Friday, March 13, 2015

What's a Full-Time Working Mum {FTWM} worth?

I've been a Full-Time Working Mum {FTWM} for the past nearly 5 years, soon after Lil Pumpkin turned 1 years old. In the first year of her life, I chose to be a Stay-At-Home Mum {SAHM} to take care of her full-time.

For the past 5 years, I've been at the same job and I'm blessed to have found something that does not require me to do OT, work shifts, and have a caring boss that values work-life balance. Work has thankfully, been rather smooth-sailing.

But my feelings haven't. For the past 5 years the thought of being a FTWM, or not, has been rather tumultuous. Every other day I feel guilty about not spending enough time with Lil Pumpkin, every other day I worry that I'm missing out on her childhood milestones.. But yet every other day I feel more at peace with my choice and am grateful to be able to share hubby's burden, help with the household finances, give Lil Pumpkin some luxuries in life, show her that women can succeed professionally, and also have a little "me-time" with stimulating adult conversations. I think most working mums can relate with me on this.

Recently, there's been much talk about the worth of a SAHM thanks to our Annual Budget season. I admire those that have made the choice to put their kids first, to not be part of the rat race and be there for the family 24/7. Really, you have my utmost respect and as I mentioned above, sometimes I want to be you again and as life changes, might do so in the future.

However, through all the chatter, I'm getting the feeling that some people think that SAHMs are better mums and may be "worth" more than a FTWMs. When applauding the SAHMs, they put down and dismiss the contributions of FTWMs.

These people may not mean it, but that's the implication I get when I hear someone say something like "if you're only around a few hours a day, how can you instil good values in the kids", or "how can a mum bring up a child well if she's tossing them to others to take care of" or "wow you chose a family over a career.. you must really love your kids a lot".

Does that mean we FTWMs love our kids any less? Does that mean by going out to earn our keep we don't want the best for our family too? Does being a FTWM mean we are damaging the family unit?? Are hard work, independence and perseverance not good values?

I'm not here to say that one is better than the other, because I believe it's not. To be a SAHM or a FTWM, both are just as important to the kids, a family or society. We just contribute in different ways.

Just like how some ignorant people think SAHMs are poorly educated or shake legs and do nothing all day, some have the misconception that FTWMs leave the responsibility of raising their kids solely to the maid or some other care-giver and are never there for school pick-ups, story-times or family meals. I know the job of a FTWM doesn't end the minute we leave workplace. We go home, we cook, we clean, we coach the kids, we bathe them and we put them to sleep. And then the cycle starts again with the new day. We too are the chefs, the maids, the educators, the family financial planners, and so much more. 

We all have different reasons why we choose to work, and here are some of mine. But I think as FTWMs, although we may not be able to spend time with the kids all day, we may have to outsource our duties and our house may get neglected sometimes, that doesn't mean we love our children and families any less. 

I guess I just wanted to remind my fellow working mums, or those thinking of becoming one, to not be discouraged and feel guilt, envy and resentment when you hear the benefits of being a SAHM to our children, to our home. Our worth is no less, we are not "second-class" mums and we are definitely not defined by pay we get at our jobs either.

The work of a mother, any kind of mother be she a SAHM, FTWM, PTWM {Part-Time Working Mum}, or even a WAHM {Work-At-Home Mum}, is priceless, and it's hard to put a monetary value to it because of all the intangibles. We are all making sacrifices, one way or another.

To me, the question shouldn't be about how much a SAHM or FTWM is worth. It just builds tension between those that work and those that stay at home. What matters is, does the family have the social and financial support that they need to make sure children are getting the education and care that they need to develop and grow into useful human beings, regardless of whether the mum is working or not?

If a working mum has access to high quality affordable childcare, and supportive work environment e.g. flexible hours that allows her to be a good parent, then there won't be a debate on whether staying at home, or not, is good for the child, or not. It's when the trade-off between work and family is so big that people tend to see one as being more superior to the other. Maternal presence is important to a child's development, no doubt, but so are other factors too.

Whatever it is, let's not overgeneralise and be sensitive when making our points. For the people who want to judge our parenting choices for the work that we do, please don't forget that FTWMs are mothers too. We too care for, and can raise happy, good children too.



Meeningfully said...

Well said Ai! I continue to live each day thinking if there is a better option for ftwm like us. You have been doing great... So let's give each other a pat on our backs!:)

zoe said...

Hi Ai, i read and nod in agreement. I too was a SAHM for 1.5 years, before returning to the workforce for 2 years so far. I do not regret my decision and I know all mums make and will always choose the best decision for their family. Always believe in happy and sane mum = happy and sane kids. Whatever decision we make should be somewhere we're happiest at, so that we can emit the same joy to our kids. Cheers!

Kathy - yinyangmother said...

Hi Ali - I just believe there is no room for judgement from anyone towards anyone and no benefit in it for anyone. I will say for the PTWM (although working 4 days - 3 in the office and one from home) that the compromise can be difficult - you can lose career standing at work (for no good reason and just a few less hours), you don't feel like you have the time with kids benefits of a SAHM although you do get the adult stimulation that some SAHM's miss. I question my choice (sometimes it is a non-choice) but I don't expect others to question mine.

Sharon said...

think the whole premise of questioning a sahms worth is based on society's lack of respect for one. Not so much as to exalt sahm over ftwm. A ftwm is always seen more "productive" over a mum who doesn't "contribute" to the economy.
So I guess your statement,
"However, through all the chatter, I'm getting the feeling that some people think that SAHMs are better mums and may be "worth" more than a FTWMs. When applauding the SAHMs, they put down and dismiss the contributions of FTWMs." might just be views of a minority.

