Archives for category: Imperfect Wife

Sleep-deprived and slack
   she lies in bed, unmoving
      the baby cries, loud

                                                                            Running feet enter
                                                                               holding Polly, the doll, dressed
                                                                                  Time to wake, Mommy

Your eyes open slow
   She shuts hers even tighter
      Time to wake Daddy!

                                                                          Yet another day
                                                                             Of hungry mouths, dirty butts
                                                                                And yet she slumbers

You sigh, wash your face
   I should’ve heeded mom and
      married another

 

I don’t deserve you, baby.

But I sure do love you :)

This month’s Self Portrait Challenge (reading Karli’s reminded me of it – thank God I have you on my feed, babe. I keep forgetting!) is about Enclosed Spaces.

Here’s mine:

selfportrait_aug06.jpg

Although I’ve been a mom for four years, I think I’ve only just discovered the verities of motherhood, and what it can do to someone who’s not ready, or might’ve had romantic or ambitious notions about the job.

Seven months into the role of a stay-at-home mom, it is not unlike the feeling of having walked into a trap. That sounds horrid, I know, but the truth is that much of it isn’t gratifying or liberating or warm and fuzzy. TOTALLY not what your mom or aunts or grandmothers want you to think it is, especially for those of you who are used to independence and travel and meeting people and long dim sum sessions and gaming into the wee hours of the night. Regiment and routine and housework and being mindful of what happens around the house and having always to set a good example for your children – all this feels oppressive and depressing. Most of the time, escape is all you think about.

But to equate full-time mothering to some claustrophobic confine is inaccurate. Unfair, even. Because there will be times that grateful relief for having been given the job will wash over. To be able to witness the priceless antics your kids get up to, moments you know can occur only once (which is why camcorders and digital cameras are a godsend). To be able to have those all-important conversations that can change so much. To rest, at the end of the day, in the loving embrace of a thankful husband for a job well done.

So using what is a bad (but functional) analogy for those who insist on one, motherhood isn’t a box. It’s a cage. You get meals, breaks and holes. For light. And laughter. For love. After a while, it even gets comfortable.

Give it another ten years and you might not even notice it anymore.

There are times in one’s life as a stay-at-home mother, where one is faced with sudden bouts of self reflection and worrisome contemplation about one’s future.

The experience is not unlike finding and trying an old pair of your favourite jeans you know may be too small.

You sit on your bed, jeans in hand, daring yourself to put them on. Sometimes, you’d chicken out, stuffing them hastily back into the closet. Sometimes, you’d actually do it, only to be stubbornly refused somewhere along the thighs area. Defeated, you return them to their rightful place, in the box marked “old clothes”, before going downstairs for a lunch of two tomatoes and a peanut.

Did I tell you that I was once a journalist? 

I’d started my career writing about supermarkets and hotels and food. And then I began taking an interest in computers and technology and the Internet. Before I knew it, I was playing video games and writing about them.

It was a glorious time, which culminated in my helping to organise the first ever international game development conference in Malaysia in 2005. I got to meet my idol, Chris Avellone, the lead designer of Neverwinter Nights 2. And that was my swan song, before embarking on my journey to the US as a stay-at-home mom.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss that life. Sometimes, it hits like a punch to the stomache, to realise that that chapter is now over and that I may never be a journalist again. Not until my kids go off to college anyway. And as much as I console myself with blogging and my experiments with creative writing, and the fact that I am doing the most important job of my life today, I know that part of my life is closed. Greyed out. Dead.

It does NOT feel like a noble job, being an at-home mom. It is not fulfilling, not all of the time. And God knows it ain’t easy. Most moms who do it often ask themselves when the day would come where they’d go off the deep end. Most of the time, it isn’t even because your child is sick or that they’ve somehow found paint and poured it all over the TV. It can be as harmless as the prospect of facing another day of the same old shit.

Waking up and making breakfast. Bathing the kids. Breastfeeding. Going to the playground. Cooking dinner. Doing laundry. Cleaning up messes.

Every. Single. Day. No ifs. No buts. No breaks.

I often wonder if my husband understands what a big deal this is, and why he should worship the ground I walk on for the rest of my life and let me win every fight we will ever have. I wonder if the husbands of other stay-at-home moms who could’ve had huge careers of their own – husbands who will NEVER quit their jobs because they’re, well, men -understand what a HUGE fucking deal this is, and do the same.

Why?

It’s simple. Ask yourself: If the both of you have the same earning power, will you quit your job and be a stay-at-home dad?

No?

Then you must understand that what you do will never be the same as what we do.

Unless you clean pig sties or work in a daycare or fight fires.

 

Yes, it’s another one of those days that I’ve tried on the jeans, knowing I will never be able to get into them again.

And wonder perhaps if it’s time to throw them out.

Since we’d come to the States, I’ve become a little more, um, religious than I used to be.

In that I would make sure to pray, especially with the girls at bedtime. I figured that now would be a good a time as any to introduce to Rae the concept of Someone being up there Somewhere, looking out for us – even though Daddy thinks it’s more of just an unfortunate human condition when things don’t work out.

