PERSPECTIVE: A 16-year-old reflects on what she has learned from following her mother, who works as a housekeeper, to work, during her December holidays.
Here, we have reproduced the girl's essay from The Birthday Book Jr 20/20: Seeing Clearly titled "Following My Mother To Work".
Mothership and The Birthday Collective are in collaboration to share essays from the 2020 edition of The Birthday Book Jr.
The Birthday Book Jr is a collection of 56 essays featuring young people in Singapore, who come from various walks of life.
Apart from showcasing the diversity of young voices in Singapore, these essays also call attention to issues that matter to children, and the broader world.
By Yu Xiao Qian, 16
To you, my life might be wonderful as it is quite interesting for a teenager to follow her mom to work.
However, I feel that my life is full of hardships, as I am a foreigner, my school fees are very high which means my mom had to work harder in order for me to live a better life.
After I saw her coming back from work late everyday with pain all over her back and body, I decided to make use of my free time to help her so that she would not be so tired.
My mom works as a housekeeper. She is someone who goes to your house and does all the household chores for you weekly. She vacuums, mops, washes toilets and irons clothes.
None of this is as easy as you think. You need a lot of energy to do all these things.
It is not only that, the important thing is to take pride in what you are doing. I know my mother takes a lot of pride in her work because I have had the chance to watch her at work.
The first few times I followed my mom, everything did not go smoothly as I did the chores in a perfunctory manner. I did not like it. It was extremely tiring to do all these chores every day. Besides that, it was boring.
I followed my mom almost every day during the December holidays, when my friends were relaxing and enjoying themselves.
Although we went to different houses every day, after some days, I felt like everything was repeating in a cycle. Doing the same thing over and over again is really very boring.
So, sometimes, I wonder how my mom persevered throughout these years as a cleaner.
Even though the job is tiring, I still have fun following her around. I have met new people and learnt a lot from them. Sometimes I cannot even wait to see them.
The people who I cannot wait to see are usually the families with cute little babies. This makes me look forward to the day.
I also love to see the aunty who I consider to be the nicest person amongst all my mother’s employers.
She gives me a lot of stuff like shoes, clothes and food. Every time I go to her house, even though my job is to help my mom clean the house, I feel like I am going there for a vacation as she treats us like her guests. She even cuts fruits and puts them nicely on the plate and asks us to eat.
Once, as I was resting while waiting for my mom to finish her work, she even turned on the aircon and placed the fan facing my direction. She said I am forever sweating whenever she sees me, and she wants me to feel cool.
This lady has two children who are both older than me and I have also made friends with them. They are just like their mother as they are very nice to me. They give me a lot of tasty snacks and even help me with my school homework.
To sum up, even through the hardships, I have realised that you still can find something good, fun or meaningful out there. You just have to take pride in what you are doing.
I think I have changed after following my mom as I have become more mature. She has taught me that in order to overcome hardships, you need to change your mindset and be positive. When you do that, you would not think that life is so hard and you will overcome it eventually.
In short, I think my life is full of hardships with a little bit of sweetness and the sweetness is what keeps me going.
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If you happen to be in the education space and think this essay may be suitable as a resource (e.g. for English Language, General Paper or Social Studies lessons), The Birthday Collective has an initiative, "The Birthday Workbook", that includes discussion questions and learning activities based on The Birthday Book essays. You can sign up for its newsletter at bit.ly/TBBeduresource.
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