Permission to Grieve (Part 2)

Grief is a strange thing, because the idea of loss encompasses so many different things, including the loss of an abstract concept.

I know that an acute grief reaction can occur in women who are expecting to have a well baby, but instead have been told their child has a birth defect – the grief over the diagnosis is just as real as their grief over the well child that existed only in their imagination. In some cases, the pain can even feel as visceral and as violent as if the well child has been murdered.

I once met a lovely and vivacious girl from Australia at a friend’s wedding. The both of us didn’t know anyone else there other than the bride (who was of course busy making her rounds of all her guests), so we just ended up chatting to each other most of the evening. She told me about how she’d worked as a lawyer to please her family, saving up all her earnings in order to pay her way through achieving her dream of becoming a veterinarian. At the time, she was finishing up her final year of veterinary training in Australia. We traded stories about our clinical work. Towards the end of the evening, we got up and danced with the bride and groom, giggling and laughing like old friends. I had to leave the party early, but not before promising that I would drop her a line if I ever headed out to the land of Oz.

It was almost two years later that we were planning a trip to Australia, I remembered my promise and I contacted my good friend (the bride who’d invited us both to the wedding) to ask for her help in connecting the two of us via email.

My friend was completely flabbergasted that I didn’t know what had happened to that beautiful girl. She’d died a few months after the wedding, in a horrific car accident.

I couldn’t believe it. Dead? No way. But it was true. It happened when she was bringing her family back to the Perth airport, after they’d attended her graduation from veterinary school. Her family members all survived with a few injuries, but she was killed instantly.

In telling me the story, my poor dear friend had to relive the devastation and despair that she felt upon receiving the news of the death of her best friend and had been asked to give a eulogy at her funeral. The accident was so terrible and so tragic that it had even been reported in our local newspapers – I’d completely missed it because I’d been pregnant with Little E at the time and had turned into a hermit crab for nine months.

For the rest of that day, I felt utterly miserable but I didn’t quite think that I had a right to feel so upset. So I pushed the feelings away and just tried to carry on with the rest of my day. After the kids were in bed, the Barn Owl asked me why I seemed to be moping around the house, and I just burst into tears.

Debs G: There was a terrible accident and she died!

Barn Owl: That’s bad. Was she your friend from school?

Debs G: No. I didn’t know her at all.

Barn Owl: I don’t understand.

Debs G: I don’t either! I never knew her, and I’m sad about it! And now she is dead and my friend was very sad about it, and I wasn’t there for her! I’m sad about that too!

Finding out about the death of someone you know, even someone you’ve only known very briefly, is always a shock, and it’s important to remember that the right to grieve does not need to be earned. If you feel bereft because death has stolen someone from you, that in itself gives you the right to grieve.

Although I had only known this girl for the space of a few hours, she still left a lasting impression, and that is worth something to me. I’ll always regret not following up on our meeting sooner.

(Guest Post) Mothers Make It Work: Advice from a Part Time Working Mama

(Editor’s Note: Owls Well is proud to welcome Twinklystarz as our first guest contributor! A Becky C and I grew up with Twinklystarz and she has always been a very organised and hardworking person who seemed to have her life in order at all times. As of now, Twinklystarz is an expert tightrope walker, balancing work life in one hand and home life in the other. She has two boys – her hubby and 3 year old son – who bring her much joy. We are so excited that she agreed to write this post for us, so that we can have a peek into the world of a Part-Time Working Mama! – Debs G)

Hello Owls Well Readers,

I am a 3-year-old Mama.

Yes, it has taken me THAT amount of time to find some semblance of a work-life-kid equilibrium.

Quite often, that delicate balance is less than perfect, and Mommy Guilt gets to me almost every other day. That being said, I thank God every day for many bountiful blessings: the opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my 3-year-old during the work week, a job that keeps me sufficiently challenged – mostly mentally – and above all, The Village (more on this later) that supports me and keeps our little household of three happy, well-fed and thriving.

