Category Archives: Parenting Stories

The Story We Tell Ourselves

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them – Karen Blixen, The Human Condition

2 days ago, I woke up, disturbed by a dream: I was in a bookstore and it was Christmas. At a distance, my mother was giving out presents to everyone. My brother came up to me, waved his present in my face and taunted, “You don’t get any present because you don’t deserve it!” I sat down and cried.

I was jostled out of that dream, not only I was feeling immensely sad and helpless, more importantly, I was very disturbed by how close it echoed my subconsciousness and reality. Even though I had stopped talking to my mother for my own mental health sake, she still disturbs me in my dreams.


In the years when I was still in contact with my mother and had serious problems with her, my social circle was quick to criticize, judge and condemned my behaviour as someone ungrateful, difficult, sensitive or like my Christian ex-boyfriend described me as “evil”; most of the time, sympathy laid with my mother. But my aunts and grandmother were quick to point out to my mother at how harsh and unfair she had discriminated against me. For what transgression? Even I was baffled at what I had done to deserve this. No matter what I do, nothing pleased her. If I didn’t do according to what she wanted, she would be so incensed that once I ran off crying and trembling to the core. Woe befell onto me if my father was ever upset with me and my mother knew, my mother would use that as an excuse to mete out the silent treatment and pull out the “I don’t deserved a place at the dinner table” card on me for a whole month. What about my siblings? I never saw them gotten any punishment. I was delegated as the nightly dishwasher, while I never saw any of my siblings done any household chores. Yet week after week, my mother complained that we treated her like a maid and never helped her in any household chores. I occasionally vacuumed and mopped the floor, hung the clothes out to dry, washed the dishes for the whole family every evening and yet I was accused of not doing any work. I could scrubbed the pot sparking clean and burned the midnight oil studying all night, and yet praise was never ever doled out to me. “Why don’t you use your common sense?” berated my mother if I did something “wrong”. When I became an adult, her smarting comments gave way to loud sighs.

Life outside home wasn’t exactly peachy. I dreaded the weekly gatherings with my paternal relatives: “Go back to your (maternal) grandmother, you are not wanted here” yelled my younger cousin when she lost to me in our games; “Why are you so stupid!” exclaimed my older cousin when I went to her for my Maths problems (my school gave us 100 Maths questions that was supposed to be for gifted/advanced students) and I could not understand how algebra works (I was only 11, I hadn’t even started algebra); to escape the intolerable discrimination and feelings of being unwanted, I got myself lost in books, yet my older aunts and uncles taunted, “No wonder your father lost in mahjong, you brought him bad luck by reading books!” (In Chinese, the sound of the word, book 书 shu, sounds exactly like the word, losing 输 shu, even though both are different characters and meanings). Even my own father started to believe that I never brought him any luck; he said when I was born, he was still living in a rental room. When my brother came along, he could afford a car. When my sister came along, he could afford a condominium. To cope with the painful awareness I was the unwanted one, I started to draw cartoons. The more depressed I got, the happier my cartoons became. The more I drew, the more I destroyed them by burning or tearing them up. I never got to develop my voice to express my sorrows so they were expressed in twisted ways – by tearing up my cartoons in frustrations. Since I couldn’t destroy myself, I could at least destroy my own creations. At the same time, for some unknown reasons, I gave some of my works to my friends who claimed that they still kept it after more than 15 years. They helped me believe that I have talents, that I am useful, that I am appreciated for my talents. And that saved me from completely destroying myself – I never picked up smoking nor drinking. The greatest achievement? I am still alive and didn’t commit suicide.

The fact that I chose to live and the belief that I can survive gave me the courage to seek a new life outside Singapore. “If God and miracles are real, show me!” that was the dare I made the day I decided to move to Turkey 12 years ago. I was looking for a place I belong, a place I’ll call “home”.

The story I tell of myself is vastly different from the story my mother tells herself. “God will never listen to your prayers because your heart is not right!” claimed my mother one day when we went out to pray together. I was then going through a divorce, getting out of a horrible abusive marriage. Like what my mother believed, I bought into the belief that I don’t deserve happiness and that I deserved the threats, taunts verbal abuse and and beatings my ex husband and ex boyfriends were delivering. But my late father believed differently, “The trials she is going through are tests, it will get better!”

When my father was dying on the hospital bed, his group of friends came by to visit him while I was there. One of his friends’ face lit up when he realized I was that oldest daughter my father had so proudly spoken of, “You are the one who lives in Turkey? Do you know how often your father spoke of you, how proud he is and how brave his oldest daughter is, living aboard all by herself. I can still feel that warm glow eminating within.

