Woman of the week: Ruth Chieng
Ruth Chieng on how self-compassion and community help her embrace the challenges of #SAHMlife.
A year ago, Ruth Chieng made the decision to leave her career and stay home with her children. Leaving a career she'd worked hard to develop over nearly a decade was not an easy decision, but ultimately Ruth knew that if she didn't dedicate the time now, when her family needed her most, she would regret it. So she left work and embarked on a new journey as a stay-at-home-mom.
It has not been an easy journey, but the lessons Ruth learned along the way exemplify how strong and adaptable women are when faced with difficulty. Our Woman of the Week, Ruth Chieng, is a powerful example of what a successful woman looks like--and her ability to practice self-care while giving care to two young children is something we can all learn from.
Your name: Ruth
Your Occupation: Former Big 4 Tax Director, current full-time mother of two.
What you really do: Everything...I teach ABCs and 123s, I nurture godly morals, I discipline and correct bad behavior, I mediate joint custody toy battles, I cook to order, I clean when I can, I chauffeur while taking song requests, I kiss boo-boos, I soothe away nightmares, and I hope that I am inspiring these young minds to grow up to be good citizens of the world with a heart for God and love for all mankind.
What is your morning routine? I wake up around 6:30am and get myself ready for the day. I wake the kids up at 7:00am (if they aren't already up, Sam usually is, Ben isn't) and get them dressed and washed up. Breakfast for the kids either a smoothie and string cheese, cereal with milk, yogurt, or scrambled eggs. I drink a coffee and eat their leftovers. We're out the door by 8:15 to drop Ben off at preschool.
What is your biggest dream? To be an independently wealthy world traveler.
What is the next goal you are actively trying to accomplish? My oldest started Pre-K this year and I feel an urgency to get him "school ready." It seems like these days school is becoming more competitive and academically focused at an earlier age. General education no longer starts at Kindergarten and a certain level of academic prowess is expected on that first day of real school. I hear stories from other moms about their Kindergartners having spelling tests and writing assignments and it scares me. Primarily, I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom "SAHM" to give him dedicated one-on-one learning time so that he's ready and confident in his abilities when he starts Kindergarten next year. What do you struggle with most at work? My patience is tested everyday. It's hard to emulate day in and day out the love, kindness, self-control that I am trying to instill in my kids. Because they're with me all day long, they see the raw, real, and not so perfect parts of me. I lose my temper with them on a regular basis and I have to apologize and ask for forgiveness. It's humbling, but important because they need to see that Mommy messes up and has to say sorry too.
What do you struggle with most in your personal life? Finding time for myself. Sometimes I feel like "Mom" defines every aspect of my being, especially now when my kids are young. There are areas of my brain that I fear have atrophied from underuse.
What's one piece of advice you think has helped you the most?Nap when they nap, everything else can wait. It's important to take a break and recharge. Don't try to do it all, it's OK to "lean out" sometimes. An instagram mama of four that I follow lovealways.anjuli said it best, "Self-care isn't selfish, it allows you to love others so much more fully- with greater patience, more grace and a lot more joy."
Who do you look up to?
All the other mamas out there: SAHMs, entrepreneur moms, working moms, single moms, moms of multiples, etc. In this Internet age, it's easy to share and glean from the experiences of others. I'm inspired and comforted knowing that we're all journeying through it together.
What is your theme song? Hmmm "I Will Survive"? It's been a hellish week...so maybe "Jesus Take The Wheel" is more fitting.
What is your favorite beauty item? Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream
What is your guilty pleasure and how often do you indulge it?Running errands by myself. Ohhh girl, to be able to walk through every aisle of Target (twice) and not have to push the two-kid extra long Shop-Along cart (that thing is like driving a semi-trailer truck...CAUTION wide turns) or deal with toddler meltdowns. My mom usually helps out once a week so I can indulge in this mental health necessity.
What would you say to women who are struggling with the same obstacles as you?
I worked in public accounting for over 9 years and in corporate tax for almost a year before making the decision to stay at home full-time. I thrived on the fast-paced, high stress environment. I liked the challenge of particularly messy projects and enjoyed the collaborative team environment. Professionally, there were certain goals that I wanted to accomplish so I kept putting off the decision to scale back or completely resign from my position. I've been a SAHM for almost a year now and for me I felt like it's taken that whole time for me to adjust to this new role. Honestly, the first 6 months, I hated it. I told my husband I wanted to go back to work every other day. I resented the fact that he got to leave every weekday morning, while I was stuck at home all day with two rugrats half my size but twice my energy. When I was working in the corporate world, I could set goals, be able to track their progress, mitigate setbacks, and celebrate their completion. I was competent and successful. As a SAHM, I had (and honestly in some ways still have) no idea what I was doing. I felt like a failure, a system that worked yesterday, wouldn't work today, so was abandoned before tomorrow. I tried to set goals around my kids' development and would get frustrated when I couldn't see results that corresponded to my effort. I questioned whether my decision to stay home was the right one. Then, day by day it started to come together as I got to know my kids better, understand the little quirks in their budding personalities and tailor my parenting to fit. I made friends with other SAHMs. They became my sounding board, my source of advice and encouragement, and my connection to other grown-ups. Community is essential and has kept me sane.
Who would you nominate to be woman of the week and why?Martha Ruiz, one of my mentors while I was at PwC. She is a Tax Partner specializing in Entertainment and Media and is also one of the Oscars balloting co-leaders. Above all, she is a working mother and champion of other fellow working mothers. I can't count the number of times I've stepped into her office for an informal mentor session to glean her advice on how to find the right balance between family and work. She genuinely cared about my career and my family. When my son came down with pneumonia and I had to take time off to care for him, she not only supported me 100%, she continued to ask after my son's health after I returned to work and made sure that my leave of absence would not negatively impact my career progression. She helped me create my business case for promotion to Director. She sees being a working mom as a strength and not a setback because "Family sets a counterbalance with your career, and you become better at knowing what's important and setting priorities."
A gif that you feel best describes how you've been feeling lately:
------ Want to nominate a woman who inspires you? Email us.