My Journey to becoming a Part-Time Working Mama
My mum was a Stay At Home Mama to my brother and I, so naturally, I intended to be the same.

Growing up, I liked having someone to come home to and I wanted to be that someone when it was my turn to have a family. I even planned my first career around this, accounting for some flexibility to stay at home but still earn an steady income.

But, Life (God, rather) threw several curveballs at me, around the time The Hubs and I were planning to get married. In the end, I left my supposedly-flexible job for an office job with fixed hours, and we bought our new home at a time when housing prices in Singapore were sky high.

When S was born, I stayed at home for a year. During this time, our finances were starting to become uncomfortably tight, especially since we were repaying our housing loan. I was also gradually turning into a recluse and I was getting very bored of being trapped at home with a non-communicative baby. I struggled significantly at this stage with mommy guilt, believing that I wasn’t making good use of the time God had given me, whilst also wishing that I had the financial luxury to stay at home for the long-term.

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The Hubs and I with S at one year old

On hindsight, if I persevered beyond the early toddler stage, it probably would have gotten quite interesting and challenging. Who knows?

When I first went back to the office, turning over care of S to my parents, I relished learning new material at work and was very happy being busy again in a nine-to-five setting.

However, I was overwhelmed with mommy guilt and my poor parents probably received anxiety-ridden Whatsapp messages every half hour! This mommy guilt never really faded even after a full year.

A little over half a year ago, The Hubs got a new job which came with a sizeable pay increase, so I took the opportunity to negotiate a part-time contract with my company.

And this is where I’ve been since then, working three-and-two-thirds days a week at the office, which leaves me a full day during the working week to spend with little S.

This precious mid-week day off has been great in giving S and I that special one-on-one time to get to know each other better, especially as my toddler transitions to the preschool stage (and is now a lot more communicative).

This journey to find the right work-life balance for me has been long in coming, and I hope you will find the following tips useful in finding your centre of gravity in this crazy mama life:

1) Know yourself

My year as a Stay At Home Mama taught me a lot about some qualities a mom should have in order to remain sane in the house. I decided to take on the role without much forethought, but realised that to make full use of the time at home with a little one, a substantial amount of planning is required.

As the little one grows and begins to explore, meaningful learning activities need to be thought out and planned in advance. Unfortunately, while I can organise big events like parties, I couldn’t seem get together small little details in a fixed daily schedule. Babies and toddlers do benefit from some routine and structure, and that doesn’t work for me – I like to go with the flow. It took me the whole year to admit to myself that unlike my mom, I wasn’t cut out for the Stay At Home Mama life.

2) Don’t sweat the small stuff at home

When you have to outsource your care-giving, you can’t sweat the small stuff – after all, The Village is doing the work of parenting on your behalf! I have learnt to gratefully let go of the controls, and trust the judgment of my son’s caregivers.

Learning to let go has helped me in many ways, especially when my son transitioned to preschool and I have to put my trust my son’s teachers daily. Communication is key to building trust between caregivers – my parents, The Hubs and I have a very active Whatsapp chat group where we decide together what to do with S on a day-to-day basis. Starting this chat group helped keep me calm and reassured when I first went back to work.

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S with his security blanket, heading off to preschool

3) Also, don’t sweat the small stuff at work

Unfortunately, the current mentality of Singaporean employers is that part-time work is a privilege, not a right. While this is a topic for another day, I’m very thankful (eternally grateful, to be exact) that the bosses at my workplace are supportive and understanding, even though The Village can support me working full-time.

In my case, this also means understanding work exigencies and being willing to step up on occasion, regardless of the extra hours. I often work from home on my off-days, or stay back later than expected when work is urgent. I think my bosses appreciate my commitment to the job and this has probably helped me to convince them to let me work part-time for a longer period.

4) Grandparents are Gold 

I am also immensely thankful for The Village.

