Category Archives: family

A year of CANS and PLANS

2014 was a year of personal transition. While mommy juggled full time corporate life, CRIB – her social enterprise start-up, and finding quality time with hubby and son, B graduated to his big boy bed (super single, to last till NS!), afternoon drop-off programs and extended day childcare. We remain eternally grateful for this precious blessing that lifts our weary evenings, fills our weekends with laughter, and brings never-ending joy and wonder to our home.

For 2015, I’m taking a life lesson from the amazing women and entrepreneurs I’ve come to know at CRIB, and also, my 3 year old, whose self-confidence and curiosity defy gravity = BELIEVE!

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No it's not modern art, but B's writing his full name out just after turning 3
No, it’s not modern art, just B trying to write his full name out sometime after he turned 3

Happy New Year!

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There and Back Again: Returning to Full Time Work

“Validate one another: Moms who work outside the home should regard moms who work inside the home as real workers. And likewise.” – Debora Spar

I feel it’s important for a woman to have her own career to gain financial security and self-reliance.  After 12 years of a blissful dual income no kids life, everything changed in 2011 when baby #1 arrived! While being a stay at home mom was unexpected, I had the rare chance to make priceless memories and witness all those amazing milestones in his early years. I also came to appreciate the many choices mothers and moms-to-be need to make.  As I started considering my how, when and where to return to full time work, I came across this article which challenged my attitude and approach.

“Take investment intervals when needed.” There are times when moms need to trade off personal desires for spouse, elderly parents, kids, health, career, etc. Looking back, my Plan A had seemed so straightforward when I was (finally) pregnant: Take 3 months off and return with a one/two-day flexi work arrangement. After maternity leave, a major reorg and my aging parents (who eventually moved in with us) led me to decide to stay at home for a while – Plan B.  Sometime after #1 turned 1, I had a miscarriage (my first, of several to come) and became a homeschooling mumpreneur while I recovered – Plan C. Eventually we found a great nursery drop off and childcare, freeing mama to pursue full time work again – Plan D!

childcare“Don’t choose a career for flexibility, but one for passion.” We shouldn’t just be drawn to busy work, highest paid or most flexible jobs. Any work commitment will take you away from home and family, and you need a compelling reason – a meaningful ROI – as to why you’re still out there doing it. When deciding to return full time, I only considered jobs that I really wanted to do with a family-friendly boss and/or environment (ideally, both). This means fewer but better options in the long run.

Switching hatsThe freedom to be anything doesn’t mean the responsibility to do everything!” Super women are a myth. I admit I’ve a hard time NOT mothering 24/7 but in preparation for full time work and travel, I have to LET IT GO! I’m entrusting him to regular childcare, after-school drop-offs, visiting grandparents and the school bus on weekdays. I’ll pick him up from preschool if I can, but at the very least, will commit to be home by 7p for dinner and our evening routine (bath, book, bed) together before lights off at 9p.  After then, I have time to catch up with hubby, downtime for myself and/or late night work, if needed. As much as possible, weekends will be for family time – church, doing what we enjoy like music, plays, parks, pool, and catching up with others as and when. We will try to limit external arrangements (including tuition!!!)

The busier life is, the more we should take time out for reflection and self-calibration. If your circumstances have changed or compromises are being made that are not what you intended, don’t be afraid to stop and ask “what if?” Having gone through multiple plans, all I can say is you won’t know till you try – be it working full time, staying at home, or something in between!

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Christy from Kids ‘R’ Simple, where 22 FTWMs from Singapore Mom Bloggers aim to give other (current or soon to be) working mums inspiration and support. I’m writing to share my transition to full time work and hope to revisit later with an update on how my after-work hours really turn out :0

A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM
Hop onto the last stop with Meiling from Universal Scribbles!

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A mother to two primary-school aged kids who mean the world to her, she tries to balance their childhood with as much fun and happiness as she can. Read how she manages work, kids, school and family life as she journeyed from a stay-at-home mom, full-time working mom, part-time working mom, to finally settling on being a mom with a full-time flexible work arrangement on her blog.

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A Father’s Prayer

Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my children the strength to face weakness; the courage to face fear; the grace to accept honest defeat; and the humility and gentleness to accept victory.

Make me the father who will show my children not a path of ease and comfort, but the ability to accept the challenges of stress and difficulty. Use me, I pray, to be the example of one who can stand up in the storm, and there learn compassion for those who fail.

Make me the father who will teach his children the value of a clear heart and a high goal; to look in the mirror of their own faults before they find fault in others; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to cry; to reach into the future without ever forgetting the past.

Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my children enough sense of humour, so they will always be serious but never take themselves too seriously. Give my children humility, so they will always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

After all these things are theirs, add for me, I pray, the wisdom to show them the dubious value of titles, positions, money and material gain; and the eternal value of prayer, the Word of God, a godly Christian home, and a saving relationship with Your Son Jesus Christ.

And lastly Lord, make me the husband who loves my wife, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Make me a loving, gentle, supportive and faithful husband You called me to be, so that my dearly beloved wife whom you have given me to love and cherish, to have and to hold, to guide and to guard, that she may be the hey child, wife and mother that You have called her to be. In so doing, o Lord, may we as parents model Christ, model love and model the godly Christian family to the children you have blessed us with and entrusted to us for our love, care, guidance, protection and stewardship.

Then I, their father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Adapted from published prayers of Thom Rainer and General Douglas MacArthur.

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The World Cup Craze

This World Cup is B’s first introduction to the Beautiful Game.  None of us are diehard football fans, but there’s just something about these international sports competitions that just draws you in, and you can’t help but be caught up in the epic madness. In between watching the games, we’ve been kicking our football around the house, pretending to score goals! I also dug up one of my original poems to read to him – first published two decades ago, back in 1994. The love of sports spans generations 🙂 Olé, olé olé olé!

The hour hand touched four, my alarm clock rang
I stirred, then covered my ears with my hand
My eyes were shut but I struggled out of bed
415am? I’m fifteen minutes late!

I dashed out the room and stumbled down the stairs
My dad, in pyjamas, was already seated there
One hand holding a book, coffee in the other
Eyes on the TV, for one and a half hours

The Cup craze is on! The Cup craze is on!
There are goals to be shot and games (bets) to be won!
In front of the TV we sat glued to the screen
We applauded and rooted for our favourite teams

For a month, beginning June the eighteenth
Football was our food, and coffee our drink
We screamed and yelled and hollered away
And watched like addicts day after day

We laughed and cried over all the victories
We argued over fouls and criticized the referees
We witnessed the rise and fall of Maradona
We were appalled by the murder of Escobar from Columbia

Most thrilling were the spectacular goals and tries
We watched amazed at Romario, Bebeto and Rai
Enthralled by the magic of the great Hagi
Debating who would win – Brazil? Germany?

It was a time for upsets, a time for new stars
A win meant some players received Mercedes cars
Some teams had finesse, others brute strength
But in the end, only the best will be champs

645am? Uh-oh, I’ve got school!
I grab my things and start wearing my shoes
But all day long, I’m still in a daze
Why? Because I’ve got the Cup craze

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Special Review and Offer: Books for Fathers’ Day (15% off NoQ)

Fathers’ Day is coming soon on June 15! If you’re looking for something simple yet meaningful for dear old dad, why not get a book or two? I love seeing daddy read with B at the end of the day (if we’re lucky) or on weekends. Besides, when they’re bonding, mama catches some me-time too!

No time?  With NoQ, the e-commerce arm of Times Publishing Asia, you can now browse and buy awesome yet affordable books for your little ones online – with just a click (or two) of the mouse. NoQ offers competitive prices with free local delivery within 2 weeks for orders above SGD$25, and you beat the queue … coz there’s none! (No-Q, get it?). Members also receive newsletters with recommendations and occasional  too. What’s more, our readers get 15% off now till August 31, 2014 with the code “FINALLYMAMA”

To help you get started, here’s our top 10 picks for daddy and your little preschooler (0-6 years) – just in time for Fathers’ Day. Click on each title to buy directly from the NoQ store.

I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae

An amusing, touching and heart-warming look at the special relationship between father and child from the bestselling author Giles Andreae with Emma Dodd’s charming and vibrant artwork. Together with the award-winning I Love My Mummy, these books are bedtime favourites with B as the examples are so endearing and true to life with this mom and dad.

Just Like My Dad by David Melling

A simple and sturdy board book which speaks to so many father / child relationships. A humourous, touching tale for anyone who has ever idolized their father – even if they are moody, lazy and good at pretending to be busy.  Sound like someone you know and love?

Spot Loves His Daddy by Eric Hill

We’ve been reading the Spot lift-the-flap series since B was a teeny infant. In this book, whether playing ball in the park, feeding the ducks, or reading bedtime stories, Spot and his Daddy are great buddies. A nice reminder for kids who don’t necessarily get to see or spend much time with their dads.

