Zombie Mom

I have not had the time nor the mind space to go near this dashboard. For the past three months, life continued to be a whirlwind of diaper changes and tending to sick twin babies and night feeds.

Oh, yes. Night feeds. Twice the load.

Then there is Work.

Reading Rebecca Woolf’s blogpost (Adventures in Sleep Deprivation) made me GRATEFUL. So grateful that I had to blog again. Pronto.

For months, in spite of the sleep deprivation, sicknesses (yes, moms do catch the bug from the babies!), work stress, physical weariness, I turned up religiously for work, determined to make a difference. Work is by no means an easy feat. Being head of an office means when I fight fire at work, it’s the “sh*t-hits-the-fan” kind of fires. It also means the buck stops here, cos I need to be the all-knowing, all-discerning problem solver, even though I sometimes wonder how could those problems have occured in the first place.

So sleep deprivation, sicknesses, work stress and physical weariness aside, I turn up for work, trying to solve as many problems as I can, and fight as many fires as I can, and then I head home to start “mom duty” in the midst of 8pm/9pm/10pm concalls, and then I sleep, and then I wake up the next day feeling like groundhog day.

Yet, everyday I tell myself, “Today will be better. It can only be better.”

Except “better” never comes.

The truth is, when tending to young babies, there are so many situations that can arise that you cannot predict or schedule, or reschedule! Everyday it was rough just maintaining sanity, let alone deal with all the stress in many forms. Keeping pace with this whole new life was tough. It requires mental stamina to keep going, keep positive and will the worn out body to keep functioning both as a boss and as a mom.

One night while working late in the office, a coworker’s insensitive remarks put a halt to my goundhog day realities. I decided it was enough to try and keep up, but I should just be darn honest with the darn challenges that I have to deal with. Just because I’ve been sucking it up and doing my utmost best to keep afloat doesn’t mean it is as easy as it looks, and I should not need to be apologetic for being worn out.

So I declared, “Well, because tending to two young babies, AND dealing with all these bad sh*t at work at the same time IS tiring!”

Thankfully, there are many more enlightened souls in the organization than the insensitive ones. And many are parents themselves, who offer their support and their encouragement. One colleague even commented that my honesty helps him to be a better manager towards his colleagues who recently became new moms. “We know it is tough, but we men don’t REALLY know how tough it is. So when I see your perspective, I can empathize better with my colleagues who are new moms. ”

Kudos, mister!

Every mom whom I meet tells me that I must be superwoman, returning to work so soon (after just 2.5 months) and working such a stressful job while juggling two demanding babies for that matter! Talk about burning on both ends.

But I never knew for sure if my challenges were understood.

Sometimes, I even doubt if I understand how worn out I am. You just don’t afford that kind of indulgence to yourself anymore. You keep on going on. Every single day. There is just too much pressure to “keep it together”. But if you take a look at the moms blogs, or working mom websites, you can easily tell that keeping it together is the last thing on every mom’s mind. Keeping sane is more the theme of eternity.

And then I read this article by fellow twin mom Rebecca Woolf. And I realise, I am not alone. It WILL get better…. and shoo those who cannot understand and still penalise me for my fatigue because my fellow moms will know that I am doing is far and beyond what the “normal”.

So thank YOU, Rebecca! Thank you for bringing me a little piece of affirmation in the midst of zombieland.

This further inspires me to “keep it real” instead of “keep it together”. The idealist in me believes in humanity a lot more than thinking that people just want to see the Stepford Life.

Goddess. Out.

My nails are chipped. Cuticles rough and uncut. The hair has split ends. The face tired.

The goddess has left me.

But I’m happy. And satisfied.

I miss my weekend pampering treats where I’m fussed and groomed, and I can escape from the work week’s stress by tending to my tresses. But I’m happy.

This is what motherhood does to you. Especially since I have twin boys and my demanding four-month old babies are still on a very regular three/four-hour feeding schedule. Personal time is now an invalid entry in my dictionary.

Motherhood is not all bliss. Oh! I found out the hard way that there are A LOT that people don’t tell you about motherhood. Most probably because if too much of it is told, our species will end cos we women will not rationally go into the noble task of continuing the homo sapient genes. But that is the point: motherhood is not a rational decision; it is an emotional one. And hence, its benefits are equally emotional and sans rationale.

