Me Time


Dear husband and the girls are off to Jakarta for a week while I, with my ever growing belly, am staying behind. As I kissed them and waved goodbye from behind the departure glass door, I thought to myself, “I am officially on leave! (Hooray!)”

I love my family, I love having my “me time” too.

We all need a little time off once in a while. It is healthy, it is necessary. As a young mom with young children to care for, things can get overwhelming, and very fast. So fast that I don’t get to pause and “figure out where I am now.” There is always the next thing to do: toys to pick up, meals to cook, dishes to wash, school-work to guide, playground trip to make, books to read to, and on the list goes. It’s no wonder that many mothers reported they started having difficulty falling asleep after becoming mothers. We just don’t have the time to think our own thinking throughout the busy day, and then and only then, when everyone else is asleep, our ticking brains keep us awake. So yes, having a break where we can rest and rejuvenate, think and reorient, is important.

Having said that, I would readily admit that often I misplace my need for “me time” in the similar way we may misplace our need for food and recreation. We know the axiom “Man eats to live, not lives to eat,” yet how often we behave as if we live the latter. And in this sense, I think, I need to guard myself. Because it is scarily easy to look at the kids and think,

“It is their fault I am so tired and undone!” or
“I used to be so free and fruitful, but now they take and take and take from me I have nothing left for anything else!” or
“These people rob me off my real identity — my hobby, my career, my ‘thingy.’ I can’t wait for the day I am finally myself again!”

It is scarily easy to let resentment sip in. It is scarily easy to look forward to “me time” as the time I can find and be myself again, uncontaminated by and away from these “little nuisances.”

Yet, is the real me to be found somewhere out there? Have I lost it in the trenches of motherhood?

To the mothers struggling with and searching for the same thing, I want to share some words of wisdom from Rachel Jankovic. She wrote in her book (at which time of publication she had five kids under five):

“…The world has a very muddled perception of “self.” They think and tell us to think that we are all little separate entities who might need to go off somewhere to get to know “ourselves,” or that a mother needs to get back to her corporate job to be herself again. Marriages break up because people don’t know who they are anymore. They need to find themselves.

But the Christian view of self is very different, and you need to make sure that it is the one you have. We are like characters in a story. Our essential self is not back in the intro, waiting to be rediscovered. Who you are is where you are. When you are married, your essential self is married. As the story grows, so does your character. Your children change you into a different person. If you suddenly panic because it all happened so fast and now you don’t recognize yourself, what you need is not time alone. What you need is your people. Look out-look at the people who made you what you are—your husband and your children…if you want to know yourself, concentrate on them.

Those women who try to find themselves by stripping away the “others” will find that they are a very broken thing. This will lead them to resent the people who they think made them that way. She may say, “I used to be so energetic, but all these people take, take, take from me and now I have no time to just be me!” And the world gathers around and comforts her and says she needs some time to follow her dreams.

But the Christian woman needs to see, “I used to be so boring! Now my character has some depth, some people to love, some hardships to bear. Now I have some materials to work with.” A Christian’s woman view is always forward and never back….As married Christian women, our identity is in our husbands. We are their helpmeets. Our calling is people-oriented. It follows that you cannot know what your calling is until you know who your calling is. Until you are married, you are not tied to a specific person. Marriage reorients you entirely. Children do even more. Then it is your calling to help your husband by raising these little people. People, people everywhere and no time for yourself. But remember that this is your calling. It belongs to you. They belong to you.

If you want some quality “me time,” make a date with your husband. Do something special with your children. These people are you. Your identity is supposed to be intertwined—that is the way God wrote the story, and it is the way He intends us to read it.”

Loving the Little Years, pp. 60-62.

“Me time” is important, but not in the sense that I need it to rediscover my true self. The real me is right here, she is a mother to two lovely little girls and a baby boy due in May, a wife to a great husband, she is a daughter, she is a friend, she is a part of her church community, she is someone to somebody, she is a sinner saved by God. She is blessed and called to bless others with her life. And she is given “me time”s as a means to rest, rejuvenate and reflect in order to serve others more effectively.

Knowing this, I can look forward to “me time” eagerly, enjoy it thankfully, and go back to serving joyfully.

“You Are Not My Friend!”

She will say, fold her arms and pout her lips. Other similar phrases she may hurl at me are “I don’t like Mommy!”, “You don’t love me!” and, my favorite, “You are not my favorite person!” The reason? Sometimes, because I do not agree to giving her what she wants, often, because I need to discipline her over a particular offense.

