Being Malaysian Chinese carries along with it so many things that make up who I am. As much of a banana* that I am, so many aspects of the Chinese culture have seeped into my life. For instance, the kind of food we eat, the way we relate to our elders, etc.
Add to that the labels and expectations that are attached to being Malaysian AND Chinese, and then there is a whole added layer to what makes up my personality.
Anyway, the predominant thought over here at this moment is that I am not 100% proud of the heritage that we inherit by being Chinese (although only in part by now, since my ancestors have been on Malaysian soil for a good few generations by now), but this is who I am and I guess there must have been a reason for God to have fashioned this background that I have been born into.
This little video here, in some ways, says a lot. Never mind that it’s not about Malaysian Chinese in particular, it still reflects a lot on how the Chinese culture and mentality affects those of us who are born into this ethnicity. Notably, it speaks a lot about Chinese parenting in general: That emotionally distant, tough kind of love, the emphasis on studying hard, that inclination towards mathematics and numbers and money, that dedication to work, and sense of duty towards providing for the family.
Chinese New Year is mostly a family centred celebration. So all these things come up. All these family traditions, histories, imperfections… It is, to me, happiness tainted with a large dose of reality. The realisation that there will always be some family member that is alienated. Another who is indifferent. Yet another who tries too hard to unite everyone. All these things.
The angpaus. The hierarchy of family positions and titles. That emphasis on money. Those seemingly eternal debts: be they financial, emotional or all sorts of other in-between stuff. The polite small talk to mask the years of stories, sometimes buried out of convenience.
Hope I haven’t dampened the cheeriness of your Chinese New Year. These are just my musings. I love my parents. I like certain aspects of my Chinese heritage.I just hope to break the mould and be that bit different somehow.
Not to be that stingy, uncaring, crude person that the world might expect of me because I am inevitably Chinese. (Let’s leave the Malaysian bit for another post, another story – that too has a long list of things to be said about which is not worth delving into right now).
What’s your CNY reunion like this year? Mine’s alright, but a part of me always feels it could still be way better.
* A local slang which is used to describe a person who is Chinese but yet cannot speak/write in any of the Chinese dialects proficiently.
While the year is still pretty fresh and crisp and new, I ought to make it a point to expand the variety of content on this blog.
There are things I have carried in my head for months and years, but have yet to surface in writing in any of my (past and present) blogs. Perhaps it is time to put some things into words.
In addition to what I usually talk about here, which is mostly parenting, my writing career and life reflections, I shall aim to share more with you about the following:
Food (because well, we are Malaysians and it is such a big part of our culture)
Craftwork that I indulge in
Quirky stuff I stumble upon online (as a vague means of continuing an old column I used to write during my journo days)
Music music music (because I was raised on it)
Books and movies (whenever I do get round to consuming any such forms of entertainment)
My life as a church leader’s kid
Marriage and love life issues in general (without revealing too much that it will embarrass my husband, hopefully!)
Poetry (oh it’s been so long since)
Photography (something I have always wanted to delve into but never quite got round to enough)
Alright, I think that’s quite enough to keep me occupied throughout 2018. If anything other than the above comes to mind, I’ll be sure to alert you to it. For now though, I think that’ll do.
I also have to forewarn you that I may, on occasion, go through random bursts where I put up more than one post at a time. Or sometimes none at all for a prolonged season. This being all because my life is currently unpredictable like that. Thanks to one growing and roving toddler.
Anyway, I hope to be back to see you soon. Need to focus on getting some work done meantime. Plus, son is snoozing on my lap and I need to dispose of him put him back into his bed.
Greetings from the home front! Weekly routine has resumed, after much disruption and unusual activity in late December due to Christmas and my husband being on leave, etc.
As the caption above clearly states, this is how I feel about my current state of affairs right now. Everything is in disarray and all muddled, with unfinished business piled up high into one huge To Do mountain (the word “list” seemed too mild a word to describe the mayhem heh).
But I’m not really here to complain. We have enough negativity online, don’t we? To the contrary, I’m just here to share some candid stories with you.
If it’s your first time here, let me just give you little background by saying that I am a mother to a 2+ year old son and I maintain a home based career as a freelance writer while managing my child on my own during the daytime (until my husband returns from work at the end of the day, that is). That’s most of what you need to know, really.
Alright, let’s get on with it. Here’s what this post is essentially all about:
Working at home and its wonky consequences
Part of the reason that I started this blog was so that I could encourage you, my dear reader, through tales from my own life. This is one of my attempts to do just that.
Right now, my current lifestyle involves being homebound so let’s talk about that.
