Today I celebrated my Little Baby Wombat, my youngest child, turning one. I had a very simple Aussie birthday party. Very, very, simple. Just three close childhood friends and their kids. Cake, pizza, chips, lollies and balloons. No party games organized, no MC, clown, or arts and craft table. No jumping castle or Choo-Choo train ride along my mum’s back yard. No bar man or catering. The party was very un-Indonesian (I love BIG FAT INDONESIAN Birthday Parties!) I just wanted my best friends to be around for one of my children’s birthdays and share the milestone event with (all of my children’s birthday parties have been overseas.)
As simple as it was, it was absolutely exhausting and it only lasted three hours! Birthday parties are so much harder without a maid or a nanny! There’s no one to clean or tidy up along the way. And there’s no one to watch the kids! There was only me and I was constantly attending to the party, or our guests; and then jumping to one child after the other, cleaning up after an accident that occurred (because there was no nanny to keep watch) or taking them to the toilet. I was a full time, bum wiper! I’m so relieved that this will be the last birthday party I will be hosting in a while. I’ve hosted three first birthday parties in such a short time span that I’m happily retiring for now.
The most frustrating part about today was that, while I was so tied up with running around, getting things sorted for the party, I was missing out of enjoying the moment and spending quality time with my children. After the party, my oldest son Jojo asked me to sit with him while he drew a picture on his chalk board. I had to tell him no because I was too busy cleaning up after the party. While it’s totally healthy to teach him that I actually do clean (and not just the maid!), I felt extremely guilty for not enjoying a simple moment with him.
And this is where it’s been difficult for me. In Australia, without the household help, I feel like I’m constantly running around, getting the kids sorted, bathing, cooking, feeding, cleaning, laundry. There is no relief. There is no time to stop for air. It’s so hard with three kids under the age of three. By the time I’ve dressed them all, fed them breakfast and cleaned up, they’re ready for their lunch!
And on top of that, they are constantly fighting for my attention, individual affection and entertainment! It’s so hard dividing myself across each child and daily household tasks. I wish I could give them each some quality time but it’s difficult when I’m being pulled in all directions.
I get so frustrated and angry at myself. Questioning, am I doing this right? There must be an easier way to manage my time with three kids so closely aged together? (I welcome any tips you may have!) Am I failing at parenting? Am I kidding myself into thinking that I can actually do it all? Maybe having a nanny to help isn’t so bad after all?!
But then I remember, this is what I wanted. I wanted to take a break from Jakarta and have a taste of the “normal” life. I craved my independence and I have to say, this is the best part about being back at home. For example, I love driving around with my kids. I get a chance to talk to them, tell them about my childhood, show them my old neighborhood and chat about simple things, like the traffic lights and road rules. Simple, honest conversations. That’s something we didn’t do in Jakarta. Having a driver to drive for us, freed me up and instead of talking to my children on the car journey (I have tried!), I chose to check my phone because I wasn’t occupied with driving.
I also realized that my having a nanny to help me with mundane tasks, like dressing them in the mornings, has stopped me from enjoying the simple pleasures of just being with my children during these moments. These ‘boring’ tasks are sometimes the most monumental to me as a mother because I get to see cute things like my Little Baby Wombat smacking his older sister’s bottom and giggling while she’s getting dressed!
I previously wrote about Connected Parenting and while I definitely had moments of feeling genuine connections with my children, doing the things that I loved to do with them, I am discovering so many more other things that I never knew that I would also enjoy. I realized that I don’t want to look back, in several years time when the children are older, and had missed out on these simple pleasures with them. I realized that I was picking and choosing which moments that I wanted to be a part of, not realizing that even in the challenging ones, there are treasures as well.
I think that this trip the best thing I’ve done since being an expat mother. I’m getting to know myself and learning about what does and doesn’t make me happy. I think I’ve finally found the middle ground and will take these lessons back with me to Jakarta.