.
Working mum or stay-home mum, either choice may be the right one for you. And in today’s world, your solution could even be a hybrid of both. The one other person I’d say to consult with is your partner. What do both of you want for yourselves, your child, and your shared future?
Today’s World: The Upside
The role of mothers has evolved through the years. In just one generation, we find ourselves in a very different socio-economic landscape. The default for the baby boomer generation was for women to stay home while men were sole breadwinners. Society expected women to sacrifice their jobs to anchor the family once they become a mother.
My own mother dutifully gave up her accounting job to be a housewife, as did most of my peers’ mothers. With more mouths to feed, limited finances went towards funding boys’ further studies because their role was to provide.
The steady advent of women’s equality has caused a change in mindsets. Parents today value both boys and girls. Most families have dual incomes, with mothers juggling careers progression and household management. Men, too, are impacted. Sensitive New Age Guys, Stay-at-home Dads, and house-husbands are today socially accepted, albeit not yet the epitome of desirable.
We are living in a new world where increased women’s rights, socio-economic achievements, and global opportunities are game changers. One can easily acquire a long-distance degree, secure jobs in the gig economy, and cook dinner all within a day.
(See also: Finding Balance: How Real Mums Do It)
Today’s World: The Downside
Having the ability to choose the best of all worlds is empowering and wonderful. The problem that follows, is that as we accelerate the pace at which we accomplish tasks, we often forget to take stock of these less important accolades:
Connection – Do we take time to slow down and make time for loved ones? Intentionally set aside our personal devices and look deeply into another’s eyes? To empathise with another’s circumstance, choice, or position without judging? I remind myself to hug each family member at least once a day and to tell them how uniquely important they are to me. It matters.
Collaboration – Instead of retreating into our private (digital) worlds, I consciously remind the children that we are a part of a bigger whole. For instance, while it would be great to go out with Covid symptoms, thoughtfulness for others means we choose to happily occupy ourselves at home to play our part in the countering the global pandemic.
Contribution – While enjoying the fruits of womankind’s collective labour, let’s remember to give back and pay forward. Instead of sitting on our laurels, keep the progress moving. How can I pro-actively make a difference in a cause that matters to me? What solution can I creatively come up with when faced with a problem? Whose face can I put a smile on just because I can?
Choose Wisely Because You Can
As we celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, let’s commemorate the increased choices we have. With so many options available, let’s always think through our decisions well and not let others dictate how we live. There will always be opinions, but let your decision come from an inner conviction of what works for you.
After all, what fulfils one woman is very different from what satisfies another. Indeed, what serves you now may not even work for you in a year’s time! I have memorable stints of spending unhurried mornings playing with my daughter as a stay-home mum, intentional mornings where I step into my Suntec office on a mission as a working mum, and quiet mornings like today as I type this while listening to the rhythmic pitter-patter of the rain outside my living room window — now I’m a work-from-home mum!
Isn’t a privilege to be living in a time where women can choose to be a working mum or stay-home mum? Whether it is to anchor your family, build a career, or explore anything else in between, let each decision be one where you thoroughly enjoy the process as you venture down your unique path in this game of life.
Author of “The Naked Parent”, founder of Mum Space, and mother to five amazing children, Junia is a respected thought-leader in the parenting space. Recognised for empowering parents and kids with her 21st-century parenting model for over a decade, she now brings her ‘Modern Asian Mother’ expertise and experience to this exclusive SingaporeMotherhood column.
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