In particular, if you’re someone who’s contemplating whether the Work-At-Home arrangement is suitable for you, perhaps what I am about to say will help.
Let’s talk about what working at home really looks like, shall we? For starters, there is no such thing as a typical day at home. Ironically. Haha. However, I can share with you some regular features in my daily and weekly routine. Here are some of them:
1. Scrounging for time to work wherever I can. This is usually during my toddler’s nap times, after he has gone to bed at night or while he is absorbed in some play activity all by himself. The pockets of time that I normally manage to seize range from 5 minutes to perhaps 45 minutes. Anything block of uninterrupted time of a duration close to an hour or beyond is very rare indeed.
2. Multitasking: The unavoidable, lesser evil. For example, this morning, I had to prepare my invoice which I needed to send out to my client while nursing my still sleepy and slightly grumpy son at the same time. This meant balancing him on my lap while trying to type at the keyboard. Other examples of feats I have had to perform include cooking with multiple interruptions from my son or having to pause to check whether he has gotten up to anything mischievous while doing my best not to burn any food. Also stuff like eating lunch while standing or moving around the home doing chores (such as hanging out the laundry) at the same time.
3. Staying available on the phone to reply work related messages. I often settle work related conversations via WhatsApp which means sometimes offering divided attention to my son. What this looks like in reality: We would be eating lunch and as I coax him to keep feeding himself and keep a conversation going with him, I’ll also be hashing out ideas to a client about what content to put up on their Facebook posts.
4. Working in odd circumstances or conditions. Basically, not being fussy about when or where or how you work. When I’m desperate, I’ll write social media copy while relieving myself in the toilet or in bed when I get up in the middle of the night and realise I’ve unfinished work that’s soon due. Sometimes, I also write while sitting at the back of the car as my husband drives us to our destination.
5. We don’t cook as often as I’d like to. We manage only 3 homecooked meals weekly, and we eat 2 dinners each week at my parent’s place where my Mum would cook. Although we only cook several times a week, we somehow manage to salvage enough leftovers to cover lunch times on weekdays. So most days, Jamie and I eat leftovers for lunch in the daytime. Whichever other meals that are not homecooked or eaten at my parent’s are store bought.
6. The first thing to be neglected is usually chores. Since my time is divided between house chores, freelance work and minding Jamie, this is how things often gets prioritised. If you are the kind that cannot stand physical mess, this will likely irk you as it does me. I can tolerate a certain degree of untidiness, but what we experience over here often exceeds my threshold. But I have to live with it. Because being at home and working only on a freelance basis means we don’t have much extra cash to play with so hiring paid help to handle household chores is highly unlikely.
7. Child minding takes up most of my time. This is especially so if you have a toddler. They haven’t really learned patience yet. And they are almost always needing you or clinging to you. So if you can’t stand someone always being in your face, maybe leave childcare to a babysitter and keep that full time job so you can afford the corresponding fees. A win-win for you, since you will not go crazy dealing with the demands of a young child. Trust me, there’s a lot involved.
8. Lack of personal time. This is probably the pessimistic part of me speaking, but more often than not, you will not have any time to yourself. Even glancing through the notifications on your mobile device is a luxury. Being able to eat whenever you’re hungry is another thing you might need to sacrifice. Hobbies? Sure, but normally that’s only once all the necessaries have been dealt with, eg everyone in the family has been fed, essential chores are out of the way, no client is waiting for any deliverables from you.
9. Be prepared for interruptions anytime. This means that you will often have multiple tasks at various stages of completion at any one time. The interruption I am talking about is the kind that comes from your child. The sort of interference that you wanted to be at home for in the first place: To be there when your child needs you. But this also implies that other things will need to be set aside in favour of that. Tasks that might take only a few minutes can end up requiring double or triple the time to get done because of the said interruption.
Does all of that sound mighty gloomy to you? Well, it shouldn’t because being at home with your child has its generous share of blessings too.
Here are some of them:
1. I did not miss a single developmental milestone for my son. In fact, most times, I was the one who was right there to see him do something for the first time. The one I remember most vividly was when he sat up on his own for the first time. I couldn’t imagine how he might learn how to do it and was stumped on how to encourage him to achieve it. Then one day, while he was playing and rolling around on a mat which I had set up on the living room floor, he suddenly did it. The look of surprise and pride on his face when he had just realised what he had done was priceless. As was the memory of that incident which I hold to this day.
2. I was there whenever my son needed me. Being at the tender age of two that he is, he often seeks me out for all sorts of reasons: For comfort, to share with me a thought or feeling, to invite me to play, to ask for a hug or to be held. Although I cannot always meet his needs right away, I am available and near him and hopefully this helps him to grow up with a deep sense of security and confidence.
