Being a stay-at-home-mum is a full-time job in itself – no question about it. MH speaks to the experts on how new stay-at-home-mums can best handle this transition in their lives.
WORDS REBECCA WONG
Life as a working mum has often been deemed “The Second Shift”, given its numerous demands. The challenges encountered by stay-at-home-mums, however, have often gone under the radar.
“Ministry of Manpower statistics show that around 260,000 women in Singapore are outside the labour force due to family responsibilities,” says Jolene Tan, head of advocacy & research at AWARE. “Singapore relies heavily on this unpaid labour, but a lack of support has long-term consequences on these women’s well-being, including burnout or feelings of bitterness and resentment.”
For mums who have just left the workforce, the transition can be a whole new ball game. Here are three survival tips for stay-at-home-mums adjusting to this new phase of life.
Redefine What Accomplishment is
As a stay-at-home-mum previously working, you’re giving but not necessarily receiving recognition and support back, and this may lead to a loss of a sense of achievement, explains Anoushka Beh, psychologist, family therapist, and director of Abehpsych Counselling Services (www.abehpsych.com). Tan adds how domestic work isn’t valued as “real” work – many perceive stay-at-home-mums as having an “easy” life.
Beh advises redefining what accomplishment is, rather than see it through the lens of career success or financial gain. Recognise that not bringing in the dough does not devalue your contribution to the family. In fact, you’re keeping the family running in a crucial way! “At the end of the day, it’s important to just sit down and think, ‘Wow, I got through the day, looked after my kids, and they’re alive, happy, fed, healthy, and that’s huge’,” says Beh.
Connect with Others
Being alone with your baby all day can be a lonely endeavour as well. You’re no longer surrounded by colleagues during the day, and meeting up for drinks with girlfriends on a Friday night doesn’t sound as feasible as it used to be.
“A lot of stay-at-home-mums end up feeling lonely and trapped in their own thoughts, which spirals into negative thinking,” explains Beh.
Curb these negative thoughts by building a healthy support group.
Socialise with fellow mums, initiate playdates, or have relatives or friends over for dinner.
Build a varied social circle by connecting with friends who aren’t mums as well. Silvia Wetherell, counsellor and psychotherapist at The Choolani Clinic and co-founder of support group Mindful Mums, recommends resources such as Meetup.com, Stork’s Nest Singapore, and New Mother’s Support Group Singapore as avenues to meet fellow mums.
Get Out of the House
Speaking with regards to social isolation, Wetherell advises getting out of the house as much as possible. In fact, babies tend to be happier when they are out and exposed to noises and stimulation in the day, notes Wetherell. We understand how going out alone with the baby may be daunting at first, so build up your confidence gradually. Try starting with a 15 to 20 minute walk at the park, and eventually progress to more stretches of time outside.
Don’t be afraid of bringing the baby along for outings such as shopping at the mall, especially if you don’t have a helper at home. Yes, it takes times to adjust to your baby crying in public, but don’t let that stop you from getting fresh air every day.