The Life that Might Have Been

Hey lady, you, lady, cursin’ at your life
You’re a discontented mother and a regimented wife
I’ve no doubt you dream about the things you’ll never do
But I wish someone had a talked to me like I wanna talk to you

Over the last weekend for what was supposedly a quick family trip away, I found myself stuck for an hour in a cramped and dirty McDonald’s toilet cubicle somewhere between Busselton and Dunsborough, with a screaming constipated child and this song in my head. (If you have not heard of the song before it was a 1980’s ballad titled “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene.)

At that point I closed my eyes and imagined what that moment would have been like for me in another lifetime long long ago – when a vacation would have been like a real vacation, and time away would actually be relaxing. Instead of a toilet door that seemed to be closing in on me by the minute, I would have been staring at the ocean which had no end. Instead of the flushing sounds of the next door toilet, I would be listening to the gentle lapping of waves and gawking seagulls. And instead of alternating between standing in a small room and squatting and comforting my child who was on the toilet until my legs and back hurt, I would be lying down with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other.

So Charlene, you were right.

On some days I dream of a life that would never be. When the demands and responsibilities of everyday life take its toll I wonder what it would have been like to just be free. To not have to be stuck in a routine of waking up early, going to work, picking up kids then making dinner, to not have to clean up toys, poo and vomit, to not have to be confined to office space for eight hours a day so that the mortgage and private school fees can be paid off, and to not have to be always concerned about whether your actions and decisions might start a fight with your spouse or someone else in your household of ten.

To travel whenever and wherever I want to and see the world, to meet new people and talk to interesting strangers, to pursue a career and a life that is plagued with uncertainty but full of excitement. To be responsible only for me.

What would my life have been like then? Where would that take me? What kind of person would I have been?

But.

I do not let those thoughts linger for long or otherwise consume me, because I know they are not real and the trade-offs have would been unimaginable. When the mind fog clears and I look into the face of a smiling child (my smiling child), I know that these moments, these so-called hardships, are short-lived and in return for something better. Like good investments. You give up a life free of responsibilities and put in the effort in return for things that you now realise you cannot live without once you have experienced them; for those moments when you pick your children up after work and your heart melts when you see their grubby, smiley faces; for the nights when you lie in your husband’s arms, watch Gogglebox and talk about your day; for the family dinners when you sit around, enjoy good food and exchange life stories; for love; for the genuine laughters.

You do it, usually without question, for the certainty in your own mind and your heart that you have given all you can to the people you love most and that you would have them by your side when you need them and when you get old and lonely and you can no longer run freely.

After all what else could life be about?

So listen to the rest of the song. Charlene would tell you the same.

The Lunch Box Challenge

Every once in a while a new hobby or interest comes along that I would allow myself to get immersed into.

Two years ago it was baking; triggered by my desire to bake a birthday cake for the kids (which was no doubt triggered by the many instagram photos of crazily creative but somewhat unrealistic birthday cakes posted by other very talented mothers). I am now reminded of that each time I open the kitchen cabinet to find rows of baking trays and tools in different shapes and sizes, many of which have only been used once. There was also that time when I went a little overboard after receiving an email from daycare informing me of book week dress-up day – which resulted in me fretting for weeks trying to think up an appropriate costume that would resonate with my then two-year daughter without costing me a fortune in terms of money and also time. She ultimately ended up going as Grug, which no one recognised, and I still have leftover confetti paper of various colours in my store room.

Each time this happens I would spend hours every week trawling through Pinterest and magazines researching and gathering ideas, and then spend more hours trialling the ideas before ending up with the final output. Nevertheless I do like these little bursts of projects; they inspire the creative part of the brain which I believe is not used often enough and create distraction from an otherwise hectic lifestyle and at times stressful work environment. Life can’t always be about words, numbers, schedules, negotiations and managing people’s expectations right? What fun would that be?

So, what currently hogs up my time? There are two – firstly, planning the interiors of the house that we are building and secondly, planning what to put into Maya’s school lunch boxes. Both very challenging and equally fun (although driven by vastly different budgets). However this post will only be about the lunch box, the house can come at another time.

