Sunday, December 1, 2013

Celebrate Fatherhood: Supporting a SAHM | Guestpost by Andrew, Daddy Military Officer

Sakura Haruka is not a blog just about celebrating motherhood. It shares the joys {& frustrations!} of parenting and of families as a whole. Inspired by my hubby's thoughts on being a dad, Celebrate Fatherhood is thus a monthly series where daddies from all walks of life share insights about what fatherhood means to them, and how we can appreciate their role in a family too.

I sincerely thank all those who took the time to guest post for me. Most of those I approached were very supportive and enthusiastic about this new series, sharing my belief that being an involved dad, and getting the dads involved, is important in building a strong family. If you have a story to share, please email me at sakuraharuka {at} live {dot} com.

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I spent almost a month wondering what to write, until I saw Jerry Foo’s commentary in TODAY on “Why my wife is a stay-home mum”. A great article on making the decision, but with my firstborn just turned 4, and the second almost 2, I would add that there is so much more to say about sticking with that choice. Much has been said about Stay At Home Mums, but perhaps I can lend some perspective on being the partner of a Stay At Home Mum, and I hope this post will be useful to any parents considering their options. It’s important to appreciate the supporting role the father has to play in such a key decision!

The first thing most people think about regarding SAHM’s is the single income. It’s true, and this naturally means that the father, as the sole breadwinner faces greater pressures supporting the family. However, it does not mean that since the Mum is full-time at home, Dad is full-time at work. Children still need their father, to share the fun times, the hard times, and teach them life’s lessons. Most people realise that a SAHM’s job is not easy and many people have told my wife how amazed they are that she is raising 2 kids without help (although there are a clueless few who seem to think she is a Tai Tai). But in this blog’s spirit of appreciating Dads, the father doesn’t have it easy either!

The partner of a SAHM has to be more involved, not less. In families where both parents work, time with the kids on nights and weekends is precious. My working mother friends tell me they don’t mind having more time to themselves with the kids while their husbands do their own thing; not so in a SAHM family. My kids see their mother 12 waking hours a day, every day. It will never be possible to reach a similar balance on my part, so I spend every spare moment with them, either as a family or one-on-one with the kids. In a SAHM family, both parents will have very little “me time”.

And it’s not just the fun times either. My wife, being around the kids most of the time, necessarily has to bear the brunt of the disciplining. We have good kids, and we like to keep them that way, and I can’t leave it all to her. I cannot let her be the bad cop all the time while I play the good cop, because that in the long run will lead to an unhealthy relationship between all of us. It struck home to me one night as we were tucking the kids into bed after a particularly difficult day, and my son wanted Daddy instead of Mummy. That’s when I knew I had to toughen up, even overcompensate a little, to ensure there was no fear or favour between us. Discipline is always difficult, and working parents need to decide how to maintain standards and consistency between themselves, domestic helpers, and grandparents. For the SAHM family, this is our own little challenge.

The partner also has to play backup. In dual-income families, the primary caregiver is usually the grandparents or the domestic helper, and the child usually spends a significant part of the day in school. If the primary caregiver falls sick, and there is no secondary caregiver, then one of the parents would of course take leave from work to help at home. With a SAHM, the support structure is a lot leaner and the options are more limited. If Mummy falls sick, Daddy has to come home. Period. This can be rather stressful to both parents.

And last but not least, it can be easy for the SAHM to forget the challenges that Dad has to face in the workplace, especially if she has been out of it for several years. The SAHM has a single-minded focus on the kids and the household, while Dad has to juggle work and family. Just like Dad will never know what it’s like to raise the kids full time, Mum can’t fully grasp the tensions of balancing work and family commitments. So both sides need a healthy amount of mutual respect and support.

These are some of the day-to-day challenges that a family with a SAHM (or SAHD, for that matter) would face, and I hope it provides some useful insights to anyone considering the option. Some of these can be mitigated by enlisting more help; we have chosen not to. At the end of the day, it is hard work on both parents, but we do it for our kids because we truly believe that they benefit significantly from having at least one parent to raise and nurture them full-time.

I should also add that there are practical benefits to having a SAHM too. For one thing, we don’t give a second thought to travelling. Other families may hesitate, wondering if they can manage the kids full-time without the grandparents, or whether they should buy an extra air ticket for the helper. Naturally, we don’t have any such problems. In fact, my wife loves travelling because it means she has me around full-time to help, and so I try to give her as many holidays as I can.

It’s hard work, but it’s all worthwhile at the end of the day. I was never really a “kid” type of person, but today I treasure the close relationship I have with my children. Every evening when I come home and open the door, my daughter will run towards me and give me a big hug. Meanwhile, my monkey of a son will be hiding under the furniture somewhere laughing. It is truly a blessing to return to a joyful home and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Andrew is married with two kids, aged 4 and 2. When not busy with family, he works for the military. He also blogs at ndru1.

I was a SAHM for about 1 year when Lil Pumpkin was born and this post reminds me of that period. Despite its rewards, it was trying being a new mother and I always looked forward to the time the boy returned home after work to ease my load a little. Admittedly, I got upset when he said he was tired because, hey, I'm the one with the baby all day! Now, as a FTWM, I can understand better his struggle in juggling both work and home, as I'm doing that now too. It's all tough, there's no doubt about that, but just as Lil Pumpkin is growing up, so have we as a couple and we're learning to appreciate each other's roles more.


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