I had heard about meditation before. I’ve tried it several times before. I didn’t just wake up one day and say to myself “C’mon Maureen…let’s try to meditate for 3 straight months!” No, no, no!
Actually, it wasn’t until I felt completely out of whack that I decided to install this app full of guided meditations, meditation music, and the likes.
“Nothing to lose,” I thought.
So I started…Eyes closed…I choose to lay down since my back was having a terrible flare up from herniated discs and all the stress I was carrying with me.
“Okay let’s do this…”
Music flows…the soft voice coming out was gentle and loving. I followed the instructions to the dots.
“Inhale…hold it in for 3 counts…” “Let it out…”
When I first started, my breathing was shallow. I could never inhale fully. A blockage maybe. I’m not sure but it was challenging. After all those guided meditations I feel light. Calmer! I kept doing these short guided meditations twice a day. Slowly, I began to see how much the simple acts of lying still, breathing deeply and allowing whatever thoughts came to my mind to just flow like clouds passing through started to shift me internally.
Here’s what I learned from 3 months of meditating every day:
I found peace. Cliche as it may sounds but I did find peace. I was able to find that soft spot in my heart that fills me up with a sense of peace. Each and every meditation sessions refilled it.
I am able to react less emotionally to things that are beyond my control. Example: One time at work, an angry lady shouted to my face so loud that the whole room heard her outburst of complaints. I was able to stay calm and actually sympathize with her. If this were to happen before my meditation days, I would have taken it personally and probably ended up in the bathroom stall crying! I thanked my daily meditation practice for this.
Patience. I am not the most patient person especially when it comes to parenting. When I am tired, my fuse is short and I often quickly feel irritated and I burst. At first, I didn’t notice this until my fiance pointed it out. He said I reacted in a more gentle and loving ways to my boy. Score!
I feel happier! No, it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t happy before I started to meditate regularly. It doesn’t mean that my life is automatically perfect after meditating. But somehow by being calmer, more positive and grounded, it allows me to feel happier.
Increased happiness level also allows me to be a happier mother to my son.
More Mindful. By focusing on the breathing, on how my body feels during meditation and examining my thoughts with clarity, allows me to be more mindful.
I knew something was not right when the homeroom teacher got the principal, school counselor and some other unfamiliar faces as I sat down in their office.
My gut feelings were right. They pretty much told me my son couldn’t continue in that school for the next school year. In other words, my son got kicked out of school.
“We all agree that it is best for your son to go to a school where they can cater to his needs.“
I felt anger rise in the bottom of my stomach. Anger for receiving the news on such short notice mixed with a sense of panic of where to put my son to school next.
I blamed myself for this. Not my boy, but me…his mother who should’ve done more investigative work before sending him to the closest school to home. When I picked that school it was because they were the closest to our home. If you are familiar with Jakarta’s traffic, you would understand that I just don’t have the heart to send off my child to school before the crack of dawn like many other children have to do. I thought I had picked the right school.
My son has his challenges. Behavior problems that the school simply couldn’t handle anymore.
My sensitive boy has always been different.
He has been tested for behavior issues before and the results showed that he has no psychological problem and that he is a bright kid. He is not autistic. He is just different. He has difficulties controlling his frustrations which end up in him crying. In a way, his emotional intelligence is a little behind than the other kids in his classroom. This made life so difficult for him; He hated going to school and would come up with 1001 excuses to skip school. Being different is not easy.
The school in question was an expensive school that cost my family over $2,000 in enrollment fees alone and they do have great programs, albeit very high academic demands. My son used to come home with a backpack full homework folders. We were both frustrated by the volumes of academic pressure he was under.
One of his teachers told me one time that he was very smart but he’s not the type to sit still and listen to his teacher during class. Yet somehow he managed to ‘absorb’ what the teacher was talking about.
He is different.
