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.

We Will Always Be Here

I have been thinking for a couple of weeks about whether to write this post.

I don’t usually like writing about depressing subjects and events, not because I do not think about them or that they do not affect me (in fact they affect me much more now with the kids), but because I think that we are all already so burdened by solemnity in our everyday lives that I would rather blog about more light-hearted and uplifting topics.

However I made up my mind in light of what happened 2 days ago.

Will and I recently watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. Having read the synopsis and reviews we were considering for a while whether to watch it but we did in the end and I am glad we did. The story was about a teenage girl who committed suicide and she left behind a series of tapes detailing the 13 reasons why she chose to end her life. It touched on prevalent modern day issues like bullying in high school and some others which I would not go into details here because I do not want to ruin the plot for anyone.

It was gripping and confronting to watch; confronting because it shows you the trail of devastation that such an event leaves behind on the loved ones and all those impacted, and you never really realise how easily something like this can happen to anyone of us, to any of our children. I grew up in a very different time and environment – high school bullying was unheard of (you might have kids pulling pranks and cracking jokes at others but nothing like what you see these days); so I haven’t really seriously thought about this issue before. Besides, my oldest is only 4, still very young, not at the age when I should start worrying. Or should I?

Two days ago, we saw in the news that 14-year-old Dolly Everett from NT took her life after being subjected to cyber-bullying. This saddens me tremendously, and frightens me just as much.

It made me ask myself repeatedly, how can we better protect our children? There will always be bullies – we cannot control this – and going into a future world where social media is becoming a core facet of life, it will get easier for bullies to bully and more difficult for victims to escape from it. Bullying now can take such form that it can happen to your children right before your eyes, and yet you can still be absolutely blind to it.

For one you can try to limit, monitor and control how technology is used in your own home, but you will not be able to completely eliminate it, not if you want your kids to be adept with how the world works (in literal term – how else will they adapt in any corporate or work environment?). Also bullying can still happen in the real world, not only in the cyber one.

From all these, what I truly hope is for my children to know and understand that we will always be there for them; to listen to them and to help them when they need our help. That they can come to talk to us anytime they want to. I want to know if they they’ve had a bad day, or if they are worried about something, or if someone’s been mean to them, or even if they just need someone to talk to.

I also want them to know that school and any bad period they go through in life will be just a phase, and that kids will be mean, but that nothing anyone say to them or about them should matter. Do not let words or bad actions of others affect them. They need to be comfortable with who they are and if they don’t like what they are hearing, turn away. When they are older and wiser and successful all the things that happened back in school will seem small and menial.

And lastly, I want them to know that, no matter what happens in life, there is always a way out. Even if they think that all options may have been exhausted and that the days seem bleak, there will still be a way out. Talk to us, to anyone, and if they don’t get the answers they need, talk to someone else. There is no situation that can’t be fixed or made undone.

Of course these are all just thoughts and wishes, nothing that we do now nor later can guarantee that our children will lead the life we hope for them. Like so many other aspects of parenting we can only do our best and hope that it is enough to guide them through what will be a long and difficult journey. My 4-year-old may only be young, but from now I am going to start preaching the above messages to her and cross my fingers that one day if she ever does need them (and I will pray to God that she never does), she will remember and do the right thing.

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?

And Then There was Us..

[written at 8:32 am local time on Wednesday]

It was -3 degrees last night when the two of us walked along the streets of Yeouido looking for a place where we could sit down and have a drink. We were looking for somewhere that was not a fried chicken and beer place which seemed to ninety percent of places selling alcohol. Nothing wrong with Korean fried chicken (in fact they do them well – always crunchy on the outside and moist inside) but at that stage we could no longer stomach fried chicken after a big meal of fresh raw fish, barbequed salmon head and hot steaming seafood soup at the biggest fish market in Seoul. We were just after a drink and a bit of a night-life experience in Seoul.

Where were the kids, you wonder?

Ah-ha. My parents took them so it was our night off. We all happened to be conveniently travelling in the same place at the same time.

The financial district of Seoul was still bustling at 9pm last night; many people had only just got off work and were having dinner and drinks with their friends or colleagues. The area was brimming with a variety of colours, a combination of busy neon shop lights and also still star-like lights which lined the street hedges in anticipation of Christmas.

After 15 minutes of walking we finally found a place where we could have a stout and a cocktail – and good timing because my legs were starting to feel like frozen matchsticks. We scurried quickly into the well-heated pub like mice to cheese.

Last night reminded me of our trip to Seoul seven years ago, not married and with no kids. Just carefree individuals then, taking a trip together and doing whatever we wanted to do.

What was the one thing that changed the most for me after children? Not my body although it will never the same again. Nor is it my sleep pattern although that does come close. It is my relationship with my husband.

Having kids changed us in ways that we could not have anticipated; as individuals but more so as a married couple. The hormonal changes from the time of pregnancy, the changes in your body as your baby grew within you, your perception of your new role as a mother, the development of an instinctive protection towards your child – it changes you and therefore also alters your expectations of your husband’s role. Whilst you were able to be a good wife to your husband before by doing things like making all his meals, this was no longer the case once the baby was born. In between breastfeeding, night soothing, nappy changing and bathing the baby, you would be lucky if you even get time to feed and clean yourself. You expected him to be able to help out more. Naturally you expected him also to be around more.

