Motherhood

The Greatest Joy

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Into the Woods. January 2017.

The coming of January marks the beginning of my third year being home; being out of the workforce and becoming essentially, as they call the profession these days, a full time homemaker and a stay-at-home mom.

I have been on both sides of the fence. So I may be able to say this with some degrees of authority that this is a life which I would not trade for anything else. Yet. For the time being. You just need to be aware of the disclaimer: just for this period in time.

Of course, while nearing the two years mark, I had at certain times, lost sight. I doubted my self-worth and purpose somewhere along that way for various reasons. It was not until that mild depression was shaken by the sudden opportunity of going back to work that I found the critical factor that makes me want to stay on the path for a little while.

So the story is I went through an episode of what seemed like a mild depression a while back. I knew at that time I was not at my best. My husband noticed that too: I was angry and frustrated most of the time. I had a hard time getting up in the morning and would stay in bed until 9 or 10. When my husband raised that point (no anger from his side or anything, he was just merely telling me his observation), I gave him some excuses which I knew were not convincing at all. But as I was soon able to see clearly what was going on with myself, I was transported back to my second year at university, to the winter of 2006. It was when I had a similar disconcerting period – I had a terrible time at school, and felt gloomy most of the time. I did get help eventually, Alhamdulillah and raised above it, but then I realised that staying in bed as long as I can was my way of escaping the real world, a sign of depressive period.

During this recent period of confusion which lasted around a month or two, I applied for several positions of full time jobs thinking that it home life is not for me. My line of work is quite niche in Malaysia, so while vacancies do not pop up frequently, if they do even with my limited experience I’d still get some attention. I went one interview (invited after several hours of applying online), noticeably impressed the interviewers, and received the job offer immediately. I negotiated for a better job position and for the salary I wanted and got them. On top of that, the HR let me decide when I could start working. They went through three rounds of advertisement throughout the year to fill in five posts and only manage to find two so far.

I was the third one. They chose me. I felt needed, wanted, and precious.

But only in the face of such opportunity of another chapter and another adventure, I began to dig deeply on the value of staying at home. When I quit working, my intention was to raise my children and become the parent I thought I want to be. I longed to cook healthy and hearty meals for them – I was tired of takeaways by that time. I wanted to read to my children as much as I want to – I still remember nearly bursting into tears due to my incapacity to do so when a former boss who knew me since my single days asked of my life as a parent. I wanted the time to enjoy the house we own, and build a home out of it – our house then felt like another hotel, we went home to sleep, and rose only to rush to work again.

But after two years, my views changed, albeit slightly. I know I am privileged financially to be able to choose this life. I know too, that food on the table is food on the table – it is for nourishment primarily. The value of food in a family life is in how they provide a platform to unite family members: people sit together and talk and share at dinner time. Home-cooked or otherwise do not matter, if they are a complete and healthy meal and served and presented well – halal and tayyib. And this value is achievable whether I stay at home or work full-time, with a bit of effort.

And the house, there is an infinite timeline on making it a home. My house is already fully functioning physically. Home-decorating is the only activity that could never stop. Once you are in the wagon, you can hardly pull the brake. The more you get inspired, the more changes you want to make, the more useless things you’ll buy as eye candies with the hope of turning the house magazine-like.

But I turned down the job offer, in the end, at the possibility of not being able to read to my children. It is a vision I could not let go.

I had been through it once that constraint in time. Hence I have known with a certainty that I would never go near such thing again. I have forgotten that as I immersed myself in self-pity. The pain; the pain of inability was too much and could never be soothed by the idea of ‘quality time’.

Of course it is not reading per se.

It is the idea that I will be losing my role as the children’s first authority, their first teacher that hurts me most. It was at that moment, I realised that that is the greatest joy in parenting and in being a stay-at-home, sort-of-homeschooling mother for me. I live for the joy of watching how my children’s eyes twinkled at the new revelation and enlightenment I present to them.

I still remember the moment my then really young son, realised the transition of day and night, and the silent he gave me once he realised that phenomenon. He was barely two I think, but I could then sense the wonder. I take pride of being the one who first introduce him to God, his Works and Attributes. I am happy to be the one who tells him that we are just a small part of the universe when he begins his obsessive phase on Solar System and all other celestial beings. I am glad to be the one who tells him that his job is to serve people, one day, by solving problems. I am delighted and humbled to be the one to make known to him the reality of this mortal life; that there is another life, an eternal one that we should all be striving for. I derived my happiness from being able to impart the knowledge I accumulated to my children, to be the one who plays an active role in their learning. I lit up just by being the witness of their epiphanies and bewilderment from the newfound facts of life.