To me as you've mentioned, there are trade offs and I admit as a sahm I don't, at the present moment help fuel the economy in dollars & cents. But does it warrant the Govt's from withholding subsidies ?
As mothers, we stand together and are color blind to each others preference to mother or children whether as sahm or ftwm. All mothers are great in the eyes if their children and yes I agree we're not out to say who's better than who.

Ai Sakura said...

Shermeen: We can make it better by thinking positively and making the best of our choices but ultimately, policies and regulations have a place to play too. But anyways, a pat on the back to you too!

Zoe: Yup, agree happy mums = happy kids!

Kathy: It's hard enough to live with our decisions, without other people judging. Sure it is easy to say not to care what others say, but if we keep hearing it, and people keep talking that way.. it does affect us in a way. Stay strong!

Sharon: I agree the aim wasn't to exalt SAHMs over FWTMs. And yes, it may just be a minority, but nonetheless I think we should correct the misconception when we can, and not let it linger. Just like how we tell others SAHMs don't just "do nothing all day" and people are finally "getting it". Like another reader mentioned "in trying to fight for more recognition and financial assistance to SAHMs, let's not put down FTWMs insensitively." That was the aim of my post, not that SAHMs don't matter.

Cherry said...

Thank you for airing sentiments on my (and the rest of FTWMoms out there) behalf.

Theresa Mahoney said...

I have been both, and actually, I think working moms have it so much harder. Though, I think there is value in every mother, we all need to find what works for our own families.

Motherkao said...

I've need sahm, wahm, ftwm and now a hybrid of everything and I only have one conclusion: the worth of a mom is measured not by her work choices or lofty aspirations for her children but by how hands-on she is as a mom. As long as you are not a "hands-off" mom that doesn't value add to your children, you are worthy of everything a mom is worth.

Stacy said...

Methinks no point fighting over which is better. Neither choice suits all individuals. Much as I adore my kids, I'd go nuts if I'm at home all the time with them. And a nutty mom does nobody any good. :p

Unknown said...

Great post, Ai, and I totally know where you're coming from.

I've been thinking about this too, and we all make the best choices based on all our unique circumstances.

There will be guilt no matter what we choose I feel, so it's most important that we find peace with our choices, and be the best moms we can be from there!

~Summer~ said...

Great piece, Ai! Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts! I always believe that all mums want the best for their children and families, so it doesn't matter whether we ultimately choose to work or not. Agree with Liz that it is how hands on we are with our kids at the end of the day, regardless of the amount of time we have on to spend with them. I feel that the debate was never to put down FTWMs who are (usually) recognised as mums who can juggle well, who are educated and who can multi-task better, but more to debunk myths that SAHMs have nothing better to do and to validate their contributions. I myself can never make it as a FTWM and yet be as hands on as mums like you and some of our fellow SMBs, so I really think it is tough and salute you all for keeping it all together. SAHM just seemed like an easier and more natural choice for me ever since I came back to S'pore because I had already lost the passion to work. Whatever it is, I know we are all learning and trying to be the better mums each day and that is what bonds us together. :)

Ai Sakura said...

Cherry: No problem :)

Theresa: That's really true. We are all mums wanting the best for our family. All same same, but different :p

Motherkao: Yup, if a SAHM does nothing all day and leaves everything to the maid, she is just as bad as a mum who spends all waking hours in the office.

Stacy: In an ideal world there would be no fight.. but then some people just like to hahahaha..

L Lee: Thanks for understanding. Yup we can't please everyone, and most important is our kids and families understand and support the choices we make.

Summer: Just to clarify this post isn't aimed at you or the TT show. It's the other people that have spoken up for SAHMs, but have done so so insensitively as to put down FTWMs or other kinds of mums. I'd like this to debunk myths about working mums as well and honestly, like I mentioned above, we're no better in each other!!

mail4rosey said...

I've done both and each has their own perks and drawbacks, much like most things I suppose. I think we do what we have to do, or what we feel is right/best for our children and our family. What more can anyone ask for, right? :)

Susan said...

I totally get where you are coming from with this post. It's not that we working mums need to justify why we choose to continue working but that we are no less a mum just because we spend lesser time with our kids. Surely we can make the most of whatever time we have and make it quality time with them be it our children or our spouses. So cheers to the working mums, stay home mums and everyone else who fall in between because we are the best mums for our kids.

Grace said...

This is such a well articulated post, Ai. O Ne situation is definitely not better than the other. It's like everyone has different parenting styles - we all do it differently but we're all hoping for the same outcome - happy, well adjusted, confident children.

Going back to work has really made a change to my attitude on a lot of things. I miss my days as a SAHM but I am relishing this opportunity to revive my career.

Really, the decision should be each to everyone own and we should all be supporting each other whatever that decision is.

An Apel a Day said...

I wish one parent could stay home, but it's just not something that can be done. Things are too expensive. We used to live in a society where that was the norm. Now it's just not. It's kind of sad. :( Somethings have changed for the better, while other things haven't.

Dee Dee said...

I agree totally AI!

As a SAHM who has/is homeschooling her 5 kids, I'll be the first to say it's not for everyone! Shoot, somedays, I'm not sure i'm cut out to do it well!

We all have different circumstances and no one can judge another's choices, really.

It's obvious to see you love your daughter. She knows that too. It's obvious in your posts and in the pictures. Help your husband and keep loving your daughter. :) You're doing a great job of raising her as far as I can tell. :)

Unknown said...

I love this! My mom has done both, and I think her value hasn't shifted at all based on whether she's been home or been working! I think that both can be great, and that its great if moms can work to help support the family if they have to. It must be a hard decision to have to work, but a crucial one if two incomes are needed.