Deriving my own meaning in life

The past two days, I’ve been thinking very much about what is important to me in life. What is it I want my Little Foot to learn to value and treasure over other things in life.

Maybe because the story of that KiasuParents Founder (her side of the story vs the TODAY article) set me thinking…

Maybe because we have been hearing not so good news about the health of those around us….

Maybe because I have been reading/hearing discussions about the pursuit of a “better life”…

Maybe just maybe, it’s the flu that is making me just a little fuzzy-headed.

 

The Typical Route of an 80s Singaporean Kid

I spent my early years in a clueless paper chase. My parents set goals which consisted of “Don’t fail and I don’t want to be called to see the teacher/principal”. Basically, the line used to scare us was “If you don’t study hard and go to University, you will end up as a road sweeper”.

Hahahhaa… looking back, it’s hilarious. I mean, if I did sign up for roadsweeping now, no one would employ me you know? That job has mostly gone to strong and able-bodied foreign workers who operate machines to do the sweeping.

And so we didn’t dream, because we didn’t know how to. We just tried to avoid the scary black hole of “failing”, as prescribed by our parents.

 

Finding meaning

I then spent my 20s thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, and always drew a blank.

It is in my 30s that I kind of found my footing. I wanted to find meaning in my work. It is not about having the capability to be a mover and shaker, but in my own way, what I do must contribute to the betterment of others.

At the very least, don’t cheat, lie or do something that will make me ashamed to face my Lord when the time comes. Which explains why I couldn’t reconcile with my short stint in the advertising agency and swore never to go there again.

The idealist in me.

And so, I don’t really think I’m going to get rich with this philosophy. Does it matter?

It does on some days. When I see swanky cars on the roads and wonder how it would be like to drive that (hey, our current ride is really good, but it’s Papa Long who is paying for it and we will never afford the GTR ), or see so many nice bags and shoes and want them all. in those instances, I do wonder,could I have been in a “better” situation?

Maybe yes, but maybe I would also feel empty inside every night, even if I could say, a job is a means to an end. Because, even the means to that end matters to me.

 

Going in Circles

I keep going in circles asking myself, what is it I treasure most?

Strip it all away, get to the very core.

My health.

I feel it so acutely, because my health fails me consistently. I need to fix it for My Family.

I want to be here to root for my child as she finds her footing in life.

I want to be here to watch my parents as they too grow older, and hold them when they fall, just as they have done for me when I was small.

I want to be here to hold wrinkly hands with my husband as we walk into the sunset.

And in the end, I want to close my eyes and say “I have done it my way”.

 

 

The World is Your Oyster

I hate this term. I hated it the day  it appeared in the GP paper as an exam question and I haven’t heard it before. Obviously, I chose another question to tackle.
The world isn’t my oyster, it is everyone’s oyster, but to think the world owes me anything would be completely crazy. I’m just one of the many bodies (nobodies) walking this earth. And I want my child to understand that, and not misread this term. The world is filled with opportunities for everyone. No one is more entitled than the other.

It is up to ourselves to find meaning and what works for us. Even if you eventually derive that meaning from road-sweeping, there is nothing intrinsically wrong, because that is your meaning and it is an honest day’s work.

I want my child to face failures, to find her own self-worth, to derive what makes her happy (or at least not sad and empty inside), and to find her own psychological strength to bounce back from failures and disappointments. Because the world isn’t just your oyster.

I want to teach my child that it is okay to fall down and cry out loud, because hard work is required to fight for what we believe in, but if we give up, then we will never see fruition, so cry and then carry on the fight.

I want my child to know that it is okay to yearn for what others have that we don’t, but to walk away and say it is okay, because we already have more than others. And with that knowledge, know that even with what little we have, we can make someone else’s day, make things better for someone else.

And eventually, I want my child to understand, come what may, at the end of it all, what matters the most is usually nothing physical.

(The thrill of chasing the physical makes me happy for a moment. And then? It give me nothing more, except a full wardrobe and an empty heart. I have yet to reconcile with this fully because I still shop and buy a lot, but then we all have our Achilles’ heel).

 

I realise over the years that it takes time, and requires going round and round in circles, sometimes repeatedly, to realise what is truly important in our lives.

I think we need to give our children that space and time to go round and round in circles too, because, the process is important… when the time comes, may I not be the one who tries to stop Little Foot from going through the process, but to let her find herself while giving her all the support she needs to get there.

