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‘There’s a protective mama bear part of me who just wants her kids to herself.’

Cherilyn with Kids at beach in Taiwan
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

Many times when I had finally finished my work and was excited to spend time with my kids, they ended up preferring to play with our helper instead. It really kills me inside.

It took me a relatively long time (and many counselling sessions) to finally admit that I needed to hire a helper. Why, you ask? Though I refused to admit it, I trapped myself in traditional stereotypes and imagined I’d be the perfect stay-at-home mom who loved every minute of it, created Pinterest-perfect breakfast platters, cooked up a feast for dinner, and planned fun, educational activities for the kids. (Read more about this part of my story here). But when the transition from one to two kids proved too difficult to bear – I mean, it got to the point where I was literally just trying to keep everyone alive – my counsellor helped me realise that maybe it wasn’t a weakness to hire a helper.

Read more: Where to Go for Counselling in Singapore

But I struggled with this for a very long time because it felt like hiring a helper would mean admitting failure and defeat. It meant that I couldn’t do it on my own, and I couldn’t live up to the seemingly perfect example that my mum had set for me. I always ask her how she did it. She quit her job when I was two and raised three girls in foreign countries with hardly any help. ‘By God’s grace,’ she would say, and I didn’t really understand that until I became a mother myself. But that’s another story for another day.

cherilyn with family at desaru beach
Image Credit: Brandon Chang

When I finally decided to hire a helper, I was intentional about making sure that I was still very involved with the kids. I didn’t want my helper to raise my kids, while I went on my merry way to go shopping, spend the day at the spa and peacefully enjoy high tea with my besties. Not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to enjoy these ‘not-so-guilty pleasures’ because we certainly need to make time for this too, but I still felt I wanted to be very present with my kids.

I asked my helper to take care of the house, cook our meals and step in to take care of the kids when I needed a breather or needed to work (I wasn’t working full-time at the time, so I spent most of my days with the kids). But when I stumbled upon this wonderful job as a Sassy Mama writer, I didn’t realise that this would mean I would spend less time with the kids and possibly end up ‘losing’ them in a sense.

Let me explain. When we started thinking about hiring a helper, we heard plenty of horror stories about people inviting seemingly capable and competent helpers into their home only to have them abuse the kids, run off with money or worse, accumulate a debt and disappear into oblivion so the employer would have to pay. We could only hope and pray that we chose the right one. Thankfully, we have been blessed with an incredible helper who not only takes good care of our house and cooks our meals but is also great with the kids.

cherilyn with kids at activesg event
Image Credit: Brandon Chang

Now, here’s where I struggle. On one hand, I’m so grateful that the kids love her, because I know they’re in good hands when I have to step away to get work done, run an errand or squeeze in a workout for my sanity (and health, of course). But on the other hand, there’s a protective (and almost selfish) mama bear part of me who just wants her kids to herself. Many times when I had finally finished my work and was excited to spend time with my kids, they ended up preferring to play with our helper instead. And can I be honest? It really kills me inside. The only way I could spend time with them is to tell them that the helper needs to get other things done (which she often does since there’s plenty that needs to be done around the house).

I’ve always been here, and I’ve always been intentional about spending quality time with my kids whenever I can. Perhaps I’m not always super ‘fun’, but I most certainly have invested time and energy into my kids. And that’s why it hurts so much more when they’d rather play with someone else.

cherilyn with family at museum of ice cream
Image Credit: Brandon Chang

Sure, I probably still have a lot to learn. Maybe I need to lighten my attitude or find more stimulating activities to entertain the kids so they’d enjoy playing with me. I’m still trying to figure it out. And if my kids read this one day, I hope they know that I really, truly tried my best and that I’ll always be here for them.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and hope that I’m not the only one who feels a ‘protective mama bear jealousy’. My sisters remind me time and time again that I’m their mum, and no one can ever take my place (though sometimes, a part of me thinks that there’s a ‘better’ mum for them out there). In my mind, I know that I can’t do it all alone. I salute (and am almost jealous of) mums who can hold a full-time job, raise the kids on their own and still claim to enjoy motherhood. I wish I could do the same. But I’ve come to realise that every mum is different, and I guess I simply can’t be everything to everyone without accepting a little help, and that’s okay.

If you resonate with my struggles, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. You’re not losing your mind. Your feelings and struggles are totally valid, and you’re trying to do the best you can with the time, energy and resources you have. And the fact that you even care about establishing a loving relationship with your kids just proves that you’re an amazing mum. I’d give you a hug if I could, but for now, let’s just focus on being grateful for what we have and continue putting one foot in front of the other.

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Featured image credit: Brandon Chang 

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