For those who have not done this before, do not underestimate how much thought and planning actually goes into that cute little compartmentalised bento box. I started thinking about it a couple of months even before she started school. Those dreadful news on how parents get chastised for packing chocolates into a lunch box. That school information evening where teachers specifically tell parents NOT to put junk food into your children’s lunch boxes. Those television programs that tell you that basically almost EVERYTHING you buy pre-packed from supermarkets these days are laden with sugar, salt and preservatives. And to top it off you have a fussy and slow little eater, you are limited to what you can pack in that lunch box without it getting rotten by midday or it getting all over your kid’s front shirt, and you must be conscious of all the other kids who might be potentially be allergic to nuts, eggs and etc etc. What else is there that you can pack?!

Well, a lot actually, as I eventually start to find. And it is extremely fun! I now love looking up new healthy recipes, making them and then forming them into shapes that she would willingly eat. Nothing feels better than checking her school bag at the end of the day and finding an empty lunch box.

Six weeks into the routine, and here are some things I learned about the process that makes it easier and more enjoyable:

  1. The box matters. Yes, having a good and cleverly-designed lunchbox helps. Think lids that can be easily opened by a four-year-old, think compartments that will separate your savoury from your sweet (and wet-tish from dry), think lids that are attached so that the kids will not lose them, think size that would fit nicely into a lunch bag or their school bag. There are so many cool options out there right now that makes shopping for them quite fun.
  2. It’s good to have varieties. Put different types of food into that lunch box – main meals (e.g. sandwich, pies, sushi etc), snacks, vegetables, fruits – whatever makes sense. This not only increase their nutritional intake, but it also makes it interesting for kids who may be fussy eaters. And in case there is something in there that they do not like, there is always something else that they can eat.
  3. For a working mom I try to stock up the pantry with essentials to avoid the mid-week night supermarket run. Rice, bread, wraps, puff pastry, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, ham and eggs are good staples to have throughout the week – you can make so many combinations out of these ingredients. Sliced cheese, rice crackers, seeds, dried apricots and any other type of dried fruit are also handy to have on hand to be added as snacks.
  4. Think up fun lunches that are easy to prepare and can be done the night before so that you don’t have to wake up an hour earlier in the mornings: Sushi, cucumber and cheese sandwiches, banana and peanut butter wraps, rice balls with fillings, mashed potatoes with peas, quiches, hot dog/sandwich. I usually make them mini sizes (e.g. half a seaweed slice for the sushi or sandwiches cut into 4 mini triangles or quiches made in muffin pans) because Maya finds them easier to eat and loves the idea that they are made just for her.

Have fun lunch-making, and please share your ideas!

Below:

Spinach balls recipe from Good Chef Bad Chef

Easy Date Slice recipe from Chef Not Required … recipes from a home cook website

Apricots – pre-packed from Coles

Little and Big Kids

It was Australia Day two days ago.

We all had a sleep-in. I made croissants for breakfast while the kids played around in their room. We then met up with my mom and sister and went to the Merrywell for an early lunch where we had ribs, steak sandwich, garlic mashed potatoes, fish and chips and we adults shared a jug of sangria (yes at 11am) and the kids juice. At that hour we had most of the place to ourselves and did not have to wait long for our orders; it was pleasant.

It was still hot in the afternoon so after a bit of a rest at home, we packed up for the beach. We laid out the rug, had a dip in the cool waters and let the kids run around. Dinner was take-away fish tacos from the shop across the beach. We went home, finished up dinner before 7:30pm and then drove around to look for a spot to watch the fireworks (walking to the shore was not really an option with a sometimes temperamental two-year-old). We ended up in a hilly spot in a residential area close to our old place where we saw lots of families huddling by – we parked our car and got out to join them just as the fireworks started. The kids loved it, and they fell asleep in the car on the way back home.

It was the best Australia Day I had, ever.

This year is different than the last three because our two kids are now of ages where we can take them out and do stuff together without risking a melt-down. And this year is different from the last ten because we actually went out and spent the whole day doing fun things (some planned, but mostly impromptu decisions).

When it was just me and Will (or myself), all we wanted to do on a day like Australia Day was laze around (well it’s a public holiday!). We might have enjoyed a brunch somewhere, had a few drinks amongst ourselves and watched the fireworks on TV from home. We were not interested nor motivated to go out and be amongst lots of other people, doing things like going to the beach and watching fireworks. Those are for kids, right?