That is the only reason why I am in such an ungodly state and can still be happy.

I have willingly bequeath my “goddess” past to my little princes.

It is when I look into their angelic faces as they sleep, little hands clinging tight to me that I feel heavenly again.

My nails are chipped. Cuticles rough and uncut. The hair has split ends. The face tired. My heart is full.

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Of bunnies and babies

This Chinese New Year was a strange one for me.

Everyday as I flipped through the newspapers, I get more and more confused.

It’s the Year of the Rabbit, and our PM urged Singaporeans to have more babies alongside wishing us a happy new year. I get the message. I am one of the many whom my nation will teasingly say that I do not fulfill my “national service” to bring up the country’s fertility rates. I read the low statistics of 1.16 fertility rate, and my intellectual rationale kicks in. Trust me, I get the message. The severity that this has on our social-economical equilibrium, and the threat it brings to our nation’s existence.

What I don’t get: why is everyone flogging this issue as if it is an intellectual one?

“It could have been because of the Year of the Tiger, or perhaps the economic uncertainties the year before, in 2009. Whatever the reasons, I hope more couples will start or add to their families in the Year of the Rabbit. Chinese New Year is the time for families to come together in celebration, and more babies can only mean more joy in the years to come,” said the Prime Minister as he wished all Singaporeans a very happy Year of the Rabbit. (Source: TODAY, Feb 02, 2011)

I understand that our leaders are trying their best to cajole the people into a very real societal challenge. However, I must confess that I find it disturbing that my decision to start a family (or not) is thought to be pinned upon a Chinese horoscope. Or, rising costs of living for that matter, as CNN reports it. Or, because of my tiertiary education, or my selfish needs of maintaining a “freedom” lifestyle, as our government’s survey results have released.

Every time the news outlets report about the nation’s fertility problem, and we are urged to have more babies, I’m made to feel very indignant.

Until I read Venessa Lee’s article in the weekend TODAY. She found the right angle to view the challenge at hand. She probably had given many of us, non-nation-serving Singaporean women a voice. The right voice.

I find it puzzling that for years and years, we are flogged this issue in our faces, blamed for not wanting family and attributed as selfish, offered cash bonuses and incentives accordingly to our fertility contribution. How was all these going to address a fundamentally EMOTIONAL and PERSONAL decision?

We do not have to look too deep into our intellect to be able to relate to the human stories of the challenge. Just tap into the pop culture available. E News anchor Giuliana and Bill Rancic share openly about their desire to have a family, and their arduous journey to do so. What started as a reality show episode became a widely followed topic for many couples, and eventually the Season 2 curtain raiser. Why does their story have such a draw? Because it’s a human one.

I feel indignant because nobody seems to care about the human stories behind the fertility issue.  Why are we so obsessed about the issue, and not willing to find the right solutions for it? Even if we are a nation of pragmatic people, our leaders ought to understand that this involves people, lives and many many couple’s arduous journeys.

I had tried to share this perspective to some people who are able to make the difference. To that point, their perspective was, “Oh our job is not to listen. That’s another department’s job.” End of discussion.

*dramatic pause* (I still cannot comprehend that answer, by the way. Flabbergasted.)

I am right smack in the target group who have contributed to the fertility problem by not having children (yet). So are many of my girlfriends. Ever since my indignant fury on the topic has been provoked, I have been reaching out to my friends and openly discussing what was – and still very much is – a taboo topic. We talked as woman to woman, wife to wife, and we talked with our maternity instincts intact. Yes, many of us are successful career women and happily married but we are not as selfish as reports make us out to be. Every single of us who have delayed our child-bearing decisions have our personal real-life challenges to deal with. These real-life challenges are not as simplified as “rising costs of living” or a “personal lifestyle choice”. These real-life challenges involved real-life families, loved ones, and problems that only we are left to deal with.

I wonder who has heard these stories?

Or more accurately, who has cared to ask the right questions?

