It’s summer and there’s no better time to confess. As I am off my normal schedule by over 50%, I could also afford sitting down and doing truly honest self-reflection. That was the intention when summer holiday officially started a week ago. And now here I am, during the best time of the day when my four-year-old daughter has fallen to her nap, making that intention work.
It was around 2.35pm on a recent winter day. I stood up from my desk and walked to a school nearby to pick up my son when bumping into my neighbor, another mom who was also on the way to collect her daughter.
“How do you manage to work and go to events in the city while taking care of the kids and family and cooking and doing everything else?” She wondered after we chatted for a bit.
“Well, my husband gave me some good feedback,” was my answer. She laughed.
Hers was not the only case in point. The women who come and hire me as their career (& life) happiness coach often relate to me in many ways and also often, adore me that I could manage to have a very fulfilling career tapping on my talents while enjoying some work life balance and nurturing my soul through reading, writing, drawing and painting. Friends on Facebook often complimented on the same. That’s, however, not the whole truth.
Out of five days in the week, I brought my daughter to school late three times on average. It was not that I didn’t want to fix it. Whenever I saw the teacher at drop-off, I just wished I could wear a mask (which only becomes “socially normal” thanks to Coronavirus now) and my determination to change was pumped up. This resulted in a few days when I did show her up at the class door either on time or even early but they were highly sporadic and random and I bet the teacher had no way to predict the trend. After a while, I had to accept that the teacher may have judged me as an irresponsible mother. So yes, this is an area where I am still struggling.
I hardly got my daughter’s homework submitted. Every Friday, she was given a homework pack to be done and sent along with her backpack the next Friday. To put things in context, it was optional. However, I always had the feeling that all other kids in her class submitted their homework all the time, given the number of messages in the WhatsApp group chat that showed the parents were really concerned. For the record, I was hardly present there and possibly labelled as a negligent mom based on such a standard. I however talked to a few parents. One said it just took five minutes each day for her daughter to do the work and another shared his did every time. Where’s my five minutes? This is an area where I am still struggling.
Not less than one time was our fridge empty. My day was often packed with morning rituals, preparing three lunch boxes one of which had a different requirement, dropping off my daughter, running some errands, working for a few hours, picking up my son, giving him some snack and reviewing his homework, doing some follow-up work from client coaching sessions or research and developing contents, preparing dinner, picking up my daughter and the rest was what you could tell. While I managed to cook most of the times, grocery shopping sometimes fell of my to-do list and pizza dinner accidentally found its way there. This is another area where I am still struggling.
The truth is the list of areas I am still struggling may compete with my to-do list. There were boxes of old clothing I wanted to donate to Salvation Army that had been sitting in the corner of our bedroom for months; I had more urgent things on my list. There were countless number of times when the food on the stove got burnt; I was multi-tasking. There were messages about play dates and birthday parties that never got my attention or if they did, we puzzled at how to get the gifts in time; my brain ran out of energy. There were times I burst out scolding my son even after a few years of “renovating” my parenting with coaching; my body was crying for a pause.
Fairly speaking, all these happen when my husband is in charge of the tech troop that cleans the floor, washes the dishes, washes the clothes, makes online purchase, announces weather forecasts, and even programs lighting in the house, when my 10-year-old son, despite pushing my buttons sometimes, is heading the cloth folding and table laying departments and when my daughter is the Chief Happiness Officer who scores the lowest on the tantrum curve.
One night, when I had hardly done with being over the moon with a Happiness workshop I successfully delivered for a mission-driven organization during the day, my husband asked, “Do we still have any more toilet paper?” This question then sparked off a discussion the conclusion of which was his kind and honest feedback, “Well, I don’t mind doing online shopping, but it’d be helpful if you could just inform me in advance so we don’t run out of the essentials.”
I nodded my head while I secretly categorized toilet paper as non-essential and mentally recounted my essentials: sleep, meditation, exercise, healthy food on the table and in school bags, my daughter’s happy brain, coaching sessions with my son, meaningful connection with my husband, training my brain, being present with my clients, transforming careers and lives, writing helpful articles, creating only-of-its-kind programs, and… hanging out with the sun.
As long as I attend to the most important and the most urgent at a time, I am at peace with my only me or at least I think I am. While I consider learning to unfriend multi-tasking and truly prioritize the act or more accurately, the struggle, of a lifetime, there is one thing that always goes straight to the top of my priority list by default, in all circumstances: my daughter insisting that she needs to poop. This meets both criteria.
Well, she has just woken up, her legs wanting to fly and her face turning red, “I want to poop, mama!”
P. S. For the matter of toilet paper, my husband found a solution: “subscribe and save” on Amazon that provides us with the supply every two months.
I can be also found on Instagram @DiaryofaHappierMomBrain, LinkedIn at Amy Tu Nguyen or Facebook at Happiness Infinity LLC where I share little doses of career and life happiness.