Blurt

Okay, so maybe I should just say some things to get them out of my system. This is MY blog after all…

– You idiots who call yourselves my friends, we are as good as strangers because you have no inkling about anything that has happened in my life lately. Maybe it’s my fault, maybe it’s not. But your ignorance is glaringly obvious. And it stings.

– And you lot who know me for a lifetime and more, how is it you can still manage to misunderstand my motives and doubt me? Sorry for always rubbing you the wrong way, but hmm, when do real conversations and conflict resolution begin?

Alrighty, I feel tons better already.

Move along now, nothing to see here. Brb with another more useful post. TTFN.

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Choosing to be a Work-At-Home Mum

I could be wrong, but I personally feel that only a really small percentage of people out there truly understand what it means to be a work-at-home parent.

Say that you are in full time employment, describe the main responsibilities of your job in a few sentences, and you will have others nodding their heads. They can imagine how you pass your days. They conclude that you are living your life productively.

Or tell people you are a stay-at-home parent, and they will envision house chores and self managed childcare. They might still make wrong assumptions about what your daily routine is like, and may overestimate the actual amount of free time you have, but they will at least have a somewhat concrete idea of what you would possibly be doing on a day-to-day basis.

But tell someone that you are a Work-At-Home Mum (WAHM) and I believe they can’t really reconcile what it is that you do at all. The concept eludes them. You are either a plain vanilla housewife, or you work like the rest of them and usher in hard earned money that’s needed to keep your family alive. But WAHM? How does that even work?

What’s horrible about this is that I often feel the need to justify what I do. While in conversation with others about my WAHM status, I often tend to emphasise the fact that I do work, even while caring for my son at home. They may not have actually asked about this, but I will be anxious to point it out, as though it is terribly idle of me to only be focussing on house chores and being available to my son. This feels like a terribly wrong thing to happen. But it keeps turning out this way.

Let me illustrate my point. Here’s an example or two of how a chat with a friend might go:

Friend : So, you’re taking care of your son at home full time now?

Me : Err yeah… and I also do freelance writing too.

Or this…

Friend : So, what do you do every day nowadays?

Me : Well, I am at home, taking care of my son… and I try to work at the same time too.

I got asked a similar kind of question again recently. So I figured maybe it’s about time I wrote about this. Maybe it will lend some clarity to my thoughts so that next time, I can explain it all much better to someone else.

And perhaps it may benefit you, my reader, in ways I cannot yet comprehend. It might somehow be useful to you to know what a WAHM does, or why a woman might become one in the first place. Who am I to know?

So, without further ado, let me tell you about why I am a WAHM and what this means for my life.

Our reasons

While waiting for the arrival of our son into the world, my husband and I had many good chats about what we would like our family life to be like. We talked about childcare options, hit some dead ends, and concluded that, based on the options we had and our personal sentiments towards it all, that me becoming a WAHM would be a feasible choice.

One of our main reasons for arriving at this conclusion is that we felt uneasy about sending our son to a daycare or to hire a babysitter to look after him. Babies are incapable of communicating to you whether they have been well cared for or whether there has been an abuse of some form taking place, so rather than have to worry about all that, we felt we would rather that one of us be at home to take care of him.

Another reason why we went with this WAHM decision was that we wanted to be available to our son. That when he reaches out for help or wants company or any other need he may face at this early stages of his life, we would be the ones there to meet those needs. Sure, any other adult whom we appoint could stand in and do the same thing for us in the daytime, leaving us free to carry on with our jobs as before, but it would not be the same as if it were us, his very own parents, being there for him.

And just so you know, my husband and I are the type that evenly shares out responsibilities such as house chores. We also make a lot of decisions together rather than dividing up tasks and managing them independent of one another. So the process of pregnancy, delivery and child raising has always been something we were both actively involved in, as it has been for other aspects of our life together.

The decision that it should be me quitting my job and not him was mostly because he earns a better salary than I do. Also, the nature of my career lends itself to better freelance work options than his.

So that is what we went for and our rationale for it.

