During the meetup with Nene’s kindergarten friends, I got chatting with the other two mums. One of them has gone back to work outside the home part-time. The other expressed her desire to and yet she’s not sure whether she can manage it. These are both highly qualified women – one is a PhD, the other is a accountant who worked for a Big Four firm – before they chose to put their careers on hold to dedicate themselves to raising their children. I am the odd-one-out, both in terms of age but also because I never seriously considered staying at home full time to raise the kids.
Among the reasons, we discussed for going back to work was the satisfaction of doing something unrelated to the kids and the home and also the professional validation that is lacking no matter how well one does one’s job as a homemaker. The money does not seem to be a major consideration for these two women, but I think being paid something, even if it’s not a big amount is important too.
I said that I never considered staying at home because anyway I’m terrible at domestic duties. One of the mums dismissed that saying that if I had to do it, I’d do it well. Her theory is that people who are not doing a good job are just not trying. I’m not so sure. I think people have talents and some things are harder for some people, not to mention some things just don’t interest some people. Being able to have a choice is of course a privilege but even among those that don’t have a choice, there are some people that possibly just can’t do some things to satisfy high standards. For example, my helper E always told us she’s not a good cook, and although she cooks for us, and has got some recipes down well, time has proved that indeed cooking is not her forte, not for lack of trying.
However, if I’m honest, my decision to keep working through pregnancy and after maternity leave was because:
- I like going to work. The job I was doing before I had kids didn’t make me want to eat my own hand at the thought of going in on Monday. The job I have now is my dream. So.
- I don’t think I could domestic and/or child-related things 24/7. It is just not my interest.
- I like earning enough money to say I can support myself, even if right now my income significantly falls short of what would be needed to run a household.
Not doing these three things would mess with my sense of security and mental stability. So. In our case, we need the money too (as do most families with kids in Hong Kong.). Going back to work is not something I feel guilty about, and I’m pretty sure I’d feel this way regardless of whether our financial situation required me to work outside the home or not. I’m fortunate to have great help with the kids and right now enough flexibility to participate in their stuff and this is not everyone’s situation. But it’s mine and for that I am grateful.