Another big change I remember dealing with was getting back to work. I decided to quit my previous job around a month before getting married and figured it was alright since I was still completing my masters. Then, 3 months after, when I found out I was pregnant with AK, I decided to delay going back to work but after I gave birth and had some quality time with AK (5 months actually), talk of going back to work kept popping up.
My mother was hinting, Mr Grumpy was telling, my friends were divided down the middle where half were like “We cannot imagine you as a housewife” and half were like “No need to work!”. I am sure all came with good intentions and I too got muddled up with the shoulds or shouldn’ts. I cannot say that I dealt with it the right way, especially during my talks with Mr Grumpy. It started off with a much more mature tone like “I think it is best for me not to work because…” to the likes of “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!” as the stubborn bull in me showcased its horns.
I suppose a big thought going through my mind at the time was guilt. Like what if AK thinks I did not care much about her somewhere in the future, what if I miss those important moments like when she first sits up or tries walking and what if I do not get to spend enough time with her. What if she calls someone else Mummy and loves her more? I could kill myself!! I mean you spend about 24 hours a day with your little one and then you minus off a good 10 hours from that and obviously the sleeping hours do not count. Which means to say, on average, you may end up spending only 4 to 5 hours daily with your tiny tot. Man, that is heartbreaking. Being a mother is not easy (am not saying it because we women should get extra recognition, but simply because it is the truth) and being a working mother is also not easy. Some people try to say one is more difficult than the other, but you are comparing apples to oranges. Both have its own set of struggles, so there is no need for unkind judgment or words.
Where once a parent with income would have been enough, nowadays it often takes both parents to make ends meet with the escalating costs of living. The factors are also multifaceted in the sense you have these rising costs, then you have the women’s views also divided (where half say “It’s your man’s job, not yours” and some say “If you do not go to work, you are not doing your degree or even yourself justice”), the feasibility of daycare and of course your undying love for your child.
I am blessed because my mother chose to help take care of AK during the day but my heart also goes out to those who have difficulty finding a good daycare. I did some research back then and you have some places that would charge you insane costs per month to some that are cheap but slightly dodgy in the sense they may not even tell you when they drop your child and you find out because your babies have these eye-popping colourful bruises when they come back to you. And the organizations in Malaysia are not really at that level of development yet with mother-child friendly type of policies and so forth. I remember my parents once talking about the risks they took while raising us and how they hope we would never have to do the same and really, when you go through these phases, you realize just how much your parents have done for you in the past and how, despite how things may seem or how you feel, they ultimately want what is in your best interest.
I definitely felt that crunch when it came down to going back to work. Would my working justify my missing out on some things? And I am even more grateful that during difficult times like those, you can have faith that Allah SWT is the best of planners and there already is a plan for you. You just have to be patient and wait for it and it happens whether in big or small ways. For me, it happened when I saw what other couples were going through, I looked into the costs of education and how much would need to be invested from now to reach that in the future and Mr Grumpy pointed out how I was getting forgetful with things. I decided that as how my parents have provided for me, I would like to provide the same for AK and my future child(ren) (In Sha Allah) and what would be best for our home would also be for me to work. Sure, I could tell Mr Grumpy it is all on him, but he already knows of his responsibilities and is fair about things, I can do my part to help share in the load and whatever you do with good intentions is good for you.
One of my favourite lines from the Quran:
‘Have patience. God will not leave to waste the wage of those who do what is beautiful’ (11:115)
You have to have that authenticity and good will in whatever you choose to do, so when I got that bit right and felt no grudge/resentment about working, I decided to dip my toes into the water and apply for jobs. Alhamdulillah, through all of the interviews and offers, I gained a job that probably is the best for me right now. I am also able to do stuff I love, I have a great boss and colleagues who challenge and support me so thank goodness. It does not hurt as much to leave AK daily when I have a good work environment and learning curve. Some of my fears have faded in the sense that when I get home, AK always has a smile on her face when she sees me (toy or no toy in hand, mind you) and even when she is sleeping sometimes when I get back a bit later, she sometimes wakes up when she hears me and would want to play regardless of what time it may be.
Sometimes I am super tired and it is late, but it is way better to play with her and eventually try forcing her to sleep than to be hard/force her to sleep then and there and miss that time with her or kill her spirit. I also like that both Mr Grumpy and I can contribute more to our families and it is these small things that give me great joy and help me feel like the tiredness, the workload, the missing her all worth it.
The first week of work was difficult, no doubt. I wanted to get back into the car and drive back as fast as I could a few times but it helped that my cubicle is totally plastered with her pictures (my desktop too) and she also managed to adjust to not having me around as much and would sleep and eat with her routine. So, team effort people! Not just from me, but her cooperation and also my family and husband’s support and understanding made it work. I DID miss a first of hers already, namely when she sat up by herself (as shown below)
What I did was to make sure she did it again for me when I got back from work hahaha and all was right in the world again.
She also makes sure I spend quality time with her, like flinging my phone away (I kid you not, she is one fierce cookie) if she can reach it while I am with her. Also, it is true what they say that what matters the most is that your child has a loving environment. Unless you spend really little time with your children, their forgetting you as their parent is pretty slim and their innocence allows them to love you unconditionally (note: this may change when they are older and can understand emotions and actions a bit more or are displeased they do not get their way). What matters more is that you consistently reciprocate and show that love to them when you spend time with them. One day, In Sha Allah, Arya will also understand why I spent some time away from her and when she is older, I will be able to spend much more time with her.