SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — I wrote this piece as a rant because I was feeling useless one winter’s day. I decided to send it to one of Australia’s leading parenting magazine and they decided to pay me to print it. The piece became one of the articles with the most feedback. Who would’ve thought my little rant reached out to a lot of women in Australia?
Why do I feel useless even if I know I’m not? Why do I feel like I need to be earning to feel like I’m contributing to the household? Why do I have the urge to find something to earn from — anything, so I can feel like I have the right to spend?
I found these thoughts running through my head one day while tidying up the house yet again.
I know I am lucky. I am lucky to have a husband with a good income so that I can stay at home with my daughter. I am lucky that he doesn’t demand much from me. I am lucky that I have a healthy happy daughter. I am lucky that we have the means to meet our needs and more. I am lucky that I don’t have to work.
But my feelings betray me sometimes, and I suddenly feel the need to go online to find a part time role. Are women so ingrained to be earning that we feel useless when we’re not? Why do I get this feeling that I need to be earning?
I was washing dishes one day, and I thought to myself that most of the things I prepared for when I was younger are utterly useless in my current situation. I have a masters degree in communications, I have over 10 years of experience in the media industry both internationally and in Australia — some of my work were even published in the New York Times (and I was only 25!).
I used to rush to get on military choppers, to mingle with rebels, to cover bomb threats and disastrous fires. Now I’m washing dishes, vacuuming the house, doing the laundry, preparing baby food, and wiping baby bottom while ducking away from poo-covered little hands.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually am very happy with where I am now. I knit, I write, I take photos, I watch my favourite TV shows. I’m at home with my daughter, sharing in her adventure. You can’t pay me enough to go back to full time work (well, maybe you can but it will cost you an arm, a leg and a buttock).
I am grateful for the gifts I’ve been given, and I am aware there are mothers out there who wish they were in my situation (sometimes I find myself apologising for having it good).
But then there are moments when I see remnants of my past — a suit, an old payslip, a security pass, a pair of fancy heeled shoes — and I start to feel useless. I hear the comments of the earlier generation in my head, from the time when stay-at-home mums were still generally found non-contributors to society.
“You’re just a housewife?”
“Don’t you have plans to go back to work?”
“What do you do all day then? Shop?”
“Stop spending your husband’s money.”
These nagging thoughts are compounded by the fact that there are a gazillion other stereotypes attached to my race (e.g. mail to order bride, domestic helper etc).
I came to this country because I fell in love with an Aussie. Had I not met him, I would have happily pursued my career in another country. I had a solid career plan before I met him and it took me all over the world. I tweaked that plan when I met him, and it’s been tweaked even more now that we have a daughter. And I have no regrets tweaking everything to include a happy a family life.
I’ve asked other mothers about this feeling of uselessness, and yes, they, too, suffer from it in silence. Others cope by not giving it much thought. Some go back to work and then regret missing out on their kid’s life. But no matter what solution they create, they always suffer in silence.
Well, I’ve had enough with being silent. I need to put it out there. I shouldn’t feel useless at all. I am busy every single day, and I do contribute (yes, my husband says so, too, but my head refuses to believe him), and in a much bigger scale, the world will thank me for taking the time to mould my child.
I am useful. Yes, I am.