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Friday, April 15, 2016

(2035) The grass always seems greener on the other side

Here I am, watching my child through a glass panel while waiting for her to finish her swimming lessons in the middle of a Thursday. I am surrounded by mostly mothers, two grandmothers, a father. I have always wondered, how do women working full-time in Japan handle parenting responsibilities, such as after school activities, if they are not lucky enough to have a grandparent live near them?

The past two years at my child's preschool required so much weekday parental involvement (which is usually fulfilled by mothers) in their school activities such as Sports Day, Halloween party, Christmas party, etc. where parents are expected to help the school put up decorations, plan decorations and costumes and so on, that I'm amazed the working mums of my child's classmates still kept their jobs.  True enough, at the end of the first year, 2-3 mums in the class had thrown in the towel and resigned to be full time stay-at-home mothers. I was so fed-up with all the volunteering expected of parents that I decided not to register for kindergarten. I would rather piece together some form of education with classes like dance/swim + some home schooling than feeling the pressure that I'm not contributing enough to the school. 

I am lucky (and of course very thankful) to have established a work-from-home full time arrangement with my previous/current employer, and I have been able to do this for the past 7 years, including the past 3 years after my child was born. It was a struggle juggling both motherhood and work at first, but it was partly my own hardheadedness that forced me to carry on - I wanted the best of both worlds and did not want to miss out on any part of my child's first few years and I did not feel that paying for childcare was justifiable with me working from home full time. Also, horror stories about the waiting list to get into childcare in Japan (see
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/07/national/angry-blog-post-sparks-movement-for-improved-day-care/#.Vw-iHKSLTiA) was enough to deter me from even trying to apply for a vacancy in childcare.

I have always received either disbelieving looks or amazed reactions from people who hear I'm a work from home full time mother but having been in this situation for the past 3+ years, I can only say, I did what I had to. (Our mothers ran full households with more children without help in the past.)  Perhaps the motivation to look strong overcame whatever hurdles I actually encountered. However, I was getting burnt out, with both work and being a mum, and this style of work meant that I was forever a contract worker, doomed to a life with no career progression. There were too many late night calls, and too much OT when we had to meet project deadlines and work life balance was at an all-time low. I was dreading to wake up in the morning and when I got the news that our team was not getting a contract extension from our client, it was almost a relief, because it meant that I did not have to resign, but to just wait for the end to come.

Finally, I felt that my guilt about not paying full attention to my child was somewhat alleviated, I could let her run in the park without looking at my watch the whole time thinking "let's go, I have a call in an hour!" I had time to recharge, and enjoy my hobbies but of course, without a salary, my spending power was much reduced. I now have all the time in the world to worry about the lack of money to spend. I used to envy full time mothers for their 100% time availability, but now I can’t help but wonder how they coped on single incomes with their daily strolls which almost always inevitably ended up at cafes. Perhaps they had always been envious of me having work and income while seemingly enjoying full-time motherhood. I missed interaction with my ex-colleagues, and although there’s no missing the late night calls, I had become a habitual late sleeper and it was very difficult to wake up on school days.

All the online fights about who has it harder – stay at home mums or working mums – seems irrelevant after having tried being both. The working mums have lots of time to themselves, but they miss most of their children’s antics being at work, while at night they are too tired to enjoy time with their kids. The stay at home mums get to witness their children’s growth but have a ton of other household worries and are always wishing to have more time to themselves. No one has it better, every mother has it as hard; and the grass will always look greener on the other side as we struggle to get to the next day in one piece and alive.

I am glad that Im back in the workforce, and my worries are back in the realm of “will the weekend please come soon!” I am trying harder to worry less about time, even with work, because I am the adult, and I should be the one who makes my schedule work and not be rushing the child through every activity. The new job has given me most evenings free, no more late-night calls, and I get some quality time both to myself and with my child who has learnt to be largely independent in entertaining herself. With some planning, I squeeze most of the calls in the same days so that I can have at least one call-free day each week to focus on the homeschool or have an outing together. The grass might still look greener on the other side on some days, but for now, our own grass is green enough for me. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

二千三十一: Tiny Books for Tiny Folks

I've been working hard to launch this idea I had, and it's finally up!

