The Grass of the Neighbor is not Always Greener

I’ve always been pretty critical upon seeing myself as a mother. I’m fully aware of my weakness, mistakes and repeated flaws. And being a buitenlander (foreigner) in the country I’m living now, the worry of being in contrast to what serves as a custom here constantly bugs me.

I often observe and conclude that my way of child bringing is often not similar to the Dutchies. They have this confident, calm and serene aura around them. The adults speak softly to the children, and the children play peacefully while still being obedient to the parents.

Contrary to the Dutchies, I’m a frantic – almost hysterical mom. And my kids? They have proven themselves since their birth days that they do have stronger vocal chords and lungs compared to the Netherlands kids.

I’m not blaming this on my original culture – yes it has been proven that a certain upbringing brought up certain characters; hence the differences between people that come from different parts of the world. But I would say that my problems come mainly from my own personality and shortcomings. It makes no difference how I come up with these problems, I just don’t want the world to look at me strangely just because I have colour and my kids misbehave themselves in public. Or because I don’t look up to their standards.

I tried to improve myself by reading. But my reading of parenting books doesn’t really help. Well it helps me bunch to improve myself, but still many times the progress feels not fast enough. I’m not that ideal mom I’d like to be.

This is not so much an issue when we’re home. My conscience constantly reminds me of my mistakes, but I’m safe behind the wall of my house. Hiding my inability in controlling my children – and controlling myself. But when I’m outside, side to side with what I see as perfect mothers with their perfect children, I can’t help but feel small and wish I would be better than what I am now.

This afternoon we brought the kids out to play basketball. My son acted up and roared out his 100 dB scream – expressing his dissatisfaction with our effort to make him happy. After sitting with him in the car for 10 minutes, listening to his woes and later correcting his thoughts and bringing him out to play again, I brought my daughter to a playground nearby to play.

There came a mother with three children, all in the range of 2 years to 5 years old. She looked tired but she had a nice coat – suiting her on this rainy day. I stole glances and saw her three kids, all looked nice and orderly. I started to compare her to myself – wondering why on earth I left the house on this cold day without a coat, and brought none for my children either. Such an irresponsible mom!

I watched her move around and thought sheepishly, how did she manage to look so composed, having three little children like that? I only have two – and mine are older now, but I looked like a bum compared to her. 

I think she saw me or she simply felt it was too hot anyway, so she opened her coat.She was wearing a chic maroon jumpsuit inside. A jumpsuit for a mom with 3 toddlers? I could never figure out how they go to the toilet wearning a one piece. For me, any mom wearing a onesie is considered a deity – only a mom with a great self confidence (about their non-bulging tummy) and self control (to hold their pee) can wear a one piece in public!

A little after that, as all the children were playing peacefully, suddenly I heard her screaming. I looked up from my phone and saw her yelling at her daughter. The little girl took off her sandals – and the mother was upset, worried that she would step on a broken glass or something.

A reasonable cause to be alert, but I simply didn’t expect her to be hysterical about that! I’m not judging her. That reaction would perhaps be mine (when such a thing happens), but really, in my overgeneralized belief, I never expect a caucasian mom to throw out a tantrum about children taking off sandals.

I tried hard not to look at them directly, not wanting to embarass her. And while this mother kept her long speech about why the kid should have listened to her, I was busy thinking about what I should do in a situation like this. Should I offer a helping hand – because behind her cool impression she was clearly an overloaded mom after all. Will I do mom-shaming doing something like that?

Or should I just let it go, letting her scream like this? Minding my own business and letting her do her parenting even when it seemed a little bit scary?

At the end the screaming ended. The child was unharmed. My daughter smiled nervously. I guessed she didn’t know what to do either. And perhaps she remembered me – and later realized that her mom is not the only ‘crazy’ mom.

I didn’t discuss it with my daughter. She understands my language but explaining this accident would need to be done in Dutch. I just told her that it’s time to go and fetch her brother and go to our next destination.

On our way home, I contemplated this. That mother was certainly overwhelmed, hence the emotional reaction. Her battle is so similar to mine – if not worse with more children in hand. The battle to raise our children and protect them, and at the same time correct and redirect them when they take a wrong turn – this battle and so much more is not only mine.

It doesn’t matter what colour a mom has, or whether she’s highly educated or culturally more prepared for this role. It doesn’t matter if she looks more composed and calm, or fashions in a way we would never be able to afford. This battle of motherhood is not ours alone.

I hearted this mother, and I sincerely hope she has some free time for herself in the coming time. I took my daughter’s hand and rushed her to get her brother. We went to find a small pond to play on his remote control boat. But instead we found a play-raft for them to play.

Sail away, Kiddo!

Sitting on the ground (because there wasn’t any bench around), I took the liberty to sit comfortably with my big belly in my big skirt. Pulling out my book and read, having a bad hair day and wearing my husband’s v-neck t-shirt (which is actually his undergarment, whereupon he always complained why I keep wearing his t-shirts and not mine – and I answered that I don’t have a clean one), I embraced my imperfect self in my role as my children’s mom.

Claiming my me-time.

Perhaps I would never be a mom wearing a onesie. Perhaps I would still explode in public (or at home) time after time. But now I learn it doesn’t matter anymore because my abnormal life is actually quite normal for everyone. What matters is that I didn’t give up my fight.

I let the children played by themselves in the water. I didn’t try to join them in their fun crossing the small water. I chose to sit beside my husband, enjoying the suddenly hot but cloudy afternoon and claiming my 15 minutes rest before I had to rush to cook again.

I’m not a perfect mom and that is absolutely fine.

