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What do stay home parents talk about when they meet?

China World Hotel, Beijing, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before parenthood began, my wife and I would occasionally go for high teas during the school holidays. During the high tea, we usually notice groups of ladies with their infants, chatting and laughing and we would pass the comment “So free? Don’t these people need to work?”. (We were young and more judgy then.)

Then we’ll proceed to speculate about what their conversations would be about:

  • “Check out the price of my new designer handbags, very cheap, only $4000.”
  • “Where did you do your nails? So pretty!”
  • “Oooh, I love your dress!”
  • “There’s this sale coming right up, wanna go?”

Note that I emphasised “speculate” cos this was coming from the perspective before we became parents. I would soon discover how wrong I was.

For the past 2 months, I’ve been trying to meet up with my friends in the day time and the only available people were the stay home mums… so today I had the oppportunity to meet up with 2 ex-colleagues. We were a bit more prudent and settled for Apollo Coffee Bar instead of some hotel high tea. The meeting felt potentially awkward – I know stay home mums do get together, but is there room for a stay home dad to join in?

Before going out, a dilemma unfolded. Were they going to bring their kids? Should I bring my infant? What if he wants milk? I could release a boob and let him latch (oh wait, wrong gender. That explains why it felt potentially awkward, I’ll be a “hinderance”). That means I’ll need to bring milk, hot water, milk powder, bottle, diapers, wet wipes and the list goes on. I’ll have to change diaper in public while struggling with his attempts to flip over while doing so. No thanks.

“Son, why don’t you be a stay home infant for another day?”

One friend came a little bit late – dosmestic issues, child refusing to wear school uniform. Totally understand, absolutely normal and expected.

So what did our conversation actually cover?

  • How we spend our time
  • Our parenting experiences
  • Our sense of identity and worth (The most important point)

#1 How we spend our time

TLDR: You can just skip this and read the bold parts

Keeping our appearance: (Read as maintain our figures). We talked about exercising like using Sweat app, adidas running app, gym memberships. Recently, I had a bad eczema flare up and we talked about suitable facial products.

Good deals and shopping hacks: Recently, I was waiting to check out at 12 midnight and redeem a credit card discount, but one item was out of stock and I had to scramble to find an equivalent priced item within 5 minutes! Solution? Add several of the same item by different shops into the cart and just check another similar item if one runs out of stock. Shopping can be stressful! Shared about upcoming sale events and limited edition items to queue for.

How to earn some side income: I shared about financial planning, investing and trading. One shared about her attempts to start a blog and the setup that needs to be done if it’s going to be monetised. You can’t just have a blog, you need multi-channels like maintain multiple social media accounts with the same content. Another shared about her research into flowers and how she could import those. Essentially, it was about our sense of worth and identity (more on this in point 3).

#2 Our parenting experiences

  • Recipes for children
  • Toys and activities for kids
  • The types of danger our kids get themselves into
  • In particular, the frustration of parenting.

We agreed that every day, I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY, our kids will find new ways to test our patience and their boundaries MULTIPLE TIMES. That’s right, EVERY DAY, MULTIPLE TIMES.

We talked about our methods (and shamelessly shared with them my blog) to manage them and the internal struggle we face. I’ve shared about this before here and here. It is always tempting to take the easy way out – the harsh and tough love approach.

But our internal voice always screams at us “Is this what we want to model for our kids?”

It’s more than just coming up with creative ideas to con deal with their ever evolving requests. We also struggle with managing our personal frustrations, which is absolutely human. We’ll need to silence our mental and emotional need at that moment for the sake for the child. Extend this over a longer duration and it eats into our mental and emotional health. No wonder stay home mums parents need to get together at hotel high teas for some self care and downloading time.

#3 Our sense of identity and worth

The most important point. My wife shared with me before that becoming a mother totally robs her of her identity, it made her question if there was room for her to be her old self any more.

We talked about the discomfort of becoming income reducers instead of the income generators we used to be. This explains why we were finding ways to generate other forms of income during our free time. We want to feel independent, we don’t want to be a liability even if our spouse is totally fine with it.

Why generate income though? Because

The outcome of generating income is tangible, but the outcome of parenthood is not, at least not in the near term.

Stay home parents want to feel that they are contributing members of the family too, but the contribution is not as tangible as putting bread on the table. Stay home parents want to feel that they are valued for who they used to be (before becoming a parent) and not for who they are now (because this only reinforces the loss of identity).

To my wife reading this, I’m not complaining though, you do a great job at affirming my worth. And I’m not exactly a full time stay home dad. Haha.

This isn’t very different from what we often talk about in the education fraternity. The impact of teaching is not seen when the students are still in school. It happens years after they graduate and we may never get to learn about that story. So we conveniently veer towards the most tangible and measurable indicator – results. We lose sight of efforts to groom character and when we lose sight of that, we discourage those who focus on that from sustaining it.

It’s no surprise that they say teaching is calling and ever more so – parenthood. Parents have to move in faith, every child is different and we don’t know if the same methods will work. Even if the methods work to resolve an immediate issue, we don’t know if it will yield the desired long term outcomes.

But I know one thing is ever consistent and will yield long term outcomes – Give love abundantly. We’ll just need to have faith in that.

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