Tuesday 1 May 2012

The Day I Decided to be a Stay-at-Home Mom

As my maternity leave was coming to an end, my husband and I came up with a game plan.  We would drop-off our firstborn, Ava, to childcare for half a day while I was at work and leave baby Ally at home with our ‘yaya’.   Then I will pick up Ava on the way home for lunch.  This sounded like a great idea.  So we narrowed down to two childcare/pre-schools that were closest to our house.  Since I sometimes get stuck on long meetings, it has to be a walkable distance so our ‘yaya’ can pick up Ava on the tandem stroller with baby Ally in tow.  We finally chose one over the other for the reason that they allow parents to sit in the class for the first few days.  This was very important to me. 

First of all, kindergarten is different from a child care.  The former normally has a duration of 2-3 hours whereas the latter ranges from 7:30am-12:30pm (half-day) to as much as 12 hours for whole day.  The childcare is meant to be a place where working parents can drop-off their children.  That means kids were having their breakfast, snacks, lunch, nap and showers in the center.  It literally becomes their second home.
A lot of childcares or pre-schools have the policy to leave the child behind on the first day.  The rationale behind is that if mommy stays, other kids will start to look for their mommies too.  I found this not necessarily true, after having sat down with Ava for almost a week on two different pre-schools.  The toddlers were happily busy with the play at hand to notice.  And it actually hinges more on how the teachers create a lively and exciting atmosphere, enough for them to be deeply involved or distracted.   
While in class observing the children, I could not help but feel a tug in my heart.  Seeing the toddlers (some as young as 18 months) comforting themselves with a favorite blanket or toy, feeding themselves with rice, lulling themselves to sleep - all seemed remarkable given the high level of independence at such a young age, but I was more surprised to feel a tinge of sadness. There was something unnatural about it.  
Probably because I practice ‘attachment parenting’ which encourages a strong early attachment and consistent parental responsiveness.   I strongly advocated natural birth for the reason that my baby and I will be alert and not drugged to initiate bonding, further sealed with breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing and so on.  As a result, I became highly sensitive and attuned to Ava’s cues and behavioral patterns and she in turns, knew me so well too.  I felt I was breaking this mutual trust prematurely - at a very young age of 2.
In fact, theory on attachment and human bonding dates back to the 1900’s, pioneered by the British psychiatrist John Bowlby.  He suggested that a child would initially form only one attachment, which is normally the mother, acted as a secure base for exploring the world.  A child should receive this continuous care for approximately the first two years of life and at best should remain undisrupted until the age of 5.  The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships and disrupting it can affect long term cognitive, social and emotional development. 
Although these were discounted with subsequent studies which noted that by 18 months very few (13%) were attached to only one person, some had five or more attachments.  However, with a statutory requirement of 1:8 teacher-student ratio for playgroups (18-30 months) which significantly increases to 1:15 for nursery 1 (30months-3 years old), there is hardly time to form attachments with the caregiver.  It even takes awhile, if not unnoticed, to attend to the needs of every child.  Some end up wailing to get attention, others retreat into themselves and self-soothes, others become aggressive and some bear lonely faces and faraway gazes. It really made me question the whole thing.
It is not surprising that a few years ago, a massive research was conducted from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care, which found that cognitive skills in pre-reading and math were strongest when children entered a center-based program from age 2 to 3.  But it also found that youngsters who spent more than 30 hours a week in center-based care had the weakest social skills - including diminished levels of cooperation, sharing and motivated engagement in classroom tasks, along with greater aggression - compared with similar children who remained at home with a parent. 
These studies validated my empirical observations.  I knew in my gut that I had to stop work and concentrate on my girls at their tender years.  The next question was, could we afford it?    Especially since we live in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world.  It all boils down to finances - the quintessential predicament of the modern mother.  
We did our math.  I am lucky that we could still live on my hubby’s salary alone.  More importantly, he supports the idea of me stopping work, even if it could mean tightening our belts.  Affordability is relative.  It reminded me of Einstein on his theory of relativity when he said, “an hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.  That is relativity.”  Indeed, I may have to curb some shopping and traveling for now but as the cliche goes, “when one door closes, another one opens”.  So here’s to exciting opportunities ahead and a crazy, fun-filled, tear-jerking, love and laughter abound with my girls!


  1. Wow! Congratulations! I admire you and Alfred for your decision. Someday soon I know Don and I will have to make that decision, too.

    God bless you and your family!

    1. Hi Belle! Thanks! I had to, especially since we don't have the support of an extended family here. But it's been great so far! Having fun bonding with the girls. They are only young once after all =) Good luck on yours too! =)

  2. Oh I am crying now! I am so happy for your girls! So happy for you! You are right! They will only be young once!

    1. Thanks Alex! It's so different taking care of them when I'm free from office pressures and deadlines! More patience and fun! hahaha!

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