It was almost 6.30 pm on a Wednesday, and I was still in the office finishing up some work. It had been a busy day and I used the time after working hours to focus on the remaining tasks I had to complete.
A senior colleague had passed by my desk, and seeing me there he stopped to ask me who would get my kids home, he had assumed I had to rush off to get them from daycare or school.
He was not wrong to assume that, I know many young parents in the workforce relied on babysitters and day-care to watch their kids, especially those who had no family or stay-at-home spouses to care for their kids.
I was lucky that my in-laws had taken on the role of being the caretaker for my 3 children during me and my husband’s working hours. Two of my kids were already in school, and my youngest who was only 3 years old would be dropped off at their house in the mornings. There she will spend her day until her parents got off work and brought her home.
He then asked me this question.
“Just out of curiosity, I wanted to ask you. At this stage of your life now, would you be able to quit and become a homemaker?”
I stared at my computer screen and paused as I thought of an answer. His question surprised me, as I never really thought about it before.
I am a mother of 3 children who were aged 7 and below, and I worked full-time.
Both my husband and I do.
So that question made me reflect on our current situation in life.
In our earlier years, even before we had our firstborn, we couldn’t afford for one of us to be a full-time homemaker. We had too many debts to pay, and living expenses needed funding. Later on with a new baby on board, we had added household costs, so we wanted to stock up our funds in case of any emergency.
But now, things were different.
I did a very quick basic math in my head then and there.
Savings, emergency funds, bills, insurances, schooling, remaining debt, versus our income after deductions.
Luckily for our case, we had started keeping track of our savings versus debts and expenses shortly after we got married in a neat Excel sheet that was actively maintained. That helped us, both in keeping track of our family budgeting and our sanity.
You see, after working many years since graduation and having increased our incomes via promotions, it was actually possible now that one of us could, if we want to, be a homemaker.
It was possible not only because our incomes have increased, but also because we had paid up most of our debts by now (all but one, but that will be a different story on our one bad investment).
Some measures will need to be taken, we will need to cut down a lot on dining out and reduce our splurges on the random out-of-town holidays with the kids, and also on shopping.
But, it was doable, and we would be alright.
Then this brings me to the second important point.
The key word here was if we choose to.
Because I’ve known for a while, and have been reminded again now, that I actually wanted to continue working in my corporate job.
It was in the manufacturing industry and there was continuous growth, in both skill and knowledge. It was something to sink my teeth into and to push myself to do well in.
In short, I still found joy and fulfillment in working.
Looking back there were definitely times when work was stressful, new problems needed solving and pressure can get high from management and stakeholders. But after going through and out from the other end of those periods, there was a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie with work colleagues.
In my mid-thirties now, I was not done with working in corporate as a material engineer.
I still found work motivating, and I wanted to continue to influence where I may at work.
Sure, I’ve occasionally entertained thoughts of being a homemaker, the ability to be with my children more often, and being able to fully dictate their academic progress and emotional growth.
I would probably write more, become a better cook, and scheduled more activities for the children in our home. But then again, my stress would be from managing my children’s tantrums and disobedience, so I would have to equip myself to be a better mother.
I would probably immerse myself in home improvement and other social activities, in a way, finding another form of work, one that did not require me to report to a superior who defined my target setting based on company needs.
Sounds tempting, but I would pass on it for now.
Plus, the extra income and the benefits from working at a corporate job were alluring. That cannot be denied.
So all in all, for the above reasons, I would choose to continue working in corporate and continue pushing myself to do my job well.
So I turned to my colleague and told him this.
“Actually, at this point in my life, I could be a housewife, but I would choose to still work. It seems I still find some joy in working, and I am motivated to stay on in my job and contribute where I can”.
“Plus, my in-laws are supportive and they are caring for the children, so that really helps.”
He chuckled at my answer but I could tell my feedback gave him something to ponder on as well.
I was glad he raised that question. In fact, it made me understand my relationship with work better.
And it felt good to be able to say that we have finally come to the stage where we were financially stable enough to allow our household to become a single-income one.
If we choose to.
The availability of this option alone was quite liberating.