Confessions of a FTWM: Between choice and decision

Thursday, 14 March 2013

I've never been the most maternal of women, and when I reached that age when most women get married and searched for the happily ever-afters, the thoughts of 'settling down' and adding on to the general population did not feature on my bucket list of things to achieve in life.

I lived life, I loved life, I had fun.
I also worked hard, and played harder.

Now the thing about life is that sometimes even the best laid plans more often than not go awry, so when I finally found myself at the altar... my friends were all pretty much as surprised as I was. Furthermore, I wasn't in the family way or anything - I suppose there comes a time when you meet a person and getting hitched was simply to complete the entire experience of a union of minds.

When my Boss congratulated me on my wedding day - he asked if he would still have the privilege of working together with me (which I think spoke lengths as to how much he values his employees). Never did it occur to me that it would even be an option. I love my work, and I love my working environment.

My husband was also of the opinion that I should continue working. He understands me well, and he knows that the old adage of 'idle minds, idle thoughts' ring true for me. I thrive best in a fast paced environment and I work best under pressure. It somehow keeps me sane. Leave me alone with practically nothing to do, and I will wilt from sheer lethargy and the perceived feeling of haplessness.

Then I found myself 'with child'. Totally unexpected... even more so when we weren't planning and I conceived even through the usage of a pretty fool-proof method of contraception. I suppose I fell into that 0.01% loophole which contraceptives carry as a disclaimer.

We spoke about it. We talked about the changes in lifestyle which would come naturally with parenthood. We discussed finances, and weighed the pros and cons of me staying home to take care of baby, as opposed to continuing to be part of the work force.

Our parents, meanwhile, were ecstatic.

In Singapore, with standards of living being the way it is, making ends meet on a double income household is pretty tough, more so on a single income one. Whilst we are sure that we will be able to manage should I choose to stay home, it will be a pretty tight arrangement, and it would involve a lot of prudent decisions.

In the end, the main contributing factor as to why we opted for me to continue to work was because we had the assurance that our child will be well taken care of in my absence. Perhaps even better than I probably could manage, being totally uninitiated and clueless about all this parenting business. We decided to try it out for a few months after my 4 month maternity leave ends, and make necessary changes should the need arise.

My in-laws were more than happy to have the additional company. They are glad to have a little one to keep them busy during the day, and in the capable hands of my mother-in-law, I know that my child will not be left wanting. Well... the husband turned out pretty fine, so I have no qualms whatsoever about leaving him in what I believe is a conducive environment for his well-being.

***

What I didn't bargain upon was the 'guilt' feelings I experienced during the first few months after my Maternity Leave ended. I was assailed with thoughts of being a lousy mum, coupled with struggling daily to cope with work as opposed to staying home with my baby. I felt envious when other mums, who chose to stay at home, bear witness to developmental milestones. I felt cheated, somehow, and there were many times when I questioned my seemingly selfish decision.

I get sad when I think of all the fun things I could do with the boy. Messy mealtimes, walks in the park, swimming, reading, story telling and play (Well... yes - we all can dream, and we have perceptions).

Bottom line is, at the end of the day, it is a personal decision.

My decision to continue to work will evoke many pointed fingers, along with many sympathetic hugs along the way. I finally came to terms with my decision when I realised that as much as I would love to be home with my son, first and foremost, I know myself well enough to have chosen a path which would translate toward everyone's best interests in the long run. I will not be able to cope well with the loss of 'adult' social interaction, and I will eventually wallow in self pity at home, for the lack of feeling useful. This will perhaps be projected onto my family... which is definitely not a good thing, because I wouldn't want the boy growing up familiar with angst and frustration.
Right now I treasure all the hours in the work day which I am able to spend with him. I've placed my make up in a small bag, so that I can sit on the bed, his sleeping, warm little body touching mine as I get ready for work. I sit next to him and have one-sided conversations punctuated by his cheeky grins and grunts - on the drive to my in-laws place. He hugs me close and gives a little wave and sends me off with a smile.

My work station is adorned with pictures of him. I look at him, and miss him - but at the same time, he helps me get through the day. He makes me smile, even through the most challenging day.

***

Being a Full time working Mum is a decision I made, when I was presented with the choice of either staying home, or to continue to work. Choices are empowering because of the options which come along with it, but there are days when I question my decision. Days when I would much prefer to be there for him while he nurses a cold or is recovering from a bout of influenza. Moments when I miss him so much it hurts, and it takes all of my will power to not run home to be with him.

There are, however, external factors which influence this decision. Factors which involve grappling with the increasing costs of living in Singapore. Things like the need to be able to provide for my extended family should the need arise, although this has never been expected of me. I would like to also ease the burden on the husband, who has worked himself to the bone every single day since he found out that he would be responsible for another being which he has brought into this world.

There may be people who think that my decision to be a full time working mum is based purely on a selfish quest to fulfil my personal needs. I don't argue this fact. I know myself enough to state for a fact that I need adult interaction. I need to feel useful, and I thrive best under pressure. I need to feel a sense of achievement, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Perhaps it's that competitive streak in me.

At the same time, however, these factors, once fulfilled, creates a better person in me. It makes me a happier person, and thus, this positive energy can then be channelled onto my family - the core reason and the major influence to all the things which I do in life now.

My decision to the choice empowers me, and does not take my power away. What I selected to do is what my heart told me to do, despite knowing that it has completely surrendered itself to the kid. I will always have choices and options, and ultimately, the decision is always mine to make.

