A year and a half ago, I was in an office, sitting at my desk, attending meetings, or running around at work events in crisply ironed shirts, pencil skirts, and stiletto shoes. This was back in my home country, where I was a working girl on weekdays and a wife and mother on weekends.
Spending a good part of my life at the office and having a maid and two nannies basically rendered me clueless when it came to domesticity. Sure, I played with my kids and read to them and took them on playdates and out of town trips, but I never had to clean them up or feed them. I left that to the nannies.
But when the time came for us to move to Canada, I was thrown off-kilter. I was forced to face the fact that I needed a crash course in domestic life.
Working girl no more
From the onset, we already decided I wasn’t going to work when we got to Canada and my husband would be the sole breadwinner. For one, daycare is expensive, Two, we weren’t comfortable with the idea of leaving our kids in the care of strangers. And three, my little boy didn’t take well to people he didn’t know, so I didn’t want to traumatize him.
Of course, my decision to take leave from the corporate world, after 12 years of being in an office, was met by raised eyebrows. I could read everyone’s thoughts: You? Stay home and take care of the kids? You love to work! You’ll get bored and your brain cells will die being stuck with two kids all day, every day. So into unchartered territory I tread, dreading the anticipated boredom.
Boy, have I been anything but bored.
No Wolfgang Puck
Let me wash dishes. Make me scrub toilets and bathroom floors. Allow me to iron clothes. But please don’t make me cook. That’s right. I’m not a foodie and I only eat to survive. So I have absolutely no interest in concocting dishes. Heck, I couldn’t even boil water. But what’s a wife and mother to do? Letting my family starve was not an option. So armed with determination and loads of dread, I tried learning some dishes before we migrated.
I started by whipping up pasta dishes. Simple, no-brainer stuff that thankfully turned out decent—oh except for that one time I emptied the entire contents of the pesto bottle into a small serving of noodles. It was too thick and gooey and my husband had to force himself to swallow it down. Oops!
But I’ve sort of gotten the hang of it. A year into our stay in Canada, I follow a recipe book, but only stick to the simple stuff. Yes, pasta is still my default dish because it’s fast and easy to make. Of course, like any responsible mother, I have to make sure my ingredients are healthy. Organic fruits and vegetables, whole wheat stuff, nut-free snacks. Grilled and baked, never fried.
But I believe in moderation and too much of something can’t bode well. So on days when I’m too exhausted or can’t think of anything to cook, we indulge in the occasional fast food meal. I figured, if I don’t expose my kids to junk food, their deprivation might get them addicted when they discover it later in life. As long as they don’t consume it on a daily basis, I don’t see any harm in exposing them to it every so often.
Tide and Mr. Clean Who?
I only knew of washing machines and dryers in theory. Why? Because our maid hand washed and dried all our clothes for us every day. So when we got to Canada, I was totally clueless as to how to operate the two machines. How much detergent should I put? How big should my laundry load be? I’d always end up pulling my clothes from the dryer half-wet because the load I had put in was too big or I didn’t set the timer long enough. One year and many shrunken clothes later, I think I’m learning. Now, it’s my husband who does the laundry and I have the easier task of folding and storing. Teamwork at its best!
No nanny, no cry
When we first got here, having no nannies was probably the most overwhelming experience I’d ever had. I had no choice but to put my act together and attend to the kids’ needs all on my own. Good thing all my years in the corporate world have made me a master multi-tasker. While feeding one kid, I’d be running to the bathroom to wash the other one’s butt after pooping, then dressing all three of us up. Oh, dressing up during winter can be such a pain! All those layers to put on, only to remove them when you get to your indoor destination, then to put them back on before heading outside again. We’d occasionally have a missing mitten or hat or button, but nothing that would leave us with frost bite or hypothermia, thank you very much.
The toughest part of my crash course
There’s a reason I was never a teacher. I never had one shred of patience with kids. Playing with them, yes, but teaching them? No way. And that’s why patience is now the toughest part of my job as a mom. Whether it’s toilet training my two-year-old or wracking my brain for answers to my four-year-old’s ceaseless questions--most of which I don’t even know, by the way—I’m sometimes tempted to take the easy way out by going back to the corporate world and dumping my two kids in daycare.
Fortunately, those are just the bad days. On good days, I’m glad to have free reign on my kids, ensuring their proper growth and development, which I believe is done best by their mother and not some caregiver. Our kids are only young once. In a few years’ time, they’ll be wanting to hang out more with friends and less with their boring, old parents. So I’m grateful I’m around them almost all day every day, now that their world still revolves around me.
And for those who said I’d get bored or lose brain cells because I don’t have a corporate job for mental stimulation--you have yet to be at the receiving end of my precocious four-year-old’s nosebleed questions!