Into the Woods. January 2017.
The coming of January marks the beginning of my third year being home; being out of the workforce and becoming essentially, as they call the profession these days, a full time homemaker and a stay-at-home mom.
I have been on both sides of the fence. So I may be able to say this with some degrees of authority that this is a life which I would not trade for anything else. Yet. For the time being. You just need to be aware of the disclaimer: just for this period in time.
Of course, while nearing the two years mark, I had at certain times, lost sight. I doubted my self-worth and purpose somewhere along that way for various reasons. It was not until that mild depression was shaken by the sudden opportunity of going back to work that I found the critical factor that makes me want to stay on the path for a little while.
So the story is I went through an episode of what seemed like a mild depression a while back. I knew at that time I was not at my best. My husband noticed that too: I was angry and frustrated most of the time. I had a hard time getting up in the morning and would stay in bed until 9 or 10. When my husband raised that point (no anger from his side or anything, he was just merely telling me his observation), I gave him some excuses which I knew were not convincing at all. But as I was soon able to see clearly what was going on with myself, I was transported back to my second year at university, to the winter of 2006. It was when I had a similar disconcerting period – I had a terrible time at school, and felt gloomy most of the time. I did get help eventually, Alhamdulillah and raised above it, but then I realised that staying in bed as long as I can was my way of escaping the real world, a sign of depressive period.
During this recent period of confusion which lasted around a month or two, I applied for several positions of full time jobs thinking that it home life is not for me. My line of work is quite niche in Malaysia, so while vacancies do not pop up frequently, if they do even with my limited experience I’d still get some attention. I went one interview (invited after several hours of applying online), noticeably impressed the interviewers, and received the job offer immediately. I negotiated for a better job position and for the salary I wanted and got them. On top of that, the HR let me decide when I could start working. They went through three rounds of advertisement throughout the year to fill in five posts and only manage to find two so far.
I was the third one. They chose me. I felt needed, wanted, and precious.
But only in the face of such opportunity of another chapter and another adventure, I began to dig deeply on the value of staying at home. When I quit working, my intention was to raise my children and become the parent I thought I want to be. I longed to cook healthy and hearty meals for them – I was tired of takeaways by that time. I wanted to read to my children as much as I want to – I still remember nearly bursting into tears due to my incapacity to do so when a former boss who knew me since my single days asked of my life as a parent. I wanted the time to enjoy the house we own, and build a home out of it – our house then felt like another hotel, we went home to sleep, and rose only to rush to work again.
But after two years, my views changed, albeit slightly. I know I am privileged financially to be able to choose this life. I know too, that food on the table is food on the table – it is for nourishment primarily. The value of food in a family life is in how they provide a platform to unite family members: people sit together and talk and share at dinner time. Home-cooked or otherwise do not matter, if they are a complete and healthy meal and served and presented well – halal and tayyib. And this value is achievable whether I stay at home or work full-time, with a bit of effort.
And the house, there is an infinite timeline on making it a home. My house is already fully functioning physically. Home-decorating is the only activity that could never stop. Once you are in the wagon, you can hardly pull the brake. The more you get inspired, the more changes you want to make, the more useless things you’ll buy as eye candies with the hope of turning the house magazine-like.
But I turned down the job offer, in the end, at the possibility of not being able to read to my children. It is a vision I could not let go.
I had been through it once that constraint in time. Hence I have known with a certainty that I would never go near such thing again. I have forgotten that as I immersed myself in self-pity. The pain; the pain of inability was too much and could never be soothed by the idea of ‘quality time’.
Of course it is not reading per se.
It is the idea that I will be losing my role as the children’s first authority, their first teacher that hurts me most. It was at that moment, I realised that that is the greatest joy in parenting and in being a stay-at-home, sort-of-homeschooling mother for me. I live for the joy of watching how my children’s eyes twinkled at the new revelation and enlightenment I present to them.
I still remember the moment my then really young son, realised the transition of day and night, and the silent he gave me once he realised that phenomenon. He was barely two I think, but I could then sense the wonder. I take pride of being the one who first introduce him to God, his Works and Attributes. I am happy to be the one who tells him that we are just a small part of the universe when he begins his obsessive phase on Solar System and all other celestial beings. I am glad to be the one who tells him that his job is to serve people, one day, by solving problems. I am delighted and humbled to be the one to make known to him the reality of this mortal life; that there is another life, an eternal one that we should all be striving for. I derived my happiness from being able to impart the knowledge I accumulated to my children, to be the one who plays an active role in their learning. I lit up just by being the witness of their epiphanies and bewilderment from the newfound facts of life.
I could not be content with passing the baton to someone else yet.
So I stay.
I am still staying away from the alternative life which would have given me for adult interaction and human contact. I am still shying away from that 9-5 routine that would have seen me with more money at my disposal, that lets me make full use of my professional expertise (Which I didn’t know I have until that nearly-three-hour interview), that will give me the satisfaction that I am actually doing something ‘real’ in the world. I am not going to step into the world of paid employment again just yet. Bye bye Jobstreet.
Someday in the future, I know I may find myself again in the pit of misery and low self-worth. But I know too, that once I dwell enough on the doubt, I have the capacity to rise again.
It doesn’t matter if that this staying-at-home business is a thankless job. I don’t hang on to the oft-said words that the pay for this unappreciated job is the love from my children. If it’s the job that give me the greatest sense of joy, I’d stick with it.
I am selfish like that.