Dare to be, my little lady

8 of March, a day we celebrate women, Happy International Women’s Day to myself, my daughter and all the ladies in this world. 

And really, I ask myself, why do we need just a day to celebrate ourselves, rather than celebrate ourselves everyday, but that is a topic for another day.

 This year, I haven’t written much, as I  tried to refocus on family, and attempt to be more conscious about making what little time I have with Little Foot quality time. Purposeful time. And, even in my absence, I hope she feels my presence and love. And so I slowed down on the various things I like to do in my leisure time, and focused on her.

Yet, some things going on around us, have been setting me thinking about various things.   And so, I will try to find some time this month to pen them down. 

This is the first part to a series of thought bubbles that have been forming lately in my mind. 

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 The world we live in.

As a nation with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, with capital punishment, with caning, jail and effective policing, it is easy to become a complacent parent in Singapore. Where we are perfectly fine to sit back and watch from a distance while our toddlers are at play, we have primary school children who walk home or take a bus alone after school. A place where adults feel it is okay to leave our children unattended in a food court to “chope” seats during a meal. 

Yet it may not be the case at all, that we can always be assured that our children, especially our daughters will be able to avoid the dangers that this world have to offer.

 I said this because of late I have been feeling disturbed by disturbing reports published in the media, of middle-aged men being convicted for sexual assaults which involved statutory rapes, and more disturbingly, from the reports, the sexual grooming of young girls. 

  • In one case, a 52-year-old man raped his neighbour’s daughter some years ago, ran off to Malaysia and was only caught when his wife, spotted him in JB. The girl was only 11 when she was repeatedly raped over a period of time. Here in Singapore, rape carries jail and caning. However, because he had fled and was only caught at 52, he was spared the cane. Understandably, netizens are angry. Had he been caught there and then, surely he would have gotten the caning as deserved for the heinous acts.
  • In another case, a 47-year-old man raped his son’s supposed “ex-girlfriend” and then convinced her that he had feelings for her, and the girl was led to believe they were in a relationship.  And continued to be sexually involved with the man.  The girl was 11.

 There are more such cases. 

Just reading the headlines are sickening to say the least. My heart cried for the girls and their parents.

11 years old. An age when perhaps puberty has just started, at an age when a child starts to have awkward feelings and wasn’t quite sure if she was an adult or a child. An age we call them “tweens”, not yet a teenager.

11 years old. An age where as parents, we want to baby them just a little bit more. When mummies would sit and watch wistfully as their babies start to sprout and perhaps grow as tall as themselves, and wonder where the diaper-wearing, toothless grin, chubby cheeks baby had gone, and wished time could stand still and they still had their little girl.

And then to have to face a situation where their little girl’s innocence was stolen by disgusting old men. I am not mincing my words. I will not. If they are not disgusting, what are they? These are men with wives, and even children. And they prey on the daughters of others. Imagine the parents’ anguish and pain. 

Parenting today is complicated, and yet parents have so little time to navigate the complex terrains because of the demands from work commitments. It is not the easiest reality to grapple with, but we have no choice, we have to try to wing it. 

In the past, when our parents took away the house keys, restricted access to the house phones, and set curfews, they could more or less “protect” us from going astray.

Today, the internet, smart phones and social media leaves a door open for the world to come in. Friends and foes alike. In the second case, the girl had foolishly sent naked pictures of herself via Facebook private message to the man’s son (purportedly her boyfriend), and that was how everything went downhill from there, when he saw the photos on the account.

 I had so many questions running through my head: Why didn’t they speak up? They did not think they could confide in their parents or an adult? Did they think no one would listen, no one would believe them, or that they would be “punished” or shamed for having been sexually abused? 

 There are no easy answers. 

There are many more of such reports, and with each one, I hug my child tighter. How can I shield my Little Foot from this very complex world, where children seem to mature younger, parents seem to lose tab on them earlier, and with psycho men out there?

 And so I pen this now, for my baby girl. For a time not to far away. 

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Dear Little Foot,

If you ever read this years later, and we have somehow reached a stage where you find it difficult to understand my intentions and hard to have a decent conversation with me, I hope you read what my heart wants to say to you today and everyday. 

