Search

Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Tag

working mother

Three jobs and a Lady

It has been a time of massive adjustment for our household. It’s time to take a breath. Let’s recap.

Thanks to the Sunday of Tumult (22 March) wherein the east coast of Australia speedily jumped within the day from “self-isolate as far as possible but SCHOOLS ARE DEFINITELY STAYING OPEN” to “Wait… we’re closing the schools! Except for those in ‘essential services’, whatever that means — sort yerselves out?” to the Federal government stepping in just hours later and yelling, “SCHOOLS ARE DEFINITELY STAYING OPEN! Take your kids out at your own discretion and peril!” I paraphrase. But it was an abysmal day for Not Confusing the Australian Public, with many of us in the communication field screaming silently.

Silent screeching from the peanut gallery

All this happened on that Sunday, with the PM’s press conference reverberating through social media well after 9:30pm AEST. Meanwhile, some peeps in Queensland still awake were going, “Wait… what? School? Huh?” and I’m trying to explain Australian politics to Singaporeans unused to State and Federal governments from different sides of politics seemingly running off in parallel to do their own thing for the good of the realm and then colliding into each other in stretches of dark tunnels. It’s a far, far cry from a benevolent totalitarian government steadily rolling out Year 55 of its 100-year plan and counting. It’s easier to be organised when you have a single head for a single body.

The announcement about schools came on Sunday. We had all of a single Monday to sort ourselves out and then that was it — Tuesday was Thundercats are Go. Whenever I encounter a post from Singaporeans wringing their hands about how crazy it was to co-educate their children on Wednesday past while still working from home, I think of all the lead time they have to transition to juggling work and teaching full-time, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

I hold two part-time jobs, with the second gig now in jeopardy as things change but then I have also blessedly picked up another client. It’s a much smaller gig but I’m hardly ungrateful. The nature of Tony’s job means he can’t work from home, which means I’m flying solo and suddenly keenly aware and appreciative of what my own mother had to put up with as a single working mother dragging me along home to home as she tutored other people’s kids.

It hasn’t been straightforward. Teachers themselves are on a steep learning curve, and the announcements, resources, assignments and advice fly in thick and fast from multiple directions. That Monday after the announcement, I spent a few hours that night trying to consolidate the sum total of the kids’ obligations to school before chunking it down into a reasonable work program for each of them that would fit around my priorities and vice versa. I ended up having to rework that schedule at least twice during that week before giving up altogether and teaching each kid separately. My weekend got burnt to a crisp trying to catch up with my day job.

In all that time, I was very painfully aware of how significantly my life just got upended (again) while my spouse’s remained relatively unscathed and unchanged. And in my chats with woman friends from all over, I find I am hardly alone in noticing this — the lion share of this upheaval is borne by women.

Even when men work from home, it’s the woman who the children run to and distract. It’s taken me two days to get this far on this blog post. Even in the last two paragraphs, I’d been interrupted every second-to-third sentence. They’re hardly bratty kids — they just generally crave companionship, have memories of goldfish, and live very much in the present. But do you know what it’s like to constantly break concentration, then try and find your focus again only to have it ruined not three minutes later? It’s fatiguing, frustrating, and bloody demoralising. It’s, frankly, torturous. Yesterday, it took me 3 hours to do what would normally take me 45 minutes, tops. It’s why I’m increasingly waiting for Tony to come home before I start on a piece of real work. But he doesn’t get back till 6:30pm on average and by then, I’m already mentally switching off.

Most unfairly of all, it’s the clutter and dirt blindness that frays our mental health — the house that needs to be ordered after a long day at home with children. The table that still needs to be wiped after dinner, the floor that needs to be swept, the kitchen linen that ought to be changed, the dishrack that needs to be washed and cleaned, the toys that haven’t been put away yet. The additional disinfecting that should happen each time our spouse returns home. The millions of things (mostly) women do as a by-the-way that everyone else doesn’t think to do themselves… all that still remains to be done. (Telling women to outline what they’d like to get done, by the way, is also adding to our workload. It takes energy to delegate. Please just make very accurate guesses and act on them.)

Our housework doesn’t get halved — not even close. Meanwhile, our time to do our day jobs just shrank by a factor of at least two. And the mental load and hassle of having to plan and retrofit a whole other job in amongst it all is the other untold burden that most women in my shoes end up shouldering. We’re also grieving, like everyone else is. The exhaustion that this pandemic induces is universal and we are hardly immune. If anything, we mourn more because our losses and changes are greater.

But what am I thankful for? An employer who understands and gives grace and space. We’ve touched base every Monday to Thursday for two weeks straight and it’s been a welcome part of my routine. The picture at the top of this post was a typical moment of me conferencing while the kids beavered away at their schoolwork. My children are my colleagues now, along with the ones I work with usually. And honestly, if I didn’t have such an understanding employer I’d be a lot worse off mentally and emotionally by now.

