Archives for category: Imperfect Mom

I speak with my mother quite often, almost once a week. She calls whenever she’s bored, mostly in the afternoons (Malaysian time) when there’s a lull in the day’s business at my uncle’s grocery stall which he’s owned and run for over 30 years.

Mom tells me of a tree she sits under to chat because, apparently, that’s where the reception is the clearest. We spend 30 mins to an hour, talking about the kids, gossiping about my sister in particular, and our relatives in general. Sometimes, she gives me advice on how to improve some of the recipes she’s given me.

I must say that never in a million years did I imagine that I would share such a relationship with my mother, much like how both of us had never imagined that I would be married, with kids, and a full-time mother who’d actually have the time and inclination to refine recipes. My mother was a working mom herself when we were growing up. Being a housewife was, to her, a privilege, and I guess it still is back in Malaysia where most young families have dual incomes. Ironically, you’d have to be filthy rich to be a stay-at-home mom but only so-so rich to have a foreign maid/nanny. Here in the US, it is the reverse.

“Your sister tells me you’re a wonderful mom,” she’d said to me once. It was awkward, for praise was a precious thing in my family, heck, in my country. We Malaysians have trouble accepting praise gracefully, and may tend even to think that one is being patronising and not genuine when kind words are offered. That’s just the way it is.

“I think perhaps you’re even a better mom than I ever was,” she’d added nonchalantly, something which I’d, being Malaysian to the core, had rejected profusely not only because it wasn’t true, but because I found it really sad as well, that my mother thought my half-arsed efforts at being a SAHM would always be looked upon as being more dedicated than what she had to go through when my sis and I were kids as a working mother. There were no maids in her time, and even if there were, we couldn’t afford one on two teachers’ salaries.

“This is all I do now, so I’d better do it well,” I’d told Mom that day, a little pensively. It was true. Lokes asks me, sometimes, why I’m such a stickler for rules and schedules and, like, breakfast means pancakes, not pizza. Because this is what I’ve chosen to do. If I were still a journalist or an editor, I’d still be a stickler for rules and schedules and eat pancakes for breakfast if it meant doing my job well.

People are always making fun of “supermoms”, painting this really anal-retentive, OCD “Bree Vanderkamp”, Stepford-wife type who drinks in secret and has sex with her best friend’s husband and has everything set on the clock, even Tuesday sex nights (I prefer Sunday afternoons). Seriously, nobody thinks it’s funny when I’m anal retentive and OCD about crunching the numbers and making sure my magazine survives another six months. Oh wait. Then the joke’s about how I’m a sucky mom for being more interested in my career than my kids.

Ah. What do they call it? The Mommy Wars?

This whole Working Moms vs Stay-at-home Moms debate is an old one, but once in a while, it resurfaces like a willful child to nudge and poke us into finally giving it the attention it truly does not deserve. Working moms will always feel guilty about not being home for their kids, whether or not we SAHMs remind them, and we SAHMs will always feel resentful and jealous because delayed gratification isn’t all that fun. We try to be mature about it, think about how our kids will appreciate the scrapbooks upon scrapbooks we’ve filled with billions of dollars of crafty rubbish and pictures from the moment they’re born, and how healthy and well-adjusted (hah!) they’d turned out JUST because we’d been around between 3-5pm everyday, preparing their after-school snack without fail, driving them to and from art class, dance school, track, baseball, soccer, gym, paying our full attention to all the adolescent drama that would put any mid-day soap to shame.

In the mean time, working moms have to contend with stories of the drama from their nannies, all the while feeling jealous and shameful for not having been around to hear these things first-hand, berating themselves to their husbands in bed, “Oh, what kind of mom am I? What kind of parents are we that we have to listen to messages of our kids’ problems from our nannies like some message service?!”

You’ve gotta admit it – it makes a great topic. Gets people all riled up for nothing because there is no resolution. Because there’s no problem. Moms will work and moms will stay at home and some moms will even do both. We will strive to do it all, and do it all well. Forever and ever, Amen.

Because it is all we do.

That’s why we’re magnificent.

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What a week.

Yesterday, Rae was finally struck down after almost a month of battling the battery of cough, cold and flu viruses that had invaded the rest of our family.

The stomach bug dealt her a swift defeat, and Rae threw up all day, only managing to keep down fluids towards the eve, with a bitch of a fever of 104.6, culminating into only one bout of diarrhea, which we’re all thankful for. Finally, at around 6pm, she had one small piece of banana, some crackers and two sips of Pedialyte, before retiring to bed.

This morning, she woke up with a fever of 104 again, which Lokes managed to banish with some Tylenol. Both girls tucked away some white bread, more banana and Pedialyte, and I ventured so far as to give Skyler some milk.

No incidents yet *wipes brow*.

Oh God.

What’s that I smell?

Gotta go.

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So I thought I should share with you how I’ve managed to streamline the whole Diarrhea Containment Action Plan to three steps, it being stomach bug season, still. I know. I thought it was spring already, what the hell.

