Of working mothers and our unnecessary guilt

…don’t think of working mothers as people who just leave office on time and do less than you. Think of us as people who have to try to do 48 hours of work in 24 hours.

It’s been half a year since I returned to work. As I gear up at work (not really by choice, but one should always have an honourable sense of responsibility), I find that I’m stretched thin when I try to be my best at home and at work.

It’s not just the past two weeks, but it’s a nagging guilt that I suppose every working mother carries.

I think I give myself a hard time too much and too unnecessarily.

I feel bad when I am home later than usual.

I feel bad saying goodbye every morning when Little Foot would sputter and burst into tears, try to reach for me, try to stop me from leaving.

I feel bad when I go do ” me things” like get a haircut after work instead of running straight home.

Heck, I feel bad even about slowly sauntering home instead of brisk walking home from the train station!

Imagine how bad I felt when I had to pry myself from her on Sunday morning while she was kicking up an epic tantrum,  because I have to go be somewhere for work.

Some days I wonder if I’m the only mum in this world that beat myself over every second not given to my daughter.  Maybe not.

As I grapple with my feelings and try to continue to keep work and life separate, I sometimes pause to ask myself “why am I making things so hard for myself?”

And I would remind myself that it’s ok to have “me time” it is ok to still want to excel beyond motherhood. Otherwise,  there is no me left. I cannot simply be Little Foot’s mummy without also living for myself. My hopes, my aspirations,  my needs and wants, they still matter.

To the other folks out there… don’t think of working mothers as people who just leave office on time and do less than you. Think of us as people who have to try to do 48 hours of work in 24 hours. We juggle, we struggle…sometimes we look like we aren’t putting in as much as you.  I beg to differ if you think that way. We are just forced to become more effective and efficient. The work of a mother never ends. At 1am, we may be dealing with a kid awakened by nightmare. At 3am we could be dealing with a dirtied bed because baby puked… we have teething and fevers, flu and vaccinations to deal with. These things don’t make appointments with you. They happen whether a mother likes it or not.

AND we still reply the Whatsapp messages related to work at night, or boot up the laptop at odd hours to get some work done after the baby is asleep.

AND we still turn up for work the next morning (after dealing with a whole set of morning routine with the kid), grab a caffeine fix, and proceed to try to meet whatever deadlines we have, and look sharp at meetings. We would like to dream of our beds, but we don’t.  We tell ourselves not to waste time thinking about the bed. Because then the unnecessary guilt kicks in and we say “Hurry up,  get the work done. Baby’s waiting”.

We don’t bring our moods to work. Because moods and tantrums makes us less effective at work. And we know, we know there is always that one unmarried/childless colleague or boss who is lurking in the corner, waiting to see us trip up and think, “see, these mummies… they aren’t as committed, they aren’t as good….”. So we try harder than anyone else to be professional, because the odds are not in our favour.

Of course, there may be some working mothers who really don’t commit as much as the bare minimum,  those are not the ones I speak for… I speak for those who are like me, trying to be the best on all fronts and always guilt-tripping ourselves unnecessarily all the time because, really we wish we could do more on all fronts. We’ve given up gym and spas and “chill out after work” sessions with colleagues, all so that we can give more to work and home. Think of us while you chill. Have a beer in our honour.

The road ahead as a working mother is long… somehow, I know things will pan out fine. Because when in doubt, I come home to hug my baby and let her smiles wash all my worries and fears away.

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Every morning, Little Foot waves goodbye to me tearfully. A shot taken from the lift landing that peers into my balcony.

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Missing Papa already

Papa Long just left for the airport… headed for a work trip. As I lay in bed with Little Foot, I am acutely aware of the empty futon on the floor where he usually sleeps.

Unlike other jetsetting couples, I hate being apart from Long. The first time he went away without me after our wedding (Taiwan with his parents), I cried myself to sleep alone in our house that suddenly felt too big. He cried himself to sleep in Taiwan too.

Months later, he went to chase the aurora in Iceland without me. Again, I cried myself to sleep for days… even though I was to meet him in Paris a week later.

After that trip, we tried for Little Foot and conceived her a couple of months later. We never left each other for trips.

Our work usually don’t bring us overseas. That’s one of the things I avoid. I hate work trips. And the nature of his work don’t usually require him to travel.

This week he was given short notice to fly to Europe… so he packed last night and left tonight. Being the explorer that he is, I know he’ll be fine.

I just feel so down though…. not having him around unsettles me. This is the first time he is away from me, from us, since Little Foot came into existence. 

Sighh…mummy’s gotta be brave and survive this week. His plane hasn’t taken off and I miss him so much already.

Even Little Foot cried and screamed when we said goodbye and closed the gate.

Time to learn to stand on our own feet this week.

Come home soon,  Papa!

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Time, sometimes doesn’t quite heal the ache

Dear Pico,

Today is the second year since you crossed over the rainbow bridge.

I once believed that time will heal the pain. Now I know, time, and the lack of it these days, only forced me to push thoughts of you to the back of my mind.

The pain hasn’t lessened with time. Maybe it’s like a sort of Rheumatism. You get used to living with the aches and pain… and then on occasions like today, it comes back aching more than ever.

I missed you, old boy.

I can still close my eyes and recall the sound of your barking, exactly in the same timbre.

I can close my eyes and smell your busuk smell.

I can close my eyes and still feel the roughness of your coat of fur.

Two years has passed, and yet none of these faded, neither has the pain of no longer being able to sit with you physically in the same room.

 

Do you feel our pain and how much we miss you?

I hope all is fine and dandy over there, and I still want to say “thank you” for showing me what life and death means, even though I wish I could trade the knowledge for more time with you.