Another thing to add here is that we are not rich. Surviving on a single income as a family is scary, given the economic situation of our country at the moment. In some ways, I felt that it would help compensate for my loss of full time employment to a certain extent if I at least were to try and work on a part time or freelance basis. I also wanted a backup in case somewhere along the line my husband is unable to work or cannot secure a job.

Work arrangements

To give you some background, prior to becoming a mother and quitting my full time job, I was a journalist. So, when I transitioned to freelance work, I naturally wanted to take on writing jobs. Which I did.

Initially, I managed to get some journo gigs too; not just for my former employer, but also for other publications. It felt good, because I thought I would not be totally giving up on my skills and earning power.

But as time went on, I found it was getting harder to do journalism work while having my son in tow. For one, I doubt most interviewees would fancy a bubbly little toddler frequently interrupting their conversation with me. Being on time for appointments would also be a challenge with a tiny tot around. Then there was the arduous task of transcribing which would require a significant amount of time and focus; something I do not have enough of most days. And this is not even taking into account the actual writing process yet.

So I resorted to changing things up a bit and only accepting certain types of writing work.

Currently, this means only taking up copywriting or PR related work. In some ways, the returns are better than journalism assignments actually. But the nature of the writing involved is rather dull. So, in other words, it’s mostly about making the moola and little else.

Daily duties

Before I end off this post, a little on what I do every day.

Just like your average SAHM, I have my lion’s share of house chores and childcare related tasks to tackle all the time. I think you can roughly imagine what that might involve: Laundry, doing dishes, making meals, tidying up after my child, bathing, feeding, etc.

And then there’s the ongoing demands of my toddler to manage too. Like when he wants me to play with him. Or he wants to engage me in conversation. Or he has lost a random toy that he absolutely cannot do without. The thing about a young child is they do not understand the concept of waiting too well so they will likely want a response from you straight away. And to top it all off, they have no inkling of whether the current activity you are doing is urgent or otherwise, so they will just interrupt you anytime they need you. Which means your attention gets divided a lot and things you are working on often get abandoned halfway.

Many times, I’ll have a few tasks running and at various stages of completion during any given time of the day. It’s a bit maddening and takes some getting used to. The fact that your priority list has to keep getting adjusted to suit the demands of the hour. Consider it like a job which requires you to do a lot of ad-hoc tasks. Or one where you could be on call at any hour of the day.

Then comes the actual paid work bit. As with any other form of work, there are clients to please. This means deadlines and promises to keep. A certain degree of discipline to get work tasks done, regardless of whatever else is happening in the realms of house chores and your child’s wants and needs.

Oh, and I think it’s worth mentioning too that since these are freelance gigs, you will very often be dealing with new clients. And with every new one, there’s that long, arduous task of getting acquainted, familiarising with their communication and work styles, and negotiating the entire work agreement. This is in itself VERY TIRING and the part I am least excited about when it comes to freelancing.

Now, what does working at home look like?

Having my tablet or handphone always close by, and keeping an eye out for any messages or emails coming in which are about work. Replying them within a 24 hour timeframe (this is a work ethic I set for myself).

Planning ahead to finish work with some buffer in terms of time, because you can never tell when something unexpected will happen at home that will knock your work schedule off its course. Example: Child/spouse/yourself falling sick.

Working at any time of the day and at any corner of the home (toilet included), no matter how ridiculous it might be, as long as it’s a span of time which is fairly uninterrupted so that you can actually think properly and produce relatively good quality work. This also sometimes requires staying up when you want to sleep. Foregoing naps you desperately need. Ignoring the child in the background who keeps inviting you to play. Putting off your own meals till later and then (potentially) suffering gastric from the folly of your actions.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into what my life is like as a WAHM. If it is beneficial for you, I will attempt to talk about this experience more in future posts. Let me know what you’d like to know more about and I’ll do my best to put it into words to help you out.

Perhaps you are considering going down a similar path. Or would like to better understand your neighbour, relative or friend who dons the WAHM label. If something I have already been through would be useful for you to learn from, I’d be happy to share.

