Who Has It Harder: Working Moms or Stay-At-Home Moms?

Yeah, I’m going there.

First of all, I have been many types of mothers: A full-time working mom, a part-time working mom, a full-time work-from-home mom and currently a stay-at-home mom.

I’m far from an authority from the subject but I have so to speak been there, and as my own editor, I have decided, that’s good enough.

Disclaimer: Please don’t take offence that I’m writing this from a mom’s POV. I can’t speak on behalf of dads even though some of the things here may apply to a father as well. Just do the gender switch in your head. Thanks.

Full Time Working Mom

Pros:

You spend time away from your children. You don’t have to be distracted at work unless you allow yourself to be. No one will come bother you every 5 minutes seeking your attention or approval when you don’t have either to spare. You contact them, their sitter or your mom, whenever you have time to spare and care. You’re in control of how you spend your time.

You have your own income to use. You can buy that bag or shoes or lipstick you want without needing to ask anyone for sponsorship. You don’t have to answer to anyone questioning your spending habits. It’s a privilege you don’t realise you have until it’s gone.

You will feel mother’s guilt. No matter what it is that you do, some people will give you a tough time because you aren’t attached to the hip to your kids. Are you spending enough time with your children? Do you help with homework? Do you send them for karate lessons, violin lessons, enrichment classes, tuition so they can keep up with the rest of the class? Why not? #urghleavemealone

Cons:

You spend time away from your children. You miss their first steps, their first words, their first crush, their first disappointment, all inside stories you could make references to when they are older (What was I like, mom? You were an angel in everything #coverstory). But the good news is that doesn’t make you less of a mom. If you make the effort to spend quality time with your kids, however short that time is, that’s what your children will turn into their childhood memories.

Sit down and have a chat with your kids. It’s the most liberating thing in the world.

You have your own income to use. This also means that you have to chip in when it comes to spending money on the children. Their tuition classes, birthday gifts for classmates, get-ups for school performances. Children are expensive. You just don’t realise how expensive they are until you start keeping track (which you totally should).

You will feel mother’s guilt. No matter what it is that you do, some people will give you a tough time because how dare you want time away from your children? They are angels. You had them, you have to take real good care of them. Are you making them homemade lunches for school and feeding them superfoods in every meal? Are you personally baking cookies and cakes for them to sell the school sale? Do you send them for karate lessons, violin lessons, enrichment classes, tuition so they can keep up with the rest of the class? Why not? #urghleavemealone

Stay-At-Home Mom

Pros:

You have all the time in the world. You can wake up whenever you like, sleep whenever you like, go out for tea with friends whenever you like because you are not tied down by any work schedule, opening or closing hours, or any company policy that prohibits you from leaving your workplace before your break time starts.

Your kids are your best friends. You are there for their firsts, 100ths and beyond. You can soothe them when they are sick or sad or disappointed or upset. You are there to remind them of what is important in life and how a drawback does not mean it is the end of the world. You keep them in check so they do not lose their way. And they do the same for you as well.

You’re in this together.

Your patience will be tested. After being around kids for a long time, you will develop a patience level for saints. You have the liberty to push everything else aside and sit down with them to ask, “Are you okay? Do you need my help with anything? I’m here for you.” And you have the freedom to wait for them to answer you and sometimes they will take a while to reply you. You will learn that patience is just practiced waiting.

Cons:

You have all the time in the world. But you are constantly tired because since people think you have all the time in the world, you don’t need (or deserve) breaks. You can go anywhere but you have to schedule that around your child’s drop-off and pick-up time. The things you do must always be done within a “window of opportunity” instead of something done in leisure.

Your best friends are your kids. You’ll develop children talk, watch children shows, sing children songs. You will know everything about your children’s TV show hosts, when they are coming to a theatre near you so you can get tickets. You will learn about how expensive children merchandise are. And you will lose touch on everything else grown-up if you don’t actively keep your grown-up side relevant.

Together TV time

Your patience will be tested. You will develop zero patience for things you have told them a thousand times. After a soft warning, a hard warning, a threat, the death stare, your kids will get the cue to do or not do something as per your command. This may extend to your spouse as well. It is good to be patient, but it isn’t good to be a pushover. Reserve energy for when you need to act, but always remember to act when the situation calls for it.

The Conclusion

As you can see, it’s neck-and-neck between the two groups in this so-not-exhaustive list. As much as people want to pit working moms versus non-working moms, all moms are constantly trying to make things work while trying to not fall apart themselves. Sometimes motherhood feels suffocating and rewarding at the same time. Tell me you feel it too.