I like this anecdote about parents my generation (those born in the ’80s and ’90s): we are the last generation who listened to their parents and the first generation who has to listen to their children. While it is so relatable it’s hilarious, I do wonder what happened in between. My parents never bothered themselves with whether or not their kids would put them on the top list for their best friends and I am glad they didn’t. Because they were, after all, my parents. They knew that and were secure in that knowledge.

“It’s easy for me to make you like Mommy,” I always say, “I just let you do as you wish and I’ll instantly be your favorite person, your BFF.” And she will look at me with a “then why don’t you do just that?” look. To which both she and I already know the answer.

“I am your mother. My biggest care is not whether you would like me, my biggest concern is whether you know and are doing what’s right.” Of course it’s never pleasant to play the bad cop, of course all moms would love to please their children. But as her mother, I need to do what a mother should do and that is not something that a friend can do for her. “If I let you do as you wish just because I want you to like me now, that is not love,” I add, at the same time horrified by the thought of such parenting with its inevitable consequence, “then you will grow up hating me.”

There will come the day when children will mature (God help us) into the responsible and sensible adults they need to be. There will come the day these children will be capable of a loving and meaningful friendship with their parents. Until then, we need to be their parents. Precisely because of that prospect, we must be the parents who know their role and carry out their duty faithfully. The duty to love and also to discipline, to nurture yet never neglect to train.

I am not your friend, daughter. I am your mother. In due time, I pray you will see that I love you. And when you know what it means to be a true human, one with wisdom and virtues, I pray for your friendship.

Raising Happy Eaters

First of all, I am not writing this as a trained nutritionist, nor am I any expert in pediatrics. I am certainly not the know-it-all parent. Children’s eating habit is a HUGE concern for almost all modern parents, one that leaves them (me included) scratching their heads and pulling their hair. Despite being told multiple times “Wow, your kids eat so well!” I have had my share of pleading, bribing, threatening, and shoveling food down their throats, trust me.

So, back to the title. I am sharing a compilation of what I think have worked for our family in our attempt to raise the girls into happy eaters who enjoy mealtime around the table. All of these are wisdom from the past generations (the seniors we consulted with) and cultural observations documented in books.

1. Food is relational, it is not merely nutritional.

The table has a special place in community. It is general knowledge that food is associated with fellowship in any culture. A shared mealtime is when people come together sharing not only food but also their time and lives. There is a reason to why it is said “Food tastes better when shared” and “Family that eats together stays together.” Some of my fondest memories are those that happened during shared mealtimes with families and loved ones, I believe this is not singular to my experience. Make effort to create that wonderful association. Eat together as a family.

2. Food is a blessing, eat with gratitude.

I spent a big chunk of my childhood eating with my late paternal grandma whom I dearly called Ah Po. Being a tough woman who had single-handedly raised eight children through the hard times, she would make sure we all understood how privileged we were to have food to eat. Not a single grain of rice was to waste. The same expectation was enforced by my father, and so it was the kind of tables we grew up with. How, you may ask, did they instill such attitude in the children? They guarded against the sense of entitlement. The mantra was always “Ai ciak ciak, mai ciak suak.” A Hokkien remark for “eat if you want and starve if you won’t.” And so they never hesitated to let us go hungry.

When the kids refuse to eat 😛

3. There must be a time for play/work, and a time for meal.

Common sense has it that when one is hungry, one will eat. And a reasonable and good way of how that maxim operates is seen in a healthy cycle of energy exertion and energy re-fuelling. In our home this is translated into a routine of starting the day with breakfast, letting the children play and exert their energy, eating again only at lunchtime, napping for the youngest and quiet activities for the eldest, followed by snack time in the afternoon, outdoor playtime, and finally dinnertime. We do not snack around the clock nor eat apart from the four appointed mealtimes. This way, the children are hungry when they do eat. They will not not eat.

4. Food is pleasure, enjoy it.

I had the other big chunk of my childhood spent around the table of my late maternal grandma whom I dearly called Ah Ma. The opposite of my Ah Po, she doted on her grandchildren very much, to the point of indulging them. I cannot recall any memory of her raising her voice at us. She would cook our favorite foods all the time, always whipping up whatever dish we asked of her. She did not make much fuss on nutritions, and from her kitchen we learned that food is pleasurable. Indulge your children sometimes, whip up tasty meals if you could. Also, a dash of MSG and an occasional plate of deep fried processed food will not kill them. Let them taste that food IS delicious.

