Friday, November 21, 2008

Mother, In Spite Of Myself

I was chatting with a friend recently about having babies and I came to a surprising realization. I never really wanted kids and I still don't. It's not kids I want; it's Josie and Toby.

If Josie and Toby disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't want any more children. It's not the idea of motherhood that I'm in love with; it's not the day-to-day pleasure of being a mom that I enjoy; it's Toby and Josie. I wouldn't want to be anyone else's mother, simple as that.

I have many friends who were really into the whole pregnancy experience. I thought it was a very inconvenient nine months of my life. Times two. I didn't like being fat, clumsy, and toward the end, downright absurd looking. I was HUGE.

Some women even savor the delivery. I just wanted those things out of me so we could go straight to cuddle, cuddle, kiss, kiss. Skip right to baby-powder smelling infant in arms for the photo op.

And this pride in being a mother as a concept... I don't get into that either. I have no desire to be just anybody's mother. I want to be Toby and Josie's mother. Just like I have no desire to be somebody's wife just for the sake of being somebody's wife. I want to be Tony's wife.

So I realized that it's not the role or title of mother or wife I'm interested in. Because frankly, the idea of being somebody's wife or some snotty-nosed brat's mommy used to give me the willies.

But now that I have Tony, Josie, and Toby, I wouldn't have it any other way. That's made me realize there is something incredibly special about these three in my life - nobody, absolutely nobody else will do. They are utterly irreplaceable.


<*ANGEL*> said...

Well, when my boss got pregnant and when we visited her in the hospital after delivery, she told us that she never really want to have children...

That's cos she has a philosophy... "Children are cute... BUT only when they belong to other people." They are not so cute when you are the one who clean up their poo, handle their tantrums, etc....

I remembered that for many years and to a certain extent, have some fear towards motherhood even though in my grand dream of success, some day, I will be a mother of two lovely kids...

And then some years later, I got pregnant. I din quite like being huge but I enjoyed my pregnancy totally cos I felt like QUEEN! Hahaha...

When my son was born, I found him to be incredibly gorgeous. I could not believe I could give birth to such a handsome and cute little thing.

And now that he is 3.5 years old, I always tell others that my own philosophy now is that "Children are cute.. ESPECIALLY when they belong to you..." Nevermind the tantrums and stuff.. that's part of the package but just hearing him say that he loves me or just watching him smile seem to make EVERY grievience I have about the world go away.

My fren who has two monster kids beg to differ though:D

I believe that everyone chooses their own path. Anyway, I am sure Tony wouldn't want anyone else as his wife or he wouldn't have married you.. likewise, your children would want to be YOUR children... and would never want to trade places because you are probably a wonderful mother and probably the best and most suitable mother for them in the life lessons they have to learn...

Besides, after some years together, as a family, we would have developed bonding and this little warm, fuzzy feeling called LOVE...

JOHNHOON said...

Yah,pregnant is very tough!
My mother also always said that.She said when she pregnant,she lost her job!Always stay at home!

Anonymous said...

It is natural to love one’s family deeply. However, life is more than family. Those who just consider their family tend to be rather selfish. Their primary concern is family and themselves. Look not only to one’s interests alone but to others' as well.

When we look around us, there is the created world and other fellow human beings apart from ourselves. Loving God and loving your neighbours is a responsibility too. This applies to those with a spiritual direction in life.

Jemelle Chang said...

Hi Shin.

I like what you said in "Mother, In Spite Of Myself". Can you imagine, I have actually loved children since I was young. I loved carrying people's babies even though they were just a few days old, regardless of whose babies they were. I just loved the nice smell that babies have naturally. And I knew, even as a teenager, that I would someday have at least two when I got married.

When I got married, I had my child. I only needed to carry her in my womb for just 26 weeks and she was born! She was nearly three months premature. It was all because I had a urinary tract infection, ran a fever, the water bag burst... and she was born.

She was supposed to be born on 27th February 1999, but she came into the world on 22nd November 1998. She was in the incubator for one and a half months and in the special care nursery for another month before she came home. That was nearly the time she was supposed to be born actually.

