Awkward alien

Image source: Flexo

Becoming a Work At Home Mum (WAHM) is a double whammy. Not only are both those roles tough to navigate, there is this additional problem of becoming an awkward alien. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, basically everyone else in your life who isn’t a mother and/or isn’t living a homebound lifestyle (which is probably like 90% of your social circle, if you’re in your 30’s like me) will be unable to understand you and the things you go through on a daily basis. This transforms you, essentially into an alien. And this then leads to some pretty awkward situations and conversations. 

To give you an example, here are some questions and/or comments I had to field lately: 

“So you guys don’t eat out much anymore nowadays, right?” 

– Hmm, while that is the truth, what this question reeks off is the underlying assumption that because I am now at home, therefore I must be cooking all the time. And also, since we have less household income, that we would probably want to be frugal and eat in seclusion, thus morphing into kataks di bawah tempurung.

“So when are you going to go back to work?”

– Thing is, I am working. Just not in a way that most people would comprehend since I don’t have fixed hours or fixed clients (except for one that I have been doing work for since last year). Read: I freelance. It’s not much compared to what I used to do in my old full time position, but I like to keep my career alive and options open. AND I’d like the freedom to be around to raise my son rather than let someone else do it for me. 

“Ah, so it helps you keep your mind active lah, gives you something to do.” (In response to finding out that I am taking on freelance work wherever I can.)

– I guess you can’t blame a person who hasn’t really spent day after day at home at all hours, because they would not have realised just how much there is to do at home. Even if I don’t come up with a list of things to do, or my son doesn’t throw a tantrum or mess up something and give me things to clean up after, there will ALWAYS be things to do at home. My home is my office, and whenever you are in the office, your working mode will be on. Which pretty much means I am almost always working on something and the chores never end. This isn’t even taking into consideration my actual freelance work. And, the fact is that just managing the household requires plenty of brainwork, because instead of doing it mindlessly, if you are a mature, educated adult, you will always want to find ways to improve things at home, be it the efficiency and speed of accomplishing chores, the organisation of furniture, storage solutions or other things. 

There was also this incident where I was having a conversation with two other ladies around my age. The two of them were going on and on about how kids are like this or that, citing examples of nieces and nephews and children of other friends. Perhaps it was them trying too hard to identify with me, the only one in the conversation who was a mother. Mmm. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about young children since I have one myself, but there is an invisible boundary somewhere, which once crossed, makes it uncomfortable and unnatural to carry on discussing this topic. It is especially so when the people keeping the topic going are those who don’t have kids in the first place. 

Just to clarify, being a WAHM doesn’t make me hate all these other more normal and sane people in my life (yes, I’m probably getting more and more queer with each passing day, if I have not yet morphed into an oddball) . But it does make it feel like a large chasm just opened up between us. And that makes it a bit harder, though not impossible, to connect. 

Well, I guess I should apply the same rules of conversation as a WAHM that I had used in the past: Always seek to understand more than to be understood; to ask about the other person and to care for them, rather than to expect them to be concerned for you. 

And then, all will be fine, and no one will suspect what an awkward alien I really am. 

It’s just that… it would be nice if everyone in general understood the WAHM situation better so less misunderstandings and explanations would need to be provided. 

Mother nature


‘Twas Mother’s Day yesterday. And we made that up there (not the grapes, silly, the two coloured kuih thing). It’s called Ban Tng (at least it is in our family hehe) and it was a recipe that Mama (our grandmother) used to cook. She’s long gone now, but since my sis and I wanted to spend time with our Mum yesterday in conjunction with Mother’s Day, that’s what we decided to do. Cook together using a family tradition kind of recipe. 

Except that since it’s common for the older generation to use approximate measurements and cooking methods, my Mum decided to Google for a recipe that’s available online to refer to that as a guide. Hmm. So not quite the tradtional family recipe I was hoping to learn of. 

Nevertheless, it was a similar recipe and actually fairly easy to do. So, if you’d like to try what Ban Tng is (I realise this is not sold commercially anywhere in the Klang Valley, at least), you can visit this link for the instructions. Apparently the author of the post  has translated it as Three Layer Egg Custard Cake, so there you go… that’s essentially what it is). 