Most of all, I am very grateful to have a job at all. This tension between work and home life is only possible because I am still gainfully employed. I want to mention and honour this truth because while the going is tough at the moment, there is a lot to be deeply thankful for — including the husband who is taking a couple days’ leave next week.

Even in this madness, I am a lucky and blessed duck.

A Facebook Fast and other new beginnings

I’ve been on a small Facebook fast. It started out as a cold-turkey thing that eventually evolved into a 5:2 diet.

Continue reading “A Facebook Fast and other new beginnings”

Changing shifts

They say you should be careful what you pray for.

A few of you know that I’ve been searching for a paying job for the last few months, in amongst the steady stream of visitors and birthday parties we’ve had.

Continue reading “Changing shifts”

Meternity: insulting or ingenious?

The New York Post recently had an article on Meaghan Foye’s concept of Meternity – or as the headline suggests, maternity leave without the maternal bit.

Unsurprisingly, there has been quite a bit of indignant howling. I’ve been reading the comments with the morbid fascination of watching a traffic accident in slow motion. You didn’t just do that, I clutched my face in horror mingled with the kind of inappropriate mirth that bubbles over after a loud fart at a funeral. You didn’t just liken maternity leave to Eat Pray Love.

Continue reading “Meternity: insulting or ingenious?”

TTT – Two weeks in One

I missed the whole of last week, which only sharpens my appreciation of those who successfully set aside the time to blog regularly amidst their own crazy schedules. And so today, I present to you a bit of a bumper crop of gratitudes. And hopefully I get to finish this post in time, too!

  1. Finishing up with The Gideons

    For the last six months, I’ve been working part-time for The Gideons in Australia . Twice a week (and a few nights in between), I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work alongside a bunch of professional, conscientious, servant-oriented, fun, gracious, genuine Christians from all walks of church life. As with any job in the third sector, the people are largely there because they want to be there, and they believe in the cause. It has taught me a lot about the ministry and the Lord’s work outside of my immediate church family, and the breadth of their vision based on strong convictions and sound doctrine has been a humbling thing to uncover.

    My last week with The Gideons ended on Friday, and it involved late nights every day of the week leading up to my finish – which explains the quiet on the blogging front. I’m glad to say that I got to give a satisfactory handover, even though frustrating external circumstances meant that I could not finish the second phase of the project within my time with them, as I had hoped. But I dare say we will be in touch with one another. It’s been a work environment that truly embraces families, understands and supports the need for flexibility (and this includes providing the technological means to do so), and trusts its workers. Looking back, I could not have orchestrated this better – which only goes to show that God is the ultimate and consummate Project Manager.

  2. Global call to Prayer

    I participated in the Global Call to Prayer for Iraq and Syria on 29 September, even though my understanding of politics and chaos in that region is patchy at best. Specifically, I prayed for Christians in that region who seem to be trapped in the middle of a deadlock of extremist ideals, and whose suffering is the quietest because their numbers are few – and dwindling ever more. But their plight is no less dire, their women and children no less traumatised and their spirits torn to shreds as they are systematically raped and tortured, and as they watch their husbands and fathers die cruel deaths. I prayed for them all, but I prayed specifically for the minorities on the 29th. Because they are voiceless and bleeding.

    And I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have been born Singaporean. To have emigrated to Australia which, for all its secularism, still collectively singles human life as sacrosanct no matter how diverse our individual views on God may be. It is not because I am smarter, more diligent, more resourceful… my current state in life, in the grand scheme of things, has little to do with my individual accomplishments. I was born into a different world and had privileges bestowed on me. It could have been very different.

    If you’re interested in being a part of this, the next prayer is on Sunday 5 October.

  3. Gorgeous weather

    For the most part these two weeks, the weather has been fabulous. We try to make the most of the good days outdoors, especially when winds are tolerable. Went to Floriade last Tuesday, and to John Knight park again this afternoon. And a few random on-the-way playground visits in between. Considering I could predict the weather report in Singapore verbatim by the time I was 7 years old, I love that I’m now in a “city” (glorified country town) that has such a wide variance of weather conditions.

    Floriade flag
    Floriade flag from our Ferris Wheel cage. More on our visit in another post.

    Sara with her babies
    Enjoying simple pleasures – good company, good weather, good cuddles with babies

    Arddun swinging her imaginary friend
    Arddun, pushing her imaginary friend on the swing

    IMG_1216

    Arddun and Leila walking and talking
    Can’t believe these two girls are only 3 Years Old! They look far too grown up in this shot.

