AudEmo AudVerbalDiarrhea

The pursuit of happiness

 

It’s quite hard for me to confess this but I think it needs to be said.

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling unhappy.

I didn’t notice it right away. But over time, I noticed that there was something strange happening.  Me in default mode would wake up every morning excited to start the day, and then working around my schedule time with the kids, playing and just hanging out with them and Fatty.

But lately, a change had come over me.  I became irritable, even retreating into tears when Fatty and I bickered over petty issues, completely out of character for me.  Every negative thing that happened, I took as a personal slight, becoming over sensitive and defensive.  I started playing more Candy Crush WTF.  My Dayre entries became half hearted and half complete, cos I no longer felt the energy to update to the end of what I did that day. Instead of playing with the kids, I preferred to sit in a corner of the house and scroll through Facebook and Reddit.  If our helper was around, I’d frequently escape to my room to lie in bed and read more Reddit.

One day I finally collected my courage and told Fatty.  I didn’t even know what I was feeling, only that I wasn’t happy.  It was like, to put it very cornily, I’d lost my “spark” for life. I was either indifferent or resentful towards everything around me, even the kids; sure, I played the part on the surface but deep inside I didn’t want to even think about them.  And that scared me, more than anything else.

Fatty and I had a long talk, during which I cried a few more times wtf.  But he helped me discern a few truths: mainly that I was burnt out.  I kept using the word tired which made me realize  that was it – I was emotionally exhausted.

A bunch of factors came into play – the kids are older and while physically more independent, they’re also full blown toddlers.  Anyone who has had kids will know this – they take so much energy! Besides tending to their physical needs, every day I am mediating fights, admonishing or disciplining, carrying out punishment, answering questions, comforting, telling stories, teaching.  Especially the fights.  Those two squabble (if not outright brawl) at least five times a day wtf.  And Penny turns out to have a terribly strong willed character, and hardly a day goes by that I’m not grappling with her or disciplining her over something or other. I’m not a fierce kind of person and it took another kind of strength to stand my ground and discipline her.

Fatty on the other hand has been going through a pretty tumultuous period of his own.  He left his job at Netccentric, a company which he founded and grew for ten years. He suffered a phase of soul searching and other personal issues.  And now he’s rallied and has thrown himself into a completely new venture, with which I’m involved.  That was what consumed our marriage for the better part of the year, talking and figuring things out, analyzing, or just listening to him.

Frankly, between Fatty and the kids, I was exhausted. I still am. One of my goals in life is to be a pillar for my family but right now my emotional resources are depleted. I was giving half my energy to my baby energy vampires wtf, and the rest I used to support Fatty during this vulnerable period.  But I wasn’t really getting any of it back.  It’s not any of their faults of course – kids will be kids, and Fatty faced some pretty turbulent times.  It was just how it was.

Add that to the fact that I’d been feeling a little lost. I put something I’d wanted to do  on the back burner to help Fatty cos it seemed like we’d have a better chance at success.  But in doing that I realized I didn’t have anything left for myself.  What used to make me happy was my family and blogging.  But it got to a point that blogging felt too much like work and the kids felt like a weight.

Fatty asked if I was tired of being a mom. I shamefacedly said yes. He asked if I was tired of being a wife. Sometimes.

This is where shit really piled on. I had a great life! A responsible, caring husband and clever, beautiful children. We are stable financially and I don’t even need a full time job. What right do I have to be unhappy? I felt so ashamed of even feeling this way. And worse, I was wracked with guilt. That I was ungrateful even though I have a life that many would drool for. That I didn’t deserve anything I had.

The weird thing though is that when I think about what kind of life I would rather have, I don’t have anything else.  I would not give up caring for my family for anything in the world. I just didn’t want to care for them at the moment.

Dude, what was my problem?

It’s taken months but I think my problem is this….. Did you guys read this article?  Here’s a quote from it.

Pluck, sex appeal, power, kindness, persistence: We admire and celebrate these characteristics, and we long for the past versions of our moms to embody them. But if these characteristics are a prerequisite for a properly executed womanhood, does becoming a mother divest a woman of such qualities? In studying these photos, and each daughter’s interpretation of them, I’ve come to wonder what traits we allow our mothers to have, and which ones we view as temporary, expiring with age and the beginning of motherhood. Can a woman be both sexual and maternal, daring and responsible, innocent and wise? Mothers are either held up as paragons of selflessness, or they’re discounted and parodied. We often don’t see them in all their complexity.

