When your husband works abroad and you have two kids to look after plus a job – it can feel like you HAVE to do it all
Megha Singh juggled a full-time job while looking after her two young boys here in Singapore while her husband worked in Malaysia during the week. It was overwhelming, hard work and her relationship with her husband suffered. Megha shares her solo parenting experience and how things have changed for the better post-circuit breaker.
I am not a single, separated or divorced mother but when my husband started working in Kuala Lumpur two years ago, it felt a little like that during the week. I had just had our second baby. I went back to full time work within 2 months of my C-section. My older one was in preschool. Luckily I did have support from a new helper (who needed to be taught the ropes from scratch) and my husband was just a phone call away for emotional support, but it still felt overwhelming and lonely.
Solo parenting in Singapore pre covid-19
For a while, I was really angry and bitter at my husband (it could also be postpartum hormones, I am not sure to be honest). He could just take off every Monday, stay in a nice hotel, have his meals in peace, watch TV in the evening and get a proper night’s sleep while here I was – working, pumping and managing two kids during the day and getting up four times a night to take care of the baby.
Our weekends with hubs back in town, were packed with activities – shopping, chores and doctors’ appointments. Hubs tried to cram as much as he could in two days and soon, I was actually looking forward to Mondays when we could all go back to our normal routines.
Of course, things are quite different now. Much better. Both kids are off to school every morning and have become fairly independent. My helper takes excellent care of the house and the family. We have become quite close and she is truly an important part of our unit now.
Singapore is also the best country to live this kind of lifestyle. It’s safe and family-friendly. Having live-in help is affordable here and makes a huge difference when you are solo parenting. There are no communication issues, public transport is great and there are apps for everything. Most importantly, my work allows for a flexible schedule which I can adjust to make it to important school engagements, parent-teacher conferences, an occasional school pickup or emergency medical appointments. Recently, my older one fell in the school playground and had to go to the A&E to get stitches. I was able to cancel all my meetings and received a lot of support from my colleagues. I do realise that many parents don’t enjoy this kind of flexibility so I appreciate this more and more every day. I now thrive on being the primary decision maker of the family and the primary caregiver to my boys. It works really well with my naturally dominating personality. Each day is planned down to the minute to make sure I am on top of work, household needs and the boys’ school schedules. They have also gotten used to Daddy being away most of the time.
Solo Parenting: Leading Separate Lives
The only worry is that hubs and I have become too comfortable leading our separate lives. There are also miscommunications galore, even with WhatsApp, Facetime and all other means of instant messaging. There have been times when we both thought we discussed something or shared something but we didn’t. We try to go on movie dates and dinners when possible but if it wasn’t for the boys, we wouldn’t really have anything to talk about. At this stage, it’s more important for both of us that the boys continue to have a deep bond with their father. Our personal relationship has a lower priority and this does make me sad when I think about it.
I guess it’s hard for my husband too. The boys love to spend all their time on the weekends with him. When they get sad or upset or afraid for any reason though, they will ignore their dad’s outstretched arms and rush to me. Hubs is not much of a talker or given to sharing his feelings but sadness at this rejection gets clearly etched on his face.
When my work permits, we try to spend school holidays together. Either we all go to KL or choose another destination close by. We both continue to work on these trips but at least we are all together. All I know for sure is that we want to be a family and we are working hard to make it happen.
There is one thing though. Most mornings, I wake up to find both boys in my bed. There is an arm strung across my neck and another leg flung across my waist. I always experience a rush of love and gratitude on such occasions and it really is the best feeling in the world. With my husband being away, both the boys have become only mine. I know it’s selfish but I don’t want to share them again. Ever.
So much has changed in just 9 months, not just for me but for all of us. It seems like the world is in one long labour with the pandemic, climate crises, economic collapse, political upheavals and man-made calamities. My concerns from a few months ago seem so petty now. I do believe though that something better and beautiful will come soon.
Hubs has been with us through these months. Having him around all the time took a while to get used to. He works much longer hours than me, so he took over the home office and I had to set up another workstation. I miss having the bathroom and the TV to myself. However, our relationship is stronger now. We argue, then we discuss, then we resolve issues. We joke around. We tease each other. We have started doing more things together which are not about the house or the boys but are just for us. Like playing tennis. The boys absolutely love having their dad around all the time now, of course. Hubs always makes time for them even when he is working 18-20 hours in a day. And luckily for me, I still wake up to find them in my bed most mornings.
I am actually surprised at how positive and resilient the kids have been through all the changes this year including the torturous (for me!) homeschooling. I suppose marriages and families that survived the circuit breaker and HBL are meant to last!