As Bree Van De Kamp says, "I work too, I'm a Home Maker." (pix of Rosie The Riveter copied from

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tale Of The Maidless Horsewoman...

I've often been asked by friends and acquaintances this question : "How is it being a fulltime Stay-At-Home-Mom?", "I'm thinking of joining your club."

I always ask back, "Why? Aren't you happy at work?", "Do you need to be home to care for your kids?"

Most would tell me that work is okay, their remuneration packages are satisfactory, and they don't really have any serious complaints about their maids. So, why a SAHM?, I ask silently. They would then say that they are bored, they want a change, and they're fed up of maintaining their maids. They'd also ask me, "Would I need to have something to do at home, like what you have with JulesMD?", "Would I be bored if I didn't have anything to do?"

How do I respond? How do I?

And many have given me passing remarks like, "Alaa, Julie senang la, dia free dok kat rumah, boleh buat apa saje", "You best la, good life, can do your own business." Hmmm, envy much? :)

Well, my story shouldn't turn your eyes green. My story, should, I hope, give you a clearer insight to things...

Towards the end, I had been dissatisfied with how things were at work, and I wasn't seeing much of my child (Esfahan) because of work. To add to that, my husband's busy schedule took him away most evenings, nights and weekends. So it was inevitable that I made that choice. It meant that I had to give up a huge chunk of my aspirations, my financial independence, my self esteem, and just simply, myself.

It certainly wasn't an easy transition for me. To begin with, I had a challenging time dealing with being a wife, the fact that in many instances I was no longer the niece or the friend, I was now "...dan isteri". "...dan isteri"? How crappy is that? And now I have to deal with, "You kerja kat mana?". When I replied, "I kerja kat rumah.", I'd get that patronising "Oooooooo...". There was also the painful, "Oh, you don't need a degree in accountancy to be a housewife, do you?".

And it wasn't easy not getting that paycheck at the end of the month, that power I had to control my own life, to buy that new handbag whenever I wanted to, to go spa-ing whenever I wanted to. I'm not one to ask for things, if I couldn't get it myself, then I wouldn't have it. While Islam says that a husband must care for all his wife's needs, it doesn't say that the wife can't have any pride and dignity, and these two I had loads of! So, I must admit that it was quite a struggle for me, but in time I learnt to accept the changes and adjusted to them gracefully.

Today, I am happily occupied with my 3 darlings, and I have JulesMD to keep me sane. I am not yet ready to go full swing with my business though, because my priority now are my children, and I SO love every moment I spend with them. Maybe when Marrakesh has started school and all 3 are more independent, insyaAllah.

So, I hope you can now see the life of a SAHM from a broader perspective, including one who is maidless and sometimes desperate. Yes, I do strongly identify with Lynette Scavo! That was what I meant when I updated my FB status this morning with : ...all 3 boys @home, #1&2 fever tonsilitis, #3 running they sleep? Only when they hit 104! #1&2 upstairs w club penguin halloween, n marrakesh just said "mommy buat keje kat fon je la, kekesh nak tengok ultraman kat laptop mommy.", sapa2 yg nak jadi fulltime SAHM tu, fikirlah betul2... :)

Of course I still have my dreams, and I do believe that I've still got the hots to achieve them :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Style Icon

Audrey Hepburn. Who didn't love Audrey Hepburn. I became a hopeless after "Breakfast at Tiffany". Then there was "A Roman Holiday", of course. Even "The Nun's Story" caught my heart. And "Sabrina", oh, be still my heart... :)

She had style. The little black dress. That fashionably skinny figure. The oversized sunglasses. And my favourite, the strings of pearls. She was SO pretty! It's no wonder Givenchy wanted to dress her.

The thing about style is, it's inborn. You can't buy it from the department store, nor can you really get it from donning the latest Prada. You could borrow or copy, even beg or steal, but it wouldn't last, and people will know. Yes, you can keep up with fashion and the latest trends, but style is something that one is blessed to have been born with. And you don't need to spend any or mucho dinero for style.

These days, I have my walking "In Style" magazine to refer to when it comes to keeping in fashion. My darling niece, Medina. She's currently studying fashion marketing at a leading design college in the city. She'd tell me, "You can wear just about anything Wanchu, as long as it's in your size and you feel confident in it". And recently, I consulted her on what to wear to my friend's "40 & Fabulous Party"... :)

I used to have 4in heels, loads of matching accessories, and my watch would always colour coordinate with my outfit. But after the boys, I converted to Crocs wedges (which Medina strictly opposes to, just for the record) and no longer did I bother with accessories because they became utterly cumbersome when I was carrying or running after my boys. But handbags I still have. I must have. I always tell my boys, "Mommy's handbags are sacred!" These days, I am most comfortable with totes as they can fit all that I need - wet wipes, tissue paper, inhalers and kids' emergency meds.