As a woman, you are empowered. To believe in your own self-worth, to define your own self-worth, to love yourself. In weak moments, it may not seem true or possible, but it is, and I tell you I know. I have been there. Many times, doubting that I can be anything worthwhile. And in the end I am, because I became your mother. 

First, don’t let anyone make you feel lesser than you should be; don’t let anyone make you think that you are incomplete or nothing without them. With or without a relationship, you are complete and perfect. 

You are and always will be the most perfect in my eyes and your Daddy’ eyes.

We loved you from the day we knew you existed, and we fell even more headlong in love with you the day we first set eyes on you. This love we have grew and grew, so much so that we would not be able to breath well again if you were taken away. And this love will be.

In some places, women are treated like commodities, but this is Singapore, where you are as worthwhile a human as any other person, man or woman, whatever your skin colour or religion. 

It is a place where we can dare to be. And I hope you will be.

Next, your body is your own, God gave it to you, we gave it to you. Cherish it, protect it and never think you could or should use it to gain anything, because when a person want you not for the person that you are, but the body that you are in, that is not true love. And it will not last.  It hurts when you hurt. Just because we are your parents. We may not say it, but it does. And so, love yourself well. 

I will always remember that first nail clipper accident when I ran blocks carrying you to the doctor because my newborn was bleeding from a small cut. The blood had drained from my face, but I hugged you and ran frantically to get help.  

I will also remember the day you fell and hit your head on the marble floor, and had the biggest bump on your forehead ever. I didn’t sleep that night, thinking if you would feel sick because of the effects of the bump.

My list can go on… but you get it. It hurts us when you hurt. So take care of yourself. 

Third, never feel like you could not approach us to talk about something or ask for help. Within and beyond our capabilities, we will help you or find help. Always. Unless we are no longer in this world. And if that day came, you have my sisters, your Yiyis, to turn to. I would trust them with my life, and you can too. 

A nun I knew once told a story of a teenage girl who found out she was pregnant, and the girl told her “My mother will kill me if she found out”. The nun’s reply was simple – “Don’t be dramatic. No mother has ever KILLED their daughter for getting pregnant”. Nothing can be more true. Being furious is one thing, and one ought to face the music if one has gotten into trouble. But yet at the end of the day, we will sit down and sort out whatever mess it is with you. Because you are our child. That is simple. We have a duty to do what we can for you, and we love you.  

 Dear Little Foot, it is International Women’s Day. 20 years from now, 50 years from now, women may have finally reach an enviable social standing, on par with their male counterparts in all parts of the world, and in all parts of society. Who knows? Yet we will always be just a little different. Because we are daughters, girlfriends/wives and mothers. We love, we listen to our heart, and sometimes we will feel burdened by these roles. And yet we will and must plough on, because we are strong that way.  My mother was like that, and I try to be like that too. 

May you grow up to be brave, street-smart, and most importantly discerning. See through the superficial, be aware of the dangers this world has to offer. Let your head lead the way, not your body, and I daresay, rein in your heart.

Dare to sing your own tune. Be not afraid. 

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 I am not saying that you should restrict yourself because there is much to fear. I am saying dare to be. And dare to say no. Dare to ride the rainbow, go after that pot of gold at the end of it. Along the way, there will be dangers and harms, you will fall, you will and must pick yourself up. Dare to be. and dare to do some ass-kicking along the way.  

Life will be full of potholes and craters, but discern my child, and don’t lose sight of your destination. 

And finally, just know that no matter how old you are, you will always be our baby, you can always come home to us. 

 You are only three now.  And I hope that the years we have together will allow me enough time to prepare you for this world. You will never be quite ready, but we will try. 

Till then, as your mother, along with other parents, I can continue to trust, support and even advocate the policies that will do its best to keep you and all our children safe. If tough laws will keep Singapore just a tad safer, then let’s work hard to make sure the laws are adequate and effective deterrence, and allow due justice to be served to those who destroy lives and families. 

And in the end, it if you could read my mind, you would know I fear too. I fear to let you go, but I know one day I must let you spread your wings. 

