Still learning to be a mother

Motherhood comes naturally to some…

I’ve known people who gave their future kids names and tell about motherhood as their dream career when they grow up.

I’ve seen how some mamas go out alone with 3 kids and look like they have gotten it all sorted out. And their hair is neat and kids are clean.

For me, from day zero, we both knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for me. Obviously! Someone who can’t cook or keep her desk clean, and falls sick so regularly I need someone to look after me most of the time. That’s me. How to be a mother?

So nearly 27 months on, I am still learning.

There are days I feel exasperated – like “What do you want? Quit making sputtering noises like a car engine failing and tell me!!”

There are days when I’m sick and wanna crawl under the bed and hide, but Little Foot finds me and wants me to sing and play “three little monkeys jumping on the bed”.

There are days when I make loud angry remarks at the whole family… because “Aaaahhhh!!!! I just wanna eat my meal in one sitting!!”

There are days when I lie in bed and sob. Because “I. Am. Just. So. Tired… it might be easier if I was dead”.

And then there are days when all the grudges and unfairness gets erased, or at least momentarily forgotten.

Because Little Foot gave me a kiss on my lips. Then again. And again. And again!

Because Little Foot does a “Baby-5!” With me…when we make some little achievement together.

Because Little Foot held my hand and ran with me together after Papa Long shouting “wait for me!!!”

Because Little Foot would have those rare caring moments … like how she suddenly remembered her Papa’s foot was injured, looked over the edge of the bed and asked Papa Long “Are you ok already? Not pain already?”

Because she gives the most brillant grin that is brighter than the sun.

And because I would lay in the dark these days, with my fatigue and constant pain… angry at God for being given thid body that never stopped being in pain, and yet never could hate Little Foot for it, as I would recall how scary the moments after delivering her was…because we were separated and I was left lying in the dark occasionally asking God if my baby is alright.

I still can’t quite cook a decent meal, nor clean up after the Little Hurricane…

But she enjoys bathtimes with me, and being carried like a koala by me, she enjoys singing and running, play pretending and simply just being around me.
And I know these days are getting far and fewer, because of work and because she’s getting more independent.

One day, she will be no longer a baby, no longer a toddler, and perhaps I would still be learning how to be the best a mother can be.

So, if anyone is feeling inadequate, remember you aren’t alone. It is a lifelong class we are taking. Let them teach us to be the best that we can be. Sometimes we fail, but we won’t always be failures unless we stop learning and trying.

And yes, we will get frustrated and pull our hairs or scream our heads off (into pillows I hope). And sometimes we will hide in the cafe opposite our houses, just to get a quiet moment.

It is ok. Because after that is all done. Take a deep breath and go home. I look into her eyes, smell her hair and I tell myself “Anything is possible, because I have you”. Some days are harder than others, but we get through. Somehow.

And yes, because my dearest husband is always there to fill in when I am wanting..and to pick me up when I fall. And remind me through his actions that all can be done…just keep going.

That’s really how I get each day. Tired, in pain, some days dejected, some days delighted.  That’s motherhood as it is. Really. Nothing glamorous at all.

With only 1 child and working full time, some days I find it hard to remember to make sure her teeth are brushed and her probiotics are taken. Sometimes I forget that I haven’t cut my hair for months or stocked up on diapers. Recently I turned up for work without drawing my eyebrows. And today tried to leave my mum’s place without my sling bag containing all my keys and cards and money.

How those with 3 or 4 kids do it and still look like life is good continues to baffle me…but you have my respect for sure.

Thanks Little Foot, for being a tough teacher. It’s really quite a wild ride!

And you know, I always muster my last ounce of strength and go with you when you say “Come, Mummy! Come with me! Runaway!”

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Should the State raise my child?

Recently, online chatter, coffeeshop talk, chit-chat with friends were all about cost of living going up – Water prices going up by 30%, Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) increasing. Essentially, money no enough. Some say having children is too expensive, and not enough help being given to families. 

Feeds appearing on my Facebook inevitably steered in this direction. People talked about having to cut down, cutback and lead simpler lives (less visits to hipster cafes, look for the best lobangs for family trips). I guess that’s being responsible adults. If we can’t suddenly hit a windfall, and pay increments only happen annually if at all, we will have to think of how to stretch each dollar more.

This, coming from Little Foot’s Mummy is really quite a feat, considering that Papa Long always nags about how I spend too much on Ju-Ju-Be bags and other Baby/Mummy gear and have not savings to speak of, not after I exhausted the piggybank to stay at home with Little Foot for a period of time.

