may sucks

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Before my kids started school, I looked forward to May because it meant that I was almost halfway through the year. For some reason, I find the months of January to April rather depressing. This year though, May has been nothing but mayhem.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Planning for June holiday activities for my kids.

Both my P2 girl and K1 boy are going to be home for the next four weeks, ending up bored and squabbly if left to their own devices. They will eventually get sick of watching TV and tablet. They can only complete so many pages of the activity and assessment books I’ve bought them. My mum guilt will set in if I don’t plan activities and take leave to spend time with them. Speaking of which, I have leave to clear and the best time to do so is during the June hols. That just adds to the stress of holiday planning, doesn’t it?

So far, I’ve signed my girl up for manga drawing classes that she requested. That required a fair bit of researching, enquiring, and multiple checking of calendars to make sure that I (or another caregiver) would be available to send her and pick her up from the classes. She asked for some play dates too – that’s on my secondary to-do list. As for the boy? He’s barely 5 and probably content to have me watch him play with his toy cars, so we’ll see how it goes.

2. Dealing with sick kids, one after the other.

I fully understand why some parents would enable “mass infection” to happen within the household when one family member falls sick. Most of the time, they simply lack resources to isolate the sick person, and it makes logistical sense that everyone in the household catches the bug at the same time (if possible) rather than in a spaced out, haphazard fashion. Which is what happened to me. Boy fell sick last week, girl fell sick this week. And I’m not sure if their viruses are related. (I sure hope so!) With the rise in Covid and HFMD cases, every detection of fever and sore throat in my children throws me into mild panic. Those detections have been happening practically every few weeks. Bless my heart and other parents’ who are going through this.

3. Trying to recover from a series of viruses myself.

Here’s the sad truth about motherhood we don’t talk about enough. It’s a big deal when kids fall sick – and rightly so, since they’re lacking immunity and more vulnerable. But when the parents are ill? They are expected to rest up for a day and get on with life. Without alternative and reliable caregiving help, who’s going to look after sick kids other than the default parent, well or unwell? Unfortunately my immune system has taken a hit. I caught two viruses consecutively, effectively cancelling my April. Just as I was at a 90% health score, I came down with another infection.

This tragic chain of events led my GP to prescribe antibiotics and advise me to start the course if I didn’t feel better by Day 3 of medication. As someone who scoffs at the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, I ended up popping those pills on Day 6 as though they were my panacea. I’m not proud of it, but that was the hope (thanks doc) I needed to feel less guilty about being sick and unable to recover within a week like many expect me to.

4. Trying to confirm staycation plans.

I hear the gods laughing. Once upon a time on 1 April, I was hopeful enough to book a 3D2N staycay at my children’s fave destination, Shangri-La Singapore. Now with viruses holding us hostage, all I can do is pray that we will be well enough when the time comes. Note to self: When travelling with kids, always go for bookings that offer the flexibility to cancel up to 24 hours before. Because you never know.

5. Planning for Parent-Teacher-Meeting sessions.

Here’s another thing about May that parents don’t get warned about: The barrage of school work (termed “holistic portfolio”) your kid lugs back from school that you have to see. Look, I love my kid but it’s A LOT to go through and appreciate in one sitting (including trying to understand why she repeatedly misspells “crab” as “carb”), sign (on multiple pages!), and pack. Speaking of which, you’d better have a filing and storage system, for all that paper. And that’s just one semester.

Then comes the finale called Parent-Teacher-Meeting. Aside from deconflicting calendar events to nail down a slot, I have an important assignment: Prepare thoughtful, nonjudgmental and within-boundary questions to ask the teachers without sounding like an idiot. Grateful to parenting coach Jacinth Liew’s tips:

6. Trying to get work projects flowing.

Ahh, work. It doesn’t stop just because I have sick kids and June holidays to deal with. To be fair, I took a few days of MC from those bouts of viruses, but they were just enough to let me catch up on sleep. My cough and phlegm symptoms lingered for weeks while I tried to carry on with work as planned. The more rest days I took, the more painfully aware I was about the pile-up: things I’d vowed to do, things people were chasing me for, things that gave meaning to my life. So the second half of May has been about making up for lost productivity over the last two months. While at it, I think I’m coming down with something again

7. Trying to be actively involved in birthdays that matter.

Birthdays come and go, but if the yearly occasion is forgotten or not celebrated in some way, it would inevitably dent the relationship. At least, that’s what birthdays of close friends and family members mean to me. For some reason, there are many May babies in my life. Considerable time was spent on planning birthday stuff: when to celebrate, what to do and eat, what cakes/presents to order, and coming up with birthday text greetings that reflect my heartfelt wishes at the moment. Sometimes, a good old “Happy birthday” message doesn’t quite cut it.

8. Trying to resume a semblance of my workout routine.

Two months of being unwell has taken a toll on my fitness life too. Some muscles have shrunk and some bits have loosened from weeks of simply shuffling from bedroom to bathroom and living room. There’s only so much strength training I can get from carrying my 16kg son from the bed to the bathroom twice a day. My arms and core are craving the burn from chaturangas (yoga push-ups); my back, shoulders and spine are aching for sweet release from downward dogs. Climbing the stairs to my house once a day only helps marginally in maintaining my cardio fitness. I need to get back into the groove of liberating catch-me-if-you-can outdoor runs. I need free-spirited, self-serving movement. At the same time, I’m paranoid about catching yet another bug while living my fit life outside. Can anyone feel me?

9. Trying to deal with the crazy hot and erratic weather.

I think we can all agree with this. May weather is historically sh*tty. But this year’s is extra sh*tty. The above-average scorching temp makes me hallucinate ice pops, bikinis and swimming pools. All I want to do these days is hibernate in my air-conditioned room till September comes. The heat is killing my brain cells, I swear. But my work and home KPIs are still there.

Estelle Low is the editor of The Singapore Women’s Weekly. She loves her kids unconditionally, but hates how parenting is a severely undervalued job. She thinks the world would be a better place if more mums open up about their struggles and ask for help. DM her on Instagram (@estellelow) if you have something to share.