Is Being a Mum Worthless?

Updated: Jan 26


A female friend of mine, married with children, for over 10 years told me recently that she felt worthless.


How can that be?


It is a harsh description of oneself, devoid of truth.


Worthless in the Oxford dictionary is described as ”good-for-nothing, of no real value, having no value, useless, incompetent, no worth.”


She is a homemaker, a fabulous mother, a giving individual with so much heart. Her home is her sanctuary, spotless, spick and span, welcoming with her hospitality and warmth. Everyone feels comfortable at her abode including children running around, having fun in the backyard.


Her children are growing up – their physical need for her has lessened – as they fill their lives with other social activities and new found friends.


It leaves an empty nest for my female friend – her heart is still full of giving and it seems to her, there is nowhere to give it to.

She’s now back at work in the corporate world.

Yet, she feels stripped of her being, her fibre of her existence is questioned.

After all those years of late nights, changing nappies, nurturing, teaching and guiding her little ones to a mature life cycle. Where is her place now in this world?


Taking care of a child is a full time job. The daily toil of labouring at home, cooking, washing, cleaning and paying attention to her children and husband, there are no financial statistics to represent her “company’s” profit and growth in the corporate sense.


Yet if truth be told, there is much to be said for a stay at home mum. Without them, how would the world function to be a better place? If you ask her children, they will say that she is the best mum ever. She has been described by her children as a funny, loving, reliable, huggable and dependable mother.


Mothers are like a pair of invisible helping hands – that soothe, comfort, hug, nourish, guide, nurture, support, listen, impart knowledge, wisdom and give unconditional love.


In society, there is so much to be said for a well-loved individual. When we share stories with each other, we rather share moments from the heart and the impact that parents have made within the family. Memories of a wonderful and loving childhood outweigh what society decrees as successful.


In Singapore, an individual’s success have been aligned with the 5Cs – Car, Condominium, Credit Card, Cash, Country Club. However, with the loaded materialistic elements that define success, many Singaporeans have realised that these factors do not necessarily bring ultimate happiness.


The new millennium of Singaporeans have set to readdress the elements of 5Cs to Character, Commitment, Contribution, Conviction, Community. These are the traits that will sustain a well-balanced person in society.


Domestic Workers

Domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers. They work for private households, without clear terms of employment, unregistered in any book, and excluded from the labour legislation.


At the moment, there are an estimate of 67 million domestic workers worldwide and it remains a highly feminized sector: 80 per cent of all domestic workers are women.

A migrant domestic worker lives in another country doing these chores. They are called maids or diplomatically termed “helpers” that live within the family household.


Mothers in different financial circumstances

Some mothers having it tough and due to economic hardship in their parent country, they leave their infant children to work in a different country to raise another mother’s children.


Working Mothers in Singapore

This is evident in Singapore where most mothers have to work after three months of maternity leave and their children are attended by maids, or helpers from Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Malaysia.


The financial and economic reasoning is compelling, for a Singaporean mother to put food on the table, it makes sense to go back to work. Singaporean mothers are torn to leave their children in foreign hands.


Migrant Domestic Workers Who Are Mothers

For the maids who are mothers, they are also chained into financial and economic slavery, to provide an education and home for their infants from a far. The deprivation of social bonding and intimacy and their loved ones will have a long-term impact on their family relationships. The maids in Singapore are contractually allowed two weeks leave to return home to their loved ones and to see their offspring.




In this instance, these maids who are mothers are trying to survive and tap into the legislative and policy structures that governments from different countries have set up.


However, how far do mothers have to go, or what do they have to do, to bring up their children holistically?

  • Is a women’s self-worth less in this situation?

  • Who is stronger?

  • The maid who has left home?

  • Or the mother who has to return to work, leaving her children with the maid?

Both come from different personal circumstances, and have leverage on each other economically and socially to make their lives workable. It is a tight rope that everyone is balancing on. Without one or the other, each of them will sky fall.


Mothers in Australia

In Australia, the migrant domestic worker policy is not as dominant as in other parts of Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.


There has been a growing trend of mothers staying at home and making the children and family as a priority. This means that the mother that stays home, takes up most of the domestic chores plus the teaching of her own children. It can be quite isolating at times at home, as there are no co-workers to talk to.


If the mother needs to work, child-care subsidies are available and the reliance of nannies are there to support the family. Some companies provide parental paid leave for up to three months and will hold the job for up to 12 months based on the maternity leave policy.


Bhutan - Gross National Happiness (GNH)

In Bhutan, the country’s Gross Domestic Product is replaced with Gross National Happiness (GNH)Index. The phrase ‘gross national happiness’ was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.


In 1972, he declared, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The concept implies that sustainable development take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.

The GNH Index includes nine domains

  1. Psychological wellbeing

  2. Health

  3. Education

  4. Time use

  5. Cultural diversity and resilience

  6. Good governance

  7. Community vitality

  8. Ecological diversity and resilience

  9. Living standards

A citizen’s life is characterised by the barometer of happiness, rather than merely the financial reward. Out of a population of 775,500, it shows us that 40.8% of people in Bhutan have achieved such happiness, and the remaining 59% – who are narrowly happy or unhappy – still enjoy sufficiency in 57% (not 66% as required by the index) of the domains on average.


Mothers are revered in Bhutan and are therefore carefully looked after during their pregnancies. The birth of a newborn is also always celebrated in Bhutan.


World-Wide Recognition of Mothers

Globally when society and governance are able to change and start offering concrete policies that support mothers-at-home or mothers-at work to raise their offspring adequately.


Hopefully, these policies will transcend to organisations and workplaces to implement flexible work options that allow financial consistency and stability for families.


In this sense, our community at large will be a better place of valuing happiness for our future generation.



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