A Life's Shifter's Journey

A few years ago, I wrote an article about life-shifting (changing one’s views about work and living life). People who are life-shifters usually transform themselves from a rigid corporate or organisational life to a lifestyle whereby they do what they like and what means the most to them.

Many readers from the corporate world wrote about their desire to become life-shifters but they didn’t know how. Quite a number of them were recently retrenched and they felt utterly lost. They wrote that they were hiding at home all day or pretended that they were still working in their former offices by going out of the house in the morning and coming back late.

They also spoke about their low self-esteem. Reader HD lamented, “After I lost my job, everyone expressed their sympathies. It took me some time to get adjusted from a supposedly 'highly respected' successful career woman to a 'lowly' homemaker. It was painful.

“I couldn’t handle it. There were days where I didn’t even answer any phone calls because I was embarrassed about my staying home. I yelled at my kids. They ran away. The food I cooked tasted bad. At times, depression would set in. Why are there so many women who could be both, successful career women and good mothers, but not me? Why do I feel guilty? Why can’t I look at myself in the mirror?”

“I left the corporate world, where I virtually lived, breathed and existed for more than ten years, due to a difficult pregnancy. After the birth, I began to suffer from depression. If I had sought medical treatment then, the doctors would have just dismissed my symptoms as post-partum blues and put me on a happy pill. I knew from deep inside that this was not merely the case. So I largely kept it to myself.

What I didn’t know then was that I was actually experiencing low self- esteem. From someone with a ‘respectable’ corporate position and independent income, I was now reduced to a ‘housewife’ who had to depend on her husband for all her expenses. I had daily struggles with these issues, and my constant exhaustion from being a new mother did not help matters. Nor did the lack of emotional support from my spouse and family.

The proverbial last straw came as I was filling in an application form for a departmental store card. As I worked my way down the questions, I felt a lurch in my stomach. When I came to ‘Occupation’, I wrote “None”. After that, I went to the toilet. I broke down in tears and wept

Anyway, as they always say, when you hit rock-bottom, there’s no where else to go other than ‘up’, unless you choose to remain at the bottom.

From that moment on, my mental haze began to clear up. My daughter’s nap-time became my self-help-book-reading time. I was also fortunate enough to catch several episodes of Oprah Winfrey which explored the issue of ‘Self’. Then, I learnt about eHomemakers' Work @ Home conferences. I attended one and learnt that a housewife is a very noble life option and that I can still earn cash from home.

Suddenly, my understanding about the depression I was going through came to light! For years, I was identified by a piece of paper measuring about 9 x 5.5 cm – the corporate call card. My sense of worthiness was defined solely by the title appearing on the card. When I became a full-time mother, I no longer had a corporate call card to carry around. My identity was lost, gone, disappeared. In my mind, I had ceased to exist as a person – I had become irrelevant, unimportant, non-contributing.

It took a year for me to claw and crawl my way out of the dungeons of my depression. It was a period of intense soul-searching and inner healing. I learnt to really know myself by seeing me as who I really am, as opposed to who I thought I was. It was a very, very painful process. I literally cried buckets. I was grieving the loss of the woman who I had been for so long.

Today, I am a changed person. I am a new woman whose priorities have been reshuffled and definitions of life redefined. I have less material wants but I feel richer. I am busier but I feel more in control. I face more challenges but I feel more at peace. I am also finally doing what gives me tremendous joy – writing!

And the icing on the cake? A gorgeous angel who I am raising and homeschooling with great enjoyment and love. I always think of her as the catalyst to my ‘self-discovery’. If I had not gone through a problematic pregnancy, I would still be chasing those elusive corporate goals with a maid is my daughter's surrogate mother.

This is the first time I am actually discussing my life’s metamorphosis. And in doing so, I hope I have both acknowledged and honoured the process I went through to become the person I am today.

Life shifter? Absolutely spot on! I believe that the life we start to ‘shift’ first is our own. A massive change would not happen overnight, but I sense a momentum beginning, a low rumble, and some slight vibrations. And it will eventually happen. A global makeover in terms of life definitions. We just need to persevere and insist on living our lives the way we believe it should be lived, despite being branded as corporate failures, social misfits or even family disgraces. We need trail-blazers like all the working from home moms to light the way, so that the road would not seem steeped in total darkness.

I am now a full-time mother to a beautiful little girl. A new world beckons…”

By Chong Sheau Ching


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