Well, it turned out more or less like what we expected. Except I remember Mama’s one being a bit tougher skinned. But that isn’t really an issue for me. I’d reduce the sugar ratio further though, as I felt it was still a tad too sweet. And the next time I try this out at home, I’m gonna weigh my ingredients so I can use a standardised measurement for it instead of this agak-agak philosophy. 

Anyway, since we’re on the topic of Mohter’s Day, I might as well share a bit about how I feel about motherhood at this juncture. It’s only my second Mother’s Day celebration though so perhaps my views may still be pretty naive. Hehe. Well, at least this year’s celebration was better than the last one (which I spent in the hospital with Jamie – you can read about that here). And I digress. 

So… 

I have always thought I would end up a mother. Never really expected that I would ever feel otherwise (though I actually did for a season, which was right after I got married, up till the time we actually conceived Jamie). I guess a huge part of me believes that as a woman, this is a quintessential experience that I must have before my life’s end. 

The reason for that? Well, on a biological-psychological level, I guess it’s to satifsy my maternal instincts. Which from a very young age was already present (I remember carting stuffed toys around and pretending to feed and care for them as though they were in fact alive). Also, I believed having children would bring a different level of meaning and purpose to my life. This was how I felt prior to having a child. 

Do I feel any different about parenthood now that I’m in it? No, actually. It is pretty much what I imagined it would be, but perhaps it is more too. 

More demanding – I am often placed into situations where I have to consciously decide whether to put my needs or the needs of my child first. 

More tiring – all those countless nights of falling asleep while Jamie nurses (indicative of how exhausted I am in reality. 

Yet, it is also more fulfilling than I could have ever envisioned beforehand. There are so many special moments that I am glad to have shared with Jamie. And I hope for many, many more as the years roll by.

Another thing that happened last weekend was that I had to give up a tooth due to a terribly severe cavity that had taken place inside of it. 

I was really sad to have it extracted, but it was the best option, at least according to the dentist that I consulted. The reason it bothers me so much is because so much of dental work has been done on my teeth over the years, and it feels like an awful waste that the tooth should still end up being unable to be saved. 

But that’s that, I guess. Had to be done. Was the cheaper option too (thank God), and hopefully it will prevent me from having anymore significant aches on the right side of my mouth which I used to have really often. 

I guess inevitably my body is ageing and succunbing to wear and tear in its own ways. I am not really that old yet, but I already see so many signs that I am not as young as I used to be. It’s a little unsettling, but there’s no stopping time. Probably my life has already had half or two thirds of its entire lifespan carried out already. It’s a scary thought. 

I guess the most I can hope for is for God to be gracious enough to grant me enough years so I can see Jamie (and any other future children of mine) grow up into adulthood and help them to safely transition into a life of independence and confidence. 

I am a fairly simple person. I do not have such lofty expectations of the outcome of my life. If I can just be around to ensure the wellbeing of my family to the point in time where they can function well even in my absence, I think I will be content enough. 

Jamie is asleep on my lap as I type this. I usually take such oppotunities to smell and kiss him to my heart’s content. It’s an everyday privilege of mine, but one that will vanish someday. What will I be like when my motherly duties taper down to a bare minimum in the future? The thought somewhat terrifies me. I worry I will go crazy because I would have become so accustomed to it by then. 

But I suppose if God has meant for me to be a mother, and if He is indeed the source of the strength that has sustained me all this while, He will preserve my sanity when my motherly tendencies are not so much required anymore. 

The only conclusion I can make for now is this: If being a mother is the only significant thing I accomplish in this life, I think I will still be pretty much content. 

Hope you had a great Mother’s Day if the mummy title applies to you too. Now, back to (house)work.

Thoughts

I can’t decide what I should write on tonight. So many thoughts swimming around inside my head. I’m trying to filter them because well, you can’t be too forthcoming about your personal life online (as in there are limits) and I feel I might be in danger of surpassing what is wise to reveal right now. 

