Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hail the mothers who stay home

From TODAY, Voices
Friday August 29, 2008

Such women are rare and should be recognised

Sarah Sum-Campbell

I REFER to “The ideal teacher” (Aug 27).

Ms Yeo Eng Wah is probably right that the stay-at-home mother (SAHM) probably has better insight into raising a pre-school child than a single woman. A SAHM understands a child’s concerns and can better empathise with mothers who have to leave their children in the care of someone else.

However, Ms Yeo’s proposals may not work. Ideally, the SAHM should not be one who believes in the existence of childcare centres. The SAHM chooses to spend her waking hours nurturing her own child because she does not believe in sending her child off to be cared for by another person.

All my SAHM (I prefer the term “go out with our children mothers” for this is what all of us do) friends and I quit our jobs to look after our children because we believe there is no one better qualified and more suited to care for our infant and pre-school children than ourselves.

Some of our reasons for doing so are:

We do not believe in the herd mentality. We believe that very young children thrive best at the bosom of their mother or father. Only a parent has that sort of stamina and love to breastfeed and to cradle their young unendingly.

We want our children to grow up emotionally secure, with their desire to learn unhampered, their imagination and hands free to explore. Their spirit of enquiry, and sense of wonder at nature and their surroundings, often begs affirmation and explanation.

We believe we are the best people to inculcate in our children the morals and social etiquette through our own example, and the way we relate to our friends and families.

All these are rites of passage in everyday life, marked with the deepest of individual convictions and beliefs. Many parents deposit their little ones into child care centres for all kinds of reasons.

They may feel that they are not up to the task of caring for a tiny one, or they may view time with little ones as wasted hours of inane play and mindless, repetitive chores. Perhaps it is financial, or they view their careers as much more rewarding than time spent with their own.

It is obvious through the recent updates of Government perks for encouraging births that SAHMs in Singapore should be designated a rare species.

All my “go out with our children mother” friends and I worked hard at our degrees, postgraduate or professional qualifications. We had jobs we were passionate about.

However we were aware that the day after we left our jobs, someone else could fill our shoes.

Not so with bringing up our own flesh and blood — no one can replace us, and the bonding we have with our little ones.

It is precisely because we know that the best interests of our little ones are best served by ourselves that we give up readily our careers, financial perks, and independence. Many of us have no full time help and no family members to give us time off.

The writer’s exhortation that SAHMs be retrained as childcare teachers could be viewed as flattering — those who are the least materialistic and make the most sacrifices for their families may be best suited to look after other people’s children.

But it also speaks of hypocrisy and double standards, as the SAHMs are ones who are cast aside, their work not given any thought by policy makers.

It is as if to say to the SAHMs — you will be given nothing by staying at home to look after your children. But if you would go look after someone else’s, you would be paid for the training.

Never mind that their work is probably valued only so that they could free up other women to do more “noble” and productive jobs out of their homes.

The writer is the mother of a 16-month-old daughter.

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