When my son got kicked out school, his father (my ex-husband) was diagnosed with cancer and I was under unbelievable pressure from work. The world felt so heavy on my shoulders. I went home from that meeting feeling defeated, crushed. I kicked myself for not being a good mother who could stay home with him like the other moms. I blamed myself for working long hours. Maybe that’s why he is misbehaving at school? To protest the life that he has. A father who lives overseas, a mother who works long hour, no friends around his age at home to play with. The mommy guilt wore me down.
I could not afford to put my son back in school straight away so I kept him at home for about 6 months, missing the first semester of the new school year. I was too embarrassed to talk about this openly until now.
It wasn’t until I found a local school recommended by a fellow single mom friend that the guilt evaporated. Located a little further away, I studied their concept and philosophy and after a trial class for my son, we both fell in love with this new school.
A school where he could be completely himself must feel liberating in a way. Where he is not judged by whether or not he could sit still or if he prefers to sit on the floor. The new school emphasizes on the facts that every child has a different combination of intelligence that makes him/her unique.
My son started this January and he couldn’t be happier. I have never seen him got so excited about school. Yes, he still has some challenges but seeing how happy he is has reassured me that we finally found the right school for him. Looking back, I realized leaving his old school was the best thing that could ever have happened to him.
How about you, Moms? Are you happy with the educations that your children are getting?
“You are an immigrant Mommy…is that mean you can’t come to America?”
There’s a concern in his tone. A frown showed up as he tries to make sense of his new elected president.
“Well…technically I am no longer an immigrant, Alex. I once was when we were still living there until you were 2 years old.”
He searched my face for more answer.
“But right now, for the time being, we will not be living in America. We are living here in Indonesia. Of course, one day if we want to, we may come there for a visit to see your Grandparents, your Uncle Greg, and his family also your brothers.”
“But Trump won’t let you come because you are not American!”
“I’m sure it will all be alright when the time comes. Let’s not worry until then ok? With the right paper works, of course, I can still come with you. I will need a visa first.”
“What’s a visa, Mommy? How come you don’t have one?”
“A visa is like a permit to visit a country. Every country has different rules when it comes to visa. I don’t have one after my conditional resident permit ended.”
Then I went on to explain what a green card is, how I got one in the first place many years ago while I was still married to his father. Of how I returned the card post-divorce.
My almost 10 year old boy was worried that his mother, a non-US citizen may not be able to go to America with him one day. He overheard the news while I watched the whole campaign and how Trump has been voted in as president of the United States.
“Why is he so angry all the time?” was his first question when he asked who Trump is.
Being a mother to a dual citizenship child, I have been following the whole election period. Why? Because my son is an American citizen. Whoever won the election will have a lasting impact on his future in one way or another.
Yes, we are living thousands of miles away from America but trust me, being a third world country citizen what happens in America will greatly impact everyone. I still vividly remember how scary it was post the September 11 tragedy. I was working in a hotel in Jakarta and an emergency plan was set in place because a hardline Muslim group was sweeping hotels looking for American citizens after the attack.
Being of the minority religion in Indonesia (I am a Christian) any time there’s a religious uproar going on in my country, we are living in danger to say the least. So Trump’s anti-Muslim propaganda will greatly impact everyone. With Indonesia being the most Muslim populated country, declaring war on my Muslim friends will cause scary consequences.
Not all Muslim are terrorists so it is truly unfair how Trump is making his blanket statements. I have Muslim friends living in America who have received discriminations ever since he ran his campaign and I fear for their safety too.
There’s little that I could do other than telling my son that hatred will not help anyone, that what the world desperately needs at the moment is more love, more compassion towards one another regardless of race, the color of peoples’ skin, religious beliefs and sexual orientations. I can only pray that my son will grow up with great respect and kindness to the many differences we all have as human beings.
How do you explain the American election result to your children?
A year ago, when our daughter was nearly 8 years old, we found out that she has profound hearing loss in her left ear. We had been concerned about her hearing since she was in preschool. Her class teacher assuaged our worries and subsequent teachers never raised any issues. But still, we wondered.