Right after she was born, I had a hysterectomy due to the blood not being able to clot and I lost 60% of my blood and my heartbeat went up to 170 beats per minute! I was really close to death. I had ten doctors in the operating theatre, including two anesthetists. They were all trying to get enough blood into my body. Can you imagine - a first time mother, so fond of children, looking forward to a healthy baby all throughout the pregnancy, thinking that pregnancy was just another normal process in life because nearly every woman goes through it normally - and I got all this shock in one day.

My child had to be hooked up with all those tubes to the machines, while I was coping with the operation. I was resting in bed for quite some time, and then learning how to walk all over again... and the medical bills... It was a little traumatic for me.

Now, I am glad that she is turning ten tomorrow and I am just thankful that I had at least one child and I am no longer the person who just loves carrying other people's babies. I am just not as enthusiastic as before.

Some people asked me if I questioned God, was angry with Him, or wondered why this had to happen to me. To be frank, those thoughts never crossed my mind. Having a hysterectomy is not something to be ashamed of. I was thankful that I had a new lease of life and now I know why God gave me only one child - she is really a handful! But I am glad that I only need to cope with one and I can claim that she is all mine and my husband's.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin.

We ONLY want to be X's girlfriend, X's friend, X's daughter, X's wife, X's mother, X's... too many. And most of the time, we get hurt by our "only want to be", especially when the love is not reciprocated and you can't let go of the other party. It is tough but a blessing if both/all parties involved appreciate and cherish each other. That makes "we only want to be..." a very happy wish. Hope we can be like you, so happy in this aspect.
: )

Take care. I can feel your love for your kids and husband and I am sure they love you as much as you do or even more. : )

Anonymous said...

My very first nephew is due this Christmas Eve and I really am so eagar to see him at last! Sounds a bit silly, right?

I do like kids as well. However, pregnancy would be the last thing on my mind if I were to get married one day because I wouldn't know how to educate them. I love them when they are other people's kids and not mine. I would be a lousy mother, knowing only how to spoil them, which is terrible. But Shin, you really have a way of teaching Josie & Toby. And I'm impressed with that.

What exactly is marriage like? I really want to give it a try. But it's not a game! How I want a kid of my own. But it's not a toy!

I very much want to have a family. But the fear and responsibilities simply put me off. I know, I'm lousy...

Shin said...


Here's a bit of advice for you... don't give marriage "a try". Or motherhood either, for that matter.

As the sage Yoda said, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

Francesca Giessmann said...

Hey Shin.

DITTO! I knew we had something more than cancer in common.

When my husband and I decided to get married people asked, "What did you always dream your wedding day would be like?"

I said I never dreamed of a wedding day. I actually used to think that weddings/marriages were totally failed institutions.

I had never held a child (nor wanted to hold one) until I held my own.

But I have been married to a man that I love and respect more I knew was possible, and I hold my almost 5-year-old son every day like I want to squeeze him... and this makes me complete!

I am happy that I gave both these titles, wife and mother, a chance. Although I never expected it, they have made me HAPPY and I feel that my life is fulfilled. It does make it harder with cancer as the only thing I fear (and still do A LOT!) is their pain and loss if/when I go. But for the time being I am here, as are you... here... with them... holding them!

With love,


Apoet said...

You don't want kids because you have not known them. Whereas you already know Tony, Josie, and Toby.

Shin said...


No... I don't want kids just for the sake of being somebody, ANYbody's mother. I want to be Josie and Toby's mother, or nobody's mother.

Anonymous said...

I am a random reader of your blog, and I am full of awe and respect for you for being the strong, optimistic person that you are and the wonderful mom you are to your kids. (I have two kids of my own, and I never thought I could *love* a child till I have them, and now I cant imagine life without them.)

Anyway. I am writing to say how unbelievable some of the comments are. Gosh, some people are just so holier-than-thou and know-it-all. I cant believe anyone writing to a cancer patient who may have little time left on their hands would imply that they are selfish to consider only their family (and since when did you even say that?!). Geeeez, this is *exactly* why I am not a Christian, bleh!

Sorry for my slightly negative vibe. I hope you have a nice weekend with your sweet family. : )

P.S. I know how precious your time is, but I would really love to read more about your thoughts and insights on being a mom to your kids.

