When I had my firstborn son, i was happy to be a Stay Home Mum for a bit less than a year before returning to teach part-time. Being a new nursing mother had its challenging, trial and error days. We decided to get part-time help where the auntie will come in once a week or fortnightly to help with some chores to lighten our load. I put my child to an aunt’s care during my work days. All these worked well until i was pregnant with my second son. Briefly, my pregnancy period was the worst nightmare as it affected my daily living due to the incessant Nausea factor. I only stopped being nauseous upon delivery. That was when we started sending our Todd for a few hours of childcare so that he can learn something and also relieve me to care for baby.
I was in a whirl of survival mode the moment i had my second pregnancy (while working) and stopped working after my delivery. The period of having an 18 month old child and a Newborn was a constant meeting of basic needs (cooking, breastfeeding,cleaning etc) and nothing else. I would be nursing baby with one hand while feeding my active Todd and trying to stuff some food in my own mouth. Not to mention the sleepless nights and pain of breastfeeding, the times when one kid was sick, or worse, both fell sick. Having to care for them constantly drained every ounce of energy in me by evening and I would just wish my hubby will rush back to help. That kind of helpless and needy state of mine, often robbed the joy out of our marriage at that time. But i refused to budge. I refused to employ a Foreign Domestic Helper as suggested by my hubby. I wanted to rough it out.
The turning point came when I was left on my own for 10 days while my hubby went overseas to work. He had gone away before but this time it was not a few days. I had little external help as both my hubby and my kins are actively working. During this period, the Lord broke down my pride when my Todd came down with Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) This was his second or third time. I was dismayed! I had to use gloves to bathe and nurse his wounds, clean him after use of toilet so that i can be clean enough for baby to latch on me. Baby was 6 month old. Separating them was thankfully not an issue, however cleaning up after Amos’ play was tedious and a dreaded chore.
I could only rely on God’s grace to tide me through and was quite bitter towards my hubby for ‘leaving me in the lurch.’ The Lord graciously provided help through my cell (church bible study small group). I vividly recall how each member played their part by coming over in the evening to help me with my baby or engage with my Todd so that i could attend to one child or do chores. During that period, i was really down and broken. I thank the Lord for His Help in times of trouble by sending angels. I also thank God for humbling me to accept my limitations and learnt to embrace my hubby and I, our ‘unique family dynamics’ as one of my friend puts it. I had to stop comparing why other husbands are willing to return and help out even for homeschooling, and understand what as husband and wife, how we want to prioritise for now. What moved me was the fact that my hubby wanted to devote his time to continue serving in church as well and needed my support. If I couldn’t cope with the chores, that’s where he beckoned me to get help. He was willing to spend that extra money to help me in order for us to manage our family time and efforts more constructively. I finally relented. I also agreed that as much as i would like him to help more, i wanted to support his service in church. It would not do to stop serving just because of my stubborn refusal to employ help.
Having said that, to be fair, my hubby does help me out often just that I had wanted much more help than he could afford to do so. It wasn’t fair for me to demand his help incessantly especially after a long day’s worth of work. Both of us were equally exhausted. I could see he was trying his best.
Another factor that played up was my inability to teach or engage the boys with so much chores and meeting of needs. I was too tired to even plan not to mention do activities with them. I also intended to home school them. This was impossible for me at the rate i was going. I definitely admire and wonder how other families can home school their kids so successfully without any domestic helper (especially the western countries). I wanted to be like them. Only when I accepted my limitations realistically in my local context, did I regain peace with myself and my family. The Lord assured me that we are all made differently and have different cultures. Even with the same culture, each family has different values, expectations and capabilities. I need to be secure in His love alone. I need not be buffeted by the cares of what others might think of me in having a helper. I needed to surrender my self worth in exchange for Christ’s worth- the work at the Cross. When I did that, my self esteem was no longer an issue.
There are Pros and Cons to having a helper (FDW). My objective for a helper was very clear. To help in the chores and cooking so that I can focus on caring and teaching the children. If we have good helpers, this would be accomplished. If we have a less efficient or a needy helper, we will have more issues coping with the affairs of having one. I had changed 2 helpers in the course of 3 years due to various reasons. My third one is thankfully a good helper. So even if we have made a decision to engage a helper, it doesn’t necessarily mean a smooth journey ahead. There will still be other issues that we struggle along the way.
At the end of the day, we all as mature adults have made decisions to live the way we live. Some mums may choose or have no choice but to work, some mums have the privilege of choosing to stay home and not have to work. Some may choose to work part time or work from home. Whatever the decision or indecision, it is a choice. I have heard some nasty comments like how mum A has a maid to help while she(mum B) doesn’t so mum A should shut up and not comment on anything. Mum B also expressed disdain for those who has 2 helpers and made ruder comments. I was disturbed that this mum viewed herself as superior to those who had helpers. Yes, she may be superwoman, but it doesn’t mean others are inferior women. If a person made a decision to have 2 helpers so that she knows her family is well taken care of, or there are very needy people to take care of, what is it to her?
John 21: 19-23.
Jesus called Peter to follow Him. Peter asked ” Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered,” If I want him to remain alive until i return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Let us deny ourselves and take up our own cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
If you are called to home school, do so with a cheerful heart with a helper or without. If it is better for the family if you return to work, do it with a courageous heart without guilt.
In whatever we do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23
This blog started only last year end and the motivation to do so is to provide inspiration for others to play and use especially Art to engage their children. It is by no means a display of prowess but simply a platform to share resources with others. This post is also a sharing on how my decision to engage a helper improved the quality of my family’s life since I can invest wholeheartedly to care and nurture them in the ways i can best provide within God given capacity.
For those who may not have such luxury of time and energy to do such activities, may i suggest a goal of once in two months or a month to get started with art activities with your kids? This will help the mum and child to slowly learn the ropes of Art play. : ) By the way, i often clean up after the play myself and leave as little for my helper to clean. In this way, I can also gauge what activity i should do since i will be clearing up myself. I do not want to overload my helper with non routine chores.
May God bless and empower you in whatever situation you are in!