As I am typing this, I am sitting in bed with an open bottle of cider beside me. The other side of my bed is empty because, solo parenting.
When the husband took on this job, we knew that travelling was involved. It wasn’t going to be often – once a quarter – but it was usually between three to four weeks each trip. Truth be told, it isn’t difficult to be a solo parent. I am very routine-driven when it comes to my littles (because, hello, I want them to go to bed early!!) and I usually run the household like clockwork when the husband is not around.
In fact, his presence sometimes throws the routine into disarray because he is not too concerned about routine (read: he is the chill and “fun” papa who brings them out for ice-cream and lets them watch videos of aeroplanes/space shuttles/sporting competitions.)
But then, I decided to study part-time, on top of working full-time, and that turned solo parenting into a whole new ball game altogether. Four days a week, I attend online classes, and spend alternate Saturday evenings on video-conferences. A typical day would look like this.
630-7am: the littlest rises. He either comes into my room to wake me (“IT’S MORNING! WAKE UP MUMMY! I OPEN THE CURTAINS!” Noooooo…) or he goes out to get his breakfast prepared by the helper.
7am: the alarm on my Apple Watch buzzes. I hit the snooze button.
715am: the alarm buzzes again, insistently. I rouse reluctantly and try to wake Mr 5, who usually transplants himself into my bed in the middle of the night. He grunts and rolls out of my reach.
720am: I haul myself into the bathroom. Sometime during my shower, Mr 5 will go out to get his breakfast.
735am: I get dressed and try to look more human.
750am: Time for breakfast. By this time, there is half-eaten breakfast lying on the empty dining table and a pile of Lego on the floor. The little buggers simply cannot focus on eating, they just want to play.
805am: I have finished eating and I start requesting (read: threatening) the littles to put on their shoes. There is usually a fair bit of negotiation at this point.
815am: We finally get out of the house. I drop them off at school and then I go to work.
6pm: Shit. No time to finish marking, I have to go and pick up the boys. I miss them like crazy!
620pm: Finally got them both loaded into their car seats. I am usually the only parent screaming at my kid(s): “Put on your shoes! Stop touching the thermometer! Don’t climb the wall! Okay you can sanitise your hands. I said not to climb, right? Don’t run out of the road!” One would think that I birthed monkeys instead of boys. I roll my eyes to the high heavens and pray for patience.
640pm: We get home. They put their shoes into the cupboard, wash their hands, change out of their uniforms and we eat our dinner.
720pm: They play while I log online to start on my class for that day.
8pm: I hustle them into the bathroom and shower them. After that, I get them changed into their jammies and they brush their teeth. We’ve had to go to Oxford Dental Care 3-4 times in the last year with all the new teeth popping up, and the new addictions to candy popping up – so brushing teeth is a requirement in our house these days.
830pm: We finally go into their bedroom. I tell them to read on their own while I continue my online class. They usually end up performing some strange antics like marching like soldiers.
9pm: Lights out. I shut down my computer and try to cuddle them to sleep.
930-10pm: I finally crawl out of their room and go back to my computer to continue my online lesson.
130am-2am: Shut down and shuteye. Time for bed.
So, how do I survive? Well, hmm, I am not too sure I survive. I continue to exist. Below are some ways in which I try to exist a wee bit longer.
Seek help when you need it.
I am a mother who tries to do as much for her kids as she can. But there are moments when I am simply too worn down, or too frustrated to continue. And I recognise that it is okay to seek help. It is okay to admit that I don’t have it all and I need somebody to step in, even if it’s for a couple of hours.
I am no martyr mum.
So there are times when I have had to ask my mother to watch over the boys when I have evening video-conferences and the husband is away. Or when I drop them off with my in-laws so I can get my grocery shopping done in peace. Or I get my helper to watch them while I put myself back together in the bedroom.
Build a village.
I am lucky that my kids love their school and their teachers care for them genuinely. It allows me to go to work everyday with peace of mind. And at the same time, I also know that I can rely on the grandparents for help.