I could not be content with passing the baton to someone else yet.

So I stay.

I am still staying away from the alternative life which would have given me for adult interaction and human contact. I am still shying away from that 9-5 routine that would have seen me with more money at my disposal, that lets me make full use of my professional expertise (Which I didn’t know I have until that nearly-three-hour interview), that will give me the satisfaction that I am actually doing something ‘real’ in the world. I am not going to step into the world of paid employment again just yet. Bye bye Jobstreet.

Someday in the future, I know I may find myself again in the pit of misery and low self-worth.  But I know too, that once I dwell enough on the doubt, I have the capacity to rise again.

It doesn’t matter if that this staying-at-home business is a thankless job. I don’t hang on to the oft-said words that the pay for this unappreciated job is the love from my children. If it’s the job that give me the greatest sense of joy, I’d stick with it.

I am selfish like that.

A Note on Your Fourth Birthday

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Today is Isa’s fourth birthday.

Four years have passed, and though not every second was filled with laughter (we’ve had our share of anger, frustration and a lot more less-than-positive emotions), my firstborn Wan Isa is still a joy to be with and a very interesting individual to get to know.

And every person that enters your life is meant to teach you a lesson or two. With him, I learned (and am still learning) a lot more than just one or two.

I have witnessed how forgiving a child could be. Despite how badly I fail him, I am still being rewarded with ‘I love you, mommy’ which I know is unconditional, and I am inspired to be as forgiving.

I have learned that to live with a child means that I need to learn to savour every moment and slow down; because by now I have started to wonder when was the last time he falls asleep on my tummy, something he has not done so for quite some time.

I have realised that the kind of love that comes with the birth of a child is one that can bring me down on my knees prostrating before God in ultimate desperation and humbleness, begging for his safety and wellbeing.

I have also learned that through his innocent yet consistent musings of wanting to ask Allah for a shoehouse in Jannah and all other things he wants to do there, I am being reminded that this life is temporary and I need to be good so I could be reunited with him in a place where no one knows any sadness.

In short, my son brings out the best in me.

Alhamdulillah. Haza min fadhli rabbi.
To many more years of learning and growing together insya-Allah.

 

Letting Go

“. . . I would have let him go one finger at a time, until, without his realizing, he’d be floating without me. And then I thought, perhaps that is what it means to be a [parent] – to teach your child to live without you.” – Nicole Krauss

Isa came to me this evening with a piece of paper on which he drew a plan of our house, one he called a ‘treasure map’. It is official, he can draw plans. It is something I don’t expect from a child of mine who is barely 4.

Khadijah, as she always does these days, dragged a book too big for her to carry from the living room to my bedroom for the third time today, a book of animal pictures she begins to love. She has grown to love books and being read to, and it is something I don’t expect from a child of mine who is barely 14 months old.

16 months of being 24/7 with them indeed feels like a blink of an eye.

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Langkawi 2016

 

 

 

Amphigory Number 1

I am restarting.

***

I have a deadline tomorrow. I also have a deadline next Tuesday. And the next Thursday. And I have at least three more essays waiting to be written.

I feel like I have no time to breathe.

And always, always at times like this I begin questioning the whole purpose of me putting myself in this position, when I could easily walk on a calmer path.  Why bother thinking and thinking and trying to find solutions to the neverending stream of problems in this world, when I could easily confine myself to thinking no further than my little life?

Why bother with preparing for a presentation, structuring and re-structuring my essays, reading articles over articles, squeezing whatever left of my brain juices when there is always a way out while making sure the children are all showered, clean, and fed? I could, at these moments, I told myself , settle with laughing with my children, truly enjoying them without suffering even the tiniest speck of worry, wait for my husband to come home and enjoy his company over a film or two?

After all, my doors to His Jannah are opened when I perfect the Prayers I offer, fast in Ramadhan, protect my chastity and faithfully obey my husband.

But then again, my other side of refuses to agree.

And that part keeps reminding me of a time – just a few months back – when I had nothing on my plate other than looking after my two kids and devoting myself to the family life. I remember feeling like I was losing my mind that I could not wait for September to come so I could begin again working on my degree. I could not imagine going through what I did during that period day by day, week by week, year by year and stay sane. I could not.

