Hardworking mum of two Sandra Lastennet discovers that she has to make some tough career choices when her younger one starts rejecting her.
Oh no, Lo c is drifting away from me...
Mother&Baby June 11
Illustration Kristal Melson
I donâ€™t want Mummy to tuck me in, I want Auntie Theresa!
t’s been almost a year since I returned to work. Because I fitted into my professional role naturally, it didn’t take me long to get into the rhythm of things. In the mornings, I would drive to work after dropping my preschooler off at kindergarten. My helper would then bring my toddler son to the childcare centre across the road from my apartment. In the evenings, I rushed home to spend an hour or two with my kids before their bedtime at about 8pm. Though my life seemed hectic, I found it fulfilling and I was beginning to enjoy it.
Growing sense of self After four-and-a-half years as a stay-at-home mum, I relished the identity I had regained. During that time, I used to feel restless and frustrated, thinking that something essential was missing in my life. Now, I was no longer just a mother or a wife but a working professional, someone who contributed to the economy and made a difference in the workplace. I not only enjoyed being mentally stimulated, I was thrilled that my decisions no longer revolved around choosing play dough or painting as the day’s preferred activity. Besides feeling personally fulfilled, I was doing well at work, and was an acknowledged contributor to the team. I believed that I could have it all — be a wonderful mum while striving for personal achievement.
The Mummy Diaries
tired I was, I made sure to put my kids to bed myself. I even planned individual trips for my children — intending to take my little boy on a solo trip to Perth. I even brought my 5-yearold girl with me on a recent trip to France. I did it, even though it’s not easy going on holiday with a young child in tow. I not only wanted to maintain the connection I have with my children, I wanted to improve our relationship. Thankfully, we bonded and had fun during those trips. Still, those measures only helped temporarily. Ultimately, I was still losing out to my helper — she spent four to five hours with them on a daily basis while I only managed two hours, tops. I felt conflicted. I loved my job but hated how the time I spent away from home affected my bond with the children, especially my toddler son. My little girl, with whom I had spent plenty of time with for the first four years of her life, is very close to me. If she ever has to choose between the helper and me, I know she would always choose to be with Mummy. Sadly, this was not the case for my son, and I resented that. I hated that my helper was my son’s preferred person. This was when I started to question my life choices and priorities.
I tendered my resignation. I decided that my children are more important than any personal satisfaction I’ll get from being gainfully employed.
Since I wanted to make sure that my children received my individual attention, my days were packed to the max, not just on weekdays, but weekends as well. In the weekend, I would personally go to the wet market to buy fresh ingredients for our meals, or take my kids out for fun activities like swimming. Besides attending church, we sometimes visited my parents, so that my children would get to know their grandparents. At least once every month, I’d take some time off work to spend time with my kids. Once, I took my little boy to the zoo; another time, I organised a lunch “date” with my elder girl. I was determined that even with work taking up a good part of my time, I would still be that fully involved mother I used to be. However, things were slowly changing at home, though I remained blissfully unaware of the undercurrents. My 2-yearold boy started preferring the helper over me. My lowest point came when he refused to let me put him to bed, screaming instead for my helper. That totally threw me off track! I was not happy, to say the least.
Clash landing So, I started making immediate changes. No matter how
The language issue came next. At 1½, my little boy was not speaking much and his vocabulary was limited. In recent months, however, the number of words and phrases he was able to articulate grew. But one day, I was appalled when he announced that he wanted “cho-co-late” milk, instead of “choc-late” milk. I knew where that came from — my helper had been making the same mistake. To add insult to injury, no matter how much I tried correcting him, he would be mispronouncing the word again after a day or two. That’s when I realised I needed to do something. So, I tendered my resignation. I decided that my children are more important than any personal satisfaction I’ll get from being gainfully employed. Also, there was no way I would be able to fulfil my role as an educator, a disciplinarian and a parent if I spent 80 per cent of my waking hours away from home. Surprisingly, my company offered me the option of continuing on a part-time basis. They valued my work so much, they were willing to give me the flexibility of working half a day. Now, I believe that I can have the best of both worlds, after all! I can be the mother I had envisioned myself to be. After all, it’s been said that happy mothers raise happy children. While I’m not sure if I will be entirely happy if I had to give up work totally, I am glad that I have reached a compromise I can live with.
Sandra Lastennet, a part-time account manager, is mum to Loïc, 2, and Laetitia, 5. Mother&Baby June 11