Anyway, I really glad to have had you stop by, and hope you enjoyed reading this.

Bloopers

Boy with a sunny side up personality.

* Edit: Para 14 – Changed 20.5 to 18.5 years. Yes, it’s true. I cannot count.

We have been blessed with a beautiful little boy. Sometimes I think I take this for granted.

We could have nearly lost him on his day of birth because of his fetal heart rate dropping rapidly midway during labour. I ought to remind myself about this every so often. God was gracious though and here he is.

We’ve just reached the 2.5 year mark of spending life together. It’s been mostly a fabulous time, but some days, like how it was yesterday, I feel horrible about the way I parent him.

I am not very good at handling the clumsiness and apparent fickle nature of toddlers. So sometimes I make a fuss about small things. At other times, I think I may have outright misjudged his actions, interpreting something he did as rebellion when maybe it was just plain ignorance or innocence even.

I realise that there is a difference between punishing him for behaviours which would endanger him or which are bad habits that he should not carry forward into his adult life versus things which he does that cause an inconvenience to me (like playing with his food and dawdling and messing up the dining table and the floor at mealtimes. Or choosing to explore some random object or corner in the house and getting himself dirty in the process, which is not essentially harmful, just that I would have more work to do clearing up after him).

Regrettably, I sometimes respond in the same way for both categories of behaviour.

It’s come to a point where my son automatically responds in the cutest voice ever: “Sorry Mummy. I won’t do it next time.” without properly understanding the extent of the cause and effect of the event at hand. I feel awful now for the flawed reasoning I am teaching him. All he wants to do is literally kiss and make up. He will also say things like “I want to hug Mummy. Make Mummy feel better”.

SIGH.

Some modern day child psychologist will probably tell me that I am ruining his future because of the negative ways I am responding to his inquisitiveness or his inherent nature as a toddler. And that by yelling at him and spanking him for certain behaviours I am wrecking havoc on his social behaviour. Or some other complicated line of reasoning that I might not be able to actually comprehend.

All I can say is that I am still trying to improve, though I do fail a lot. I sincerely do not want to hurt my lovely little boy, but I do not want to spoil him either. At the same time, I also do not want to abuse my authority and dictate how he does things just because it’s to my convenience. He is a unique individual with quirks of his own, and I hope I do not curtail that unwittingly.

Plenty of Mum bloggers out there will give you post after post about how to do things right, tips and tricks, etc. Apparently, they must have got it all worked out. Bless their dear hearts. Well, here I am with a dose of reality for you instead.

Parenting is tough and will test everything you are and what you stand for. It will shake you to the core. It will taunt you for all the things you were so sure of earlier in your life. All those smug solutions you swore you would do when it’s your turn to parent a young one.

At the end of the day, it’s entirely possible to feel awful and disgusted with yourself and how you handled a situation with your kid. It’s discouraging and yet, it’s not something you can just back out of. It’s a commitment you took when you decided to raise a child. It’s not like there is a Return Policy you can negotiate with God or anything like that.

So, ladies and gents, I am stuck with a mountain of problems on how to ensure my wonderful boy turns into a useful, respectable man who is a blessing to society. We’ve still got about 18.5 years to go till I let go of my responsibilities and he gets to choose his own path. It seems like a daunting task that I am not sure I can complete. I guess it’s only possible by the grace of God.

I’ll be sure to stop and pen you a note when I finally figure some of these things out. For now, it’s 5am and all I can do is imagine that today will be a better day. And determine in myself that I will find a better way of managing my household and the behaviour of my son without losing my cool and unnecessarily punishing him.

My son is more forgiving towards me than I am of myself though. He loves me unwaveringly. I wish and hope that God is just as kind (though I know He is, it is still hard to believe often times). I feel like if I fail this parenting thing, it’s literally the end for me. (Okay, so I tend to over-dramatise things a bit. Well, don’t all writers?)