 

P.S. Maybe listening to Descendants of the Sun’s OST is making me feel acutely emotional too

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Waiting up for Mummy

This evening I went for my long overdue haircut and got home only at 10+pm. 
I thought Little Foot would already be in bed, so I didn’t hurry and even opened the letter box. I walked in, went to wash my hands in the kitchen. And when I walked out of the kitchen, a teary-eyed Little Foot trotted out from the bedroom and greeted me with a silent, imploring face. 
She touched my hair and said “Mummy cut hair”. 

Aunty Lily must have been telling her that Mummy went to cut hair to explain my absence. 

Her tears obviously meant she had enough of waiting for me to get home while she’s sleepy already. 

Oh, my heart pinched a little. 

So we spent time opening the packages from Book Depository  which included 2 children’s books. We read one of them.  

She wanted milk.  We spent a bit of time in bed together, but Little Foot didn’t want to wind down and sleep. 

She wanted to stay up longer with me to play. And so I piggybacked  her to the living room, watched her play and helped her with some of the lining up of Hello kitty toys. 

She counted 1 to 8 flawlessly (first time she did it for me!). 

She was yawning but still wanted to play. I indulged her. 

Finally she held my hands and walked us back to the bedroom, then nursed to sleep. 

Tonight, I’m acutely aware of how much she had grown. 

And I’m wistful. The latch-to-sleep days may well be over soon. 
Tonight I’m also painfully aware that come 2017, my coming home later (and not being able to pick her up from school) will become a regular occurrence.  

It saddened me. 

I can only pray that she will be understanding of the limited time I can give to her and hopefully, we can find a good balance somewhere.  
Work and family – Two words that co-exist awkwardly together for every working parent. Sometimes we want to have our cake and eat it, but with finite time and energy, the best bet is to find a balance…and have good support from family to fill in whenever we are absent. I hope that I will be able to find that balance and not lose this closeness with my Little Foot. Otherwise, everything we strive for will be pointless and meaningless pursuits.  

Thanks for waiting up for me, baby. 

Love you always. 

A beach holiday with Little Foot

We just got back this week from Phuket Thailand. One of those last minute trips we booked because there’s Jetstar Promo. 

It was Little Foot’s first beach holiday trip 🙂

Travelling with Little Foot makes packing twice as complicated and of course, the luggage tripled! 

Still, being a 23mo toddler, we were rather brave and didn’t bring any food preparation items (unless you count the food scissors which we checked in but never used anyway). 

The hurdle for me is always the IDEA of travelling with her. All the “what ifs” and contingency packing…  medicines, snack supplies, milk. Throughout the packing, I’d toy with the idea of going for the trip without her, but would throw out the idea each time. 

However when we did get down to it, somehow it always ends up a good trip (this is our third trip afterall!). 

So here’s what travelling with a nearly 2-year-old is like:

 

We were brave (maybe foolishly). She had fever the night  before our flight and we still went ahead….carrying a lot of medicines and bringing the thermometer and koolfever with us. And plastic bags to deal with vomiting because she was having flu and cough.  

So Little Foot basically slept through the flight out (slight vomit before take off), and slept the 1st day away in the Resort. Brought her bear pillow and Tula blanket so the place felt like home.

The next day we went to the beach. Little Foot’s first time building sandcastles (apparently it’s Papa Long’s first time too!). But she still refused to walk on the sand. 

She also wouldn’t just chill and sleep on our picnic mat. So there was this strange sight of Mummy with Kinderpack laying on the mat. That is, after I’d rock her to sleep on the beach. Doing this among the bikini-clad mamas made me feel sort of an oddball. Nevermind, I enjoyed my Coconut drink. 

Food in Thailand is not too far off from our food, except with many more spicy dishes.  Little Foot didn’t have much appetite the whole trip, the flu was probably bugging her. And she didn’t like the rice much. So she mostly drank milk, ate baby seaweed  (she’s addicted to it), had some baby biscuits and ate random morsels from our dishes – club sandwich, Thai style kway teow, fried rice, fries and chicken tenders, some bread.

We also spent some time at Jungceylon, the mall at Patong Beach on the 2nd and 4th day. Loved shopping at Boots and Big C! And Emma rode her first Tuktuk. 

What’s a holiday without a swim right? We managed to get a short 10-min bob around the pool the morning before we checked out. 

And so that about it…Little Foot’s last chance to fly as an infant on my lap before her 2nd Birthday. 

What a different kind of beach holiday…. it used to be suntanning, snorkeling, kayaking, reading by the poolside or by the beach. For now, we can do very little, and the trip involved a lot of singing songs and YouTube videos, but it was still a good getaway for us, to recharge and to spend time together. 