Being adult sometimes sucks. You have to do adult things, make adult decisions, but that is life. As my brother displayed, he once pressed the calculator over bills (was it for the wedding or for the HDB flat?) until he had a mega-migraine and needed to lie down before he just died from the shocking idea of emptying his savings. Welcome to adulthood. 

Among the vast materials, criticisms and comments online, one interesting article stood out: Budget 2017: Time to break up the Baby Bonus.

In this article, the writer suggested that the Baby Bonus was not working, apparent from the low Total Fertility Rate of this country despite all the carrots dangling, and should perhaps be done away with. The interesting part comes in the suggestion that the Government give each Singaporean child a living wage allowance, say $500 a month, until the child turns 18 years of age. Not an entirely new idea, he said, as some countries do have this in place.

This made me dig deep inside and ask myself the fundamental question “Do I want the State to raise my child (for me)?”

It is tempting, no doubt, that if Little Foot receives $500 a month, that will lighten the milk and diapers cost and means having more leftover to go towards school fees (hefty bill that is, because we chose the better school).

If this is tempting to me, from a family with one child, where we are two graduate working parents with stable incomes (we live in HDB flat and have 1 family car), how much more tempting would this be for those with Single Income families? The idea first strikes me with thoughts like, “Wow, I could really consider maybe working part-time, or freelance, or even be a SAHM!” (ok, maybe not if I only get $500 with one kid). Essentially, it makes me think too, about those who are raising children with less income. An allowance for the kid would mean the child’s school fees and basic needs would be met.

The proponent of this idea knows this as well, a monthly “allowance” is an attractive idea, and could perhaps be a vote winner (if he is even pro any party).

What, however, are the trade offs?

  • Is my child mine if the State raises her with this allowance?
  • Is my child “bonded” because of this allowance?
  • What if, a family with financial issues takes that allowance and do other things with it?
  • What if someone has the child solely to exploit this allowance? I am reminded of families in third world countries that have more children becuase they need the extra pair of hands in fields and farms)
  • Who foots the bill? Taxpayers? The childless gets penalised, when actually not all childless people chose to be without offsprings? (think of those who have tried and failed to conceive, are we doubly penalising them?)

It is a complex thing that, if implemented, would have to have many safeguards in place. Or leave a trail of mess that may not be easily reversed.

Will this policy, if implemented, be like the Baby Bonus, and end up as a never-ending cycle of giving more and more and eventually, the State again come to find a generation of Singaporeans immune/desensitised to having the allowance, yet not being able to take it away without political pressure?

Back to me. Little Foot’s Mummy.

Why do I find this is a tempting yet uncomfortable concept?

Because IMHO, I feel (and I emphasis that this is my personal opinion) that having children is a decision made by the couple. It is between Me and Papa Long. The State should not interfere in any way (or are we veering towards becoming a Socialist state?).

Had Baby Bonuses tempted us? No. Did we appreciate it when it was given to us? Sure… extra moolah for us which went to schoolfees. Who would reject it? If you took that Bonus away, would I still have my child? Yes.

The thing is, whether you have a one-off baby bonus or a monthly handout, would couples feel more inclined to start a family? Or, in my current stage, think of have two or more (yes we are a one-child family) kids because, there is this allowance on the horizon? I doubt so. In fact, if I were to toy with that thinking, my inner guilt would confuse me. Am I having another child because I want the baby for who he/she is to me and my husband, or because it just becomes more “worth it” (Wu Hua in Hokkien)?

Why I don’t want another child (now) boils down to something else more deep and complex, and sometimes hard to explain. I’m happy with one child and I want to give all my love and attention to her. That is a personal choice, and no amount of persuasion (at this point) will work with me. Until I am mentally, emotionally and physically ready, we will not be swayed. 

And I am uncomfortable about the concept of having the State give my child pocket money, maybe for some selfish reason. I want my child to be as free as possible. Will my child be “bonded” to this country because I accepted the pocket money without asking her if she wanted it? And as a result led to her feeling the extra burden of moral obligation to bear the weight of looking after the taxpayers who have fed and clothed her? The “you owe it to us” mentality, would it be entrenched by the larger society? And if Little Foot’s generation do not reciprocate, will they be seen as a generation of “spoilt and ungrateful Singaporeans” who take for granted all these allowances and see it as an entitlement? By no fault of their own surely.

