HOMEMAKERS MAKING IT WORK FROM HOME
Career or family? Ideally, many mums would like to have both. But the stark reality is that in life, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. On this Mothers Day, AUDREY VIJAINDREN and FARHANA SYED NOKMAN talk to stay-at-home mums
WHILE juggling the roles of chef, transport provider, tutor, nurse and caregiver may seem daunting enough for the average Jane, many modern stayat-home mums are going the extra mile by working from home to supplement their household incomes and provide the best for their families.
Mother of two, May Tan, gave up her job as a commercial manager twice to spend more quality time with her two daughters.
“I’d been a stay-at-home-mum for a year after my first child was born, but I rejoined the workforce. Eventually, after the birth of my second daughter, I quit my fulltime job for good.
“It really wasn’t a difficult decision to make because I knew I wanted and needed the flexible hours — so that I have more time for my daughters and ageing parents. My father is a diabetic patient and I need to take him for regular check-ups as well.”
Tan said she was fortunate to have a very supportive husband, and also close friends who made her decision an easy one.
“Sometimes I miss full-time working life, especially the social interaction with colleagues.
“However, if I had to do it all over again, I would make the same decision.”
Tan now does freelance work as a quantity surveyor for a foreign technology company to spearhead their technology in Asia.
“I still get paid and I’m not completely out of the workforce.
“When I need to attend project meetings, I get help from childcare sources.
“I can arrange my own schedule to be available for school activities, pay full attention during their sick days, spend more time guiding them with their homework and also arrange outings for them during less crowded days,” she said.
The grass may definitely seem much greener on the other side, but having been on both sides of the fence, Tan said being a fulltime mum was much more challenging due to the lack of personal time.
“Support from spouse and family members is very important before making this decision. Calculate your budget before making the jump, and, if possible, build a plan to earn side incomes before quitting.”
In this current economic climate, she said, it was necessary to have cutbacks to survive on a single income.
“As a family, we have learnt to adopt a simpler lifestyle. Realistically, to live a comfortable family life on a single income is a challenge, especially here in Kuala Lumpur.”
Former flight attendant and senior lounge agent Shereena Gill decided to quit her job four months after delivering her baby.
“I have been in the aviation industry for seven years, so it was not an easy decision to make. But I knew I wanted to spend more time with my baby.
“Since I worked at the airport, the daily commute by train to work every day took up most of my time and I was only able to spend less than four hours with my son.
“However, I do miss travelling, having a steady income, engaging in conversations with people and having a social life,” Gill admitted.
But the reward outweighs everything else.
“I get to see my son’s many ‘firsts’ — walking, giggling, talking... I may not have much personal time, but the experience is far more satisfying,” she said.
Gill said she started blogging to share her journey as a mother with other women.
“Writing is therapeutic for me. It was a hobby, which later transformed into a business,” said Gill, who currently runs a nursing wear fashion line called “Milk at 27”.
“It is great when you can plan your finances prior to becoming a stay-at-home mum, but if you can’t, you have to accept the fact that your next facial appointment and shopping for pretty heels might be in three years’ time.”
Giving up a high-flying job as a business consultant in one of the world’s leading providers of audit, tax and advisory services was not easy for Zura Rosli, mother of two.
“I do miss working life a lot. When I hang out with friends, inevitably, I will talk about my kids because their life is all I know about. There are times when I feel insecure in their presence. But when I get home and look at my babies, I know I made the right choice to be a stay-at-home mum.
“I run an online children’s boutique and a kidswear line called KupuKupu Studio.
“It all started when I couldn’t find cute and comfortable baju Melayu and baju kurung for them. Now, everything I put out there are clothes that my own children would wear.”
Zura said time management was really important for mums who decide to work from home.
“I usually try to get things done while my kids are in school. When they’re back from school, I only look after their needs,” she said.
She advised other women who wanted to make a similar move to get their husband’s blessings and support, first and foremost.
“Moving from a double-income household to a single-income household is a big change. So, all parties have to be on board. You also may require emotional and financial support. Some days are longer than others and it can get lonely being surrounded by kids all the time.”