5. Food is nutrition, eat healthily.

When it comes to food, nutritional value is normally what parents are most concerned about, and rightly so. After all, who wouldn’t want their children to grow up healthy? Our parents believed that there needs to be a wide variety of food served for meals. There were always rice, 2 meat dishes, 1 leafy vegetable dish, and 1 soup dish for lunch and dinner. This, they believed, provides a balance and complete nutrition for the body. The rule was, “You don’t have to eat much of all but you must try all.” In the words of my father, eat more of those you like and less of those you dislike. It is unsurprising to find that the Japanese and the South Koreans, the two cultures with non-picky eating population that boast the lowest obesity rate in the world – at 4 percent (Christine Gross-Loh, “Parenting Without Borders” p. 62), share the same meal philosophy, both in their emphasis on dish variety and their insistence that children should try at least one bite of all the dishes served. Now, I am not saying we must prepare 4 different dishes for every mealtime, I can’t. But we can encourage the children to try out a wide variety of different foods. Children love what they know. And they can know only what they try.

And finally, I have to acknowledge that we Asians often associate a chubby child with a good eater. The logic is a child that eats well must eat a lot and therefore must be chubby. This. Is. Not. True.

Many moms have endured the unnecessary pressure to pump-feed their kids in an attempt to fatten them up and felt like a failure when their kids stay lean. We don’t have to, we should not. The goal is not to produce the most plump little Michelin’s mascots. If they are healthy, are thankful for and enjoy their food, and have a warm table fellowship, they will be happy eaters. And you’ve done well, Momma! 🙂

New Year Resolution

It was “Wake Up at 0600 Everyday” for 2016 and “Learn Latin” for 2017. And three weeks ago I purchased a digital piano and was determined to master the instrument in the next 12 months. Yet, as many can testify, most new year resolutions don’t survive long. At the best, they start on the Western New Year and end on the Chinese New Year, hence the name. This is extra-specially true for moms with very young children, it may not even last a month! Because, plans and children don’t mix. (Parents, let me hear Amen!)

The eldest was still wide awake, the alarm was set to go off in 7 hours, and if she didn’t sleep you didn’t sleep, and the baby was going to wake up intermittently throughout the night, and when you did manage to get up at 6 there was a very high chance your preschooler would too, and if she was up everyone was up and woohoo! the party started early with everyone lacking sleep and cranky by midday. “Wake Up at 0600 Everyday”

60 minutes, was how long the kids took their nap, it was also the maximum amount of time you got to do your stuff without interruption. You have heard the anecdote of how people without kids thought it was blatant lie when their friends with (very young) kids said they had no time for virtually anything. Very truly, they live in two different time dimensions. Without kids, daily housechores take 30 minutes, meal preparation takes 1 hour. Add kids into the equation: You say, “I am going to mop the floor” and you spend the next one hour picking up toys from said floor, settling childish squabbles, cleaning the kids because they poop, and two hours later you are done with the floor looking not much different from before you started that you half-suspect if you have not indeed mopped it. So, 12 months later and I was still at page 10. “Learn Latin”

What do you think children do when they see you sitting before the piano? Right, they climb up to your lap and run their little fingers all over it. When they are finally bored of the piano, they climb onto your back. Every. Single. Time.

It may be hilarious to read, we have all laughed sympathetically as parents worldwide shared how their world is turned upside down by their kids. But I can tell you that at the real time, to our own horror, we have secretly wished that these kids were non-existent. We have decided that they are a nuisance, a burden, they get in our ways to success. No, we will not say it out, but we have believed that they are out to ruin our plans, to scrap our resolutions, to hinder us from fulfilling our potentials. We think they are the reasons we cannot be our best. We bark at them as we see their intrusive coming, we blame them for our failure to achieve the previous year’s resolutions and name them the reason to our hesitation for the new year’s ones.

Alas! How could they be deemed with such apprehension when the Bible has esteemed them to be a blessing from the Lord? Oh they say, time has changed too much from when the Bible was written, the society has changed, children are no longer needed to labor for the family’s finance, modern women have the rights to maximize their skills, hence children – or the absence of children, has become the kind of blessing that is subject to individuals’ interpretation.