Let’s be frank here. Whether you work or not as a mom is never really a choice. It is a necessity that we drop the apron and go out to work, as it is a necessity to lose the work pass and stay at home to raise our kids.

Moms are a Jill of all trades. More often than not, many moms feel like they were pushed into a corner and the decision is taken out of their hands. I think we need to recognise the fact that we have this amazing ability to switch between the two and still continue nailing this mother role. And we deserve a pat on the back for just rolling with it.

Created by senivpetro | freepik.com

Personal thought: it matters little if you work or not, if you stay home or not. You carry a responsibility that only fellow mothers could empathise with. Stop pitting yourself against a mother from the other team and give your role your best shot.

Why Mothers Cook

Before I got married, I only know how to make a couple of egg dishes, stir fry vegetables and tasteless, bland soup.

I love food but I don’t really like making it. You take forever to shop for ingredients, then another forever to prepare the ingredients. Sometimes the recipe works, sometimes it doesn’t. Everyone is a critic and the wash up afterwards is just so darn tiring. Can you blame me for preferring takeout?

Six months ago, my significant other got me a pressure cooker. The purchase opened up half a world of possibilities for me. I have the tool, but I still need the skills (pretty much how to properly use the darn thing). So I joined a Facebook Group there. That’s where I found a full world of possibilities waiting for me.

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HDIM Makes Char Siu

Since Sliced Bread

It’s the best invention ever. The pressure cooker. Throw all your ingredients in and push a few buttons, and let it cut down the cooking time to about a third of the usual time. There is minimal clean up afterwards, results are almost always the same, flavourful, calming and fulfilling – pretty much the last three adjectives I would use to describe my cooking.

But everyone is happy with what I make. And that makes me happy.

I’ve even started baking. If you told me exactly a year ago that I would be making Japanese cheesecakes (yeah, the jiggly type) like a pro (ok, semi-pro), I’d call you crazy, and perhaps a few other names just to drive the point home.

marble-cheesecakes
HDIM Bakes Marble Cheesecake
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HDIM Bakes Marble Cheesecake

My mother and late grandmothers don’t bake. It’s just not something people in my bloodline do. We buy cakes. We don’t make them. And yet, here I am making jiggly cheesecakes and chocolate cheesecakes with baking paper and a baking tin.

cheesecake-in-pressure-cooker
HDIM Bakes Cheesecakes in the Pressure Cooker

Other times, I bake chicken instead. A good friend of mine told me that I would love baking. And she was right. Baked chicken is a different kind of goodness, and should be savoured by all.

yummy-baked-chicken-drumstick-recipe
HDIM Bakes Chicken Drumsticks

Apart from baking, I also use my pressure cooker to make delicious, nutritious soups, curries and even steamed seafood. And I don’t have to stand over the hot stove for hours to get them done. I just throw them in, and an hour later, take them all out and prep for dinner.

what-an-asian-Chinese-dinner-looks-like
HDIM Pressure Cooked Dinners
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HDIM Pressure Cooked Dinners

I’ve always known the feeling of coming home to a hot dinner. It is one of the ways I know I am loved – be it by my mom or my mom-in-law. And now I pour all of that effort back into the food I make for my kids, my significant other, my extended family and my guests.

My biggest fan is my daughter, who takes two bowls of rice whenever I cook. She spoils me with praises (which I ignore) and almost always takes a second helping of rice and the soups I make (which I appreciate).

I get it now. I get why moms cook. And I get why moms get upset when you don’t come home for dinner when you said you would. But I digress.

By controlling what I make for her (no fried foods, not too oily, minimising artificial seasoning, opting for healthier alternatives), I don’t have to worry whether she is eating right or if she lacks certain nutrients. I’ve got the minimum covered.

I let her indulge in junk food if her father is the one who bought it for her. She knows to not take soft drinks after any school or sports activities that make her sweat (only water) and when it comes to ice cream, it’s a weekly family activity. Children need childhood memories, after all.

So yeah, get a pressure cooker if you haven’t got one. It will change your life in the kitchen and at home.

Personal thoughts: I need to take better-looking photographs.

How In-Laws Make You A Better Person

You may have swapped rings and vows, build a family or a business together, and have gone through some of the highs and lows in your life with your significant other. But there will always be an thorn in the rose bush that comes in the form of their family members.

That’s right.

In-laws. The makers or breakers of relationships. Most notably the mother-in-law (or more affectionately known in Messaging circles as “mil”).

I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She’s stubborn but hardworking, naive but firm, worries a lot because she cares and most importantly, she is fun to be around. Together with her loving husband of five decades, give or take, they are the perfect in-laws to have.