But the kids have changed us. They force (and guilt) us to get out of our comfort and lazy zone and to go out and do things. Be it the beach, the zoo, the Sunday markets, having a picnic in the park, driving out at night to get a frozen yoghurt, spending a day at an amusement park, walking around the city during Christmas to see the Christmas lights, driving up to the ski slope when we were in Seoul just to see the snow; they make us constantly think of all the things that we can do and enjoy together as a family, and to actually go out and do them.

And yes at first I thought it was a bit of a drag, but now I am now quite enjoying these little activities. To be able to get out there and enjoy good weather and the beautiful nature, to enjoy yummy (but unhealthy) food, to share the spirit of special celebrations with others, and sometimes, to just be reminded of the feeling of being able to experience life again without the burden of responsibilities and hindrance of everyday life stresses.  Our days do not have to be 100% planned, they do not always have to be practical nor productive, they can be just fun and we can do things just because we want to and worry about consequences later.

My kids have made me feel like a kid again, and I love it. Just when you think that age is catching up and that things are getting a little too serious, these moments are precious in reminding you to take a step back and appreciate the world for what it is again. And now I have the added pleasure of having them to enjoy these moments with.

Hush-a-Bye Baby

I haven’t had to say this in a long time, but man, last night was tough.

It was 10 pm when we called it a night and as we started to tuck the daughter into her little bed next to ours, we heard the son started crying in his room. It was difficult trying to get him back to sleep so we took him into our bed. However the daughter wanted to sleep with the bed light on (because she is now suddenly afraid of the dark) so that woke the son up. And of course he then wanted to go sleep in her bed with her, and they both took that as an opportunity to cause some ruckus. Ten minutes later he was starting to get tired so he wanted to climb back into our bed and to turn the lights off, to which she screamed in protest. And so on. And so forth. This went on about an hour before somehow we were all able to miraculously drift back to sleep.

Sleep. The word that scares all to-be parents, and the word most googled by parents of children aged between 0-2.

Before my first one was born I often wondered about how I was going to cope with the sleep (or the lack thereof) because I used to cherish my sleep time a lot and could not function on anything less than 8 hours a night (or so I thought). After she was born, I went through months and months of very bad sleep because she was a difficult baby came night time. I still remember the nights of lying next to her in a crampy small bed in her room, nights of breastfeeding her until she fell asleep only to have her wake up again when I gently put her back onto the bed, nights of listening to her scream and cry as I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to train her to sleep. Then my son came along and he is a much better sleeper, but we still had a few rough nights especially when the two of them decided to take turns being difficult.

However we survived it and most nights now we do get a full night’s sleep. Occasionally I get asked by other parents about how we dealt with the sleeping issue, so here I would share my own top three tips:

  1. The cry-it-out method is not the only method to sleep-train your baby. It is one that works for many parents, but if listening to your baby crying makes you want to bawl your eyes out yourself (like me) there are other gentler approaches that can work. It takes patience and determination but eventually you will find one that works for you and your baby. Cry-it-out did not work on Maya because she was a stubborn baby who would cry for hours until I gave in. What I did in the end (and she was about 10 months at that time) was to use something like a phase-it-out approach, where I would slowly replace her breastfeed-to-sleep routine with something else which in our case was rocking her to sleep while singing. It was not any easier in the beginning but what it did was break her association between breastfeeding and sleeping. I started off by having to hold and rock her for at least half an hour before she would drift off to sleep but it got better over days up to a point where I could put her in her cot just as she was about to fall asleep, and I would pat her until she did.
  2. As I mentioned my son is a much better sleeper, and this might have been because we were a lot more disciplined with him from the beginning. My daughter is the first baby in the family so she received a lot of attention; everyone was fighting for turns to hold her to sleep from when she was born. However with Maxy, we made it a habit to let him fall asleep in the bassinet by himself from when he was a newborn and if I was breastfeeding him I would always detach him from the moment I noticed that he was about to fall asleep.
  3. And most importantly be kind to yourself and be flexible to accommodate whatever the situation may be. There will be set-backs, sickness, teething, over-tiredness and generally just bad days and bad luck sometimes. If all your meticulous planning fails, be prepared to do what you need to do to give yourself the rest you need. After having spent weeks training Maya to fall asleep in her own cot, her room got infested by rats so we had no choice but to sleep her in our bed. That seemed like the worst thing to do at the time but it gave us sleep and rest and that did wonders to my well-being and sanity.