I stopped talking to my mother when it became clear that all my life, she has been projecting her fears, disappointments with her unhappy marriage and her unhappiness onto me. I remembered how pale my own mother became when she learnt of my new found friend who left her deeply unhappy mother who was stuck in resentment for years by her husband’s infidelity and ultimately divorce, and moved aboard upon her retirement to create some distance between herself and her mother. Since then her attacks on why I should move out of Turkey increased, with each attacks, I became increasingly distressed. She even demanded that I should travel to Australia with her to look for houses she can buy (for herself) so that I could move to Australia and study there. “What about my son? He has started school in Turkey.” That was the real concern for me because my son really loves being in Turkey. “You’ll both study one year and if you can’t stay in Australia (of course, I couldn’t stay after finishing masters without long term visas and Australia is not giving out visas for Psychology graduates), we’ll decide then.” That was her reply. It wasn’t good enough to ensure the best option for my son. I understood she never wanted me to live in Turkey at all. I could feel her fear of abandonment when I learnt that my brother had restricted her access to his apartment by demanding she returned her spare key when he realized that our mother had let herself into his house without his knowledge or consent. I could sense her loneliness when my sister started dating and working and she was coming home late every night. But I could not change her opinion of me. “I only have two children (that is, my brother and sister) because they live in Singapore with me and you are not getting a single cent from me because you don’t deserve it!” That was the threat she gave me when I was asking about my father’s inheritance and why my siblings each gotten a Mercedes car while I was left in the cold. I couldn’t stand the visits any longer because all she would talk is the “gifts” she bought for her two children and questioned why they wouldn’t use her gifts. I was completely baffled with each visits I learnt a few months late that a relative died and no one bothered to inform me about their passing. It was puzzling as to why my mother kept such information from me when we were still chatting weekly by Skype video, she never answered my questions. “You never see me as one of your children anyway, not in my life.” Those were my last words to her. With all hopes dead, I simply pressed the hang up button and grieved for a mother whom I never had and the maternal love I had not and will never experience in this lifetime.


It has been more than a year since I spoke those last words to her. Yet her “you don’t deserve it” still haunts me. I stumbled out of bed, into the kitchen, into the delicious smell of the omelette where my better half was slogging away, making breakfast for our sons and us. He turned around to when I told him of my dream. He reached out and wrapped his arms around me. So this is the story of love I have been telling myself I deserved and worthy of having it, and it took me almost 40 years to finally live it.


Day Trip To The Aquarium: Look What We Found.

My son has been lamenting about how I did not bring him to the zoo when we were in Singapore and that he had went to the zoo with his grandmother while I was overseas working (in fact, I did brought him to the zoo, just that it was when he was only three and he could hardly remembered what he saw). Instead of arguing with him, (have you ever argued with a pre-schooler? It is an argument that you can never win) I have decided to agree and go along with him. There is only one childhood my son will have in his lifetime, and I believe that being there is more important than all the toys I could buy for him. So I brought him out to a fossil exhibition last week. That was the highlight of his week because he has been talking about it non-stop for this week.

And this week, on an impulse, we decided to explore the aquarium. So we headed down to Istanbul Sealife Akvaryum today.




















Who would have thought the underwater world could be so beautiful. At least he was happy to see the sharks. So the next time if my son lamented that I never brought him out to the aquarium, I will show him this post.

I Am A Single Mother, So What?

Just recently I was out shopping with my son, and the salesman was asking my son about his father while I was trying out shoes. His reply? He is dead. I find it interesting that he would come up to such a conclusion since I never brought up the subject of his father in the three years I became a single mother. When I shared this with a couple of people, they immediately went into this lecture mode on what I should be doing that guarantees me rolling my eyes over and over so much that I think I deserved a role as the possessed girl in The Exorcist. I should learn to stop sharing with married people who haven’t been through motherhood. Or maybe it is the way this society is hardwired to lecture whoever comes their way, it doesn’t matter whether they are truly qualified to do so or not.

