Thursday, August 30, 2007

My perspective

I couldn't let this post by The Mad Momma go by without airing my perspective on the issues that she raises. I agree with some and disagree with others. And here's why.

I strongly feel that any parent (mother or father) that submerges their life and choices below the preferences of their children makes a wrong decision. If it is your dream to be a mother and to spend all your time with your kids, then god bless you but don't apologise about it and certainly don't regret it. Be aware that your choice as a SAHM may mean that if you're interested in a career whether it is in the corporate world or it's an art form like music or dance, may not be fulfilled to the extent of your capabilities and desires. As long as you make the choice with full awareness it's fine. What really gets me annoyed is when women stay at home but find no pride in it. If you can't be proud of who you are irrespective of what you have or haven't achieved, then I have no time for you.

While I am growing to realise that my love for Squiggles knows no bounds, I'm also conscious that the exclusive time that I have with her today will only diminish as the days go by... as she grows and makes friends, studies and moves away, maybe gets involved in her career and as she gets married and has her own family. All this while my role in her life is set to decline... not that she will not love me but certainly she will not need me as much.

I see a lot of people from our parents generation who don't know what to do with their time once their children leave the nest. They have probably spent their youth for their children and now find themselves all alone. Some people do deal with this well but a lot of parents remain a mere shadow of themselves. If a parent has their own life and doesn't submerge their individuality then they are more likely to be interested in life, be more interesting to their peers, family and friends and thus have a more rewarding life. They are also less likely to restrict their children's dreams. You are more likely to encourage your child to move out, study away from home, leave to achieve their potential if you don't need them.

In 25 years time I don't want to be in a situation where my children have their own life and I am waiting around for some morsels of time to be given to me. While I am sure I would want even then to spend all my time with them, they will not want to. There's nothing wrong with this, it's the circle of life. So, yes I want to live my life in my old age enjoying the company of my husband, doing things for which I never got the time before.

Which brings me to the other point that MM raised in her post. Grandparents and whether we should assume that our parents will leave their lives to come look after our children. I think the big question is around presumption. Am I having a child on the presumption that I have ready made babysitters in my parents? If yes, then it's unfair. We must remember that yes they do have a life of their own but also that physically they are not in a position to run around after a 1 year old.

One of the big positives of moving to Singapore was that my parents would be here and it would be a big help. They moved here recently and don't know anyone so I'm not exaggerating when I say that we have livened up their lives. They've always been very social, constantly entertaining people at home. They still get loads of visitors. However, they moved to Singapore too late in life to start all over again. Hence, here they are socially less active. My mom keeps insisting that I leave Squiggles with her and feel free to carry out errands and do the stuff that needs doing. And I have been leaving Squiggles with her for a couple of hours everyday. But I've realised that how much ever my mom chooses and wants to look after Squiggles, willingly without me foisting Squiggles on her, she can't cope up with it because she's getting old.

If Squiggles has been crying, she finds it tough to hold her and walk around with her. Sometimes her shoulder aches. My mom is very fit for her age.. she goes to the gym 4-5 times a week but even for her handling a baby even for a few hours a day is too much. She won't admit to it however much I prod her. As a result, I have reduced the hours that I leave Squiggles there. On the contrary I find my mom upset and hurt that Squiggles and I choose to stay at home when we live a mere 3km away and have nothing better to do at home. She doesn't want to interfere in our lives and hesitates to demand that I leave Squiggles with her for the day. And yet I know that she's hurt when we only drop by after lunch and not spend the whole day with her.

If we have made the decision to have a child, we should bear that responsibility without grudges. We shouldn't assume that our parents or anyone else will look after them. If it means that you have to give up your job because you don't want to leave your kids with someone else, or if it means leaving your child at a daycare centre because you have to or want to work, in either case take ownership.

Reverting back to SAHM vs. working, it is also my mom who has been constantly badgering me to start looking for a job. I don't need to work for money. We don't have EMI's that need paying. We live within our means on one person's salary. My going to work would mean more money in the that we don't need, money that would be luxury. But I'm not going to work for the money. Yes, I want to make sure that I get adequately rewarded for my skills but my motivation is not more materialisitc things. DD can provide for Squiggles and me in whatever fashion we choose to live.

I want to go to work because my parents worked really hard to give me a great education and are extremely proud of what I have achieved so far. They want to see me reach even further heights of my career and I want to see them be even more proud of me. They are proud of what DD has achieved but really what brings a twinkle to their eye are my achievements.

The other person who is really keen I get back to work is DD. He keeps telling me he wants to talk to me about something other than diapers. That he married an intelligent woman and doesn't want me to sit at home and do nothing. Raising a child is extremely important and very tough. I am not undermining that. However, there are other things which I need to keep doing to be true to myself, otherwise I will not be a great mother or a great wife. If you can be a SAHM and be true to yourself then that's great. It wouldn't work for me. I need to know that I didn't spend the last 25 years of my life working hard only to put it away now. Why should I have to sacrifice my ambitions just because I have a child. I want to know that I can find a balance where I can be there for the most important events in my child's life and hopefully for a majority of the minor events of her life too. Maybe I can achieve this by staying at home for a while or not at all or maybe forever... above all the decision should be mine. I already know that it will be a wrench when the time comes for me to go back to work. I don't know yet whether I will be able to do it.