Having a ‘childcare centre’ at the Grandparents’ place has facilitated my part-time work arrangements, especially when I need to swop my off days due to urgent work demands. My colleagues often remind me that others rarely have such flexibility luxury. So, it’s difficult to express the full depth of gratitude that I have for my parents who are sacrificing their golden retirement years in order to care for little S.

Our Village also includes the Grandparents Set 2 (my in-laws), who give us a lift home every weeknight and keep us well-fed and healthy with hot, delicious meals all through the weekend – sometimes even right to our doorstep.

The greatest blessing of all with Village Care is to see the joy on the grandparents’ faces when they spend an extended amount of time with their grandchildren.

5) Above all, wait for God’s timing

It can take a long time to find out what works best for you and your family. Many times, I wanted to take things into my own hands whenever I was at my emotional limit. Like decide not to return to work. At all. Ever. Or request to go part-time much earlier than I eventually did.

In the end, God always intervened at exactly the right time – for example, when my boss offered me a new role to part-time on a long-term basis just when I was worried my temporary part-time arrangement would not continue. God has also blessed me with unexpected promotions so that although I started working part-time, the overall income flow would remain steady. I learnt we could always trust God to provide, in His perfect timing.

Oh, one last thing:

Fathers are important partners in your motherhood journey. The Hubs is the rock of our family and keeps me steady with practical advice and wise words.

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The Hubs with S at the Singapore Art Museum

To The Hubs and all the dads out there, here’s wishing you a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

by Twinklystarz

This post is part of the “Mothers Make it Work!” Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories, please click on the picture below.

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candice

If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Candice’s thoughtfully written post over at MissusTay.com.

A part-time-working-mum to two preschoolers, Candice shares about parenting, activities with kids, marriage and travel in her journal at MissusTay.com.

Next week on the “Mothers Make It Work!” blog train, we’ll be heading over to A Pancake Princess to hear from Dorothea.

19179345_10158786845860585_1318408897_oDorothea is mum to two feisty and exuberant boys and spends most days playing in their pretend dinosaur world, dabbling in paints and bringing them on adventures. Of course, there’s also the never-ending breaking up of fights, meal time wars and messy rooms to deal with every day. She shares her parenting journey and faith lessons at A Pancake Princess.

Permission to Grieve (Part 1)

When I was in my first year at University, I met an interesting girl.  Now, this girl was cool.  And I mean cool.  She had an interesting life.  She’d done all these things and seen all these things that I wished I had done and seen.  She was talented – a fantastic artist, singer and dancer.  And I wanted ever so much to be just like her.

We became friends.  And for that first year of University, life was a whirlwind of me trying to impress her with how cool I had become/was becoming.  I did and said a lot of things that I regret now, and did and said more things that I will never regret.

We used to do crazy stuff together – on the weekends, we’d go to Chatswood and busk outside the St George bank.  Not because we were poor or anything, but because it was fun.  And I had a LOT of fun when I was hanging out with her.  With her, I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally have done.

She taught me how to live.  She taught me that if I wanted to do something, that I should go out and do it instead of waiting and fretting until the opportunity passed.

But…

She wasn’t a good friend to me.  Things were said (I only regret some of them).  We had a huge fight (it was horrible) and after that, we stopped being friends.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t the nicest to her after the fight either – I was free to others with my reasons for the friend break-up, as it were, and added a lot to the drama surrounding her life.

So, I didn’t speak to her or see her again for almost 13 years.

Last week, I heard that she’d died.  A car accident.  It was very sudden.

I went to her Facebook memorial and there was a great outpouring of grief.  People left well wishes.  And it seemed that from the time we stopped being friends and the time she died, she’d become a completely different person.

A much better person.

Thing is, though, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation.  Her death made me feel my mortality, but that was really about it.  I didn’t have many good memories of our time together and what memories I did have were tainted by the messy end of our friendship.

Sometimes, however, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, even if it’s over someone we didn’t know well, or whom we didn’t get along with.  They were still part of our lives.

Whether she’d changed or not, though, her death is still sad.  Still sudden and unexpected.  She had a lot of life in her and though she wasn’t my good friend, she had been a good friend to many others.

