最佳媽媽 譚美玲博士
‘Best Mom’ Tam Mei Leng

21 Mar 2016


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讀澳門大學本科時已認識譚美玲博士, 雖然沒有上過她的課,但從同學之間口耳相傳知悉,她是一位跟學生感情很要好的老師。那些年,譚博士還是新手媽媽,應付大學繁忙工作之餘,還要披星戴月照顧年幼的女兒。這次採訪她,首次聽她追憶往事,語調輕盈,彷彿一切辛苦都付笑談中。譚博士對古典戲曲情有獨鍾,常笑說人生如戲,每天更要飾演六種不同角色,當中她最難飾演的是甚麼角色呢?

鬥智鬥力感恩

譚博士是中國語言文學系助理教授,擁有羨煞旁人的美滿家庭:有同樣從事大學教育且疼愛自己的丈夫;有一對會噓寒問暖,生日又會為媽媽送上驚喜的孝順兒女。大女Victoria 2014年在澳洲昆士蘭大學畢業後,正在當地做藥劑師,兒子Douglas也於同年考入墨爾本大學攻讀機電工程。20多年當媽媽的經驗,譚博士笑言:「要鬥智、鬥力和感恩。第一要有體力去陪他們玩;第二是要採取積極不干預政策,不能硬碰硬,尤其是青春期,更需要智慧去處理問題;第三要有一顆感恩的心,子女至今沒有走上歪路,我經常多謝菩薩,因為幸福都不是必然。」

用智慧解決問題, 當中竅門未必每位媽媽如譚博士般能掌握。Victoria中學讀女校,曾有一段時間跟某女同學來往甚密,譚博士在一次母女閒聊時假裝不經意地對Victoria說出以下的話:「囡囡,無論你的選擇是甚麼也不緊要,最重要是你要找一個真正愛你的人。」「我思想比較開放,就怕丈夫不能接受。」不過事件最終也證明是媽媽過慮了。去年譚博士到澳洲探訪Victoria時首次跟她現任男友碰面,譚媽媽又再一次施展智慧術,「女兒問你對男朋友有甚麼意見時,你不能直接說他不好,還要控制好自己的面部表情,一個眼神或皺眉都不可以啊,她可能會很在意。」

「你走不動,我揹你吧。」

譚博士經歷最辛苦的是教書、讀博、湊子三線並行的階段。「那時兒子才幾歲,很『痴身』,一定要跟我睡, 我當時急著完成1 9萬字的論文, 他每晚就趴在我腿上入睡。」兒子七歲時,一次跟譚博士和學生上山考察,途中喊累不願意走,她就對兒子說:「你走不動,我揹你吧。」冒著因長期站著講課引致的膝關節疼痛也願意這樣做,只有當過媽媽的才能明白這種愛。

每日扮演六角色

做全職阿媽固然辛勞,但雙職女性何嘗不是?譚博士慨嘆謂:「我每天要飾演六種不同身份的角色:自己、女兒、媽媽、妻子、老師和下屬,每轉換一個角色都要變一次臉。以前面對工作壓力不懂釋放,回到家板著臉而不自知,後來丈夫提醒我,不要把負面情緒帶回家,因為子女是會跟著不開心。」自此,她每次回家前必變臉,「拋掉工作壓力才進家門,希望帶給家裡輕鬆和有愛的氣氛。」譚博士的演技如此收放自如,真的要頒一個「最佳媽媽」獎給她。

這位最佳媽媽,同樣也是最佳妻子,「家務事都是由我一手操辦,沾雄(丈夫)為了我離開加拿大的家人留在澳門發展,單憑這點我就應該要感恩,要對他遷就和體貼。我慶幸身邊不斷有朋友指點我怎樣做一個稱職的媽媽,尤其是一位我曾教過的教育學院學生,一直是我的好朋友,他任訓導主任,我一遇到教養的難題都會向他請教。」

假如人生可以從新來過

譚博士除了對性別研究有興趣外,還對古典戲曲很著迷。這天要她拿一個角色來比照自己時,她竟笑自己是「潦倒書生」。為甚麼?「教書25年了,在研究上我覺得還未達到自己的要求,有時很羨慕我丈夫,可以無所顧慮發展自己的事業。在六個角色中,我覺得對『自己』這角色有所愧疚,演得最不好。假如人生可以從新來過,我會選擇不結婚,這樣就可以有更多時間去成就自己。」訪問結束時,忍不住再問一次:假如人生真的可以從新來過,Miss你真的願意選擇走一個人的路嗎?「是。」

I knew of Dr Tam Mei Leng when I was still an undergraduate student at UM. I never attended her classes, but from what I kept hearing from those who did, students loved her and felt very close to her. Those were hectic days for Tam, because in addition to her heavy workload at the university, she also had a young daughter to take care of. A lover of classical Chinese opera, Tam likens life to a play, in which she has to constantly switch between six different roles.

