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The picture above is the toilet of my new office. I took the picture because I think the signage is unique. Where else in the world could you get a signage forbidding you to put your feet into the washbasin (which is quite a normal practice here, since people need to wash their feet for praying)
It has been over a year that I returned to full-time work after five years being a homemaker. Interesting to see that one of the last blog entry is about the transition from an office worker to full time mother. And now I'm writing about the other way around, from a homemaker, into an office worker. As a disclaimer, both work and being a SAHM is equally demanding, equally hard work. I consider it as a different phase in life, and moving from one phase to the other is a major undertaking.
The photo above marked the time when I decided to quit and became a homemaker, five years ago. I was saying goodbye to my colleagues. How time flies, and now, I had started a new chapter. In the process of adjusting to the new office setting I learned a few things.
Adjusting to office
I personally felt it was an easier transition for me going back to work from being a homemaker, than the other way around (stop working to be SAHM). It’s probably because I had worked in an office in the past, while being a mother is a totally new and shocking experience to me.
For five years, I was so used to doing things to my own rules, standards and timeline. And all of a sudden, a new, merciless, set of structure was imposed upon me. It’s quite an adjustment, but a network of supportive colleagues and, of course, my dear husband’s support, helped in the transition.
More interestingly, I realized that when I was a homemaker, I tended to avoid conflicts and maintain as little contact as possible with difficult people. Going back to work, this became unavoidable. Again, the support of trustworthy colleagues and people around me, has been imperative in keeping me sane.
Linked to the above, it’s best to spend time to map office situation and identify the factions in the office politics, to avoid falling into its trap and dragged down your productivity. Often time, office politics can be so immature and trivial, of course it is best to be avoided. But if it’s not possible, taking the time to observe and reflect the surroundings should be the best way to cope. Remembering that the world is much much larger than office environment, and that there are many other things that can be done outside office, really helped me to cope. I too, still need to learn a lot about this, and it’s not an easy skill to acquire.
What I miss out from being a SAHM
I felt, the kids have more difficulty adjusting to the new situation. Despite thorough preparation, the change has some impact to our kids, which did not immediately become apparent, but accumulated over the course of time. Imagine, mommy has been constantly around them in their young lives, and suddenly they only see mommy for 4-6 hours per day, sometimes less. Bear in mind, my first job has been of a quite long hours. One day, Noe’s pre-school principal called me and told me that Noe shared his anxiety that “Mommy comes home at night everyday”. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. At the end I moved on to my 2nd job which allowed me to work for normal hours, and hence gives me more time with the kids.
What do I miss after restarting office job? Before, the constant level of interaction with kids had allowed me to delve really deep into their thoughts and personalities. Right now, the connection is not as close as before, and I needed to be more patient and more efficient to maintain close connections with my kids. But I think it is important not to compensate the kids with material rewards just because I feel guilty about going back to work. I would rather spend the time to talk as much as possible with the kids, to nurture the connection that we have, and where possible, do activities together, while maintaining rules of the household with consistency. For me, right now the most valuable thing that could happen to me is if my kids could just talk about their daily lives without any restraint to me.
Spending weekend just us, the family, and doing daily activities without household staff (they’re off at night and weekends), really help to maintain the bond between us. Moreover, despite negative comments from a few people, we are still co-sleeping with the kids. The sight of our kids sleeping, when we wake up first thing in the morning, is the most beautiful sight that keeps us alive.