Dare to be, my little lady, because you can be all you want to be. 

I love you. Always. 

Love, 

Mummy 

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Reflections on Two… a year of grow grow grow

Little Foot turned Three in what feels like a blink of an eye…As with each year, I take time to reminisce this motherhood journey, and find time to write my Little Foot a little note.

No one was kidding when they said the days are long but the years are short. It never fails to amaze me that it wasn’t so long ago that I had a little bundle in my arms, so tiny we were afraid we would break a bone of hers if we were not careful… and now? She’s more than half my height, and twice the personality I am. Everything has moved so fast, but I am thankful and grateful each day that she is growing well.

What a year it has been…

From Hello Kitty to Elsa

Remember how she loves Hello Kitty soooo much? Well, she’s kinda outgrown Hello Kitty, but still “alright” with the Sanrio character which I also love. And now she has moved on to being a big fan of Elsa, so we made her wish come true and got her the full works for her birthday party.

Just play….

It was also a year of play and play, as we cut back on enrichment classes and allowed her (and ourselves) time to roam free.

We went out to meet Mr Sun..

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We had picnics…

We took selfies…

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We sang, we danced,

We giggled and we laughed…

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We had so many “birthdays” because she loved it so much…

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And we went out to see the world…

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And through it all, Little Foot learned and we learned too.

It’s been a year of great self-exploration and adventures, I daresay.

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It’s was also a year where I was more absent… And also a year where we found it trickier to deal with her tantrums and antics.

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Through it all, we learned and she learned too. We grew stronger and closer.

Dear Little Foot, this year, we all had to adjust a lot to Mummy’s new work routine, which would take me away from you a lot more, and see me more distracted when I am around. I can sense how much you miss me these days, and I feel your anguish at my sporadic absence. And I thank you for your neverending, overflowing love for me.

As we approach THREE, things may not be easier, but hopefully you will be able to better understand and be more patient with me, as I try to be with you. Let’s continue to grow together!

Thanks for a year that was filled with so many Little Foot memories that I thank God over and over again for you. As always, Mummy and Daddy hope that your days be filled with happiness, and may you grow up well and healthy. Know that through good times and bad, you will always be my baby and I only have the deepest love for you.

Happy Birthday, my dearest girl… let’s celebrate all through December!

Love as always,

Mummy

Don’t be Me, my Little Foot

Been rather swamped at work recently, hence the blog seemed to have collected some cob webs.

(Actually, who isn’t? In this climate where even journalists get laid off, you better be busy or be gone!)

Little Foot has resumed much of her carefree ways during her time outside of preschool, and it brings a smile to my face when I sit here recollecting her cute voice singing the full “Doe A Deer” song accurately while swinging high on a swing.

She was mesmerised by the song when I first sang it to her when she came back from school doing the Solfege Do-Re-Mi hand signs. And I think she practised over a couple of days during her naptimes to perfect it.

I do wonder how long I could actually keep stresses away from her. Especially when mummies around me are talking about alphabet and numbers recognition and writing.

We had dropped all enrichment classes for nearly half a year. A break for all of us. We were all just a little burntout.

And so we played.

Besides her ambition of being a princess (must be Elsa), she’d also fallen in love with Peppa Pig and had watched the episodes on YouTube so many times, she could complete the sentences sometimes as the clips play.

There are moments like yesterday, when I paused at work late at night wondering if Little Foot’s development would have been more spectacular, and perhaps she was “wasting time” because I am hardly around and when I am, I indulge her as all guilty mamas do.

And then I pause.

She is not yet three. And I don’t want her to be me. I want her to be like Papa, never harassed, always self-assured, steady and fearless.

Why I am me…

Before 3, I was starting to write, reciting Tang poems (according to my mother, but which I have no recollection of). At 5, I had completed alot of basic chinese character words (remember writing a page full of the word “草”) , wrote and counted well in English, even basic additions and subtractions, and did some spectacular feat of drawing an apple and colouring it at the same time with with a colours pencil in each hand (I do not recall this either).

My mother loves to reminisces such things. I was that brillant child she tried to hot house. I wanted to play, she wanted results. She loved me, but she saw potential and she wanted me to shine.

