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. 

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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.

Rain and cupcakes 

Rainy week it has been. Today is no exception to the ongoing streak. I don’t mind, really, since I love rain. 

Jamie does too, except once the thunder and lightning get too much. I decided to keep the curtains drawn and had some music playing on Spotify to keep him distracted today when it was pouring. But I think it wasn’t as dashyat as yesterday so he didn’t seem to be affected. 

Yesterday, he would have this slight look of terror every time he saw a lightning flash. He can now anticipate that after that comes the thunder. (We had an episode last weekend where our neighbours in the landed homes beneath us had a fireworks party and it absolutely terrified Jamie because it seemed as if it were just outside our balcony. He has been extra nervous about thunder ever since). 

Well, he’s asleep… for now. I am having an early coffee break. Not a common occurrence in this job of mine as Work-At-Home-Mum. I’m eating cupcakes that I baked yesterday. Also while it was raining. There are 2 left. I *should* be leaving one each for Deric and Jamie… but it’s tempting to just have another… No one would know… *rubs hands gleefully* 

On a more serious note, I’m actually feeling a little melancholic today. Perhaps it’s the recent challenges of breastfeeding Jamie at night (he has been having more midnight awakenings, teething perhaps?) and also the mundaneness of chores and work. I don’t even feel I’m perky enough around Jamie (and I have always tried to be since I want to raise him to be a cheerful boy and not melancholic like me). 

I had sketched out a plan to write a book. It’s currently on hold as I manage my workload. My work is sort of on pause mode because I feel I’ve hit a wall for one of my ongoing jobs and am dawdling while waiting for the client to reply me on the issues (I generally do not like to talk about work issues on this blog so that’s all I will say about it). 

Quick lament to say that for some reason lately I seem to have lost the spark for writing. I can still do it, but I find little delight in it. It’s like I’m on autopilot. Muscle memory. Responding on reflex. This is worrying. What should I do about this? 

I still daydream about selling handmade stuff of mine. I tested out a modest little motif for some hairpin design I thought would be good to start off with. I need to work out costing. I can’t because I need to go out to check out the materials. 

I want to do craft projects but there never seems to be the right time. Or I put other things as more of a priority over it and never get round to actually doing anything. I have so many planned and pending projects! I’ve told my husband countless times that I might die buried beneath all the tools and raw materials I’ve purchased for crafting. 

Meanwhile, my ukelele’s only function at the moment is to entertain Jamie. He will frequently exclaim, “Guitar!” and gesture towards our study where the uke and Deric’s guitar and other miscellaneous music instruments we own are stored. Once in awhile, I will relent and take the uke out for him. I still haven’t progressed from learning chords from the C key (in fact, I think I’ve forgotten what F chord is like). 

Sigh. My music interests seem to have dwindled too. Even choosing songs on Spotify to play for myself is such a difficult task. What tunes do I like nowadays? Why can’t I figure it out? 

More rain now and a very loud burst of thunder. My heart nearly stopped worrying Jamie might awaken in fear in his bed. He didn’t. Back to my coffee. Forgive my long post. It’s been awhile since I shared my thoughts. 

Shorter stories next round. I promise. 

 

Things that were, things that are

Image source: BBC

Received my first writing assignment today since delivering Jamie in April. Feels like ages ago since I’ve had to write for work. I wonder if I still know how to do it the way I used to. 

My sentiments about work and my career direction in general have been greatly altered since Jamie’s arrival. I’ve always said to Deric that I would consider quitting full time employment once we had children in the equation, but saying that in advance and being faced with the actual decision is two different things. 

I do not regret my decision, of course. It is something I have thought over many times and in my mind and heart, family always comes first (well technically, God comes first, but that goes without saying and I’m speaking of earthly commitments here). So here I am, finally living out what I have chewed on mentally for years. Giving up a regular career to focus more on being a better mother and wife. 

I’ve been told it’s hard to juggle between the two: working at home and tending to family affairs. Someone I know said it involves things like working at night since you can’t really get any work done when you’re alone with the kids and need to wait until your spouse comes to relieve you before you can get cracking at meeting your deadlines. Another tells me she sends her baby to the babysitter just so she can get things done during the daytime. 

I hope to do neither. 

But seeing how tough it is to get much of anything done with Jamie to care for, I wonder how I’ll actually accomplish this. I suppose I will find out soon. Well, I guess it helps that Deric has been supportive of all of this and hasn’t ever pressured me to find work. In fact, I think if I were to just decide to be a stay at home mum (aka SAHM) instead of a work at home mum (aka WAHM), he wouldn’t mind either. 

However, I see value in continuing to keep up my harga saham in the working world. That’s because you never know what the future will hold. What if Deric loses his job? Or has a pay cut? Or… Well, the possibilities are endless. 

So I’m going to give this WAHM thing a shot. I certainly hope it works out, because it has been so fulfilling to get paid to write all this while and I wouldn’t want to lose that ability. 

Writing itself isn’t a chore for me. In fact, it’s something I do willingly. It’s what you find me doing here anyway. 

Courage

Image source: First Alliance Orlando

How do you know when God is saying something to you personally? When you hear/read/see the same thing multiple times. Well, at least that’s how it works for me. 

My life is currently in a state of flux. Having given birth to Jamie, my daily schedule has now been altered beyond recognition. Not to mention the fact that I have also quit my full time job (more on that in another post, I promise). 