Her loss will be mourned and it is a tragic waste that she was taken so young.

So, I cried a little, and then I was ready to face the next day.

Mothers Make It Work: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

When I was born, the Aged Ps had been married for a few years, and my dad worked very long hours and was often sent out of the country for weeks at a time. So, when I was very small, my mum’s biggest challenge was to manage the household by herself and care for a small (and loud) child at the same time.

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The Aged P with Debs G (4 months old): Mealtime is playtime

In order to keep the house clean and tidy, mum would make the best of baby morning and afternoon naptimes to mop the floors, wipe down the surfaces and do the laundry. She felt that it was most important to keep the floor and beds clean and tidy, as these were the places that would be most in contact with the baby.

As I grew older and more mobile, she bought a soft rug for me to play on, and trained me to stay on that rug during playtime so that she could complete her daily chores without worrying if I would be up to mischief.

If my dad was travelling, she would make sure that we were home every evening at the same time, as my dad would ring the house at 6pm without fail to talk to us. This was a very important daily ritual for the whole family, and even now, when my dad travels for work or if mum travels to visit my sister, they will FaceTime or Skype with each other at least once a day.

I will always appreciate the lengths that my mum went through to make sure that I acknowledged and remembered my dad, and understood where he was. She would bring out his photograph and point to it. She would point to the map and teach me to say the names of the places where he was working. She would make up songs about how much we loved each other. So, although he wasn’t physically present, I knew how important he was and our relationship was never diluted.

Although mum really loves to cook, going to the market daily with an infant in tow was pretty tiring for her, so she would only purchase enough to make breakfast and dinner every day. Additionally, as a child, I would always be full of beans in the morning, so she wouldn’t really be able to take the time out to prepare her own lunch if she wanted to spend that time meaningfully with me.

So, for lunch, mum first tried a local ‘tingkat’ or food delivery service, but soon tired of the repetitive menu. In the end, she made an agreement with one of our neighbours who had a large family and would set aside a portion of food for her. (Although the neighbour would often reserve the worst parts of whatever she happened to be cooking for my mum to eat – bony pieces like the chicken neck and the ends of vegetables – it at least saved her the trouble of meal planning and cooking!)

Mum often volunteered as the church organist and she sang in the church choir, so she would bring me along with her to attend rehearsals during the week. As an infant, I slept quietly in my moses basket during these times, and as I grew, I learned to sing along with her.

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Breakfast before play school (Debs G at 2 years old)

The year that I turned 2 years old, one of mum’s friends persuaded her to send me to playschool.

Although she felt that I was too tiny for schooling, it was around this time that my elderly maternal grandfather started to require regular medical checkups. As the only daughter who didn’t hold a paying full-time job, it was left to her to accompany my maternal grandfather to his various appointments. Sending me to playschool would allow her a few hours in the morning with which to manage this.

However, one day, the medical appointment ran overly long and she was late in picking me up from playschool. By the time she arrived, she found to her utmost horror that all the teachers and the school principal had gone home, leaving me alone outside the darkened building with nobody but the school caretaker to watch over me.

You can imagine how traumatised we both were from that experience.

From that day onwards, as soon as we drove past the trees leading up the driveway to the playschool, mum said that I would start crying uncontrollably. She arranged to send me to a different school and I seemed perfectly happy with that – but she was much more careful to pick me up on time. This of course meant that she had to do much more shuttling back and forth if the medical appointments ran long, as she would pick me up from school and then drop me off at my maternal grandmother’s house, then return to the hospital to accompany my grandfather.

In Mobile, Alabama (Debs G at 3 years old): Before a ballet recital

Midway through my third year, my dad was posted to the US for further studies. He couldn’t bear to leave his family behind, so we all moved with him to a small town of Mobile in Alabama, which was near the university where my dad was studying sports medicine.

We were the only chinese family there in the Deep South of America.

