I spent 5 years of my life in tertiary studies. Before I decided to be a stay at home mum, I was as a university lecturer and school consultant. I have a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from QUT, a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education from CQU and a teaching diploma in Montessori studies…, I have 15 years of teaching experience under my belt, 11 years of lecturing, mentoring and supervising trainee teachers at various teacher training colleges and universities as well as 3 years experience setting up Montessori classrooms and playgroups in China. I’ve seen and done it all in the Early Childhood Education field.
So when I decided to become a stay at home mum, some of my friends thought I was either totally out of my mind or that I had won the lottery and kept it a secret from them. My father-in-law who adores his working daughter-in-laws thinks that I’m an overqualified stay at home mum and I recently found out that my hubby also had the same internal struggle for quite a long while. You see, my hubby’s mom worked her whole life and since my hubby and I financed all my studies, I’m sure that he’s probably hoping for profitable returns of our investment and time (and effort!).
The thing is, the very reason that I wanted to go into ECE in the first place was because I wanted so badly to be a great mom. I remember when I was little, a friend of my mom’s asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I wanted to be a mum. She smiled and said ‘No dear, what do you want to be for your job?’ To me, there’s no difference since being a mum is not easier than working a job.
As such, a lot of the decisions that I made were geared to my becoming a success at being a mother……my choice of spouse, my choice of tertiary education, my choice of career and even the decisions we made with regards to which country to settle down in. They were all a part of a much bigger plan…..so that I could be the best mom to our children.
I also knew that if I wanted to know how to handle children well, that I’d also have to learn, be equipped with the skills to do so and be well versed with what children fundamentally need to grow and thrive. I looked around me for answers and the first person I saw was my mom. Well, my mom tried her best but seriously, there were many parenting decisions she made that I would definitely not want to make for my children and I bet she would say the same about my grandma’s parenting style.
So I looked outside my family circle and since I grew up in a church environment, observed that even though we all had the bible to guide us with regards to parenting, many people were still getting very inconsistent results with regards to bringing up happy children. It was then that I realized that there must be something more to it. I realized that perhaps it would be a good idea to get educated with regards to child developmental psychology and education so that I can understand what children truly need from the viewpoint of the child…..and not from the perspective of an adult, for a change. This discovery led me into the ECE sector.
With me getting light bulb moments so often, learning was addictive. As I studied, learned and taught, I started to see a connection between what a child does or how he behaves, and what he needs and isn’t getting. I also saw a connection between the child and his immediate environment and how changing that environment also changes the child in many ways. I also realized that against what I’ve been brought up to think, young children are not ‘out to get you’, nor are they there to make our lives miserable…..rather, mother nature has installed an innate device in the child to make sure that all their learning needs are catered to, and when they are not, all the red flags will start popping up to give us cues that something is amiss.
The decision to stop work
I stopped full time employment about two years ago and my boys have been better for it. My hubby has noticed a significant change in their well being, they’re a lot happier and a lot less whiney. Their appetite has improved significantly and they fall sick less often. The difference became clear to my hubby during his recent visit to his brother’s house when he witnessed how different his brother’s children are from ours.
Needless to say, he was glad I decided to stay home with the boys.
Both my brother-in-law and his wife hold down very demanding full time jobs and they have three young children to attend to when they get home. Though I’ve seen my aunt and uncle who work full time, bring up rather well-behaved and happy boys, it’s clear to me that not many people can multitask as effectively.
In fact, I think the hardest job is being a mom who has to go to work because many mums struggle with work when they are constantly thinking about being with their children and by the time they get home, they are probably too tired to do anything. Then they return to work the next day feeling quite rotten because they were too tired to do anything while they were home with their children. I know, because I have been there.
Now you may wonder what a properly qualified mom is or what her day looks like or if she has similar parenting challenges as other moms. So let me shed some light on the matter….
Since being at home, I’ve also put my ECE knowledge to good use. I’ve run home-based programs for my boys and their friends on school holidays, helped my boys do bake sales to raise funds for their school camp fees, organized pizza and movie nights, engaged in thought provoking conversations, and took hold of many teachable moments with my boys.
I also spend a lot of time looking into the development of their character, moral awareness and EQ. Each school holiday is spent constructively by learning a different skill ranging from baking to needlework to woodwork and for the coming holidays, we are also hoping to delve into leather craft. Every weekend is spent outdoors at parks and we are also sure to plan for pajama days, where we just stay indoors all day in our pajamas just playing with toys, cuddling and day dreaming
The thing that I enjoy about being home is that I can spend a lot of my time planning and looking into the welfare and health of my family. I do my grocery shopping every day for fresh foods and I cook three meals a day. I pack snacks and lunch for my boys to take to school and for my hubby to take to work. I try to balance out their nutritional needs across all their meals so that on any given day, they have their 5 portions of veg and fruits. Last year, neither one of my boys required a trip to the doctor’s nor did they fall ill, aside from the rare sniffles or mild cough that often went away after a day or two. I have proven that we are what we eat and that it is absolutely possible to optimize our children’s learning abilities by helping them develop good eating habits, water drinking habits and good sleeping habits.
As for challenges, well, my struggles are very different now that I am a stay at home mum. I no longer feel guilty about leaving my children with someone else…..because I rarely have to now. Also, being home and being able to spend lots of time teaching my own boys and watching them become more adept at handling themselves and facing challenges, and employing problem solving skills, has increased my confidence in their abilities to take care of themselves in my absence.
However, one huge struggle that I have is learning to move away from paid entertainment to natural entertainment. In other words, I’m trying to spend less. When I was working, there was a huge tendency to compensate for my absence by buying stuff for my boys and taking them to expensive places for entertainment…..like Disneyland and Ocean Park. However, now that I have to watch my finances carefully, I have found new ways to be creative with our time spent together. We have learned to spend a lot of time together by doing stuff together. We do house chores together, we explore our neighborhood on scooters together, we read together, we knit together, we dance together and recently, started lip-syncing to music together. Quite frankly, this is way more fun and fulfilling than spending tons of money on fancy holidays and buying commercialized toys.
How I found a way to contribute to society…..
Interestingly, being the uber resilient and creative person that I am, quitting my job also meant that I finally had the time to think about ways that I can devote my passion to helping others with the knowledge and experience that I have. So in the last two years, I authored two books, started two podcast channels, became a blogger, international speaker and parent coach. I was determined to help parents and teachers understand children’s learning needs and give them a framework to work with so that they know how to deal with young children in the most effective ways possible.
I think what people often fail to see is that even though our education and experience is our biggest investment and asset, the returns may also take the form of intangible (rather than just tangible) gains. In my case, I was the best person to teach and bring up my boys, so no, I won’t consider myself as an overqualified SAHM, rather, I consider myself a properly qualified SAHM!
I’m not saying that a mom who go to work is any less of a mom, nor am I implying that you are less of a mom if you aren’t an overly qualified stay at home mom.
I’m just saying that I have come a long, long way to become a properly qualified mom and I have the capacity to teach others to be the same, minus all the years and money and effort that I’ve spent in becoming one. So now, that’s exactly what I do: I help parents have happy, resilient and intelligent children by teaching them the framework and helping them to customize it to their own parenting style to meet their children’s individual learning needs.
So I guess it’s safe to say that I’m a properly qualified stay at home mum who (has not only found a way to be the best mom that she could be and to have happy, resilient and intelligent children, but also ) has found her little place on this planet by helping other moms become properly qualified moms as well.