In case you are wondering she is still in our room these days but it is not the worst thing in the world and we are starting to transition her to a separate bed (just another part of the journey ahead of us). One of the greatest joys in my days today is still to be able to go to sleep with my child’s face next to mine, to wake up in the middle of the night to kiss those cheruby cheeks and to wake up in the morning and just lie there watching him or her in peaceful slumber. I realise that these moments are numbered and that I will not be able to bring them back as the kids get older, so I am starting to cherish them just as much as I would cherish my sleep.

A Lesson in Philosophy

Do you on some days feel that there is too much noise, distractions and interruptions in your life?

The kids crying, begging for TV and candies. The dog barking. Your phone ringing. Your husband asking you to check that the door is locked. Your mother telling you to clean up the kids’ spills on her floor. People at work demanding that certain things be done urgently. Little arguments between family members. The floor getting dirty after you have just vacuumed in the morning. There is no milk left in the fridge. The TV remote control is not working. And this is only a small fragment of the list.

These daily distractions used to irritate me, a lot, especially on days when I needed to get things done because it felt like I would never get there. At times the noise level got to a certain point that I just wanted to shut everything out. I found that these instances climaxed for me after I returned to work – I guess it goes in hand with the number of things you have to tend to in any given day, the more expectations and responsibilities the higher the noise levels and the lower your tolerance levels.

After a while I realised that unless I was contented to just let myself slowly turn into an angry, miserable human being over the course of time, there is something that has to change. It was not only affecting my health, but also my relationships with the people closest to me. I was snappier and losing my temper quickly. But I couldn’t stop people from expecting things from me, for example people at work are always going to demand priority on things that matter to them. And I couldn’t stop most of the events from happening in my life, for example, the floor is always going to get dirty again within the same day with the dog and the kids running in and out.

And then I realised that the only thing that needed to change was myself and my way of thinking. I was letting external events affect me too much.

A (very) wise man named Epictetus said 2,000 years ago, in relation to how one should live:

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

And he also said that:

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.

So that is what I set out to change. I need to be clear in my mind about what my true goals are and focus on them – my health, my family, my career, all and aspects of them. This year I am breaking them down into achievable periodical goals (for example, successfully transitioning my daughter into kindy and getting her enrolled in swimming classes, getting another article published, moving back into our new home); and then let the rest be what they are supposed to be i.e. noise and distractions. I will either still deal with them because they matter to other people, but I do not let them affect my mood and well-being nor distract me from the goals I set out. I will handle them calmly as they come up, to the best I can, communicate accordingly and move on. Or alternatively I can sit on them for a while and do nothing, because sometimes things resolve by themselves without me having to do anything.

I can’t say that I am already doing this all the time, but just by being conscious of my thinking has already brought me more calm. Here, to being a better me in 2018.

Where has my Baby Gone?

A few days ago, I started a conversation with my daughter. This was a couple of hours after an argument and an ensuing tantrum (with tears and the works) over why the Frozen theme song, which had been played several times a day every day for the past two weeks, should not take precedence over Christmas songs on the family car radio.

I told her that she had been naughty, and that if she was selfish and threw a tantrum again, I would have to report it to Santa Claus the following year.

To which she replied “I will never sleep with you again. I will sleep with Popo i.e. Grandma tonight.”

What? I looked at her. Did she just say that? 

I asked her to repeat what she said, and she did.

My mind was trying to comprehend this. My daughter – who up until now was still relying on me to dress and sometimes feed her, who up until a couple of weeks ago was still a sweet little girl trying hard to show Mommy that she was a grown up, who I could still so distinctly remember as a baby in my arms not that long ago was now not only understanding my weak point but actually using that to threaten me. How did this happen overnight?

My brain tried very hard to work out the best way to respond. Instinctively I demanded that she was not to talk to me like that ever again. That was met with a why, and I could not see how any reasoning I gave at that point would be met with true understanding on her part. So I retorted that it was because I was her mother and that she should always listen to me. Even as those words left my lips, I knew that this was not going to work in the long run. From my end I wanted to raise a child who could think for herself in the future and not just followed orders. Also this was a rationale that did not sit well with any inquisitive child, so it only resulted in more why’s and a whole heap of mumbled lecturing on her part which only she understood. 

