Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Secrets of a Working Mother, Part 1

Many people ask me how I am able to juggle both work and family without a maid. Just the other day, I was navigating the after-office-hour rush to fetch my elder boy from his primary school, with his little brother in tow. An auntie could not contain her amazement and asked me non-stop on how I manage to cook dinner everyday, fetch my boys, coach them with their school work and do housework while holding a full-time job.

I Have Done it Before

The first thing that comes to my mind is that it's really nothing spectacular. I did my part-time post-graduate studies in three years during which I worked full-time, was heavily pregnant with my boys and took care of the elder toddler too. I just do it because I have to.

I did not think much about it. It has also never crossed my mind that this itself was an accomplishment. A few years down the road, I met one of my former classmates who had just become a new mother after graduation. She told me that it was gruelling enough just being pregnant and then being bleary-eyed taking care of the baby, it was baffling that I could still squeeze in time for my part-time studies.

I supposed that it was my commitment to myself to complete what I had started. I had just commenced my post-graduate studies when my first child came along. As Lance Armstrong once said: "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." And I am definitely not a quiter. Giving up my studies was not an option. So like an athlete, I pressed on with my sheer will pushing over my body. Of course, my boys' laughters and antics made all the hardwork worth it.

The Training Ground

Then I had the training of being away from home when I became a stay-at-home mother at the United States. It was hard in the beginning. I was homesick - very badly homesick. And I suffered from cultural shock from all angles. For one, I was never a domesticated person. My cooking sucked and I seldom cooked at home. To add salt onto open wound, it was also very tough to get the Asian ingredients in a non-Asian country.

But desperation breeds ingenuity. I learnt new ways of cooking - using oven but Asian condiments to prepare fusion food. The 30-minute with Rachael Ray's cooking program was my favorite. From which, I mastered the concept of preparation in advance. E.g. frying minced garlic and keeping it for later use.

When I returned, I have also experimented with cooking food the night before and heating it the next day for dinner. There were a lot of learning points on what was the most efficient way, and how to cook in the shortest possible time, easiest way while still retaining its nutrients. All these are largely from trial and error which I would share with you in my next post.

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