I was born and raised in Singapore. As a Chinese woman, I was raised to hold my father in the highest regard. I grew up watching my mother raise her family while taking care of our family business along with my father.
I watched her tend to all household chores, drive me to all the various school activities and work long hours past midnight. She worked tirelessly, but I don't remember her laughing, much. I remembered both my parents working a lot.
Growing up as a teenager, I idolized my father despite all the sacrifices my mother made to take care of us. I promised myself I will never be a wife and mother like my mother was because even at a young age, I didn't think she was happy.
In our typical Chinese family, my father took care of the "more important" things while my mother took the back seat. When my father is talking on the phone, my mother would get everyone to keep quiet so my father can talk on the phone. When my father comes home from work, I was taught to get a cup of tea or water ready for him.
Our lives, especially my mother's, revolved around my father's schedule.
It is not a surprise as I became a wife and a mother that I would put the needs of my husband and my kids before mine. I would feel extremely torn and guilty when I do otherwise. Many of my arguments with my husband in the past stemmed from the fact that I was generally unhappy.
Ever since becoming a mom, I felt a huge responsibility weighing on me. Because I had put my family first and "sacrifice" my needs, I subconsciously wanted my husband to do the same. I felt angry and annoyed when he doesn't. It was not fair that I had to be the one to watch the kids. It was not fair that I'm always the one who cleans up after a meal.
I know being a mother is the greatest gift in the world. I am so lucky and I am grateful. But I didn't feel like I was being called to only be a wife and mother. I knew I was called for more.
I have dreams. I want to fulfill my calling to help others. I want to make a difference in the lives of others. How could I figure all these out when after devoting myself to my family, what is left is just tiredness, resentment and anger?
I almost didn't make it to Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend. As much as I wanted to, the guilt of leaving my husband for two days to take care of the children by himself was too much for me to bear, even though he is totally capable.
With my husband's encouragement, and seven hours of driving, my girlfriend and I made it to the event. It was spectacular and unforgettable. I am grateful to have been able to experience it.
We were given a beautiful program to inspire us to write down our deepest hopes and dreams. We closed our eyes and meditated with Oprah and Mark Nepo. We hung onto every word of wisdom that came out of Elizabeth Gilbert.
I listened to the stories that Rob Bell shared and was reminded that the fact I'm breathing is a miracle. Iyanla Vanzant made us laughed for the women she talked about reminded us of ourselves.
After two days of workshop, this might sound cliché but my life has been forever changed. It's almost like the fog has lifted. I feel lighter. The tightness in my chest is gone. It's not to say I don't feel any stress. I still do, but that weekend has given me skills to recover from it faster and be able to stay on track.
There were so many lessons and a-has. I find I do best if I have one or two things to work with instead of ten. So I would like to share two that has helped me immensely.
1. Put yourself first.
Dare I say it? Put yourself at the top of the list. That might feel selfish and arrogant, but I promise you, it's not. You have to fill yourself up so you have something to give. Love yourself and know you are loved. Be patient with yourself so you can be patient with your husband and kids.
Fill your love tank up so you can love them the way they deserved to be loved.
When you put yourself first and fill yourself up, you allow your best self to operate when you are with your family.
2. Let go of the disease to please
When someone asks us to do something, we want to say yes even though we don't feel like it. Have you wondered why we do that? It is because we want that person to like us or to think we are nice, isn't it?
And then that person comes back again, and again and again. We have taught them how to treat us and we have taught them to keep coming back.
Let go of trying to please people. We are teaching people how to treat us by our actions.
These lessons may sound simple but they are among the hardest lessons for me.
Whenever I want to put myself first and feel the guilt at the same time, I repeat this mantra:
I am important. I need to take care of myself so I can take care of others.
I hope this will inspire you to take action and start taking care of yourself. You deserve it, you are important and the world needs you.
If you ever thought to yourself you will wait till the kids grow up or have more money before you start to put yourself first or start pursuing your dreams, I would like to share this quote with you. It is currently my favourite.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. - Goethe
Ling is a mother of two young children. When she was a new mother, she felt lost for a long time, trying to find her place in the world. Now she works on helping other women to embrace their lives and thrive. You can find her at LingAbson.com.