A Battle of Wits and Strength and a Lesson in Gratitude

Dr Tam is an assistant professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. She has a family that is the envy of many, with a loving husband who also works in higher education and two children who never fail to surprise her on her birthdays. Tam’s daughter, Victoria, graduated from the University of Queensland in 2014, and is now working as a pharmacist in Australia. Her younger son, Douglas, is studying electromechanical engineering at the University of Melbourne. Asked what parenting experience she wanted to share with other parents, she said, ‘Raising children is both a battle of wits and strength, and a lesson in gratitude. First, you must have the strength to play with them even when you feel exhausted after a day’s work. Second, you need to adopt a policy of non-interference and avoid dealing with problems head-on. This is especially important when you have adolescent children. You need to use your wits to solve problems. Third, you need to cultivate a heart of gratitude. I often offer my thanks to the Buddha that my children have never gone astray. It’s a blessing and no blessing should be taken for granted.’

As a teenager, Victoria went to a girls’ secondary school and for a time became very close with another girl. Open-minded but worried about her husband’s reaction, Tam brought up the subject with feigned nonchalance while chatting with her daughter. She told Victoria, ‘It does not matter who you choose in the end; the most important thing is that you choose someone who truly loves you.’ It turned out Tam needn’t have worried, for Victoria introduced her current boyfriend to her mother during Tam’s visit to Australia last year. Ever the witty mother, Tam answered her daughter ’s question about what she thought of the boyfriend with great tact. ‘Even if you don’t like the boyfriend, you can’t say so directly,’ she explained. ‘You also need to be careful with your facial expression, because even a passing look or frown might give you away and hurt her feelings.’ If you are also a parent and despair over your apparent lack of Tam’s parenting talent, take heart! Tam says she is lucky to have some friends who could teach her how to be a good mother. ‘I once had a student, who has now become a good friend of mine. I always turn to him for parenting tips,’ she said.

‘If you are too tired to walk, hop on mommy’s back.’

The most difficult time for Tam was when she had to teach, study for a PhD degree, and take care of her young son at the same time. ‘My son was just several years old. He was very clingy, and wouldn’t sleep without me,’ she said. At the time Tam had to complete a 190,000-word dissertation on a tight schedule, so she worked every night with her son falling asleep on her lap. Several years later, while tagging along with Tam and her students on a field trip on a hill, the seven-year -old child grew tired and refused to walk any further. Despite her chronic knee pain from standing for long periods of time as a lecturer , Tam said to her son, ‘If you are too tired to walk, hop on mommy’s back.’

Switching Between Six Roles Daily

Being a full-time mother is not easy, but juggling a career and a family is even harder. Every day Tam has to switch between six different roles: herself, daughter, mother, wife, teacher, and employee. In the past, she wasn’ t very good at handling work-related stress, so sometimes she returned home with a sour face without even realising it. Her husband noticed this and gently reminded her that bringing negative emotions back home would have a bad effect on the children. So from then on Tam always made a point of putting on a happy face when she came home. ‘I now remind myself to shut down work stress before entering home, because home should be a place where everyone can relax and feel loved,’ she said.

Not only does Tam deserve a Best Mother Award, she should also receive a Best Wife Award, because in addition to all her other commitments, she does all the= housework. ‘My husband left his family in Canada and came to Macao because of me. This alone should make me forever grateful, so I want to take good care of him and pamper him a little,’ she said.

If I Had to Do It All Over Again

Tam is a big fan of classical Chinese opera. But I was surprised by her answer when I asked her which character from classical Chinese opera she thought resembled her the most. She said jokingly, ‘A wannabe scholar.’ She then explained without my further prompting: ‘I’ve been teaching for 25 years, but still I feel I haven’t reached the standards I set for myself. Sometimes I envy my husband, because he can focus on his career without any distraction.’ It turns out of the six roles Tam plays on a daily basis, the role of ‘self’ is her most neglected one. ‘If I had to do it all over again, I would choose not to get married, so I could have more time to focus on myself and my dreams,’ she said. Before the end of our interview, I couldn’t help asking: ‘Do you mean it? If you could do it all over again, would you really rather choose a solitary path?’ She replied, ‘Yes.’