I then tried another tactic. I threatened / bribed her back. I said that if she went to sleep at Popo’s, I would have to give her toys to her brother. Now as you would know, you should never threaten a child unless you were really going to carry out your threats otherwise she would very soon learn not to take you seriously. Which was exactly what happened. She considered it for 2 seconds and then laughed it off.

My last attempt was to distract and leave the conversation, with the intention of talking about this with her again in the near future when she was in a better mood and I, better prepared. I went off and prepared a bubble bath for her and her brother and she soon forgot about our chat.

That night I went to my friend Google to ask how I should deal with a defiant four-year-old. There were quite a few websites that posted about this topic, and this article was one of my favourites.

Ah, the wonderful age of four.

I now come to realisation that the first era of parenting has passed for me – gone are the days when most of what I have to worry about are her physical needs, gone are the days when all she wants from are cuddles and my singing; gone are the days when she would take my words as gospel and trust what I tell her without questions.

We are now entering the realms of emotions, independence, defiance, imagination and understanding of concepts; and it is only the beginning. I cry a little inside for the baby girl that is no longer, but at the same time look forward to the excitement and new challenges of welcoming a little girl who is starting to understand and question the ways of the world. What we teach and show her now would more important than ever in helping her become the adult that we want her to be.

The Women in My Life

Tonight I am sitting down and finally having some time to gather my own thoughts in quietness. The naughty little one has gone to sleep early. Things have also finally settled somewhat at work. It has been relentless in the past few months. Today, close to 4pm when the deal was finalised, I just sat in my chair and stared into space for about 10 minutes. For the first time in weeks I felt like I could let my mind rest.

My, has it been a big year.

Apart going back to work part-time in a new team where the environment is constantly challenging, we also kicked a few big personal goals. We designed a new house and signed a building contract. We moved out into an interim house and demolished the old one. We travelled and flew four times (unplanned) – three times with the kids. The kids saw their great grandmothers from both sides of the family, and played with snow for the first time. We witnessed close friends getting married. I became Australian. I started a blog and got my first article published.

I then started reflecting on the friendships and relationships that I have started to build and share with some remarkable women in my life in the past year; some continuing, some only just budding. Each with their own life story, their personal victories, their personal struggles. From the one who tries untiringly to get pregnant, to the one who built a successful career but feels at guilt for not spending enough time with her child, to the confident one who is happy to be by herself, to the one who got pregnant and tried to do everything the natural way, to the one who always makes parenting seems so easy and wants to have everything under control, to the one who is contented to put her career on hold for a few years while raising her young ones, to the one who is supporting her family financially while her husband takes the responsibility of caring for their child.

The one thing that bonds us together is that we are all modern women, trying to make sense of our own role in a society that is rapidly changing. On a daily basis we do what we need to do to get through the day, but in our minds we are having constant battles trying to reconcile the ideals with which we were brought up, where the traditional role of the women are to be dutiful wives and mothers, to the very expensive world we live in now where women are also expected to share the financial responsibility of raising a family. We are more educated and given a lot more opportunities than our mothers so we feel like we should not be wasting them.

What if you work too much that you will not get to spend time with your children in their best years? What if you do not work enough that you are not able to save up the funds for yours and their future? What if you work too much now and leave getting pregnant to much later that you have missed the opportunity to have a child? What if putting your child in daycare from three months onwards leave them permanently scarred? What if you give up your career now to care for your children and find that 5 years you are no longer about to catch up in the workforce?

It is a constant challenge. The struggle to find the perfect balance never stops. We work just as hard, some would argue harder, but sometimes we ourselves and others of the same gender doubt our own capabilities. For each of these women I see their self-doubts, but I also see their strengths and I admire them for it. How each of them chooses to deal with the situation in their lives provides me with the context to help me find the balance in mine.

So thank you. I thank you for your friendship and for sharing your stories with me and for helping me see the various angles in every situation. I appreciate it with all my heart. I just hope that by sharing mine I am able to do the same for you.

Signing out now. I had to type this out as I was thinking it but even the untroubled mind needs to sleep now.

That Jolly Time of the Year

Another 9 days until Christmas.

