I didn’t think I would write about this here. I don’t really want to make it a big deal that decision to leave the workforce and perhaps contribute in fuelling the Stay-at-home Mom vs. Working Mom debate, nor do I want to incite guilt in anyone. A lot of women are doing it, it is common these days. Nevertheless, surprisingly I received quite a number of questions from those who know me and this step I took. Why did I quit my job? How did you reach the decision? Does your husband ask you to do so? I feel like recording my answers to those questions here.
Why did you quit your job?
I didn’t hate my job, let me be clear about that. It was a dream job in all honesty – I was working in sustainability field, a cause I am passionate about. I think the pay I received at the end of the month is worth it; it was a comfortable amount that sometimes made me think that I was overpaid. The benefits were great. I didn’t have to travel outside Klang Valley often, and my career was progressing well. The company even provides a subsidised childcare service, which I fully utilised and thankful of since I became a mother.
But just like any corporate job you can think of, it comes with the usual drawbacks of a 9-5 job. Little flexibility, for one, was the most troublesome for me.
And that flexibility is all that I craved for.
My husband works long hours at least for half of the month, which makes commuting together is not always a comfortable option (resulting in me having to wait for a few hours being unproductive meanwhile). And no, he could not switch to a less demanding job, he has this 10-year bond he has to serve.
The above-mentioned situation can only mean that I’d mostly be handling the children alone most of the time. I could not imagine being a mother of two, towing my children to the crèche every morning after a 1.5-hour drive, having to pump milk every 4 hours, worrying on who to pick them up if I were to go for a meeting an hour away, facing the anxiety of having sick children (Isa was hospitalised twice in his first year for pneumonia and bronchiolitis – typical risks faced by children sent to a crèche like that), driving back home with two crying children (worst case situation), cooking (if I could) while entertaining two attention-seeking children (after all, I would have been away from them for at least 9 hours), cleaning, before taking a deep breath and go to sleep just to repeat that cycle again when morning comes.
I know sooner or later I would lose my sanity and my quality of life will plunge should I allow myself to cruise through that path. My life would be reduced to ‘survival mode’. Day after day would go by in anticipation for the weekends to do other things – playing with children, cleaning, doing groceries, visiting friends and family, recreational activities etc.
I don’t think I could do that for another 30 years.It’s not how I imagine my married life would be. It’s not how I imagine motherhood would be. My spirituality also suffered in the face of such madness.
Sure, being a Type A person means I may be overly ambitious and hence anxious about things. But all I craved and longed for at that time were simple things: cooking simple meals for my family instead of takeaways, playing with my children without worrying about things I need to do at the office or the unfinished house chores, and being in a happy mood when I am around my husband (a tired me equals a grumpy me, by the way), and doing things that I used to love.
I could not change my ideals and neither could I reconstruct my conscience when it comes to this.
So I left.
How did your husband feel about you quitting?
I received this question mostly from my male colleagues at the office before. It’s good to know that it implies that I made the decision myself, without my husband forcing/asking me to do so :-D. Funnily, the reverse was asked to my husband upon the news of me becoming a full time housewife reaching his colleagues (‘Why did you ask your wife to quit her job?’). Meh.
My husband has never specifically requested for me to quit my job (though he claims that he implanted the idea Inception-style on me all this while). In fact, it was one of our pre-nuptial agreements that he would not ask me to do so.
I actually have been toying with the idea for some times, especially at those moments when I when I have to be home late and began to despise my job. Many months before I sent my resignation letter, I laid out the plan I had to my husband; what did I want to do, when I want to do it and all. It was not that easy. My husband – my ever rational husband – didn’t exactly dance to my plan. Instead he asked: ‘Tell me what exactly you want to achieve by quitting your job and stay at home?’
That question made sense.
He made it clear that he last thing he’d want me to be is another woman whose life revolves around kids, what to cook and what to clean next. After all, he has never been fussy about food. He is satisfied with less than sparkling clean house. He’s happy just by having a clean outfit to wear tomorrow.
