By Lyra Pore Villafana
Every weekend I drive to the nearest aquatic center to take swimming lessons with other adult learners. My classmates are all parents to young children: one is a mother to a sixteen-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, another has three children all in grade school and yet another has a two-year-old son.
“I’m doing this for myself,” the mom to the two-year-old said last week. “I work and look after my family, but I need to get away from it all every now and then.”
“Me too,” the mother to the three kids agreed. “I don’t work but I need a bit of time for myself so I don’t go crazy.”
“I have the same reason for coming here,” I revealed. I work full-time and do my best to look after my young family too. It reinvigorates me when I am able to spend even just two hours a week doing something for myself. This is my “me time.”
The mother to the teenage girl and grade-school boy listened intently. She had told me on a separate occasion that she enrolled in swimming class to help her manage her asthma.
My swimming buddies and I are all Asians who have migrated to Australia with our families. None of us is really aspiring to become a strong swimmer. Of course, we want to be able to survive should we fall into the water but to us, it’s not simply about the swimming.
Life overseas is so different to what we’ve all been used to. We don’t have extended families to support us, we and our husbands have to do all the house work ourselves as there is no domestic helper who can do the cleaning, washing, cooking and other chores for us, and none of us has the benefit of live-in nannies. Amidst all these, many of us strive to hold a job as well.
But doing something for oneself isn’t unique to Asian moms coping with the stresses of building a new life in a different country. A few weeks ago, my family was invited to the home of an Australian family ― well the wife was Australian while the husband was British. They had a twelve-year-old daughter who’s been born and raised in Australia.
Every week the wife, who’s an operations manager in a chain of nursing homes, attends piano lessons. “I do it for my brain. I have to keep it working,” she said. So once a week, she spends an hour improving her piano playing techniques.
I do not view these one- or two-hour excursions without husband and children selfish at all. A busy mom has to take care of herself too. It does the whole family a lot of good when the mother takes a bit of time to do something that will help keep her mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.