And at 8 years old, I burnt out.

To end up with a month-long stay in the hospital with gastric ulcers.

Finally someone said it – she is stressed.

Whatever she did or whatever I was born with however saw me through schooling life rather easily, but I never wanted to do more anymore… a perpetual tiredness follows me, together with the gastric pangs and occasional panic attacks.

And so, I dont want Little Foot to be like me. Hopefully our slack attitude will not be a reason for her to blame us in future, but for now, I try to think we are ok.

Because I love you so very, very much.

A Letter to my Little Foot – Sometimes, it is okay to challenge rules

Dear Little Foot,

Today is Children’s Day, and coincidentally, today you turn 34 months old.

As we inch closer towards your Terrific Three, which I am sure will be more amazing and full of mountains and molehills that we can conquer together, I wanted to write you a letter about our experience today, and a lesson that your 36-year-old mother learnt on this day.

Today, Daddy and I brought you to the Mindchamps “I’m Proud of You” Day. Almost everyone in your class attended as well.

What we were told when we paid for tickets (nearly $80) to this Family Festival to celebrate you and your little friends was this – that this was a day for us to share fun challenges, activities, and events that bonds the family… and it will immerse you and your little friends, in Confidence, Gratitude, Compassion, Seeing the Beauty in Others and Embracing Setbacks as Setups. These are values that I feel strongly for.

What I did NOT know, as most of the other parents did (because Mummy has been so engrossed in work that I sometimes do not pay attention), was that the Daddies and Mummies were told that attendance was compulsory.

We went today because Mummy felt that an event to celebrate you and celebrate family, and an event filled with promises of fun challenges, pony rides and bouncy castles sounds like a treat for Children’s Day. Yes we went on our own accord.

However, it turned out to be an event that made us wait and wait.

  • Little kids like yourself, and some even younger than you sat through a long wait for the event to start, a long spiel on why we are doing “I’m proud of you” from the founder of Mindchamps, while Mummy had to disappoint you for countless times telling you that you have to wait and not go on the bouncy castles which were in set up all over the hall. I saw many mummies and daddies telling your little friends the same thing too. I suppose this taught us Patience and Delayed Gratification.
  • Once the boring part was over, we were greeted with long queues for all the activities. Don’t get Mummy wrong. It is okay to wait, as we did at Disneyland, and many places we have visited since you were barely half a year old. In fact, it is only right that take our place in a queue properly. That is courtesy. However, Mummy and Daddy couldn’t help but wonder why there was only one Pony when there were hundreds of little ones like you attending the event. And there were only two bouncy castles for younger ones like you.

It also turned out to be a series of disappointments for us…

  • When we queued for the pony ride (there seemed to be only one pony for riding), and were told to come back later. And when we did come back, the queue had ended. We had talked about the pony rides for days, and it was a shame that Mummy and Daddy were so lost in the chaos that we did not go back in time. I couldn’t help but wonder why there was only one pony.
  • When we were turned away at the door of the pottery workshop although Mummy had bothered to do the pre-registration some days earlier and told to return at 1pm which is the universal naptime for all little kids in this preschool programme. So we never got to see how a pottery session looked like, nor got to feel how the clay for pottery making felt to our fingers.

And in the end, was it for you or for us? We wonder…

With the numerous sponsored booths – the filled up one side of the hall, conducting activities from the golfing station to bubble performance, to pottery classes, to mini tennis and skate scooting, even the Pororo booth right in the middle of the hall, and the AIA station dangling walk-the-dog balloons, we got confused.

And we wondered if this was really an event to celebrate you, or an event for them to get exposure to this captive audience, because we had paid for tickets, we were not going to leave.

A silver lining of sorts however was our insistence that we should not have the day wasted, and so we did go around trying to enjoy whatever that was available, and so you did have little pockets of enjoyment, such as the pleasure of putting coins into a vending machine for your favourite Green Tea, successfully putting two golf balls, and trying out some new age block toys, where you spent quite some time at.