I received a text on new year’s day from an close friend thanking me for saving her marriage. I had managed to convince her to not walk down the road of single motherhood and helped shed a light on how to connect back with her husband. From their pictures on my Facebook, I can see they are now blissfully still married and much happier since. It was then I became aware that I had unwilling became the poster mom for raising my son single-handedly and rolling along with it fine. A few of my friends look up to me on that. But many people don’t know that being a single mother isn’t all that peachy. Here’s how:

People will have all sorts of opinions/ideas/advice for you

I can’t tell you how many people who have suddenly assumed the role of the Agony Aunt and started dishing out advice on how I should handle my son. The best part? Most of them are not even mothers themselves. I get it. They meant well but all these are mostly unwanted. All I need is a sympathetic ear and maybe a concern on how I am. I have learnt to roll my eyes without ever getting noticed. And to trust my own gut.

And people will judge you for being a single mother

On the flip side, I also had lost count how many people judged me as being a poor parent, a bad mother for not correcting my son when he started telling people around him that his father is dead, for not moving back to my family, for not forcing contact with his father and for not insisting his father be a father to my son. I had heard worst comments on how I must be a terrible wife, a loose woman, just because his father ”abandoned us”. I gave up explaining my situation. Rare is the soul who would commend me for my efforts to be both a better mom and dad to my only child. I am still learning.

Be prepared to be lonely. And sad. And guilty. Overwhelmed. All the negative feelings rolled into one.

Child raising is meant to be a two persons’ job and sometimes I feel overwhelmed for trying to fulfill the role of a mother AND a father. How do I teach my son to pee or even have boys’ talk? Of course, guilt is the prominent feeling since I am not always 100% there for my son, even though I may be physically there. Especially after a stressful day at work, all I want to do is curl up and die in a corner and I certainly do not want to hear my son sing for the tenth time or admire his Angry Birds drawings. It takes a village to raise a child and I certainly don’t have the luxury for it since I am living half a world away from my biological family. Staying away from them is not really a choice since they have made it clear previously they do not wish to share the burden of raising my son so now all the responsibility falls squarely on my shoulder. Trust me, this is the loneliest long way down the road.

One income to support two mouths

Did anyone ever tell you how expensive childcare is? There is no added security of someone else’s wages to make your life more comfortable. Or secure. There is always a constant worry over finances. Be prepared for your finances to change drastically. You will adjust and it is certainly possible to adjust to one income. Everything is down to basics. For example, I bought boots recently because my old boots had holes in them, so my feet were thoroughly soaked and cold in this rainy winter and I caught a cold over New Year. On the flipside, you will learn to be spendthrift. And there is definitely the pride that comes with knowing that I am the sole breadwinner and I can handle it like a BOSS.

You will re-prioritize

Because I could not be always physically and mentally there for my son, I learnt to adjust my time. I have to force myself to give us at least one day at the weekend to go out and play, and stop thinking about work. And you will learn to wear a lot of hats: personal assistant/ accountant/ chef/ housekeeper/ psychologist/ mom/ employee/ friend. You will figure out a way somehow.

Mama Bear mode kicks into overdrive. 

I became hyper-vigilant over how my split with my ex husband would affect my son. Especially so because he was indirectly involved in the domestic violence (he witnessed furniture thrown at me and he had once begged his father not to hit me, and pulled his furious father away from me. He was only two then). Once during visitation with his father two years ago, he was both drunk and high on whatever drugs (I have no idea what), he was staring at us with his craze eyes and grabbing my collar in public, I simply took the chance, grabbed my son and ran the hell out of there when he was away for a few minutes. There is so much my son could take and I do not wish to throw away my son’s future just because his father could not man up. I simply decided to cut him off totally. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my son.

The bond you share with your child will grow exponentially

I play make-believe with all his stuffs animals but I also enforce boundaries and rules. I am the Good Parent and the Bad Parent rolled together. We had plenty of power struggles but at the end, my son learnt to trust me. He knows it is just only me and him and I’ll take care of him. He doesn’t ask for his father since the day we parted. My son respects his boundaries and knows where his limits are. Friends reminded me that he is a much better behaved boy than some of the kids in a two-parent household. I tuck him in bed every night, both of us sleeping together in a tiny single bed with all his and my stuffed animals, until he sleeps soundly. It’s in those moments I know without a doubt that both of us are OK. And this definitely makes single motherhood worthwhile.

The Little Fact Of Life

Hippo killing the bathroom scale

The fine truth of life.

Things Single Mothers Should Know

Every relationship has its ups and downs. Life is even harder when children are thrown into the equation. But I think being a single mother is the worst among all. So if you are going through some rocky times with your significant other, take a hard look at your situation and assess how mentally prepared are you at this single parenthood thing, before taking the plunge for single motherhood. Never say I never warn you, it is definitely not fun.

