Mother's Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society.
I have met a number of women in Shanghai, including my 'ayi' who lives with us, ever since we moved to Shanghai from Switzerland. These women are working far away from home, 400 km, 600 km, 1000 km, where they get to see their families, especially their children, occasionally or only once a year. For these families who cannot afford to hire babysitters or live in modern apartments with air purifiers, filtered water and other luxuries, bringing their children with them to a big city is usually not an option. In addition, due to the Chinese 'hukou' system, which is a governmental household registration system, that is used to actively limit where a person is allowed to live, the children would not be able to attend public schools or access basic health services in big cities. Therefore their children usually is left behind in their hometown with their parents or their relatives so that one or both parents can migrate to the city to find work. Thanks to technology that they are able to stay connected with their families and for them, personally they are glad that they are able to work in a proper job and stay connected with society, as well as earn a living to provide for their families.
I do travel a lot for my work and although my kids (5.5-year old son and 3-year old daughter) have never complaint, or shall I say, they are probably too young to complain, I cannot help but feel guilty sometimes for spending too much time away from my kids. But my current life is nothing compared to these mothers who do not get to see their children as often as they wish to in order to support their families. Therefore I do not dare attempt to ever say that I understand how they feel but I absolutely acknowledge and respect what they do for their families, the sacrifices that they make to ensure a better future for their children and their contribution to the society.
For working moms who work away from home or need to travel a lot for their work, this is a message for you. As much as we want to be there every single day or every single event in our children's life, really we don't have to be, and we need to give ourselves a break in that regard. My 5.5-year old knows that I work a lot and travel a lot to different cities and countries. He asks me questions about my work, the places I go to and the people that I meet, and I enjoy explaining and describing to him. I sometimes take pictures of things that I know might interest him during my business trips to show him later when I get home.
Today for example, while I was working on my laptop, he came to me and saw a picture of a ship on the screen. The company Newsletter was open and I had the pleasure explaining to my son the reason for the picture and a rather technical explanation; the location of the engines of a ship and their functions (a picture of the engines and propellers were also displayed). As soon as he knows that I work for a company that build these engines, or rather the fact that his mom has something to do with big ships, his face glowed with pride.
These moments make me feel that I am on the right path in my life right now and all the guilt goes away. They are also constant reminders to myself that to live a fulfilling life includes the ability to create and enjoy moments like these.
I am going to be celebrating these moments with my family tomorrow and most importantly, my daughter's birthday.
Happy Birthday Emilie!