A heart-felt open letter from one working mother to another

A heart-felt open letter from one working mother to another

A working mother pens a heart felt open letter to all working mummies around the world. She writes about her concerns, challenges and lessons as a working mother.

These are the heroines of my life - my mother; the finance director and my maternal grandmother; the Samsui woman, the office tea lady, and the neighbourhood scrap collector at different points in her life.

Here is an open letter from working mothers to working mothers.

My parents were never around. When I was kid, I would be placed wailing, kicking and screaming into my parents' car on Friday nights so that they could fetch me back home for the weekend. The rest of the week? I would stay with my grandmother and my huge extended family of my mother's siblings.

Did I mention "wailing, kicking and screaming"? Yes, I did. Why? I hated going back to my parents' place because I was more attached to the uncles who would swing me high into the air and my grandmother whom I would run to everyday after school.

We don't need to be psychologists to reason: "Ah, that's what happens when a child lacks a mother's attention.” And that's probably true.

Working mummies, let's face it - you can't have it all. You cannot expect your child to be as attached to you when you are only able to devote two-seventh of your time to him/her. Let's be realistic about it instead of trying to achieve the impossible.

That said, it doesn't mean that you can't foster a close relationship with your child.

With age comes wisdom

As I grew older, I learnt to appreciate my mother a lot more. I saw the sacrifices she made for me. I recognised how she chose to give up her precious weekend me-time, and spent it with me instead; reading, visiting the zoo or coaching me.

I saw her regret when I rebelled in my youthful folly, heard her sighs as she fretted about how I might have turned out better if she had stayed at home to work instead.

Working mothers, will you always be beset by guilt about how you should be spending more time with your child instead? Yes. It is a constant struggle, this guilt. While you are at work, you feel a pull that you should be spending more time with your child.

Yet, sometimes when you are back at home with your child, you wonder if you could have achieved more if you had spent that weekend afternoon networking instead of bringing your child to see Barney and Friends perform on stage for the eighth time that year. You will always be walking on a tight rope. It will always be a fine balancing act between the two.

Despite all of this, knowing what I missed out on as a child, I still chose to be a working mother.

It's the double income, but it is also much more than that.

To me it's about being a complete role model as a woman. It is showing your child, especially if you have a daughter, that women are multi-faceted. They can have their own ambitions, their own desires, their own identity, that is not simply that of a mother.

That your sense of identity should not simply be subsumed in what others need or want, that is it healthy and right to develop other aspects of yourself, should you want to. 

It is about encouraging your child to have a broader perspective. When you work, sometimes, you bring your work back home, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I share with my children and husband on how my day went, how I deal with the real-life problems I faced at the workplace. They get to know a little more about the world through my eyes. And to prove that there is a larger world out there, beyond the safe cocoon of our homes and schools.

It is also about teaching your child to be independent. As the caterpillar's struggle to break out of its cocoon is so crucial, to its ability to take its first maiden flight as a butterfly, I think that difficulties in moderate amounts are essential to a child's development.

If I was always around to protect them and bail them out (knowing my mother hen instincts, I would probably give in to my over-protectiveness all the time) they would never learn to be independent and to grow into their own - my caterpillars would not morph into the gorgeous butterflies they were meant to be.

This is what my mother and my grandmother have taught me. All the lessons I have learnt from them, the spirit of everything I do, the attitude I have adopted in meeting challenges head on, lies in what I have seen the female role models of my life do.

Just like my mother and grandmother were for me, you too, will be your child's very own heroine.

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Written by

Leigh Fan

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