1. Everyone, seriously EVERYONE, will judge you.

Accept it, it’s just the way life works. Congratulations, you are now part of a new world where you hang in balance between old school notions and new school ideals. The worst part of it is that no matter which side you are on, you will be met with disdain and judgement. Guaranteed. The old school thinking perpetuate that there is no greater shame than a woman with a kid(s) and no man to support her. If that man passed on naturally, it doesn’t count. The new school thinking will insist that you should have known better than to fall into such a degrading situation, that you have single handedly ruined yours and your kid(s)’ life, and squandered your potential. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are wrong.

I have lost count of the number of people who remarked of how a smart woman like me would do such a stupid thing like choosing the wrong husband. Worst still, some even asked how could I let myself give birth to my son if I am going to fall in this situation. Duh, I am no psychic. One even went to the extend and chided me saying how can I not forced my son’s dad to get involved in his life, how pitiful my son is for not having known his father. Answer: You cannot force a horse to drink water if it doesn’t want to, similarly you cannot force a man to be a dad if he doesn’t want to. Even police officers could not help but pass snide remarks like how I must be a terrible wife because I have no husband. For your information, I chose to respect myself and walked out of domestic violence. Despite so, even I felt ashamed to go home because no one in my family is divorced like me. Nobody wants to be associated with me. That’s how I ended up living with my son in a different country. Home is where we are now because we make it ours.

Frankly speaking, I have learnt that people’s opinions don’t really matter. As is so often the case in life, it’s the way we handle the consequences of our choices that defines who we are more than the choices themselves. We can rise above the situation by proving others wrong. You are going to have to work twice as hard as just about anyone, and the end of the day, only a few people, if any, will praise you for doing a great job. No matter what, just do it anyway.

2. Dating is going to be tough.

You will be surprised at how many men out there thinks that just because I am a single mother, I must be desperate for a dick. It just makes me want to laugh when a complete stranger is so concerned whether or not I feel lonely without a man by my side (I am completely fine and fully functional without a man. C’mon, I am good before I got married, I don’t see how I can be completely damaged after I divorced.)

Action speaks louder than words. I have seen potential dates who would disappear when they knew I have a kid living with me. Friends and colleagues encouraged me, you are pretty, you are kind and people in Turkey LOVES children. I am sure you will find someone, it’s his loss if he walks away from you. But people did walk away from me for more times than I can take emotionally. I have thought how life is unfair, so unkind, and it did messed up with my self-worth big time. But I soon realized that the last thing I want as a single mother is someone who doesn’t understand, want, or embrace the level of responsibility I am carrying. Not wanting to help raise someone else’s kid (and no matter how independent and self sufficient you might be, kid(s) are a hugh influence) doesn’t make them, or you, a bad person. I start to appreciate men who were honest enough with themselves and me to know they just weren’t ready or willing to accept and care for a plus one. It is really tempting to desperately throw yourself into a relationship to share the load but don’t, it usually doesn’t end well. You, your date, and your kid(s) deserve so much better. That’s why I am giving myself a break for the time being.

3. Taking care of yourself is often the best way to take care of your kid(s).

I was an emotional wreck after each rejection. I hated myself, and even a part of me hated my son. I hated even God when my dad, the only man who accepted the quirky me, was taken away unexpectedly from my life. Sometimes I would come home and sob uncontrollably for almost an hour. I was that exhausted emotionally. I hated the life I am living in so much it comes to a point it made me a terrible mother and a miserable person. So I got help.

I have learnt to take myself and my happiness seriously. If I am happy, my son will be happy. Kids are adaptable, they will adapt according to the lifestyle you set for them. Most important thing is to take care of yourself, single mothers. You’ve got an incredibly important and very difficult job to do. If you don’t feel good about yourself, your children and your relationships will suffer. You matter, and if you don’t make yourself a priority, you’re in for a miserable, painful journey.

4. You’re stronger, smarter and wiser than you know.

Don’t let shame and fear hold you back. Don’t let criticisms of others tear you down and convinced you that you don’t deserve the best in life, that you shouldn’t even try to strive. Have confidence, be strong and determined. If you want something in life, take it, embrace it and grow from it. Teach your children having a conviction to achieve despite the difficulty of the situation is invaluable. Have courage and don’t give up. I don’t believe most single mothers ever planned on being single mothers. But life often sets us down the paths we never chose to wander down, so we just have to make the best of the journey.