Shin said...


At the risk of offending the Christians who read this blog, I'd have to agree with you... that's the sort of holier-than-thou comment that turns me off Christians. Bleh is right.

In fact, I've decided to become even MORE selfish and remember that this is MY blog and I can say whatever I want. These are MY thoughts to leave behind for MY kids.

If any of this just happens to be interesting at all to anybody else out there, then great. Otherwise, I think those folks should go and find somebody else's blog to share their unwanted and/or uninteresting thoughts on.

From now on, I'm not going to post comments that I don't find interesting, thought-provoking, or productive in some way.

Whew! That feels good. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

P.S. My husband has said that his favorite posts are stories about the kids, so I'll keep your requests in mind and try to talk more about the kids.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

Would we want friends who tell us the truth about ourselves or do we want friends who merely sing praises most of the time?

A faithful friend may say things that may hurt us but they are for our good. A true friend gives good and sound counsel.

Shin said...


I assume you're referring to my last comment saying I will no longer post comments that are not interesting or thought-provoking.

This has nothing to do with whether I'm happy with the "counsel" people may try to give me.

I don't want this blog to deteriorate into a Dear Abby column or a place for people to vent their own frustrations about issues that have no relation or interest to my own situation.

I have to keep remembering that this is for my children. Twenty years from now, they won't care about whether some guy in Singapore their mother didn't even know was contemplating leaving his wife.

I'd like to keep the integrity and intelligence of this blog to a standard that will be of use to my kids many years from now.

So I'm very sorry, but this is not about you and whatever wisdom you feel you have to impart. This is about me and my children.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin.

I totally agree with your decision and I always thought we shouldn't bother you with requests unless maybe to seek your opinion or advice about cancer.

All the comments I left in earlier posts were left with the hope that you didn't let all those other comments sway you from your initial intention to keep this blog for your children to read in future.

I am really very happy to know that you will be back on your "right track/intention". : )

Yes, do post more about you and your relationship with your children, together time, etc. But of course, hopefully, you can get well or at least not get worse, so they will not only have this blog to read but the "real" thing.

Maybe you also have copies of videos clips for them to actually listen to your voice, "in real action" for your children. : )

Sincere hope and wish to you and your family. : ) JIA YOU!!! : )

Shin said...


Thanks. I really appreciate what you said.

Ronnie Ng said...


Nice post.

I tried to apply your words to my own situation & asked myself some questions...

You said, "If Josie and Toby disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't want any more children."

I asked myself, "If I were to die tomorrow, would I want to live all over again?"

You said, "I have no desire to be just anybody's mother. I want to be Toby and Josie's mother."

I asked myself, "Do I have a desire to be somebody else, or am I happy to be Ronnie Ng?"

You concluded, "That's made me realize there is something incredibly special about these three in my life - nobody, absolutely nobody else will do. They are utterly irreplaceable."

But the questions which I had asked myself made me realize that there is nothing incredibly special about me, and that I don't really like myself.

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng,

Funny you should conclude that.

Tony and I were just talking about you the other day. He asked me,
"Who is this Ronnie Ng guy on your blog? He always has interesting things to say. Seems like a really cool, smart guy." I agreed.

Of all the regular commenters on this blog, we look forward to reading your comments because you usually have something interesting and insightful to say.

Take this comment, for example. Leave it to you to think of applying these questions to yourself. I hadn't thought of that.

So I have to wonder why you think there's nothing special about yourself. Most people don't have the intelligence or creativity to even think of what you did.

And I wonder why you don't really like yourself when you seem to me to be quite an interesting, insightful, fun person - and this is coming from a stranger in the blogosphere who knows little about you. Maybe you're being a bit hard on yourself.

Besides... if you think about it, there's nothing really special about any of us. When's the last time anybody you knew personally did something to shake up the world?

ALI KATI said...

Hey Shin :)

I loved this last post. I've always felt ambivalent about the whole kids thing - theoretically I used to think it could be cool to have a child to teach and share things with, but in reality, the idea of being tied to a child 24/7 seemed overwhelming. And when looking at other people's kids, kids I don't know - it'd make me worry as I felt very little inside and it made me wonder if there was perhaps something wrong with me.

