Those not into essays on the seasons of parenthood, best to skip to the last paragraph of this article. The beginning of this post is just not for you, sorry. I debated on if I should even write something back-to-school-ish, as most of the time I try to avoid the overtly “mommy-blogger” stereotype in favour of parenthood as simply a piece of the puzzle. But this time, this year, it just feels different.
For two years now my youngest and I have developed a little special date that we go on nearly weekly. After we take big one to school, we wander into the center of our town, into the market stalls that sell fresh fruits and veg, flowers, bread, pastries and street food. We have a favourite stall that sells a few simple Vietnamese dishes. We share a dish or two (normally grilled pork and veggies with vermicelli rice noodles and side of summer rolls), sit at one of the picnic tables outside nearby, and people watch. The guys who work there know us both by sight and by order; as a pair. We are never there without each other. When big one isn’t in school, we bring her too. One day, as little one was placing our order (she’s very verbose when she knows what she wants!), one of the guys turned to her and said, “You and your mummy are such a good team, you are always together!” And he was right.
Last year, with my family’s support, I made the decision to scale back on work for a little while for just that reason. I knew this season was temporary, that it would pass before I knew it and pretty soon my last baby would go off to school full-time. So I took advantage of the precious time I had and said a lot of “no’s” to other things, so I could say “yes” to her and her sister. I don’t regret my decision, but it also means in addition to the “yes’s” I said to the girls, I also said yes to carrying around this feeling of being behind in my career. There is no race, no finish line (well, there is one ultimate one but I’m in no rush to cross it), but for every choice we make, there is the one we didn’t make.
Having the perspective I do now, having lost a parent, I have come to understand that the best possible outcome we as parents can give to our children, is to leave them with the certainty and reassurance that the time they spent with us was precious, valued and important. I know my dad was pissed he didn’t have more of it to share, but he never begrudged us what time or attention he did have.
The most amount of time our children will spend with us, their parents, will be whilst they are still living with us. I am fortunate to have had the chance to steal a bit more time with my girls this past year. And I will still get them before and after school most days, and on the weekends, before it becomes more important to spend time with friends than time with me. However, it’s still hard not to mourn the loss of those extra hours spent together, secretly having the place to ourselves whilst everyone else is busy with school or work. Walking around the neighbourhood during these same hours now, I watch other parents juggling their babies and their toddlers and think; weren’t we just here? Wasn’t I just shuffling from music class or to the playground, or to run a quick errand before the scurry home for lunch and nap; during which I would always squeeze in every second of work I possibly could until they were up and going once again. Those foggy few years where that three ring circus orbited around me.
It doesn’t mean that good things aren’t yet to come, of course they are. I am after all only six and a half years into my lifetime of parenthood. But having spent those years scheduling my work around my little people’s schedule (both incredibly stressful and unbelievably worthwhile) so I could squeeze in all the extras, this marks an end to something. A chapter closed. My role as parent ever less tangible and dare I say it, predictable in it’s daily requirements.
Some say that now having two children in school I will regain my old identity, my old sense of independence and self-prioritisation, but I don’t believe that that will ever be true. New me has a perspective that old me could never have gained without these years in between. The roles I have and the order in which I use them to define myself have all changed. Mostly, thankfully for the better. As any working parent will absolutely attest to, I have developed a sense of efficiency that I could have never dreamed of having, even as a task-oriented person. The trick now is, how to use it all.
A CALL FOR FEEDBACK PLEASE
As I navigate these new waters I feel the strong pull of the family dinner table, and its ability to reunite us, especially when we now spend that much more time apart.
My hope is to grow this site as a resource for anyone who graciously takes the time to read what I have written here. To weave inspiration from many cultures and backgrounds into family and daily life, resulting in what we eat around the table when we are sharing our time with each other. The hope is what I put on the page will serve as a resource for ideas, recipes, to make the process of eating together just a little bit easier.
For now, friends who read this, first of all, thank you. This is the core of who I am, and what is important to me and I thank you for taking the time to absorb what is essentially, me. What would you love to see here? What would you find helpful or at the very least interesting? How could I help make your day-to-day a little bit better? Big ideas or small, general or specific. Please share them with me, so I can include you (metaphorically or literally if you live locally!) at my dinner table. Thank you so much.