5 July 2017, by Lim Peifen
I took a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka, on the 13th of June for a TV shoot.
This was my first overseas TV assignment as a mother. I had been looking forward to it as much as I was dreading it. I was drawn to the assignment because it seemed meaningful and potentially enriching: I was to make a special delivery to a group of young girls in the northern Sri Lankan town of Kilinochchi, and the delivery would make at least a small difference in their lives. I met up with the production team a few months ago and learned that I would be away for at least six days, and the journey was not going to be easy. After fighting my own internal emotional tug-of-war, I accepted the job.
I was not sure if Luke would fully understand the situation, but I did try to prepare him for my absence anyway.
A couple of weeks before my departure, I started to tell him about the trip. I explained how I would be taking a plane and flying to somewhere far away, and I would be working there for a few days. I would talk to him about this almost daily, even though Luke did not seem to comprehend. At times he did not even seem interested, but this was something I felt I needed to do.
As I was packing for the trip on the day of departure (my flight was at midnight), my heart grew heavy at the thought of leaving my family, especially Luke, for one whole week.
I could not even begin to imagine how much I would miss him. How could I not hug or kiss him for so many days? Would he miss me or be upset to not find me at home? Would he think that I didn’t love him anymore?
These thoughts started to choke me up, so I had to take a break from packing.
I made myself some chamomile tea, sat down, closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
Instead of letting my thoughts run wild over the bad, I focused on the good. I was going to learn so much on this journey, I would bring back stories and memories to share with Luke. Above all, I was certain that going on this trip would effect a positive change in me.
Having sorted out my thoughts, I finished packing. It was time to go. I said goodnight and goodbye to my baby. He did not understand why he was not going to sleep with mummy and daddy on the big bed as usual, so he asked “Mummy where?”, and by that he meant “Where is Mummy going?”
I held back the tears, smiled and said “Mummy going to work.” I had read somewhere that parents should not make goodbyes seem sad or distressing to children so as not to worsen any separation anxiety.
I was so grateful to have my husband by my side on the way to the airport. I did not say much, but he knew how I felt, and he tried to keep the mood light with his silly jokes and good music. We reached the airport early and had some free time between check-in and boarding, so we sat at a cafe and enjoyed a brief but nice spontaneous couple time.
Sri Lankan time is behind Singapore time by two and a half hours.
On my first day there, I could not FaceTime my hubby and Luke, because by the time I was done with the day’s shoot, Luke was already asleep. I decided to make a video for daddy to show him the following day.
After settling down for the night in my hotel room, I made a video to ask him about his day, and also sang him his favourite song. Daddy reported that he really enjoyed watching and re-watching the video.
Guilt is a constant for a working mother. It is normal, and it is not necessarily bad. I use that guilt to remind myself that I should focus on my job and do it well, so as to not let time spent away from Luke go to waste.
The trip to Sri Lanka turned out to be one of the most fulfilling ones I have ever embarked. Meeting the Kilinochchi girls – brave, young women who survived the devastating civil war and are now striving to realise their dreams, I am moved, inspired and filled with hope. “Special Delivery” will be aired on Mediacorp Channel 5 in January 2018.