At times you did not get why he did not understand what you needed and what you considered important. You also felt like there was a gap that was widening between the two of you. If initially it felt like men was from Mars and women from Venus, after kids it felt almost like we were from completely different universes. (E.g. the year in which our daughter was born, Will said that he was going over to his parents’ house by himself on Christmas day to spend the day watching old movies because that was his personal tradition. BY HIMSELF. I blew my lid.)

The other thing with the kids is that you spend all your time doing stuff for and with them and more often than not you forget to spend time together as husband and wife. It is easy to “accidentally” de-prioritise your relationship with your husband for the benefit of your kids as everything is now about them, and less about you.

So it was tough, initially. With a lot of potential misunderstandings and not a lot of time to understand each other it is easy to see how things could have gone pretty bad. Eventually with time and some frank discussions we decided that we needed to spend more quality time with each other again. (I have my husband to thank for that, he is the one with the good ideas and the cornerstone of our relationship).

So with some conscious effort, we started doing things together again. Then we started talking and communicating again. After a while, we started to work more closely together as a team. While we were previously just two people who enjoyed each other’s company, we were now becoming true life partners – who would pick up the kids; who would grab the milk on the way home; where would the kids go to school; what values do we want to teach them; what are the career moves that would best progress individual opportunities but at the same time accommodate the family unit. It did not just happen by itself, we made it happen. At the same time we progressed from merely tolerating each other’s odd habits to truly embracing each other for their strengths and also help strengthen their weaknesses.

We reminded ourselves that in the beginning, there were the two of us. Your love and trust in each other is what brought to life the kids and then one day when the kids are older and they leave the nest, there will still be the two of you. So we do need to try and make time for each other even though that may very well require a lot of extra effort – complacency is what stops a relationship from growing.

So last night as we talked and laughed about everything kids and non-kids related and sipped on our drinks in a warm pub in a city far from home, we were enjoying each other’s company again. It felt good, it reminded us why we are a good match for each other and it would serve as another memory for us to relive on many occasions to come in the future.

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?

My happy village

A couple of people at work have commented that I make balancing work and family look so easy, like I am fleeting seamlessly between one and the other without ever dropping a ball (as least not one that’s been noticed anyway).

Well, that is very nice and thank you for making that observation. I try to do my best, but I would though like to respond by mentioning these three points.

Firstly, what you see is just an illusion which I admittedly try to put up when I walk out the door. Sometimes anyway. There are days when I feel exhausted even before I step into the office and I would have had two cups of strong coffees before 9 am. And there are definitely days when I come home at night and I would be too tired to even pour myself that glass of wine which I so deserve. There are also days when I would only do the minimum at work just so that I would not drop a ball. However given that I deal with both internal and external stakeholders on a daily basis I do place value in looking professional and giving people the confidence that they can work with me. And through my many years of experience being a woman I conclude that there is nothing that good foundation, lipstick and a cup of coffee can’t fix on any given morning.

Secondly, I try to give myself a break and not be affected by little things around the house; which I think has made me a calmer person. Initially I would let a lot of things get under my skin, like dog bringing sand into the house, plates piling high in the basin and kids throwing toys everywhere. It drove me nuts. After several episodes of just losing “it” and then collapsing into a crying mess (which my poor husband had to bear the brunt of) I convinced myself that these are things which I can’t just control and since I do not really want to be vacuuming the house five times in a day, I decided to change my own outlook instead. It is ok for us to leave a few dishes to be done in the evening after we come home; it is also ok to only vaccum once in the morning and another time before you go to sleep since the dog will be coming in and out all throughout the day anyway, and if the kids’ room looks too messy, just close the door beind you (ps. if you are a bit of a control freak like me do read this article on Kidspot, it is rather entertaining).

And finally and most importantly, you know how they say you need a village to raise a kid? Yes, that is so true and I have a wonderful village whom I rely on day-in and day-out to look after our kids and the occasional home issues when husband and I are at work. Our village is also big, comprising of both my own family and my in-laws who lovingly, diligently and unconditionally take care of our kids when they are not at daycare. It is not without challenges though, these kids who are raised by dual (and even triple households) as values are being taught from all directions (try telling a kid that they can’t have something which Grandma has already promised earlier on) and your No. #1 position in their hearts gets consistently challenged, but at the end of the day it gives us reassurance and a peace of mind when the kids are not with us which means that we can focus our attention on other things like work and not get distracted. It also allows us kids to see that there are different ways to living and hopefully give them a wider perspective to life.

So yes, we are who we are and we can become who we want to become because of the circumstances and people surrounding us (with a bit of change in attitude and mentality and a lot of tolerance). And yes, we are lucky but we are also grateful and we do not let ourselves nor our kids forget that. 

Happy Sunday everyone.

PS. Lastly, I have to share this funny post which a friend put up on her Facebook which I can relate so well with.

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PPS. My dear readers, I am asking for a favour. If you know of other women (or men) who would enjoy a weekly light read or maybe benefit from the experience of a fellow mom can you please share my link with them? There is nothing more encouraging for someone who writes to know that people are reading 🙂 With thanks and lots of love.