I’ve never been great at servitude. I’ve never been much of a servant. I’ve always been more comfortable in front, whether I know what I’m doing or not. In most cases, I’d rather lead than follow. Which is why this stay-at-home business has taken me quite by surprise. And it’s also why the inner dialogue never seems to cease.
I know there’s more to being a SAHM than the housework and the babysitting. But in the middle of two loads of laundry, a house strewn with toys, dirty dishes and a perpetually dusty floor, I wonder. If I didn’t live in Australia, for instance. If I had just stayed home in Singapore, if I had married a Singaporean and if all my peers went down the path of hiring a
maid domestic helper to play babysitter, cleaner, cook and car washer for $400 a month… would I have done the same thing? Would I be back in the corporate world, in my 3-inch heels and my pencil skirts and swanning off to pseudo-important coffees?
Or would I have chosen to step out of the rat-race, even for a little while, because this basic instinct is screaming at me to sacrifice the career for a couple of years because the bub is only going to be a bub for a blink in time?
I honestly don’t know.
If a Singaporean were to come right up to me right now and tell me that I’m wasting my education because I’m doing what a Filipino maid would do for far less, I’d actually be tongue-tied. Because – horror of horrors – a part of me believes that myself. It really isn’t rocket science to cook and clean and ensure the child doesn’t maim herself with the staplers. And my Communications degree didn’t have a whole lot to do with toilet training a toddler. I cannot project manage her nap times, much less her learning curve or when she decides to grow four molars all at once.
And so sometimes, it feels like I am a tremendously overpaid nanny and housekeeper. If you only count the opportunity cost of my wages, that is.
These past two months have seen our household change gear. The honeymoon period is over, the traditional length of maternity leave having ended in June and bidding a sayonara to the giddy havoc and newness and endless soirees of coffee with newfound mommy friends. I am now career mommy. I keep the house in reasonable order, and have more fanatical systems for tupperware stacking and Where Things Should Be Kept. I cook every day, several times a day. I cut coupons. I attend community meetings about local schools opening.
I trap random cats and fantasize about confronting the stupid neighbour and charging him/her for the cost of landscaping our garden.
My concerns are everyday and mundane. And yet, I can’t recall ever feeling so refreshed. Or fulfilled. Because as ridiculous and as hackneyed as it sounds, I am all-important to one human being. I am indispensable in a way only a mommy can be. And I look back at my corporate life, and struggle to remember if I’d ever impacted anyone’s life as much as I do Arddun’s, or she does mine. Or if I’ve ever felt so passionate about the mundane. Or so convinced that I’m where I need to be.
This week, I watched my girl
- discover her belly button
- discover my belly button as a result of discovering her belly button
- learn to say “Uh oh…” whenever something drops/breaks/leaks
- reverently breathe “Ohhhh WOW…” when beholding an awesome toy
- recognise an apple from a book jacket, before promptly asking to eat one
- try and close her new toy stroller like Mommy and Daddy do with her actual pram
- cuddle her stuffed toy cat like a baby
- go “woo-woo-woo!” to imitate a dog
- try to conduct a singing group
- run to the front of the church to dance to a hymn.
Half of these incidents were a direct result of just hanging out with Arddun. And half of these moments I would not have traded for many, many things in the world.
So. Note to self. I am staying at home for a host of reasons. Chief of which is that I chose to become a mother, and so that’s what I’m here at home to be.