Sunday, July 19, 2015

From Whiteboards to Chalkboards

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions reflect my own personal experiences. It is not meant to generalize any type of parenting and neither is it intended to undermine anyone's circumstances. This post is about my own journey; unique to my situation. 

Since changing profession to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), the question I most often get is, "How are you getting used to the life?" Or something similar. "It's been very different," is my common answer. But I feel like expressing it now with a more elaborate response. So here are a few major issues I deal with in terms of the change.

Sense of achievement 
When I used to be working in the corporate world, results were more instantaneous. That made me feel more recognized and more acknowledged for my efforts and talents. As a trainer, the amount of people I connected with and the impact of my work was easily evident. Thus work satisfaction based on the outcome was almost always immediate. Decisions I made daily may be important but most times didn't involve life or death or lifelong circumstances (it did at times, for sure). 

You can imagine now as a mom, things are almost at that opposite spectrum. Most things I do now has a much longer-term goal. I can't see immediate results most days and I don't get a lot of affirmation that what I'm doing is making a positive difference. It's pretty scary to think how every decision I make now may or may not, for instance, emotionally scar my kids. But I won't know the outcome until much later (or worst, when it's too late). That's a lot of pressure! 

My stakeholders
I love dealing with clients. No, I'm not kidding. The belief I have is that every client is important. They are after all why your business exists. Most of them are predictable and I've always found it positively challenging to deliver customers' expectations, sometimes even beyond. And for those bizarre encounters with one-of-a-kind customer, well...they make for interesting conversations. However, my experiences with bosses, may not always be as pleasant. Some were not very nice people, some were not very competent, and some...were a combination of that. 

Right now my customers are all but 3 humans that are not even legal to do most things; 2 of whom can't go on most rides in amusement parks. Yet, they are the most difficult of clients I've had to manage. The 2 older ones goes to school and have tons of activities outside of that. Then my third, the bubs, is still learning skills to function as a little person. This customer service counter doesn't close. These clients are relentless in their demands and expectations. And oh my lord, the questions they throw at you! There are no FAQs and there are no answers that ever gives them any closure. However, luckily my boss now (the one who brings home the bacon and pays me) is a funny and generous fella. And he's always genuine in wanting to make me happy. 

Work environment 
I enjoyed the process of dressing up, looking well presented everyday when I go to work in an office. I loved doing work in my own corner cubicles and meeting rooms. I looked forward to meeting my clients and helping them with their needs. I'm happy to have meals and breaks with my colleagues and bosses. I got to have my own time attending to things for myself, before I head home and have to deal with all my kids' issues. I even got to use the toilet in private! 

Now, my wardrobe consists of practical items i.e easy to launder and needless to iron. Every time I see an episode of Mad Men, I wonder how in the world can a woman do her hair, nails, make up and dress up pretty everyday while staying home doing house chores and cook. When I think about how my hubby sees me in the mornings (with my gaping mouth, still sleeping in my overly exhausted state, with the bubs lying on my face), surely not much is needed to make a better impression at the end of the day for when he comes back! My work station is my kitchen. I believe I spend 80% of my day standing in there. But the view, beats any corner office I've ever had. Seeing my kids grow up before my eyes, is a privilege that I do not want to trade off. And although even going to the toilet means having an audience, holding-bubs-to-sleep time means more to me than any alone time. 

Appraisal and reviews 
The most dreaded part of the year, was having to do appraisals. The sheer amount of evidence provided to show you've accomplished something in that year. To proof that they would still need you for another year to come. But when it's a good year, through this process (if done properly), a person's confidence and even self worth can soar. Makes a lot of things endured feel worth it. And getting feedback is always good for growth. Peer and customer reviews also show for all the work one's accomplished.

Now my yearly appraisals come back in the form of school reports and health check up reports. My achievements are not my own anymore. I feel like everything I do now gets judged by how well my kids are doing. When my daughter can't make friends, it becomes my responsibility to fix it. When my son can't score well in school, it's me not coaching him enough. When my bubs throws a tantrum, it's my fault for spoiling him. My KPIs are all tied to my kids' agenda (and sometimes the husband's) or how well I've up kept the home. Every night I pray I do a better job at being a SAHM, but every day as it progresses I find myself unravel, and then feel like a complete failure again at the end of the day. It's a tough job! 

As a parent, getting feedback is a humbling experience. I get more defensive when I've been criticized now, than I did when I was in the corporate world because I realize the stakes are higher. And can we talk about peer reviews?! As a mom who needs advice and wisdom from other moms, one may ask family members, may join Facebook groups, or visit forums and blogs. One may also seek support from local mothers groups, either from school, church or play groups. But nearly in all these social or social media circles, I in turn find unwanted judgement. Everything I do seems to be wrong! Nothing that I do is good enough! There's no win. I get judged for things like not changing bub's diapers often enough, to how disgusting I am using wet wipes on my toddler's face. Yeah, I let my kids eat McDonald's, get over it. There is no win. According to everyone else, I'm a horrible parent. 

Customer reviews are the toughest. It's hard to explain to an upset 9 year old that although I didn't like her behavior in a certain situation, doesn't mean I don't love her. It's hard to get a 5 star rating from my well behaved 8 year old when I say 'No' to that toy he wants to buy. It's hard to earn employee of the year with the bubs who wants nothing but my full attention when I've got the stove cooking dinner. It's hard to be extremely sweet to the hubby when you've had 3 screaming kids in your face all day. 

Compensation and reward 
And the most anticipated time of the year back in the corporate world was the time for bonus, pay increment and promotion. It's when you get rewarded for all your hard work and see how much the organization values you. It's an exciting time but also can be devastatingly disappointing. People still do not believe me when I tell them that my first pay rise was a meager RM8! But I think subsequently I did quite well and have been quite happy with the way I was compensated. Benefits were also good, as I was lucky to have been in managerial positions in respectable companies for most of my corporate working life. 

The compensation, benefits and reward scheme now is a bit sketchy to say the least. The thing I miss most about my previous occupation is my own money. What I earned, I can use it however I deem fit, without any guilt or accountability to another. Now, managing the household finances is a strict process. So my bonus may come in a form of a new dress, instead of months of income. My benefits includes daily hugs and kisses and 'I love you's from my 'clients' and 'boss'. My increment equivalent may be added household chores that my kids volunteer for. And how does my reward look like? When my son held out his piggy bank to his dad and me, and said, "I want to thank you both so here, you can have all my money." 

So ask me again, how my life's like now as a SAHM? At times it's tears, screaming, exasperating, exhausting, hectic, thankless, routined, lonely. But mostly, it's goodness. And patience. And kindness. And all things love. 

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