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. 🙂