My line of work involves communicating to the audience with the specific messages designed to resonate. Sometimes this means bringing societal taboo out in the open to be discussed and to be resolved, but in a relatable way. I have seen many corporate companies do this well and with huge success. Often it begins with listening. Listening to the audience, understanding them and then asking the right questions.

So, thank you Venessa Lee for writing your article and bringing out the success that Australia enjoys. Thank you for showing that the baby bonus is really not the point nor the solution, but there are other areas of needs that should be looked into.

I only hope this time, it will be heard.

 

A Quarter-decade Friendship

Last night, I met my girlfriend whom I have known for 25 years!

I had the cold, nursing a stuffy nose and exhausted from a full day’s work, but still I carried on with our dinner plans, because she was taking the midnight flight out of Singapore back to where she’s based now for work.

We have not seen each other for the past 8 years. In between, we moved houses, relocated, changed jobs and we simply lost touch. And now, a cold cannot hold me back from meeting this friend for dinner.

She found me through the social networking sites, tracked down my latest contact details because she was in Singapore for a work trip. We arranged to meet for dinner.

25 years is a long time. We knew each other when we were little girls. My family was on a vacation to Taiwan, and while the adults chit chat, the children found our way to the playground and we played for an entire afternoon. When you were kids, an entire afternoon is an eternity, and if you got along, you become best friends forever.

So we promised to write each other. This is a time before the internet. We were pen pals. We’d share with each other the details of our lives, complete with drawings and illustrations to bring out the full meaning of what we were trying to express over paper. Sometimes there’ll be a bookmark, or a sticker and these are simple gifts that’ll travel miles and miles just to tell a friend that we care.

Through our middle school, high school and college years, we’d write and write and write to each other. Sometimes it is not what is written, but what was written then scratched away. The intensity of the handwriting, the speed of how the words were scribed, or how the letters were folded are all telling signs. Signs of a friendship that grew with pen and paper; signs of a friendship that grew intuitively.

As we mature into womanhood, our lives took on different beats. Things happen so fast so soon that it was impossible to catch each other up via pen and paper anymore.

Our correspondences dwindled in frequency, but never diminishes in intensity. We still knew we had each other’s ears.

She has always reach out to me when she reaches the low points in her life. When she feels most defeated and needs a safe harbor to rest. For the past 8 years, when I did not hear from her, I know that she wanted to on her own and fight the good fight because  she wanted to be strong. But when I heard her voice over the phone to schedule for our dinner, I also knew instinctively that she needed an old friend’s assurance again.

Hence, cold-struck or not, I was determined to make it to dinner.

2010 was a bad year for her. Work wise she was doing well when she left Taiwan and relocated to be where her work took her, but her personal life was falling apart and the challenges too much to take on all alone in a foreign land. She sank into depression, and her work days sustained only by the medication prescribed by her doctor. In between our dinner, she’d still be teary-eyed as we talked and there will be moments when she needed to take in a deep breathe to calm herself.

You are so brave, my friend. You’ve always had a kind heart, and sadly there are some people who’d trample on that. Don’t beat yourself up because you had been kind. From now on, just be kinder to yourself.

She nodded.

I think that was all that needed from an old, old friend.

Last night, as we shared our dinner and we poured our hearts out , I know that no amount of time can take away that sense of familiarity. We were there with each other when we – our menial existence of mind and soul – was only just forming. You could say that in a sense, we knew each other from genesis.

As I saw her leave for her flight, I could only say my quiet prayers in my heart. Get well, my friend. Life is hard, but you know when you have an old friend who is still with you in spirit for the past 25 years and still more to come, you can be strong!

A friendship that started in a sandbox, sustained by penpal-ship and now reconnected by technology.

Awakening

4.30am in Singapore. I am awake.

Jet-lagged, I had done well on the first night back. One day in the office, and I am now sleepless. Awoken by the jet-lag, I was then kept awake with the one thousand and one work problems that had fallen back on my plate.

Comes with the territory, I know. Being a business leader does mean sleepless nights because the entire weight of the business falls on you.

Sitting in my living room, watching the night view of the sea, and enjoying the cool breeze that had befallen upon Singapore, I am missing my Vancouver vacation A LOT.

What Vancouver holds for me: it is a place of rest. It is where family is, where we come together to enjoy one another’s company. Doesn’t matter that the usual family drama does take place, because it is the love that is so apparent that binds us together.

