Just a little bit better

I broke my husband’s cup this afternoon. It wasn’t any random cup, but a personalised one I made with our family photos. I was emptying the vacuum cleaner when I hit a pot hanging above, which flew off its hook and broke the cup, which was placed on the floor below the sink. My husband put it there with my leftover orange juice to bait ants. Even I found the entire situation unbelievable when I explained it to him.

We’re in the fifth month of me being the sole breadwinner. This has understandably caused some tension and outbursts. This will surely pass. I could do just a little bit better by trusting that my husband knows what he’s doing and quit nagging. No man wants his wife to turn into his mom. He nags me on the cleanliness of the house too. Surely I don’t need sleep.

Tomorrow, I will try to shut it.

Freelance work income currently comes from various sources. I transcribe K-Pop videos from Korean to English, digital marketing and write parenting articles. I’m thankful for so many opportunities which allow me to remain at home and pay me adequately. Though there is still a long way to go before hitting my expected income, I’m glad I don’t need to dig into my savings to sustain this family and get to make lunch for the kids.

Tomorrow, I will prepare a separate lunch menu for the baby so he can feed himself.

Elise is still on diapers where most of her peers are already toilet trained. She is able to answer that she should “pee in the potty!” yet when she wets her diapers and I ask her why, she replies, “Sorry, omma”. We could do just a little bit better.

Tomorrow, I will put on training pants for her and bring her to the potty regularly to create a habit.

I’ve been intending to declutter the house and introduce more open-ended play toys for the kids, as inspired by my dear friend. Progress has been excruciatingly slow. I browse Instagram accounts of stay at home moms without helpers who take the effort to create meaningful activities for their children to learn while playing and I look at Elise, playing with some dried barley I gave her as pretend play food.

We went to the doctor yesterday to firm up the operation details, only to be chided by the doctor that he wasn’t going to operate on her if I wasn’t going to maintain her eye socket well. It’s supposed to look white instead of red. He cleaned off her eye discharge with saline and told me that I had the liberty of switching doctors for Elise. We’re scheduled for another appointment 3 months later. We’ve always made extra sure to wash her conformer during showers and clean off visible discharge with wet wipes. I was negligent in not being even more detailed.

Our entire family followed instructions strictly for the past operations but they failed regardless. I voiced this out to the doctor, but he told me that all the more we should take even better care of the socket as we owe it to her. He mentioned that other patients only required one operation. We’ve done three. Do we really look like we’re here with the aim of having a wardcaytion, squeezing with 6 other beds and their families? I was hurt by his words, but I could do a lot better.

Today, I held her down and washed her conformer with saline and put in eye drops. As promised to him, I will do what is needed until the next appointment and see if it turns white before deciding on further action.

My dad has been helping me watch the kids without pay. He brings Didi and Elise downstairs many times a day without complaint, goes to dinner with the kids so I can eat dinner in peace.

Tomorrow, I will do better.

There are only so many tomorrows.

Hug your Loved Ones today

It’s a Friday but I came across two pieces of heartbreaking news online today. A mother with one-month old twins just received news of her ALS diagnosis and she fears that she may not live to see her babies turn 1 year old so she’s expressing as much milk as possible to store for them before she leaves this world. Her arm muscles have weakened so much, she can no longer carry her infants.

Another mother of a 2 year old boy was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and has to wean so she can receive treatment and asked for advice on how to end the nursing relationship without tears.

Most mothers expect to be there for their child until they become independent. To have doctors put an expiry date on you jolts you and forces you to adjust your expectations. When that happens, the value of each day increases exponentially. You start to think of the future of your child without your existence. 

I won’t be able to celebrate their first birthday together.

What if my baby wakes up at night looking for Mama, but I can’t be there to comfort her…?

Will she be alright on her first day of school?

What if she gets bullied?

Who will calm her when she gets her first period?

My mother left the world when I was 11. She was stern but warm. Her specialty dishes were cabbage rice and Teochew steamed pomfret. She also made us double-boiled black chicken soup. We would attend church every Sunday. We bickered; she labelled me as “rebellious”. In the first few years without her presence, my dad and I had it rather rough. The floor was often so dusty our feet turned black from walking around. We never cleared our kitchen pantry or cooked. There was one night where my father was ill and I boiled some rice grains in water to make porridge only to find that there were worm husks. It was miserable. 

People I met assumed I had a mother until I corrected them and they went “Oh I’m so sorry I didn’t know!” and I’d just wave them off – it was such a long time ago. If you ask me what the difference is living without a mother, I can’t really answer because we just lived like that. We adjusted to living without her and there were many days where she was conveniently forgotten about. I can only make assumptions of what would have happened if my mother were still around based on my memories of her. I would likely have attended a girls’ school then JC and a local university. Curfew? Very likely. If she could meet Elise now, would she be proud? Her framed photo is still on a desk and my father still keeps her photograph in his wallet.

I’ve only had one dream of her. In the dream, it was dark all around except for a spotlight. She was dressed in a white dress and she gave me a tight embrace. No words were exchanged. Then she disappeared. I woke up in tears. I’ve not dreamed of her since. I take that dream to mean that she’s in peace. She was a staunch Christian, so I guess it’s safe to say she went to Heaven?

We often say that the years are short, but the days are long. It’s easy to get lost in the routine of each day, feel stressed and snap at our loved ones. I’m guilty of this – taking people for granted. 

All of us have expiry dates but none of us know when our last day on Earth will be – it could be 50 years later after all our peers have passed on, 10 years, two years or one. Some people wake up expecting a normal day but never make it home. 

It sounds gloomy and depressing and it’s not something we actively think about. I’ve had a near death experience where I almost drowned in Boracay whilst diving but it was before I had Elise. I thought I was definitely going to die when water flooded my regulator and my Octopus was missing (lesson well learnt). I swam over and grabbed my friend’s regulator and we made an emergency ascent from 18 metres deep.

There are so many trivial things we rant about daily – our spouses, our tantrum-throwing kids, annoying in-laws (not me!), work, that person in the lift who pressed the “Door Close” button when he saw you approaching, train breakdowns. 

One day, none of these will matter. 

Hug your loved ones close and find meaning in each day, however difficult because one day, our bodies will disintegrate and the only thing left will be memories of us.