The Balancing Act
Question: Hi Rose, I’ve read your books and most of your articles. I quit my job two years ago after I got my promotion. No regrets though as my husband and I are saving more now than when I was still working. My son is only two years old and when I see your picture with your three sons, I get inspired.
I want to earn more money while I’m at home. I work as a virtual assistant and I also do active trading in the stock market. I can say that I was able to make our savings twice bigger in the last year or so. Can you tell me your insights about balancing everything, making money at home, rearing an intelligent boy (my son is still not talking much as I got too obsessed finding ways how to earn money at home - I let him watch tv all day), being a passionate and loving wife, etc. I hope to hear from you. – Pat via email
Answer: Hi Pat, thanks for your candid letter. Balancing has a lot to do about what your priorities are right now. You want to balance the three most important things in your life at this point, namely, 1.) making money at home, 3.) rearing an intelligent boy, and 3.) being a passionate and loving wife.
All these talks about the Have It All Woman makes the greatest mothers and wives insecure to bits. Now that I’m a golden girl and have raised three wonderful young men, and still passionately in love with The Honey, I have to say, “Yes, a woman can still have it all, but not all at the same time.” Well, at least that’s how it goes for ordinary mom mortals like me (although my sons would sometimes say I’m a supermom, but I guess that’s because I realized early on that I wasn’t, but I’m getting ahead of my story).
Let’s take up the three items in your letter one by one.
1. Making money at home:
I must congratulate you on being able to double your savings now compared to when you were still working outside your home. Do you realize that you have actually “doubled your income?” Remember, it’s not how much you earn but how much you save (and invest). You said that you do active trading in the stock market. I acknowledge that there are people who really earn from active trading but to be able to do this continuously with a high success rate takes a certain skill, temperament and a considerable amount of time. Please be prudent and check if your trading gains are brought about by these factors and not just because of chamba (chance). I say this not to burst your bubble but as a precaution. I don’t want you to lose those double savings you’ve been making.
That being said, continue to invest in the stock market for the long term because this is the asset class that gives the highest return in the long run.
Other things that I can recall from my early years after I quit my job was my effort to control and monitor our expenses, always making sure that everything was accounted for, and cash not needed for operating expenses was not lying around in our savings and current accounts but invested and earning. I think I successfully replaced my income contribution with more efficient use of cash. I assume that with your double savings, you must have been doing the same.
The next lesson I want to share is a guide on the businesses that you get into. In my hope to still contribute to the family income, I also dabbled in small businesses here and there and the biggest lesson I learned was not to get into businesses that one doesn’t fully understand and enjoy doing. This is the second law of money in my latest book. Get into something which has to do with your core competence and passion. If you’re just after the profit, you won’t have the patience and enthusiasm to go on when the bottom line dwindles, and this is a sure formula for failure.
2. Rearing an intelligent boy:
Let’s go beyond just intelligent, but set out to raise your child to his fullest potential, confident, with high FQ (of course), caring and ready to take on the challenges of the world and be of service to others. Isn’t this the dream of all parents? But this entails a lot from parents.
It’s a good thing that I did not delude myself during the early growing up years of our sons that I could be a great mother and wife while being a top-notch investment banker. I realized early on that there were certain jobs that were not suitable for a parent who wanted to be involved in the day-to-day activities of her young children. And my job was one of them. I am not saying that all top-notch investment banker moms (and moms holding similarly demanding jobs) cannot raise their children well. The fact is, I see some of them. But nonetheless, when I look back now and ponder, “If I knew that my sons would turn out well even if I held on to my job, would I still quit my job?” my answer would still be a resounding yes. Why? Because I tremendously enjoyed spending time with them. I was so in love with my boys, and still am. And that is why I say that I didn’t just do it for them but also for myself. I savored their growing up years. There’s a certain sweetness from sons to their moms that can only happen in their tender years. My youngest used to tell me, “You’re the prettiest girl in the world, next to Mama Mary!” and to this day I still smile when I remember it.
Recently, I looked at the old and new letters and video messages from my sons, and I found a recurring theme: their gratefulness that I was always around while they were growing up, listening to their stories, helping them process their feelings, offering my soft tummy where they loved to lay their heads down on when they were sick, helping them do well in school and giving them great parties. Of course, they also mentioned some of our arguments, but that’s all part of what I call purposeful parenting. We encouraged them to “defend their cases” instead of just ramming down the rules on them and expecting them to follow blindly. I felt it was important for them to understand the reason behind each rule so that even when no one was looking they would still do the right thing because they “own the decision,” making their action internally motivated. And I was able to do this because I was not always in a hurry. My sons’ message on my milestone birthday made me tear up when they said, “Ma, we wouldn’t be this confident and close to each other as a family if not for your undivided care and attention.
Your son is two years old and I assume that you have been a stay-at-home mom since his birth but you also said, “My son is still not talking much, as I got too obsessed finding ways how to earn money at home - I let him watch tv all day.” You seem to take the blame for his inability to speak. Have you had him checked? Children have different stages and speed of development. Nonetheless, allowing him to watch tv all day is a big no-no, especially if you’re already home with him. Well, even if you’re not, it’s still a big no-no. I raised my sons not watching tv during weekdays and it turned out well. All our arguments about this rule are narrated in my first book Raising Pinoy Boys. You can also read the book Growing up Wired by Queena Lee-Chua and other contributors (I also contributed an article there) and learn the benefits of delaying exposure to media devices and the perils of too much and too early exposure.
May I ask you what your purpose was in quitting your job? If the reason was to be able to take care of your son, then I think you have to make some drastic changes in your schedule. Workaround the schedule of your son. If he still doesn’t go to school, make sure that most of his wakeful hours are spent with you playing, talking, reading, listening to music and other activities that can positively stimulate him and enhance his development. When he’s asleep, that’s when you do your thing. When he starts going to school, you will have more time doing other matters. Remember time is the most valuable gift because no one can ever take it back, and this is most dramatic in the growing up years of our children. We cannot press pause as we attend to the other things that conflict with their schedule.
In case you intend to have more than one child, it’s good to decide now how many you want and how you will space them. This way you know your child-rearing timetable and can plan accordingly.
3. Being a passionate and loving wife:
The good news is you can do this together with no. 2. In fact, raising your child in a great marriage is part of sound parenting. There should be no confusing “Who does Mama love more, daddy or son?” even if said in a joke. Early on, show your son that there is a special relationship between mom and dad that’s intimate and different from the parent-child relationship. As long as he feels he gets enough time with both parents, he will not act up and feel the need to compete with either parent when he sees you lovey-dovey.
Always remember how you and your husband fell in love with each other, and do fun things regularly. Go out on dates regularly. Know your husband’s love language and express your love in his language. Encourage him to do the same for you.
Eat healthily, exercise, be spiritually grounded, dress up well and keep yourself attractive and exciting as you age. He will not only love you more for this, he will always be proud to show you off and help ward off unnecessary temptations. Of course, the greatest product of this is that you get to love yourself even more. Another bonus is you also get better treatment from other people. Again, encourage him to do the same.
I hope the above discussions have given you valuable insights on how to balance the three important things in your life right now. Remember, successful balancing is not simply giving equal parts of time and resources to each of these three all the time, but knowing how to prioritize at certain periods in your life. Ask yourself, “Who’s time is it now?” and later on I wish that you will get to this place where you can also say, “Yes, a woman can still have it all, not just all at the same time.”
Cheers to parenting and womanhood!
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AUTHOR BIO Rose Fres Fausto is FQ Mom. FQ stands for Financial Intelligence Quotient. Investment banker turned full-time homemaker, she is now a writer and speaker on money and family.