Looking back, I do think it’s a good thing to remind ourselves to “just do it” whenever the unknown looks daunting.  It would have been a sad holiday for me if Little Foot was left behind in SG. 

Haha, I am a sticky mummy afterall!

Till our next trip! 

A year into working mum life

Facebook prompted me that “on this day” last year, I had posted a picture of the 2 bags that I packed ready for my first day back at my work. And Little Foot had seen me off at the lift lobby. 

A year has passed in a whirlwind of being a nursing mummy at night, rushing home, after work, struggling with bouts of illnesses, both her and me, and making milestones – her walking, her running, her first time calling us, calling herself, her first day in school, her 3rd teeth and more, moving from half day to full day in school,me dropping the daytime pumping at work, us changing cars… many days I find myself running, chasing after my thoughts. Too tired to think ahead of the next day or the next week. 

What I missed most about staying at home with Little Foot was being full witness to her growth. It was something I simply took for granted. I miss the constant closeness we had. 

I also miss going out to run errands, meet fellow mummy friends and my sisters at odd timings. I hate crowds and I wished I still had the luxury of going to Daiso and Uniqlo on weekdays afternoons. 

Working comes with its own sets of perks though. The idea of the paycheck coming in each month makes me comfortable, knowing that I can afford the nice things in life for us, without ever having to be thick-skinned and ask Papa to open his wallet (although I do swipe his credit cards when I order wet wipes in bulk). 

Working also means I get time to slow down and catch up on my thoughts, and feel normal. A day in a mad office is mostly less mentally draining that a Sunday giving Little Foot my full undivided attention. I mean, the boss isn’t gonna have a meltdown ‘cos you decided to go to the bathroom right? And I can have adult conversations, from Starbucks promotions to the latest pokemon catch, to discussions about who is more handsome in Descendents of the Sun. 

Work also makes me feel useful, using my brains and knowledge again, even on days I feel that my lack of sleep may have compromised the quality of my work, plus the feeling of “still a bit rusty”, I feel more confident as a person. At least the general sense of “I can do this” is greater at work than at home, since I can’t quite cook a proper meal, let alone try to cook while I have Little Foot blazing up and down in her walker.

Working also made me treasure quality time with Little Foot. Without the luxury of 24/7, I find I try to make every moment count more than ever before. Slotting in reading, meaningful play, tickles and cuddles in a 2-hour slot every evening,when I used to have a whole day to do them. 

Of course there’s exhaustion , especially since she started school in July  and I have been running to pick her up from school  during my lunchtime (I meet our helper there), buying takeaway lunches, getting her to bathe and nap, creeping away from her sleeping angelic face, and running back to my office again. 

It’s been a year of changes, and our routines are still changing as Little Foot continue to meet new milestones. It’s been extremely tiring at times, but I kind of sweep it all aside when I  see her biggest smiles  whenever I pick her up after work or if Papa managed to pick her earlier, to watch her walk very fast to the door exclaiming “Mameeeeee!” When I walk through our front door. 

Do I want my sahm life back? I guess there are parts I miss it, but it is a fond memory that will have to stay that way. 

Do I want the life I had before Little Foot arrived and tossed it upside down? I entertain fleeting thoughts of them on bad days (like when she doesn’t allow me to go to the toilet to relief myself, or when I sit down to my half eaten dinner that I started trying to eat 3 hours ago), or when there’s a lot of work to tackle and yet I have to put it aside to play with the animal safari truck,play fishing, watch YouTube videos, and only get back to them after midnight. And then make careless mistakes while I try to fight the tiredness off. 

Returning back to my work with mummy status is comparatively harder than if I had taken up a new job, I feel. I knew my competence level previously… and I give myself a hard time (inside my head) whenever I find myself lacking, because I knew I would have been able to do better if it was the old me. I try not to make excuses for myself at work too… so I find myself apologising more than in my pre-Little Foot life. And I try not to say things like “because we were up dealing with the puking all night…” a mistake is a mistake, I think telling a sob story isn’t gonna make a difference. It’s harder than one can imagine, because I am my own biggest critique.  

A a year on, I am getting better at it, but  still finding my footing. 

A year on, I  still wonders on some days what I have missed out on because I am not with Little Foot. 

Many more years to come, I  will ask myself the same question each November, “is this the right choice?” 

For now it is, but who knows what my answer would be in the subsequent ones?

For now, I’m just glad I get to hug her to sleep each night and know what she is growing well.