We are just into the second week of January and I need a break. A vacation. The kind where you don’t bring the kids so you can chill at a secluded beach, let the sound of the waves wash over you, and let your mind wander.
It’s been a pretty full-on week. On top of working full-time, I squeezed in a JC Open House, charity event, orthodontic visit, church group discussion and met up with friends over dinner. And then there’s the weekend with a meet-the-principal session, University open house, two birthday parties and a dinner. All while juggling the kids.
We are trying to fit too much into our lives, aren’t we?
I was telling some mums who were concerned about their kids being over-scheduled that they are like sponges. There is only so much they can absorb and everything else will spill over.
It is no different with us. We are rushing from one place to another. Have we stopped to think about our lives? The quality of it? Our connection with others? Our connection with our kids? Are we always barking at them to hurry up? Ferrying them from one activity to another without spending time with them? Do we know what is on their minds and in their hearts?
It’s funny how every time someone asks us, “How are you?” Somewhere in our answer will be “Busy lor, with work, kids, and whatever million other things we have on our plate.”
Since when has being busy become a badge of honour?
Have we given much thought about how we really are feeling? C’mon, there’s so much to do, who has time to stop to think if this is what we really want our lives to be, or if we are deep-down-contented happy.
There are bills to be paid, a household to run. And say, if we did reflect on how our lives are going, do we have the luxury to stop, if we find this is not how we want to live our lives?
#2 has been doing the JC Open house rounds with her schoolmates these past few days. They have 4 days to make a decision and fill in their 12 choices. She invited me to join her to check out her top choice (yes, now mummy can’t just barge in to the teenagers’ activities).
It was a vibrant scene. The aspirants were eager-faced and excited to join the big new JC world and the seniors and teachers were enthusiastic in answering their questions and encouraging them to join the school.
As I looked around the bustling hall filled with students, parents and teachers, as much as a part of me felt joyous that #2 will be embarking on a pivotal and memorable 2 years of her life where they will study hard, play hard and form solid friendships, I had a nagging feeling.
What have we, as a society, driven ourselves to?
Hearing about how hectic their week is going to be made me wonder if there can be another way.
Seems that for the subject combination she intends to choose, classes will end at 5pm most days, and CCAs are at 5-7pm on 2 days. #1’s school was along this bus route, and even though it is 4 bus stops away, during peak hour the buses don’t stop if they are full. Thus we expect #2 to be home between 7-8.30pm. Given that they leave the house at 7.30am, that is longer than a working day for adults! Factor in dinner, shower and homework, and it is beyond what a healthy day should look like.
I’ve heard from many that the weekends are not spared, and they spend it catching up on sleep, revising their work or meeting classmates for group work. My uncles who have been teaching in JCs for the past 30 years concur that times have changed and things have become much tougher than when we were in JC.
It is the same story for #1 who is in poly. She leaves the house at 8am and on days when she has CCA, she is back at 10pm.
This, my dear friends, is our school and work culture. We start over-scheduling our kids when they are in pre-school, the schools take over that job soon enough, and we enter the workforce where it is the norm. Somewhere down the line, we pause and wonder, how did we get here? This is not what I envisioned my life to be.
It is like the speedometer where you rev the car, the pointer is going up up up, and we keep revving, until it reaches the red point. It is no surprise that we have kids attempting suicide. There is only so much a person can take.
Something is seriously wrong. We are advancing so rapidly, but getting nowhere.
What can we do?
How can we slow down?
What can we cut out?
Running at full speed for months on end with only 2 long breaks in a year is hardly sufficient. How can we put more weekly breaks into our schedules so we don’t become over-stretched. Both as parents, and for our children.
As parents, we don’t even get the break we need (and truly deserve) during the weekends. There are still children to tend to and activities to get done.
I don’t have the answers. It is even harder for us with big families as things are multiplied and magnified. The good, the bad, the busy.
All I know is I need to not stop searching for a better way. I hope never to fall into the trap of going with the flow and end up feeling tired, overwhelmed and dejected. Because if we, who are supposed to be the pillars for our children, are ourselves overburdened, how can we support them?
Everyone is running on their own treadmill. In a big family, yes, there are more siblings to share their worries and keep an eye on one another, but there are also more children, more unique personalities and a higher probability of one falling through the cracks. And I only have so many hours in a day, and too many kids who need my attention (although I hear the same cry from parents with only 2 kids!) I do worry.
I guess I’ll start with baby steps. Spending time in silence always helps me to recalibrate. I need to be intentional about scheduling that at the end of every week to remove the build up of stress that has accumulated over the week of madness. And I have to engineer the weekends to be rejuvenating, instead of cramming too much in. Some things have to be relinquished.
The big question is, which ones?
You know what comes to mind? The story of the frogs. The one where if you throw a bunch of frogs into a pot of boiling water, they will jump out. But if you put them in water and slowly boil them, they wouldn’t know any better as the temperature slowly creeps up on them.
Are we slowly killing ourselves?
Lesson #5: Passion vs Family
Lesson #6: Finding our children’s gifts and talents
Lesson #7: Teach our children compassion by little actions
Lesson #9: What must kids do for us to stop pushing them over the edge?
Lesson #10: Who’s selfish? The kids or me?
Lesson #11: Confronting death teaches you about life
Lesson #12: To measure our lives in love
Lesson #13: The day they fly
Lesson #14: Do our kids even know we love them?