Baby’s Box of Family Fun

Everybody in Baby’s family loves Baby! Four lift-the-flap books about babies and their very special family members: Where Is Baby’s Mommy? Daddy and Me Grandpa and Me Grandma and Me. Get the whole set for daddy AND grandpa too 🙂

Daddy’s Home by Roseanne Parry

This book revels in the excitement of a young child welcoming Daddy home at the end of his day. The visual narrative shows Daddy unwinding from work as a parallel to the bedtime rituals of a young child. This sturdy little book with whimsical illustrations evokes the precious hours that many fathers share with their children each evening.  This has special meaning for us as dad works quite late and as often away, so the times when he DOES come home early enough is cause for celebration!  And a good book like this 🙂

Because I Am Your Daddy by Sherry North

How much do fathers love their children? Enough to fly them to school in a plane? Enough to dig for the biggest dinosaur the world has ever known? From exploring dark caves to leading a marching band to even being a space alien, a father’s love is unconditional, and he will do anything to make sure all of his child’s dreams come true. The dynamic duo of Sherry North and Marcellus Hall team up once again to treat parents and children to a story that celebrates affection with imagination.

The Daddy Book by Todd Parr

The Daddy Book celebrates all different kinds of dads and highlights the many reasons they are so special. Whether your dad walks you to school or walks you to the bus, whether he wears suits or two different socks, whether he has a lot of hair or a little (heee), Todd Parr assures readers that no matter what kind of daddy you have, every father is special in his own unique way. With his trademark bold, bright colours and silly scenes, kids will learn that while no two dads are exactly alike, ‘all daddies love to hug and kiss you’, and that is what is so special about them!

My Daddy’s Footsteps by Francois Barcelo

Some very sensible ideas as well as some far-fetched ones can run across the mind of a child who is waiting for dad to show up for dinner. Did he lose his cell phone or is he racing a camel? Is he in a snowstorm, or the victim of a magical spell? Readers will be excited to learn whether dad makes it to dinner after all. This one hits home too as B now constantly asks (and sometimes, answers his own) questions such as “Where’s dada? Is dada at work?”

Up on Daddy’s Shoulders by Matt Berry

This was the book that started B’s endless requests for a ride “up on dada’s shoulders” whenever we go out now. Matt Berry’s sweet story of a little boy and his daddy is brought to life by Lucy Corvino’s classic, vivid illustrations. “Up on Daddy’s shoulders, I’m the happiest kid in the world!”

Why I Love My Daddy by Daniel Howarth

A heartwarming book featuring children’s own words and animal illustrations, this is the perfect book to say, I love you, Daddy!  Everyone’s daddy is the best. And who better to tell the world than children themselves?  This charming book combines endearing things said by children about their fathers with gentle illustrations of familiar animals. The text is amusing and insightful, with reasons why daddies are loved by their children ranging from ‘because he tickles me’ to ‘because he is my best friend’. With beautiful pictures and charming words from children all about daddies, it’s just right to give to Dad and to read together!

Bonus for the really wee ones:  Where Is Daddy?

Help your child look for daddy throughout this bright, fun lift-a-flap book. Age-appropriate, simple line drawings and bold primary colours keep the child’s attention throughout the hide-and-seek adventure. At the end, find your daddy in the vinyl pocket attached to the last page where a personalised photo can be inserted.

This is a sponsored review.  For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Offer: Pupsik Studio (10% off)

For most moms, online shopping is a lifesaver when you just can’t find the item, the time or the right price that you need for your kids! Enter: Pupsik Studio. This well-designed and user-friendly site offers a great selection of the best and latest parenting, baby and toddler products at competitive prices. As a May-June holiday reward, we have a special offer for our readers too (details at end)!

Here are some of the items that we absolutely love:

1) Kleen Kanteen
This was my first purchase with Pupsik Studio. I was so thrilled to find it here after looking all over Singapore with no success! We must have tried every plastic water bottle model available (Munchkin, Avent, Skip Hop, Playtex, Nalgene, Tollijoy, Tommy Tippee, even generic BPA-free Disney-Pixar CARS ones) but all had problems with leaking, cleaning and replacing chewed out straws. This 12oz Kleen Kanteen Kid’s Bottle was an instant hit with B – and has lasted the longest. There are no straws (!), it’s easy to clean, use, keep hot or cold, doesn’t break or even leak much. Kleen Kanteens are made from 18/18 food grade stainless steel (= safe, no weird tastes, but a tad heavy) and the sports cap and spouts are BPA-free. Once your tot has mastered drinking from a cup, get this and save your money and agony on all those horrid plastic bottles.