So… rather than not writing at all, let me list down a brief summary of the things going through my head. If at all you gain nothing else from them, perhaps at least it is evidence of how frustratingly complex our minds can be at any one time. And how overthinking can be more of a curse than a blessing. 

1. Mother’s Day is this weekend. I feel like not becoming a celebrity. Last year, my first Mother’s Day was spent in the hospital caring for my sick son. Any peaceful day for this year’s Mother’s Day would be more than fine by me. 

2. Parents. What do you do with them? It feels like the longer I live my life, the less I understand them. And it feels sad and alienating and frustrating. 

3. I always have the feeling I am not doing enough. This is especially true on the home front. 

4. The feeling of loneliness isn’t the worst when I am physically alone, but rather when I feel that, despite being surrounded by people, nobody understands me or cares enough to want to understand. 

5. Poetry. I miss writing poetry. And all forms of creative prose. 

6. “Do I miss my full time job?” This is a question I am forever asking myself. And for which I can never completely answer. 

7. People are always saying how you only live once and that you’ll regret if you die and didn’t do this or that. But is that really so? Perhaps when you do die, you are just content that life is at its end. That for all the pain and difficulties, joys and sweet memories, successes and failures and lessons learned, there is a conclusion to it all. And, for better or worse, you made it through at last. 

8. I worry my son will one day hate me. That someday I will commit a terrible, unforgivable mistake. 

9. People always say spend time with your loved ones so you don’t regret it when they’re gone. But what if I want to spend time with them but they don’t seem to want to make time for me? Will I still regret it? Or will they?

10. Order and cleanliness is underrated. I’ve heard of books exalting the virtues of messiness and that it apparently does some good. Well, for some of us, a lack of these two qualities in our surroundings means we can never feel at ease. Or function at the best version of ourselves. 

11. No matter what we do, our human nature always tends to swing back towards self indulgence and conceit. 

12. Don’t just tell someone not to worry. Give them tangible, solid reasons to believe you. 

13. Why does everyone like Lang Leav’s poetry? And is Michael Faudet a real person? Why has modern poetry morphed into something so plain and lacking the aura of mystery in its wordplay?

14. I am wired to imagine the worst possible scenario. But as grim as that sounds, it sometimes helps. Because I am prepared for the worst. And the worst very rarely actually happens. 

15. Social connections feel somewhat pointless at times. Because people are more keen in talking than listening. I am not excluding myself from this description. 

16. I would love to tell my blog readers more about my passion for arts and crafts and DIY projects. 

17. Do dreams/ambitions really matter? And is actually achieving them the important thing, or is it more about letting it become the driving force that compels us to continue improving ourselves and striving for greater things in life? 

18. It baffles me why a “happily ever after” life will often dull a artist/creative person’s craft such that their creations afterwards seem to be of a lower quality. Must we continue to torture ourselves to produce outstanding masterpieces?

19. My body is troublesome. It is almost always giving me some health woe or another. Why? 

20. I do not seem to have the capacity to plan for my distant future anymore. I seem to be stuck living day by day. Just thinking about what to do next. But never going beyond that. But maybe life is less terrifying that way. 

Alright folks. Enough baring of my soul for now. Goodnight. 

This is me (Re-introduction)

Hello world, it’s been awhile. 

And I’m not the person I used to be. 

I’m perhaps a bit wiser, but also a lot more jaded, humbled and reclusive. And self censoring has become such a reflex action that it’s hard to blog candidly as I used to. Also, having a free WordPress site as opposed to a paid hosting service (a relic of the past) has made me even less disciplined in updating this space. 

But I still harbour this love for words. And I still hope to tell you, in full honesty, all about my life, in the false belief that you will not judge me for it. 

I still bubble beneath the surface with whimsical tales and fantasies of a better home, a softer personality, a bolder outlook and a prettier face. (Not to mention, straighter, tamer hair too). 

Sometimes, I feel like wiping clean the entire archives of this blog and starting over. 

But that would not be a real picture of my journey over time. It would just be that idealistic, perfectionistic part of me wanting everything to be just right. 