You see and feel it in every corner – Christmas tree in every building and shopping centre, ham and prawns lining the supermarket fridges, bakeries framed with gingerbread houses, TV channels playing Christmas themed shows, city bars filled with office workers having a drink with their mates. It is a lovely time of the year and it seems like people are generally happier and more approachable.

What is Christmas to me?

When I was younger all I knew was that it was just another public holiday. I was not brought up a Christian and I did not grow up in a country where it was widely celebrated. Although I knew the meaning of Christmas and why it was celebrated I never truly understood the significance of the day.

Many years have passed since then. I am still not a Christian, but it is somewhat different now. In between then and now, I have moved to a different country, grown up, married a devout Catholic with whom I have two beautiful kids. As families do and with most festive seasons we started developing our own traditions and our own interpretation of what Christmas is to us – how we feel about it, what we like about it, what activities we associate it with. As such to us Christmas symbolises more than just a religious occasion, it is a time of year where we make time for and do things to show appreciation for each other.

So what does Christmas mean to me now?

  • Putting up a Christmas tree and decorating it with the family and lining it with lots and lots of presents (although this year we are putting a hold on the tree until we move back into our house).
  • Taking the kids to see Christmas pretty lights in the city and around the suburbs.
  • Going to Christmas markets and street parties to experience the feeling of community.
  • Getting to get into work later and leave earlier and still get lots of things done because most of the office is out on leave.
  • Christmas shopping (and always, always last minute despite my best intentions).
  • Sweltering hot weather.
  • Christmas eve dinner with his family and Christmas day lunch with mine (or vice versa) and eating ham, sumptuous seafood and salads and drinking cool drinks like beer and punches.
  • Building a gingerbread house for my daughter (and this year I plan to let her help me decorate with smarties, candies and all things sweet).
  • My husband going to church and maybe taking the kids with him this year – last year we tried but it did not turn out too well.
  • Watching the Pope and the catholic church on TV on Christmas day.
  • Watching It’s a Beautiful Life and Mr Grinch – this used to be my husband’s personal now turned family tradition.

And most of all, to me, it is a time to give, to show gratitude, to count our blessings, to spend quality time with our loved ones and to reflect on all the good things that have come to us through the year which we never do enough of in our busy lives these days. Amen. Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

What does Christmas mean to you?

We Survived the Flight

[written at 3:45pm local time Saturday afternoon]

I am in a foreign city, looking out at a skyline of white and grey buildings, animated signboards and moving cars as I type this. The cosy apartment is quiet, adorned only with the muted sounds of traffic, the light snoring of the husband and the heavy breathing of the kids as they nap. It is the most peaceful 15 minutes I have had over the last two days as we took two semi long-haul flights and a night stayover in an airport hotel in making our way here.

We are in Seoul.

As the plane was landing yesterday we were greeted (very luckily) by a heavy snowfall. The kids’ very first snow sighting! My daughter’s eyes lit up and she started humming to the tune of “Let it Go” (because of the snow, get it? :)) The air was cold and crisp and as the cab drove us to our destination I observed how the place seemed strangely familiar with glimpses of landmarks seen only from dramas and people spoke the language which I so frequently heard spoken at the lunch table with my husband and his family every Sunday afternoon.

The flight here was interesting to say the least, now that we are travelling with a toddler who has just turned (“terrible”) two. We did not expect an easy journey and we did not get one either; not with a child who would not stay buckled in his seat, whinged for juice and chocolates every 15 minutes and demanded to sit with Daddy one minute and Mommy the next. We survived though and at least for now I can still say that it has not put me off travelling for the next 5 years.

For moms and dads who will be flying with a restless child in the near future here are some lessons which we learnt on our way here and things that worked for us:

1)     Call up the airline and pre-book your seats early especially if you are flying in a larger group. There were four of us and for the longer leg flight from Singapore-Incheon we were able to get the four seats in the middle which made the trip easier than the 3+1 seating arrangement we had on the Perth-Singapore flight.

2)     Airplane toilets are small, and the space would seem even smaller when you have to change the soiled nappy of your squirming two-year-old in there. Be prepared with all that you need before you go in, together with a toy that would distract your kid while you go about cleaning him in a cramped uncomfortable space. And go right before the long queue that takes place each time after the stewardesses clear all the meal trays – they are always kind enough to make way for you when you walk down the aisle with a kid in tow.

