updated 8 Jun 2012, 09:21
user id password
Mon, Feb 13, 2012
my paper
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Mums, it's okay to have 'me' time
by Clara Chow

AFTER a particularly exhausting week, wrangling two monkeys - I mean, sons - I mumbled something about needing to buy some things to the husband, and bolted out of the house.

Later, as I giddily bought yet more nail polish, pink blushers and red lipsticks I didn't need at a cosmetics emporium, I found myself gradually approaching a state of bliss.

Helping myself to the testers, I started to feel less like a sallow-complexioned part-time housewife, and more like the girl I used to be before becoming a mum almost six years ago.

Maybe it was the fluorescent lighting, the cheery muzak, or the shopping-mall smell, but as I wandered around the fashion boutiques, fingering the sales items and trying on avant-garde mesh party dresses, I fancied that I was regaining the youthful spring in my step.

A couple of hours later, as I toted my buys home, humming a happy tune, I came to a stunning realisation: I am happiest when I am in a shopping mall sans my kids.

Contrary to what some militant mums, motherhood missionaries and male chauvinists will tell you, it is not a crime to really, really enjoy spending pockets of time away from your kids.

It might sound un-politically correct. But the expectation that mothers must enjoy every waking moment with their bundles of joy is something that society, viewing women as free childcare labour, has consciously and subconsciously cultivated.

It has become so prevalent, that women who cannot stand to be with their children for various reasons, ranging from post-natal depression to being trapped in traumatising marriages, are labelled as defective and missing the maternal instinct.

In a Daily Mail article last week about mums who fail to bond with their kids, the headline blared, "We didn't love our babies", with the subhead, "Three women break motherhood's greatest taboo".

Ostensibly a sympathetic article, it nevertheless sent out mixed signals in the way it was projected.

A photograph of one of the mums featured had her unsmiling, looking stern, stiff-backed and unnatural in high heels, sitting with hands folded apart from her cute 14-month-old daughter - a posed portrait that accentuated the "monster mum" subtext.

When my elder son Julian was still a toddler, we spent all day, every day, together. I would wait for him to fall asleep while we were at his grandmother's house, then nip out for a frantic window-shopping expedition and be back before he woke up to inconvenience anyone.

It helped keep me sane, and escaping to my consumerist heaven meant that positive vibes spilt over when I returned to play with my boy.

Initially, I felt guilty that I was enjoying this "me" time. I felt that I was imposing on others, as the responsibility of looking after my child was nobody's but mine alone.

Over the years, however, I have come to realise that it is better to take breaks from your kids, or you might end up screaming at them over trivial matters.

When we were dating, the Supportive Spouse bought me the most thoughtful presents: a bass guitar and amp that he lugged up three flights of steps to our apartment, when I went through a rock-star phase; a handbag with a Nancy Drew print, to suit my bookish tastes.

When Valentine's Day comes around again tomorrow, however, I'm hoping he won't get me a gift. Instead, he could say: "I'll mind the kids, you go buy something nice for yourself."

That'll be music to my ears.

For more my paper stories click here.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2012 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.