Look, there are times when the grandparents drive me crazy with their indulgence and methods of caregiving. But at the end of the day, they love the boys and are willing to step in when I am this close to losing it. Some battles are meant to be fought and some battles can be left alone. Pick your battles wisely.
Have your girlfriends on WhatsApp.
I would not have been able to survive the way I do without the moral support of my girlfriends. When I am in the toilet hiding from my boys, I can be sure that texting them would save my sanity. They don’t judge, they comfort me and then they make me laugh.
Plus, they are in the same time zone (the husband is 15 hours behind, which is OF NO HELP).
Carve out some me time.
Again, I am no martyr. I don’t need to spend every waking moment with my children. In fact, I would rather not. As an introvert, I need to recalibrate my mental well-being every once in a while and take myself away from the noise that my kids generate. I need to be away from their need of me.
So I started working out once a week. By myself, for 45 minutes or so. It’s a time for my mind and my soul to reset. Sometimes, I take the day off from work just to get my hair done or hit the gym or get some shopping done. A day, just for me. It’s a luxury but it’s also a necessity.
I’ve also stopped feeling guilty for opting to nap with the kids on weekends instead of, say, making dinner. If I need my rest, I need my rest. My family isn’t going to die if I cook one less meal.
It probably sounds arrogant but I believe firmly that I am doing my best as a mother and that I am a good mother. I try not to doubt myself or second-guess my methods. And this confidence probably saves me a lot of unnecessary angst. I don’t waste energy on questioning myself and I trust that I have done all the research and consideration needed to make a decision when it comes to parenting.
It does not mean that I don’t have moments when I feel like an utter failure. When my kids are little jerks and I wonder why I am doing this. But being confident about who I am and what kind of mother I am allows me to bounce up from these parenting lows quicker.
Have faith in yourself. Because if you don’t, you are always going to be chasing after affirmation in your life. And frankly, that’s exhausting.
So, that’s me as a mother right now in a nutshell. And guess what? I have a small warm body lying next to me – the five-year-old bed intruder has made his way over. I suppose that’s my cue to stop writing and get to sleep!
This post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.
If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories about how Mothers make it work, you can start with this one here, David at Life’s Tiny Miracles. David and Angie are co-authors of their parenting blog. Having suffered child losses and childlessness, they believe in celebrating the tiny miracles God gives in their everyday lives with their kids. Their blog is a journal of their parenting journey. It covers an extensively from travels with their kids, to kid-friendly products and experiences and most importantly, their reflections as parents and as a couple.
After this post, the next one on the train is Katherine from BubbaMama. Katherine is a strong advocate of healthy lifestyle through exercise; eating right; keeping a positive and youthful outlook of life; and, to live vicariously while one can. When she is not working, she is catching up with friends over coffee or dinner on the latest news and tips to help mummies save time. She firmly believes that empowerment is possible for anyone, as long as they believe in themselves and the people around them.
Hello! Yes it’s me. I am still alive, evidently. The blog, on the other hand, isn’t looking too great.
Well, it’s been a while and what can I say, life gets in the way. There’s always work to be done, littles to be cuddled, wine to be drunk and life to be lived. I used to think that writing was cathartic but these days, it sure doesn’t feel that way. So I took a break. Didn’t pressure myself to write.
The husband is off on one of his trips again and I have been playing the roles of both papa and mummy. It’s hard, but really not that hard because I am so used to it by now. There are days when the boys are absolute assholes and I have to channel my inner OHM to keep from exploding. Some days, I am successful. Other days, well.
Today was one of those days when I was not quite as good at keeping it together. Mr 5 was building a house using the PicassoTiles that we got him for his birthday (PS they are awesome and if you want a review, let me know!), and the house was filled with Duplo people. Inexplicably, Mr 2 (and Impossibly Cute) decided to do a Godzilla on him and stomped all over the house.
Poor Mr 5. He burst into tears and I had to wrestle the little Godzilla away. Gave him a pep talk, cuddled him a bit (just in case it was due to his love tank being empty) but it didn’t take him more than 60 seconds before he was at it again.