Has it? Or can it be that I miss the whole point? What if living better is not mainly about waking up earliest and being productive with my time, what if it is not about acquiring new languages, what if it is not about learning new skills, upgrading my resume? What if to be a better person is all about being more patient and kind; about freedom from envying others’ accomplishments and from searching for reasons to boast in pride; about not insisting that my time must not be interrupted at all costs; and not being irritable or resentful when it does get interrupted; about repenting from wrong doings and rejoicing with the truth; about bearing the little ones in constant hope and trust in God? What if to be a better me means being more like the Love Himself?

That must be it! For how else do children bless us but by presenting us, in their sincere and very forgiving nature, numerous opportunities to be more and more loving everyday, every year? For in God’s wisest providence, they have been put in our lives to mold us into our very best – into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:28-29 ESV

They Know

“Why did you spank me that hard?”
“No. I know that it was not too hard.”
“But you were angry and that was not the right way of doing it! And you didn’t really like me when you hugged me afterwards!”

Her words sent a chill down my spine. She knew.

When we had our Bible discussions with fellow parents about “how to properly discipline our children,” she had been listening. When I spouted out all the doctrinal truths which I ought to have adhered to, she had been taking note. When I disciplined her without yelling, yet without love, she felt the absence. When the reconciliation hug was just a mere going through the motions, she knew. And, especially as an Asian, if I spank her to “save my face” and not for her restoration, she will know. She always knows.

I like to tell my children that I know them best and what is best for them, but what I didn’t really realize was that they, too, know me best. My day to day attitude, my response to things, my emotions, speech and deeds; my life is always at full display before them. I can write, say or show others what I want others to think about who I am but it’s my closest ones who know who I really am. Or more profoundly, they know whether what I write, say or show to others is what I really am.

Such realization is a constant cause for both trembling and joy. Trembling, because I will inevitably leak out to my closest ones the ugliest side of my sinful-self, and how I am so full of potential to lead them away from the faith I profess. My greatest fear is to have my children see me as a hypocrite and by hypocrisy subject them to condemnation.

But thanks be to God who is faithful and promises victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. He has not only designed for us parents to be His authoritative representation to our children, but has also set family as a place where gospel is continually portrayed. We are fellow sinners to our children, who constantly offend them in our sins and must constantly repent and seek their forgiveness. I thank God for He made little children very forgiving, they do not hold grudge and they forgive freely. To be forgiven and be genuinely loved despite my failures is a joy unspeakable. It is the gospel.

I wish nothing more than to have my God and my children find me faithful and truthful. May God help!

Homekeeping Freedom

The first thing that came to my mind after a good sweating of scrubbing the kitchen top and the cooking hob was “How wonderfully clean things will stay if only no more cooking should ever be done here!”

The next thing, of course, was to realize how foolish could that idea be. What’s the point of having the kitchen there if there’s no cooking to do?

I see now, I was doing the cleaning with the intention of freeing myself from the cleaning itself. It’s of little wonder why I get disappointed and discouraged by the mere thought of having a mess to clean again soon from the next cooking, or meal, or play. I see now why, especially after a thorough house cleaning, I get easily irritated just by having living beings living in the house.

My housekeeping serves no one but myself. I think that summarizes why. The irony of it all is, the freedom that I am chasing is an elusive one, and is in fact not a freedom. Instead, it binds me and my family away from living freely in our own home. Because every act of living we do will inevitably violate the cleanness and tidyness of the house. And that is absurdly funny, is it not? Having a house that you can’t live in?

I see now the real freedom housekeeping affords me is the freedom to serve my loved ones again and again. And the real reason why there is a need for my housekeeping is because my loved ones are fed, clothed, and taken care of in this house. As the proverb goes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In my current season of life, mess is the mark of productivity, and cleaning is the means to continuity.

As sure as there is pleasure in doing others good, so it turns out, the true pleasure that homekeeping gives is the repeated pleasure of providing hospitality, joy and happiness for others (often, the dearest ones). The satisfaction felt in seeing a sparkling clean and tidy house after a good sweating out is then a ‘bonus’.

Ibu Full-time atau Ibu Karir?