   I don’t know about you. But my YouTube app is full of Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly videos. My Spotify playlists are also stuffed with PSY tracks and they’re all set to loop. My meal choices are frequently non-spicy kid friendly foods cos they always want to eat off my plate. Dinner appointments are always set late so I can put the kids to bed first. My makeup is done in staggered phases – draw my eyebrows, play some Play Doh; do my eyeliner, feed them dinner; put them to bed, then hurriedly change to go out. And et cetera.

All these things, I was always okay with.  But somehow they’ve come to a head at this point because I am missing an identity besides being a wife and a mom. Somehow along the way, I forgot about being Audrey Ooi because I was focusing on being Jude and Penelope’s mommy, Tim’s wife, and Fourfeetnine.

Once I followed Fatty to Taipei for work. He left our hotel for meetings while I stayed back and leisurely applied my makeup while listening to YouTube. At this point I hadn’t played any music that I liked for years, always giving way to the kids’ preference. And I thought, how I’ve missed this. Some Ayumi Hamasaki song had the power to transport me back ten years and I felt more myself than I had in years.

I can’t be the only mom who feels this way.  Somewhere in the midst of school runs, packing lunches, bedtime routines, and making sure the husband has enough clean, ironed shirts, we forget about ourselves. Who were we before we became moms, wives, keepers of the family? Were we daring? Were we foolish? Were we funny? Were we sexy?

I’m not saying that there are no funny or fun loving mothers. That all mothers are not daring or brave or sexy. But I understand what the writer above meant: that most of us have put aside facets of ourselves when we become mothers.

My self identity today is supportive wife to a successful, loving man, full time mother to two critters, and part time blogger wtf. But ten years ago I was other things. I was an honors student, incensed by local politics.  I was funny, maybe even hilarious. I was flirtatious. I was smart and engaging and great at forging connections with people. I traveled on whims, taking up extra part time jobs to make the cash. I don’t even know if I’m any of these things anymore. Have they dissipated from me? Or are they just in hiding, blocked out by more appropriate “Mother” qualities?

Which is why I am going to take the time to discover what fulfills me. Away from family, from husband, from work and social obligations. Is it traveling, with friends or by myself? Is it looking for a social cause to uphold? Is it getting drunk WTF kidding kidding I hate alcohol wtf. I have no idea what makes me happy right now to be honest but even figuring out the problem is already making me feel better. And I’m grateful for a Fatty who coached me through this, and told me that “my happiness is his responsibility”. He’s the real hero in this story.

Comments and thoughts from you guys are much valued. 🙂


 

  • Jin Theng

    Silent reader and here am i to comment after so long. You describe the feeling with such detaily write up. I am not a mother yet but For the past one month, i have been feeling unhappy for no reason. Friend were asking but i didnt really open up to them and i dont know how and what to tell them. Back to those days i was questioning myself, whats make me lost myself. Apparently It’s really not being urself and doing the things that you love. Needed to find back passion, interest and having a good me time to sustain back the happiness tho. This too shall passed. Everyone is going thru the dark side during some darkest moment. You can do it as well! Sending love to you.

  • disqus_kOmdr3SB9O

    I find that it helps that we recognize that there are seasons in life; and that in this season, you’re a mum to young children and supportive wife to your husband. In this season, the days are long but the years are short. We’re often torn between wishing the kids are less needy but yet wish they’d not grow up forever. There will come another season when you’ll have more time to yourself, but the reality is that motherhood changes us forever. It is actually good that you recognize and speak about this unhappiness openly with your husband. Every now and then we need to take a purposeful pause and do some soul-searching along the way. 🙂

  • Calvina

    Finished reading your post and I had tears welling up. I don’t even know where or how to start my comment to your post but this one went straight to the core of my being. I’m like you, mom of two critters (3yo and almost-1yo), husband is going through a turbulent time at work but it pays well, so we arr financially secure. On the outside, I have the most blessed life – I don’t “have” to work, I get to spend time with the kids and running their schedule, school pick ups and all, essentially living comfortably, playing the supportive wife while my husband brings home the dough. But like you, I’ve been feeling so drained and physically, and emotionally exhausted. The physical thing is easy to move past; in fact, I think my body has been conditioned to deal with physical exhaustion and sleep depravation. But the emotional thing – some nights, I’m so tired but I can’t fall asleep. I get soooo irritated and annoyed on the weekends becos of little things my husband or the kids do (esp my daughter who has Daddy curled around her little finger). I feel that resentment. I didn’t feel like that when I had my first child, but with two, and dealing with them all day errrr day (and no help), I feel it is getting to me. I asked to go on a trip to Taipei with my girlfriend but cos the baby was still being breastfed, I brought him along too. It was a good trip, albeit short, and I thought I came home recharged, but the todd got HFMD and that sucked my energy out again with me being stuck at home with two kids. I’m not even sure how to deal with all the complexities of being a mother/woman anymore. It’s just living a day at a time, a moment at a time, one kids at a time if they let me. It scares me a little but I’m hoping my faith will get me through somehow (I’m Christian), cos I’m not sure how else I will. Anyway just wanted to share with you to tell you that you are not alone, and to thank you for sharing your thoughts. – Calvina (calvinadawn on Dayre)

