A Mum’s Guide to Staying and Working at Home (aka The Road Home and The Many Moments After)

Gingerbreadmum_SAHM

Have you ever ventured down a road not knowing what is ahead?
I did. The seasons change from time to time, sometimes gradual, sometimes abrupt, some days it’s sunshine and butterflies and some days it gets pitch dark. This is my journey towards becoming a stay-at-home mum, and the many moments after.

If you are reading this post, my guess is, you are:

A. a stay-home mom
B. a full-time working mom considering to stay home
C. very curious – What do these mummies do with all the time at home?
Whoever you are, thank you for taking the time to read this post.
I am a stay-home mom. Which means I am home with my kids most of the time. I do not have a full-time job outside home and I work around my kids’ schedule to get everything else done.

I used to work from 9 to 6. I would rush home right after office hours to attend to my kids then continue working on my laptop after the kids’ bedtime. Life was pretty okay too, I even had a survival guide for FTWM written back then.

One fine day, my little girl said to me, “Mummy, don’t go to work. I want you to stay (at home) with me.”
So, stay at home was what I did. :)

A note written by Jiejie (going to be 6 then) on our whiteboard.
This was how I read this picture: The line between us depicted that we were apart. She was probably doing her homework while feeling sad that I wasn’t around. 
Sounds like an unbelievably easy decision? Trust me, it was a far cry from it. So much so that I surprised myself, the day I walked out of my career. I’ve been toying with the idea to stay-at-home for the longest time. After sitting on the fence for a good 6 years, it took a few big turns, a couple u-turns, and a final little push before I took the plunge.

I never knew how courageous I could be. No long term financial blanket, no nothing planned for except a sum of money in my active account enough for me to remain jobless for a couple of months. All I knew was, I needed a break anyway, if this didn’t work out, I would get my ass back to work. If it did, I would work freelance and do whatever I could to sustain my stay-home mum status.

The one month ‘trial’ was enlightening, I didn’t know how much my children needed my attention until then. I knew right after a week that stay-home was what I would do – at least until the kids were older and more independent.

Right after my 1 month honeymoon at home, I started ChubbyFairy, a little facepainting and kids’ craft business. It made me very happy to work only a couple of hours on weekends and  school holidays. However, it soon became apparent that the income wasn’t enough. Hence, I started looking out for supplementary income. Shortly after, I was offered a homebase job through a client’s recommendation – it must be God-sent.

The flexi part-time and homebase arrangement fits well into my children’s schedule, and I cannot be happier to be working in a relevant field. I know fully well, that there will be a day when the kids will need less of my time and more of my cash. Staying relevant to my profession would make it easier for me to return to workplace when the day comes.

So, how does working from home makes me more “at home” than when I had a full-time job outside home? (What a mouthful of “homes” ;p )
Well, this is how I worked it out – A full-fledged stay-home mum do not spend all the time with their children either, there are work around the house to be done. What I’m doing is basically trading-in the time I would have spent working around my house for a home-base job.

This was how working from home looked like on a day when my helper was out in the morning.

If you are a stay-home working mum or considering to work from home, here a some handy tips that may help. But before that, here’s the disclaimer: As with any parenting advice you may have received or will receive, please take them with a pinch of salt. Every child and parent is unique, so what worked for me may or may not work for you. I do not attempt to portrait an image of knowing-it-all. I do not. In fact, I have many to learn. These are just some tips that worked for me as I brave through my days at home, one day at a time.

First and foremost, stay sane!
Nobody listens to a mad person. In order to hold the fort at home, you will need your sanity above anything else. Here’s a simple rule I learned from work – if you want to be heard (and you will definitely want your kids to listen), you need to at least look like you know your business. Likewise, the kids need to know that their mummy knows what she is doing.

Expect CHAOS
“And they live happily ever after…” in a fairytale. Ask any stay-at-home mums and we will tell you how much strive we go through everyday. Let’s face it, kids will be kids – they are not going to behave and listen all the time. They are noisy and rowdy, they will fight, get into trouble and drive you up the wall. These are normal.