Zaman sekarang yang namanya ibu itu tidak cukup disebut sekedar ibu, banyak embel-embel tambahan yang melekat pada peranan mereka. Dua yang paling sering saya dengar, Ibu Rumah Tangga (sering juga disebut Ibu full time) dan Ibu Karir. Kalau boleh saya definisikan sejauh pengertian saya,

Ibu Rumah Tangga atau Ibu full time adalah istilah untuk seorang ibu yang sehari-harinya mengurus anak dan rumah tangga, dan biasanya tidak melakukan pekerjaan berbayar di luar rumahnya.

Ibu Karir adalah istilah untuk seorang ibu yang sehari-harinya melakukan pekerjaan yang menghasilkan upah, biasanya di luar rumah.

Jujur saya masih gagal paham bagaimana maksudnya Ibu Rumah Tangga dianggap tidak bekerja dan Ibu Karir dianggap bukan ibu secara full time, tapi ya sudahlah, memang istilah sering kurang sempurna dalam membawakan maknanya masing-masing.

Dalam pencarian saya pribadi, saya belum menemukan model ibu yang sempurna. Tidak ada satu modelpun yang cukup sempurna untuk memenuhi besar dan dalamnya panggilan menjadi seorang ibu. Bukan label ataupun model yang mendikte arti seorang ibu. Karena sejatinya arti seorang ibu terletak di dalam cinta dan pengorbanannya dalam memenuhi kebutuhan mereka yang dipercayakan dalam perawatannya.

Almarhumah nenek saya dari pihak ayah, ibu dari delapan bersaudara, beliau mengusahakan toko roti untuk menafkahi keluarga setelah kakek saya almarhum ketika anak mereka yang paling kecil belum genap berusia sebulan. Seorang wanita yang gigih, beliau berhasil membesarkan kedelapan anaknya seorang diri, beliau seorang wanita inspirasional yang dicintai dan dikagumi para cucunya.

Ambil sebagai contoh, berdasarkan pengamatan saya dalam kelompok masyarakat sekitar (umumnya kelompok masyarakat menengah di Singapura dan Indonesia), peran dan tugas utama para ibu adalah sebagai berikut:

1.  Memenuhi kebutuhan anak-anaknya
Urusan pangan, sandang dan pendidikan anak sehari-hari biasanya menjadi prioritas dan hal yang ditangani langsung oleh ibu. Ibu yang merawat, mengurus dan mendidik sebagai pribadi yang lembut dan mengayomi. Bukan tanpa alasan seorang ibu adalah orang pertama yang dicari anaknya kala kesusahan.

2. Memenuhi kebutuhan suaminya
Seorang ibu adalah terlebih dahulu seorang istri. Sebagai mitra terbaik dan pilar dukungan utama bagi suaminya, ia memastikan suaminya terawat aspek fisik dan psikologisnya, baik itu dalam hal makanan, pakaian hingga persahabatan dan keintiman. Ia mengambil alih urusan rumah sehingga suaminya bisa maksimal di dalam urusan pekerjaan. Ini tentu bukan berarti seorang suami tidak perlu membantu dalam urusan rumah, justru istri yang baik melakukan tugasnya dengan tujuan membantu suaminya sebisa mungkin tanpa menghitung-hitung seberapa adil pembagian tugas rumah antara mereka berdua, dan sebaliknya suami yang tahu diri menunjukkan kepeduliannya dengan membantu istrinya dalam urusan pekerjaan rumah dan mengurus anak secara sukarela.

3. Memenuhi kebutuhan orangtuanya
Dalam masyarakat tanpa fasilitas negara yang memberikan bantuan sosial memadai bagi penduduk lansia, juga dimana asuransi belum memadai ataupun terjangkau, para orangtua bergantung banyak kepada anak untuk jaminan hari tua. Khususnya di Indonesia saat ini, jaminan pensiun orangtua sering adalah anak-anaknya sendiri. Seorang ibu juga adalah seorang anak bagi orangtuanya sendiri. Ia menanggung hutang bakti kepada orangtuanya, yang sering diekspresikan dalam bentuk dukungan finansial bagi mereka di masa tua. Berbeda dengan negara-negara Barat, adalah hal yang lumrah bagi para orangtua di Indonesia untuk menyekolahkan anak sampai ke jenjang perguruan tinggi dengan uang mereka sendiri, banyak yang bahkan sampai menjual lahan. Sehingga lumrah juga bila setelah lulus, anak-anak mereka ingin mencapai karir yang sukses sebagai bentuk bakti yang memberikan rasa bangga bagi orangtua dan sebagai upah jerih payah orangtua.