2) Melissa & Doug Jigsaw Puzzles – 4 In A Box
I bought these for B’s 2nd birthday as the bigger puzzle pieces were getting easy for him and I wanted something compact and sturdy for road trips and holidays. Each wooden box comes with 4 different puzzles that fit neatly in 4 separate compartments. Each puzzle can be assembled on the slide-on lid of the box. Each puzzle piece is shape coded on the back for convenient sorting and storing. Various themes are available: vehicles, construction (we got the first two for our transportation loving boy), pets, farm animals, wild animals, sea life. Though recommended for 3+ years, the pieces are manageable for tots – see B attempting one:

3) The Tiny Bites Food Shears (Scissors)
Don’t leave home without it. We have loaned this out to countless friends over the dining table to cut up bite-sized food for their tots. Made from cutlery-grade stainless steel blades, these parent-invented portable scissors are BPA-free, lead-free and dishwasher safe, with a protective blade cover making it child-proof and pocket-friendly, and an on-blade inch ruler for measuring (if needed). It comes in a package of two scissors – one for home, one on the go, or even one as your tot’s first pair of scissors. The comfort cutting spring (yellow lever) provides extra tension for tiny hands that lack the strength to manipulate regular scissors. Very useful!

4) Charlie Banana
Have you ever stopped to calculate how much you’ve spent on disposable diapers? You can save a LOT of time, money and the environment with reusable cloth diapers, if only they were easy enough to wear and clean… Like Charlie Banana!  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these until B was already being potty trained BUT if you are keen to start out with cloth diapers (and disposable inserts) from newborn onwards, try the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Reusable One Size which works till ~3 years. Parents can adjust the diaper with a no-slip, bra-strap design that tucks nicely in the interior fleece so no part of the elastic or adjustment system will rub against baby’s skin. Buy one to try, or get the economical bundles available at Pupsik.  Meanwhile, we got B the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Swim Diaper & Training pants to splash and messy play in.  It fits and feels well, doubles up as a swim shorts and diaper, and is actually absorbent (compared to those Huggies “swim liners”).

Ready to get wet!
Ready to get wet!

5) Personalized Stickers and Iron Ons
I hadn’t labelled anything of B’s … until he started nursery this year. Then all of sudden, we needed to label EVERYTHING because sure enough, he’d bring home someone else’s bottle or shorts or hat. Of course, you could just write their name / initials with permanent marker. Or you could try Pupsik’s wonderful selection of personalised stickers, iron on dots, shoe labels, bag tags, et al. In addition to personalising the name (in English or Chinese characters), you can customise images and colours from a very vibrant and appealing range of options. We got a set of 65  Sticker Labels (for bottles, bags, mozzie repellant) and 42 Iron On Dots (for hats, shirts, shorts). I’m glad we gave this a try as the final product looked great, B loved  recognising his things with their cute car icon and name labels and also learned to read and spell his own name through this.

Lastly, some recommendations for expectant moms who desire to wear your baby as they feed and nap on the go: This handy guide compares Pupsik pouch slings, Ergo, Boba, Baby Bjorn and Manduca carriers (all available in-store, look out for sale items). Also complete your early years needs with beansprout pillows, nursing covers, Aveeno, Aden + Anais, Baby Bjorn babysitter bouncer, California Baby, Clevamama, OXO Tot, and a good selection of age appropriate toys and games 🙂

As a special offer for Finally Mama readers, Pupsik Studio is offering a 10% discount off all regular items from now till June 30, 2014. Use the code “FINALLYMAMA”. Drop a note here or like us so we know this has been useful to you…. And, happy shopping!

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Her Hands

To my mom, my son, and all mamas this Mothers’ Day:

Her hands held me gently from the day I took my first breath.
Her hands helped to guide me as I took my first step.
Her hands held me close when the tears would start to fall.
Her hands were quick to show me that she would take care of it all.
Her hands were there to brush my hair, or straighten a wayward bow.
Her hands were often there to comfort the hurts that didn’t always show.
Her hands helped hold the stars in place, and encouraged me to reach.
Her hands would clap and cheer and praise
when I captured them at length.
Her hands would also push me, though not down or in harms way.
Her hands would punctuate the words, just do what I say.
Her hands sometimes had to discipline, to help bend this young tree.
Her hands would shape and mold me into all she knew I could be.
Her hands are now twisting with age and years of work,

Her hand now needs my gentle touch to rub away the hurt.
Her hands are more beautiful than anything can be.
Her hands are the reason I am me.

Author: Maggie Pittman

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Motherhood across generations: Compare less, celebrate more

A friend recently asked why we seemingly struggle to raise our kids while our moms raised larger families without help from hubbies or domestic helpers. I was typing out my reply along the lines of “Different times, different approaches, different expectations” when I came across this DDB Life Style Study. This got me thinking why today’s moms often feel they “have to” and “need to” be different from their own moms, and hence, our greater perceived struggle.

