Home alone

It is now a month since my kids are home alone.

They have been doing everything by themselves. Grocery shopping,cooking, cleaning, laundry and taking care of Kirra & the garden. They are also working in their respective jobs for10 hrs/week . I know what they are doing is beyond what  children  of their age should be doing. But what choice do I have?

I miss my kids.


Years ago, I wrote about Freddie Aguilar and his song Anak in this blog. It is a song I  grew up with and I still listen to it as I have plenty of good memories associated with it.

When I work late at night, I play YouTube music and one of the secretaries at work who too was doing overtime had noticed Anak in my play list and commented about it. She was surprised that I, a foreigner liked Tagalog songs!  On Friday before leaving work, she left me complimentary ticket for Freddie Aguilar’s concert. in one of the local clubs. (She even called the organizer to arrange a VIP seat for me 🙂

I remember every little details about everyone in my life. Be it the security guard at the gate or the director of WHO health Systems. Not many people bother to remember anything about me. Sometimes it hurts.. especially when people forget my birthday.

So, the fact that someone remembered how much I love Freddie Aguilar meant a lot to me.

I had such a good time.


Last Saturday, I had dinner with other interns. During our meal, my phone kept pinging with FB messages. Normally, I don’t like to use my phone while I am having dinner, but this time, I told my friends that I have to talk to my kids. My youngest was coming home from Spain and I wasn’t home.

One of my fellow intern commented ” you are very close to your children”

I said “yes, I am”

She then said, “I wish I was this close to my mom, both my parents are doctors and when I was young, I wasn’t even allowed to be sick, cause neither of my parents wanted to stay back home and take care of me. Now they are semi retired and have the time, but I don’t live at home any more and we don’t even talk”

I know there is no right or wrong way and each to his own. But I do think it is worth to spend as much time as you can when your children are young.. Someone once told me “pay is less, but the fringe benefits are spectacular” I could have had my dream boat a decade ago, had I not given up work.Staying at home and raising my children have given me the closeness with my children that no amount of money could ever buy.



So, what are things I miss the most since coming here?

  1. My children, my bed and my dog.
  2. Cheese. I never realized how much cheese has become part of my diet till I came here. I miss having Tomato and Mozzarella salad. I miss cheese toasty, gnocchi with a generous serving of grated mozzarella..
  3. Coffee. I am not a fan of Starbucks and the café at work often incinerate the coffee beans before grinding. I miss fair trade Colombian coffee that I have at my house in Brissie.
  4. Shopping. I hate shopping generally. I never ever do window shopping. When I need something, I want to go be able to go to the shop and get it. I live close to one of the largest malls here. All I want is a can of hairstyling mousse. First of all, the mall is very crowded. and the escalators are all over the place and there is no system or order for the shops. Every level has multitudes of restaurants selling practically the same thing. The grocery shop sells everything but hairstyling products. So, my hair is all frizzy due to high humidity and I hate that I can’t do anything.
  5. Spicy food.
  6. My goodness, after reading my own grievances list, I realized I have way too much first world problems!! Spoiled brat eh? But there is a plus side. I found a shop that sells tapioca chips 35 pesos (slightly less that 1 AUD) a packet and that makes up for everything!


A classmate of mine is also doing the same internship at WHO and he arrived a month before me. This morning as we entered the WHO building, all the security guards greeted me and I greeted each of them by their name ( there are a lot of them as WHO-WPRO is currently hosting the Regional Committee meeting.) Sometimes, I work till late and one of the security guards would always walk me home, even though it is not part of their job description.

This greeting process continued with the staff at the café. On Monday, I had mentioned to the Chef that it is Thanksgiving day for Canadians and when I was leaving work, the security guard gave me a Bento box of food. Apparently it was my Thanksgiving treat from the chef.

And as we climbed up the stairs, the director of another dept stopped me to have a chat.

Eventually my classmate quipped, my goodness, you know everyone here.

It is true.

I am a firm believer of being nice to everyone.

I also want to make full use of my time here and network. After all, “if you don’t go after what you want, you have to live with what you have” It is my own quote and I believe in it totally.


It is the first time my youngest has stayed away from me for more than a week. (She is on a student exchange in Spain at the moment).

We talk often on FB and if I don’t reply to her quickly, she will text me and ask if I am not getting her messages?

I gave her a bank card that she could use in Spain. Every single purchase she makes, she would ask if it was ok? is she spending too much money? (As opposed to Yaya, who sent me one email on the day she arrived in Spain and then another one when she ran out of money and wanted me to send her more!). She even bought gifts for my elderly neighbors. (Which made me feel sad.. rightfully my mother should be enjoying my children’s love and generosity)

But more than anything I was really surprised when my youngest asked my advice about coping..

Apparently some of her friends had organized a trekking trip and she didn’t go because she had cramps and was too lazy to walk. It turned out that the people who went for the trekking had a really awesome time and the view from the top was breathtaking. This has resulted in my youngest feeling miserable.. regretting her decision not to go. She asked me, how do I deal with this mom?

So I told her, we make decisions based on certain facts and sometimes we realize we made the wrong choice. Life is all about learning from mistakes.. You can’t undo the decision and have to live with that little regret that will nag your conscience forever. But you can make sure that you won’t make the same mistake again. Then I told her, trust me when I tell you this, I have screwed up more times than you think one person could do. and I have learned to accept that I screwed up and hopefully will not repeat it..

She sounded relieved afterwards.



I had a dinner with the Regional Director of WHO. Nothing special, all new interns get to do this. During the dinner, the RD mentioned that I was the oldest intern he ever met. I wasn’t sure how to view that particular statement. Should I be ashamed of being old? Of course, I know the old saying ” you are never too old”. However, his comment did unsettle me.