It is where I get to experience Life beyond work. There is food to be cooked, meals to be shared, groceries to be bought, health to be planned, sports to be experienced, and many many places to be explored. Even better, it is where I find society embrace differences. It doesn’t put you in a box, and dictate to you what success needs to be. It allows you to define what YOUR life should be, and what YOU want to be in the centre of your universe.

The moment I touched down in Singapore, I feel the monotony as if a lid covers me. My soul overshadowed by what the life is here. And life primarily is about making do. Making do with the limited time that we have outside of work. Making do with always not having time for the family. Everyone is buzzing here, there and everyday. Busy but not happy.

2011. Once again we’re at the beginning of the year. Where you hope, and wish and resolve to lead a different life.

I really hope we can. We should. Living our lives should not be a luxury. It ought to be a natural human right.

Happy New Year in 2011!

What did you do for your 2011 New Year’s Day?

We snowboarded.

The entire day.

At Whistler, Vancouver.

We boarded to fine, powdery snow, blue skies and quiet slopes. Quiet because most of the skiers or boarders were still smashed from the partying the night before. We had enough space on the snowy runs mostly to ourselves.We could enjoy the exhilaration of the sport, while soaking in the still, quiet nature surrounding us.

Thankfully, it was a really clear day. The skies were clear, and we had the sun with us for the winter day. We took in the magnificent views that greeted us everywhere we went. We took chair after chair to reach higher and higher peaks because we wanted to take in the view from higher and higher grounds.

Amazingly, everything looks so peaceful and tranquil from thousands of feet above ground.You get addicted to the sense of peace. And you keep wanting more.

I could not wait for 2011 to start. Actually, it is more accurate to say that I could not wait for 2010 to be over. 2009 was not a good year, health-wise. 2010 was a good year for the business, but it took a major toil on me time-wise and I felt like I lost bits of my soul somehow.

Whistler was like my Disneyland. The call of the mountains drew me back and it is where I found my recalibration for the year. A week of snowboarding on the runs, and a week of such beautiful nature surrounding me every waking moment, I felt like my soul was nursed back to health.

New Year’s Day. We were determined to start it right. It seems the universe knew just what we needed. And we got sent a beautiful scene that we can keep in our minds as we head back to the grind in Singapore for the year.

 

Girl Interrupted.

I rejoiced too soon.

I was enjoying my time free of work emails too much. 2.5 days of work-free bliss turned out to be too much to ask. And then the holiday joys came crashing down by a series of SOS emails and angry client emails.

Oh well… back into work mode.

Picked up the phone, opened up the laptop and my work mode came back. Concalls, virtual IM to connect back with the office, get the status updates, find a solution and get on it. Eventually I had to pick up the phone and yell at a supplier, 16 hours ahead of my current time, just so that people will stop mucking around and GET THE JOB DONE!

Perhaps I’ve been fire-fighting too much this year. I no longer can tolerate time wasting yada yada yada. I don’t have time for problem pity parties. Just get on it, work it, solve it. No, seriously I do not need to spend half a day dwelling IN the problem; let’s get us OUT of the problem, exactly how our clients paid us to do, and exactly what our professional work expects us to be.

(Breathing slowly now)

Just when I feel like nothing has changed, and I’m frustrated that I have to fly all the way to Vancouver and STILL deal with the same-old problems that I wanted to leave behind, I see Shae….

Our Newfoundland Shae, snuggling on her sleep mat. Ain't she a dear?!

Shae, our family dog, was with me all the way throughout the entire frustrating work crisis-handling time. Her sweet face just calmed me down. Here I am all tensed up and annoyed in my work seat by the fireplace. There she is, snuggling in her mat, and relaxed as always.

Seeing Shae sleeping by the fireplace made me realise: I’m still on my vacation.

Hokay. Girl uninterrupted. Vacation mode back on.

Thanks Shae dear… you’re the best dog in the world!!!

Eat, Pray, Love

Hello blog. I missed you.

There are 365 days in a year. This year, I seemed to have spent 90% of it all working. Working = 16-hour work days, working weekends, crazy deadlines, non-stop fighting work fires, back-to-back schedules with no breather.No time to think, no time to sleep, no time to eat.