3. Because we are around each other 24/7, I get to observe his behaviour all the time and hence, am aware of tiny nuances of change in him. Children grow up so fast. Nearly every week or every few days, something potentially changes for Jamie. His preferences for food. The vocabulary that he uses. His thought processes. His physical skills and inclinations. I am also more likely to notice when he is about to fall sick or if anything is bothering him eg he is not sleeping well or has any insect bites or injuries.
4. A closeness that cannot be obtained any other way. I like the fact that Jamie is closest to me, and prefers me for most things. This isn’t always a good thing, and I still need him to be able to accept my husband handling him as well whenever I am not able to, but it’s a privilege that I enjoy immensely. That special connection that can only come from my son being around me 24/7.
5. Freedom from the superficiality of the corporate work environment and avoidance of time wasters like epic traffic jams. All because I am at home and can be more selective of who I work with and when I choose to be out and about (not during rush hour, as much as I can help it).
Alright, duty calls so I have to scoot. Hope you read all the way to the end. And that it has been eye opening. Hehe. See you again soon!
We’re off into 2018 already, but it doesn’t entirely feel like a Happy New Year to me.
Well, I suppose it could be worse, but nevertheless, I feel somewhat reticent about another beginning.
I sometimes wonder why we measure time this way, breaking it up into days, months, years, etc. Why not just keep going as if life is just one continuous story? These time markers sort of give you the false illusion of a fresh start when, in all honesty, you really are just the same person that you were yesterday.
So after all the celebrations of another New Year, what do we really hope to get out of it? Are loftier ambitions really worth the effort? Or is the mere determination to “keep on keeping on” more than enough?
I do not know what this year holds for me, or for us as a family. I’m not entirely sure I want to find out. Perhaps it’s a certain degree of jadedness that comes with having weathered a few decades of living. Whatever the cause might be, that dreadful cloak of melancholy has come to envelope me once more.
The only thing that is maybe pushing me onwards is that I need to be strong for my little boy. That I need to give him an example to follow, a guide to help him on his way in life. That if I do right, point him towards God, implant those precious virtues into his soul, someday he will become someone significant in this world.
If I can live just to see that day, I think I will die happy.
For now, my work is far from done though so I guess there’s nothing to do except soldier on.
Christmas has come and gone over here, and we’re into the last few hours of Boxing Day (which is NOT a holiday over here), but hopefully it’s not too late to wish all you readers out there 🙂
It’s been a rather busy few days and the home has yet to be back to its usual order yet (not that it has much order these days actually).
Christmas this year has been fun and enjoyable, mostly, but with several hiccups involved. Mainly the the gift preparation department. Pfft.
As usual, I had lotsa ambitious ideas, and wanted to be able to offer gifts to most, if not all, my church members. What did not cross my mind though was the fact that the church I now attend isn’t as small as the one I grew up in.
So, in other words, we set ourselves up to do impossible things. And that made us lose sleep as well as miss most of the Christmas service at our church. Not a good thing. Sigh.
Things we made as gifts this year:
Herb salt (used already dry herbs and mixed it with Himalayan rock salt and garlic powder)
Pandan kaya (if you don’t know what this is or have yet to try it yiu absolutely must!)
Here’s a pic of the jars of herb salt we gave away.
Forgot to take photos of the pandan kaya and shortbread, but the gift packaging had a similar look and feel anyway.
This year, our Christmas tree looked the best of all the years we’ve been married. And with the most presents under it since we kept the discipline of opening gifts only on Christmas morning itself (which we didn’t use to observe when it was just me and Deric in the past haha).
All this is probably because our youngest family member is extremely excited about the colours and lights on these trees. We got him to help us set the tree up with its decorations this time. No glass ornaments, so it wasn’t a problem.
As for his Christmas present, we got him a drawing board that has both a blackboard and a whiteboard surface. It was from Ikea. He loved it.
Gifts for Deric and myself were bought as a symbolic thing only, just to teach Jamie the idea that each family member deserves a present and that we all need to be part of the gift giving ritual.
We could have done more on the spiritual front though. We read him the Christmas story of baby Jesus and all that. But perhaps we should emphasise it more in the future.
Or perhaps, I shouldn’t sweat it, and just let him grow up a little more before we share spiritual truths with him.
I also regret not having been able to have some personal reflection time to contemplate the significance of Christmas and my relationship with God. Hmm.
Anyway, I gotta run now. But here’s one last Christmas pic from me of our tree at home and the presents around it.