Anyway, so here’s what you need near you AT ALL TIMES when you have a child under five who has diarrhea:

1. A gallon-garbage bag.

2. Toilet paper (duh)

3. A kitchen sink with those spray hoses (if you are peevy about having shit where you eat then use your bath tub. I don’t since I wash off everything with Clorox every time. I can show you the next time I invite you over for dinner, haha).

4. Vaseline

Here’s the Diarrhea Containment Action Plan in three easy steps:

1. When you hear it coming (they usually cry since their bottoms are so sore from purging or just keep an ear out for that guttural bubbly rumble, pfff), grab the garbage bag and sack ’em from under.

2. Carry them to the sink and remove sack when they are safely IN the sink or tub. Remove diaper IN bag, wrap and throw.

3. Hose ’em down, dry gently with toilet paper and apply Vaseline to help soreness heal.

Okay, I think I’m done.

How do you like my new theme?

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My friend Jill sent me a link today.All women need to watch this.I’ve written about this almost three years ago. It’s happening in Malaysia. It’s happening in America.”We gynaes have lives too.” – my old gynae Dr Kim on why she thinks Cesarean is a good thing.Watch it. And let’s talk.

One of the main emphases of our co-op preschool program is positive discipline, and a lot of the training us parent teachers get in the course of our involvement in the school is through conflict resolution in the classroom. This is one of my favourite reasons for joining a co-op, in that twice a week, I am exposed to not just my own kids, but other people’s children as well, and get to ‘practise’ how to resolve a conflict between two kids in a positive manner.

Don’t I have two kids of my own at home who are constantly fighting? Yea, I do so yes, I am clearly insane.

Seriously, resolving conflicts between your child and someone else’s is a different dynamic, and from the experience, I have learnt to see both my children more as individuals than just my own kids and siblings. Rae takes the fact that Sky is her sister for granted sometimes, and hence is more likely to take advantage of her, whereas she knows she can’t take the same liberties with her friends at school. As such, she’s more likely to have a meltdown when she can’t get her way because she is at a loss of how to make her friends do what she wants. At the same time, she is adamant at wanting things the way she wants them, so it’s really interesting to see how she works these situations out now that she’s in kindergarten. It’s the same with Sky, my three-year old who’s at the co-op now, as well.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt at the co-op is How to Accept an Apology.

Back in Malaysia, I didn’t know that there were other ways you can accept an apology graciously, other than saying “it’s okay”. Think about it, my Malaysian friends. How do you respond to an apology? Do you say, “it’s alrightlah, don’t worry about it”?

When you think about it, what does “it’s okay” mean? Does it mean you’ve forgiven the person? Or does it mean that the apology was not necessary? This automatic, seemingly polite (when really, it’s quite thoughtless) response may be appropriate to a grownup because we can figure out what it means. However, to a three-year old child, forgiveness is a foreign and complex concept. And hence, what they will glean from “it’s okay”, is that they had not committed an infraction at all, and the apology was not necessary, when it really was. Aside from being polite, saying sorry means you knew you did something wrong. So if it’s okay, it means I did nothing wrong.

And then I came here and learnt from the fine teachers at the co-op that there were other more meaningful ways to respond to an apology, especially when the wrongdoer and the wronged are children.

“Thank you for saying sorry. It was really hard and I really appreciate it.”

And there it was, so simple and yet effective. You are accepting the apology and thanking the little person for it. And yet, the child is clear that what he did was wrong.

What if sorry is not enough? What if you feel that the apology does little to assuage your anger or frustration or sadness? At the co-op, we’re taught to ask the wronged child, “Did that make you feel better?”. If not, we escalate to “Okay, then what can (the wrongdoer) do to make you feel better?”. Usually, the wronged child is already crying and a hug is then recommended by the grownup, or perhaps a handshake.

Now this is a beautiful process and it usually works – the operative word being ‘usually’. As in real life, things sometimes do not go as planned. For instance, what if the kid who is apologising clearly does not mean it and is saying it in a teasing manner just to get the apology over with?

The recommended response than was that the wronged child must learn to walk away from the situation until a later time when the wrongdoer is ready to apologise correctly, and the wrongdoer is given a talking-to about the importance of being nice to his or her friends.

When my friend Mat and I were discussing this yesterday, I started to wonder. While these techniques work well in a classroom with a one parent mediator, perhaps even at home if one is consistent about it, do they really work in real-world situations, especially when your child enters public school where a grown-up’s assistance may be hard to come by?

Are we, in a way, preparing our children for the less forgiving real life by stepping in all the time to resolve their conflicts, overcompensating by mapping out the resolution so neatly when in real life, they’re rarely so smoothly resolved?

Rae is in kindergarten at a local public elementary school and during recess, she plays with some older children at the school playground with little adult supervision. This has, in the past, caused me some worry. As such, I’ve had to equip her with a ‘bully blocking’ action plan, which I review every week with her because, yes, I’m an over-protective mother.

