Tuesday, 14 February 2017

What does it take to keep a marriage going?

I have friends married for the second time and they tell me, "It's not easy raising kids and keeping the marriage going. Please share your wisdom!"

I'm embarressed to say that I don't have much advice to dole out, and happily married for 18 years is hardly an accurate description of our union. I'm still scratching my head, because those successful marriage cliches like "don't go to bed angry" or "go on date nights" are easier said than done. In the first 10 years of our marriage, I didn't even have time for proper meals, let alone go out for fun?

Anyhow, OUR MARRIAGE SURVIVED 18 YEARS!

I don't know how we made it through all those years with 6 kids thrown into the mix. It must be God's grace.

The odds were stacked against it.

We've had (more than) our fair share of arguments revolving around the usual issues of differing parenting styles, chore division, financial burdens, plus we were young. Young, immature and saddled with a child. And then some more. The responsibilities and obligations kept mounting, and statistically, this marriage would never work.

Seeing our brood, people tell us how fortunate we are, and automatically assume that it must have been a textbook marriage. It couldn't be further from the truth.

We all know what the experts say. Get married for the right reason, find common interests, communicate, communicate, communicate. I totally agree that all of that makes things so much easier.

But relationships are complicated matters. What if most of it doesn't apply to the both of you?

Friends who know us find us really amusing as we are poles apart in so many ways.

Common interests? The hubs spends hours on the golf course, while I do yoga with some mummy friends. I enjoy watching deep, meaningful movies, while slapstick comedy or battling it out on screen with the kids is his preferred form of entertainment.

He fills our travels with activities while I prefer to simply stroll around and absorb new cultures. When we were up in the mountains of Switzerland, his aim was to make it to the top and take lots of jaw-dropping pictures. Me? I stopped halfway, and I just had to sit there for an hour, letting the vast expanse of the snow-capped mountains envelop me. It was such a profund experience, being transported right into the palm of creation, listening to the sound of silence. When we regrouped, he was ecstatically showing me his amazing crisp shots while I was trying to explain my experience. We both could not comprehend the other.

Time and again, we hear how important communication is in a marriage. Well, the hubs is a man of few words, and when my friends with caucasian husbands sweep them off their feet with words alone, I do wish he was more eloquent. But I guess there are different levels of communication, no? I understand the hubs, without words.

We don't share the same religion, and in the early years when I saw happy couples in church with their offsprings, how I wished we had the same faith as surely, life would be easier.

I love to read and ponder things. He loves to tinker with gadgets and machines. He cooks, and I eat. Well, maybe marriage experts meant complimentary interests?
doesn't this make you hungry?
In today's world with social media encroaching into our days, one unfortunate effect is the "if only" syndrome. Suddenly, we are privy to other people's private lives. Well, the polished parts, mostly. If only we could afford luxurious holidays like the Tans, we would be happy and smiling.. If only you would buy me big, expensive gifts, our marriage would be blissful.. If only, if only.

Over the past two decades, our circumstances have changed in so many ways.

We tried to build a business together, in the hope of giving our children better opportunies, but it failed, and we went through tough times with no money in the bank and several mouths to feed.

We used to live all crammed together, 7 in a room (before Kate was born), together with my in-laws. Now, we have a nice place to live in, with lots of space. And if one day all of these were taken away, I doubt it would matter very much.

Material possessions do not make a marriage fundamentally any better. Yes, perhaps for a brief moment. Soon enough, whatever unhappiness or discontent that was there, will still be there.

Over the past 18 years, we have been through so much. How did we make it this far?

I think it was simply these. Trust, shared values and commitment. A promise to stick together. To try, and try again. No matter how hard the going got.

Happiness can be here. In good times or in bad. In a big house or a small room. In health or in sickness.

Look around us. The institution of marriage and family is being threatened. Raising kids and keeping a marriage going are probably 2 of the hardest things to do.

But they are worth it, aren't they?

Happy Valentine's Day!



Other lessons (which I've learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Chinese New Year 2017

Chinese New Year every year is more or less the same for us. A few weeks before, we start decluttering and spring cleaning the house. I'm getting better at letting go of things, yay! The hubs and I will make an annual trip to Yong Peng to buy his favourite pineapple tarts from a family bakery and seeing the table full of cookies in the red-capped bottles signifies the start of the season for the kids.
Breakfast with her bear
The day before CNY, the excitement picks up as the younger kids dress up for celebrations in school. By 11am, all the kids are home and there's a buzz around the house. With kids spanning such a wide age range, busy with their own schedules, I can see the wisdom in the reunion dinner tradition and schools and workplaces giving everyone half a day off.
Steamed bamboo clams with garlic
The hubs and our helper start cooking early in the morning and relatives come over for prayers followed by lunch. After which, the older kids head over to my parents' place to help prepare our steamboat reunion dinner. We have an early dinner with my family and return home by 8pm for Round 2 with the hubs' side of the family.
Yu Sheng
This year we had a lavish reunion dinner complete with freshly shucked oysters. Stomachs full, it was time for the rather riotous "lo-hei" ritual.
Annual family photo
We take our annual Wee family photo on reunion night as that is the only time everyone gathers at the same time.
Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets
Kate and her cousins, and the ubiquitous gadgets. This is what bonding looks like in their generation.

It's a long day for the kids as they woke up at 5.30am for school, and we call it a night just past midnight.
Look at those cheeks!
The 1st day of CNY is spent at my parents' place as that is where my dad's clan will descend. He is the youngest in a family of 11 kids, so it's twice as many relatives on my side of the family. Sadly, because we only meet once a year, my kids are not close to their cousins. We get home and the hubs starts cooking again for friends and relatives who come visiting.

On the 2nd day of CNY, we go over to my parents' place for lunch as relatives from my mum's side and family friends will gather, as they have been doing from as long as I can remember.
Bak kut teh
By Day 4, the hubs was exhausted from 4 days of cooking. We had friends visiting from overseas, and as the kids were back in school, we accompanied them on the drive up to Meleka. It was a nice 2-day break and we took things really slow.

We like this aunty's bak kut teh, and it's quite amusing how everyone at the coffeeshop sat and waited patiently as this aunty cheerfully prepares the claypots for one table at a time.
Memories
Felt like we were transported back in time as we strolled the streets and spent the whole day eating, without background complaints of "Where are we going? Why are we eating again?"

It's been a good CNY thus far with no tempers raised nor cranky meltdowns, only hoarse voices from too much bak kua and pineapple tarts.

I was asking one of my kids what she liked most about Chinese New Year. Is it the ang pows? "No". The food? "No."

"I like that there's a lot of people around. And relatives. And your friends."

There's grounding in family and traditions. I hope that's something we will pass on from generation to generation.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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