Of milestones and millstones
Something that’s been giving me a lot of thought fodder recently…whether I am being a good mother to my children, whether I’m giving enough attention to them, whether it’s the right kind of attention, whether I’m giving them sufficient opportunities to develop academically, physically and spiritually, whether I’m an effective example and teacher or just plain wrecking the beautiful and precious innocence that God has so carefully entrusted to us, whether all the stuff in the books I read and put in practice is really going to show some results in the long term or won’t amount to anything much at all. For that matter, what’s the comprehensive, all-encompassing definition of a good mother anyway?
Over this week, DS and his feeding patterns have been driving me up the wall. He will drink half his milk feed, push the bottle away and scramble off to play, and will only finish up the remainder some time later. And I mean, some.time.later. I have tried being relaxed about it, popping the bottle into the refrigerator and bringing it out to warm again later, if he still doesn’t consume it in half an hour’s time.
I know that the books and experts say this is natural for a 9-10 month old who is beginning to discover a whole new world out there and won’t stay still to finish a feed. I know I should be proud that he is achieving this milestone and making several leaps and bounds in physical development. But it disrupts my otherwise efficiently planned schedule of things I need or want to do. I am a character who likes to accomplish things, check it off my list of to-do’s and move on to the next. This becomes an unfinished task that is left hanging until the point of some-time-later that he is ready to drink again rolls around.
And I am also left thinking, why on earth am I making all this effort to pump milk if he won’t drink it properly. To which end I have not gotten much sympathy from anyone, because on one extreme, I am told easy-peasy, just stop expressing and give him formula, then it’s just some random cow’s milk. No emotional energies wasted, just cold hard cash. He hasn’t yet tasted a drop of formula, if he should do and finish it all in one sitting, it will be enough to make me throw my hands up in despair and resignation. So no, I’m not going down that route.
And then on the other end of the spectrum are those who tell me, if it kills me so much, I should have been a stay-at-home mum then I would have never needed to worry about wasted expressed milk. Thanks but no thanks for another not-needed trip down Guilt Lane; that the reason I am now feeling incompetent at managing my son’s feeds and battling impatience is because I’ve not taken the noble path of stopping work, notwithstanding the fact that being a stay-at-home mum wouldn’t necessarily have prevented such a situation anyway!
Then at work, colleagues with kids around the same age as DD are all sending their kids to myriad classes – story groups, playgroups, nursery, preschool, enrichment classes, weekend classes, etc. I am left wondering if I am being a bad mother by not doing the same for DD. After all, how much can I hope to achieve with the little sessions on Fridays and weekends, versus a daily morning bombardment of structured Phonics, Math, Chinese and Music and then Art and Craft and Drama enrichment in the afternoons by trained and qualified professionals, Monday through Friday? Oh, and don’t forget the Story Club on Saturdays. And kiddy gym on Sundays.
Think of all she’s missing out compared to these other kids!! I know I shouldn’t bend to the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, or Tans (for local context!). But then again, no one can say for sure if they don’t send their kids to these classes that they won’t lose out to peers who have gone for every class under the sun before starting primary school proper. No one will say; they will just wag their finger, nod their heads solemnly and repeat the uniquely Singapore mantra “better to be kiasu than sorry”.
I really don’t know. I knew this day was going to arrive, the day I’d have to decide if I want to send her to enrichment classes, if I want to get on waiting lists, which waiting lists I want to get on, which classes to send her to, etc etc. And I am nowhere near the next milestone of having to start stressing out over what extent I am willing to go to get her into a “good” primary school. Grassroots community work, parent volunteerism, donations, alumni memberships, ballots…totally headache-inducing!
To top it all off I keep being told that all the intakes for next year are full, full, full. [Can one expect any other outcome with all the anxious working mothers packing their child off to every available class on this tiny island?] Hrmph, at this rate, I suppose I should be panicking because now I know for sure that next year she won’t be able to get in because her mother didn’t act fast enough to get her into the Story Clubs or playgroups to ensure her enrolment in the real class the following year.
So for the record, I am an incompetent, impatient and indolent mother. Sigh. If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to stop writing, to go hang the proverbial millstone around my neck!