I resolve at that point that it is down to my nearly primal need  for movement. I need movements. Movement of some sorts. Perhaps of any sort in which I could see myself progressing. Achieving milestones that I set. Just something. Something of my own.

If my sanity of any importance at all to the family, I should keep doing this. I should not surrender to this temporary slump – this I need to be telling myself more often than I do now.

I do not know what exactly causes my restlessness when it comes to the idea of focusing solely on homemaking. Certainly not because I see it as a worthless or undervalued enterprise.

Possibly because it doesn’t satisfy me intellectually. At the end of the day, I always find myself exhausted of any physical energy, but upon lying down my brain can’t stop working and thinking – that’s when I knew that part of me has not been satisfied.

Maybe because it offers me less possibility of meeting new people – those who would inspire, those who would challenge me (not that my husband doesn’t) to move out of my comfort zone. Perhaps it is the thought that some parts of me will be left underutilised should I focus all my energy only for that trade. Maybe, just maybe.

I don’t know, really. I am yet to discover the root of my uneasiness, which appears whenever I toy with the idea of doing ‘nothing’ after completing my Master’s degree.

But I am certainly lucky that my husband needs no further convincing on this. Very, very lucky in fact. He has his own ideas on what a woman, or maybe, his woman should and should not be, and I am just happy that up to now our views are still parallel.

This is me, mentally vomiting. Till then.

 

 

 

 

Kembali di Meja Itu

Saya bercuti, dalam erti kata yang sebenar.

Saya diam-diam mengisytiharkan pada diri sendiri yang saya akan bercuti dari belajar dan mengulangkaji,juga terlepas 1-2 kelas sepanjang minggu ini (Pensyarah manakah yang begitu rajin mengadakan kelas ketika cuti pertengahan semester? ). Saya sungguh-sungguh bercuti, melayan anak-anak juga mengemas rumah ala spring-cleaning. Sempat juga bermusafir ke pantai timur untuk urusan keluarga; majlis pernikahan adik ipar di sana.

‘Percutian’ saya ini juga membenarkan sang suami lebih fokus untuk belajar. Hari peperiksaannya tinggal kurang dari separuh bulan dan saya betul-betul boleh merasai kekalutannya menghabiskan buku teks yang hampir dua inci tebalnya. Dalam perjalanan lima jam kami ke pantai timur pun sempat diusahakan supaya suami boleh mengulangkaji – bila anak-anak sudah tidur di belakang, suami hidupkan pilihan pemanduan ‘auto-cruise’ dan saya bacakan nota untuknya.

Tapi hari ini, hari terakhir cuti pertengahan semester ini,  saya kembali di meja belajar. Sesak di dada melihat senarai tugasan yang perlu dibereskan tidak akan hilang jika saya terus bertangguh. Dan momentum untuk kembali belajar perlu dibina sehari lebih awal sekurang-kurangnya.

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Sarapan? Sudah.

Kopi? Ada.

Internet? Sudah disambungkan.

 

Ayuh, kita mulakan kembali langkah dengan nama Allah!

 

 

I Don’t Sacrifice Anything

Sacrifice : the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

It has definitely been a while.

I have tonnes of thing I’d really like to write about, mentally vomiting all my thoughts, or if you please, cataloging them all.

I am back to being a student, 9 hours a week I will be away for what I call my me-time, the time I could call myself anything but a mother. Not that I hate being one, but motherhood, as people have always cautioned us against, is consuming. Without the awareness of its tendency to occupy my mind endlessly with mom-related worries, I’ll cease from being myself. And there is nothing healthy about it.

But some people call it sacrifice. A sacrifice a woman will do (and sometimes expected to) once she is endowed with offspring.

I hate the word sacrifice. It is a word most often associated with a noble connotation, but I have never allowed myself to use it. It is self-defeating, full of self-pity, and to a certain extent grandiosity and self-glorification –  at least that is what it sounds to me. I have taught myself to call it ‘investment’. We human are doing things out of self-interest, and there is nothing wrong about hoping and aiming for a return of our ‘investment’.

The things you let go in the hope of something else.

A delayed gratification.

Even God Himself terms it as a ‘trade’. It is a business, a bargain.

“Those who read the Book of Allah, establish regular prayer, and spend in the way of Allah secretly and openly out of what we have provided for them. They hope for a commerce that will never fail.” (Qur’an, 35:29)

“Verily God has purchased from the believers their persons and their property that Paradise might be theirs.” (Qur’an, 9:111)

And the return I hope for is nothing but His pleasure, and hopefully meeting Him in Jannah someday.