What I want to say is this…

  • I want to tell you never to make this mistake of thinking that little children could stretch their patience and attention span like rubber bands. God did not make little children this way, nature can only be trained to a certain extent.
  • I want to also tell you that in whatever you set out to do in future, if it was anything that took up others people’s time, effort (whether or not it costs money), learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. The people who planned this had not thought much about how disappointing it was for you and your little friends to queue very, very long and only get less than 10 minutes on the bouncy castle, to have waited in anticipation for weeks to try a pony ride, only to have walked away with nothing except a coupon to visit the stables another day, they had also not thought about the mummies and daddies who had to deal with the fidgets, which is not your fault because you are very young, and to deal with the disappointed faces and meltdowns – which we have to do anyway every day because we are daddies and mummies, but any extra episode, especially at an outing meant to make you happy makes us upset in more ways than one. And in the face of this, Mummy and Daddy still felt we had to set good examples to you, and so we did not lose our tempers, take it out on any of the people manning the queues, or try to shove others out of our way as some did to us just to get a little ahead of the queues.

More importantly, I wanted to tell you this – sometimes, it is alright to say “No” to rules.

You may think it is shocking that as your mother, I say this, but I say it as it is.

In life, there will be people who set rules, and there will be some people who follow rules, and some people who do not.

Of the people who do not, we have to sort them into two groups – those who break rules for the sake of being anti-establishment (without reason), and those who break rules because the rules did not make sense, and they feel strongly that they should have the rule changed rather than blindly comply.

I say this because today is the first instance that you have encountered (although you would not remember) of a situation where we were told it is “compulsory” and therefore we have to go, whether we like it or not. And then on hindsight felt that there are compelling reasons to challenge this rule.

And so I say it is okay to be in the latter group.

There will be rules in place that may not make sense for one reason or another. Sometimes they are rules that have become obsolete over time. We see that with our laws. That is why we regularly see amendment bills passed in Parliament. The rules must befit the times.

Sometimes there are rules that are put in place by people who may have other underlying motivations for putting that rule in place. They may have a hidden agenda. And so it is for us to uncover the truth, and challenge the rule. Fix things.

Sometimes there are rules put in place by people who do not know any better, or based on superstitions. Ancient history has many of such lessons. Rules such as having people buried together with the Emperor who passed away is one such rule. If you lived in that era and did not fight that rule. You may be one of those buried. Would you not challenge the rule if your life is on the line?

So, even as we have felt disappointed today, I wanted to walk away with a strong message to you when you are older and understand what I am saying.

Yes, some rules are meant to be challenged and if need be, break them.

In this instance, if the “rule” applies again next year, you know I will ask questions and not readily accept it as a rule to comply with.

I have lived my 36 years of life with conviction, believing in work that will make this place we call home a better place. In helping to lay good foundations for a better future for you.

Your Daddy and I work very hard each day to do work of value, and work that befits our conscience. Sometimes we feel our contributions may be so little, we do not know if there is indeed any impact to the future that you will see. Yet we keep at it. And we never give up. It is fortunate that while we hold on to our conviction, we make enough to pay for things that we feel matter to you and us, such as your education and our holidays. Not everyone who work for their beliefs can be so lucky. Some sacrifice their freedom and their lives for conviction.

As your parents, we want to raise you this way – have a strong moral compass, have compassion, have faith, and enjoy what you do. And when you see something that is not quite right, never fear to stand up and say so. Moral courage is a value that is underrated in today’s society, but still a value that one must desire.

And so I hope I leave with you this legacy for years to come. That if the rules are wrong, dare to stand up, speak up, and if need be, break it. As Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”.

Love Deeply as Always,

Mummy Joyc

A conversation on over-indulgence

We had an interesting conversation in the lift today, after a trip to Kiddy Palace, and it went like this…

Papa Long’s Spiel in the lift:

那些小玩具真的很贵… 一只是一个穷人的两 盘菜饭

[Translation: know those small toys are really damn expensive? One toy can be a 2 meals for a poor person.]