I'm slowly getting back to clutches though, and practical hand held bowlers. I recently dug out all my Swatches that have been hibernating in my storage box next to my bed for so long; must get new batteries and get them to work again. I've also regrouped all my pearls and crystals, and have started re-wearing them to all my child-free dates with darling husband. Yes, it takes effort to be in fashion, especially when you're past 40, and you're not Audrey Hepburn. But it's an effort very worth your while.

And that handbag up there, I found it during Raya, at the Ekspo Ramadhan in Selama, Perak, darling husband's kampung. For RM20.00, it is indeed my best and most stylish buy this year :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

poe-TAY-toe, poe-TAH-toe; toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe...?

Ahh, I missed the garbage truck this morning! I'd been busy with my daily ritual, convincing Marrakesh that today will be another great day in school, while trying to give Damascus the same amount of attention. Everyday, Marrakesh would wake up whining "tak nak pegi skolah, tak nak pegi skolah,", and Damascus would respond with "Kekesh baby la, nanti takkan besar sampai bila-bila...", then they'd both start screaming at each other and would refuse to shower and this would go on for at least another half hour...

I remember when my mornings used to be settling in nicely in my cosy little office in a modern skyscraper in the middle of KL's Golden Triangle, sipping my hot brew that the tea lady had so courteously brought in for me, flipping through the day's headlines while my staff screened through my incoming calls, calculating at the back of my mind how much I'd want to propose spending on advertising next year and preparing myself to present this to the man in the penthouse office in the next hour...

Which do you think is more demanding, the former or the latter? And do bear in mind, in the former, I don't get paid.

Hehehe...but my ultimate reward comes in the former, after my boys see the bright light of brotherly love, and they jump at me with snuggles, hugs and kisses and say, "mommy best la, Kekesh saaaayang mommy!" Then Damascus would quickly jump in and say "Acus sayang mommy jugak," and plants kisses on my left cheek, right cheek and forehead. :)...

Anyway, about speaking English. That's one thing I'm trying hard to get Marrakesh to do. All he says now is "I speak English", then he gives his cheeky smile and runs off carrying on in Malay. Well, he's 4, so I guess he'll come around soon lah ha? Now, something about what Esfahan asked me yesterday.

Esfahan had had his Bahasa Inggeris exam yesterday, it was the centralised exam, where the questions are set by a centralised committee. As he was digging into his Mamak Fried Chicken (ya, mommy made mamak fried chicken for lunch...! haha!) that I had packed on my way back from meeting the fab ladies of KerepekLa, he suddenly asked me, "Mommy, how do you spell racket?" I quickly replied, "r-a-c-k-e-t". Then he asked, "Can it be spelled r-a-c-q-u-e-t?" I said, "Ya, can, it's a matter of choice and preference. Why?" He said, "Well, after our English exam today, my teacher asked how to spell the word." Inside my head, while munching on mamak fried chicken, I was thinking, "Heh? Your teacher is asking you how to spell the word? Heh?". Then Esfahan continued, "You see mommy, (yes, this is how Esfahan speaks, those who know him will understand) one of our exam questions just now, there was a picture of a racket, and the question asked us to choose the right spelling for name of the item in the picture. It was multiple choice, 2 of them were definitely wrong, but the other 2 were either r-a-c-k-e-t or r-a-c-q-u-e-t. Many of us answered r-a-c-k-e-t and some answered r-a-c-q-u-e-t. So, after the exam we asked the teacher about this because we felt it was funny. That was when the teacher asked us back." I continued to be bewildered, until Esfahan continued again, "Then the teacher says she will check with the exam committee about this matter."

Hmmm, what do you think? You say poe-TAY-toe, I say poe-TAH-toe?

My command of English is not ultra excellent, it's pretty good, sometimes a bit rough and clumsy and jumbled up, but basically it's good. I always get annoyed when people don't use English properly (I admit that I can get freakily touchy when it comes to bad English, yes, me crazy woman!). And I for sure wouldn't have prepared an exam question like that. Right? It's very confusing for the children. It already is burdening enough that we are still exam oriented, and to let the children be all boggled up with something like this, I think is very inconsiderate, not to mention unprofessional. Hehe, suddenly the word "incredible" comes in mind - credible, not credible, can we say in-credible in this context? Hehehe...

