Tuesday, September 02, 2008


From TODAY, Voices
Monday September 1, 2008

Staying home to look after your child doesn’t necessarily equal quality parenting

Subana Hall

I REFER to “Equality in marriage? It’s yin and yang” and “Hail the mothers who stay home” (Aug 29).

Although I am able to relate closely to Ms Chitra Rajaram’s experience of being a parent, I felt the other writer had a few common, but understandable, misconceptions about stay-at-home mums.

It is admirable for mums, just as it is for dads, to give their careers up to stay at home to be with their children. But staying at home does not make one a better parent.

I have met many full-time parents who regret the decision to give up their careers and resent their children for it. Some of them become frustrated with their lives and seek counselling.

Although giving up a career to care for your child is noble, a parent needs to know how to use his or her time well to make the sacrifice worthwhile.

Whether you are a full-time or a working parent, it’s more important that you build a strong bond with your child through love and constant encouragement. Some parents know exactly how to boost their child’s self-esteem and confidence, and that’s quality parenting.

To me, life has always been about balance, adjustment and choices. Your style of parenting is as much a personal choice as having children, regardless of the subsidies given by the Government.

I have made all decisions together with my husband.

The pace of Singaporean life definitely equipped me with the resilience to get on with things even under immense pressure.

Thus, when I moved to a foreign land, I coped as a first-time mum and professional, with the support of my husband, as well as my family back in Singapore. When we were having our first baby, I had a hectic work schedule as a TV news producer. Luckily, I did not have to return to work until my baby was six months old.

Not quite ready to switch careers, I worked unearthly hours at a breakfast programme. While I was at work, my husband could care for our baby.

As my baby got older, both my needs and hers changed, and my husband and I decided to rethink our direction in life. I consciously decided to switch careers, with a hope, like Ms Rajaram, that I would return to the newsroom one day when my children are older.

My husband and I, both working professionals, have built a bond with our children through lots of love, patience and positive reinforcement.

As a parent and now an educator, I have seen the benefits and shortcomings of full-time parenthood. I also know of the benefits of social interaction that a baby, even one who is six months old, gains from childcare and pre-schools.

And I know several full-time parents who enrol their toddlers — even those who are one year old — in play groups for a few hours just to get some time to themselves. After all, not all parents have the same support group and everyone needs some personal space.

I’m not judging anyone’s personal choices. Whichever kind of parent you are, one thing should be clear: Having a child should not mean self-sacrifice, because if you don’t put your needs into the equation, you may not be happy with the outcome of your decision.

Having a child means adjusting, and parenting is often more successful, meaningful and lasting when this adjustment comes from both parents.

The writer is the mother of two children, aged six and three. She is a full-time professional who has returned home after several years abroad.
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