10 December 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
December has been an unexpectedly busy month at work.
Instead of being a period for “winding down” and “taking things easy” as most people would describe this time leading up to the Christmas and year-end festivities to be, I find myself rushing around dealing with work matters that have uncooperatively decided to rear their troublesome heads while most people are away on vacation leave. It doesn’t help that I’ve somehow landed myself in a variety of “extra curricular activities” like orientation events for new staff, year-end celebrations and the company telematch – our equivalent of Sports Day. I really suck at saying ‘no’ to requests for help.
On particularly busy days, I leave the office at around 7 p.m. While 7 p.m. isn’t terribly late, the 1-hour delay means that we get to Bedok at almost 8 p.m. to pick Coco up – and 8.30 p.m. by the time I get home to Claire (because Coco schemingly dilly-dallies while leaving my aunt’s place so as to make the most out of her private time with me.)
Even on days when I leave work at 6.30 p.m. – just 30 min later than usual – I barely have time to pop back home to cuddle Claire before returning her to my mum and heading out again to bring Coco home.
Okay, enough of moaning and groaning about work. Moving on to the real point of this entry.
Early this week, I set off for work before 7 a.m. (yaay, free ride on the MRT) because I kept thinking about an important briefing scheduled for 9 a.m. and just couldn’t fall back to sleep. Before leaving the house, I peeked in on my sleeping daughters and felt slightly bad for not being around when they woke up later.
On the commute to the office (while comfortably perched on a seat throughout the journey! Travelling extra early does have it perks!), I mulled over the situation and how to squeeze more precious minutes out of the busy work week to spend with the girls.
I thought of how parenting websites, blogs and magazines constantly advocate and remind busy parents to spend more time with their children.
You know, about how you’re missing out on their formative years ….
… that it’s crucial to forge a strong bond while they’re young…
… that their childhood will be over in the blink of an eye….
… that once they hit the teenage years, they wouldn’t want to be seen with you any more…
… that the best time to be with them is now.
NOW NOW NOW.
Yes, I recognise that the years can go by in a flash and before I know it, my 2-year old and 8-month old will be all grown up and have lives of their own.
Yes, I agree that some workaholic parents do need constant and timely reminders to take a step back from their careers and spend more time with their children.
But seriousy, how stressful is it to be repeatedly told that time is running out and childhood gone by is lost forever?
Thinking about it all, I realised that the best years of your child’s life are not limited to “the formative years” (whatever those may be).
I realised that while the word “child” is often taken to refer to small-sized humans aged 12 years and below, our children will forever be children to us – whether they are 2, 12, 22 or 32 years old. Yes, hanging out with parents may not be the coolest activity on a teenager’s agenda, but it doesn’t mean that all is lost the moment they turn 13.
I realised that the opportunity to forge a strong parent-child bond isn’t just limited to the early years and – that it’s just as important to keep building this bond beyond their childhood and right through adulthood. As a then 31-year old daughter, I found new opportunities and ways to bond with my 61-year old mother when I myself became a mum.
I realised that while younglings all fly the nest someday to start their own lives outside of home, we all eventually return – just like I did – because family ties, in particular, parent-child ties don’t end just because we don’t spend every waking minute with our children.
So while I’m clearly (and poignantly) aware that childhood doesn’t last forever, I also recognise that motherhood and the work – and privilege – of parenting a child never ends. Our time in each other’s presence may ebb and flow over the years, but just like the tide, the act of parenting never stops.
Holding that thought in my head, I stepped into the office feeling a little less sucky about leaving the house while the little mites were still asleep in their beds, buckled down to work and left the office promptly at 6 p.m. to head on home to them.
Seeing Claire’s chubby face break into a huge, gurgling smile the moment I step through the door, and feeling Coco throw herself around my neck in a giant hug (as big as her skinny twigs for arms can manage) and hearing her cheerfully chime “I love you!” – I knew that, busy day or not, we were going to be alright.