The earlier you accept this reality and manage your expectations, the easier it is to live with the beautiful chaos in you life. So, breathe and suck it up! :)

This was what the kids wrote on our blackboard after driving me up the wall! 

Don’t stop growing
Staying home doesn’t mean you stop developing your other skills and passions. I am a firm believer that one needs to be able to feel successful at something. If are good at something, do more of it and it will build you up.  It is very important to be able to feel good about yourself. Getting out of the corporate ladder means you no longer have a professional identity to secure your self-image, so it is especially helpful to continue developing as a person and establish your self-worth.

Make more friends 
If you feel alienated from the world by staying home, get out for some fresh air and mingle around. There is a saying that we are an average of our 5 friend. For me, it helps to mix around with people of similar profile and have the qualities I desire. It is good to meet up with ex-colleagues, but one may want to refrain from doing so during transition or teething periods. Friends we made should remain, but we will also need the right company at the right time to help us NOT LOOK BACK.

Make space and time for different activities
I work on the dinning table most of the time, except when I can’t or when I need to sit beside my kids in front of our tv. I work on the dinning table so that I can have a full view of my living room where my kids play. I also do so so that I will have to shut down my laptop and keep the table clear for lunch, that is when both my girls are home from school.

I tutor my children on the same dinning table, we craft and prepare batter for baking on it too. It is the center-piece for activities at home. It helps me to be in control of the time spent in our house.

Snack time! 

Teach your children to value work
One plus point about working at home is that you can show your kids the value of work.

On good days, let them see you enjoying your work. Work is a big part of a person’s life, it is important that they see work as a positive thing (most of the time).

On bad days, and trust me, there will be bad days no matter where you work, let them see how you deal with problems. I often tell my kids that I may not feel like working everyday but I will do so because that is my responsibility. Likewise, they may not feel like doing their homework and going to school everyday, but they should do so because that is their responsibility.

I rope in my kids’ help whenever possible. It’s fun to work together and it helps them to understand the concept of teamwork at work and at home.

This was just last night. The kids were helping me to pack craft materials for a kids’ craft activity happening at Tampines Regional Library this Sat.

It is very important to help children understand the value of work as early as possible, they need to know that work is important, it is mummy’s responsibility and they need to let mummy work when she needs to.

Now, I am not saying that you can teach a 2yo to respect your work overnight or that you will get absolute cooperation from a 5yo by doing so. But I can say it confidently that there is no way, you can get any peace working at home without driving this message into their little heads.

In a conference call now. Leave me alone, please. 

Always remember why you work at home
This is a note to self too. The whole purpose of working at home is to have more time with the kids. It won’t be helpful for my children if I over-tire myself and end up throwing my temper at them.

Be happy, as much as possible
We all have happy and unhappy moments at home or at work. As much as possible, I endeavour to be a happy mummy. There are many ways to cheer up a day – Celebrate everyone’s achievements at home, no matter how little or big they are, turn on the music and start dancing and jumping randomly to it, sing silly songs, buy a little cake and blow candles with the kids as often as you like, hug the kids alot… the list goes on.

Jamming to their own tune, while I sat back and clapped along.

Being happy is one of my personal KPIs, because a happy mum, raises happy kids and makes a happy home.

If you are sitting on the fence (considering to stay-home or continue working full-time), I wish you courage for whichever course you take. If you are like me, a Stay-At-Home mum, I wish you strength for the tasks ahead. If you were curious, I hope this sneak preview didn’t scare you off too much :)

Above all, I wish you happiness at home and at work, today and everyday. :)

Linking up with:

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Gingerbreadmum where 31 stay-at-home mums share their survival tips.

The next mum on the blog train is Joan. She is mom to baby J, and leads a blessed, happy-crazy, busy life as a stay-at-home-working-mum. The truth is, she is largely on survival mode, and probably only gets 1 or 2 hours of work in a day. She shares some of her time-maximising survival tips at http://www.prudentmummy.com.

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