However, as my Mum has reminded me countless times, life isn’t perfect and things don’t come to us packed in neat, little boxes. Real life is messy and hard to make sense of. But it is beautiful and it has just as much silver linings as it does its share of dark clouds and overcast skies. 

So maybe I should just trudge forward, and not look back on what I used to write. Let this spot on the Web be a testament of my long, painful journey to write something worthwhile. And in your company, dear strange and unknown reader, I may, someday, find my writing voice as I should. And be courageous enough to tell the tales that I thought were ordinary but were special all along. 

This is me. 

The one who loves being home. Who would rather opt for a book than a movie. A soul that comes alive with music, poetry, fictional tales of epic proportions, and arts and crafts of all sizes and shapes. The hopeless romantic. The emotional one. The dreamer. A simple girl. 

I still want to be here. And I’d like you to know my story. 

To be, or not

Just the other day, I had someone contact me on LinkedIn with a possible freelance gig. And then I think I more or less ruined my chances by responding to the said person’s message with a typo in my reply. Hahaha. How becoming of a writer. 

I never heard from that person afterwards. But of course, who would want to consider hiring a person who can’t spell properly? Except that it wasn’t that I can’t spell, but that I hit the wrong command on my Bluetooth keyboard by accident. 

Alas, but total strangers can only judge you based on first impressions. So this HR personnel/recruiter will probably not ever get round to reading any of the good copy I have penned in the past. 

But perhaps it doesn’t matter to me as much right now. 

Perhaps I’m being lazy. Or maybe I’m realising that I should instead be focussing more attention on spending time with my son (which is why I’m stuck in this situation of needing to peddle my wares as a freelancer in the first place when I could really just be in stable, full time employment doing stuff that I’m confident that I can excel in). 

It’s kind of easy to get restless or to fall back into a familiar rut: To jump at every  work opportunity that comes my way, only to realise, sometimes only in restrospect, that it was a bad idea to begin with. 

I still think more money does not equal more happiness. 

Yet maybe there’ll come a day when I’ll regret not being more prompt in responding to job offers. Or failing to promise clients better service. Trying harder, pushing further for the sake of my career. 

But that day is not today. 

*.    *.    *

Small note: Sooo I’m up early on the pretext of wanting to get on top of my mountain of chores. Hence, I need to sign off now. But I hope to be back soon enough. TTFN.

Whoosh. Whirr. Zip. 

Summary of the last 2 weeks: Busy. Tired. But mostly happy.
It’s been a little quiet over here on the blog front lately. 

Well, that’s because we’ve had our hands full with a non-stop list of activities. Deric was on a 2 week break as he was between jobs, so we were trying our best to get as much as we could done while the entire family was together in the daytime. 

What didn’t help at all was that Jamie had to fall sick amidst all that, making it even harder to seize the moment to do the things we had in mind as we had to divert part of our energy and time to getting him well again. Both of us also ended up sick too at the end of it all (albeit in a much milder fashion compared to Jamie, but nonetheless not at our best).

But well, that’s family life, I guess. A neverending stream of activities, needs, etc. Chaos, in some ways. Makes for good memories though. 

Deric’s into his new job now and so Jamie and I are left to our own devices again in the daytime. The break in routine was refreshing, but now begins the task of finding a new one to match the changes in Deric’s work schedule and commute. 

One significant change is the fact that he is trying out public transport to get to work. This is because his office is much further now and in the middle of the city. We are trying to avoid both the horrendous road traffic congestion as well as the petrol costs associated with driving. But this means that Jamie and I have to be up early enough to drop him off at the nearest LRT station. 

I love having more hours to do stuff (since we are up earlier) but it feels tiring. And while Deric has moved on to return to the corporate life, here I am left with all the remaining mess and unfinished projects at home to work on. The only advantage that I have at the moment is I’ve caught up with work and so am free from the burden of my freelance work for now. But a new month comes soon, and then the mayhem will begin again. 

I’ve noticed far too many draft posts sitting in my blog so I figured I should at least pen something to keep this thing alive. I guess the hopes of writing brilliant posts will go mostly unmet, but perhaps something hashed out is better than none. I’ll try to have more intriguing stories for you the next round. 

