Going from earning to embracing – Mum of one, Ameera Binsemait, gives us the lowdown on how going from a working woman to a stay-at-home mum changed her life...
Becoming a stay-at-home mum and saying goodbye to a monthly salary weakened me to my knees. Could I really survive without my own income after a decade of earning? Was I doing the right thing choosing to stay at home to raise my child and giving up an income? It was a huge adjustment, but it’s one I’m glad I made. Here’s my story.
It all began with the first paycheque
Do you remember your first paycheque? I do. And it was a literal cheque, too, one that I had to take to the bank and cash in. I was 18 at that time. And I remember feeling accomplished, worthy and independent. I was finally earning my own money, and I could do anything I wanted with it. I had “made it” in life. Ten years later, and naturally, the novelty of earning a salary had long worn off. At 28, I had built the beginnings of a career, I had financed myself through my Bachelor’s Degree, I bought a house, I got married, and I gave birth to my baby girl. I still felt accomplished. I still felt worthy. And I still felt independent. I had lived out the “Singaporean Dream”.
How things changed post-baby
But during my maternity leave, I found myself at a crossroads. I found myself choosing between being at home and going back to work. With every small coo and babble from my daughter, I asked myself the age-old question: could I leave my child in the hands of another? Do I return to work and take my baby to childcare? Or do I sacrifice my salary and devote myself to being around in her early years? Needless to say, I chose to give up my job and my monthly salary to stay home and raise my child in exchange for nothing (at least in monetary terms). I went from thousands to zero.
The reality of being a stay-at-home mum (and, in my case, not earning)…
It wasn’t until six months into being a stay-at-home mum that reality actually started to sink in. Before that, I was in a bubble. Distracted by all the milestones my baby girl was reaching, introducing her to solid food and just watching her grow every day. But there was a sudden shift, a sudden realisation that with everything that I was doing now, I still felt worthy, and I still felt accomplished… but I no longer felt independent. And it was because I was no longer earning my own money.
When the bank balance keeps dwindling
After a decade being able to spend, save, splurge my money on whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, I now no longer had that autonomy. After never having to ask for money or ask for permission from someone else before spending, I could no longer do things on a whim. I remember looking at my bank account at the end of each month and feeling nauseous at the balance. Seeing it decrease was something difficult to swallow. It was impossible not to spend at all. I still went to the mall and still wanted to “add to cart”. I still wanted to spend on myself. In a world where we always want the best of the best for our kids, and in a country where everything is costly, it was a struggle for me on a few levels.
My ego took the first hit: I have to ask my husband before I buy things now? And then my conscience: Do I really need this? My mind started to wander too. Would I be living on someone else’s money for the rest of my life? Then lastly, it sparked my drive. Maybe I could start my own business?
Curbing the spending
I tried to curb my spending by removing shopping apps and not bringing my debit card out with me (which failed because I found the magic that is Apple pay). After a while, I accepted the fact that the only thing I needed was discipline. Having no income forced me to make more thoughtful decisions when it came to spending. I couldn’t afford to be self-indulgent anymore. So I started small: cancelling my premium subscription to Spotify, for example. Then I made bigger changes. I would only allow myself to do a Shopee-spree once every two months (now I seldom do!) Do I miss seeing my bank balance go up instead of falling? Of course! That’s why I started thinking of ways to earn from home, but that’s another story for another time.
Lessons I’ve learned from ditching the job and becoming a stay-at-home mum…
1. Financial decisions are made together
Looking back, I think choosing to stay home and not have a salary of my own has helped me and my life in ways I never expected. For one, having to discuss with my husband before any big purchase has helped us build a more open and honest relationship. When we were both earning separately, we often made financial decisions alone, and there was a lack of communication which usually ended up in a misunderstanding later on.
2. Appreciate the little things
As cliché as it sounds, not earning has made me appreciate the smaller things in life. For example, we had to limit the number of times we would order our meals. I ended up cooking at home almost every day, and that has led to my first real product: an eBook with meal ideas for the whole family.
3. Remember the reasons why
A 100% pay cut sounds daunting. Trust me; I was a wreck when I finally had to come to terms with it. I suppose it helped that I knew I brought it upon myself (no one forced me into it), so I didn’t have anyone else to blame. A small part of me had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mum so in a sense, I already knew this was coming. Even then, it was a big adjustment for me.
4. Discovering a new me
As the saying goes – everything happens for a reason. I know whole-heartedly that no amount of money would be worth the memories, experiences, and the bond I share with my daughter and being a stay-at-home mum has helped me discover a version of me that I never knew was there – an entrepreneur.
Are you a stay-at-home mum? Let us know your take on giving up the day job at [email protected]