Thursday, January 25, 2007

My happy life as a stay-at-home mom

I made the decision to quit my job, but now I’ve discovered that being with my baby isn’t quite as easy as I expected. When I was pregnant with Sam, I remember seeing other moms with their kids waiting for their dads. The moms watched happily as the children greeted the men with smiles and hugs. That ritual seemed wonderful to me. We’ve waited long enough for Sam to arrive in our lives and I’m very excited and couldn’t wait to be a stay at home mom to take care of her full time. Little did I know how difficult the transition from working to being at home would be. Aside from giving up my work with a very nice pay, raising alone my daughter without the presence of her daddy or a nanny really exhausted me. I’m living with my brother but only to provide a little helping hand because his job demands him. My parents were living abroad and Mike’s parents’ lives somewhere in Manila which is very far away where we’re staying now.

In retrospect, I realize that my expectations for stay-at-home motherhood were a little too romantic. I didn’t consider that I’d actually miss the structure of a workday, my position and career growth, my personal development, and the company of my partners, co-manage and colleagues. I also didn’t realize how demanding and time consuming taking care of a baby full-time could be. That’s not to say I ever regretted my decision to quit my job. I believe that raising my 15 month old daughter is the most important thing I can be doing right now, and being home with her is definitely the right choice for me. But the transition would have been easier if I had been prepared for the challenges of the succeeding difficult months.

“Help! I’m lonely and bored!” With days dictated by feeding, diapers, and naps, I find that life with an infant can be isolating and monotonous. For a while, it seemed as if I was doing nothing but waving the same toys in my daughter’s face day after day. But my feelings of boredom and loneliness lifted when I found out some fun activities for myself and Sam. I bought her some educational toys for her to explore and some educational DVD’s for us to watch, encouraging her to interact and learn. Constant communication with my husband too thru web chatting also keeps me from feeling frustrated and upset. Sometimes, keeping in touch with some of my friends who has the same situation like me really helps a lot. Talking about our children and discussing parental challenges and achievements seems enjoyable.

“I’m busy, but I don’t get very much done.” I expected to have plenty of time to do some house chores like laundry, go grocery, shopping, make meals, taking care of Yuan & Balbon (our very loyal house dogs) and keep the house in perfect shape. But my daughter needs attention. I’m busy, but I sometimes feel as though I’m not accomplishing much. I thought, we’d always be going to her grandparents, or malling out, or having this great time together. But there are plenty of days when we don’t do anything fun because I’m already too exhausted doing the house chores. This made me realize that raising a child is really a tough job. I made my daughter to be my priority and be slack when it comes to domestic chores. Laundry can wait but Sam can not. I’m home to be a mother, not a maid.

“I miss my paycheck.” I had to give up going out with my friends, having out of town trips, and generously buying things for myself. Luckily, Mike’s parents and siblings provide us with some help by buying some of Sam’s essential gears like stroller, a baby walker & a high chair. My parents on the other side provide her with abundant supply of baby clothing, toys and toiletries. We really appreciate their help because our budget is pretty tight with Mike is the only one working.

“I don’t know who I am.” Turning down my self-image as a working woman can be as tough as giving up a salary. After I quit my job, I discovered how closely my identity was connected to my profession. When I’m with my friends and former co-managers, I felt a little depressed and conscious whenever they talk about job related issues and achievements, hoping that I’m still a part of their world. But then, this is still me choice and I don’t regret this decision. I know I’m giving my child the best possible start in life. I can always go back to work but my daughter will be never young again. As far as I feel self-conscious around working moms, I realize that they might not be comfortable with their decision to leave their babies with nannies and caregivers, and may even envy me.

“I can’t slow down.” My biggest challenge of at-home life now is learning how to relax and ease into a different way of life. I was so accustomed to always being fast and efficient at work, I even have this daily to do list at the start of the day to orderly accomplish my wok on time. It took a while for me not to have a long list of things to get done around the home. After some time, I discover the pleasures of downtime. I’ve learned to enjoy the little things like sitting in the floor playing with Sam, watching Dora & Barney together, carefully keep an eye on her developmental milestones excites and really rewards me a lot. A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined I’d be doing that. Indeed, after an initial adjustment, I discovered that being an at-home mom was everything I’d expected it to be, and more. Now I truly appreciate the rhythm of my life, which evolves regular visit to the pedia, monitoring and taking notes of her little milestones, sometimes strolling in the mall, and stroller walks in the afternoon to meet other playmates along neighborhood instead of shopping out with friends, night outs during day offs, going out swimming during summer, conducting store meeting with my team to plan and set store target goals and deadlines, attending district meetings and seminars to meet company’s objective. I’ve learned to savor every moment of this precious time in my daughter’s life. ;)

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