If we ever needed an opportunity in life to prove ourselves and to correct the mistakes we made earlier in life, parenting sure is one of them. Our children are that second chance. We got to make sure we make it count.

The hazards of hyperconnectivity

Staying in sync with what’s going on in the lives of those around you has become far too easy a task. By simply consulting your mobile device and connecting to the Internet, you immediately have at your fingertips access to a whole lot of information about the people in your social circles, perhaps more than your brain can actually absorb and retain at times.

But do you really know the people you are friends with on social media? To what extent do you have a real connection with them beyond the clever comments you leave all over their Facebook wall or Instagram images?

In the weekend that just was, my mother had a second episode of stroke. It happened fast, and was soon over, and she reacted fast enough to get herself medical attention such that there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damaging effects from the incident.

While I am relieved that all turned out well and that God was gracious, this unexpected event brought to the fore once more a very disturbing reality that most of us unfortunately now live in: The fact that, although we are often surrounded by people both in real life and virtually, hardly anyone (or sometimes, even no one at all) is aware of a difficult situation that has befallen us.

In this instance, no one outside of my immediate family knew about what happened to my Mum or that we spent a considerable part of our Saturday at a nearby hospital.

Not a single person from any of those I communicated with online over the past few days. Nor anyone whom I met on Sunday, which was yesterday (and this includes all my fellow church members too).

Of course, you could say that part of the onus rests on me to let others know whenever I am in need of help and all that. And that me sitting it out in a corner and lamenting that nobody cares is just a self indulgent thing, since everybody has their own set of things to deal with in life and it’s sometimes asking a lot that people concern themselves with me in particular.

But what does this say about the superficiality of relationships these days?

If you must know, I do not count you as a close friend if you don’t really understand or know about how I feel or the things I think about. The fact that you had a conversation with me or that we have some things in common isn’t enough for me to feel like we really know each other. However, in case you think I am such a high maintenance individual, I do, in the same vein, hold myself to similar standards when it comes to the way I would like to ideally relate to others.

Is this asking too much?

Maybe.

Yet, every so often , I rethink this entire social setup that we as a society have gotten ourselves into and I feel that we have sadly settled for far too low standards when it comes to who we regard as our friends. Perhaps we should be more specific and call these people — who have no clue about who we are on a personal level — for what they truly are: acquaintances.

And if you’re reading this and you do know me in person, I hope it somehow moves you to reconsider how we relate to each other. Or how you are perhaps overlooking what is actually happening in the lives of the people you are in touch with on a regular basis.

Switch

*Edited @ 28 October 2017, 1548 hours: After pics with brief commentary

Mess, mess everywhere. But not anymore. We hope.

Big day at home today. Well, it’s just one of many, you could say. 

This time round it’s because we decided to change things up in the kitchen and in other smaller corners of the apartment. 

It’s been a constant frustration of mine how there never is enough counter space for food preparation. So finally, after a very long time of enduring this, we finally got our family contractor to help us do something to make it better. 

We settled on some shelves to put up in the walls above the kitchen sink and the counter, and we hope it will help us get certain things out of the way. More specifically, off the counter top and the floor. 

In my opinion, the kitchen is one of the crucial spaces in the home because it’s where we derive our physical nourishment from. On an average weekday, I spend a great deal of my daylight hours in there. Doing dishes. Whipping up meals. Rehearing leftovers. 

So I feel it makes sense to put more thought and resources into keeping it a pleasant place to be in. 

For instance, one way we did this right from the beginning when we moved in was to have a fan installed in the kitchen. Yes, I cannot emphasise enough how horrid it is to be sweaty in the kitchen while toiling over the stove or messing with the oven. It’s amazing how many kitchens in Malaysia do not factor this in. This particular detail I learned from my mother. I have not regretted us replicating this in our own home. 

The present problem, however, is more of a storage and organisation issue so hopefully shelves above our heads will help clear the clutter (both in a physical and mental sense). 

Fingers crossed it won’t create another problem though, where we get lazy to panjat and bring stuff down. Which is entirely possible too. 

