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Mums, stop feeling guilty about working or staying home

31 March 2010


I HAVE often been asked: “Who is better – the working mother or stay-at-home mother?” Mothers who want to quit working, want to know whether they are making the right choice. While mothers who are full-time home-makers want to know how it will affect their children when they join the workforce.

Whether working or stay-at-home, all mothers share the same fears and concerns. They wonder whether they are feeding their children right or spending enough time teaching them the right values.

You should always feel that you are doing your best for the children. Whether you work or stay at home, you are a full-time mother. There is no place for guilt. If you look after your children with knowledge, skill, love and patience, you are the kind of mother that deserves the highest recognition.

I grew up with a working mother whose own mother was a stay-at-home parent. When I was growing up, my mother and my grandmother often differed in their views on how children should be disciplined or how to manage certain behaviours.

Whenever my mother went on annual leave, we felt that she was cramping a year of parenting into a few short weeks. She made us clean our rooms and gave us extra written work for practice. We were quite relieved whenever she returned to work.

My siblings and I felt much better when Mother was at work. We wanted her to leave us to our own devices. When she was juggling work and raising us, she shared her time with us doing what really mattered. She took us on educational trips and introduced us to arts and culture.

My mother fared better outside the house. She also worked because we needed the extra income.
She could hardly cook but she took us out to great eateries to try out international cuisine. Sewing was not her forte either.

There were many things she did not do but my mother’s mothering style provided us with a great deal more.
We learned to do many things that she could not do. I started cooking at a young age because my mother encouraged me by buying as many cookbooks as she could afford.

Mothers get criticised for their choices. When they choose to work outside the home, many would frown on them and blame them for all the wrongs their children did because they were not able to stay home to spend time with their children.

When my children were babies, I had one stay-at-home mother who asked whether I breastfed my children. She also told me that I would not have much time for my children because of my busy schedule.
A mother who chooses to stay at home with her children is often misunderstood as someone who could not do much outside the home. I know of many well-educated and capable women who are home-makers.

I once met a lady who was conducting a survey on households. She asked: “Madam, you don’t work outside the home. What is your educational background? Did you finish secondary school?” She looked surprised when I told her I had post-graduate qualifications. She had assumed that I was a stay-at-home mother because I had little education.

I used to have a neighbour who was a stay-at-home mother. Every day I could hear her screaming at her crying son. She was not happy and neither was her young son. She felt stressed out and lonely staying home the whole day with a young child.

What children really want is a happy mother, regardless of whether she is a career woman or a home-maker.
We raise our daughters on limitless possibilities of career choices. We must support them in the choices they make.

Children thrive on their mother’s love; there is no discrimination whether this love comes from a working mother or a stay-at-home one. Be confident and trust that what you have chosen for yourself is also the best for your child.

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