This week, I made a mistake.
I allowed the emotions of me as a mother to spill over into the me as a worker – I cried in front of my colleagues (to my own horror really, on hindsight).
That morning, I woke up elated “Little Foot is exactly 2.5 years young today!” And I texted Papa to get some small cake for celebration. It was tradition since she was born to mark the half-year milestone. And the little lady really loves a good chocolate cake these days.
Work is always busy, but this week was particularly crappy. And that day was the start of a series of atomic shit hitting rhe ceiling. And then despite my remarks about having something on in the evening, and I had to leave, somehow I found myself being made to stay back. AGAIN.
The frustration started to build up because this is happening rather too frequently. Despite me already burning midnight oil on Fridays or Saturdays just to work on things so as not to waste time or push too close to deadlines.
In my blog post ‘Of working mothers and our unnecessary guilt‘ over a year ago, I have said this very clearly , as a working mother, I do not allow myself to show my emotions at work.
…We don’t bring our moods to work. Because moods and tantrums makes us less effective at work….
And then I allowed myself to let my frustrations get the better of me that evening as the clock ticked away, one by one people carried their bags and left and a few asked me “Why are you still here?” The good-natured show of concern for me still being there simply allowed the dam I had built to break. I really couldn’t care less anymore, at that point, what people thought of me.
And so the dam broke.
On hindsight, if I didn’t waste time crying, I could have typed faster. If I didn’t waste time airing my “grievances”, I could have shut down sooner. If I had just stood up and insisted that something at home was more important that evening, I would have made it in time for the cake session.
And so in the end, I reached home after Little Foot had cut the cake and done many replays of “Light candle, Little Foot sing ‘Happy Birthday’, Little Foot blow out candle”.
She happily informed me when I got to our lift landing and found her there waiting for me that she ate a chocolate cake and she had burnt her lip a little on the candle. “Mummy! It’s hot hot!”
It was past her bedtime and Papa had dragged for as long as he could before he took out the cake. I understood he had tried his best.
This is every working mother’s recurrent nightmare. Somewhere along the way, there will inevitably be something at work will make you miss the party, miss a milestone, miss a moment. Perhaps cumulatively, it will make you the absent mother.
It is a fate that no working mother can avoid. So really, who am I to think I am special or right to demand that my after hours time be out-of-bounds?
As a working mother, I try my best to ensure that my motherhood status does not become a convenient excuse to shun work or make others take on my load. Put simply, I don’t ask for concessions at work just because I am a mother. Since we take the same pay., as far as I can, I will put in the same amount of effort and hard work as the rest. I detest people who pull this trump card out to ask single or childless colleagues to take the odd hours shift, or settle something that crops up in the weekend. Singles and childless folks have their own life too, and they too have private affairs and families which are just as precious as ours.
Yet I cannot help but feel that perhaps, there are times when something gotta give, and maybe, just maybe, I should speak up.
My child is in a full-day childcare and gave up her right to my time while I am at work. The least she deserves is that work don’t encroach into her time with me at night and on weekends.
Just like employers don’t want distracted workers, children don’t want distracted parents. Simple yet so hard to make a reality in this society.
If only people stopped to think that way, then perhaps we will stop promoting this crazy culture here in Singapore where people just work longer and longer, and start expecting others to do the same. No, we do not get paid overtime, and in this day and age with phones and mobile devices, work just encroaches more and more into our family time. For one, the phone messages never stops, and that is in itself a destructive distraction from family.
What will I do next? I have no idea, but at this point, I can only give you the other side of the story. Stop invading your employees’ personal time unnecessarily. Sure if there is a crisis, we will drop everything and rush back, but this privilege is abused/taken as a given, overtime, burnout occurs, people stop reacting. Like the boy who cries wolf, by the time the real wolf comes, you can bet, half the people who can help would have left the farm in search of a better place.