There’s always this dilemma that haunts mothers everywhere :
Should we stay at home and take care of the children, or should we continue working at our careers?
It’s truly a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Even society is divided on this.
When the government increased maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days in their #Budget2020, this was met with some controversy, with entrepreneur Christie Ng saying it’s a ‘double-edged sword” that’s unfair to employers.
There are certainly those who see it as a waste of talent, particularly if the women are brilliant at their jobs and have impressive educational and career backgrounds.
But some think it’s more beneficial for a mom to stay at home and take care of the family household. Being with your children, after all, is better for their emotional growth.
I asked three moms to relay their experiences with juggling careers and motherhood.
Jing Lee suffered from separation anxiety
Jing Lee (not her real name) is a first-time mom who went back to work right after her confinement period ended.
“I continued working throughout my pregnancy, and after I gave birth, I was pretty sure that I’d be able to go back to work in an instant!” She said ruefully.
But after baby Ben arrived, she hesitated and was anxious about leaving him.
She contemplated resigning. But her husband couldn’t bear the financial burden on the family expenses on his own.
After her maternity leave ended, she went back to work, reluctantly. She said, “It was an extremely difficult decision, but we found a really good nanny.”
But the nanny came with a hefty price – all the more reason Jing Lee had to return to work.
Almost a year on, she’s started to feel at ease leaving her baby, but still struggles to control her emotions and anxiety.
Jing Lee said, “I can’t wait to go home right after work so I can be reunited again with baby Ben.”
She calls the nanny every two hours to check up on Ben. When she started work, it used to be half-an-hour phone calls.
Ying Wan treats her job like a break from the real work
On the contrary, Ying Wan (not her real name) treated her work at the office as a getaway, an escape from her three kids.
“Well, to an extent, from my husband too,” she chuckled. That doesn’t mean that she loves them any less though.
“This is just my way of coping with life as a mom.”
Ying Wan considers herself quite lucky, since she’s been with her current company for quite some time, and the Management allows her to have flexible hours.
She’s been given the green light to clock in earlier than everybody else as she needs to send her kids to the pre-school and nanny near her office.
She’ll pick up her kids during lunch hour and send them home, then take some time off during the afternoon. However, the catch is that she has to stay back at work for a little longer, when everybody else has gone home.
“But I don’t mind that at all though. My husband has his own business, so he’s able to be with the kids in the afternoon and evening.”
The plus point is, not everybody clocks off immediately after work, as they want to avoid the rush hour. So Ying Wan can still socialise and have her own ‘me time’.
Liza is a full-time mom with a high-flying husband
Liza (not her real name) left her job as a lecturer to care for her kids. That was “an easy decision” for her, she says.
“I didn’t want to leave my kids with anyone. I have serious trust issues,” she confided.
As a matter of fact, she also home schools her kids.
“At least I’m using my brain up to its full capacity, although sometimes it feels like it can burst anytime!” She exclaims.
Liza comes from quite a well-off family, and her husband is a top man at a huge shipping company, so they don’t worry much about the household income.
“My husband puts food on the table, and I take great care of the family. That’s enough for us.” She says.
As for me, I became a freelancer
I started to freelance even before my baby was born.
The plan was to send her to my mom’s at the kampung, and go home once every two days once I am back to the work force full time.
However, the moment she was born, I couldn’t bear the idea of being separated from her. Especially since my work will involve late nights and weekends.
So I started to freelance again.
Some clients don’t mind her tagging along at events and meetings (she’s a really well-behaved and adorable).
But I do understand the social awkwardness of having her around – especially when she wants to be fed or have her ‘off moments’.
I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to full time work force again. I’ve received a few job offers after going for interviews.
But I just couldn’t put my baby under the care of strangers. I’ve heard way too many scary stories and tragedies involving babies who are under their nanny’s care.
Tragically, some babies have even died while in the care of their nannies, like the poor child who choked on his milk in Melaka.
I am well aware that my husband and I need the money. Well, who doesn’t?
However, the priority now is our baby.
I’ve drawn some flak from relatives and friends who think I am wasting my years, having been educated overseas and with my existing job skills and resources.
At the risk of sounding harsh – they should mind their own business.
Women have the right to choose whether to stay at home with their kids or go back to work.
It doesn’t mean one is losing out on things – People, especially their loved ones just need to respect their choice.
“Get rid of the guilt. When you’re at one place, don’t feel bad that you’re not at work; when you’re at work, don’t feel bad that you’re not at home” – Katie Couric, journalist, author, mother.
Are you a woman who can juggle both careers and family?
Let us know how you do it in the comments!
For more stories about motherhood, read How ‘Aunting’ Helped Me Become a Mother and Millennial Motherhood: Here’s What It’s like Being a Malaysian Mom Today.