In short: Mr 2 was being a total asshat and destroying his big brother. Yes, that happens.
The third time they clashed, I lost it. Completely. Hauled the littlest into my bedroom and gave him a very stern talking to, accentuated with some finger wagging. I warned, I threatened, and then I forced him into his high chair to eat his dinner. He whined about not wanting dinner until I decided to let him have his fruit and main meal at the same time.
By then, Mr 5 was done with his meal and we sat at the piano together to practise, leaving Mr 2 at the table by himself. What do you know, that did the trick. The littlest calmed down and fed himself dinner while A and I tinkered at the piano. After the practice, we all sat down at the dining table to have our usual after-dinner yogurt.
“Hey Zac,” I said casually. “Is there something you need to say to gor gor?”
He nodded. “Sorry Aidan.”
“What are you sorry for?”
Without a break, he said: “Sorry for breaking your toy.”
“Aidan, didi has apologised.”
Aidan didn’t bat an eyelid as he replied, “It’s okay.”
In one evening, my little people taught me two things. Never be afraid to apologise for something you did wrong and never hold on to grudges.
I am getting better at saying sorry as the years go by (getting older and mellower and all that haha) but I have a hard time letting go. Not deliberately but sometimes I have a tendency to relive certain moments and conversations. I replay them over and over again, wondering if I could have done or said things differently.
But look at my five-year-old. He forgives so easily. In the next moment, they are the best of playmates again. He doesn’t forget – he sometimes stuns us with his memory – but he doesn’t hold it against people. He moves on with his life and he continues loving with his heart.
So yes, my kids teach me about life and living every day. While there are days that are harder than others, I still thank my lucky stars that I have them.
We are delighted to introduce our latest little bub on Bubsicles…
… Baby Candace!
The tiny one arrived on 15 June (yes, sorry that we’re now into July and this news is no longer as HOT AS THIS HORRENDOUS WEATHER. UGH.)
We look forward to sharing more snippets of our chaotic life with 3 kids 3 years & under on this blog.
But for now, this mama needs to get some beauty sleep.
The past week has been a bit of a downer for me.
For starters, the boys’ coughs got better and then THEY GOT WORSE. I was all HURRAH! when Aidan started hacking again, and then Zac’s nose started dripping. That limp and deflated balloon sobbing in the corner? Yeah, that’s me.
They now sound like a truckload of phlegm is stuck in their chests and we have taken to sucking out the gross stuff from Zac’s nose three times a day because it’s affecting his breathing. He, of course, HATES it and screams bloody murder. Don’t quite blame him, though.
(Tangent topic, you got to have a NoseFrida Snot Sucker in your arsenal if you don’t already. This thing is GENIUS at removing disgusting mucus and snot from the littles’ noses.)
Anyway, so yes, sick babies equates shitty sleep.
The amount of work at, well, work has been piling up for me as well. I am literally flying by the seat of my pants these days. I do what I need to complete in a day just to meet my deadlines and then, crap, it’s 6pm and I have to drop everything to pick up my boys. I rush out of the door, grab Child #1 from daycare, grab Child #2 from GrandMotherCare (GEDDIT!!) and then drive like a possessed woman home.
Once home, I feed the kids, feed myself, break up fights and then haul them both into baths. I scrub one, scrub the other and then dry them both. Once they are moisturised and massaged like little Kobe cows, I stuff them into their jammies (one is usually kicking and screaming and twisting away like the scary thingamajig on The Poltergeist), turn on the AC and flop onto bed with a huge sigh of relief.
BUT WAIT. It’s not over.
I read books, bounce babies and dish out hugs before the lights go down and I attempt to put Child #2 to bed before 8pm. After what feels like an eternity, he goes down and Child #1 and I proceed to the other room while we sing, play puzzles and make believe that we are being chased by sharks. Finally, he stops chatting to drift off into sleepy land at about 915pm.
By which time, I am ready to call it a day too.
So, last week.
