A new semester is about to begin. After all the blood, sweat and tears of four grueling semesters of part-time graduate school, I am left with two core subjects, one elective, and my final project (a thesis that will take up two whole semesters). The finish line actually feels very close at hand now. Fancy that!
I still can’t believe how I managed to survive the past four semesters, given everything that I have on my plate. The last semester was the worst of them all — not only did I have three subjects (one of them being THE dreaded Corporate Finance class!), but my maid of five years also ran out on me, going off on holiday in her kampung (village) and never coming back. I actually took steps to to take a break for one semester but, in the end, I could not do so because by then, it was too late to drop the subjects that I’ve taken and it would have resulted in automatic Fs for me in all three subjects. So I plodded on, even if it felt like crawling in thick, slippery mud up to my ears. And, with God’s grace, I survived! God, indeed, does not burden a soul more than it can bear.
People ask me
all the time now, more than ever, “How do you do it?”. In an article that I wrote for a Polish magazine way back in 2009, I attributed my ability to juggle my dual responsibilities of motherhood and a career to three things: (i) a commitment to make it work, without losing sight of the objective; (ii) being blessed with an excellent support system; and (iii) being lucky enough to live in Malaysia. Those three things are still very much relevant…especially (ii), now that my mum lives with me!
And after 4 semesters of MBA classes, case studies, and term papers, I’d like to highlight one more thing about this whole motherhood-career-study juggling thing: you can do everything and be everything…just NOT at all once.
It’s not an original answer by any means. I know I’ve read it somewhere. But it resonates deep and true. There is only one me and there are only 24 hours in a day. So within those 24 precious hours, I can do everything that I need to do, just not at the same time. And I often have to make painful choices to let one thing go so that I can give priority to what I deem to be the more important matter. It can be as simple as reducing the house cleaning to a once-a-week affair, just so I could get my homework done. Or it can be as difficult as deciding to skip the last 30 minutes of an online lecture because my Little Dragon needed me. In fact, about a week before final exams, there was a night when I shoved all my textbooks to one side and decided to join my kids’ ‘Movie Night’ at home — all the kids gathered around the TV in the living room, lights out, volume turned up slightly more than what I usually allow (the latter being attempts to simulate the cinematic experience), watching a DVD of their choice. And you know what? That single night off didn’t make me flunk. Neither did it kill me.
Sometimes I feel that us, working mothers or even stay-at-home mothers, are too hard on ourselves. We put up the bar way too high, expecting nothing but perfection, and worst of all, comparing ourselves to some imaginary ideal, usually stereotypes perpetuated by movies or TV shows. I know now that there is no such thing as a perfect mother; there is no such thing as a Super Mama. We are all humans, fraught with our own frailties and faults. We have good days and our own share of bad days. Sometimes we feel it’s worth all the effort; sometimes, we feel like dropping everything and just
running walking away. We can only attempt to give it our best at any given time, with whatever information and resources available to us at that time. After giving our best, the rest is in God’s hands and we no longer have control over it.
Sure, we all make mistakes and it is expected of us to learn from those mistakes so as not to fall into the same hole all over again. But at the same time, we should not dwell on those mistakes to the point of falling into despair and giving up altogether. Life is still beautiful, despite a few dark days every now and then. We are where we are because we are meant to be there. Whatever happens, we need to keep the faith that He is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing, and the Best Planner of all.