Strangely, Rae has never asked me who this God was and why it is we always ended our prayers ‘in Jesus’ name’. Granted we’ve never been to church or I’ve never read her the Bible, although she does have a picture one she thinks is a story book so Jesus is probably as real to her as Peter Rabbit or Ariel. And I’ve never actually explained to her why it is we pray even. It was just something we did before sleeping, like brushing our teeth and reading a story.

Oh, we pray for the usual stuff. Bless everyone we know, especially Daddy when he flies. Bless little Skyler because she’s little. Bless Raeven so she’s also safe and doesn’t make Mommy too angry too much of the time. Bless Mommy with more patience. Bless our family and friends all over the world. We used to name everyone I could think of. It just got too long and by the time we got to Daddy’s second aunty in Teluk Intan, Skyler would be pulling her hair out, and I’m not even kidding about that. That’s what she does when she’s REALLY bored and Mommy’s got her in a gridlock because ‘praying time is a serious time’.

The one thing I really appreciate is how Daddy, the self-proclaimed atheist in the family, actually sits through the whole process. I always expect him to slip quietly out of the room but most of the time, he just sits there quietly, looking at both his daughters with their heads bowed, eyes closed, and their hands folded in prayer (you should see Skyler, she doesn’t quite know how to lace her fingers through properly so her little digits are like, all over the place – very cute).

And he even pays attention.

One time, as I was going through the ‘bless list’, he even interrupted.

“You forgot to bless Raeven!” he whispered loudly. He sounded shocked even, this man who believed that religion was a psychological catch-all for when human beings rationalise the unrationalisable, and how science explains the unexplainable.

Although I don’t think Lokes is ready to thump a bible yet, I think it’s sweet that he tries to respect my beliefs. Of course, during many of our ‘debates’, I have reminded him more than once “DO YOU KNOW I’M GOING TO HELL BECAUSE I MARRIED YOU?! I AM UNEQUALLY YOKED!”

Perhaps one day, he might even send the kids to Sunday school as per my request some years back and sit with me at the back of a church, interrupting me when I forget to ‘bless someone’.

You never know.

Finally, finished with all the editing and fine-tuning and what not!

A little background: The Jenn & Lia Podcast is a tiny little Malaysian talk show with women, particularly mothers, on a range of topics from parenting to relationships to cooking, for women of all ages and professions.

Our guests are drawn from Lia’s Yahoo group members at the SAHP Malaysia community (please join!) and we started the show with the topic of how parenting can change your life – and not always in a good, tidy manner!

This debut podcast is for women who are planning to have kids and want to know what to expect. Our guests for this show are Min, a 30-something work-from-home mother with a six-year old daughter in kindergarten, and a two-year old son, and Topaz, a Malaysian stay-at-home mom living in New York with two little girls, one eight-months old and the other four. Lia, my co-host, is a mother of twin boys and another 14-month old boy.

You can post feedback to the podcast here or at the SAHP board.

Click here (.wma file so you will need Windows Media Player) to listen (or from the Shockwave player on the right of this blog – right-click to download but be warned, it’s about 53MB in size!) and be sure to comment on the show so we can improve it (I know it’s very rough and amateurish, but that IS the nature of podcasting!)

So The Hubby is home and I had myself a rather lazy weekend, my Mother's Day gift apparently. For the first time in years, I woke up right before noon. Didn't know I still had it in me to sleep that late, but God, it was good. Except for the few grisly nightmares preceding my waking up and squinting at the bright sunlight squeezing through the blinds and thinking, oh God, I've slept through and am in fact, over and done with the weekend.

Now that's the nightmare.

So I gamed the whole day away, levelling my warlock to 34 and caught up on some news, such as that the Draenei will be WoW's new expansion race. Basic info on the new race here. These guys work fast! No news on when the expansion will be out though. Watch the Draenei gameplay vid here.

Frivolous pastime aside, I did cook though, for my friend Lorie, one of the parent teachers who works at the preschool, who just had a baby last Thursday. We have this meal prep thing going to help her out. She has twins, who go to school with Rae, and now a baby girl. Suffice to say, my cooking skills were put to test, or rather, my knowledge of proper after-birth cuisine that will not put Lorie's system into shock.

And so I made fried rice, and a separate dish of ginger chicken, which my mom and mom-in-law made me everyday after I had the girls. Don't know how a gwaipor will take that but really, I didn't know what else to cook! Let's hope they survived it.

I really have nothing to blog about, except to say I feel much better. Thing is, Lokes is going to be gone again to Europe, Japan and Australia this Sunday for two weeks.

God save me.

I don't remember when or where, but someone said that the only time couples with kids have to talk is when they're driving in the minivan, which is SO true.

Lokes and I have had the most extreme of conversations in our car. We've fought. We've loved. And we've had the strangest and most hilarious talks driving to or from work, to or from vacas, to or from just the grocery store.

