We Choose What We Choose

Today, I bumped into a university classmate whom I haven’t seen in about ten years.

“So…are you still a stay-at-home-mother?”

“Yeap, I am.”

“Oh my…but it’s..it’s such a waste..! You could be a high-flyer by now.” (At this point, my friend was in disbelief, placing a palm over his forehead.)

I knew he didn’t mean any harm. I knew that he was just thinking aloud about how a girl who used to be one of the top students in the cohort could go from having a paved road to success ahead of her to being a mother who stays home now.

A few months ago, I would have been utterly shattered by a remark such as this. Because that was how I used to feel about myself most of the time, that I was worthless because I was doing something that couldn’t be measured by assessments, key performance indicators and results, and hence, it felt like I was doing nothing even though my exhaustion and lack of time to myself spoke otherwise.

Today, I blinked back my tears (that reek of years of being ridiculed and talked about) and put all naysayers (intentional or not) in their rightful place.

“No. I choose to be with my children. I am lucky in that we don’t need two incomes to survive, so I decided that it is more valuable for me to be with my kids than to be out there advancing my professional life. It is hard, because I don’t like everything that is associated with staying home, but we choose what we choose.”

“But, wow, you could have been…”

“Yes, I could have been a professor or a research director by now, but I am raising my children to be the future of our society, and that is priceless.”

“…Yeah…I guess women can choose. Men can’t.”

“No, men can choose too. My husband chose and lives with the consequences and ridicule from family, friends, colleagues and patients everyday. But, we choose what we choose.”

“…”

I have always known that I am not the sort who can juggle work and family life. I know I would not do remotely okay at all, on both ends, because I am an all-or-nothing sort of person. In a parallel universe, I would be completely focused on my career and having children may not even be part of my plan. But right here, right now, in this universe, I am very blessed to be in a situation where my husband is alright with and comfortable with being the sole breadwinner. We are not in need and do not require both of us to work to make ends meet. When I was faced with the dilemma of going back to work and staying home for the family, my hands and legs were not tied, and I chose what I chose because of my circumstances and outlook then. Faith refused to take the bottle and I didn’t have an alternative, trusted caregiver who was willing to take care of her when she was screaming bloody murder at every feed. M was working 100 hours a week and we hardly saw him. I knew that I wanted to be home for Faith, to tide her through; weeks became months, months became years. I don’t like everything that is associated with the (at-times) thankless, mundane, unglamorous job of being a stay-at-home-mother. I have struggled long and hard with it over the past five years and I often questioned myself if I was doing any good being home. Over the past few months, certain things have surfaced on the personal front and I have changed; I am no longer that person.

Now, when someone says that I am wasting my talent, intelligence, education and time by being home, instead of letting them run me to the ground, I wonder, in defiance, if people would say that it is a waste of a woman’s talent, intelligence, education and time by being the director of a company or the top investment banker instead of being home all the time to take care of her children. Not common, I’d say. But, I know how people jump to conclusions and say that a working mum isn’t spending enough time with her children and how ridiculous it is that she should delegate caregiving to helpers, nannies, or grandparents when she, as a mother, should do it, as if these naysayers know her struggles and tears? How can it be fair to the mum who works herself to the bone, trying to succeed, make ends meet and be there for her children at the same time, when someone says something like that to her? And how can it be fair to someone who stays home like I do, when I am being told that I am wasting everything I have got by being home?

We walk different paths, steered by circumstances and our personalities which ultimately shape our decisions. Some decisions are more easily made than others, some decisions require a heart (not guts!) of steel to pull off, and some decisions have us wondering if we are doing the right thing for the rest of our lives. We make a myriad of these decisions, everyday, and it is terribly taxing on us.

So…working mums, SAHMs, WAHMs, mums with help or not, we are full-time mothers. It’s hard enough as it is to be a parent, to raise our children to be decent, loving people in this mad, mad world. Let no one run you down, whether the person is doing it intentionally or not, because it takes an ocean of courage and unparalleled strength to walk the paths of thorns we chose. Take a deep breath, assert yourself, look at the person in the eye, and say, “We choose what we choose.”

 

 

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6 thoughts on “We Choose What We Choose

  1. XX

    I completely agree. Life is about choices !
    Our society still places a lot of emphasis on material success and hence, your friend feel that it is a “pity” that you didn’t further pursue your career. It is a compliment … your friend must be thinking that you could have quickly rise up the ranks if you choose to do so.
    At the end of the day, only you (and your family) understand what s best for your kids. It s your choice and a choice that you are proud about 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      Yes I totally understand where he came from, which is why I said I knew that he didn’t mean any harm. In fact, I used to ask myself that question too, am I wasting my education or what I have achieved , where I would be if I had chosen otherwise. It is a natural thinking that people tend to have and for my friend, I am thankful he is curious more than anything else because I have received a lot of grief and snide remarks from friends and family who aren’t as forgiving and understanding as him. It just so happened that I decided to speak what I think instead of keeping quiet this time, because..it really isn’t easy. Mums and even dads..as I have learnt from my friends who made different choices to work or not, to be part-timing or not, really suffer a lot of emotional burden. I have been through it and have been tormented by those thoughts of ‘what-ifs’, and sometimes, even our dearest loved ones disapprove of our decisions. The point of this post is to let people who are struggling with these thoughts and facing pressure from the society, to be strong and believe in what they do, to gently educate people around them. I know that if my friend cares about me, he would understand and from our conversation yesterday, I think he did, and for that I am forever thankful, because like I said, not everyone is as tolerant and understanding as he is.

      Reply
  2. Joyce

    “So…working mums, SAHMs, WAHMs, mums with help or not, we are full-time mothers.”

    This sentence is to be made bold, highlighted and held on high. There would never be any extensive measures that can appraise Mothers, and this can only be fully experienced by a mother herself. People can say all they want, you should have done this, you should have done that. Their words would pass away but that moment you catch a delightful moment with your children.. that moment is captured forever in your memory and is so precious.

    Mother choose what is best for their family. It’s a simple truth.

    Reply
  3. Ice

    Hi Rachel, thanks for sharing. It just happened that I chanced upon your blog. And the timing is so right for me. I have just became a SAHM this month. I do doubt if I have made the right choice. I have a Master Degree by research. Hence, some people, including my parents and in-laws were suggesting that it is such a waste for forgoing my approximately 8-year working experience in the industry. I don’t feel too good about this. I don’t enjoy everything that associate with SAHM but i really enjoy seeing my child’s lovely smile when he doesn’t need to go day care any more. At times, I may feel inferior when I see my well-dressed, high-paid peers. But your post let me know that I am not alone in making this type of decision. Yes, we made the choice. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      Hang in there, Ice. I took a long time before realising that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. Being a SAHM may come with many pitfalls but it’s the one route that I am happiest with. I know I wouldn’t be happy if I were to be employed and be away from my children. You will find your voice! Hugs!

      Reply

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