Parenting: How a reluctant mother’s journey went from regret to gratitude
A Singaporean woman shares how she balanced her career aspirations and traditional views on motherhood, and making difficult choices for her family.
In an interview with Yahoo Southeast Asia, *Jenn, a 55-year-old mother, bravely shared her difficult journey through motherhood. In respect of her privacy, names have been altered upon her request.
Upon hearing the words, "Congratulations, you're pregnant," from the doctor, I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss. My honeymoon in Hawaii had just ended, and the news was unexpected. At the age of 27, I felt unprepared to become a mother. Despite good wishes from family, I could not help but wonder why I felt unhappy about having a human to call my own.
In those days, motherhood was considered the pinnacle of success for women; a husband, a job, and a child on the way were the ultimate validation. However, I felt almost a sense of regret, unable to comprehend what was happening to me.
I found it difficult to confide in anyone as I feared judgment. When I did, friends offered clichés like "You can never be ready to be a mother." With no other options, I realised I had to embrace this new role and make it work. I bought 20 books on pregnancy and spoke to my mother and mother-in-law for advice, but I soon realised there was no perfect formula for becoming a mother.
Becoming a mother was a different battle altogether, and even though I had many concerns and worries, I kept them all inside. Looking back, I realised that it was an unhealthy way to cope. When I was six months into my pregnancy, the nervousness engulfed me.
I received advice from many relatives on how to raise my child, but I was still unsure if I was ready to be a mother. My husband tried to be supportive, but I was still uncertain.
When I gave birth to my daughter in 1996, holding her felt surreal. After six hours of labour, the natural birth had finally ended. I could not believe I was responsible for this tiny human being. But I knew I had to take care of her, and that was a fact I had to embrace.
The sacrifices and trade-offs
However, having a child came with many unwanted changes. including the impact on my career. As a bank officer at a major bank, I was doing well and was sure I was due for a promotion. However, that dream came crashing down when I had to make a tough decision.
I would usually send my daughter to my mother or mother-in-law while I was working, but that soon became an issue with my mother-in-law. She reprimanded me for not quitting my job to care for my daughter. I felt wrong because I was serious about my career and was concerned for my daughter. I had faced several sleepless nights to care for her and yet brought myself to work sharp at 9 am every day.
I started to question myself and wondered if I was being selfish. Was it wrong for me to love my job and want to provide a comfortable life for my daughter at the same time? I wasn't neglecting her; I temporarily put her with my mother or mother-in-law while working. Why was having a career when I was a mother frowned upon at that time? My husband could support us, but was it wrong for me to still want to be independent?
I regret my decision – quitting my job immediately to take care of my daughter full-time. Some would call me selfish for saying this, but I regretted my decision because I felt that I was caving into my mother-in-law's traditional beliefs.
According to her, mothers cannot work and must take care of their children themselves. It was a no-no to send a child to childcare because they must be with their mother. Several times, I argued with my mother-in-law, but the pressure became too much.
As I sit here and reflect on my journey as a mother, I cannot help but feel grateful for the decision I made years ago. Looking back, quitting my job to become a housewife for four years was one of the best decisions I ever made. It wasn't an easy decision, and at the time, I was worried about the message I would be sending my daughter. But now, as I watch her thrive in her own life, I know it was all worth it.
Watching my daughter take her first steps, hearing her first words, and just spending time with her as she grew up was a priceless experience. It was a reminder that being a mother is a special feeling that cannot be replaced. Yes, there were sacrifices that had to be made, but they were all worth it in the end.
I must admit, in the beginning, I was not ready to be a mother. I was scared, just like any first-time mother would be. But as I watched my daughter grow, I realised that I was made for this. I was meant to be a mother, and I was good at it.
I remember feeling terrified at the thought of becoming a mother because I was scared that I would end up like my mother, who had seven children and couldn't take care of them all properly. My mother was so overwhelmed with her responsibilities that she even contemplated aborting me when she found out she was pregnant with me. This knowledge only added to my apprehension, and overcoming my fears took me a while.
Now, as I look at my 27-year-old daughter, I can't help but feel proud. She is an amazing woman who has accomplished so much in her life. I know that my sacrifices as a mother significantly shaped her into the person she is today. And for that, I could not be more proud to be her mother.
In the end, I realised that being a good mother is not about sacrificing everything for your child. It is about finding a balance that works for you and your family. It's about being there for your child when they need you the most and watching them grow into the person they were meant to be. And for me, that is the greatest feeling in the world.
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