Just last Sunday, while taking one of our drives around Seattle (you can see Seattle Sights from a Car at our Flickr site), we talked about one of the most sensitive topics in our relationship: habits. From young, Lokes has never been an early sleeper or riser, but since he's become a dad, he's been waking up sub 8am for what seems like forever, and that is quite an achievement for someone who used to stay in bed half the day half his life.

However, our dear friend is now getting older, and it is apparent that he isn't as fit in body and mind now as he was ten years ago. With increased tiredness, he's also become less alert, and I believe it's because he doesn't get enough sleep, what with hitting the sack only at 2am and waking up at 8am. Although some say six hours of sleep is enough, it's not for either of us.

So anyway, I've been nagging him to sleep earlier for ages now, mainly because Lokes doesn't like to lie in bed wide-eyed and bushy-tailed before he's REALLY ready to sleep, and I mean eyes-half-closed-walking-up-the-stairs tired. Another problem is his brain is continuously being stimulated when he's at his computer.

"If you just go to bed, read a book or something, you will sleep," I told him.

"That's boring!"

"D-uh! You're trying to sleep. You have to be a little bored to feel sleepy!" (he's always falling asleep in the car or when he isn't at his PC)

"I have to stay awake to feel sleepylah…"

…..

If that's not the most nonsensical thing I've ever heard.

Anyway, so Lokes has been trying to sleep at midnight for two days now. Not really successful since I know he went to bed after 1am yesterday. Let's see how he does the rest of the week.

There used to be a time when the roles of a housewife and her working husband were, more or less, defined.

The wife did all the housework and took care of the kids and her man. The man brought home the bacon, period.

Sometimes, they'd mow the lawn and fix the faucets, but that was it. It was deemed that spending eight to ten hours at the office was work enough. After all, the man earned the money, and money was the bloodline of the family. This, in unspoken terms, entitled the man to his after-work leisure time of watching the telly undisturbed or sharing a beer at the pub with friends.

And then came a time when we fought for our right to monetary gratification. Most of us opted to get ourselves educated and find a job so that we could also earn cold hard cash, if only to be considered true equals to our husbands. We discovered the pleasures of corporate ladders and fat bonuses, rewards we never received as plain old parents.

And we became addicted.

Today, education and changing times have brought our attitudes full circle. Many women have 'opted out'. And thanks to the Internet and fabulous little ideas like flexi hours, some parents are juggling being at home and working, thus coining the phrase 'work from home'. While in many cases, the husbands still did more of the earning, they were doing a little more than mow.

With all these 'perks', one wonders: Why become a full-time stay-at-home parent? What of the plain housewife who doesn't contribute monetarily? Where do we get our kicks from (other than those from feisty toddlers?)? Without a salary and opportunities for 'career advancement', where do we get our short-term gratification from, and the long-term motivation to keep at our job?

The answer? A generous, loving partner.

If the last week has taught me one thing, it's that a husband's role at home is more than just to help out with the housework and the kids.

Firstly, no matter what you say, sitting at the office, dealing with clients and bosses, will NEVER be as tiring as parenting. Men aren't exactly hunter-gatherers anymore, not in the physical sense, so unless you're working two jobs and one of them involves wrestling cows, you will NEVER be as exhausted as your supermom-wife at 6pm.

Secondly, fulltime parenting is a more than less, a thankless job. In today's world of key performance indexes and increasing emphasis on numbers and tracking and measuring, the worth of staying at home for one's kids is just so hard to fathom, much less embrace. We know being home for our children has SOME benefits and we can SEE it sometimes, but it is rare that we feel the fulfilment of a fat bonus or a promotion. In the end, there is little tangible, meaningful motivation to keep doing your job, and doing it well, unless you have a crystal ball to see into your kids' futures, and are ensured you ARE there for a good reason.

And this is where a good partner comes in.

I believe a husband's primary job today, above and beyond his professional call of duty, is to take extra good care of his supermom-wife, more so than ever.

And after all that's said and done, your husband will be the only thing between giving up on giving your kids the attention they deserve, and trudging on knee-deep in diapers and unwashed dishes.

Yes, you have to TRY and come home on time, work permitting, to eat the dinner she so carefully prepared no matter how burnt it is.

Yes, you have to hear her bitch about the kids and the clogged toilets because she is the one who took care of it so you can now use it for hours reading your sports magazines.

Yes, you have to, on her birthday and your anniversaries or for no obvious occasion at all, give her flowers or candy or at least a nice, snuggly spoon-hug regularly so she gets SOME short-term feedback for her efforts. Because as much as we love the kisses and hugs and messy fingerpaintings from the kids, nothing beats a little man love after a looong day.

It's not a three-month bonus, but we'll take it.

So before you go entertaining romantic notions of staying home for your kids, consider this: Is your husband going to look at you after a long day at work and say, without remorse,

"Yup, she's got it worse than me."

And then proceed to give you a kiss and a hug, and surrenders the remote control while he rounds up the kids.

Perhaps that's the only question worth asking.