What do mothers who earn five-figure salaries have in common with mothers who hustle to make ends meet every month?
A lot, especially when it comes to making life-changing adjustments for adopting a new role in their life.
“Prior to this my husband and I were focused on what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it and that’s it. After we became parents we became focused on what Sofia needs, what would be good for Sofia and how it would affect her before we think about our needs,” said Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim, 43.
The Irish-Malay award-winning TV host and emcee who was appointed as Patron 2021 of the Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA) said that motherhood had helped her discover her passion in mental health and shifted her career from entertainment to edutainment to improve mental health awareness and remove the stigma against mental health conditions.
Sarimah who gave birth to Tunku Sofia Najihah Tunku Nadzimuddin, 2, on 19 July 2019 said that although she had a background in psychology, she had never pursued it in any way and would never have if not for motherhood.
“I sort of put my career on hold when I was trying to get pregnant naturally. Put it on hold again for my entire pregnancy. Once I delivered Sofia, I took some time to heal physically, mentally, emotionally. Now, I am back to work now busy with a lot of digital emceeing and hosting talks online” she said adding that she had a bout of postpartum depression and took about six months to recover with the help of her very supportive husband Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar, a mental health professional, family, and friends.
Sarimah sees a 360 degrees change in lifestyle. Her calendar these days is filled with more family-focused activities, playdates, spending one on one time with Sofia and she even goes to bed with the soundtrack to the cartoon show Cocomelon in her head.
In terms of fashion style, she said that she feels she is a much more sporty kind of mum.
“It’s definitely comfort over the runway now. On an ordinary day, I am wearing black sports pants with a colorful shirt, as I aim to look casual but still try to look smart in outfits that are comfortable enough to keep up with Sofia and her needs,” she said.
For 43-year-old single mother Elzie Darwinna Alias, motherhood is about spending enough quality time and imparting life’s knowledge and skills on survival to her six children aged between 13 and 22 years.
She was a paralegal handling property transactions at a legal firm for 18 years prior to becoming a mother.
Having a full-time office job, Elzie used to make sure that she spends quality time with her children early in the morning and in the evenings.
“I would wake up at 5 am to prepare them breakfast so that we can all have breakfast together and then when they go to bed at night, I would make sure to read them bedtime stories. Naturally, I did not get much sleep myself as I have six children to tend to!” she said.
When she had her second child in 2000, she had no choice but to bring her children to work in order to keep them safe as she could not have afforded childcare.
Knowing that she would not be able to sustain a full-time job while being a mother and a father figure to her children, she turned to Selangor Asnaf Development Centre under Lembaga Zakat Selangor to learn business management and marketing skills in order to start a home bakery business, Danriench Bakery.
“Motherhood is a life-long commitment. You will never be able to stop wanting to give your best to your children and for me, it’s ensuring that they grow to become well-rounded human beings with not only formal and religious education but also enough skills to survive this world and the worlds after,” she said.
Meanwhile, for career-oriented Rachel Tan, 32, she believes that it is possible to have a well-balanced career that one enjoys while being a hands-on mother to her two children, Arissa, 2 years old, and Damien, 5 months old.
“Before becoming a mother, I was extremely career-focused. I was a marketing lead for a well-known e-commerce platform, which requires a lot of time and energy, and very often I would come home late or still be on my laptop even on weekends.
“My perspectives changed after I had my firstborn and I felt that motherhood is a lot more than just fulfilling the needs of your child. It is becoming a guide, a cheerleader, a friend, a fisherman, and anything that your child needs you to be,” she said, adding that there were times when she worried about her child while she was at work and missed certain developmental milestones.
Right before her son Damien was born, she found a way to integrate motherhood with her career through her new role as head of business for Malaysia’s fastest-growing e-commerce lifestyle brand Oxwhite which allows her the flexibility of working from home while caring for her children.
The brand’s commitment to comfort and quality also allows her to choose comfort over trend and wear more casual outfits while at work.
“Some days in between meetings, I would be making food for my children or changing diapers. Working at Oxwhite allows me to keep things flexible and minimalistic. I always rely on the basics like a plain top, leggings, comfortable pants and slip on a jacket or cardigan for important meetings,” she said.