3)     Lollipops saved our sanity, more than once. Initially I brought them to get the kids sucking on something on the way up and down so that it would help relieve the ear pressure; however every time my son became a little crazy and screamed to be let out of his seat (when the seatbelt sign was on) we would offer him one and he would relent. And as one lollipop would leave him contented for about 10 minutes, that gave us the break we needed to recharge for the next challenge.

4)     The in-flight entertainment system did nothing for our restless two-year-old (worked wonders for the four-year-old). What worked better for him was a tablet with pre-recorded favourite shows and age-appropriate games which kept him occupied for a while.

5)     If you are doing a long haul flight consider booking in flight times that would allow you to spend a night in a transit hotel and recharge (for you and your kids). Despite my pre-conceived idea of what a transit hotel would be like the Ambassador Transit Hotel at Terminal 3 of the Changi Airport actually turned out pretty good. The room was clean and spacious and the hotel was right next to the food court. The best thing is that you do not have to clear customs and pick up your luggage which gave us another hour to sleep in the next morning before catching the final leg to Seoul.

6)     Go on the flight prepared, with the mindset that you probably will not get to watch a whole movie nor eat your meal in peace – if the kids happen to fall asleep for a couple of hours (which they might) then consider it an extra. Just try your best to be conscientious of people around you but also realise that you might come across unsupportive aircrew or difficult passengers who would balk at being sat next to children on a plane ; if that happens just ignore them and remind yourself that there is nothing wrong about travelling with your loved ones and that you are there on a holiday to have fun.

7)     And finally, parents, if you are travelling on Singapore Airlines, have a Singapore Sling. They do them unbelievably well and it makes the whole situation more bearable.

Final note, I have not travelled on anything other than MAS and SIA for international flights with my children because from all that I read online SIA seems to be the preferred choice for parents. I have to say that they have not let me down to-date and what makes it better is that you get a lot of other families travelling on the same airline which means that you do not end up feeling like your child is the only one causing a ruckus and that there are at least 10 other families who are in the same boat, ahem, I mean plane.

Bad Mom Confessions

I have a few confessions to make:

  1. I bribe my kids at dinner time with the tablet.
  2. I let my daughter stay up with us most nights of the week.
  3. Sometimes I let the TV help babysit while I work (or write) at home.
  4. When we go out I do not always make sure that my kids’ clothes match their shoes.
  5. I take them to McDonalds once a week where they can have chips and soft serves and play in the playground.

Yea I know, pretty bad right?

Or is it relatable?

We are living at a point in time and place where it is tough to be a parent. It is not because our kids are different now, but it is because of the expectations that are being placed on parents.

You get the TV, internet, magazines and other mothers (even non-mothers) telling you what to feed your kids, what time to put them to bed (and how), what activities to do outside of school hours and what not to let them do. Then when people do share some insight with others about their family lives on Instagram, like giving cinnamon scrolls to your kids for breakfast, you get the judgmental ones who would react as if you have just let a kid starve for days.

We may not all be perfect parents but we all have our own ways of showing love to our children. I am not saying that mine is right or better, but it reflects what is important to us and works in our situation. In our family with young kids, my number one priority now is safety and then fostering a balanced and positive environment for them to grow up in. I also want them to spend lots of time with both my and Will’s families as I want them to understand family values and also get a strong and proud sense of their cultural roots.

Although my craft skills are far from perfect, I attempted to make a Grug outfit for my daughter on her very first book day at daycare (which someone mistook as a doggy outfit). I don’t spend hours researching and making healthy meals for the kids, but I try to make sure they get fruits and vegetables in their daily  diets. I want them to understand that it is not about being perfect, but it is about trying. And when things do not work out, it is ok to be able to laugh at yourself (even if I have to make a fool of myself trying to make this point).

I take time to look after myself because I believe my own mental state is the foundation for me to able to care well for my children. Will and I also time to work on our relationship because we believe that if we can demonstrate our love to each other in front of our children, that is how they will learn to love.

So although I am not doing all the things deemed necessary to be the model mother, I feel comfortable we are on the right track. Of course all this might change one day if our kids grow up to be obese adults who spend all their time watching TV into the wee hours of the mornings, but for now I think we are ok.

Do you have a bad mom confession to share?