I sat down in the bathroom one evening in exhaustion. I felt so overwhelmingly bogged down by the daily routine. While I knew that it was not forever, I simply lacked the energy to carpe, as they say, the freaking diem. Day in day out, it was all the same, and in the process of juggling all these hats, I was losing a piece of myself. When I am not working, I am trying to be the best mum to my kids. When the kids are asleep, I am busy with the home front.
How do I do this?
I suppose the answer is simple, I don’t have to be the perfect anybody. In my drive and desire to ensure that everyone is happy, I forget that I have to be happy too. There are many things to be thankful for, certainly, but at the same time, I came to the realisation that I have to be selfish sometimes. If saying “no” at work, to my mother, to my in-laws, to my kids, to my husband means I get a sanity break, I will do it.
The school held a celebration for mothers on the Friday before Mother’s Day.
The event clashed with a lecture at work that I had been keen to attend. But I knew what I had – and deep down in my heart, wanted – to do.
Besides, the last time I skipped a presentation that Coco’s class put up after a speech & drama holiday workshop, I was confronted with a pitiful “Mummy didn’t go”, to which I could only dredge up a feeble, “I’m sorry, mummy had to be at work.” (Oh, the guilt, THE GUILT.)
Heck, even when I sat out on a weekly visit to the in-laws, and greeted the girls and husband with open arms when they returned, Claire centred an accusatory finger between my eyes and menacingly deadpanned, “YOU. DIDN’T. COME.” Gulp. Hell could have frozen over under her icy Claire Bear stare.
My mum accompanied Claire to her playgroup activity (because it’s not humanly possible for me to be in 2 classes at the same time) while I waited for Coco’s nursery class to make their entrance. Seeing her clutching her hand-made flower pot filled with colourful paper blooms and her little face searching anxiously for me in the crowd of mothers made my heart wrench with the realisation of how much she must have been anticipating this moment. I can only say that I’m proud of myself (and hugely relieved) at having held myself together even though those few minutes of song, dance and gift presentations almost reduced me into a bawling, blubbering mess. [Of late, I’ve been under the ruthless assault of these damn pregnancy hormones and anything – even friggin’ mall advertisements for Mother’s Day (yes, Yann, I’m talking about the one you shared on the Bubsicles Facebook page) – make me look like I’ve been chopping enough onions to fill a room.]
Amongst the Kodak moments of proud mothers and delighted children, I spotted the little ones.
The little ones who clutched paper bouquets for no one. The little ones who returned their crepe flowers to the teachers for safekeeping till evening. The little ones who obediently went through the motions of singing and dancing but remained rooted to the spot while their friends ran into their mothers’ embrace. The little ones who partnered the teachers during the mother-child aerobics segment. The little ones with glum, downturned mouths and stone faces – hardened by the effort to hold back tears while the teachers offered words of comfort that “Mummy will come later, okay?”
It broke my heart. And yet, all I did was to helplessly continue bopping to the beat of the workout (and to Coco’s complaints of the outdoor heat – yes, she is one fragile thing.)
I wondered why their mothers weren’t there. It was all too easy assume that they had chosen work over children. Too easy to write them off as “working mothers”, “corporate warriors” and “career women”. Too easy to be all judge-y and self-righteously tut-tut that they could have made more effort. Too easy to feel one-up against these mothers.
But it couldn’t have been easy for these women to make that choice not to be there. Maybe they were healthcare workers who couldn’t get time off. Maybe they were teachers who had to be in school to help other women’s children deliver the joy of Mother’s Day while missing out on receiving this very same gift. Maybe they were community helpers whose services were very much needed by the less fortunate. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been easy to sacrifice their special time that day for others.
As sorry as I felt for their kids that morning, I knew that these women weren’t any less of a mother than I was simply because they were absent from an hour-long school activity. I fervently hoped that they wouldn’t be too hard on themselves for not being there.
With that, and Coco’s tiny hand in mine, I hurried to join Claire and her classmates in decorating cards for their mothers – including those who couldn’t be there.
And that’s okay. Because no one is judging.