Mothers Make It Work: through challenges then and now

Motherhood – where do we start? It’s such a splendid yet nerve-wrecking journey.

Mothers make things work out for our family despite it all — despite the different challenges that life throws us all, despite naysayers, despite our own self-doubt and oft-disproportionate guilt, and despite the constantly changing circumstances just when we think we’ve gotten a grasp on this season of motherhood.

I guess what I’ve learnt is that for most circumstances, there is no one right way. And that is part of the beauty of the journey as well, figuring out what works best for your unique circumstances, the priorities of your immediate family, your personality and your children’s needs.

I’m always amazed at mothers who persevere through the most dire situations, fighting poverty or sheer bad luck in the card of hands dealt to them in this fallen world, to give their children all that they possibly can, so that their children can have a chance at a better life, due to their sacrifice. To such, a deep debt of gratitude is owed.

My maternal and paternal grandmothers were such women. Their husbands passed when their brood was still young, and they never re-married. My maternal grandma had to single-handedly bring up 8 children, the youngest of whom was under 10 when her dad passed. She also had to suffer the anguish of watching two elder sons die during the war years, due to lack of food.

It is a life that I cannot imagine. Her sacrifice, and the sacrifice of her older surviving children who helped contribute to the family expenses once they chose to start working as early as they could, helped the entire family stay afloat. Every child managed to get enough education to hold down a stable job, and in her later years she had the joy of having 15 grandchildren to dote upon.

My paternal grandma had 6 boys and 1 daughter (she persevered till she got the daughter she wanted! Then close shop, haha.) and my grandpa passed when their children were in their teens. Nonetheless, she nurtured a close family of filial children, and one of my earliest childhood memories are of our weekly gatherings at my paternal grandma’s home every Sunday afternoon, till she passed when I was in my teens.

Life was hard when the kids were young, and both my grandmas had to borrow money from their relatives or kind neighbours many a time for school fees and to keep their families afloat.

Despite all these odds, both grandmas brought up their kids with good values, taught them to steer clear of vices such as gambling and alcoholism, such that all of them turned out to be responsible adults who care well for their immediate families.

Personally, I count myself very blessed that I am able to parent my children in far less arduous circumstances.

I have a very supportive village, which allows me to hold down a full-time job in this season of my life. From my wonderful helper, who has become more of an aunt than an employee, to my parents and in-laws who are very involved in their grandkids’ lives, to my granduncle and grandaunt who help out and dote on the kids, and last but certainly not least, a very supportive and hands-on hubby who is very stretched with responsibilities at work and in church, but never fails to connect with the children daily and spend time leading us in family devotions weekly. For all this, I am grateful, every single day.

Sometimes, I feel that although the challenges facing a mother today are more trivial in some ways, they are difficult in other ways. The dilemmas we face require a lot of soul-searching and are less straightforward than for instance, simply ensuring there is enough rice on the table.

For the hubs and I, we hold a worldview that is shaped by our core Christian beliefs. Basically, that ‘this world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through’. Hence, we try not to hold too tightly to what we have or own, and try to live our lives in the light of eternity. We hope this cascades down to our parenting as well, in terms of our priorities for our children and our parenting styles.

In Singapore today, I feel that there is a stark imbalance towards the relentless pursuit of academic success. It almost borders on fanaticism, and Christian parents seem as caught up in it, if not more so (propelled by the ‘Christian ethic of work’, some may say).

The standards in our schools are very high, and I feel it even in the non-elite school that my kid is in. Whilst stress can be managed by parent and child regardless of school, I can’t imagine the all round pressure that my friends have to withstand to ‘choose the path less travelled’, if their kids are in elite schools, which inevitably have a larger proportion of helicopter parents and competitive kids by the sheer effect of self-selection.

As a mother, how do I make it work? How do I balance the difficult path between encouraging industry and doing one’s best for the Lord, yet not over-emphasising the pursuit of academic results?

All I can say is that it’s a fine balance, and depending on the day, I could feel that I am veering off in either direction. But that’s parenthood, isn’t it? Reflecting such that we know which direction we want to take, and then calibrating the rudder now and then, whilst trying our best to keep our eyes on our ultimate vision.

And to those who say that we have ‘no choice’ in Singapore, I believe that every parent has a choice. We can choose to live counter-culturally, we can choose which school to enrol our kids in, and we can choose how much to focus (in our daily conversation, in how much time we spend every week on academic enrichment classes) on chasing stellar results.

Sure, we want the best for our children, but is chasing academic success as a prelude to career success really ‘the best’ path?

So I try, in my conversation with my kids, to strike a balance such that our conversation does not always focus on school work, and I consciously ensure that it is not the first topic when I get home from work. We encourage them to work hard, to stay within the school average for exam results and ensure that they have a certain level of mastery of a topic, and help when they ask for assistance with homework. We try to reinforce in conversations and through actions on what we believe truly matters in life.

Sure, every kid can achieve more if we plough in more resources, more time, more energy, more focus on school work or any specific sport or skill. But is that what we really want them to remember of their growing up years? The endless pursuit of results? Not to mention what such prolonged conditioning does to their mental psyche, and how they define themselves.

Ultimately, we depend on the grace of God on our kids’ lives, and seek His wisdom on how best to calibrate our parenting styles.

No one has a monopoly on the ‘right way’, and we can only pray that we do our best to maintain the right balance, given our family circumstances and our kids’ personalities, within our convictions on how to live our lives, and what truly matters on the final day, according to our beliefs.




This post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well.
To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.
If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out this one at Owls Well to hear from guest poster Cat K! Cat K is a happy-go-lucky pharmacist who currently lives in Melbourne with her family. Apart from raising her two tween-aged kids and managing territorial disputes between her pet rabbits and cats, she also finds the time for baking delicious cakes. In her post she’ll be talking about the difficulties that she faced as a young mum in relocating to another country with young children in tow.
At next week’s stop we will be visiting Elisa at Give Them Roots and Wings where she shares what makes it work for her at this new stage of her parenting journey.
Elisa is a part-time working mum to three boys – two teen and one tween. She works with Kindergarten children. Her job is to lay in them, a strong oral-aural foundation in the English language and develop a strong disposition towards the English language. She is learning every day, to enjoy her older children the way she enjoyed them as little ones.
I personally always enjoy reading her posts, because they are full of honest reflections from her heart, and I gain much wisdom from her generous sharing!

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  4 comments for “Mothers Make It Work: through challenges then and now

  1. July 6, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Wow. I got chills reading about your grandmothers’ struggles. Thank you so much for sharing this on the “Mothers Make It Work” blog train!
    Debs G recently posted…Schindler’s List (1993): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)My Profile

  2. July 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Very well written! Always love your writing and sharing. So true, we depend on God’s grace in parenting, His call over our call. In generations after another, there’s the same constant, sacrifice.

  3. August 2, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Dear Lyn,

    Hi, this is Charlotte, hope you still remember me ! same sense of uneasiness for me as well, my daughter just in Primary One and I hoped she could just had a happy year , but the social force made us no choice, every school now gives lots of homework @@ but I don’t see if she really learnt more @@

    • August 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      Hi Charlotte! It’s been such a long time!!
      Yes, in Asian countries like ours… somehow the pressure is immense. I can only hope to stick to my guns and have the last laugh 20 years down the road.
      Btw, my uni friend Christine Ma is doing great work trying to change HK parents’ mindsets to focus on developing character in their kids instead of just academic results. She’s been doing a great job!

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