Career Women Interrupted: How to be a happy full-time homemaker
Women who decide to have children are almost always put in a career dilemma that their male counterparts don’t have to face: Should I stop working to take care of our children?
The conversation is not as simple as “Should you stay or should you say goodbye to your career for the sake of your children?” It is a weighing process of various moving factors – your income contribution, your ambition, your dream children, your age, your spouse’s vote, your mother-in-law’s say, your standard of living, availability of child care, quality of available child care, and many, many more. And because of all these moving factors, there is no one correct answer whether women should or should not give their career a back seat during the child-rearing chapter of their lives.
Feminism is not about always going toe to toe with your masculine counterpart. To me, it is the freedom to choose your own feminist path.
I joined the ranks of the many feminist full-time moms who chose to spend more time rearing their growing up children, saying goodbye to their corporate jobs and income, facing the uncertainty and challenges about finances, boredom, personal identity, etc. in my twenties.
I would do it all over again, even if I see some colleagues who raised their children just as well as, or maybe even better than, I did mine. In my book Raising Pinoy Boys, I shared that I didn’t do it just for them, but also for myself, for I just loved hanging out with them then (and until now), that I was willing to let go of my original self-image of being a successful career woman.
Here are some tips that I gathered from the experiences of happy full-time homemakers.
To be a happy full-time homemaker, it has to be your own decision. This can never be anyone else’s decision but yours. Not your husband’s (no matter how abundantly he can provide for your family without your income contribution), not society’s norms, not your mother-in-law’s wishes, or anyone else’s. Any endeavor we get into will never succeed unless we take ownership of it.
To be a happy full-time homemaker, use your education. We often hear remarks such as, “Naku, nag MBA/doctor/lawyer/(fill in the blank) ka pa, magiging housewife ka lang pala!” Grrr… I hate such remarks! Hello! Don’t you see the value of having these highly educated mothers raising their children hands-on? They are able to give their children on a daily basis not just the love and care that only a mother can give, but also teach lessons in finance, medicine, law, business, economics, psychology, etc. in easy-to-understand language that no yaya can give. (Trivia: This is why my sons were already investing straight out of their diapers, and preparing their personal Balance Sheets as early as when they were still in grade school! J) Children raised well by their “highly educated and loving primary caregivers” will grow up to be good individuals who will contribute significantly to our society. So, to those who will tell you, “Huh! Ikaw magiging housewife lang?” just smile at them (or give that dagger look, whichever you like), then “keep calm, and ‘housewife’ on!”
To be a happy full-time homemaker, you and your honey should be clear on money matters. Know what property law governs your marriage. If you got married before August 3, 1988, you are governed by the Conjugal Partnership of Gains; otherwise, you are governed by the Absolute Community of Property. The main difference between the two is the ownership of properties prior to the marriage. In the former, the spouses keep their individual ownership while in the latter, all properties become part of the common pool of properties. However, in both property laws, the income from all the properties and professions are co-owned. This means to say that even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, all income that the honey brings is very much yours as it is his! So, this should not make you feel, “Wala akong sariling pera!” I would joke my husband about this, “If you made me feel that your salary was just yours, I would have just given up my job for one month!” J
Moreover, talk about money freely and healthily, no hidden wealth, please. You should be on the same page. Have a couple of Balance Sheet that you update regularly. Agree on your financial goals and achieve them together.
To be a happy full-time homemaker, define your work at home for your children to understand. I remember when the boys were growing up, I would use the term work even if I was just doing the budget, fixing photo albums, or preparing their mock tests. If what they needed from me was not urgent, they would ask, “Ma, are you still busy with work, I want to show you something.” This had an impact on them as they never really felt that their mom was a housewife lang!
To be a happy full-time homemaker, embrace the mundane things of everyday life but don’t forget who you are. No matter how much Oprah Winfrey and everyone else romanticize full-time homemaking, there are just some boring, frustrating stuff about it. Sometimes you miss doing deals, earning money, wearing your power outfits, going out and even just talking to your officemates. Be prepared for that but you can still turn things around to avoid getting depressed. Read. Read. Read. And avoid the melodrama teleseryes and shallow noontime shows (unless they bring you joy J ) and get into the things that you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. Are you interested in photography, art, singing, dancing, church activities, any self-development workshops? Now is the time to do some of them that you couldn’t when you were dealing with tight schedules between your job and homemaking. And remember, nothing stops you from going out with your workmate-friends.
To be a happy homemaker, keep yourself gorgeous. Yup, even if your work clothes at home include some of your favorite semi-tattered comfy pambahays, dress up well when you go out. Better yet, ditch the yagit comfy pambahays to avoid feeling sorry for yourself. Make your husband, children, and most of all, yourself, feel proud of you, and you know it’s hard to do that when you’re not looking the part.
To be a happy homemaker, make your home a sanctuary. With the budget that your family can afford, create the best home you can have so your children will love coming home, and even bringing their friends over. This allows you to know who they’re hanging out with and how they are with other people.
To be a happy homemaker, always involve your spouse in child-rearing. You don’t have to take on all the child-rearing activities. Some stay-at-home moms assign a subject or two to their husbands to tutor to their children. Make your husband attend PTCs and other school activities where his presence is important.
To be a happy homemaker, continue to go out on dates with your spouse and grow together. Have regular weekly dates away from the children so you two can continue to nurture your marriage. Have both leisure and learning activities together. Once in a while play or dance to the songs that remind you of your young dating days. Even as your growing up children are the center of your lives now, always make room for that space for just the two of you so you don’t grow apart. Remember, in a few years, you’ll be back to “square 2” also known as empty-nesting.
To be a happy homemaker, have something else aside from child-rearing, especially if your schedule can accommodate other activities. This is not just an antidote to boredom but can also be an earning activity. This may grow into something big, to which you can devote your energy full-time once the kids are grown up.
I wish to end this article by sharing that I welcomed my career interruption in my twenties and despite the challenges, I have never regretted it. I consider it my boldest decision that really paid off! I see my grown-up sons and I’m happy with how all three of them turned out to be. Today I’m doing work that is both meaningful and enjoyable to me. I write and talk about money and family. I help parents raise children with high FQ. I help women and corporate employees deal with money issues. And I wouldn’t have gotten to all these without that career interruption.
Again, becoming a full-time homemaker is not the path for all mothers. To each her own. But if you yearn to be one but you’re holding back primarily because of losing your “own money,” go back to tip no. 3. For the meantime, you may wish to check your current financial intelligence. Take the FQ Test together with your spouse and children, if they already can. Remember, a high FQ family significantly contributes to making a full-time homemaker happy!