My reply:

Yah, a bit ex(pensive) lah…

*give act blur face*

He continued:

等你真的穷的那时候,肚子饿, 你拿那个toy 来看, then you say to it ” Ohhhh, let me eat your head first for lunch now, later I eat another part for dinner…”

[Translation: wait till you poor and hungry, you will look at the toy and say to it ” Oh, let me eat your head first for lunch, later I eat another part for dinner…”]

Me: 😑😑😑😑

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He was talking about the little tikam tikam toys we have been collecting since we first found them in Woolsworth supermarket during our Perth trip.

And since we came back, I have added probably another 10 more or so to Little Foot’s collection which she keeps in her Hello Kitty backpack.

I have to admit, he is right. At S$4.90 for a blind buy Disney Princess and S$5.90 for a blind buy My Little Pony, they really don’t come cheap.

The elevator speech made me muse about how different we are and how appropriate it was for a spendthrift, never-wanna-grow-up me to have married a person like him. Otherwise, as he also often like to say, “If I also spent like you, we will be living under a bridge already!”

And you should have seen how he says these things with a straight face… totally cracked me up and made me remember how he once made a similar spiel about “those expensive bags”.

I must say, for an engineer who talks very little, he really could make people sit up when he does make such in-your-face speeches.

Now, to learn to remind myself not to always just buy whatever Little Foot wants, because he also pointed out how I caved in and ended up buying her 2 big toys and many of the small blind buy toys when she was supposed to buy only 1 toy for herself and 1 toy for a birthday party we are attending tomorrow.

Oops.

Really an over-indulgent mama!

The Little Person has the largest luggage

Packing for a trip (and creating a spectacular mess of the house in the process) got me
musing to myself  – “it used to be a 1 hour affair the night before, this packing thing”.

So amid the exciting of a imminent trip, here’s the crazy packing process.

Packing for a kid is like packing your house for war. You plan for ALL CONTINGENCIES.

 

Diapers:

I start off packing maybe 10 diapers, then you go “what if there’s not enough?” then the entire pack of diapers goes in. Ok, add a giant pack of wet wipes.

Medical Survival Box:

I know I have to bring Paracetamol for fever… then ok, how about Zyrtec for flu… then what about neurofen in case fever persists… what about rashes, cuts etc. So I end up with 1 big bag of meds, plus a medipouch filled with essential oils.

Clothes:

it’s gonna be freezing and rainy. Ok, boots, lots of long sleeves, some short sleeves to layer on, hats, socks, leg warmers, more socks… raincoat, puffy coat. Actually this still doesn’t take up much compared to Papa’s winter clothes.

Entertainment:

Scared she’s bored on the plane. So we pre-loaded the tablet with videos. Gotta bring Barney (all three of them), and Elsa and Anna. Oh dear… what about lego bricks? Birthday Cake toys? Ahhhh… ok we will leave the Legos behind. we can buy those there. Maybe I will lose the Papa and Mama Barneys. Still undecided about the birthday cake toy.

Sustenance: 

Ok this is always the crazy tricky thing. You bring milk bottles, you need something to wash and sterilize them. The box and brush takes up a lot of space.

For food, I packed the food scissors, food jar (useful for packing leftovers for a later meal), bibs, fork and spoon. Also stuffed in 2 packs of UHT and 6 feeds of milk powder to survive till we get there. We intend to buy a can of milk when we reach.

Toiletries & grooming: 
Oh yes, almost forgot this. Gotta bring her Silly Shampoo, her Aquafresh kids toothpaste and pink toothbrush. Have to pack her hairbrush, washcloths and a bath towel. And creams.

Diaper bag for the flight: 

Diapers, spare clothes, milk and bottles, blanket and pillow. and then pray hard she knocks out on the plane. Oh yes, and our Kinderpack Carrier.

Somehow we managed to squeeze our things into 1 big 1 small luggage and 2 handcarry ones.

P.S. Little Foot is very specific in the things she uses, and she is a creature of habit. As much as possible, we have to keep to the same things she is used to. Like the pink toothbrush, and her Dog print milk bottles, otherwise, woe betide us!

Ok, ready or not, we have to go!

Pray for a safe flight tonight!

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Our carry on-luggage, mostly all Little Foot’s essentials and toys! 

Letting my mother role spill over 

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!”

Taking a picture after I missed the party

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.