17 Thoughts on “The Grass of the Neighbor is not Always Greener

  1. Aduh teteh, nanti liat saya geura yang teriakannya sampe 8 oktaf sepanjang hari dan saya gak pernah duduk manis dari bangun tidur sampe tidur lagi saking hebohnya anak-anak saya, hehehe…

    1. hehe.. gak tahu kenapa anak di sini gak ada yang heboh. Sebenarnya kalau di Indonesia kayaknya anakku terlihat normal.. sama dengan anak-anak yang lain. Emang ada culture pressure juga sih jadinya karena kita orang asing, males keliatan beda

  2. Ahahaha aku juga suka comparing diri aku dengan ibu ibu lain. Anak – anak aku super picky eater dan aku takut itu bakal bikin mereka kurang gizi nggak pinter dsb. Apalagi anak aku yang kecil memang kecil badannya. Terus aku juga nggak crafty jadi anak anak aku nggak bisalah kayak anak anak di IG gitu yang selalu punya kegiatan dan pencapaian 🤣 In my lowest moment bisa sampai nggak bisa tidur mikirin hal begini saja.

    Untung suami aku orangnya super logis. Dia nyuruh aku log off semua socmed dan fokus ke hal ha lain tentang anak anak. Afterall walaupun nggak selalu punya momen instagramable, mereka healthy dan genuinely happy. Itu sajalah yang paling penting 😁

  3. Ah suka sekali kalimat terakhirnya ❤

    Ada satu quote juga yang saya suka dari mba jihan davincka di awal masuk dunia motherhood.. Katanya “every mom has her own battle, win yours without being ‘nyinyir’ to others” hihihi 😁 Semangaaat 💪

    1. Betul teh.. sebenarnya di sini sesama ibu-ibu gak nyinyir. Yang nyinyir itu yang nenek atau kakek. Mungkin anakku liar amat kali dibandingkan orang Londo generasi tahun 50 an yang super tertib. Jadi kalau anakku salah tingkah sedikit langsung dipelototin kekekeke

  4. Suka tulisannya teeh. Saya pun sama masih susah kontrol diri ke anak, marah lah, ngomel-ngomel lah hiks. Baca buku parenting ibu Elly Risman sampai datang ke seminarnya juga progressnya pelaan banget wkwkwk. Semoga anak-anak kita selalu bahagia yaa. Semangat ibu-ibu hebat 🙂

    1. Iya teh.. sama-sama belajar yah. Parenting itu pekerjaan yang anehnya gak ada sekolah formalnya, padahal mah pekerjaan yang paling susah dan paling penting karena membentuk jiwa manusia..

  5. Iya teh, enggak ada ibu yang sempurna… Tapi pastinya semua ibu berusaha menjadi yang terbaik untuk anaknya, meski enggak selalu mulus, dihiasi teriakan dan air mata 😀

  6. aku gagal fokus,anak-anak mu kuat sekali mainan raft begitu berdua doang, anakku mah kalau main begitu maunya ada bapak or emaknya ikutan juga. Eh tapi, aku males main raft begitu, dan resiko anak nyemplung, jadi kemungkinan kami ga akan main begitu #makingakfokus.

    Anyway, setiap manusia (termasuk ibu) tidak ada yang sempurna, kita hanya bisa berusaha dan bertahan!

    1. ehehhehe… mereka dah berapa kali main rakit yang bergerak kalau pegangan ke tali seperti ini. Dulu pernah kita ikut juga tapi lama-lama mereka bisa. Yaaaa itu kan difoto diem, kalau dalam kenyataan ya bapak dan emaknya juga teriak-teriak warning anaknya yang gayanya macem-macem. Mau nyemplung lah, mau salto lah, pura-pura mancing lah, celup-celup kaki lah 😀 😀

  7. Peluuuk Teteeeh. Suka banget tulisannya, like I can relaaaaate. Walaupun keliatannya enggak ada masalah apa-apa sama anakku, tapi selalu mengkritik diri sendiri harshly dan undermine pencapaian-pencapaian kecil setiap hari, ngebandingin sama ibu-ibu lain yang lebih kece, lebih rajin masak buat anak. huhu. thanks for sharing yaa Teeh, jadi merasa ada teman dan ada penyemangat

  8. Pernah teh aku nonton klip tentang motherhood, yang intinya bilang kalau kita lihat ibu2 lain lebih bisa handle anak2nya itu bukan berarti dia lebih kuat juga. Tapi lebih ke pas kita lihat dia, dia sedang kebetulan bisa handle anak2nya. Bukan berarti ngga punya bad days sama anak2nya. Sama sih kaya si mbak dengan jumper.

    Mungkin mbaknya pengen stylish hari itu dan sengaja ga minum biar ga gampang buang air kecil ya, hihihi

  9. Kalau saya pernah ngalamin beberapa kali kena mom shaming (dinyinyirin) sama ibu-ibu di sini gara-gara berbagai alasan. Misal gara-gara pernah suatu saat kebanyakan pinjem film daripada buku di perpustakaan. Atau kemana-mana si sayah masih pake tas ransel yg mirip anak-anak. Ya udah terima aja dengan santai dan balas aja dengan berbuat baik toh dia ngga tau juga alasan kenapa kita melakukan itu.
    Saya mah percaya kalau input baik keluarnya juga baik, dan sebaliknya. Jadi mungkin si ibu-ibu penyinyir itu sedang mengalami hari yang buruk dan perlu menumpahkannya pada kita. Semoga sabar dan senyumnya kita bisa jadi penawar luka hatinya sehingga kita bisa berbuat baik kepada sesama ibu-ibu 🙂

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