We have to as families living in a highly materialistic society in the post women’s movement era.  Modern women are wired to aspire for equality with men at work AND excel at home. In a way, this has led to the imagery of today’s woman as both domestic goddess and corporate high flyer.  This is an impossible task without a corresponding social and institutional change, leaving many moms frustrated with their identity and choice of career – whether you are a stay at home mom (this label is really quite a misnomer), work full time, or somewhere in between like me. It’s also the curse of our 21st century that “the more we have, the more we want” and the technology that boosts productivity has also broken down the walls between work and home. For better or worse, we grew up wanting to do more and better than our own moms (those born pre-1960s). The breadwinner(s) today feel a constant pressure to improve their social standing, to rise above. The irony is our moms had less pressure to achieve this “feminist” ideal and lived in an economy with a simpler, less dispersed, standard of living. As a result, they derived more joy from parenting and spending time with their kids.

Although motherhood brings joy, it is not without its challenges. Millennial moms are significantly more likely than Boomer moms (22% v. 11%) and Gen X moms (22% v. 15%) to view parenthood as a real burden. The toll motherhood exacts on Millennial moms is even more apparent when considering how they view time spent with their children. 34% of Millennial moms say that if they had to stay home with their kids day after day they would lose their minds, while only 21% of Gen X and 18% of Boomer moms feel this way.*

We need to so that our kids will not just survive but thrive with smaller families and a “bigger” world. Women today tend to have children later, resulting in fewer siblings to help out at home (and also to take care of their own parents one day). Add to that the lack of grandparents due to death, divorce, separation, etc. or aging grandparents who also need caretaking during your children’s early years. The tighter family unit and close-knit communities in the past have also expanded to a wide diaspora due to the search for a better “life” – overseas study, work opportunities, cross-cultural marriages, etc. With less support from traditional sources, moms today look for help from their spouses, or outsource to nannies and child care centers. While this is happening at the home front, our world is also gaining complexity and losing boundaries, leading to higher expectations and greater possibilities, higher cost of living and greater pressure to succeed at school and work. To paraphrase Voltaire: With greater knowledge, comes greater responsibility. Today’s moms are more educated and/or aware, and feel this responsibility towards their children keenly.

Millennial moms, more so than their Gen X and Boomer counterparts, want to make certain their parenting efforts aren’t for naught. 61% of Millennial moms say they do whatever they can to make sure their children get preferential treatment, whereas only 46% of Gen X and 44% of Boomer moms do the same.*

There’s a saying: “Mothers and daughters become closer when daughters become mothers.” For all the differences we face, the reality is that every mom is doing the best they can given their situation and understanding. So let’s NOT compare one generation with the next, or even one mom with another. Let’s NOT say “You have it easy!” or “You don’t understand!” But rather, celebrate and affirm the unique bond that is motherhood. Happy Mothers’ Day!

Image*Generational guide: Millenial (1980s through 2000s), Gen X (1960s to the early 1980s), Boomers (mid 1940s to early 1960s)

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Green living in our Garden City

Back when I was still working full time, there was a LOT of green development near my office on Alexandra Road due to the Southern Ridges trail with its iconic Henderson Wave Bridge and Alexandra Arch linking Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.  See this DIY Guide to The Southern Ridges for more info 🙂

B was in my belly as I hiked, strolled and eventually, waddled along the pathways. But since I had B and left corporate life, we hadn’t  gone back there until recently when we drove by the area and ended up visiting playground after playground at the new Alexandra Canal Linear Park which is being extended from Tanglin Road to Zion Road (River Valley) via the Alexandra Park Connector!

Alexandra

B enjoyed scooting down the 1km+ path, stopping occasionally to climb, slide, jump on the trampoline, play with the exercise equipment and even share his scooter with new friends.  I chitchated with the locals, answering “he’s almost 2.5 years” and “no, daddy is not angmoh” at least 20 times, overall enjoying the friendly and neighbourly vibe.  It was nice to NOT be the only local at a private estate playground or crowded out at the bigger, more popular parks.

Hand-cranked gondola off Block 61C Strathmore Ave
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Trampoline near Block 61C Strathmore Avenue Playground
MyFirstSkool playground
Block 81 Strathmore Avenue Playground with a rock climbing wall

So today, I’m thankful for the foresight and commitment in Singapore to ensure that ALL benefit from this truly Garden City.  I also value the effort and care in enriching the local community with free yet well-maintained public parks and playgrounds.  Keep up the good work, Nparks!

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