I Am Back to School..and Loving it! (Part II)

 

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I have printed out my husband’s class timetable and put it on the notice board, one that sits right before me now. He is sitting for two professional exams this quarter. His ICAEW classes will begin this weekend and run until early December. He still has more than half way to go, which, if everything goes as he plans, will take nearly two years to complete.

Meanwhile, the timetable for my Master’s programme – Development Studies – has also been released. Yes, after 8 months of being a full time stay-at-home mom, now I am back to being a student, the one hat I truly miss wearing for the past 8 months, to be honest.

My classes will begin two days after my husband’s until the end of December. My initial plan was to take two subjects this semester, then pick another two next semester hence completing all five required coursework modules.  After that I will undertake the research part of the course, which I hope to finish in two semesters. That will make it 5 semesters in total – a sensible ‘slow and steady’ approach given my situation I suppose.

I discussed with my husband about the courses offered this semester. He’s encouraging me to enroll in three modules instead of two. Now that’s really not in the plan and to a certain extent unexpected of him. I even doubt that I could do well (partly because I have long set my mind that I’m going to choose only two) – three modules, with all the assignments and lengthy reading lists may be a bit too challenging for me to ace.

My only concern when devising my initial plan of finishing my Master’s degree in 5 semesters was the logistics. I’d like to avoid having to leave my two children to babysitters for various reasons – financial (I am a self-supporting student) and my growing lack-of-trust for outsiders. going without a babysitter is actually a feasible option, given that my classes only begins at 6 PM, just after office hour ends. The idea was to pass the kids to my husband to look after – either by me dropping the kids at his office for him to drive home with them while I go straight to the university, or by him coming home earlier just for me to have enough time to drive to the university.

But as much as his job was a 9-5 one, it is far from what is happening in reality. And working in a corporate office – having been there and done that – I would not want to make it hard for him having to leave office early too often. Three days a week could be too much I think, and I don’t really mind my studying taking a backseat.

But then again, he insisted. I don’t know what’s behind it but hell yeah, bring it on I say! After all, I am always more efficient when I am busier.

Last semester I sat for Development Theory & Practice module, and this semester I am thinking of enrolling in the compulsory Research Philosophy & Methodology, Globalisation & Development, and the elective Policy Analysis & Programme Evaluation. There are a few books I have requested for my husband to buy (since he’s covering all my out-of-pocket study expenses these days :-D) and I plan to start reading before the classes start. My brain sure needs some warming-ups after such a long break.

All in all, it is going to be a hectic period of four months. My husband will be away for his full-day classes on weekends, and me three days a week for three hours each.

I think our family can handle that. I hope my children can handle that.

****

Last night, I sat in our study room reading a book when Isa came to me.

“Abang Long (how he calls himself) wants to sleep with mommy.”

I told him it’s alright to sleep on my bed. After all my husband is suffering from cold and sleeps in a separate room.  I told him I am studying, that I would go and sleep with him later. I told him I need to become clever (the rationale we always give to the question ‘Why mommy/ayah needs to study?’), and he seems to buy it.

At that moment, I could foresee how the many nights to come would be like. A small part of me feels guilty for depriving him of the intimate moments (bedtime is always so), but I know this phase our family is going through comes with a huge bonus.

Sure, our weekends may not be that social anymore. I am nearly immobile with two kids – one stuck to my chest and another hanging onto my legs, as I always put it. We may not have enough fund for vacations, nor do we have the time and energy to indulge in one. Failing our exams means more money to be spent and longer period of studying, which we could not afford.

But despite this immediate drawbacks, I could see some lights. Bright ones in fact.

With both parents studying – Isa is accustomed to see us reading intensively. Reading is something natural – in our house it requires no specific time or spot to do. Children as we all know, mimic what we parents do and I could not be happier than for Isa to witness us doing this in his early years.

By now, Isa is also used to the concept of studying and learning which is not limited to any specific age groups. Studying and learning should never stops, and schools are never for the schoolchildren only. We are walking the talk here, and though learning can be done on our own informally, I am glad that formal education both of us are getting now provide the opportunity for us to inculcate in our children the desire and the need to learn without a stop, God willing.

If anything, these two are good-enough reasons for me to forego all my worries about my can’t-dos. I have begun explaining to Isa how our weeks to come would look like. After eight months of being by my side 24/7, he might need to acclimatise to the changes to come.

And I definitely need to begin properly stocking up Khadijah’s milk!

May Allah ease.