But recently, I got to know some kids - and found I could relate. I think it's exactly that - knowing the kids, and being able to relate, and knowing they liked me, made me think, hmm, perhaps I would be able to relate to mine, if I ever had any.

I identify with what you said - I don't get off on the idea of being pregnant, being impregnated by anyone, walking around receiving special attention or treatment, or that attention of having had a baby. I don't care about being thought of as a mother - I don't think motherhood is the end all and be all of self-fulfilment as a woman.

All that is just white noise, I think, to the central thing about having a child, which is that relationship with that child.

Shin said...

Ali Kati,

I didn't grow up thinking that one day I'd like to get married and have kids. It just happened and now I love it - not the idea, but the individual people, i.e., Toby, Josie, and Tony.

But being a wife and mother just to be a wife and mother... that's not me.

E xx said...

I feel the urge to write something on your blog, not least because I haven't seen you for bloody ages and I feel bad about it, we always seem to miss each other and the next few weeks seem bleak on that front too...
I like the way you are changing your blog because I was getting a bit incensed about the religious comments, religion is something that should be personal and kept to ourselves. Even if one doesn't believe in God, we all have our personal credos deep inside which keepus going. Some of us don't feel the need to tell anyone.

I agree that family is irreplaceable, but if for some reason another child (adopted, given due to circumstance, etc) came along, you would love that child as your own and he or she too would become irreplaceable. There's nought as good as family and that's the truth.

Can I get some more soup to you? Miss having our chats, I won't forget the time we got caught in the floods on our way back from Borders!! How long did it take us to get back??

E xx

Shin said...

E xx,

I'm reminded of those movies where the kid's dog gets hit by a car and is killed. His parents say they'll buy him a new dog, but he screams, "I don't WANT another dog! I want Rex! (or Fido or Fifi or whatever)."

Not that dogs compare to kids and husbands, but you get the point.

Ronnie Ng said...


Thanks for the validation. : )

Just that, when a distorted self-image has been built up over the years, it becomes such a stubborn stain, no amount of intelligent, creative reasoning can wash it away.

It's pretty much the same reason why Koreans are undergoing repeated cosmetic surgeries to fix a self-image problem, even when assured by others they look fine.

Anyway, I'm happy to see from your blog that Toby & Josie are learning good values from you and your husband - values which will help them cope with life as they grow up.

Looking forward to your next post. ^^

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng,

I'm reminded of something Eleanor Roosevelt said:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

E xx said...

I wasn't talking about a replacement, but an extra addition.

You know how men get when you're pregnant with number 2 and they say "Oh, I'm not sure that I could love the second one the same way" - that's what I'm talking about. Not a replacement, an addition. The men get over it.

I hated being pregnant too and I hated breast-feeding but was forced into it. I hated every minute. But I love my kids. Does that make me a bad mother? In America I would probably be put away for saying that. But Yuck.! (Just in case there are any American readers here, I did breast-feed my kids, up til 6 months, but I hated it).

E xx

Shin said...

E xx,

I suppose you're right. An addition would be different from a replacement.

Still, if Toby and Josie disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't have another kid - biologically, by adoption, or any other way. And if Tony disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't get remarried.

The idea of being somebody else's wife and mother just doesn't appeal to me. I'd figure I'd had more than my share of happiness while I had them in my life, and just be grateful for that.

By the way, I'm American (Korean-American), and I didn't particularly like breast-feeding either. I thought it was a bit weird. But probably like you, I did it because I was brainwashed into thinking my kids would grow up to be idiots who were allergic to everything if I didn't. ; )

Anonymous said...

Ronnie Ng,

Just for the record, I think that you have the best comments and are obviously extremely intelligent and articulate.

Sometimes the best people feel down about themselves. You are one of the best, you can tell by your comments.

The world can do with more of you, no idea where you live, but you should be feeling good about yourself right now.

Nely said...

Hi Shin.

I ran into your blog and read your cancer story. First, allow me to say THANK YOU! It was really helpful.

My mom has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer Stage 3B and I am looking at the option to have her treated in Singapore (My mom is Indonesian). May I ask you some questions about your oncologist and treatment, etc?

Shin said...


