Be kind to mothers

I met someone new at work recently. He was a guest and in the first three minutes of our introduction, he congratulated me on my pregnancy.

I smiled and said my thanks, and then he revealed that he and his wife were expecting their third child. Now, it was my turn to offer my congratulations. And then he asked me: “Do you plan to continue working?”

Woah. I mean, I had known the guy for barely five minutes. But I answered him anyway: Yes, I do.

“You don’t want to look after the kids yourself?” he pressed.

Eventually, I hope to be able to, I replied. But just not now.

“It’s better for the kids, you know,” he said.

I changed the subject.

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Two years ago, when I was heavily pregnant with Aidan, I bumped into a male colleague in the pantry. As we made small talk, he suddenly said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

Erm, sure, I replied, taken aback.

“Are you coming back to work after giving birth?” he asked.

Yes, I am, I said.

“But why?”

I excused myself and walked out of the pantry.

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I really hate this whole FTWM vs SAHM talk. It’s absolutely pointless and simply fuels petty comments and biased opinions. And it piles the guilt onto mothers, something that we don’t need more of. As it is, mums are often ridden with guilt over one thing or another, and the last thing we want is to be judged for our choice to work.

Whether we are full-time employees or not, we are still mothers at the heart of it all.

We still clean up snotty noses, cuddle our babies when they wake up crying, delight over their milestones, despair over their tantrums, pack their bags, stock up on their diapers, sing and dance with them, kiss their wounds better, ensure that they have their jabs, prepare their favorite food, tell them we love them a million and one times.

It doesn’t mean that just because we are not with them in the day, we are failing them in any way.

Some of us make the choice to work. We choose to work because we enjoy our work. We enjoy the financial independence. We like to be intellectually stimulated in different ways. We are better mums because we work.

Some of us have to work. I need to support my retiree single mother, and I cannot bear to let my husband shoulder the financial burden of keeping both our family and my family afloat. Not all of us have the luxury of choosing to stay at home, some of us don’t have that fat paycheck as a cushion.

So, don’t judge. Don’t say stuff like “it’s better for the kids” to us. You don’t know us, you don’t know our kids. We have made our choice and we live it everyday, without complaints, without whining. We do the best that we can.

Be kind to us.

In a parallel universe…

…I am a Stay-At-Home-Mum.

I took my students out on a photography field trip to East Coast Park last week. I love field trips because it allows me to leave the campus for some fresh air and a new environment. Plus, the kids get to exercise their creativity and practise their photography.

While waiting for them to finish their assignment at Starbucks, I started musing. It was a really beautiful morning: gentle sea breeze, moderate temperature, low humidity and not too sunny. I could see the ships hovering at the edge of the sea’s horizon and there were little kids running around in glee at the nearby childcare centre. All I could think of was how much my little man would enjoy being here. And then, I’d bring him home for a nap while I prepare lunch and we may head over to the library after that. Some days, we may go swimming or to the museum or to the airport to look at the planes that he’s so head over heels in love with. Maybe we’ll meet up with our friends and have a playdate.

But this is not my life. That’s not us.

Before I had Aidan, I contemplated becoming a SAHM. I am someone with strong views on how I wanted to bring up my child and I knew that some of these views are in conflict with his caregivers – my mother and my mother-in-law. Both of them are headstrong and stubborn women who do not necessarily listen to our views and opinions, insisting on doing it their way. And in many ways, I have had to compromise and learn to choose the battles to fight.

It has not been an easy compromise but that is another post for another day.

At the same time, I know that I am romanticising being a SAHM. My four months of maternity leave have taught me that reality is far from what I had imagined. There are poopy bums to clean, tantrums to manage, activities to be done, laundry to be washed. And downtime will be precious and rare.

I enjoy my job, I like being around my students, my colleagues and working environment are pleasant. And more importantly, I value the time away for me to be me and not just MAMA. And that was why I chose to return to the workforce.

In the meantime, I’ll continue doing this 100% Mama-100% Working Adult juggle until we can figure out the next evolution of our family.

One of our favorite weekend activities: parks and playgrounds!

Work-life balance?

Little boss lady turned 14 months recently, which means she’s had about 6 weeks of school already.

She’s settled in pretty well. The crying stopped slightly after 2 weeks of school (such a stark contrast to me!). Reminds me again how adaptable kids really are. Also made me feel a bit like chopped liver.

The good thing is that, every time I pick her up she’s always gurgling with delight to see me and struggles to reach for me when her teacher brings her to me. Makes me feel especially loved.

All grown up

As for me, I’m still struggling with finding a good balance between work and family. It’s tough, tough but doable.

If my baby can do it, I can do it!

 

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