By CAPT (R) OO KWAN HUAT
I think what I am about to say is what every man who wants to be a househusband has to go through before making the bold decision to be one. I use the word “bold” as he is going against the norm of society and will most likely be thought of as a useless husband living off the wife.
I am writing of my own experience when I made the decision to be one, 20-odd years ago. I opted for early retirement as a pilot in the Royal Malaysian Air Force at the ripe old age of 40. I was lucky enough to marry a wife, a general practitioner, when I was 36. We had two young kids, aged three and one.
My wife’s income as a GP was comfortable enough for the family expenses as we lived a simple life and did not indulge in extravagances or tried to keep up with the Joneses. However it was not an easy decision to forgo my earnings as a pilot. Back in 1995, the salary of an aircraft captain was about RM20,000 a month; today, it is more than RM50,000 a month – not considering the perks and glamour that come with the job.
Another more important factor to consider is how our society perceives husbands who do not work. The first thing that comes to mind is a good-for-nothing, lazy person. Therefore a person who wishes to be a househusband has to be courageous enough to withstand all the verbal abuse hurled at him, most of the time behind his back. I am saying this from experience. I was a disgrace to my in-laws, certain relatives and friends. Of course, no one dared to say this to me face-to-face.
I sought the opinion of my best friend and he told me that as far as he was concerned, the man should be the breadwinner of the family. However, the most important input was from my wife who was concerned about the risky nature of a pilot’s job and the effect it would have on my health in the long term as my body had to constantly adapt to different time zones.
Another important factor was I would be away from home most of the time. But I think the real reason was she was worried that I would be swarmed by all the stewardesses.
I think the deciding factor for me to make the decision to be a homemaker – this is a more appropriate word for me, as the word “househusband” conjures up the image of me doing household chores, which I am adverse to, much to the chagrin of my wife – is the welfare of my children.
With both of us working, they would have to be put under the care of someone else and the thought of them growing up without us imparting our values and knowledge to them and missing out on their growing up years was not something I could accept, given the choice. I would not trade this for all the money in the world.
Many of my friends envied my non-working life and said that I could afford to do so as my wife was a doctor. I asked them whether they would have done the same thing if they were in my shoes, and the answer was no. I think the main reason is because the money was too attractive to forgo.
Do I regret the decision and sacrifice I made almost 25 years ago? I do admit there were times when I thought about what my life could have been if I had continued my career as an airline pilot. But regret, definitely not, as the time I got to spend with my family – especially my children, watching them grow to become responsible adults with the right values in life – was priceless.