Few days later, I had dinner with my boss and his wife. When I saw her name on the dinner invitation, I though it looked very familiar.

During the course of our dinner, I asked her if she was the person I am thinking of and she was surprised that I knew her name. About 20 years ago, I read few of the journal articles she had written. At that time, she was a pioneer in Virology. But her husband was working for WHO in Geneva and she was working somewhere else and the kids wanted to stay in Geneva. So she quit her job and never went back to work. A decision she regrets to this day.

I know my path ahead is not going to be smooth. I know I am old.. there is no denying that. But I also know, if I stop now, I will be in the exact same position as my boss’s wife in 20 years. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen.

So this is the march of the old woman.. and onwards I go…

What do I want

There comes a time when you need to ask yourself
What you really want to do with your life?”

At each decade of my life, I had different goals.

My oldest goal was to leave home. Then I wanted to study, Then I wanted to marry, Then I wanted kids, Then I wanted to be the best mother one could ever be.. I did all of those.. Yet somehow I always felt something missing. (kind of like the song I came to sing still remains unsung)

This re-evaluation started with a colleague of mine who casually mentioned that she admired the fact that I gave up my career for my kids. “That was a sacrifice”, she said.

The truth is, it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was a choice. A choice you make consciously after evaluating the pros and the cons shouldn’t be considered a sacrifice. When you sacrifice something you change the balance of things and make the other person bear the guilt. I do not want my children to grow up and think that they somehow have to bear the cross for my decision to stay at home and compensate me… I actually had the best 2 decades of my life when I was staying at home and raising them.

So, that brings back to the question what I want to do with my life.. beyond the reading, travelling, sailing etc..

I guess the answer is simple. I want to have both power and money. There, I said it… and guess what, I never ever thought I would re evaluate my life and come up with that..


Last Saturday I had dinner with the staff from my Dept and as usual the conversation revolved around children. When I mentioned that I am a mother of three teenagers, every single group member commented about how hard it is to raise teenagers..

It is true that I dreaded raising teenagers.. It wasn’t always an easy ride, but I honestly think that raising teenagers is much easier than raising pre-adolescents.

Few days ago, When I got back to my apt, I noticed my youngest is online on FB. Spain is 6 hours behind my time and I knew she was online during school. So I asked her

“Muthey, What boring class are you in right now?”

She replied “Maths, I completed the assignment already and am bored” and we continued to chat.

Yes, I am aware that as a parent I should have scolded/advised my child as it is wrong to be on the phone during class time. However,  Since I read novels during class whenever I was bored, what right do I have to tell my child not to do something, when she is bored? I refuse to be hypocrite.

Couple of minutes later, my child mentioned

“Mom, I love the fact that you didn’t scold me even when you knew I was on the phone during class time”

I think one of the key thing with being a parent who is actively involved in their children’s life is not to be judgemental and at the same time, let your children know that you are aware of what they are doing..

My son told me that almost all of his Asian classmates have 2 different FB accounts, one that their parent’s monitor and another one that they post/write whatever they want without having to worry about their parents knowing.

If I go after my daughter for using the phone while she is in class, she is just going to selectively block me on FB, or create another FB account.. She is not going to sit and twiddle her thumb just because I told her not to use her phone during class. Besides, she is only doing it when she thinks she is not going to get caught.. and even if she gets caught, she has to face the consequences herself..

So, we chatted.. while I knew she broke the no phone during class rule..


After being on the road for well over three weeks, I arrived back home from US, exhausted and a bit depressed. After all, I won’t see my oldest daughter for another couple of months. By the time I arrived home, it was around 11 AM, I was tired and hungry.

Years ago, I wrote about the time Amma left us alone in the Bangalore house and went to Kerala and the day before she was due, I cleaned the whole house. I even carried her mattress to the balcony to rejuvenate the cotton stuffing in the sun ! Amma got home around 6.30 AM and the first thing she said as soon as she got inside the house and switched on the light was “Why is the light switch sticky?”

I didn’t want to be like Amma, but at the same time I kind of wanted my house to be clean and expected my kids to keep it clean.

Leaving a 16 year old, a 14 year old and a 14 month old dog alone at home without adult supervision was a risky business. I expected the worst.

My house looked exactly as I left it. Except for two pot plants in the living room which the dog  ate..or attempted to eat.. I guess she thought  she is helping me by checking the roots.

But more than the state of the house, what really made me happy was what was on the dining table.

There was Avial, Dhal, rice and pappadam for me and taco mince for them. And there was even a pineapple cake for desert. My kids cooked it and even though the cake didn’t look like a pineapple, it tasted just as good.

I remember reading somewhere about an Indian American woman’s comment about her son. She said very proudly “My son doesn’t even know how to toast a slice of bread” and when I read it, I thought what an ignorant woman she is! I promised myself that I will teach my kids how to cook, because it is an essential skill they need to develop to survive .

It is not that I am not worried about the kids being careless and leaving the stove unattended or getting injured/burned etc. I am terrified of all that can go wrong. But I also know that I must have faith in them and believe in them.

Until end of Oct, my son will be alone at home with Kirra. Youngest is in Spain on student exchange. And then the two of them will be alone till I get home end of Nov.

The only difficult part for the kids would be that they have to take the bus to the shops to buy grocery. I did tell them to buy online. But they don’t want to pay for the delivery charges..they think it is a waste of money.(According to my son, he can buy two pizzas for the same money)

So here I am, in Manila. I miss my kids..