#1: Don't be a slave to the house and to the kids, whoever stays in the house shares in the work.
I refused to employ a domestic helper despite constant nagging by my mum. I believe that housework is an essential part of family life and should be shared by all family members. I want my kids to see daddy and mummy doing household chores and helping out with the chores as they grow older. Sharing housework bonds our family together and teaches our kids important life skills.
#2: Constantly think of ways to simplify and reduce household chores.
I refused to rely on a domestic helper but neither do I want to be swamped by housework, which unfortunately, is what many housewives ended up becoming, at the expense of spending time playing with or engaging their kids in meaningful activities. When I first became a full-time housewife, I told myself that I'll not allow this to happen.
It's been three years since I stay home and I’m still thinking of more ways to simplify my housework so that they don't take up too much of my time. For example, I upgraded my washer to a 8-kg capacity one so that I don't have to do my laundry everyday; I avoid buying clothes that need ironing; I replace heavy, dust-trapping carpets with smaller, machine-washable rugs and floor mats; I use curtains that are easy to remove and machine-washable; and my kids’ soft toys are all machine-washable too. Our parents' generation didn’t have such luxuries, so make full use of technology to help us save time.
#3: Declutter..declutter..declutter.. trust me, you'll feel lighter and freer in spirit and in form.
I find ebay and Dearbaby.com.sg (my friend's baby store selling new and pre-loved baby items) good avenues to get rid of items in good condition that I don't need. You won't believe this but those things that were sitting in my storeroom had actually fetched me over $1,000! No wonder they say "one man's trash is another man's treasure". The bonus is that I also began to think twice about buying something nowadays because I don't want to go through the time-consuming process of accumulating and getting rid of things all over again.
#4: It’s absolutely essential to develop alternative babysitting arrangement right from the start so that you don't have to be stuck with the kids 24/7. A little space apart is good for everyone in the family. Your hubby and kids wouldn't like a grumpy cranky stressed out wife/mummy who's constantly yelling at them!
Without a domestic helper and parents' help, how do I cope with three kids, housework and yet still find time for myself and enjoy couple time to connect with hubby? I send my youngest child Yee Herng to infant care/childcare centre.
I struggled with this issue a lot – I was initially worried that the centre may not be able to provide quality care and was also afraid of exposing my kid to infections. But after weighing the pros and cons, I decided that I need infant care/childcare support. A very young child demands a lot of attention and if I have to look after Herng 24/7, he could end up so clingy that I won't be able to find time for my two older kids, hubby and myself.
So Herng has been going to an infant care centre since he was very young and he has now moved on to childcare centre. This arrangement frees up my mornings (Fay is in primary school and Ning is in preschool - both in the morning session) for exercises, reading, journal writing and housework. The afternoons are spent engaging my two older kids in activities such as reading, supervising homework, board games, outings or craftwork. However, I make it a point to fetch Herng from child care early and reserve my evenings mainly for him.
#5: Establish a routine and plan your schedule around it. Be very disciplined and stick to your schedule so that you don't waste time on unproductive things. Don't forget to include a little ‘me time’ for yourself everyday.
It's so easy to slip out of a routine and into depression when you switch from a working life to being a full-time housewife or one who is not working. I've seen enough cases in my previous line of work. My ‘me time’ is breakfast alone with a cup of coffee and a book in hand.
#6: No opportunity to dress up in your office attire and power suits doesn't mean you can neglect your appearance. You have every right to continue to look good and feel good. Be a Hot Mama not a frumpy housewife!
One day shortly after delivering my third child, my hubby commented, "Why are you always wearing those big tee-shirts when you have so many nice clothes in your wardrobe?" That was my wake-up call.
#7: Make your marriage a priority; don't use your kids as an excuse to neglect your spouse; your kids rely on the stability of your marriage to feel secure. It’s important to set aside regular couple time to reconnect with each other.
This is why I mentioned earlier that it is important to establish alternative babysitting arrangements right from the start. My hubby and I would regularly go out as a couple on his motorbike for a dinner, to catch a movie or for coffee - these really help to bring back the feeling of our courtship days.
When my hubby does something nice such as helping out with the kids or cooks for the family, I would sms him to say thank-you or to tell him how delicious the meal was and before I knew it, he started doing more, some time even without me asking!
I used to grumble a lot when he spends time on his hobbies but I have come to accept that hobbies help him de-stress from work and makes him happy. I only need to give him a few hrs on weekend mornings to fly his airplanes with his aero-modeling friends and he will spend the rest of the weekend with the family.
I know it is very difficult for us not to nag and nit-pick at our hubbies but you got to keep trying if you want to keep the passion burning in your marriage. I find myself having to bite my tongue whenever I have to go around picking up his clothes and things that have been strewn all over the house, or having to help him find things that he has misplaced. During a recent Lunar New Year gathering, my friends joked that I have four (instead of three) children at home after seeing my hubby's exclusive (or messy) hobby room, I couldn't agree more.
Stay-at-home mum is a 24/7 full time job with no breaks, no annual leave, no sick leave, no bonus etc., so it is absolutely important that we create our own 'me time' to take care of ourselves and prevent burnout. It makes us a better mum and housewife. It took me many months to learn to manage my time so that I could create my daily ‘me time’.
For 2011, I made it my New Year’s resolution to incorporate exercise, reading and journal-writing into my daily routine and doing all three has now become my morning routine. This bit of ‘me time’ has brought so much benefits to my health and personal growth that I won't give them up for anything else.