Perhaps as life goes on, throwing curveballs as it is apt to do - this decision may change. Right now, I'm a Full Time Working Mum - and I'm coping the best I can.

I love my family, and I love my son. I love work and I love my social sanity.
We made a decision based on what we think would work best for everyone.



Contributing to:

24 comments :

  1. I love the honesty, I have to express that I detest the segregation of working moms and sahms, it's like the never-ending debate of natural and c-section births. Moms are moms. And every mom does her bit to provide the best for the child. What is the best for the child differs in every family, and C is a very lucky child to have a mom who not only loves him, but also loves herself very very much. A sane mom is the key factor in a healthy family!

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    1. Ayoh... the C-Sect vs Natural Birth argument. Like politics and religion!!

      When I tell people I had ELECTIVE C-Sect, their eyes will go big, and round, and they will sputter: Whyyyyyyy??! You will not be able to experience being a mother! (I would be like Wha??!)

      Ok... different strokes for different folks, I just wish people will have more respect for other people's decisions, even if it goes against their beliefs. The keyword here is 'beliefs'.

      *sigh*

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  2. I like the term "social sanity"...That is so important to me too! Oh, the "adult" (not RA, but something not revolving around toys or dinosaurs haha) conversation during lunch time is food for my soul. Plus the fact I get to feed just ME and not having to shove spoonfuls of rice down two fidgety boys' throats. LOL!

    And not to mention the extra spending power. :P

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    1. Ya!! It's come to a point when the highlight of MONDAY would be the coffee time in the morning, followed by brunch or lunch after! Hahaha!

      Money helps the clickability factor, esp when got sale in US, knowwhatimean? ;)

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  3. It's not easy to be a FTWM. I only worked 10 months after my maternity leave ended for Brandon and already, my table macham my personal space with all his photos over the place. But looking at them helped me with my let down when I was pumping breast milk in the pantry. hahaha! :p

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    1. You worked?!!! Who jaga him in that ten months?

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    2. Last minute arrangement, my colleague's mum helped me out till she gian back her freedom lor. So part of the reason why I left my job.

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  4. You're coping much better than most, I'd say! :) Loved this post :)

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  5. You're right... we all have choices, and ultimately it boils down to a decision. Aptly put. Thanks for sharing so much!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a note. :)

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  6. Oh I like this, I like it a lot. Thank you for the raw honesty. If my parents or in laws could help with watching e kids, I'd be back to work in a second. But God's plans for me worked out such, and here I am feeling a little depressed about having to file ZERO again as income tax season rolls around. But whatever the choice we make as mothers, it's for the best of our kids right?

    Ps he my streamers!

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    1. YAH! Your streamers!

      I decided to go back to work primarily for that reason - knowing that he's well cared for when I'm at work. If I didn't have any options, I would also do everything in my power to make sure that he still gets the best care, and that would of course, involve me staying home.

      They have us wrapped around their fingers in more ways than one lah!

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  7. Lovely piece of writing as usual, Regina. It's interesting that I find myself struggling more than most mums with FT work (I mean we probably share the same struggles but some do cope better than others), and I guess it boils down to our own ideals and picture of what we yearn for and desire. Each of us have our own unique needs and make-up and family support, and I agree, we all do the best we can to serve our family, as well as to keep ourselves sane. :)

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    1. June, I think it also boils down to the type of industry we're in. For me, I have the luxury of starting work late (even though I finish late) - and I only find it really stressful when there are ad deadlines and new launches all happening at one go.

      But I've since learnt to pace myself, and I have this strict rule for myself: no work whatsoever when I'm with the family. So far, it's been working out *fingers crossed*

      Yes, you are right it also boils down to our expectations. Both at home, and at work. Sometimes it's really hard to 'let go' and leave the house messy, clothes unpressed, and toys all over the place. It's also hard to walk away from a piece of artwork when the inspiration hits - because it's time to go home. I used to struggle with that, a lot, especially when previously I wouldn't leave a job unfinished even though I am well within the stipulated deadline.

      I've since learnt to see method in the mess and madness, and just enjoy the moment. I think it helped a lot.

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  8. i always say that my husband will make a better stay at home parent than me. and it's true. if only i earn as much, or more, than him! i'll return to the work force in a heart beat! as much as i love my children (and became a sahm for them - not exactly by choice), i need adult interaction too. thankfully, my husband gives me time off at night to go out with friends whenever a gathering comes up.

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    1. Mabel!

      You know where to find us, right? ;)

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  9. Very nicely written, Regina. I also once questioned myself as to whether or not the decision to go to work is a selfish/self-serving one. But as you have put it aptly, it's a matter of understanding what we need as individuals and once these needs are fulfilled, we become better people, and that benefits the family too. Thank you for sharing so honestly!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Zee!

      Yes, I agree with you... a lot of it is about making a wise (and informed) decision. But we know that we will all do whatever it takes to ensure that the family is happy and cared for, ya?

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  10. I love the honesty here. You state the struggles and it's ultimately, like what you said, a personal decision~ /hugs/

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    1. Thanks Maddie! There are struggles, but there are fulfilling moments, too :)

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  11. Love how you put it in words, as always. We all make decisions based on what we think works best for everyone, it shouldn't be judged by anyone other than those involved. FTWM are selfish? Never! I'm sure you get as many tough days as I do, or more! Lol.

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    1. We get tough days, yes, Summer... perhaps the toughest is when we have to make a choice between working and attending to the kid's current need.

      All have good and bad - we just have to make sure that the kids are provided for :)

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  12. I salute you for making this decision, and admire your courage to press on despite! You've written so honestly and beautifully!

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