Complicated

Really? This weekend has been quite a thought-provoking and uncomfortable one. Simply because, the end of the year is here and it’s the season to think about what happens in the next few years. That is very tough for me because I’ve not been one to move my own chess pieces or rock the boat. 

The questions do seem very complicated. 

Do I/we want to further our studies?

If we get a scholarship or didn’t have to pay the entire tuition fee on our own – why not? I’m not entirely closed to the idea but I’ve also not given much serious thought to it.  

Then the question is what do I/we want to study? 

Something related to our individual areas of expertise – Chemistry and History? Or something related to Education? The latter makes sense to me if I am going to be in education for a while, which is what I want anyway. 

Should we look for local or overseas Uni options? 

HJ has no qualms studying and living overseas – kid or not kid but I am paralyzed with fear when I think about it. I have no idea where to begin thinking. 

What about childcare options? My mom?

Can both of us study at the same time? 

What is going to happen financially? 

And after all the above is said, am I even cut out for it? 

Clearly I don’t have the answers to all my questions above yet.

I probably need to think really carefully about what happens after my current stint. 

Previously in 2013, I did consider doing a Masters in Asian Studies at a local Uni but before I could submit my application, I was given a posting to where I am now. What was originally a 2 year stint has become a 4 year one (ending in 2018). 

At that time, it was quite clear that God had other plans for me even though I thought I had a plan – the Asian Studies Masters. 

However, I am really not so sure what to think now. 

Somedays, I can’t help but think that a lot of decisions would have been easier without Nat in the picture. Want to go overseas to study? Sure. 

However, there’s no point having such thoughts because Nat is a reality. Having my mum retire early to take care of him is another reality. The fact that both our parents are getting on in years is also a reality. 

The only straightforward thing I’m getting out of all these is that there is never really a good time to do anything. 

– CK

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One less day with Nat

So last month I made the decision to return to work 4x a week, instead of my current 3x a week. This transition to a 4/5 workload will commence next week until the end of the year. That would mean having one less day to spend with Nat but even as I return to office from Tue-Fri, I still have Mondays with him. So why this change when I could continue to enjoy spending more time with him? 

  1. Childcare arrangements – We are very fortunate that my mom, who has retired can look after Nat when I go into office. Next year, when I return to work full-time, she will be the one who’s going take care of him full-time too. So I figured that I shld gradually transit back to a normal work week by going into office 4 days a week in the last quarter of this year. I also felt that it was a bit ‘excessive’ to have my mum, myself and helper all present on Mon and Tue to take care of Nat. 
  2. Personal preference – This may sound out of this world but I feel more at ease returning to my previous work routines. I can’t really explain why but when everything else pertaining to the house and/or baby gets a bit too chaotic, I am more zen when dealing with work matters. I guess it could be because I approach it in a very systemic manner i.e. is there some issue to resolve? how can we solve it? There’s not much emotions involved whereas family and kid-related matters are always messier. I think I’ve always been the kind of person who compartmentalises my life – so when it’s time to work, I try not to let family or personal issues creep in. In the same way, when it’s family and/or me-time, I’ve started to mindfully keep work out of the picture. 
  3. Income – Being on a 3/5 load since May meant that my income and everything else like vacation leave, childcare leave etc. were prorated to reflect my part-time load. I started to feel the pinch when certain things and my lifestyle was not adjusted accordingly. Debit items such as monthly car loans and insurance premiums had to be maintained but I also didn’t really cut down my expenditure that much. What I had to reduce slightly was savings but now that I’ll be converting to a 4/5 workload, I can resume my previous saving habits. 
  4. Long-term – Looking forward, what I enjoyed over the past 4 months is really a privilege. Yet, I know that it’s unsustainable in the long run. Whether I have 1 kid or 2 kids eventually, I am 100% sure that I need to work full-time. I guess it’s really for my personal sanity purposes. So this part-time arrangement is a temporary stint that I cannot become too comfortable with else adjusting back to full-time work in 2018 is going to be more difficult. 

It’s not easy but necessary. 

It also helps knowing that even if I am not physically with Nat, he’s being well taken care of and that’s all that matters. 

– CK 

Weekly Adjustments 

Sometimes I feel that my part-time arrangement requires more adjustment? Weeks are divided into 2 and I find myself having to recover from a long weekend syndrome every week. Then I read this article on mom’s returning to work and I guess the main takeaway is – “it’s important to remember sometimes you just can’t do it all, and that’s okay.” 

