I’d like to share my thoughts on the topic of working parents. Besides there seems to be very few fathers represented in this discussion!
When we had our DD, from the beginning, I was all for my wife becoming a SAHM. I have no doubt whatsoever of the value of parenting our own child ourselves. Also, we are and still are TOTALLY AGAINST the idea of having a maid take care of our kid. As such, I myself committed to being a hands-on father as well as a sole breadwinner.
It nearly killed me. It didn’t help that I made mistakes with my career and have only recovered recently (ironically I’m better off these days than before).
However, we see the reward for our personal parenting efforts everyday. I am proud of the fact that our DD is a very fine girl, by my standards anyway.
The material cost? We’ve been financially ruined for many years. As a result, we’ve hesitated all this time to have another child. It is ironic to think that our hands-on parenting resulted in a good child, but destroyed our financial confidence to have another. Clearly, we paid a price; nothing can substitute our DD, and yet, the deal was costly.
Because of this history, with regards to money/work, I constantly advise my friends like so:
1) Unless you are rich or your husband is a big earner, don’t even dare to be a SAHM, at least not in Singapore. (Note that I do not expect iPod-totting educated professionals these days to accept a hermit’s life.) You may be ok in the first few years, but later on you might suffer. Random economic crises notwithstanding.
2) Money buys happiness. Only the rich will tell you otherwise.
Just to clarify – to me, money is only valuable when worthily spent. Money itself is pointless. Money to me is the currency by which I can ultimately obtain things, time and comfort for my family. If I had a ton of money, I will be comfortable with my wife being a SAHM, or even myself be a SAHD – so you see, it is not the simple case that happiness is a product you can buy from the supermarket, it is that money ENABLES you to invest and create an environment where your family can be happy.
I dare anyone who has hesitated over a toy, a book, an expensive health supplement, a taxi ride, a beautiful dress, a day off of work, an overseas tour, 2 tickets to the zoo, moving to a better house, a sibling for your child, to become a SAHM/D – to challenge me over this.
3) IF you have no money, you are going to be worried and frustrated. The first emotional victim is your family, your children. This is the prime difference between jobless singles and jobless parents. It is the reason why I think society is really screwed up for constantly rewarding workaholic singles instead of people with family obligations. Society indirectly encourages people to value work more than family, however it denies it.
We live in a materialistic society. Nothing will change this. Why, our own gahment loudly proclaims- "no one owes us a living". So accept the fact, money is important.
Where am I going with this? I am going somewhere you’ve been to: Dilemma.
There is no denying that parenting your own child is a good thing but my cautionary note to all potential SAHMs is that you must be sure of your family’s finances. Plus:
1) DO NOT take your husband’s job, stress, emotional needs for granted.
2) Take charge of or at least help with the family’s accounts and help your family be financially safe.
3) Show your husband that you are indeed a capable mother. If you actually have poor parenting skills, you had better improve. There is nothing more frustrating for a father than coming home to screaming and crying kids!
4) Don’t unreasonably load your husband with a lot more additional obligations pertaining to home. Don’t ask him to clear the trash, change the lightbulb, go out and buy groceries, etc the moment he steps into the house. You are the SAHM, do your job.
The truth is, after a few years, I realized that the Japanese seem to have gotten it right in the first place. I don’t know how relevant the model is these days, but I have heard of the legend of the model in Japan where:
a) the husband is the sole breadwinner.
b) the wife, in undegrad life, in addition to the usual degree subject, also studied subjects like basic accounting, homecare, etc., is an OL up til she marries, at which point she becomes a FTHW and later SAHM. (Incidently, this partly counters the idea that a woman’s education is "wasted" – it is not).
c) the wife controls all finances, she takes the husband’s salary, keeps what’s needed for family, and gives him back some pocket money for socialneeds.
d) the wife may even be responsible for maintaining social relations and her family’s reputation.
While the traditional model looks very chauvinistic (father has little responsibility in parenting), this appears to be balancing out, there is now more pressure on the husbands to contribute to child care.
And the simple fact is, u need someone to earn, you need someone to parent. And multi-tasking is still overrated.
Now that in Singapore, we are increasingly approving of SAHMs, I feel that this is a worthy model to emulate. It has worked in Japan as far as I can see.
I constantly read and hear of SAHMs saying that they want to do the parenting, they want to concentrate on the kids’ needs, take care of the home, etc. But I almost never hear SAHMs mention the father in their "workplans"!
I sometimes think that certain attitudes towards SAHMs are, ironically, responsible for the disappearance of the father in the SAHM model.
Is that all we are? Workhorses/money-spinners?
No, we are not. A father also has a role in parenting, very important one. I have seen my rewards, I know.
To fathers: if you can afford it, support your SAHW, and keep your career safe. If your career or finances is not safe, think twice. Be careful. It is noble to want to parent your own kids; but being financially weak may destroy any advantage gained.
If you are the sort who is almost never home, even with the 30 minutes you see your child daily, chat with them. OT is severely overrated. Take leave for fun and bring your kids out. Your wife also needs a break. If you don’t do this, your kids will grow up with no memory of you.
Thus ends my rambling…. I hope you all realize that I don’t have a firm stand on any model or solution, cos I believe different families have different needs and different solutions. In fact, you may realize I contradict myself many times. But this is the nature of the problem.
Every family should seek out its unique solution to this problem. And it’s ok if you disagree with me, I just wanted to share my perspective.