Tiny Books for Tiny Folks

I was looking for English books for bb in the public library and the library had only 1 miserable shelf of books so I was forced to buy books for bb instead. and I thought - other mums who are looking for english picture books must be having the same problem - books are expensive, we are running out space to put them, and once they grow up the books have to be disposed of, why don't I be the library since I bought so many books already anyway?

so here we are, the library. The price is super reasonable, can you sacrifice a 1000yen lunch a month to just pay for borrowing 5 books to read to your child? (including postage back and forth) really, it's barely covering postage, and a little bit of funding for books, I'm not even earning anything out of it after all expenses. We have currently more than 270 books - take a look at the catalog here:
https://tinybooks.libib.com/i/tiny-books-for-tiny-folks

The Facebook page is here:
https://www.facebook.com/tinybookstinyfolks/

The basic service is up and running, registration -> reservations -> loans & returns, monthly newsletters, and I'm trying to have more members before we do more ($$$ is not unlimited). So.. If you live in Japan and are looking for a cheaper alternative to read lots of English books to your child without buying lots and lots of books, do check my site out!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

二千二十九: In Between Employment

First official month of unemployment.

It was kind of therapeutic, I could fetch bb without the stress of having to rush back for work, we could take our time walking, I stopped shouting at her so much to hurry up. We went to Legoland, her school's halloween party, tried to bake more.

We also did bb's 七五三 because her grandparents insisted.. it was an expensive affair (about 60,000yen??) . Photoshoot at the studio including rental of her kimono, she enjoyed the hair and makeup but refused to smile at the camera and doing the Chandler look thing whenever the cameraman told her to smile. In the end, she looked the same in all the photos so we just picked one of it to give to her grandparents. The family picture looked ok. so we just took one of us 3. In the temple, we took more pictures with my camera, nothing really good since the camera was not in very good condition. We paid another 10,000yen for the prayers process - parents/kids all went up into the temple area to get blessed by the priest with chants of "good health and good studies" . Quite interesting, but to a very cynical me, all these "traditions" have become too commercialized. All are just opportunities to get money from the pampering parents, but what about not so rich kids? How will they feel if their parents cannot afford all these celebratory actions supposedly to uphold traditions? I would think that teaching the kids their heritage and the stories behind these traditions is more important than spending all these needless money taking photos and renting clothes every 3,5,7 years old for the sake of "tradition". But it's hard to argue with the elderly unless we escape to another country...

I tried to spend abit more time creating flashcards for bb to learn, especially Chinese words. I'm very keen for her to be able to read and write Chinese, no matter how basic, because China is going to be a global superpower and why pay money to learn as an adult when she has all the practice she can get with family? English is ok with school, but I'll have to put in more effort teaching her next year when school ends. She's already muttering in Japanese when she plays with her toys at home so I think her other languages will be taking a backseat unless I aggressively continue to practise with her.

Finally got my first certificate from Coursera. I was waiting at the station for bb during her ballet classes and just reading and thought to use the time listening to the lectures as well, and earned an Introduction to Philosophy certificate.

There was also bb's school sports' day which was quite fun (we didn't participate last year as we went to Hawaii).  But not sure what the fuss is about that people need to go and snatch for floor space early. They did some mass exercises, parent-student competitions etc., a very mild version of the real sports day in normal Japanese schools. At the end of the day, all the kids received a medal and a packet drink.

Also managed to wean bb off the ipad by deleting the youtube app. Added quite a few more educational apps instead. Since she couldn't watch Youtube, she started using the apps to draw etc, and I set the no ipad during mealtimes rule so she stopped watching the ipad with her meals. She does however, keep turning around to watch the tv..


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

二千二十八: R&R

Hooray! Holiday time!

We headed for Bali on 2-Sep, stayed at Seminyak at Mutiara Resort, in a 1-bedroom villa and it was pretty good! Daily breakfast for 2 cooked by a staff member in our kitchenette, and with a small pool in the villa, bb got all the swimming she wanted and we went to bed every night at 11pm somehow (I didn't even swim much so the reason for this is a mystery to me except that maybe the bed and aircon made me super comfortable). Mum, my sis & Calvin joined us for about 5 days of the trip and bb was happy to join mum to bed most of the nights which allowed us to sleep soundly for a few nights at least and have her out of our hair. It was hot, but very clear blue skies for all 10 days, and the roads were super dusty. Food was extremely cheap, but being in the tourist stretch, the food was slightly more expensive by Bali standards but still cheap nevertheless. We ate so much food every day just because we wanted to try all the different places at the low prices with good taste. By the last 2-3 days, everyone got a cold though and the flight back felt hellish (bad sore throat, bad fever, bad nose...). Luckily Garuda was a pretty good airline, at least food was good and movies were abundant to choose from.