We couldn’t get concrete answers
A few years later we arranged for an audiology test at our health clinic in Jakarta and were told that her hearing was fine, in fact, her left ear was “better” than her right ear. Although I should have been happy when the doctor delivered the test result, I felt skeptical and couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
We had to wait another year until our next US visit to schedule a more thorough assessment. This time it was immediately clear that there was a problem. The audiologist grew increasingly alarmed as he ran through the evaluation process, but my daughter remained relaxed. I explained that the tests showed us that her left ear wasn’t working. “Yeah, I know that already”, she said calmly, “I’ve been telling you that I can’t hear.”
“I know, sweetie. I know.” My heart broke a little.
There were many emotions that day.
Relief….at having our concerns confirmed and finally knowing what was wrong Guilt…because it took so long to diagnose her hearing loss Frustration…that it hadn’t been picked up at school or in the previous test Amazement…when considering how well she had coped until now Worry…about the challenges she will face and the unknown path ahead Pride…in knowing that if anyone can manage this, she can.
The next day we met with an ENT specialist who suggested that we consider a cochlear implant (not typically recommended for single-sided hearing loss). It was a lot to take in and we wanted more time to consider the full range of options. We returned to Jakarta shortly after and followed up some months later in Singapore, where the doctor there told us that if it were his daughter, he wouldn’t do anything.
Between the two doctors, we had more questions than answers and it felt daunting and confusing to be navigating this brand new path with such divergent advice, without any kind of network or supportive community, thousands of miles from our home health care system.
Getting some Clarity
One year on, we are much clearer about things. We sought a third ENT opinion on our last US visit, which confirmed our desire to pursue a hearing aid option that we hope to get soon.
Unfortunately, such devices are more expensive in this part of the world and even with insurance the out of pocket cost is significant. When I found out about this, I immediately started calling around to compare prices – ringing hearing clinics in Thailand, Singapore and even Australia. It seemed absurd in a way – I would never fly to another US state to buy anything – but with limited options here, this type of “medical tourism” is common.
We have also worked with our daughter’s school and teachers to develop and implement classroom accommodations and communication strategies to support her learning and self-advocacy. Catering for this type of individual need is somewhat new for the school, so it has been a learning process for all involved.
Getting by with no support system
Fortunately I now know a few other school families who have children with hearing issues, which is a big help, but I still feel like I’m ambling along in the dark a lot of the time. It is this feeling of isolation which has been the hardest for me.
Sometimes I think that things would be so much more straightforward if we were based in the US and could easily connect with other families, access resources and services, and follow a more predictable path. The logistics of being an expatriate family meant that our daughter’s hearing loss went undiagnosed for longer than it might have otherwise. I still feel bad about this, but I also feel good knowing that our gut instincts were correct and we’re now on the right track.
We don’t know why our daughter lost her hearing. She was a premature twin with low birth weight, which could be a contributing factor – but really, we’ll never know.
The main thing for us now is to protect and maximize the hearing she does have and provide as much support as we can in the journey ahead. She has already selected the color of her new hearing aids (“champagne”) and can’t wait to show us how responsible she is.
If anyone can do it, she can.
As an expat mom do you feel that there are health issues with your kids that might have been avoided or that you could have dealt with better back home?
This is an original post by World Mom Shaula Bellour in Jakarta, Indonesia
The image used in this post is credited to Jaya Ramchandani. It holds a Flickr: Creative Commons attribution license.
Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations.
Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.
“But I feel guilty…” she lowered her gazed and we all sensed how difficult it was for her to admit that.
“Please don’t be.” One of the ladies chimed in.
“Yes, please don’t feel bad. It is completely OK to getaway from motherhood for a bit.” Another adds their encouraging words.
As I sat there with 9 other women, all from different backgrounds; We got to learn, to understand and build more compassion towards others during the Joyful Living Retreat. I realized how many mothers feel that way too and how much I can relate to what the other ladies were sharing.