Things at work will never be the same as they were before Nat. There’s a new office, new colleagues, new pieces of work and my new work arrangement. 

Things at home will also never be the same as they were while I was on leave – I was at home daily and everything related to Nat (his feeding/sleeping/waketime schedules) was managed by me. 

This was probably why in the first 1-2 weeks, it felt like I didn’t much control over things and that made me want to control even more. In particular, Nat’s daytime naps because if not structured properly, his nighttime sleep may be affected. 

This made is quite difficult for my mom and helper too because they were the main caretakers on the days I’m at the office but I found it impossible to just let go 100% because once it’s 7pm, we are the ones that go home with Nat and take over from there. 

In the end, we arrived at a consensus to monitor/structure it such that he doesn’t nap longer than 4 hours. Technically, babies around Nat’s age (7 months) need around 3 hours of naps but in view of how he has greater sleep needs, we’ll use 3-4 hours as a gauge. 

Anyhow, back to the weekly ‘bipolar’ struggle. It’s getting better but still feels strange. Maybe it’s just me. Every Friday I hit a low because I know that it will be 4 days before I go back to office. Then I want Mondays and Tuesdays to pass by faster so that I can get out of the house. 

To be honest, there’s also not much guilt, which the article points out that more often than not, it’s self-imposed. In fact, there’s no reason why there should be any guilt. Some people prefer to stay home but others, would rather not. I guess I am more like the latter. 

– CK 

Escapism 

I could do with such a life, just lounging by the pool. Now with Nat, we take turns to do laps while one of us accompanies him. What’s missing, that I’ll try to remember for our next staycate is some booze and a book.  Anyhow, I think where this all stems from is possibly my need to escape. Escapism – the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities… 

So yes, after 6 months of maternity and childcare leave, I am going back to work tomorrow.

In retrospect, I think 5 months away from the office is the sweet spot. 6 months may be a tad too long?

It was a little frustrating in the last few weeks – because I was facing a baby, helper and dog daily.

I’ll be honest, the initial months after Nat was born were really about coping and just staying on top of things with regard to ensuring baby eats, sleeps and poops well. Thereafter, once our helper arrived in February to assist with the household chores and some aspects of babycare, I think I got bored. Nat was also on a routine that required minor tweaks as the months went by but things were predominantly the same. This is going to sound crazy but I look back on the first 3 months fondly, where it was just the two of us, coping and eventually getting the hang of caring for a newborn.

So fast forward a few months, I guess the more irritated I got staying home all day, the more I wanted to escape at any chance I could. Lunch/dinner meet ups, grocery runs, massages to fix my right neck & shoulder, jogs around the estate, going to the gym, doing laps in the pool… I just had to get out of the house.

Maybe after going back to work, and only being home on Mondays and Tuesdays, this feelings will become less pronounced and I may yearn to just be at home more.

People are like that. I guess I’m like that.

The grass always seems greener when you’re on the other side of the fence.

T-1.

– CK

Time Extension 

I was supposed to go back to work today but I had to extend my childcare leave by 2 weeks while we work out childcare arrangements involving my mom and helper on the 3 days that I go into office. So I get 14 more days to spend with this little rascal 🙂 

Some preliminary thoughts… 

I think I could do with having both work and Nat in a week. Though I’m sure the 3 days in office is just the minimum amount of time I’ll be spending on work. Yet, I need to be mindful to not swing the other way and enter my “workzone” especially when I am at home and Nat’s awake. This reminds me of his newborn days when everyone advised us to catch up on sleep whenever the baby naps. I guess now, we will be trying to catch up on work whenever he naps. 

Thus far, we’ve also been very fortunate to be able to have a regular weekly routine going. Every Friday we would bring Nat out in the evening and every Sunday, we’ll drop him at my mom’s place so that we can go out to do things that we won’t be able to do with Nat i.e. foot/back massages and watching movies. 

Moving forward, we’ll probably swap them around because my new office would be in town so it would make sense to go out without the kid on Fridays and then bring him out on Sunday evenings. 

T-14 days. 

I just hope I don’t take too long to get back into the hang of things. Afterall, Nov 4th 2016 (the last day I was in office) is a very long time ago. 

– CK