After the holiday, I had to face the reality of not having to be online all the time to be "at work" and that my time was mostly mine (I still had to fulfill my final month of work contract). It was fantastic! I had time to read, I had time to clean up the house (just more than before) and I had time to check up materials to make to teach bb all the basic stuff in preparation for our home schooling foray next year. I also had time to catch up on my dramas online and also to think about what I wanted to do for the next few months mainly.

For the birthday this year, not much planned, just had a quiet lunch at eternite with Ryo the day before. After lunch, we just walked around the shops abit, bookstores etc before going back to pick bb up. On my real birthday, it was just bringing bb for her jab and my dental appointment haha. Old age... birthdays get less and less eventful.

Monday, August 31, 2015

二千二十七: 8 years 8 months

Last month working with the UAT team.
It's been 2007 Jan - 2015 Aug = 8 years 8 months. Colleagues became friends, and most of us were about the same age so we all went through life stages together - marriage, kids.
The main sadness is because the team of colleagues/friends will not be working together anymore. (T.T) 
This last month is more of just making sure the team from the other company taking over our jobs have everything they need (I don't think they will ever have what we have, experience). Although with all the unwillingness for this to end, a part of me couldn't wait for this to end as soon as possible. So that I can stop all the late night work, so that I can stop being so impatient with bb, so that I can pay more attention to bb, so that I can pay more attention to my hobbies and myself and also maybe to Ryo, and so that I can have a good rest from working overall. It wasn't easy to be sacrificing so many nights every time there was a release due to horrible work by engineering, with our last minute shortened test schedules. It was easy before bb, because it was just my sleep, but with bb, it was all our schedules (Ryo had to stay up to look after bb who was staying up because I was up..) To tell the truth, I was also tired of doing the same thing day in day out. I dreaded waking up to work, especially during the test periods, and there was just no motivation anymore except not to let down my teammates. 
So the whole of August was spent waiting for the end to come. 
Outside of work, we had a road trip with our neighbours to Nagoya, over 16th-17th Aug, stayed at a nice place with a good bed (of course I KO asap as usual in a hotel room), saw Nagoya Castle and had a good dinner at an izakaya with lots of Nagoya specialties. We drove to a water park, which bb & Ryo enjoyed alot, but just an opportunity for me to laze around as I didn't feel like queuing for rides. 
There was also Bon-Odori at Meriken park. This year seemed to be a downsized version, with alot lesser food stalls and the neighbours had a new bb with them so it was hard to fully enjoy the event. 
End of August, James came for a conference and we had a chance to catch up. Feels like forever since I got back from SG, it was nice to have someone to chat with about what we're both doing at that time. 
With the reduction in work (and also lack of motivation overall at being jobless soon), I tried to bring bb out more, to legoland, to the shops, just out. Although once a week is more than enough, haha. 
September - time to grow another year older.... 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

二千二十二: Old Friends and a Holiday

DSC_7081blog
LokLok! - a Penang delicacy

After CNY, March was a slow month where I caught up with lots of old friends (>10years of friendship?). From uni, from JP, and I managed to take my first short break without bb!

in summary - because I'm blogging this in retrospective very very late:
- Met James / Shu Fen after like ... 12 years? I haven't met them properly since I left hall, besides James being at my wedding and although we are connected on facebook and we sort of know what's happening in all our lives, but it's just not the same as meeting up. Met the kids, met James' wife, had a good chat/playdate.
- Met Robert after 10 years? Last seen in Capcom until he resigned from his job, and I think he moved to Tokyo, and then by pure chance he was in SG for work so we met for dinner and drinks. Brought him to see the merlion, eat chicken rice, and basically took silly pictures today as tourists and had a good catchup.

Holiday!  I had to use up my miles by Dec-2014 so I redeemed my ticket to Penang since I haven't been there before. Umera was ok to go with me and she had a good friend who lived there and brought us around the whole time. (Thank you Ashley!) Penang was a fantastic place with good food. Lots of good food. We were eating all the time. I was supposed to facetime with bb in the night before bed but I kept forgetting, (oops...) but anyway she didn't seem to miss me so it was still ok. My parents and sisters kept her occupied and entertained very well! I'll definitely go again in future if I get a chance to.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

二千十九:A Warm & Cold Xmas

bb had her first ever performance. It was pretty fabulous, for 2 years old, (ok proud mum rambling on) but you can see for yourself.



After that, it was the last day of school on 12-Dec and we had to take off all the xmas deco from bb's classroom after school. It was a relief for school to end, so that I could have a holiday and bring bb to Singapore and no more fighting in the mornings to wear clothes and get ready for school.

