The best way I can think of describing the last couple of months is trying to keep my head above the water. You know, as in, being thrown off a ship into a stormy sea and the waves are threatening to swallow you but you’re just not letting them get the best of you.
When I arrived in Bintulu at the beginning of this year, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a plan. I had always been on a straight path – go to school, get a job, get married, have kids. Well, I’ve checked all those boxes and then I veered completely “off track”. Not for one moment did I ever think I’d be a careerless stay-at-home-mum in a tiny town but that’s what I became for love. It scared the shit out of me. And yet, I knew I didn’t want to go back to a boring 9-to-5 job and have someone else raise my girls. What a horrible dilemma.
And then a beautiful thing happened: the networking power of strong mummies. It feels like everything I was wishing for in terms of having a rewarding career and being there for my family has been beautifully packaged into Baby Jay Playhouse. When you put your sweat and tears into something, it becomes your child too. My partners and I have done everything from scratch – from painting the walls (well, that was mostly our husbands) to planning and preparing the lessons to distributing flyers by hand under the noon sun. The 3 of us go by one unwritten rule – if it’s not good enough for our children then it’s certainly not good enough for our customers.
But man, let me tell you, it’s been hard. Somedays I’m exhausted out of my eyeballs. Laundry doesn’t get folded for days. I yell at my kids for fighting in the backseat when I pick them up from school. I cook just so we don’t starve. Affection for The Mr is an afterthought – gasp! In short, it’s the working mom’s life.
Most people are so supportive and excited when they hear about what I’ve been up to (other than writing – that’ll always be a part of me). Yet, you can’t please everyone, right? There are those in my closest circle giving me pitying looks and saying So, you gave up engineering for good? Hmmm… ok la, at least this is something for you to ‘cari makan’. It hurts when people think so little of you and your accomplishments. At the same time, it’s been a lesson for me to focus on the people who are lifting me up instead of bringing me down. Soar with the eagles instead of hanging around the turkeys, you know?
My girls have been my sweetest supporters. Anne has added “Playhouse Teacher” to her list of ambitions even though she knows playhouse teachers don’t live in big houses like pilots or dentists (her other ambitions). Tresa doesn’t know any of the days of the week except Saturday – that’s the day they get to come to work with me! It’s also the day I get the most hugs and kisses from her while she says, you good teacher, mummy.
And The Mr…. One of the reasons I fell in love with him was because he always saw me in a better light than I saw myself. He said I could do anything because I was a smart, independent and brave girl. I didn’t feel like I had any of these grand characteristics but I wanted to believe him. And I’ve been believing him for 15 years now.