Well, let’s hope this works out. 

Above is the Before photos. I’ll update with the After ones soon. 

*

Andddd here is an After shot…

So much clear space that I can hardly believe it.

And this is the new thing we did to our balcony… bamboo blinds! 😍 No more blinding sun and heat in the afternoons. Yesss! 

There is also this calming, almost Zen-like feeling I get when I see the sunlight filtered through the bamboo blinds. I also like how it gives off those Asian vibes to our home. Hehe. Identity! Never mind that the local Chinese coffee shops also use similar blinds. Heh. 

Bamboo blinds like this gimme a whole lot of Asian feels. And I AM Asian, so yay.

Another addition to the home are these little display shelves in the hall… Time to try being artsy a bit, although I have this sinking feeling that the attempt’s gonna fail (I am a crafter but not too great as an artist 😬). 

Okay so it looks a whole lot like nothing at the moment. Will fix that soon.

Okay that sums up my updates for this post. On to the next one. 🙃

Blog buddy

I am happy to note that a friend of mine has recently joined the WordPress community. 

It’s becoming a rare thing indeed these days to have friends who blogs. I miss the time when nearly everyone was blogging and it was customary to include the links of your friends’ blogs in the sidebar of your own blog. Having friends leave comments in your posts was really fulfilling. At least you know they had read all that you had written. 

Well, those days are long gone. 

So you can imagine my glee whenever someone I know decides to start a blog of their own. 

MY is a churchmate and a most talented cook. She writes of her AIP journey, kitchen capers and other miscellaneous adventures at The Food Quarters. Do drop by to check it out. 

On the bright side

So much stuff to do around here. Ought to get round to it… 

Squirrel!*

Hehe. Well, jokes aside, it’s been a pretty decent month, this October. And best part is, it isn’t even over yet! 

If you know me in person, you’d surely be aware that I’m not typically a very optimistic or chirpy individual, but I’m trying to stay on the bright side of life. I think I’m realising that I need to at least try to be so as I continue to journey on in my life. A survival tactic. 

Honestly, it’s kind of hard to be content when everyday I’m mostly stuck doing mundane things like house chores, meal prep and meeting work deadlines (which I really shouldn’t complain about given my measly freelance portfolio at the moment). Not to mention too the inability to indulge in much of anything recreational in nature. 

But as you probably read in my previous post, I’m trying to do what I can to savour the good, learn from the bad and keep my spirits up. 

In fact, I’d dare say I have accomplished a fair bit of stuff lately. Let’s list them out, shall we? 

  1. I baked 2 rounds of celebratory dessert fare in conjunction with my husband’s birthday (read: made peanut butter cupcakes AND a caramel cheesecake). All by myself. Almost. Well… Deric and Jamie did help a little for the cheesecake decor part because I was running out of time though. Teehee. 
  2. I have commenced repair work of Jamie’s jacket zipper. Finally! I have put this off for really long because of an irrational fear of not knowing how to sew zippers nor use a zipper foot on the sewing machine. 
  3. I restarted a new batch of compost tea to benefit my future plants (read: they keep dying aargh).
  4. Completed reading an entire novel over a mere few days. Dean Koontz, no less. (And yes, parenting makes you rejoice over seemingly simple things because they have now become almost virtually impossible). 

Okay, well, that isn’t a very long list. Maybe there’s more but brain cannot conjure them from my memory for now.  

But I’m generally in a place of contentment. For now. I hope it sticks. 

Been contemplating how to revive my journalling habits (which I’ve failed to do countless times) and I think I might try focussing on writing down these tiny things I accomplish daily in an attempt to motivate myself and feel better about everything. And maybe along the way I’ll throw in some stuff about Jamie and what I observe about his developments and my feelings about him growing up too. 

Anyway, gotta go snooze a bit more while I can now. Morning breaks. I was coining copy earlier for a client. Zzz. Bye. 

*In case you didn’t get that reference I made up there, it’s from that glorious movie, Up. Relevant GIF excerpt shown below. Hehe.