And I had time to tell Esfahan that r-a-c-k-e-t is also what he and his brothers always create when they're all playing together in their den, and in this context he couldn't use r-a-c-q-u-e-t. Let's not explain to him the other type of racket just yet la ha...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Domestic Help - To Have Or Not To Have?

Well, at the end of the day, as I always tell those who ask, it's really up to you...

I never really had a maid, a live-in one at least. When I was working, I used to send Esfahan to Lolak, our very sweet upstairs neighbour who used to watch over the other neighbour's children while they (parents) were at work. Lolak, or Aunty Maria, was the best. She would care for, feed and educate all the children. All I had to do was send Esfahan upstairs every morning before I leave for work, along with his change of clothes, milk, foods, and toys/books, and when I came back to fetch him after work, it was like he'd spend the whole day at a kindergarten playhouse class. Esfahan was with Lolak from 4mths to 4yrs!

Then we moved away from there and we said goodbye to Lolak. I had also left my job and became a Stay-At-Home-Mom. I had just had Damascus and though things were hectic, I still managed. Of course, I hadn't yet embarked on JulesFudgyliciousness then. But, overall, things were sane and orderly. So, it can be said that for about 1full year, I managed fairly successfully with 2 kids and a hubby, on my own.

But by the time Marrakesh came, I needed an extra pair of hands. Esfahan had started kindy, and Damascus was starting to walk, run, climb and jump all at the same time. So, one fine day, like it was meant to be, walks by a pleasant Indonesian lady, asking if there was any opportunity for her to offer us her service in housekeeping and childcare, on a daily basis, 8am-6pm, Mondays-Saturdays, for a reasonable fee. I welcomed her with open arms!

After the probationary month, I was confident enough to leave the boys alone with Ati, while I went out to run errands and rekindle my networking. Yes, she was wonderful, the boys loved her, and our home was kept neat and clean. But after a year passed, and as the boys grew, she began to show signs of low morale. Then came her problems, missing her kids back at her kampung and oh so many other things. I kept my cool, coz I figured that she is only human and it is normal for any human beings to go through all those things. Then after 2 years, she started to grow tired of minding the boys, she was more focused on cleaning house, even though I had firmly told her that she must focus on the kids, don't care if the house is messy. But I would come home after my errands to find the boys jumping up and down in their room upstairs, while she was busily scrubbing the bathroom floor downstairs. There was also one occasion when Marrakesh had cut his own hair! He was only 2+!

I didn't quickly let her go, coz she was actually a very nice and caring person, and she had been with us 3 years. But when she asked to discontinue her service one fine day after Raya 2009, I didn't stop her. I just wished her well and hoped that she finds peace and happiness.

So, since then, I've been doing my stuff during that tiny window I have while the boys are in school in the morning. I fetch Esfahan at 1.15pm, feed him and see to his needs. I then go out again at 3pm to fetch Damascus and Marrakesh from kindy, all showered, fed and napped. On days when I'm bogged down with massive brownies or gift orders, I ship the boys off to my parents in Klang, but only for 2-3 days at a time. My parents are 70, and they too don't have any live in maid, just a cleaner who comes by twice a week, 3hours each time, to help them keep their house in order. My boys are more independent now, and I have trained them to care for themselves as best as they can, eg. getting their own milk from the fridge and warming it up in the microwave, washing their own cups and plates, taking their own showers, and Esfahan helps a great deal, like a true Abang Long. Yes, they do their best, but they are still boys in their true sense, so I'm still going around picking up after them. Exhausting, and these days I'm lucky to get 5-6hours of sleep at night, but at least it's not as stressful as having to deal with a maid.

And yes, it was stressful dealing with a maid, and I had mine only during the day, so I can't imagine the rest of you who have to deal with them day in day out! Now I run my home according to my own standards, not as how she feels she wants to do it. I do not ruin my Tefal frying pan with a metal spatula; and I hang my washings in the nice, cosy area that I've especially allocated for laundry, not on the next door neighbour's clothes line, just because the other maid says I can. And I no longer get things like, "kenapa tidak buang saja semua sampah ni, susah-susah saja nak asing-asingkan kertas, tin, plastik, kaca." Yes, the house gets messy, but my boys are safe and I am happy, and things are done MY way!

Maybe I am among those who are just unlucky with maids, or I am simply too demanding and bossy. I still get help once a week to clean the bathrooms, dust and wipe, sweep and mop, and scrub the front porch.

On the downside, not having a maid means I've had to reduce my nights out, with only darling husband attending most of the khenduris and dinners. And I now have to plan my schedules and year plan more carefully. This can get rather annoying, but for me, it sure beats having to deal with the stresses of a maid.