My mother, my baby and me

Before becoming a mother for the first time last September, I could not remember the last time I felt that I needed my mother.

Don't get me wrong - we have a strong and loving relationship.

But by 2012, I had crossed the life stages of becoming a working adult and getting married. I thought that I was self-sufficient.

I saw my mother, at most, twice a week at family dinners.

After becoming a mother myself, things changed greatly.

I now see her almost every day, as she cares for my baby when I'm at work.

I need her.


ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

Without her, I cannot be a working mother. I don't want to entrust my child to a maid and she is dead set against putting my baby in infant care.

Yes, we are both strong-willed, opinionated individuals.

We've argued over the doting grandmother's inability to stop buying things for her granddaughter. We've had inane squabbles involving baby clothes because our tastes differ.

I dislike frilly dresses and cutesy animal prints - the very kind of clothes that my mother likes to buy.

They are so nice, she insists. Once, I retorted: "No, Mama. That top looks cheap."

She walked away, hurt, with reddened eyes.

I have learnt to bite my tongue, even when I see my baby dressed in something I would not have let her wear. Don't major on the minor, I tell myself.

Other disagreements are more heated, such as the one involving infant care.

"Putting my baby in infant care does not make me a bad mum," I once said emphatically.

My mother had kept mum, but her silence told me where she stood on the matter.

One time, my baby was bawling her lungs out and I was having an extremely hard time comforting her.

"Let me help," my mother said. "No," I snapped, fighting back my own frustrated tears. "I can do it."

On hindsight, that was insecurity rearing its ugly head within me.

I was fiercely determined to prove that I could settle my unsettled baby because I had the ridiculous notion that if my mother succeeded where I failed, then I was not a good mother.

There have been times when my mother took out new educational toys for my daughter to play with and I found myself wondering if I should have bought them instead.

Who's the mother here, read my unpleasant thought bubble.

It sounds absurd, but I sometimes fear that my baby will love my mother more than she loves me.

"No lah, don't be silly," she says in response when I tell her my insecurities. In telling her how I feel, I realise - again - that I need her.

I need her as a sounding board and as a confidante when I pour out all the new and complex emotions I am experiencing.

When I became an adult and my mother edged towards middle age, I thought that the time had come for me to look after her and to some extent, "mother" her.

But as my own motherhood journey unfolds, the child in me seeks the affirmation of my mother, who has walked down this road before.

I want her to tell me that I am a good mother.

Sharing my vulnerabilities with her has given our mother-daughter relationship a new depth.

I have also developed a newfound appreciation of my mother.

She has been unbelievably calm and patient in the face of my fluctuating moods and self-doubts.

I also admire the way she tirelessly cares for my baby, constantly reads up on how to educate a child and thinks up new games to play with her.

It gives me a glimpse into how well she must have looked after me all those years ago.

In this three-generational relationship, it is my baby who unites my mother and me, in spite of our differences.

From my baby's funny facial expressions to her latest escapades, there are endless things to laugh over and celebrate together.

Our family's WhatsApp chat group is active every day, with my mother sending photos, videos and updates about how my baby is doing while I'm at work.

My child is incredibly blessed to have not one, but two mothers caring for her.

When I celebrate my first Mother's Day next week, I give thanks for the best present I've already received to help me with motherhood - my mother.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline 'My mother, my baby and me'. Print Edition | Subscribe