Anyway, he was satisfied enough with my proposal and answers to his numerous questions.
The bottom line is, he said, if I want to work I must not be stressed-out, and if I choose to stay at home I must not be stressed-out too. It was entirely my choice, and hence I must learn live with the consequences.
How do you deal with the finances?
This is a delicate issue. By being out of the workforce, our household income was essentially halved. It was a lot of strain if not because of my financial-savvy husband. I have to give credit to him for insisting on us leading a simple life and living below our means. We attempted at living on only one income and save the other one (though of course it failed, because there were always additional costs incurred due to me working full time). We bought our first home and a new car with this in mind, and I remember both of explicitly agreeing that whatever financial commitment we were about to make must never result in me having to work. It helped, that strategy ( Nevertheless, I understand that this strategy may just NOT work with a lot of people whom I know can barely make ends meet even with two incomes).
In the end, when my working full time is optional, what answer could I give to Allah should I be asked about my unfulfilled core responsibilities at home?
I surely don’t have a lot of personal saving under my name when I quit, but I had enough to pay for my Master’s tuition fees, for Hajj should I be invited, and some emergency fund. Of course my husband worries about her spendthrift wife. We are not financially free after all. Our financial resource will get smaller, and I seem to have a lot of things to buy each day (I was offering solutions after solutions to make our home life more efficient, mind you – how can he NOT appreciate that =P). I assured him that our house is already complete and comfortable to live in, that I have little needs for anything else. The only operating expenses needed are perhaps new clothes for the growing children, their toys, their books (and mine), and soon, new bookshelves to accommodate our growing collection. All other things are already there, we’d only need to replace them if they are damaged or broken.
It is true that we can’t afford eating out luxuriously anymore (not that we do that often anyway). The number of vacations we take each year may need to be cut down. But I know I could live without the ability to buy more stuff in exchange for a less chaotic morning routine and the absence of the infamous Monday Blues.
I don’t feel deprived, so don’t sympathise.
Are you going back to work in the future?
This is hardest bit – especially if it comes from the closest members of the family (my decision is not wholeheartedly supported by everyone by the way).
I don’t know, it depends. It depends on a lot of things – my husband’s work nature at that time, the family situation etc. For the time being, I just want to finish my Master’s programme in 5 semesters.
Perhaps I would work towards getting a PhD after that. Maybe I’d go back into the corporate world. I may find my calling in some NGOs somewhere. Or maybe at some point in time later, I just have to work for money (I pray that I don’t have to). In short, I don’t know yet the specifics. All I know is if I want to contribute to the society or ummah, it doesn’t matter when. Allah will show me the way when the time comes.
I’ll do my best today, and Allah will take care of my tomorrows.
Do you miss anything now that you staying at home full time?
My husband teased me the other day about me appearing to be happy and at ease all the time since I left my job, most probably because he secretly predicted that I’ll be depressed in no time just by staying at home.
I laughed. ‘Why shouldn’t I be happy?’ I asked back.
Honestly, before I made the decision, I was worried too. I worried that I’d feel deprived financially, with no money coming in to my bank account. I worried that I’d miss the adult conversation I enjoyed at the workplace.
But then again, after nearly five months holding the SAHM title I can safely say that I don’t miss any of those, Alhamdulillah. In fact, I miss going to school (I am taking one semester off) more than I miss going to work.
At this moment, even if somebody offers me a job with twice the salary I last received I’d confidently say no. I would not trade anything for the peaceful mornings or the freedom from guilt which follows all working moms when weekends end or the pleasure of being able to calmly recite the Quran in the middle of the day.
As for the adult conversation, I think talking to my two-year old requires more thinking and brain work than the conversation I usually have with my colleagues. Obviously, I have my husband; my best friend whom I could talk to and discuss with just about anything under the sun (women issues or otherwise) – so yes, I’d rather be confined in my home, thank you. Oh, with the Internet on, may I add =P
I guess that’s about it.
May Allah guide us all.