Closer to Mother Nature

11 to 13 Aug 2017

Post-National Day (and my birthday), I wanted to make the most of our time together this long weekend. I feel a sense of urgency because this baby is growing so fast. And also because of the dreadful feeling knowing that next week, work duty calls again.

So, for three days in a row, we went close to nature. I am hardly a nature lover, because mozzies just love me too much, but since I had decided on a whim to sign myself up for a school field trip with her, I bit the bullet and just went.

Of course I made sure I overpacked my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back with every cream and ointment we would need plus other toddler essentials.

Loading up my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back for the trip

(This mama really one kiasu mama!)

The field trip to Gardenasia was rather fun. Little Foot had been anticipating the visit to the “plants farm!” since I started mentally preparing her for it a few days ahead.

And so here we are, accomplished plant potters!

❤Little Foot’s first plant! ❤

To many parents, a day out alone with the Little One is nothing. For me, it is still a leap of faith… taking baby steps to overcome my anxieties and irrational fears. I am hardly out alone with her since that near-fainting on the MRT episode when she was 8 months young.

As I consciously worked towards overcoming my anxieties, every little achievement seems like I’ve conquered a mountain.

And so it was that I successfully did this field trip with Little Foot without Papa Long in tow. Celebrate with me!

Then on Saturday, by chance, a trip to Little Foot’s BFF’s place brought us to Seng Kang Riverside Park. A little piece of mangrove and a floating platform…. the two toddlers had fun holding hands and walking around, and then chasing some bubbles.

After her flirt with nature, we had a situation in McDonald’s… sighhh… someone tell me why she always misbehaves when she is with me and Aunty Lily… but that shall be another story for another day.

At night before bedtime, Little Foot talked about feeding fishes. So it was that she went to bed holding that thought. I went to bed wondering if I shouldn’t have threatened to put her in the dustbin for her atrocious behaviour.

On Sunday we woke up and I tried to get us all ready to go somewhere as painlessly as possible. There were of course the usual procrastinations when it came to taking a bath and brushing teeth.

And then we asked ourselves, “Where shall we go?”

Papa Long suggested the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden before we went to feed the fishes at another part of Botanical Gardens.

Our first visit to the place, which would have rivalled all the nature walks we did in Perth, if not for our tropical weather which also meant the place is a home for all kinds od insects including mosquitoes!

Little Foot was distracted by her packet of Jagabee which she has been demanding to rip open while in the car. So Papa made it a game — every house you reached is a checkpoint, and you get one chip when you get there. And so began the exploration of the little garden.

Some of the areas were undergoing construction/upgrading, but there was definitely enough for a kid to be entertained.

1st checkpoint!

Conquering her dislike for sand for awhile because she likes going down the slides more!

Let’s cross some bridges

And find some fishes

And look for some herbs too!

Finally we fed the fishes and had lunch at Food For Thought (incidentally, it was their last day of operation)

And so as the sun starts to set on this week, I do think a little bit more of nature will be good for Little Foot. Even if my legs are now peppered with mozzie bites.

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.

 

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.