The guilt that weighs on mothers whenever they decide to do something for themselves; Where does it come from? Is it from unrealistic expectations we impose on ourselves? That we are the main caretakers, the one who holds the family together? There seems to be this invisible high bar we moms set ourselves up for.
Clean tidy home, Pinterest-worthy meals for the family, crafty fun for the kids, baby sign language, anyone?
I have been there before.
In the midst of juggling and keeping everything together, I sadly lost myself. I Lost my bearings. When I was still married, I was a helicopter mom who couldn’t leave my boy alone without feeling anxious and worried even when the ex-husband encouraged me to do so. I can’t understand that period, as it was quite hazy and blurry.
It’s easy for us moms to give and give and give even more. It all comes naturally with the territory of being a mother, isn’t it?
It took me quite a long time to shed that same guilt from my dictionary. Actually, it wasn’t until I became a single mom that I realized how important my “me-time” really is. For my own sanity and for my child’s happiness, it is crucial to have a sane mother. Don’t they say happy moms will have happy children?
Now, I make sure I refuel my love tank by doing what I love and knowing how healthy it is to do so sets me free from guilt. It is not selfish! It is healthy to make time for us to do what we love, to enjoy life. We really can’t pour from an empty cup and to fill that cup I recognized I must allow myself to be the woman I really am. For me, this started with working out, with having coffee with friends sans kids, to traveling out of town (and out of the country) without my son.
By nurturing the real Maureen, I am nurturing the mother of my child and I truly feel I am a much better mother when I am happy.
I’m not saying that you should ditch your children and travel the world – although you could – but start small, go for that line dance class you’ve been wanting to try or join that yoga class.
As the Joyful Living Retreat came to an end, I hugged that new friend of mine tightly and wished her well. She looked happy, lighter and relaxed which what I wish all of my mom friends would feel.
How about you, ladies? What do you do for “me time”? Did you feel guilty for taking the time away from your family?
This is an original article by World Mom Maureen Hitipeuw
All the above has been clouding my mind for the past couple of months. I tried to shut it down by keeping my already busy self even busier. Burying myself deeper with work, refusing to deal with the reality.
Motherhood didn’t prepare me for this!
At least it hasn’t yet…
My heart would lament at the sad truth.
Some nights the little voice inside me would whisper “What if he doesn’t survive?” Those little voices often times grow bigger and louder and leave me paralyzed at the thought of how Ican help my son through the worse possible scenario.
The unknown can be a truly terrible thing and I am searching high and low for comfort or faith in how everything will turn out for us. For my son and I. We will get through this, no matter what!
Some nights my heart breaks into a million little pieces seeing my son’s face as he sleeps peacefully. Tears running down my face like there’s no tomorrow.
“How do we protect our children from heartache?”
“God, please help me!”
It is almost a natural instinct for mothers to protect their children, right? Yet life will bring us heartache, disappointments and pain. So how can I help and guide my son to manage all of those possibilities?
Then it dawned on me, I cannot forever protect him with a bubble wrap. I cannot shield him from bad news. The world is not always rainbow and sunshine. There will be bad days but hope is always there. Hope is what will get us through the not so good days.
My son, my precious child may need to learn more about heartache sooner than his peers. He has overcome the facts that his parents are divorced. He has learned to distinguish that a family unit does not always consists of Mommy and Daddy. He now understands that he has two homes filled with people that love him.
As much as I wish to shield him from sadness, I realize I can’t prevent the circumstances in our lives.
All I can do is assure him that everyone loves him. Reminding him that I will understand his feelings and validate them. Knowing my child, I know he can ask the most gut wrenching questions at times so I must prepare myself for that. My son needs a lot of encouragement to talk openly about his feelings and it takes great patience until he is ready to be open. Therefore, I will wait for his cue while being understanding and assure him how much he is loved.
How do you help your child going through difficult times?
This is an original article by World Mom Maureen Hitipeuw from Indonesia