“Are you sure you’ve made the right decision?” my good friend Su-wei asked me for the third time that afternoon while we were having tea together. “Yes, I’m positively sure this is what I wanted,” I answered her firmly.
I was telling Su-wei about my decision to be a stay-at-home mom. I was willing to put my career on the back burner for a couple of years to take care of my baby son, Timmy.
Su-wei was just like many of my former colleagues, they were surprised that I was ready to trade my office suitcase with a diaper bag. In fact, I had planned to go back to work after giving birth to my baby.
But I changed my mind one morning when tiny Timmy gazed at me and flashed his toothless smile. Then he cooed and flailed his little arms and legs with excitement. I was enraptured and that was the moment I decided to stay home with my bundle of joy.
I remembered there is this Polish proverb that says, “You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once“. That made me even more willing to leave the workforce to be a full-time homemaker.
But the problem was, I wasn’t fully prepared for it. I wasn’t even sure what I was getting into. Timmy is my first and only child. It was when I became a full-time caregiver to my child, then only I realized that it was more demanding than I had anticipated.
I found out I worked as many, if not more, hours than I did with my office job. Not forgetting the amount of tasks I was entrusted. It was more than changing soiled diapers, handling hungry cries, food spitting and vomiting. It also involved training a child, handling emotional endurance, decision-making and problem-solving.
The feelings of isolation and paying constant full attention to family matters were overwhelming and onerous. At times, I wondered whether I had made the right decision.
It was one late afternoon I was in the midst of folding the laundry, when my then five-year old Timmy came to me with his colorful pinwheel in tow. “Mommy, can we go out and play with this now,” he asked.
I told him that I was busy and he could play with it in the house alone. But he insisted that I accompanied him to play with his pinwheel in the park.
Feeling upset, he swayed the pinwheel in front of my face and stomped his feet on the floor. “Stop it, Timmy!” I raised my voice at him. “Sorry mummy,” he mumbled and quietly walked to his room.
I had promised to take him out to the park nearby to play with his pinwheel. After having spent the day running errands, making meals and doing the laundry, I was supposed to spend some quality time with Timmy.
But that day I just could not manage. I was dead beat and I really need to lie down for awhile.
As I was folding the laundry alone, suddenly tears welled up in my eyes. Deep inside me, I felt terribly hurt for shouting at my son. It was my own fault for not being able to fulfill my duty and I took my own frustration out on my poor Timmy.
Somehow the Polish proverb popped into my mind.
Immediately, I put down the rest of the unfolded clothes and went to Timmy’s room. I apologized to him and when I told him that I was going to bring him out to play with his pinwheel, his face lit up.
“Thank you, mummy,” he said as he grabbed my hand and together we went to the park.
It was a windy day. Timmy held up his pinwheel and he ran like the wind around the park with abandon. His uncontained excitement was like the spinner whirling wildly away.
He was laughing the whole time and he kept calling out, “Mummy, watch me!” I watched him and I could feel his pure unbridled joy. My frustration and fatigue melted away. That moment made me realized that I had made the right decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
Sometimes the going got really rough and I could feel myself spinning out of control. And just like the spinning pinwheel, I kept going as long as it made my boy happy. I would make whatever sacrifices to be there and care for my child.
Today when I see a kid holding a pinwheel, immediately I will recall that wonderful windy afternoon, when I felt so happy and fulfilled being the mother of Timmy – who will be twenty-eight years old this year.
*This story was submitted to me by T. L. KHIM