But please whatever we decide can we not be holier than thou about it. If you're a SAHM then don't take the moral stand that you have sacrificed for the greater good of your children and find all others lacking. That decision in itself is as selfish as the one taken by a working mum, because you choose to stay at home because it gives YOU satisfaction and pleasure. Being needed gives you joy. Not for any other reason do you stay at home. Equally if you go back to work because you need to pay the bills, then in a lot of cases some of those bills may be unnecessary. Or, if like me you choose to go back to work because you want to, that's selfish too.

All our decisions are selfish including the decision to have a child.

I am not editing this post since I feel it should be as it came out. And no, I don't apologise for any of the above.

Edited to add: This post by CeeKay says everything I want in a better way.


the mad momma said...

ah - but you've done exactly what I was writing about! you've taken it personally - replying right down to EMIs and health!

if you dont have EMIs and your parents are not displaced and lost.. then its not about you, is it?

we're all educated intelligent women. and all our parents have worked hard to educated us. forget abt parents.. i moved from a small town to live in a big city and dealt with travelling alone and one meal a day which is all i could afford on my pay. so i know what you mean.

the idea is to appreciate the post for the points it makes, not to believe it is directed at you - because as you can see - you don't fit the bill... but making comments like 'holier than thou' that is inflammatory :)

Squiggles Mom said...

MM - The holier than thou wasn't aimed at you MM. I've read posts by other moms who apologise about their choice or claim that their's is better. Something different works for each of us and I want all of us to be mature enough to understand that.
I thought the challenge was to write about something that I felt passionately about... your post merely provided the spark to the tinder :).

Moppet's Mom said...

While you know how I feel about getting back to work, I just wanted to add something about the 'highly educated, intelligent women' who choose to be SAHMs. The operative word here is 'choose', and it's rarely for life. It's usually until the children are old enough to have lives outside of the family whether that's 2 years or 5.

I can well see the point of view that in a 20-25 year career, a few years devoted exclusively to one's child is not going to hurt any. Don't you?

Squiggles Mom said...

Moppet's Mom - I do see where you're coming from and agree wholeheartedly. The key point is around free will and choice. I think if women choose to stay at home for whatever length of time to look after their children then that's fine.
But there are a few things which I think need to go alongside. The first is no regrets. Make the decision to stay at home but don't rue it afterwards. So many women stay at home but crib about it. That annoys me. Choose your option and then make the best of it. The grass will always be greener on the other side.
The second is on keeping true to yourself. I know a lot of women who are smart individuals but somehow become mere shadows of themselves when they stop working. Equally I also know many women who remain at home but are dynamic and enterprising and live life to the fullest.
And thirdly, some women stay at home because they feel too guilty to do something which society may perceive as selfish. They stay at home not because they want to but because they are afraid of what parents, family of friends might say.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would be happier if we could make well informed and thought out decisions on such a critical issue. Whichever one you choose is fine by me. But then life wasn't meant to be easy.
Another thought - what about women who don't have children (or maybe their children are say in their teens and don't need mum 24*7) but they still stay at home? I don't mean they should go and get a paying job, but it would be so much better overall if they found some way of contributing to society even if that meant teaching the children of their doemstic help. For that matter men or women really.

Just Like That said...

"If it means that you have to give up your job because you don't want to leave your kids with someone else, or if it means leaving your child at a daycare centre because you have to or want to work, in either case take ownership."

We each make our choices regarding working post kid, because we find them to be the best for us, at the given time.
Given a different set of circumstances, we might or might not stick on to the same decision, but then again, that would be the most suited option for us, which may not be so for others..

Perspectives differ..:-)

And you know, I SO identify with what you wrote about wanting to do your parents proud. To my Mom and Dad, my job was such a sense of pride. And it still is to my Mom.

No matter that there are some difficulties along the way...they just have to be surmounted in the best way possible, whether it be by staying at home personally or otherwise. In each case, the other option is not to be looked down upon.

Squiggles Mom said...

JLT - I like that... 'the other is not to be frowned down upon'.
And my mom keeps telling me she wants to see me on CNBC...did I tell you she was delusional.

choxbox said...
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choxbox said...
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choxbox said...

hi squiggles mom. came over from MM's.

interesting perspective and very persuasive too :) i am on the other side of the fence - chose to not go back to corporate life after babies. have done a post on it at my blog -

hope to see ya there.

GettingThereNow said...

Hey Squiggles mom! A very nicely written post. And the edit added at the end? Totally unexpected :p but thanks a lot for the mention. I truly feel you have said a lot of things (like taking ownership, not apologizing etc.) better than I would have.

Squiggles Mom said...

gettingtherenow - Oh you're welcome. I read your post and it seemed you had read my mind! I could relate to every word. And you put your point across so calmly unlike me. Thanks for your kind words though I think I am still right... your post was better :). And we will stop the mutual admiration right here!

Suki said...

I love the brashness of your post as much as any other part of it. And I agree with the content heartily.
I wonder why people don't understand this one thing - there's no harm in being selfish. Climbing up doesn't mean pulling others down.

As for the SAHM vs WOHM etc. debate, I(being a teen as of yet) have only one take. Circumstances and inclination dictate the choice. As long as the baby is healthy and loved, there's nothing to be ashamed of. My mom was a single mum and thus sole provider, thus obviously a WOHM. But well... to this day, she's my hero.