If you came up to me a year ago and told me that I would some day consider being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I would laugh in your face. In fact, if you told me ten years ago that I would get married at 24 and have a baby at 26, I would never have believed you. I used to imagine myself growing old tied to nothing but a brilliant career. And yet here I am, wife and mother to my first born, and ready to embrace the life of a SAHM.
When I was still pregnant with my son, Wolfgang James, the possibility of resigning from my job never occurred to me. I was a foreign exchange trader in one of the top banks, recently promoted and with solid opportunities for advancement within reach. My husband and I planned to get a helper even before I gave birth so that we could train her adequately in preparation for my return to work. Little did I know, when raising a child, most plans tend to go out the window.
That was one of the first hard lessons I learned as a parent. My baby changed my life from the moment he gave his first loud cry. It was so different from when he was inside me. Suddenly, his total dependence on me for survival was very real. None of the numerous books and articles I had read on parenting could have prepared me for the overwhelming feeling of responsibility for another human being.
Fortunately, my husband, Casey, took an active role in sharing that responsibility. Together, we endured the long nights of the baby crying, and of me crying. Haha. The first few weeks were very frustrating for me, because I was recovering from an emergency CS operation that I never thought I would have to go through. I hated the feeling of helplessness, of loss of control. I was not used to it. But I am beginning to realize that I will encounter such situations more often, now that I am a mother. I planned for a normal unmedicated delivery but ended up delivering through C section. I planned on hiring a helper for my baby, but I ended up tendering my resignation.
The story of my labor and delivery, I shall save for another post. This entry is about how we came to decide that I will be a SAHM. In the first two months after I gave birth, we had a helper, who we trained up to the point that we were confident in leaving her alone with Wolf. However, just when I was nearing the end of my maternity leave, the helper decided to go home to her province to attend to her children’s needs. It was a heavy blow to me, because the reason we hired her early on is so that we would have ample time to get to know and train her. We were suddenly left with no helper and very little time to find another one, let alone train that next one properly.
We extended my leave more than a month to buy us time to find a replacement, but to no avail. We had one helper that stayed a week before jumping ship and numerous leads that didn’t pan out. None of our relatives were available to look after Wolf regularly. We even considered daycares, but we found out that most do not accept infants as young as Wolf.
I came to the bitter realization that the issues I encountered in finding care arrangements for Wolf are actually rooted in the inadequacy of our country’s maternity leave, a problematic policy that forces mothers to make compromises that they should not have to make. One may wonder why in many developed countries, most working mothers get by without nannies for their babies, yet in the Philippines, most dual-income households hire nannies. The difference in those other countries is the parental leave is long enough so that when the parents need to return to work, the child is old enough to enter daycare. Businesses here in the Philippines may see a longer maternity leave as unprofitable for them, but what they don’t realize is that an inadequate maternity leave results in many female employees needing to resign, causing the companies even greater losses.
At first, I felt so anxious about our failed quest for a caregiver for Wolf. I cursed my bad luck, envying my mommy friends who had trustworthy yayas at their disposal and were back at work. But it was my husband who made me see the light, who saw our situation as a blessing in disguise. Casey told me, “Our experience with these maids being unreliable made me realize that I actually do not want Wolf to be raised by a yaya. No one can replicate a mother’s love.” And as Hallmark-level cheesy as it sounded, I knew it was true. No one else will be as patient, caring, and selfless as I am with Wolf. Staying at home to be his primary caregiver ensures the best care for him.
Also, staying at home doesn’t mean I can’t work at least part-time. Gone are the days when money can be earned only in an office. There are many online jobs I can pursue. I also can continue to earn from freelance gigs (I play violin as a member of the awesome Manila String Machine). As for my career fulfillment in finance, who knows what opportunities may open up? I can go back to banking later on, or I can use my acquired skills in other ventures. When one door closes, several others open.
For now, my main focus will be raising Wolf. I will spend the little free time I have on this blog, which I have long wanted to start but didn’t have time for when I was still employed. I am standing at one of the great crossroads of my life. My ambitious younger self always imagined me standing alone. But beside me now, and till the end, are Casey and Wolf. I wouldn’t have it any other way.