5. Single motherhood doesn’t have to define you.

Actually I am proud to be a single mother because I want to encourage others, despite the difficulties, they still can fight for their happiness, and for other single mothers to never be ashamed of their situation or even themselves. You are not any less human just because you have to care for your kid(s) single handedly. But I believe I am so much more than a single mother. It is just a part of who I am and I am just building upon it. I can be a creative person, a woman in power, a successful career woman, a positive and humorous girl, in addition to being a single mother. You can be anything. Just be you.

6. No matter what, you are going to fuck up anyway. Might as well just keep trying.

As a single mother, there is so such thing as ”off” days. Dinner has to be made, laundry has to be done, dishes have to be put away, house needs to be cleaned despite working overtime and constantly lack of sleep. There are days when shit will just piled up on you and you have no space to breathe. The sad truth is there is no one to pick up the slack if you’re running low on steam. You can’t pass your responsibility to someone else even if you had a horrible day and all you want to do is curl up in that dark corner and die. You’re the lone soldier in the battlefield and that sucks big time. Trust me I know. You are going to fall down, you may want to simply give up, but I promise you, you can pick yourself up again. You definitely can do this and do it well. Life doesn’t have to be perfect. Mine is already fucked up but that’s shouldn’t be the reason for me to stop trying. Someone once promised me, things will get better and easier, if only you keep trying everyday to do a bit better than you did the day before. This world isn’t going to feel sorry for, but then, you don’t need their pity anyway. Just enjoy the ride.

Kids say the darnest things

In school, my son apparently loves to hang out with a boy named Mert, who is a year older than my son. Sometimes he would come home and tell me all about Mert. Even the teacher remarked my son is attached to Mert. I find this kid sweet and polite, who will win any mom’s stamp of approval. Only this morning I realized what incredible imaginations (and how gullible my son is) children can come up with.

Television exist in your womb

This morning my son asked me, Anne, senin karnında televizyon var mı? (Mom, do you have TV in your stomach?). I was stumped and wondered why and how to answer that question.

Biliyor musun, Mert dedi onun annesinin karnında televisyon var, o yüzden butun cizgi film karnında izledi. (Do you know that Mert’s mother has a TV in her stomach, so he had watched all the cartoons while in her stomach).

If that was the case, I would want to forever live inside my mother’s womb.

My friend moved to space!

My son was telling me excitedly, biliyor musun, Mert uzay a taşındı? (Do you know Mert moved to the space?)

Uzay mı, uzak mı? (Space or far). Damn it, Turkish language between space and far is so similar. If you think about it logically, they do have the same connotation. I had to make sure my son did not mix that two up.

Uzay. Onun arabası uçayabılır. Onun evin yıkıdı o yüzden uzay a taşındı. Orada Angry Birds Space görüyor. Ama o hangi dunyada gitti bilmiyorum. (Space. His car can fly. They have demolished his house so now he moved to space. He can see Angry Birds Space from over there but I don’t know which planet he had gone to.)

I am speechless. At least my son knows there are different planets in space. He probably learnt that from Angry Birds Space.

The reason why my son doesn’t want any more birthday cakes

Last Friday, I celebrated my son’s 5th birthday at his kindergarten, together with all his friends. This time round, my son had expected me to bring his cake to school since he had decided that this year, he wanted an angry birds theme. So I bought him an angry birds cake.

My son's angry birds cake

My son’s angry birds cake

It was a quick celebration. We lit the candles, sang the birthday song, cut the cake, everyone had their slices and it was all over in 30 minutes. How ironic that you deserve only 30 minutes worth of attention on the day you were born 5 years ago. Anyway I am not mulling over how short a celebration it had been since I don’t know how to throw a party.

When it was all over, I brought back to my office where the girls at my workplace fussed over him for an extra 30 minutes. Then one of my colleagues chatted with him. It was something I would label as men’s talk. My colleague told him as a matter of fact, when he grows up, he could have a beard and mustache like him. Ahhh, I can see some mustache forming above your lips, he teased my son.

When almost everyone had left the office, my son, sitting on the floor, wearing his shoes, called me over.

I have something I want to tell you. I don’t want anyone to hear me, my son’s eyes darting to the right corners of his eyes, obviously referring to the bearded colleague, sitting nearby. I inched closer to him.

Please do not send me any more cakes in school. Why? I wondered, wondering if something happened in school earlier on.

Anne, I don’t want to grow up and have a beard like him. I want to stay 5 forever. Please don’t send any more cakes to me in school. Looking at me pitifully, pleading with his eyes.

If only not having a birthday cake would stop me aging, I wouldn’t want a cake too.