I will e-mail you.

ALI KATI said...


I think you've misread what I said. But never mind, it was still a lovely post.

Shin said...

Ali Kati,

Not sure. I wasn't correcting what you said, just adding on.

I still can't think of loving a kid for the vague idea of loving a kid. Loving Toby and Josie, yes. Loving a kid in general, as a concept... still doesn't do it for me.

lisacc said...

And this pride in being a mother as a concept... I don't get into that either.

Wow - that is the first time I heard someone put into words what I have always felt. I don't have kids, and I have often found it disturbing how so many women seem to obsess about "being the perfect mother" when they have kids.

Surely one just continues trying to be a perfect(ish!) person who now loves and cares for two kids? And that by default makes one a great parent, since a great parent is just a great person who is a natural role model? I've found it odd in (totally non-parent-related) forums when people have a username like "john_and_jenny's_mom" - I mean aren't they an individual person anymore?

It worries me too, since how can you expect employers to respect maternity rights and women coming back into the workforce when so many women - including many female journalists too, which is particularly frustrating - are vocal about how their jobs aren't so important anymore?

Obviously a child or relative who is ill or in need will always take precedence over any job, everyone knows that, but emphasising this is not very helpful to working women as a struggling group.

Ronnie Ng said...

"I've found it odd in (totally non-parent-related) forums when people have a username like "john_and_jenny's_mom" - I mean aren't they an individual person anymore?"


I suspect whoever has a username like that is most probably a Korean because all the Korean parents whom I know, identify themselves as XX엄마 or XX아빠... ^^

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng and Lisacc,

A little background... in the Korean language, we don't use first names for adults.

When a woman gets married, she is addressed as "X's wife". After she has her first child, she's addressed as "X's mother".

So when you run into your friend at the supermarket, you don't say, "Hi there Denise!" Instead, you say, "Hi there Johnny's mom!" It's just built into the language and the culture.

My brother (a Korean-American) has three kids and one of his favorite T-shirts says "Christian, Laura, and Sofia's Dad" on it. And he signs his e-mails that way as well. In his case, it's out of pride. He thinks being a Dad to those kids is the best thing he's ever done. If you met his kids, you'd agree, so I can see why he's so proud.

Still, as James Dobson once said, children are merely visitors in your life. They shouldn't be your identity or your reason for living.

Although in my particular case now, they ARE my reason for trying to stay alive.

Lisacc said...

Ronnie - it's almost Arabic, when women start being called "Umm Yousef" ("Mother of Yousef") instead of their own names. Men do it too - eg "Abu Ahmed".

But when I think of my own mother: admittedly to me she will always be my mother first, before she is a person or an adult or another independent human being, instinctively she is first of all My Mother.

However I really hope to everyone else she is first and foremost Mrs X Y, and not first and foremost lisacc's_mom.

E xx said...

I don't have pride in being a mother, I am one, whether I like it or not. But I have pride in my kids. Sorry if this is being repetitive. Sometimes I look at my kids (when I'm in a bad mood with them) and I think "where on earth did you get that trait from, surely not from me, must be your Dad") - kids are their own beings when they get out of your womb. No point in trying to make out that there's any pride in it. They are who they are. We can try to teach them manners, but that's bout it.

E xx

Ronnie Ng said...


I think the mother who's proud of calling herself XYZ's mom certainly beats another mom who'd rather place her self-worth on being "Blah-blah-blah Manager of XYZ Corporation".

JY said...

Just want to share an interesting hypothetical question posed by my colleague just the other day.

If some days/years down the road, the hospital where you had your child called up and said there had been a mix-up with your baby with another family and the baby you took home was not your biological child, what would you do?

1) Keep the child you took home.
2)) Exchange the child you took home for your biological child.

Without hesitation, I chose option 1. I can't imagine loving any child more than my beautiful daughter whom we have bonded so much with. It wouldn't matter if she were not my biological child. We have built up such a close bond that I can't imagine being separated from her. Even if the other family insisted on exchanging the babies, I would fight tooth and nail to keep my baby.

I asked my husband the same question and he agreed with me totally.

So how would you choose?

I believe you would arrive at the same decision as me.

Shin said...


Of course I would.