4. Mengatur rumah
Sebagai nyonya rumah, ibulah yang bertanggung jawab untuk menjadikan rumahnya tempat yang aman dan nyaman bagi keluarganya, yang juga boleh dirasakan oleh tamu yang berkunjung. Juga berbeda dengan negara-negara Barat dimana jasa asisten rumah tangga ataupun suster anak sangatlah mahal, para ibu di Indonesia dan Singapura bisa dibantu oleh jasa asisten rumah tangga dengan harga yang relatif terjangkau dalam menjalankan tugasnya yang satu ini.

Almarhumah nenek saya dari pihak ibu, ibu dari tujuh bersaudara. Beliau seorang ibu rumah tangga yang turut membantu penghasilan keluarga yang saat itu miskin dengan cara menjahit. Beliau seorang wanita yang mendedikasikan seluruh hidup untuk keluarga, anak-anak dan bahkan cucu-cucunya.

Tugas-tugas di atas tentu tidak mudah dan tidak sederhana. Agar para ibu bisa menjalankan fungsinya secara efisien dan efektif, mereka perlu diberikan kebebasan yang luas baik dalam memilih peran maupun dalam pemanfaatan kesempatan. Mereka harus bebas menentukan bahwa adalah yang terbaik untuk tinggal di rumah sepanjang hari mengurus anak hari ini, tapi juga tidak dihakimi ketika mereka perlu turut mencari nafkah di luar rumah di hari lainnya. Ketika semua itu menjadi pilihan yang perlu untuk kelangsungan rumah dan keluarganya, maka semua dilakukan dengan mempertimbangkan kepentingan terbaik bagi keluarganya.

Banyak yang bertanya, masak melulu untuk keluarga sih? Emangnya wanita tidak berhak hidup untuk dirinya sendiri, mengejar mimpi dan ambisinya sendiri?

Tentu saja berhak. Tapi saya lebih percaya cara terbaik untuk menghidupi hidup itu bukan dengan cara hidup demi diri, tapi hidup memberikan arti dan manfaat bagi hidup orang lain, seringkali dengan merelakan hidup kita sendiri. Dan bahwa ambisi yang memberi kepuasan tertinggi adalah dengan memaksimalkan potensi diri demi pemberdayaan dan kebaikan orang lain, dimulai dari orang terdekat kita, keluarga kita sendiri. Saya rasa ini yang sudah para ibu lakukan sejak mereka menahan mual-mual trimester pertama, demi hidup baru yang mereka bawa.

Ibu saya, seorang wanita hebat yang selalu bekerja keras bersama ayah untuk membesarkan dan mencukupkan kebutuhan kami bertiga. Kami ada seperti hari ini berkat kerja keras dan pengorbanan beliau.

Ibu mertua saya, beliau seorang wanita yang piawai mengatur rumah tangganya dan yang mendedikasikan hidupnya untuk suami dan kedua putranya.

Banyak cara pandang dunia yang berusaha mengadu domba para ibu dan mendatangkan rasa bersalah yang palsu kepada ibu rumah tangga maupun ibu karir. Kalau kita termakan, lantas mencari kebanggaan sebagai ibu yang satu dengan cara mencela pilihan ibu yang lain, maka ujung-ujungnya yang terbengkalai juga adalah kebahagiaan keluarga, yang akhirnya akan berimbas jelek ke pembangunan masyarakat yang sehat.

Sesungguhnya semua yang berhak menerima sebutan “Ibu” adalah mereka yang memiliki hati yang sama, hati yang penuh dengan cinta dan kesiapan untuk berkorban bagi mereka yang ditempatkan dalam pelukannya. Baik ia berseragam kantor, ataupun berdaster.

Di akhir tulisan ini, untuk menghargai jasa mulia semua ibu, saya sertakan lirik lagu anak-anak Indonesia “Kasih Ibu Sepanjang Masa” karangan SM Mochtar, yang dengan tepat sekali menggambarkan mulianya arti seorang ibu;

Kasih Ibu kepada beta
Tak terhingga sepanjang masa
Hanya memberi
Tak harap kembali
Bagai Sang Surya
Menyinari dunia

Selamat Hari Ibu!

