Feb 18 came and passed quietly. Well, maybe not quietly, there were fireworks at midnight. It was Chinese New Year Eve after all. But it also happened to be one year since I left my job and became a stay-at-home-mum(SAHM). I thought a year on would be a good time to take stock of my decision. The year flew past. And I guess that says a lot about how I feel. I still think it was the right thing to do. So, no regrets leaving my job. When fellow mums find out I left my job when my elder child was in Primary 2, I get a lot of knowing nods. “School is getting more difficult these days, wise to start preparing early for PSLE.” Or “It’s better to teach your child yourself, don’t just trust any tuition centre.”
No doubt, ensuring that Jason keeps up with his homework is part of my “job scope”. After all, he’s a playful nine-year-old who would rather be playing soccer than doing school work. But over and above schoolwork, exams and tests, here are some things I really relish about being a SAHM:
1) Hearing about his day in school My time with him after school starts from the moment he walks out of his school gate. He scans the crowd for me, his face lights up the moment he does, and he eagerly waves and crosses the zebra crossing, running towards me. I wanted to note this down in case he thinks it’s not cool to be so eager to see Mum as he grows older. (I see many older kids who don’t look too excited as they walk out of the school gate.)
I don’t cook lunch, because I now do my work in the mornings while he and Shannon are in school. So I usually pack food from the economical rice stall nearby or we have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Leftovers are rare, I’ve honed dinner down to not having any leftovers! Over lunch, he tells me about his day. The highlight is always recess. 5 minutes for food, 20 minutes for play. It’s usually playing ‘catching’ with his buddies from his Primary 2 class. They’ve managed to arrange it such that they each get 5-10 mins to eat, before meeting in front of stall no.2, and proceeding to the sheltered sports atrium to play catching with whoever’s ready first. Then he tells me about his friends, his teachers, and about how he has this homework and that homework. Sometimes he tells me about lessons or assembly talks. I love that he goes on and on.
In return, and without any prompting, he has started asking me about my mornings. Shannon and I are usually still asleep when he leaves for school. So he asks: Did meimei cry in the morning?(She used to cry about going to school last year) What did you do after you sent meimei to school? (Marketing or freelance work or housework or exercise)
2) Being there to answer his inane questions There are always questions and help needed, especially when he has Chinese homework. But being at home with him has meant he has an outlet if and when he has non-school related questions (and he always has questions). It could be about people, our weekend, weird science stuff which I’m unable to explain.
3) Getting his homework out of the way We have a routine. He bathes immediately after lunch, and starts on his homework right after. No ifs, no buts. There was some resistance initially, but it’s become a habit now. During the first week of school when we were still finding our feet and getting used to the new school year, I let him watch some TV after lunch and it went downhill from there. He whined about having to do homework after that, procrastinated until dinner time. So now, it’s homework first, and anything else later.
The schedule in Pri 3 is unlike the last two years. There is more homework, there are occasional tests. There is also CCA – soccer, twice a week, for almost three hours each time. So getting homework out of the way after lunch, is my way of ensuring he has time to play after that. Being home with him means he can get help with his school work, if needed. Then he gets the rest of the afternoon to play his Legos or read. Strangely, he hasn’t asked for TV on weekdays anymore.
4) Bringing Shannon to the playground I have been doing this since last year, bringing Shannon to buy groceries, or to the playground after I pick her from school in the afternoons. Such excursions have been fewer this year. She is finally settled in school, enjoys playing with her friends, being with her favourite teacher (who taught her in nursery), so much so that she asks for me to fetch her later so she has more play time with her friends! I’m relishing the extra me-time. We still do the playground routine occasionally, especially on days when her korkor has soccer which ends past 6pm.
5) Dinner with the family Apart from Thursday evenings which I spend in NTU teaching a journalism practicum class, we have dinner together every evening. I sometimes feel guilty about Thursdays, especially when I see Shannon’s crestfallen face, but have decided it’s something I have to do for myself. And it’s just once a week. Hopefully, when they grow up, what they will remember are the evenings when we sat round the dinner table, when we talked about our day or when they bickered over the littlest things. Occasionally, they help with washing up or wiping the table. Sometimes, we make a smoothie as an after-dinner treat.
So yes, while there have been trade-offs from not working full time, there are also many other things to be grateful for!