I have to fly all the way to BC Vancouver to zone out, cos back where I was, there was no me-time. Uh uh, zilch.

So here I am, 16 hours behind where I came from and I took the time to recuperate.

I call this my “Eat Pray Love” vacation.

“Eat” cos the food here is sooooooo good that I literally eat three times more than I do back home.I seem to be chowing every waking moment and this can happen even at 3am in the middle of the night!

(disclaimer: back home, where I am under a constant high level of stress, I just can’t seem to swallow food down and I’d lose 2 kilos in a matter of days. I know, sounds like a good problem to have? Nada, when you’re already 5 kg underweight!)

“Pray” cos I’ll be snowboarding most of the time here, and trust me I’d be praying all my way down the slopes!!

“Love” cos I’m spending time with loved ones. Family whom I’ve not seen or spent time with for three years. A lot has happened in the past three years, and we’d need all the time we have to catch up.

“Love” cos I’d want to do the things I love – resting, having the space to my own thoughts, taking time to think and ponder, watching the telly, reading a book, sipping the coffee, snowboarding, grocery shopping, laundry, strolling in the park.

When did what I love take a backseat?

When time became not enough.

Seriously, what I really need this vacation: time and space to my own thoughts. I look back at my posts for this year, and I realise I had no time to put down my thoughts in this cyber sanctuary of mine. Not that I have no pensive moments throughout the year. On the contrary, I had more of them when I’m in a state of constant stress. Sadly though being time-starved means the only little “non-scheduled” time that I have, I’d be resting my tired brain.

2010. It had passed by so quick that it’s scaring me. I could have worked the equivalent workload of three years’ work in this year alone. I’ve allowed work to creep in so insidiously that I have forgotten my basic human need – thoughts.

Aristotle: “I think, therefore I am.”

I have not spent time thinking, therefore I have not been. It had been the ghost of me going about daily business this year.

Next year, I need it to be different. Live life.

The operative word being “LIVE”.

 

Life Rebooted

Two days of not checking work emails felt like an eternity to me.

Hubs commented that it’s as if a load was lifted off me. I felt the lightness as soon as the words “Welcome to beautiful British Columbia” greeted me at the airport.

I was happy again.

Beautiful British Columbia…

The beautiful British Columbia view from our window

This is the view that greeted me as I woke up from my jet-lagged sleep. The familiar view of the mountains and crisp air. Cold as it may be, the beauty that surrounds me brought me smiles from the inside out.

The starved soul of mine needed to reconnect with human life experiences again. And this means being with family sans work stress. Whole-minded – body, mind, soul – living the moments that we are sharing together.

One of our three family cats, Bandit, slouching comfortably. Ah... this is life!

Simple joys excite me. Taking our dog out to the park to walk, playing with the three family cats as they roam about the house, making coffee in the morning with my sister-in-law, watching TV  by the fireplace, grocery shopping at Costco.

As I shut down my work mode, I feel the human mode in me rebooting.

Life is coming back to me, finally. 🙂

Last Working Day of the Year

It was a good feeling waving goodbye to the city where I work. Yes, Singapore is where I work, not live. I hardly have a life when I’m on this city island.

2010 had been a consuming year of work. Labor laws dictate that we work 40 hours a week, but in our hectic line of work, what is standard is usually 60-to-75-hour work weeks. Weekends included. Travel time for work trips not included.

Even vacations are spent with conference calls scheduled in between, and lots of BlackBerry email time while waiting for dinner to be served, during commercials while watching TV, or waiting in line for a theatre show.

2010 is the year that I feel more like a cylon than a human. That work overtook life. That I frequented the specialist doctors more than I did the supermarket.

Imagine that.

So here I am sitting in Hong Kong International Airport, and heading to Vancouver to spend Christmas with family and I am excited like a little girl in a pink candy store. I want my vacation, badly.

I want to put everything work-related behind, and enjoy some quality BlackBerry-free time with human beings again. Especially when the human beings are dear family members whom I have not seen in three years.

I’m putting work behind. Putting family first for the next three weeks.

Wish me luck.