Category Archives: work

Traveling without kids

I’ve been travelling a lot for work this year, with a particularly intense past few months.  The person most interested in my trips is B, who peppers me with questions – besides just “When are you coming back, mama?!” So I decided to transform my work trips to mini-lessons in geography and history.  It’s become such a regular occurrence that B looks forward to these “special projects” with mom on free weekends when I’m home!

We started by reviewing the continents and oceans, and have been covering regions, e.g. North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia depending on where mummy travels to.

We’ve been working through a lovely colouring book country by country, supplementing the maps with library books and internet searches to make it more interesting and interactive.  I too learnt something new as we saw highlights of the India-Pakistan cricket matches, the tough life of elephants in Thailand, the history of junk boats in Vietnam, and so on.

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I also try to get souvenirs for folks back home and sometimes the best things are free too!  For example, B loves activity books at this age, and luckily many hotels have good fun ones they’re usually happy to pass to “your little one waiting back home.”

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B has always loved working with his hands and solving puzzles, so activities like these 3D puzzles or LEGO blocks are also a hit.  It amazes me how he’s able to sit down, and painstakingly put these together (with help as needed) – some times for 1 hour or more!  Now that B reads decently well, he also enjoys discovering information on his own, and likes to cite (sometimes random) facts about popular places and people.

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Did you know?  The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Site in the city of Agra in north India, built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 39. “That’s too young,” says B!

So if you’re travelling, and wish you could but can’t bring your kids along, try these.  They’ll feel involved, learn about the world, and can perhaps view your trips in a positive way by looking forward to these moments. We know it’s hard to be apart – so check out the video for a little something to cheer you up 🙂

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A Thanksgiving reflection

Hooray! B has finally joined the rest of his classmates who’ve turned four. As his last week of nursery approaches, I’m looking forward to our Thanksgiving break together before he gets promoted to kindergarten. Here’s some reflections on his first full year in childcare.

Dear B,

You’ve shown social maturity and adaptability with the many changes this year. There were farewells to old playmates and adjustments to new friends and teachers at school. You didn’t like spending less time with mama as I not only returned to full time corporate work, but travelled away on business quite often – at one point for almost 3 weeks straight. Yet your teachers remarked on your “very positive self identify and sense of belonging”, 他会告诉老师:“妈妈不在新加坡”“我的爷爷来接我” as you figured things out and embraced the village of caregivers around you.

You’re growing in knowledge and imagination (and negotiation skills)! Being constantly surrounded by books has motivated you to learn how to read, first reciting from memory, then through sight words, and now as you blend and decipher more and more each day. “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”  We try to read together every night when I’m at home, borrow or buy new readers (like the Timmy and Tammy series below), and write down “new” words together.

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Flipping through our notebook with all the new or tough words

You are learning to persevere and not give up. You were frustrated that you couldn’t draw or write as well as some of your friends but I’m glad we encouraged you to keep on doodling and scribbling. Since you like mixed medium, illustrated stories and numbers, we incorporated math and sensory play, gave titles to your art and made collages of our holidays. Mama too has learned to be patient and not compare! Remember Leo, the late bloomer.

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Colouring isn’t my favourite, but completing a number puzzle is!

Speaking of perseverance, you completed your first sport events this year. Mama crazily signed us up for an 800m Cold Storage kids run (which I thought was only 100m – oops), and I am so proud that you finished it even if we held hands and walked part of the way. You also biked solo in the OCBC Cycle event and grew confident enough that you cycled with us around Maldives. You didn’t even realise that those training wheels never touched the ground! We’ll upgrade you soon to a 16″ big boy pedal bike once you’re tall enough 🙂

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You’re starting to apply yourself in things that interest you, like violin. Though some days I bribe you to practice with car stickers, you surprise me with your progress and willingness to continue each term. Your teachers even invited you to perform as one of the musicians this year, and you did wonderfully! I’m glad you’re learning that “what separates the talented individual from a successful one is a lot of hard work.” While we’ll still explore many things and may drop others as you grow up, I’ll always support you in your pursuits as long as I can and you want to 🙂

Perhaps mommy and daddy could also work on two areas this coming year while your fantastic four is “under construction.” One is to more intentionally live out our faith as individuals and as a family. B may not like sitting still to pray, but he loves the bible stories and has made more friends at church. How can we help you grow into a godly man?  How can we serve our church community together?