    Arddun and Leila walking the bridge

    Sara, Famiza and kids on picnic mat
    An idyllic picnic in the park

    Jett blowing out dandelions
    Adding to the pollen count in the cutest way possible

    Jett having emo moment on swing
    “All By Myself” by Jett

    Jett and Leila strut their stuff
    Walking with determination.

    Arddun pondering in the distance
    Tolerating lunch time so she can get away and play to her heart’s content.

    Leila and Ayman
    Caught Leila on camera, finally! She’s quite camera shy, but such a photogenic subject. :-)
  4. Discount lighting and a flying visit to Sydney

    The drawback to living in a fairly affluent inland Territory with a small population is the price gouging. Houses here just cost more to build, which is why we ended up driving to Sydney to buy all the lights for the new house. We ended up saving about 25%, excluding the time and fuel it took us to drive there and back. That’s saying something, considering that we’ve chosen to LED everything except one lamp. The 老板娘 (lady boss) also threw in a feature lamp for Arddun’s bedroom, and upon finding out that we are expecting a boy, got a “boy lamp” for Boy Blob’s bedroom. It has a lenticular print of cars racing. Very cute.

    Our flying visit to Sydney meant that we crashed at the Whitcombes’ overnight, and they were very gracious in accepting us at late notice. It was just lovely to see their new home, and to wake up in the morning and breakfast with them. Arddun and Abi got along great, and I suspect both girls would have liked more time together. Worshipped with the church at Macquarie before heading over to IKEA at Ryde (of course). Don’t quite know how it happened, but because Arddun had been such a patient and uncomplaining chicky throughout the weekend while we pottered around in a pokey lighting shop until sundown, we left IKEA with a gigantuan plush toy dog as a Thank You. She’s delightfully named him “Wags”. I think we both figured it costs a whole lot less than a real dog AND we don’t need to spend evenings walking it, so why not.

    Arddun with Wags her stuff toy dog
    Queen Elsa watching TV with Wags.
  5. Boy Blob, he is growing

    I am getting slower and more tired with each passing day, but that in itself is such a gentle reminder of how well this baby is growing. And he is growing. My obstetrician keeps saying he’s an average size, but I feel a lot bigger this time, and I have the stretch marks to prove it. While Arddun used to give me a series of butterfly kicks in the right ribs, this boy does the butterfly stroke across my entire mid section. He definitely lets me know when he appreciates the food. I feel like I’ve hardly blogged about the poor kid this time ’round, compared to the many posts dedicated to Arddun during my pregnancy with her, but in truth, he makes his presence known every waking hour (and sometimes while I’m asleep still). I am achier and lumpier and older and more wrung out energy-wise this time ’round, but I know I’m really going to miss this when he’s finally born. Exactly two months to go from today! Crazy or what! I’m so glad I have these last two months to spend with Arddun intensively before we become one bigger happy family. I’m so grateful to Tony for working so hard, and that he has a job that allows us to do this.

Preparing the other me

I haven’t been blogging very much lately, although many biggish things have happened. We flew to Brisbane. We flew to Singapore. We had in-laws come over. My mother’s been well. (Hooray!) We’ve been sick. (Boo.)

We ran out and bought a new car so now I need to go back to work.

The last bit isn’t entirely fair, and isn’t entirely accurate. The new car is one of many reasons I need to go back to work. The new car is one of many reasons I even want to go back to work. But I’m still building up to it.

Lately, I’ve been racking my brains to remember what my mindset had been before I had Arddun. To remember the version of motherhood I’d believed myself capable of, Before Child. And it’s blowing my mind how differently I feel now. I remember warning Tony over and over. About how I’m not one of those women who could do the whole barefoot-and-pregnant schtick. About how all the women in my family for at least three generations have been working mums. They’d gone out. Earned the bread and butter. I’ll be like that too, I had told him. In my blood. Can’t help it. I reminded my husband, over and over, how I suffer dreadfully from cabin fever. How being a homebody would destroy me. I pictured a life of spilt dinners, soiled rags, Teletubbies and tedium. And I shuddered at the loss of independence. The seeming lack of mental stimulation. The irretrievable disappearance of personal identity.

And in part, some of those “losses” have happened these last 16 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Or at least bits of me have eroded, faded, or given way to something new. Part of me is infinitely mushier. I used to look at babies and think, “Squished little thing.” And now I peer into the prams of total strangers and sigh adoringly at their precious gifts from God.

Part of me is harder. I understand more. I feel like I have more to lose. I know I have a new great purpose.

And yes, part of me has been put away for now. The self-absorbed me, and I don’t mean that I’m less selfish now because I am still incredibly selfish at times. But I’m talking about that sense of separateness and individualism that free adults enjoy. You lose some of that when you become a wife because your life is entwined inextricably with another’s. But I found I lost a lot of that when Arddun was so very tiny and so very helpless. She came from my body, but I largely became hers.