CNY again

Chinese New Year decor at a mall in PJ.
So we’re midway through Chinese New Year (CNY) already. Or for the picky ones, Lunar New Year. 

To be honest, I find that the older I get, the more I find that I don’t feel much of anything for this entire festive season at all. 

Well, for starters, since our family are Christians, we don’t observe much of the rituals surrounding CNY. We just celebrate it for the fact that it’s part of our cultural background. So a lot of hustle and bustle is already cut out of the equation. 

Then, there’s the current situation with my extended family where no one really gets together for Chinese New Year anymore, with the exception of the few that we usually reach out to and make an effort to meet. There’s no massive family gathering like there used to be in years past. It’s a bit sad, really, but that’s how things have been ever since the passing of my last surviving grandparent (on my Mum’s side of the family).  

Even amongst my cousins, the closeness really isn’t there. Well, truth be told, even if we did meet up over the CNY period, it would feel somewhat pointless since we don’t connect at all during other times. Like it would be just something we do for the sake of keeping up appearances. Or something along those lines. 

That’s for my own family. With Deric’s family, it’s even worse because we only meet his cousins. His father has passed on, and his mother isn’t even in the country. 

So there is no balik kampung for us. There isn’t anything to look forward to during CNY for us actually. 

It’s just that now that we’ve got Jamie around, there’s angpaus to be collected whenever we meet friends and family. But that’s about all there is to it. 

Oh, and of course, we have to prepare our own set of angpaus to hand out to other children too. And to have gift packs ready to cart along for visits to homes. 

Last but not least, there’s that stash of Mandarin oranges we habitually will buy and consume over the CNY season. 

But that’s that. That’s our CNY. 

I guess you could say it doesn’t necessarily mean if we had big family gatherings and lots of family activities over the CNY that things would be any cheerier. I do know of some people who dread meeting their relatives as they aren’t really the sort of people that they’d like to hang around with in the first place. And whenever there’s older folks around, there’s bound to be lots of unsolicited advice and nagging and awkward situations. 

Oh well. We Chinese ARE a complicated bunch of folks after all.  I bet every Chinese family has their own brand of domestic drama to contend with. 

I’m generalising, definitely, but it’s mostly true though: We’re loud, money minded, food centric and steeped in loads of tradition. 

Speaking of tradition, I’d really like to build our own set of CNY traditions to observe with our little immediate family, but I haven’t really got round to thinking what that should look and feel like. It doesn’t help that my husband isn’t the kind to get into the spirit of things during any festive season (even Christmas, I might add). 

But it’d be nice to, someday, see the kids excited to usher in CNY and bustling about the home making cookies, decorating the hall, etc. 

Kids, I say. We only have one son at the moment. I dream plenty. I wonder whether we’ll ever get there. 

Since we’re on the topic of CNY, I might as well address my sentiments about being Chinese. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about my racial heritage (the other bit about being Malaysian is another story altogether, which probably will warrant a separate post of its own). 

I like that as a Chinese, the general perception people will have of you is that you are hardworking. Also, the fact that the Chinese have a long history of success to their name and are regarded as being very resilient, able to survive and thrive anywhere that they are found all across the globe. 

But that’s probably as far as my Chinese pride goes. 

I’m not so happy to acknowledge that being Chinese means also being associated with being frugal , conniving and selfish. Being perceived as having an attitude of looking down on others that are of a lower socioeconomic standing than you are. Being loud and brash, inconsiderate towards the needs of other races in the community. 

I guess the only saving grace I have going for me is that I am not from China (or not anymore, anyway, since my ancestors had migrated years ago) and was born and raised a Malaysian. 

What does it mean that I am a Malaysian though? That’s something worth pondering. I will need to think more about this and come back at a later date to write a decent discussion about this. 

Does the world think anything good of Malaysians anyway? Do they remember anything about us and our nation other than the curious incidences of disappearing planes and the fascinating array of food we have to offer our guests? 

Oh, this post is such a disjointed collage of my thoughts. I should take my leave now.