"I can't wait to go back to work." I was sharing with my friend over lunch last week. It was what my friend said next, that got me thinking if what he said was really true. "......but why? Your children are well taken care of and besides, your presence alone is settling to them even though they don't say it. How do I know? My mother was a stay-at-home-mom too."
Later that day, what my friend shared somehow, brought me back to when I was a little girl... how I remembered Mumsie staying home to take care of the three of us too. Like many other mothers in those days, Mumsie was also a seamstress. It was one job that does not require her to leave the comfort of home but yet allows the flexibility to earn good money especially if one has been doing it a long time and if coupled with a good network or clientele base, it could jolly well be a lucrative business. I remember how Mumsie's talent was very much appreciated and her services very much sought after, in fact even till today.
It was not easy to work from home. It was not as if Mumsie could just leave everything at a drop of a hat and concentrate on trying to finish up her orders before deadline. Working from home just meant that it was extra work. She still had to do the chores, cook for us, play with the baby amongst other things that she did everyday. When we rested after finishing our homework, she would hurry to the manual sewing machine and rock the thing really fast to finish what she could for the day. I remember how the machine would go whirring away and somehow today, I realized that perhaps it was that daily whirring sound that I thought was rather disturbing at times back then could have been the sounds that lulled me to sleep. The comforting sounds of her just being there.
If the house was quiet, she was either out delivering the finished curtains.. or sofa covers.. or dresses.. even crocheted dining table covers. Apart from her magic hands being good at sewing, she was also a good cook/baker. She would occasionally receive requests for festive cookies nearing the new year or even tau huey or chee cheong fun from stall vendors who were of her acquaintance.
Despite all that, I do remember Mumsie reading me stories everyday like stories from the Ladybird series... over and over again... and at times helping me prepare for story telling competitions... or lending a hand with my art/craft work or academic homework - those that she knew how to help us with.
Fast forward to today...
Mothers' Day for me is a day for reflection. Reflection on those days my mom mothered my brothers and me. How her ways of parenting may have influenced or put off certain things we run by the kiddies today. Somehow or rather, everyone of us have a cocktail of influences that made us the mothers we are today. Some of us may have great moms and all we want is to replicate their style of parenting. The rest of us may have mothers who may not have given us that many special memories worth remembering and all we vow to do is never to parent our own children the way they did. Different lifestyles, different socio-economic backgrounds, different ways of parenting.. and definitely different extremes. Whereas amongst us, perhaps there are some of us working to be somewhere in the middle, striving to be balanced parents.
Mothers' Day is a day for me to reflect on my own ways of parenting my brood, whether I did ok or perhaps there were instances where I could've done better.
Looking back on how the children have grown, at times watching them as they slept, quietly reminiscing on those not so distant memories of when they were so carefree as young children... being dependent on me (and hubs) for every single thing and sadly, now pretty tired most days from school and following that, the work they bring home as well. Before I became a mother, I thought that I could be just like those screen mothers I saw on TV. You know... how those mothers can settle ANY dispute before the show is over and the show is only like half an hour or one hour tops! Those tv dramas make parenting look so easy. The real parenting is totally a different ball game.
Upon this new-found self-revelation, I tried to ask DD1 what she thought of my staying home and mothering ways. *nail biting* Hubs was back early last week, so he stayed home to mind the other three kiddies while I sent DD1 for her violin lesson. We had one on one time together, a rare opportunity... something we found hard to do with our chaotic family of four children. She was all smiles when I suggested going for a quiet dinner at Pastamania. She loved the Hawaiian Pizza there. DD1 had a lot of things to talk about and share. She seemed very happy to have my undivided attention. Through our conversation over early dinner, I realized how much she had grown. She was no longer the meek little girl who used to run to the door when I returned home from work yelling, "Mommy! You're home! I missed you when you were at work."
I decided to prod her over my intention to go back to work.
Me : What do you think if I go back to work? We could get a helper and we could have more money... to get the stuff you "want"... for holidays... for your brother to got to school... etc
DD1 : I'm ok I guess. You know mom, we don't really need more money. We are doing ok, right? We have enough. But to answer your question, yes, I am fine if you want to go back to work.
Me : I thought when both of you shared about your friends having certain stuff you don't that you were deprived of them and if I work, we may be able to afford them for you and your siblings too.
DD1 : Those are "wants", mom... not needs. Not really that important. Nice to have but okay if don't have either.
DD1 : I like having you at home.
Me : Why? You enjoy my nagging? (I ribbed her.)
DD1 : Nah. Not that of course. I dunno. I just feel that I like having you at home. Just knowing you'd be around at home when I come back from school. My friends... they don't have that. But I do.
Me : Really...?
DD1 : Yeah mom. They said that while they liked getting what they want quite easily, they don't really have much time to spend with their parents, because they work.
Me : Well, that's because every family is different. Sometimes we cannot have everything that we want. Something's gotta give..
Me : If I ask you to grade me, on my performance on being a mom... your mom... how would you grade? You know, just like how school grades you for your work. Band 1, Band 2....
DD1 : (cutting in) Perfect.
Me : Hmmm?
DD1 : I grade you PERFECT.
Me : I'm asking you to grade like the banding you know. That is not any of the choices. Try again..
DD1 : I grade you PERFECT because I think you are the perfect mom for me.
Me : (Quiet...)
Me : I don't think you graded me right. You don't mind that I scold you or nag at you?
DD1 : It is for my own good, mom... I know... You worry too much, that's all. Even if there are days, you think I don't give an *A* for effort, I am still trying.
Me : (Feeling something stuck in my throat... plus a tad guilty...)
DD1 : You know mom, even if I get to choose to have another mom all over again, I will still choose you. So, even if you stay at home I am ok.. even if you want to go to work, I am ok.. You have stayed home so many years for us, maybe it is time for you to chase your dreams.
Me : (Don't think I can hold much longer now...)
DD1 : Perfect can mean different things for all kids my age, but you are perfect to me. You are MY mom.
I told DD1 to stop it else I'd bawl my eyes out right there. It was an intense silence for a while. It set me thinking. Real hard actually.. All this time that I have tried to seek perfection in them and for them... of what I thought was perfect to have in a child... you know, good at studies and good in character bits?
My daughter accepted me with all my MANY flaws, as perfection.
Before we ended our evening and headed back home (hubs wasand a couple of times already, my daughter asked.
DD1 : Mothers' Day is coming and I know you always say all you wish for is good kids but if I were to ask what you really really truly want all this time but yet to get it, what would it be?
Me : An off day... and I mean a real off day... a whole day off for myself.
DD1 : You're funny, mom. I was thinking about something that I could perhaps get you as a Mothers' Day present...
Me : Well, can I get it then?
DD1 : Why are you asking me that? Ask daddy.
DD1 :But mommy, I don't think daddy can handle all by himself. Not all of us at the same time.
*I'm not holding my breath as to whether I get what I wished for... but I breathed a sigh of relief, for I am grateful for a daughter like her. I must learn to accept her with all her imperfections just cos - she's mine.
Yesterday, everyone of us were singing to hubs' strumming of the guitar, to the tune of Jason Mraz's song entitled "I'm Yours" and a whole new meaning to the song dawned on me... the little meanings behind what our children are really saying... if we are only listening.*
HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY.