I woke up last Sunday to a flurry of SMSes and Whatsapp messages on my phone. They ranged from: “Oh I see you went back to writing for your ex-employer” to “Aha, gave up on being a SAHM already? Went back to work?” The reason for the messages from my well-meaning friends? I wrote a column in Sunday Times on the lengths teachers go to to engage parents. So some thought I had gone back to work. Nope, not at all.
Three months into my gig as a SAHM (who does freelance work on the side), I think I have finally found my groove. Here is a current snapshot of my day:
I am still enjoying each morning spent alone with Jason, after we send Shannon to school. It is even better now as we have (largely) gone past the initial hair-pulling, frustrating episodes which would end with me muttering, “Is this what I gave up my job for?”
These days, we have fallen into an easy rhythm of a set routine. After Shannon goes to school, we either eat at home or ta pao breakfast from a nearby coffeeshop (the one which sells the best coffee/tea at the lowest price around – my Teh-C siu dai costs 90 cents, 20 cents cheaper than at the coffeeshop across the road. Let’s not even talk about the likes of Toastbox… Every cent counts since I’ve stopped full-time work, I tell Jason.)
Breakfast in hand, usually chee cheong fun with just sesame oil, light sauce and sesame seeds, we head home.
I start a load of laundry while he starts on Chinese revision – usually the week’s Tingxie. I test him when he’s done, or get him to test himself. He as started learning some Chinese idioms (found an interesting book in Popular which illustrates each idiom with comics.) Occasionally, he does a couple of pages of a Chinese assessment which follows the topics in his textbook. Nothing too tough, and like I told my friend Tammie, the book is quite encouraging because he is able to do most of the questions!
Chinese revision takes anywhere between 30-minutes to less than an hour, never more than that. And it’s more often than not, 30 minutes rather than an hour. I’m happy with that. He doesn’t dislike the subject anymore, and while his word recognition is not as strong as I would like, he has definitely improved from a year ago when he um.. didn’t do any revision. We now do Chinese maybe three times a week? I don’t keep track…
Morning revision doesn’t include homework time. He doesn’t get homework every day, it might be a neighbourhood school thing, either way, we’re happy about that. When he does have homework, it’s usually Chinese, or a little of Math. He has decided for himself that homework is best done early in the morning when he wakes up, at 7am or slightly after. He is an early riser and I’m not. So his homework is usually done by the time I wake up, at about 8am. I don’t check on his homework, unless he needs my help with difficult questions. I might briefly look through what he has done, but I may or may not point out mistakes. As long as he’s put in effort and it is done to the best of his ability, I leave it to his teacher to sort out mistakes, if any.
Back to our morning routine – when he’s done with Chinese, he rummages through his bag for any forms or worksheets that need my signature. We run through Spelling usually the day itself. He doesn’t need to spend long on this, thankfully. Then he helps me fold the previous day’s laundry and prepares to go to school.
He now clamours to go to school earlier than before, so he has time to play with his friends. I’m thankful he has found buddies to hang out with. It wasn’t the case in Primary 1. So I’m more than happy to send him to school early.
Then I get started on work.
Some people ask why I bother to take on work, when I have already quit my job. I have never thought of myself as a workaholic, but I do miss work. I worked with a wonderful boss and with colleagues I got along with. I enjoyed what I was doing, but didn’t like the amount of time and stress involved. So as and when I get opportunities to keep working now, I do it. And I am grateful that there has been a steady stream of work to keep me busy while the kids are in school. While it is not the same as writing news stories for a newspaper, there is nothing to complain about:
I love that work takes up no more than 2-3 hours of my time each day, if at all.
I love that I still get to work, use skills honed in the last decade as a journalist, and get to pick the kind of work to do.
I love the variety of work I have done in the last three months: teaching journalism to students, writing advertorials, newsletter stories, press releases, media consultancy for schools etc.
I love that I can still write for my ex-employer, as and when I think of stories I want to do.
Above all, I love the flexibility I now get.
After I’m done with work, I pick Shannon from school and we either head home where she “helps” me with dinner preparation or we head to the playgrounds, mall libraries or supermarkets.
The past week, both of them were home with me for three days because they caught a strong flu bug.
The first day, we were not entirely used to being home the whole day. They watched a little TV, whined a bit and did some crafts.
The second day, they asked to do more crafts. I dug out more patterned paper, coloured ice-cream sticks, stickers and they were at it for the better part of the day, in between the usual squabbles.
By the third day, they had converted our dining table to their craft table. No one asked to watch TV. I did manage to do some painting which I have been meaning to do, and will share that once I get down to take pictures.
The best part about being a SAHM – June holidays are just round the corner and there is no need to apply for leave to spend time with the kids! Ok so I’ve told several people I’m not taking on work in June, but that doesn’t count, right?
Time to plan the activities for June! And pray the haze doesn’t make an appearance!