Like many other young mothers in Singapore, I am a full-time working mum. Unlike stay-at-home mums (SAHM), I have to balance office work with the responsibilities of a parent.
As a full-time working mum, I have always relished that I can send my four and five-year-old children to preschool before spending some quiet time on the way to work watching Netflix movies on the train. With the flexibility of childcare and an organisation that encourages work-life balance, I can also choose to take my children out on weekdays when I feel like spending quality time with them without having to battle any crowds.
Unfortunately, those options are now unavailable due to Covid-19 and the circuit breaker. Like many young Singaporean parents, I have been thrust from a typical working mum role into a work-from-home mum. This means on top of attending to work matters at home, I also have to cook, clean and be attentive to my children for the 9 hours a day that I used to spend in the office.
Essentially, I am now a ‘stay-at-home working mum’.
But instead of resenting my situation, I’ve realised a newfound appreciation for what SAHMs go through. Here are some SAHM stereotypes that, hopefully, have been debunked by our own experiences during this circuit breaker.
Stay-at-home mums have all the free time in the world
“My children keep spilling food and drinks everywhere. They scream for water. They cry for milk.” – Min, primary school teacher
Working from home, I find myself having to work and rushing between doing the chores and starting the next activity for my kids. It is a struggle for mums without any help, especially those who can’t stand the sight of dishes piling up in the sink.
Similarly, it’s hard for SAHMs to get breaks because their daily schedule revolves around their kids’ lives and keeping the home in order. And when someone needs anything, it is always the mum they will look for first.
Stay-at-home mums are wasting their potential
It’s a common perception that by choosing to be at home with their kids, SAHMs are giving up on everything else in life. But who says parenting can’t be a springboard to greater things? With the power of social media, some SAHMs are sharing their own parenting tips and activities, and making it a business of their own.
Being at home has also allowed me to explore other hobbies like drawing, painting and baking with my daughters. Who knows, I might be an artist after this circuit breaker is lifted!
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Stay-at-home mums don’t have the pressures of a “real job”
“I still have to get up and cook for my children even when I’m feeling under the weather.” – Jessica, stay-at-home mum
Even if SAHMs do not get paid a salary or have to take meetings like the rest of us, being a mum is a real job. In fact, it is an even tougher job because they do not get sick days and time-off.
Getting our children ready on time for their home-based learning live sessions is already a task on its own. So even if SAHMs don’t need to dress up and leave the house for work every morning like the rest of us, being one still takes time and dedication to provide a nurturing environment for the children.
Stay-at-home mums are “lucky”
There’s nothing “lucky” about facing your young kids all day in sweaty food-stained clothes. A SAHM will be lucky if she manages to sneak in a few hours to be alone or to talk to her friends.
You may think SAHMs are lucky that they do not need to go to work and are able to get by in a single-income household. However, some mums (or dads, for that matter) choose to stay home for a variety of reasons, not necessarily financial. For some, the finances work out easily. For other families with stay-at-home parents, sacrifices have to be made.
Stay-at-home-mum depression is also very real. On top of losing your pre-SAHM identity and being sleep-deprived, being at home alone with children can make one feel incredibly lonely as SAHMs don’t have as many meaningful adult conversations and connections like the rest of us who go to work every day.
While I feel happy that I get to spend more time with my family during this circuit breaker, I’m also lucky that I have a job where I can speak to colleagues on Zoom about things other than nursery rhymes and children songs.
Brenda Loh, who became a stay-at-home mum over a year ago, shares:
“It feels like validation hearing my neighbours’ kids crying or parents shouting at their children (during this circuit-breaker period). See, this is what you’ll turn into if you stayed home seven days a week to look after your kids with no help.
“Previously, when I tell people I had a bad day because I screamed at my child, some will ask me to talk to a psychiatrist to check for post-natal depression. Nonsense, I don’t have depression. I’ve had a hard day, that’s all. Now hearing other parents struggling during this circuit breaker, it makes me feel less alone,” she says.
Similarly, now that I’ve had a taste of that life, I have the utmost respect for stay-at-home parents who have chosen to care for their kids even though it’s a long and thankless job. Instead of pursuing other passions, these mums and dads have decided to put 100 per cent of their time into raising their kids as best as they know how.
As it is, in these few weeks of staying home, I have been trying to quietly sneak away from my children when they’re busy playing, giving them more screen time than I should, or asking my spouse to take over whenever possible. Working from home is great, but it’d be better if I could still send my children to childcare whenever I feel overwhelmed. With my kids going “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy…” every other hour, I find myself looking forward to their naps and bedtime so much more these days. After cooking, cleaning and caring for my children, I am way past feeling guilty about it, and no SAHMs should feel any guilt for practising self-care whenever they need to.
When this circuit breaker is over, don’t ask stay-at-home mums what they do all day. I think you already know the answer.