We spent xmas and new year's day in Singapore. There was a few gift exchanges, etc, but seriously I abhor all the consumerism. You always get left with some stuff you don't know what to do with, although the really good friends will know exactly what to get which doesn't lead to waste. I appreciate all the sentiments, and of cos stuff for bb is always welcome, but I appreciate you making time to spend with me even more. A good meal treat is more than sufficient as a gift for sure.

This year was mild, and of course her godpa barely had time to spare for her. I kind of understand why we are shunned aside, now that he's attached. Because we're not as rich I guess.. and going out with us holds no benefit for him, unfortunately. What a materialistic world. I don't understand how spending time with a good friend living overseas will take time away from meeting with someone you meet with on almost a daily basis. But at least I met up with more friends this time, instead of prioritising my time for someone who didn't really want to meet. I had a good rest (from bb) with mum taking care of bb daily, put on some weight with lots of good SG food, had a taste of more normal working life in the office. I'll see everyone in Feb again, which is definitely too soon, but feels like it can't come soon enough. Although I know more of what to be doing this time. Spend more time with people who really care.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

二千十六:32

Oops.. forgot to do the post more so that I can read more in future.

First - the yearly birthday post.

Ryo made a big effort this year. I think it's sort of because I asked him (hinted?) a few weeks before the birthday if we could ask his parents to watch bb and kinda reminded him of my birthday. Then I saw the Cirque du Soleil advertisement and thought that since I haven't watched it before, why not? & asked Ryo if he was interested to watch and checked for seats on my birthday. Apparently tickets had been on sale since forever and there were not alot of seats left. Anyway, we took whatever best we could, and Ryo made secret arrangements for the lunch before the show. I wasn't feeling very upbeat about this birthday, to be honest, it was the first time I actually felt the pinch of getting old. Or just felt very jaded, tired, exhausted, blah blah etc. Because of bb? maybe. but it's just a combination of factors. I felt very underachieved, very unmotivated, very much felt like I'm wasting my life. I almost forgot that it was my birthday the next day until I got messages here and there from friends.

We went to Restaurant Varier (which accidentally happened to be just a short walk to the circus, because Ryo didn't know where the circus event was actually) and it turned out to be an almost 10 course lunch of french food. A very very very yummy lunch, it turns out, and bb was in the care of her grandparents, so we slowly ate, I could actually taste my food properly for a change. Alot of sweets and desserts towards the end & I got surprised by the candle on my cake. I'm not happy about my age but I did enjoy all the food. & I can always pretend to be 31 forever.

The Cirque du Soleil performance was amazing. It was alot of comedy and acrobatics mixed together, but no one seemed to really understand the miming or the acting of the performers. I was the only one laughing for most of it.

We went to Yodobashi to let me get my iphone 6 cover then we went back. Ryo went to pick the bb up from his parent's place, and I went home to try to make some dinner as we had to clean up the fridge of fresh food before the Hawaii trip. I had asked Ryo to call his parents ahead of time to tell them we didn't eat dinner, but as usual he ignored me and didn't call and they cooked alot of stuff but I was already cooking dinner also. super guilty.

Very mixed feelings.

I hope my thoughts clear up soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

二千十五:Looong weekend

It was a fantastic weekend!

I took leave on Friday because bb had her school excursion, so we went to Kawasaki World (all at Meriken Park so it was a convenient walk from home there in the morning.) I can only say it's not a great place for toddlers, not sure if they understood anything, more stressful for the mums to have to watch them in a public place. Since we are kinda preoccupied with watching our own kids, it was not really a good chance to interact with other mums. By lunch, almost all the mums and toddlers were exhausted, most were starting to throw tantrums, or wanted to nap. So we ascended Port Tower and bb suddenly began her tantrum. Whining, lying on the ground.. sheesh. With her teacher around I couldn't be more fierce, and was super exasperated.

DSC_4438blog
bb trying to sing?
After it ended, I had high tea with some Kobe mummies at the Kobe Oriental Meriken park hotel. Bb didn't nap as hoped, unfortunately, but at least she had fun with the other babies running around. (the high tea venue gave us some good seats with a space for the kids to run w/o disturbing other folks.) And finally, when we left the hotel, she fell asleep on the way home.