So as it is with every time a season of change hits me in life, there is that lingering sense of uncertainty and the propensity to worry. 

But what’s assuring is that somehow God manages to always break through the noise that surrounds me and provides me with  unexpected clarity to help me with that next step forward. 

This season was no exception. 

The following verse first came to my attention in a Bible reading session I had with my son: 

Have I not commanded you? 

Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” 

– Joshua‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ (NKJV)

It again came to my attention while Jamie and I were listening to the K-Love radio station during one of my breastfeeding sessions with him. 

Then, my mother quoted the very same Bible verse in a string of Whatsapp messages she sent to me encouraging me about my future career direction. 

So that’s three times as it was. But that wasn’t the end of it. 

On 29th June, I picked up Our Daily Journey to do my Quiet Time (QT), only to notice the following on the cover of the current issue: 

image

Then, as if for good measure, God decided why not send me the same message one more time. 

Hence, when I opened that day’s QT reading, this was what I saw: 

image

And so, ladies and gents, there is now no shadow of doubt left in me now that Joshua 1:9 is the Bible verse that God has intended me to take to heart during this new season of my life. 

Amazing, isn’t it? 

I’ve always believed there are no coincidences in life, and this is yet another real life example that this is indeed true in my own personal journey. 

What does it mean to have my attention directed to this verse in particular? 

It just means that I have to be unafraid as I journey on to whatever He has planned for me up ahead as a new parent and a newly unemployed journalist. 

That I shouldn’t worry about whether I’ll have work waiting for me at the end of my paid maternity leave because God always provides. 

Also, that I shouldn’t fret about the change in dynamics in our life at home, and in my relationship with my husband, Deric as we embark on the long term goal of raising Jamie. 

And most of all, that my choice to exit the career (journalism) that I’ve come to love and have built up over the past 4-5 years is in fact the right one at this point in time. 

Thank You Jesus for showing me in discreet but clear ways the way ahead. I will not be afraid. 

Castles in the sky

There’s a fine line between optimism and irrationalism, and I think most of us are a little unclear on where one ends or where the other starts. One memorable incident that I experienced some time back illustrates this perfectly, 

Story goes that I was talking to a friend who would be soon kickstarting a freelance career of her own, having already worked several years in the field of her expertise. Hers is a different industry from mine, of course, but having tried to do a bit of a freelance stint in the past, I had this inherent belief that it wouldn’t be easy for her to start things off. Nevertheless, throughout this particular conversation that I had with her, I remained positive and encouraging about her choice of a career move. 

After all, I had always dreamed of someday moving on into a freelance career of my own.

In the course of our chat, I mentioned to this friend that should I ever get my way to earn money in the field of my choice, I would have loved to craft custom made bags in the same manner that a tailor would custom make clothes for his/her customers. 

I had expected that she would have been encouraging at the very least, since this was in essence not that far a cry from what she herself was opting to do in the near future. But surprisingly, she was more pessimistic about my dream career direction than she was about her own. 

She even went as far as to say she didn’t think there was a very promising market for such handcrafted bags. It was awfully disheartening to hear her bash my dreams down to a pulp. Even more so since I had just seconds ago been so supportive of hers. 

I doubt she was being spiteful in what she had said in response to my sharing. But nevertheless, the effect was a negative one and that’s probably why I remember that incident to this day. 

Honestly, this doesn’t feel that much different from how I used to feel whenever I considered the possibilities of becoming a writer for a living. Back in the earlier seasons of my life, I deemed it almost an impossible feat. I had had very limited exposure to publishing in general, and hadn’t ever won a single essay competition in school nor had I even joined a student editorial body to learn some of the ropes. 

In other words, I had no track record or glowing portfolio with which to convince others that I could do a decent job writing, And yet, to cut the long story short, I have actually become a writer by profession today.

Well, I have yet to earn a single Ringgit from anything I have handcrafted, but who knows what the future may hold? I think what’s important here is not to entirely rule out the possibility. 

For now, I just glean inspiration from posts about other crafters who have made it in monetising their passion just like this one: Top 10 Malaysian handicraft makers.

Sigh. 

Tech perspective

Image source:  Women's Health
Image source: Women’s Health

So here I am at the end of a long day trying out a new gadget I’ve been given to review.

I suppose many others out there may think of this as an ultra cool thing to be doing for work: being able to get your hands on relatively new tech gear out there and writing about that for a living. But honestly, for me, as I’m doing this time and again, it doesn’t feel all that special.

Not saying that I don’t enjoy what I do though. Just that maybe when you do this as a routine thing, it starts to feel like something that’s pretty normal.

As ordinary as brushing your teeth every morning or eating food at regular intervals because your stomach dictates that you are hungry.

Either that, or perhaps this is my way of remaining neutral about it all and not getting overly excited over such opportunities nor letting it get to my head too much.

Whatever the underlying psychological rationale for it may be, I guess I know deep down that this will not always last forever. These sort of privileges. It’s a thing for this season of my life, but a day will come when I will not have such luxuries to enjoy.

In fact, I never really feel 100% at home with the gadgets I’m entrusted with for reviews. Something about it not really truly being mine makes me handle it very differently from the way I would if it actually belonged to me.

Oh well. Work is work. But I suppose it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool to everyone else.