It could have been dreadfully lonely, but my parents saw this as a great adventure.

The community in that small town was very welcoming, and they were very respectful of my parents, who were not only english-speaking, but polite and well-educated. It took my parents a while to understand the sleepy southern drawl but eventually they got used to it.

Instead of shyly keeping to herself, like most people would in a new environment, Mum made an concerted effort to be actively became involved in the community, bringing me to the local play school and dance studio and taking part in town events. She joined a quilting class and a cake decorating class in the mornings when I was at play school. Some afternoons, if my dad was at class, she would meet with the other housewives in the backyard of the rental complex where we lived. They would sit on the grass and chat whilst the kids played together.

She was always smiling and gracious to everyone. She would exchange recipes with her neighbours and very often, people would come round to our house carrying an empty bowl to enjoy some authentic chinese cooking or bring some delicious meals to share. At the first neighbourhood potluck party, all of our neighbours had never seen or eaten chinese food before, and the whole dish of stir-fried vegetables and fried beehoon noodles disappeared in a blink of an eye. Our neighbour was so impressed with the delicate pieces of thinly sliced meat amongst the crunchy julienned vegetables that he remarked that my mum “can take one piece of meat and feed an army”!

Until now, Mum still keeps in touch with her friends from Alabama – in fact our neighbour’s grandson has recently come to Singapore to work!

Of course, it was the constant travelling and their commitment to their elderly parents that probably made the Aged Ps decide put off having a second child until I was five years old and much more independent…but that’s a story for another post.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mummy!

This post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.

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If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this very thoughtfully written one here, penned by Angie over at Life’s Tiny Miracles.

18261241_120300003540885353_2103005318_o-768x512 Angie is the Mommy behind the Life’s Tiny Miracles blog. The journey to Motherhood has been a bittersweet experience for her. As a mom of 5 kids (3 in Heaven), Angie embraces every bit of this season: the tears, the insanity, the sacrifices and the joy that comes from knowing she’s loved as a wife, a friend, a daughter and a Mom. In her post, she talks about the importance of a strong and supportive community in a mother’s journey.

18518925_10155077378855202_1525611593_oAt next week’s stop we will be visiting Michelle over at Mummy Wee.

Michelle is a mum to 6 kids and now that she has packed her last child off to school, she has time to channel her energies to her 7th baby, an enrichment centre she feels passionately about. I for one am very excited to read about how she manages all her kids – from her preschooler to her teenaged daughters – whilst working full-time at The Little Executive!

Queen of Konmari Challenge Stage 3: Papers

Okay, I admit that I was really dreading this stage of the Konmari process, for the following reasons:

  1. I would have to open up and empty out all the cupboards and drawers in the study room.
  2. It just seemed like sorting through years of papers would just be interminable.

In actual fact, it was not as bad as I expected, although I did get very familiar feeling of self-loathing after the first hour of gathering all the papers in one place. This feeling very quickly dissipated once I shut the spare room door on the whole mountain of mess.

In all, it only took me a total of six tidying sessions (each an hour long) to finish this part of the Konmari challenge and it was all relatively painless.

I found clearing the papers very manageable for the following reasons:

  1. 30% of the papers I’d accumulated consisted of junk mail, warranties for items I no longer own, letters contained outdated information, magazines and research journals = all junk = could be recycled straightaway without any sort of emotional turmoil
  2. 50% of the papers consisted of sentimental items or craft/decorative items = different Konmari category and could be saved in cardboard boxes for later. Hooray for procrastination!

In actual fact, I only really needed to properly sort through about 20% of the mountain of papers that I accumulated!

Yay!

Following Konmari’s instructions to the letter (pun intended), I did make an effort to open up every single envelope, and unfold each slip of paper one by one, instead of just throwing things away as a stack.