  • ed paul

    this burn-out will repeat itself (could be monthly, yearly, or so)… it felt like nothing matters and u just wan to be alone but yet need someone to listen to you, usually build up when something repeatly doesn’t goes according to your expectation(fighter, penny, husband)… find a best method suit you to cope, find something ‘easy task’ to do to get result that will make u happy(of satisfaction) some people like gyms, some people like spa, or travels (or youtube funny videos), some people just prefer to spend time with someone close and do silly stuff(i does this often). hope this give u some idea.

  • Huei Jean

    I know exactly how you feel. I love my kids and my family but ever since the girls have started school and my son is no longer an infant, each demands even more attention. The business and family needs attention. Everything needs attention. Like you, I found myself hiding away at every opportunity I got. I thought I was going into depression because of the negativity and it scared me so much.

    Telling my husband about how I felt was the hardest thing.

    Tldr; it’s not an easy thing but start small. Take small steps each day to find yourself again. I’m still not done but I feel better already. But of course, when you do take time away, the kids will miss you. And for mine, sometimes they act up to get more attention. So it’s quite the balancing act.

    Wanna catch up soon? 🙂

  • Mei

    Hi Audrey, your blog is inspiring and I have actually found out about this recently – try googling ‘mum lost identity’ and endless articles and blogs will come up and you know ur not alone! Apparently it’s very common in mums but something people don’t talk about often because you feel like it’s shameful to feel that way but I’m so glad you topen up about it especially in Malaysia, I feel like we should be able to talk through this kind of difficult times and support each other. Hang in there, try have some time alone away as well as hanging out with positive non-mum friends for a change regularly! ❤️ Lots of love

  • Christine Tan

    Dear Audrey
    I followed you probably about 10 years ago before you and Tim got married haha! Then some years later with changes in life and with two kids I’ve stopped reading blogs. This post was shared by someone on my fb feed. Today I came across this post shared on Toddler Approved n thought about you. It resembles similarities to how I feel sometimes too for being a young mum.

    http://www.inspiremore.com/to-the-mom-who-feels-like-she-cant-function-anymore/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=HAHO&utm_campaign=partner

    Lots of love
    Christine

  • Fel

    Hi Audrey, I know exactly how you feel! I went through some though times too, and everything surrounding me seems to overwhelming.

    Well, take a break and do something you love! I managed to squeeze myself some alone time, just soak myself in a bath, with my favourite candles and playlists going on…. or spend sometime with myself, going to that coffee shop I’ve been longing to, eating the food I’ve always want to..just imaging dating yourself for a bit. It did helped me recharge and gain back that energy.

    Hope everything will get better. All the best 🙂

  • Cikgu Aimi Ho

    Same here, Audrey.
    Im a full time mum with 5y/o and 2y/o.

    Just yesterday my husband asked me what do I want to buy as he wanted to make me happy.

    And I thought and thought… Well, there is no material things that I long for, nothing….as much as I really long for a day without children and housechores.

    THAT will make me so happy. A day without family. Just me lazing around doing what teenagers do during weekends.

    Audrey, that time will come. The day where la husband bring the kids out camping or hiking, and mummy has the whole day or two all to herself.
    Until then, I will have to enjoy the small moments of joy and the occasional tuning out skill.

    It does help to let the kids watch cartoon or do an absorbing activities for 30 to an hour and mummies just chillex

    You deserve it.

  • Erin Sy

    Aiya, same thing is happening to me as well.
    Ten years ago I was a promising research student doing her PhD. Today, i am promising nagger who nags the husband,daughter and maids. My life is filled with driving here and there, grocery shopping, wet market shopping, etc.
    Sometimes I question myself whether I should have gotten married or not.
    What we feel is normal because I thinkas moms and specially Asian moms we adjust more to the family life than men. What did the men do? They still go to work, they still socialize, they dont have to give up all their preferences. Not gonna lie, sometimes I am irritated at my husband for not coming home to dinner just because he and his colleagues want to unwind. Hell ah! He can do that because somebody (me) is at home.manning the fort.

