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Monday, 5 September 2011

CEO at Home

How would you like to be CEO at home?

Monday Starters by SOO EWE JIN

A FRIEND, Syed Mohammed Idid, posted on his Facebook last week, “Cleaning house, doing laundry, clearing old stuff with kids … and you thought a CEO’s job was tough. Try becoming a home-maker!”
I could not resist making a comment on his wall, “I was a home-maker for some years which is why on the job, when I get to meet CEOs, I often smile when they say their work is tough.”
In my two stints as full-time househusband that stretched a total of six years, I gained much insight into the home environment that most of us simply take for granted.
At home, the working hours are 24/7, no question about that, especially when you have two young boys (and plenty of their friends, I must add) who clamour for your attention.
I had to be driver, tuition teacher, cook, swimming instructor, football coach, kite-flying maestro, story-teller, and a whole lot of other things besides. Neighbours also conveniently assumed that I could run errands, pay their bills, and fix up things as well. Which I was most happy to oblige, pro bono.
But, as I have mentioned in previous columns, my time away from career has been the most meaningful and treasured stints which money simply cannot buy.
My wife remarked that I must be getting quite tired of her these days, noting that we have been in a 24/7 situation with each other for nearly six months now.

My stint at home this time around is necessitated by a medical journey which is coming to an end but staying at home to rest and recuperate has made me realise that there are still so many things in the home environment that we take for granted.
Take the weather, for example. We have always subscribed to the principle of living simply, and an air-conditioner would be considered a luxury.
But 25 years after we set up home together, we finally caved in and installed an air-conditioner a few months back.
“Now you know what it is like to stay at home under such hot conditions,” the “home minister” remarked. I concede that most of us who work in air-conditioned comfort will never experience the stifling heat at home.
A typical home air conditioning unit.Image via Wikipedia
It’s funny, but I am sure the weather was a little kinder in those years I was at home.
The other thing I upgraded during this period was my Internet speed. It was excruciatingly slow when compared to what I had in the office so I doubled it.
But beyond such matters, staying at home is not particularly advantageous in terms of benefits that we take as a matter of course when we are in the workforce.
For example, when my wife decided to improve her education status and do her masters, I had to take care of all the bills and yet was not able to make a claim on my tax returns. The taxman said only she could make the claim. But how could she do so, if she does not have an income?
I am sure many home-makers, especially the women who gave up their careers to jaga anak-anak, would appreciate being able to make claims for books, short-term courses, and even holidays, because they truly deserve it. And we are not even talking about medical expenses here.
Think about it. If they were at work, they would qualify for allowances and paid leave but once they are at home, these are taken away from them.
In my opinion, many of these issues will not be understood by the mainly-male policymakers that predominate both the public sector and Corporate Malaysia. Unless they become home-makers first.
I would like to suggest that all male CEOs take a six-month leave of absence and be CEOs of the home. I am confident that this will lead to many interesting special allowances in the next Budget speech and guaranteed to ensure that all home-makers will vote a certain way.
● Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin has been on a long journey and is thankful that he can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. He looks forward to a normal office routine soon.

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