I’m so glad that I did this because I found:

  1. My husband’s Kindle which he thought he lost at work years ago – it was tucked between the pages of an old medical journal which was sandwiched between some old revision notes.
  2. $60 in cash monies! Yay! Who doesn’t love finding money?! These were crumpled up notes and stuffed into random envelopes, and completely wrapped up in receipts.
  3. A Lip Smacker lip balm, still in pristine condition within it’s original packaging. Somehow it found itself inside an accordion file with a bunch of old household bills. I opened it up and it smelled so good. I am now using it every day so that I can smell exactly like a strawberry banana.

Of the 10% of papers that I had left, I kept the following:

  1. Personal documents for each family member (mostly certificates) – filed into separate pocket folders with one for each family member
  2. Family documents like bank account details, mortgage and leases, medical and insurance information and other legal documents – filed into one large pocket folder
  3. Deeds, warranties and manuals pertaining to our house and household appliances – filed into a single ring binder
  4. Bills and bank statements: only 2 years worth – filed into a single ring binder
  5. The Barn Owls Work Stuff – put into a cardboard box for him to sort through at his convenience
  6. Papers that need immediate attention – filed in clear plastic folder and kept on my desk
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Reduced several boxes of papers down to half a shelf of files.

As you can see from the picture above, all of the household papers are now neatly and clearly organised into files which only take up half of my shelf. Everything else was shredded and sent to the recycling bin – yes sir, yes sir, ten bags full!

P.S. Why am I doing this? Here’s why.

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Queen of Konmari series here.

If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Choo choo! All aboard the blog train!

Hello Owls Well readers!

18296990_10155043212889845_121891817_oThe Mothers Make It Work blog train is starting up today, starting with a thoughtfully written post by Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration!

Hai Fang is a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys aged 7 and 13. She believes in eating healthy but has a weakness for simple sugar. Cycling and running is her way of keeping sane and writing forces her to think coherently.

This is a wonderful post full of useful advice on how to retain your own sanity amidst the current pressures of high-intensity parenting, whilst teaching kids to remain centred and true to themselves.

Hop on over and check her out!

For more inspiring stories, click on the picture below:

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Mothers Make It Work! – A Blog Train hosted by Owls Well

Mothers Make It Work Button

Being a mother is very challenging, not just in raising children, but in meeting all the expectations that society has for us.

We are expected to raise angelic children, be loving and supportive wives, nurse our aging parents, hold on to successful careers, keep the house spic and span, cook instagram worthy meals and we have to look good whilst doing it. This can result in women feeling guilty or depressed that they don’t have it altogether perfect like everyone else.

Well, I say that nobody has it altogether perfect.

We’ve all worked hard and made sacrifices to get where we are, and we have also had to make compromises so that we can make it work. Sometimes, we try to balance things perfectly and somehow it backfires. Other times, it means arranging flexible working hours, or hiring a cleaner, or buying a car, or finding a childcare/parentcare arrangement that works. It could also mean re-organising our priorities or giving up on a long-cherished dream.

But in the end, one thing remains true – we are always trying to find the best way to make it work for us and our families.

In this blog train series, we’ll be visiting some of my favourite bloggers each week who will be sharing their mothering struggles and successes with us! I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

(Links on this page will be updated as each post goes live)

4 May

Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration: Motherhood

11 May

Angie.S from Life’s Tiny MiraclesMothers Make It Work

18 May

Debs G from Owls Well: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

25 May

Michelle from Mummy Wee: 5 Survival Tips of a Mum Boss

1 June

June from MamaWearPapaShirt: How this WAHM manages work and family without going insane

8 June  

Candice from MissusTay: Mothers Make it Work

15 June

Twinklystarz on Owls Well: Advice from a Part Time Working Mama

22 June

Dot from A Pancake Princess : Just another mum making it work

29 June

Cat K on Owls Well

6 July

Lyn Lee from Lil Blue Bottle

13 July

Elisa from Love Our Children Now 

20 July

Karen from Mum’s Calling

27 July

V from Life Is In The Small Things

3 Aug

Pamela from Tan Family Chronicles

10 Aug

LiYann from Yannisms

17 Aug

A Becky C from Owls Well