And so for over a  year, I’ve been very happy to lose myself in Arddun and to lose myself in my family. I feel like I’ve poured myself out, which probably accounts for the constant gooey, liquid feeling I carry around inside of me. I’ve been on a high – I am still on a high.

But now my family might need me in other ways, and so I am at a crossroad. Because I’ve had to re-evaluate what I think motherhood should look like and for 16 months, I’ve been hoping the answer is something like “Stay at home forever! Or at least for 5 years! Have 2 babies! Maybe have an accidental third!”

But the other voices in my head are starting to say things like, “You can’t have your cake and eat it. Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have family you love outside of Tony and Arddun. Your world is shrinking and you’re getting insular. What about your other God-given talents? You have to stop being so selfish.”

What a twisted world we live in.

I look at my friends who’ve chosen to stay at home for their children, and I love and admire them greatly. I acknowledge their sacrifice and selflessness, I applaud their resourcefulness and economy, I love their happy products – their beautiful, Godly children. Their humble, cheerful homes. Their sense of peace and calm. And rather erroneously – even sinfully – I think I’ve been ascribing a higher value to their family choice than the choice of many other beautiful mothers who have gone back to work.

I mean, everyone says that the best job in the world is being a mother, right? So isn’t the best job in the world that of a full-time mother? And therefore, shouldn’t it follow that working mothers are not the best mothers? Isn’t that how the equation works?

That’s the guilt talking. That’s been the guilt talking for 16 months. And it’s been hard, hard work trying to look at it any other way. And then I feel HUGE guilt for inadvertently passing judgement on the many other mothers who have chosen to go back to work.

Because that’s the rub, isn’t it. Whatever parenting choices you make already passes judgement on the other options you rejected.

Very long story short, I’m preparing to re-enter the Corporate World. Which means I’m waiting for childcare to get back to me, which means I’ve talked to my boss, which means I’ve been tuning my brain to think corporatey things and I’ve been spending my evenings writing more corporatey gook. I’ve started working out clothes Arddun can wear to childcare, and ordered name labels to paste on everything she owns. And it’s been hard. Honestly? Part of me is heartbroken I’m even doing this but as the days wear on, I’ve also been getting strangely excited.

Because it feels good to embrace parts of my old self again. To flex those muscles and air out dusty rooms in the corners of my mind. Coupled with my new priorities, I feel a lot more purpose-driven about where I need to be, and where I don’t want to be. And so I’ve taken steps to shift the course of my professionally development. Just one or two inches to the left or the right. Which is more than what I’ve done for my career in the last 5 years.

The lovely thing is that I’m surrounded by many mothers who have already rejoined the corporate world. Who have already gone through the heartrending bit. Who’ve cried in a lonely toilet cubicle when they missed their child’s milestone for the first time. Who are currently managing the whole part-time work schtick really, really well. They have been such an edification.

“I am a better mum for it,” at least two have assured me repeatedly, and I believe them. I don’t think they’re just saying it to make themselves feel better. “I appreciate my child more. Every moment really counts. I’m a better time manager. My priorities are crystal clear now. And the house is a mess but I don’t care.”

And so I’m on my way.

On a completely separate note – the car we’re in the process of buying? Reverse parallel parks itself. PHWOOARRR!

TTT – Stay-at-home pleasures

1. Steam mop

Oh you crazy household device – where have you been all my life?! Singapore’s not big on steam moppery, and we had been persuaded – early in our marraige – by a chatty man in Godfreys Belconnen to sink Too Much Money into a heavy hoover wet vacuum. But then I read a post on Facebook about someone else’s steam mop purchase. And so I marched into Harvey Norman and got one. And it takes a fraction of the time to mop my floor, and even less water, and… and… I sound like a Stay At Home Mum. Which makes the next item even more of a nail in that coffin.

2. Grey’s Anatomy

I have NEVER watched Grey’s Anatomy, but I thought I’d try and lo, I am hooked and watching it after dinner and wanting to rent all 8 seasons AT ONCE. Because nothing salves migraine, strep throat and the sniffles like a medical soap opera.

3. Fellow SAHM

I’m actually nervous about my maternity leave extension, as much as I’m thankful for it. A large part of me wonders if it’ll hold the same level of joy once everyone goes back to work like responsible corporate mothers, and my handout from the government ala paid parental leave dries up for good. Which is why it’s heartening to know that other friends are planning to do the same, because at least I don’t feel so oddly decadent and like I’m shirking my social responsibility and wasting my corporate juices. Or whatever.

So glad to have Sarah, Bailey and Charlotte for company, going forward. Here’s a photo from our visit today. Looks like there’ll be many more to come.

Arddun and Charlotte
Arddun (on right), checking out Charlotte’s very cool 1980s leg warmers.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