I’d say for now, maybe thanks, but no thanks. Let me raise my child, my way. 

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No Valentine’s for us

Almost every Valentine’s for nearly 10 years we did nothing special. In fact being a bit of a anti-romance snob, we’d go for some good old Hainanese chicken rice. There’s no candlelights, no love songs, and obviously no surcharge. 

And we’d walk along the roads looking with amusement at people who were awkwardly carrying flowers and bears.

Its fun and nice for some, but really we are not that kind of couple. 

Today, as parents, no time no time! Forget romance. It’s a feat some days to remember to say Hi and Goodbye and Thank You. 

Love is doing mundane things for each other and for our child. 

Love is stepping in and filling in when the other fall short. 

Love is congratulating each other for successfully catching the projectile vomit when Little Foot is ill (yup, happened just last night) and having a good laugh while one of us is drenched in vomit. 

Love is letting the other sleep in when unwell.

Love is reminding each other about the day to day things we forgot do. 

All the unspoken things that money can’t buy you (actually okay, Chicken Rice does cost a few bucks). 

My point is, there wasn’t romantic over the top gestures over the years, but in the end, the love that lasts is not that kind of love for us. 

It is this…being around, no matter what. And allowing each other to be ourselves and growing (old) together. 

Happy Valentine’s Day & Advanced Happy 10th Anniversary, Long. 

Thanks for all the years spent together!

What kind of a tree am I planting? 

What a February …. and we are not even halfway there!

Crazy adjustments to the new environment at work for me, crazy adjusting to mummy’s absence for Little Foot. Grateful that Papa is as always reliable as lighthouse. He’s stepped up to playing a bigger role as I adjust gear up at my new workplace. Exciting and trying times all at once. 

Whenever overwhelmed by my tiredness, my head starts going on overdrive, forming little thought bubbles about issues close to heart. 

Several things in the news recently kept making me ask myself each night, “what kind of a world, what kind of a Singapore, are we building for Little Foot’s generation?” 

  • Malaysia wants to try to claim Pedra Branca back from us (again…? Didn’t the Court of International Law already ruled that it’s ours?) 
  • Trump makes headlines for all his divisive,  anti-foreigners politics and remarks.
  • German immigration officer at airport made a Singaporean lady squeeze her breast to prove she’s lactating (all because she handcarried a breast pump)
  • Not too long ago, our SAF Terrexes got detained in Hong Kong enroute back to Singapore after a training in Taiwan (and China wasn’t shy about telling us while holding our armoured vehicles hostage that Singapore ought to respect the One China policy)
  • Malaysia wants to save Rohingyas
  • Whales are washed ashore because of climate change

Amidst all these, the goverment announced the strategies laid out by a Committee of the Future Economy painting a realistic picture of trying times ahead if we do not adapt and adjust fast enough to make ourselves useful and relevant to the rest of the world. 

And we will head into a Presidential Election in September. 

(…As you can tell, I do think of random things quite a lot… )

Back to my rhetorical question – what kind of Singapore will it be when it is time for the next generation to take it on? 

The Chinese has a saying 前人种树,后人乘凉 (the earlier generation plants the trees, their descendants get to enjoy the shade).

As this world gets more and more complex, existing as a small nation in times of troubled peace is no means feat. As a parent, I wonder what kind of a country we would hand to our children, one that is prepared and ready for change and already a step ahead of our competitors? One where women will truly enjoy equality where it matters? One where friendships cut across race, religion and gender? One where Singapore continues to be a respectable and respected nation on the international fora? 

The idealist in me hopes so, because the other end of spectrum is a bleak one.

In order to leave to the next generation a Singapore that is in good shape, we have to make a difference, whether small or big…from the choices we make – what to complain about, who to vote for, how we teach and guide our children, to the way we conduct ourselves – making sure we eliminate from our thoughts and actions any xenophobic/racist/sexist inclinations. To letting go of old habits and complacency. It has to be now. 

The world tomorrow will not get better. It is worrying to watch as progress gets undone, especially in terms of women’s rights and social harmony around the world, but we can only hope that the trees we plant today will provide sufficient shade for our kids in future. 

I could ramble on really, but  I shall leave this as food for thought.Are we waiting for someone else to make sure the Singapore of tomorrow is a good one, while we continue to be myopic and focus on immediate issues like whether COE prices have gone up or down, or if NTUC is selling fake rice? These are relevant to us today, but it is also time to start asking ourselves “how can it begin with me?”.