On Saturday, Ryo had to work, so I brought bb to the bear cafe and we had tea time together. She was kinda hungry I think, so she quietly ate bread while I read my book and ate my pastries. It was quite a good lazy afternoon. Ryo joined us after work for dinner and we went for some Korean food. BB had not napped so she was hyperactive during dinner and refused to sit and eat quietly so it was a very rushed dinner.

Sunday - we woke up late, and I was kinda thinking if we should go to Universal Studios. Since we had nothing planned, we decided to just head there. Even though it was 3+ pm when we reached, there was a Halloween event going on, and the park was opened till 10pm! BB enjoyed all the elmo items and toys all over the place, it was great fun for her, but of course the rides queues were crazy and she was still too young to enjoy most of the rides as well. The adults of course can't take any rides with a bb around, so we just enjoyed ourselves walking around the park and watching the performances. The zombies were quite cool, they were dancers in disguise, so everything the park blasted Thriller, they got into formation and danced on the streets.
DSC_4527blog
Sesame street performance
Yesterday, there was the SMAP concert. The last concert I went to was in 2005?? 10 years ago as well, but this is the first concert I successfully balloted via the official fan club ballot. It was quite fair I suppose, 9000yen (about S$130?) for each ticket and the system assigned seats. I was lucky to get the Arena seats - which was next next to the side stage, and just under their cranes, so my idol came so close overhead so many times!! It was fantastic, 4 hours long, and the Radwimps concert was a really quiet affair comparatively. The only thing was that the crowd was alot of obachans... and alot of grouchy obachans to say the least. bad experience with one of them, I would have pushed her down if she weren't so fat and anal. But that aside, I will definitely want to go again. IT WAS SUPER SUPER SUPER!

Last weekend, we went to a campsite at Awajishima for a stay at the log house with PS & Yusuke. We had bbq, fireworks, onsen, all in all a pretty good time, probably can make this an annual thing if possible!
DSC_4279blog
bb playing with sparklers

Sunday, August 31, 2014

二千十四:Thoughts

August = Summer = Fireworks

I was reading back on the older posts from 2008 and I realised that it's because I made an effort to post updates that I have stuff to read now. Although I must admit life was not as boring or as routine as now, now that I'm just at home mostly. And reading back on the annual birthday posts was quite interesting, to remember how friends celebrated my birthdays for me. Renewed appreciation for them in sg, and got me missing them all over again. 
August was like a week of breather after one project ended and then it was right on to the next project. Which kinda sucked, but I can't really complained because Andreu was long due on his vacation time and he did cover me alot alot alot for the past year so I had to hang on without him. & I really felt his absence very keenly - and Karthik too - when I had no one to cover me to do night calls or any other calls in case bb kicked up a ruckus during the calls. Thank goodness there were no major incidents, just small cute noises which the other managers laughed away. Also, I didn't realise Andreu was almost the only person chatting with me about random stuff daily. With him on vacation, I was practically talking to zero humans a day (online and offline, not counting the bb). how sad..... 
The older you get, the more complicated your life gets (maybe) , the more secrets you have, the less thoughts you share with people and the more you wallow in your own sadness and loneliness. 
There are so many things to worry about now that bb is growing older. School is one of them. Public kindergartens are cheap but lacks bilingual education. her semi-international pre-school / kindergarten has entry interviews for kindergarten level and cost like 1.5 million yen per year after everything is added up. I keep thinking I should send her back to sg for her education since bilingual is the norm instead there and CHEAP.  I mean, I don't think my university education even cost as much as her kindergarten.. So I've to check my finances, either mmm or cb in the words of Becky in Shopaholic.. (make more money / cut back) and hopefully my MMM plans get me some results. (trying to CB abit as well, but I think I'm already doing the max in terms of daily savings unless I totally cut out travel and lose my sanity)
I'm trying to get my driver's license converted as well, now that I've found the carshare program downstairs to be really useful for errands, but the process is so tedious that I'm already half disheartened by it. I hope I can get it by the end of this year at least. 
It's very weird how life (fate?) brings you in circles and take you somewhere you've been again and again. Every time I lose sight of a friend (J), another old friend (C) turns up out of the blue and contacts me. It's happened the same way 3-4 times, and I always wonder how does C know when to talk to me? We don't talk the rest of the time, only when he suddenly comes back into my life at the right time, and talk to me. After that we either talk more or run out of conversation. Actually it's my fault when the conversation runs out, because I'm not sure where the friendship is heading. But this time, J seems out of my life for good, so maybe I should try to be better friend to C. 

My year of being 31 is almost up... I hope being 32 will be the turning point for relationships, friendships and family, careers, wealth and myself. 

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