  • dlxe

    Aud, what you’re facing, many women face it. Don’t feel like you’re not alone in your struggle. 🙂 For me, I find that creating boundaries is very important. To put it in simple terms, not everything is a go. You need to protect and conserve you in order for you to give the best of yourself to your husband, children, family, friends, etc. Make conscious decisions as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. Sit down and tell your children, fighting is unacceptable and believe yourself as you say it. Say it with confidence! Take a girls only trip once a year for a whole week. Take frequent overnight dates (yes, leave and stay in a hotel!) with the hubby. Dinner dates are not enough. Write a list of all the things that are draining you and slowly cut them down. It’s possible Aud!!! Jia you!! 🙂

  • Ranny Singka

    Don’t worry! These things do happen! You just devoted your time to your kids and your hubby too much! Take the time for yourself! You’re beautiful and talented! Think about yourself, give yourself a reward! Put on great make up and some great hair do, you have your life as well. I’ve been following your blog for a long time and I really like it. You are funny! Think about yourself!

  • Ang Khian

    I have been following your blog and Tim’s for a long time, and I have always admired how positive you are, and how “original” you are, in your writing and how you express your thoughts. As I was reading this entry, I feel that you are going through a phase of “finding who you really are, what you really want – your life purpose and values” I went through the same phase, though it was easier for me because I have no husband or children, but I feel what you are going through. That feeling of being lost, uncertain..I feel you.
    I went through a few processes to get to where I am today, one which includes meditating and also attending soul-searching courses, and also talking to mentors that I look up to. I suggest you can do the same too.
    Or if you would have the time, to chill and just have a cup of coffee, and talk about my process, I would love to. It is always good to pull people up, that’s part of my mission in life too.

    🙂 I hope you find a way to create that sense of fulfillment for yourself too.

  • Tina Beanie

    Thanks for sharing what you are going through, Audrey. Definitely your life has changed tremendously over the last several years. Naturally at some point you would feel like you have lost “you” focusing on the kids, husband, work. etc. If you can take a week or so with some good friend some place tropical to relax and just be Audrey, you should do it. Join some support groups of other young Mom’s like you and don’t forget to give yourself loving care. It could be something as small as a facial or pedicure, massage with a favorite lunch out a few times week. Meditate and/or pray, do yoga, watch a movie that makes you laugh…or cry. You will find your place again, don’t worry. As always sending you and your little family the best. Regards, Tina Beanie

  • Bugs

    Ya, I’ve also just cried, again, last night in the dark with my 4yo daughter beside. Unlike you, I only have a daughter to deal with everyday and I’m already exhausted ! I have no helper and a husband who has no off day from his work. ( Holidays and weekends are his best time to rush work. ) Our conversation now only resolves on our daughter. I also have to worry about money to pay bills… All I want to do now is watch videos on YouTube, all day. I’m too TIRED to do anything else.

    I’ve even forgot how to smile and how to be happy. My default face is the stern face with no expression, at all. I forgot when was the last time I truly smiled. I too, can’t have spicy food because of my daughter ; can’t go shopping for desperately needed new pants after the weight gain because of my daughter….. I love my daughter, sure I am, but I’m tired. Yes, I use this word a lot as well. I want to be alone, I want to do things I like, I want to be just Me for a while.

    Thanks Audrey for this post that I can rant it out and loud. ^_^

  • Michelle Liew

    Sorry that i’m late to the discussion and I haven’t had time to read through the comments yet. Sounds like you may be experiencing some sort of post-partum depression or anxiety. Even though the kids are not babies anymore, you may have experienced some recent events that may have triggered it. Anyway, lots of love to you.

  • ayumi mi

    I’m one of your silent reader. I has read and following your blog or Dayre update. Indeed, I’m enjoying and feel as if I’m part of ur life.

    What makes me amazed the most is I have seen how u had transform from a girl to a women and how u managed to pull through the low and high of ur life.

    I seen u as a individual. Someone who had managed to find a life partner aka ur husband to support u and grow together with u all these while most of are still searching the other half.

    You’re growing. A person which has grown to have multiple identity, skills and talent. A complex combination is the perfect form.

    Your experience had shape who you are today. No doubt, you’re not walking alone. There’re many people behind u to support u mentally and unconditionally.

    I believe you can find and shape your own path. Audrey Ooi is not only a girl, women, working lady, wife, daughter, sister; mother, cousin but you are who you are.

  • JJ Experience

    Pq: having kids watching YouTube — so long as it’s not too overboard– is considered ok.

    when guided in the right direction, it could even boost their self confidence, creativity, and also likeability when they start shooting their own videos like those YouTubers with viral videos under their belt. here’s one example of ‘kid-who-watched-enough-youtube-shooting-videos-as-his-new-found-hobby” episode:~

    https://youtu.be/BmvQVtsmtKA

    cheerio!