Of course there are problems, not necessarily limited to these two nice folks. The Chinese has a saying 一种米养百种人 (One type of rice feeds 100 types of people). We may all eat the same food but our behaviour, mannerism, preferences, dislikes, values, sense of ethics, qualms and ideologies amongst others may differ greatly.

The upbringing we share at that home may be different from the upbringing values of this home.

Some households push toothpaste from the middle of the tube, some at the end. Some households eat dinner in front of the TV, others in collective silence, still others in the midst of “what happened in school today” conversations.

Once you marry into a family, you have to make adjustments. And this happens both ways – your spouse has in-laws too.

Having to adjust how you were brought up, merge it with or totally adopt a new way of life is tough.

Traditionally, this falls on the daughter-in-law since she marries into her husband’s family. But nowadays, the son-in-law can also have a healthy relationship with his wife’s family.

They also make adjustments to their way of life, sometimes, if I may be so honest, with a high level of tolerance. Because where there is no love to be had, tolerance is the next best thing.

I think this is why the Chinese, or Asians in general, have always made it important to marry and have children. Because in learning how to love and or tolerate our in-laws, we learn how to become better people.

We learn that things don’t always have to be the way we want it to be, and if you insist on this being your way of life (e.g. forcing your daughter-in-law to do something she is not used to doing), something will break.

We learn about boundaries: when to say what needed to be said and when to keep quiet and sit in the corner.

We learn that there are a million ways to do the same thing. Some methods may work better than the method we were brought up with. It helps to keep an open mind.

We learn about strange, weird, sometimes alien behaviour such as how a family copes with bad news.

We learn about the different ways family treat traditions, customs, food, children, even time (how fine is the line between punctual and late?).

We learn how to fight with people who know where we live, people who go to the same gatherings as we do, people who our children may absolutely adore and love to spend time with. It’s a weird dynamic, but one we have to learn how to master, one way or another.

And most importantly, we learn that “outsiders” can care about us just as much as our flesh and blood family can.

Personal thoughts: This post went in a very different way than I initially set out to write.

Letting Kids be Kids

I was with my kids having a go at their bicycles after dinner. We live in a guarded neighbourhood so riding their bicycles after 9PM is a common occurrence. Hey, we get them out of the house whenever possible, right?

This time though, a 3 year old from next door saw us and rode his push-scooter over to play. He was chubby, a little sunburned, chatty and frankly a little bossy. His grandmother (turns out she was his great-grandmother, 85, small statured but still limber) came over to watch him not fall and hurt himself, like all mothers do instinctively.

Fifteen minutes into play, the boy manages to get my son unseated from his bike. The boy tries to ride it. Fails. Grandma reminds him repeatedly to not play in the middle of the road. He tries again. Still haven’t quite figured out the bike. Gives up. Goes back to his push scooter.

Another ten minutes into play, while playing cops and robbers, the accidentally grabbed my son’s arm too hard. My son grimaced in pain though by his lack of tears, I figured it wasn’t intolerable. After making sure he was okay, they continued playing.

Five minutes later, Grandma starts scolding the boy really loudly, then goes to retrieve a cane(!) I must have blacked out before this because at no point was the boy misbehaving so badly that Mr Cane needed to make an appearance.

Grandma starts the ritual: threaten, threaten, raises cane, boy holds his ear, stays in submissive position. Grandma lowers cane, boy runs off to continue playing. Grandma waves her cane around some more, then asks us to ignore him. “Go play. Ignore him.” Then to her great-grandson, “Why can’t you just play by yourself? Why do you need to talk so much? Why order people around so much? Why… Why… Why…” The questions kept coming, to no listener in particular.

She comes to me, apologetic. For what, I’m still not sure. I smile to her, gesture positively. “It’s okay. He’s just being a kid.” Perhaps she was afraid her kiddo had upset my kiddo with the arm thing. But that’s 10 minutes ago, by now – all but forgotten.

Then she starts her gripes. “His mother has canes all over the house. We go swimming, he goes and bother other families. He refuses to come out of the swimming pool even after swimming for an hour. I’m 85. I can’t control him without the cane. He doesn’t listen to me. His parents work late nights. See, until now, they are not back yet. I’m 85. How can I manage him without the cane?”

“CAR!” We usher the children into the parking spots, away from the road.

The boy waves at the driver and its passenger. Mommy and daddy are home. They walk over while the boy tries to squeeze in 3 more minutes of playtime. “Say goodnight to aunty and your friends.”

“Goodnight!”