Of the two times I was around to observe a conflict resolution (without her knowledge) this was what she did: She’d simply stomped away to a corner and sulked. A few moments later, she’d glance over at her friend (who’s probably said sorry a couple of times but of course, with my over-dramatic daughter, it’s never enough), who’s now playing happily by him or herself. Seeing that no hug or satisfactory action will be given, she goes and joins him begrudgingly, dealing with the disappointment by simply not thinking about it, and voila, they are laughing and playing together again as though it’d never happened.

It wasn’t perfect but it was enough. I tell myself that at least, she had not thrown a fit right there on the play structure just because sorry was not enough. It was so hard for me not to step in. I didn’t know of whom I was more proud – Rae or myself.

This is what parenting is, isn’t it? From the moment they’re born, you start to teach your children to be independent, not so much for them to eventually let go, but so that you yourself are able to one day do so (knowing that they won’t embarrass the heck out of you when you’re not there!).

One of my biggest Mommy challenges is keeping my temper in check.

My friends may be shocked by this since I’ve always been pegged as ‘easy-going’ or ‘cincai’, in Malay-Chinese speak. The truth is, I get pissed off just like everyone else. Perhaps even more frequently so since I’ve become a parent.

Perhaps the biggest pet peeve I have about being at home with the kiddos is cleaning. I hate to clean and any situation that results in me having to clean upsets me tremendously (and we all know how that is never an issue with having children). Although in recent times I’ve learnt to appreciate, even more, an impeccable house, I deplore no less the space and time between 1. a dirty house and 2. a clean house. In short, I hate having to get on my hands and knees to scrub tile or tub or toilet bowl, pry crumbs off the carpet, vacuum or scrape nasty caked stuff off the stove top.

Now if I were ‘easy-going’ about cleanliness, in that I just ignore the mess, it would obviously not be something I’d be so moved to write an entire blog post about. Or if I liked a clean house so much more than cleaning like my friend Sara does, that I look beyond the labour. As it turns out, I’m one who NEEDs things to be clean but do not want to do the work, and is too cheap to pay someone else to do it.

So yes, I am officially now a moron.

Really, how healthy is it for one to keep completely calm (“remember, gentle but firm”)when one’s three-year-old spills milk or yogurt onto the carpet? Or decides to empty every single box of toys just to look for her favourite Polly Pocket outfit? Or decides to water the one plant in our house with a full bucket of water? How is one to sit back and bask in the happy fulfillment that is parenthood when one is awaken at two in the morning to change out a mattress soaked with pee?

I am in perpetual cognitive dissonance over this, having to reconcile daily the natural (and therefore chaotic) development of young children and my need for tidiness and order. I was, after all, brought up to believe that no bad deed should ever go unpunished. We all live in this world together, and it would be unfair if some people got put away for, say, peeing in bed and some didn’t.

And yet, children rarely want to spill milk. Or pee in bed. Or stick marbles up their nostrils just to smell them a little better. Or roll play-do on the carpet because it’s more fun. Or get pregnant at 15.

Children rarely do these things JUST to piss us off. How self-absorbed are we to even think that? Do they have accidents, make mistakes to see if mommy will REALLY go off the edge and smoke that very last secret cigarette? Deep, deep, deep down, in that small little box called their subconscious, do they draw on walls with permanent marker just to fuck with us?

Of course not.

And yet, we wish it were so. When our kids misbehave, we wished the reasons were more sinister, so that we can feel better when we, say, bitch on our blogs about yet another day spent in pig sty hell.

Phew, that felt good.

Back to making sure all the markers are capped and every car is in the bin and every teeny tiny little Polly Pocket and their teeny tiny shoes are accounted for.

Don’t even get me started on those things.

As the aroma of my mother-in-law’s famous pork and eggs braised in soy sauce filled our home, Raeven took a sniff and remarked, unremarkably:

"Mommy, that smell reminds me of an experiment we did at science camp."

Here’s to a whole new year of good smells and great memories (of smells and other things), everyone.

Yesterday, my friend Sharon and her husband Ross came over to pick up the girls’ crib, which I’d kept all this time, and a number of my baby items.

Yes, I took five boxes of baby things with me when we moved here, preparing for the possibility of baby No.3.

After Sharon and Ross left, it finally hit me how final it all became, the decision that Lokes and I made some time back that we would not be having anymore kids. I am going back to school January, preparing that in the next four years to get my own life back on track so that when the girls are both in school full time, I can get back out there, write the Great Malaysian Living Abroad novel (or more likely, a collection of short stories). Or perhaps revolutionise speech recognition by fusing technology with linguistics.

I decided that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life at home with the kids. I’m just not built for long-term SAHMhood (I think ten years is about as much of it as I can take). I don’t think anyone is, really – not that they’ll admit that readily. I still want to be home when the kids get home from school each day, help them with homework and be available whenever they need me.

But I will want to do something that is mine. All mine.

Still, it was a sad moment of realisation for me yesterday.

No more anticipating double lines on a pregnancy test.

No more ultrasounds (well, not on my womb anyway).

No more thinking of baby names.

 

(Sharon and Ross, don’t feel bad please. I’d rather my things be with people I care about than sell them off on Craigslist. Guess I know now why it took me so long to put the items up for sale!)