In Defense of Mothers

In regards to their role in motherhood, mothers of our time seem to have labels other than a mere “Mother” attached to them. Among many, the two most heard, I guess, are the Stay-at-home Mother (also known as the Full-time Mother) and the Working Mother. From what I understand,

A Stay-at-home Mother or a Full-time Mother is a mother who is stationed primarily at home, and she usually has no paid works outside of home.

A Working Mother is a mother who is working, usually a paid job, primarily in the workforce outside of home.

I have to admit that I fail to see how a Stay-at-home Mother is not a “working mother” and how a Working Mother is not a “full time mother”, but well, sometimes we just have to come to term that every term comes with their own inadequacy.

In my personal search for the ideal model of motherhood, I have unfortunately found none. There is no one ideal model that is adequate enough to contain the breadth and the depth of what motherhood calls for. It is not the model or the label that defines a mother. For the heart of motherhood lies in the love and sacrifice, in meeting the needs of others placed in her care.

My late paternal grandmother, a mother of eight, she ran a bread shop at their shop-house to provide for her children after my grandfather passed on when their youngest son was less than one month old. A strong woman who single-handedly raised her children up, and an inspirational woman still, whom her grandchildren love and admire.

Take for example, in the society groups that I have the chance to observe (mainly the middle-class and working-class, of Asian culture, in Indonesia and Singapore), the principal duties a mother holds are as follow:

1. In meeting the needs of her children
A mother is in charge of the welfare of her children. Their food, clothing, instruction and education are of her utmost priority. She is their primary care taker and is to them the embodiment of nurture and tenderness. It is not without reason that the mother is a child’s first sought refuge in any distress.

2. In meeting the needs of her husband
A mother is first a wife. As her husband’s best partner and support, she sees to it that he is well cared for physically (food, clothing) and emotionally (friendship, intimacy), and that he may be free to give his best in his vocation by taking upon herself the management of domestic affairs. This is not to say that husbands are not to share in the workload of house chores and child care, but it is a wife’s love to her husband to desire to serve her husband in the best way she can instead of keeping a fair score of who’s doing more than who. Likewise, when husbands do help around, it in turn shows their wives their genuine care and love. This is definitely much healthier for marriages than when a husband’s help is seen as a mandatory ‘do-your-part’. So be quick to chip in, husbands! It means a world to your wife.

3. In meeting the needs of her parents
In a non welfare state and in a society where insurance coverage is not yet popular nor adequate, parents are relying heavily on their children for their old day care. This is especially true in countries like the present Indonesia, where one’s retirement plan is literally one’s own children. As mothers are daughters themselves, they bear a filial responsibility towards their own parents, often translated into providing for them financially. And since it is also common for parents to pay for their children’s education into the tertiary level, with some parents go so far as to sell their land, a sense of pride in their children’s successful career is, in return, the expected reward for their toiling.

4. In managing her home
As the mistress of the house, she is the one in charge for making her home a safe and warm shelter for her family and a place where hospitality may be extended to others. With affordable domestic help and service (especially in Indonesia), mothers have the option of employing domestic helpers in managing their house.

My late maternal grandmother, a mother of seven. She stayed at home and took tailoring work orders to supplement her family’s income as money was scarce. A selfless woman who dedicated her whole life for her family, children and grandchildren.

Such tasks are definitely not simple. In order for her to be efficient and effective in carrying out all her duties, a mother must have at her disposal a flexible and vast range of roles and unhindered opportunities. She has to be given room to work at her home all the day one day, and to go out earning real money another day. All being the necessary extension of her “being busy at home”, all done with her family’s best interest in heart.

What about dreams and ambitions, don’t women have their rights to pursue their OWN lives, one may ask. Of course they do. But I am persuaded that the best way to pursue life is never by living it for one’s own self but to leave a meaningful impact on others’, often times by laying our own down. And the most rewarding dream/ambition one may achieve is in the full utilization of one’s potentials for the betterment of humanity, starting with one’s own family. This, in essence, is what mothers have been doing from the moment their first morning sickness strikes.

My mother, who has always worked hard alongside my father at our shop to provide for and make us what we are today.


My mother-in-law, an excellent homemaker who has dedicated her life to care for her family.

There may be many noises that attempt to pit mothers against each other and inflict false guilts on mothers from both sides of the door. If we buy into it and define our motherhood by divisive labels; if we find our motherhood pride in the shaming of others, we will eventually self defeat. At the end of this dangerous path is the impediment of family flourishing, and eventually the society itself.