How I yearn for just one more time, walking by the canal with you trotting beside me… the memory brings tears to my eyes each time.

I miss you.

And thank you, for everything, thank you for Little Foot.
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From no kids to one… why I changed my mind

This week, a fellow mummy whose baby was born on the same day as Little Foot gave birth again to her second child.

I felt happy for her. Yet it triggered many thoughts in my head including the impending questions that will keep popping up in my head in the days ahead as more and more in my fellow mummy group will start having their next child.

When will I have a second child?  Should I change my mind and have another baby?

To put things into perspective, I was one of those women who refused to entertain the idea of children in my life.

When we entered into marriage, I was adamant that ours would be a 2-person only family.  No kids.

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My list of defence goes on and on:
I don’t want to complicate my life…
It’s a losing investment…
It’s going to affect my career/work…
When the kids grow up,  they will break my heart (thinking of how I would give my own mother grief over stupid things in my teenage and adult years)…
I’m not healthy, my child might inherit my bad genes…
I feel complete without a child…

In essence, deep down was a fear, that I would no longer be in control of my life, our lives. Yet, by God’s grace, a death in the family changed my mind. If Pico our old dog didn’t pass away, I wouldn’t have pondered what it meant to leave. Forever.

When he left, we shared photos and videos, and spoke fondly about his antics and silly ways. Yet, it was just not enough. We were grasping at sand in the wind… helpless.

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I remembered I looked at Long and thought, if I leave, what would he have to hold onto of me? This empty house? A memory card full of photos and videos? How would I deal with it if he left me first? It was such a sad and despairing thought that it broke my heart.

Long always knew what marriage should lead to, but never articulated it well. He wanted a child, but couldn’t justify why except tell me my religion said I should. When I voiced my thoughts,  I guess it finally provided him the words that failed him.

And so we started trying for our little one. Two months later, testing positive felt like striking 4D.

Fast forward 13 months later to present time, I look back at all the times spent with Little Foot… from the pregnancy to the newborn days to colic times to now. She grew and we grew with her.

There are days I remind Papa Long that he wanted a child… (and by that logic he should be more hands on and “siao on” as a father. There are days I throw my hands up and ask myself why the F*** I agreed to put myself in this parenting situation. However, the good times and all the fulfilling moments greatly outweighed those.

Little Foot has a priceless smile that would melt all doubts away. She has those eyes that spoke a thousand words.  Even the frowns she used to present so often in her early days make me sit there and just get lost in the moment. The bond we share, especially because of breastfeeding and how we battled gestational diabetes and colic together, it replaced all the superficial things I thought was all I needed.

– Forget dates and movies.

– Forget cafe hopping.

– Forget beers on Friday nights.

– Forget one-luggage, hardly planned last-minute trips.

– Forget hobbies and couch potato time.

I’ve forgotten my old lifestyle where these were things I do without planning and without much thought.

Yes,  we still yearn for these and we will still attempt to keep a semblance of the old lifestyle, so Little Foot goes out with us for “Flower legs” sessions every weekend, finding a cafe with coffee that had latte art for Papa Long. (He’s obsessed with it), and I occasionally drag my scrapbook materials out to try to use them.

For now, I’m at the #onechildpolicy mentality. The next hurdle is overcoming my fear of going through it all over again.

The fear of going through all the unknowns in pregnancy (including not doing an Oscar test, because I will keep the baby whatever happened), the lethargy, the crazy newborn days, the milk woes, and then the thought of putting Little Foot on the sidelines if there is another child… how is that possible?

A few of the second-time mummies in my group shared how it was for them… “you may think by having a second child, the love would be halved… no, actually your heart will be able to become double big so you love both as much as you love her now.”

Wise words.

Have I thought about it?

Yes. Because I go back to the “all alone in the world” fear that sparked my journey into motherhood. Eventually, time will take Papa Long and I away from Little Foot. The thought of leaving her all alone in this world without a support system like what I enjoy (having 4 siblings) also breaks my heart.

But I fear.

I fear that I won’t make it the next time round… irrational fears but there is a real-life example in my sis’ friend who is now in a vegetative state, a result of complications during the delivery of her third child. I can’t overcome the fear that I may leave Long and Little Foot behind.

Until I overcome the fears and learn to trust God to lead the way, I will continue to be overly anxious about this.

No second child for now… let me enjoy Little Foot’s company for now. Our family of three seems complete to me.

Who knows,  God will open that door for me when the time is appropriate. And if he doesn’t, I think we will just have to prepare Little Foot for the journey ahead on her own.

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My simple 34th

I turned 34 while the nation celebrated its  Golden Jubilee birthday.

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Here’s me babywearing Little Foot with my birthday gift, the SG50 Exclusive Garden Bee Tula.

Unlike Singapore where it was all SG50 fever, mine was one of the more muted celebrations. I think as I grew older, I didn’t need a party to celebrate.  My kind of party this year? Family.

Becoming a mum and celebrating for the first time as a mummy, I realised the true meaning of a birthday is to say Thank You to the one who laboured for hours so that I could exist, and no better way than to spend it with her. I must thank my mum for making me that special National Day baby , so I never had to study or work on my birthday.

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My mummy & my baby.

This year’s wish is simple. I hope we can always be happily together.

Really, life’s priorities becomes simpler and clearer when one gets older. I guess I grew up :)!

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The most precious people to me.

So a happy birthday to me. Looking forward to the day Little Foot can wish me happy birthday personally and the day she hands me a birthday card / gift.

P.S. I do miss having a good drink on my birthday this year.