All who are rightly called “Mother” are the ones who posses the same kind of hearts, the kind that swells with love and readiness to sacrifice for those placed in her care. Be it in her office wear, or her sweat pants.

And lastly, as a tribute to all mothers, here is the lyric of a beautiful Indonesian nursery song aptly acknowledging the noble love of a mother. (I have taken the liberty to loosely translate it into English.)

Kasih Ibu kepada beta
Tak terhingga sepanjang masa
Hanya memberi
Tak harap kembali
Bagai Sang Surya
Menyinari dunia

“The love of a Mother
To each child given her
Is without measure
And eternal in nature,

A love forever giving
It never knows taking
As the Sun self-burning
Unto Earth, life it may bring”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Kana Is Four

This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all that you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, “How will this affect their souls?” – J. C. Ryle

She was feverish from viral infection the week before her second birthday. On her third, she struggled to down anything through her throat in the peak of her HFMD symptoms. And she had just recovered from a really bad food poisoning two weeks prior to turning four today. The Lord spared us her first birthday.

Blessed birthday! Every year to celebrate is blessed indeed!

For somewhere past the labour ward and that first cry, we are just so bound to take life and growth for granted. We forget that with birth, comes also the journey to grave. That the first beat of that tiny heart has also begun counting down to its stopping. Everyday we unknowingly sedate ourselves – “My child will live tomorrow still,” so unconscious we can hardly tell it’s a myth.

So suffering comes knocking some sense. Lest we be merry without being wary. The little soul has started for the eternity, blessed or damned. We cannot afford to be negligent.

Another year, O sovereign Lord,
With faith and prayers, love and rod
We shall fill the jar with water still
Until wine it be in Thy perfect will

Kana’s 4th birthday,
31 March 2017

No Such Thing As Wasted Education

My husband sent me a link to this excellently written article about how stay-at-home moms actually don’t waste their education, to encourage me. A secretly sweet man he is. 😉

As I read through the article, I had a flash back to one truly memorable event. It was during my parents visit in Chinese New Year 2016, when I finally, and rather awkwardly, popped the question.

“Pa, Ma, aren’t you actually disappointed with my decision to put a halt on my career and stay at home, not generating any significant cash, to care for the kids?”

My three years of education in a private university cost them half a kilogram of gold worth of money of the time, and my living cost in an expensive Singapore would have easily incurred at least another half of the amount mentioned above. The total sum is definitely not an amount I can generate back with mere three years in workforce post graduation. And truth be told, that question had been plaguing my conscience ever since I decided to quit my job and be full time for my family.

“Does your decision make you feel inferior yourself that you ask this?” My father asked back.

“I am concerned about what people would say about and to you back in hometown,” I replied.

In a culture with Chinese-influenced gender-based hierarchy, my parents would have been seen as ‘putting their eggs in the wrong basket.’ Why throw such a huge amount of money for a female child who finally ends up choosing making meals in the kitchen and not dollars in the workforce? And I have two younger male siblings!

“Surely, you have heard something like ‘Aiyoh, isn’t it so wasted to have spent so much money, earned a university degree abroad, and now stay at home taking care of children, things we leave for the maids to do here?’ or something like ‘Jauh-jauh sekolah ke Singapur, ujung-ujungnya masuk dapur‘?” I continued.

“Well, actually Mama did have doubts initially, there were friends asking, or commenting, too. But slowly, Mama has come to see the value of what you are doing. Sometimes, monetary investments do not give you a return in monetary form, but something priceless, it’s a gain all the same, if not more,” said my mother.

To which my father added, “There is no need to feel inferior. Papa’s duty as parent is to support Papa’s children’s education as far as you want to pursue, while we are still able. This is a principle. Whatever you decide to do afterwards becomes your own responsibility. You must remember, there is no such thing as wasted education.”

Both of my parents barely tasted the privilege of formal education. They had to work in their early youth so their siblings could go to school. Yet they understand the values of things often unseen in dollars, and have an accurate view of the purpose of education.

How tremendously liberating and empowering has this short conversation been to me! As a daughter. As a mother to my children. As a woman.

There is no such thing as wasted education. After years of learning and wisdom that made me the person that I am, in whatever I decide to do, in any time and stage of life, I seek to do them proud.

Just as they have done me very, very proud.

Happy grandparents and happy grandkids. Blessed me. ❤