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Same, same, but different! B likes to compare between the kids bibles

The other area of course, is Chinese. Although we found a good programme at Sparkanauts, I still wish for more time with you since no one else speaks Chinese at home. Your teacher suggested that we use videos, games or apps – 在家中可以观看有教育意义的卡通短片或者儿歌 。或者通过 ⼀些华文的电脑游戏来学习华文。家人可以使用华语和他进行沟通,增强他的日常生活⼝ 语。老师可以在和他的沟通中纠正他的句型错误并完整他的句子 –  beyond continuing to speak in Chinese. Mama has been quite strict about screen time, but perhaps we could try this in the coming year? That way, maybe ama and 公公 could get immersed too 🙂

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Some of the things we’ve tried for Chinese, if only I had more time!

My darling B, you melt my heart when you say, “I love you more than all the numbers, mama” and you make us laugh with “Now I like daddy, but I really like mama … when I’m old and I like mama, I’ll really like daddy.” I thank God every day for you and how blessed we are as your parents.

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Time is precious, waste it wisely

This month, I have 3 weeks of no business travel. Hooray!  His teachers and my parents tell me that he’s thriving – at nursery and at home, even when I’m away. But when I’m back, B has definitely become more demanding of me, my attention and time. I find his worst behaviours tend to get triggered on evenings when I’m the most tired too. In those moments, I’m learning that  empathy, consistent TLC with a dash of discipline (when appropriate), and some basic psychology (choices, counting down, consequences) goes a long way. While days at work remain focused and full, I’ve been trying to carve out precious time with the kiddo every day. This week, instead of rushing to pick him up after work and head back for our regular home-cooked dinner, we detoured to Clarke Quay. We shared a Hokkaido ice-cream and watched the river boats chug by, B scooted while I attempted to window shop, and we had a later than usual dinner with daddy near his office by the river. FullSizeRender While I have less time to plan those projects and outings which B and I enjoy, I find that simple spontaneous activities together can fill that need B has for mama time, which has typically evolved around art and craft, books and music. This week, after countless volcano eruptions and floods, I suggested to see what happens next. So we cleaned and dried our clay models, rolled and flattened them like play dough. B had fun figuring out how to spell “VOLCANO” and “FLOOD”; find and make the clay letters, and later created his version of what the ground would look after a natural disaster – with animal tracks and dead trees. He was also overjoyed to receive some dino and volcano stickers from a friend at school – everything just came together nicely 🙂 The best part? These at-home activities didn’t take much time or money, just some hands-on investment and imagination. Yet IMO, they pay off far more than classes or toys. IMG_2600 A mom friend recently asked me if I felt guilty working full time.  I’ll always remain an engaged parent regardless what the circumstances are.  I didn’t feel guilty leaving the corporate world back when B was 6 months old, which led me to start up CRIB with some awesome ladies. I don’t feel guilty today with my commitments at full time work either. I think perhaps a big reason is that I’ve had the benefit of choice – and I chose to do what felt right, and what I was passionate about at that time. Honestly, having been a full time mom, flexi mompreneur, and working mom, I must say, the grass always seems greener!  Working full time has its ups and downs, like days such as these: I really need to work todayBut rather than guilt, let’s focus on making the most out of the time we have today. After all, time is precious. Waste it wisely. For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  

Try something new this Goat Year

新年蒙福, 新年蒙恩 – Blessed Year of the Goat!  I’m sneaking in my post for the Things I Will Do Differently blog train in between house visits and prep for another overseas work trip. In the spirit of Chinese New Year, here are my reflections on what to do differently this year, inspired by 春聯 (spring couplets), which is quite a new feat for me too given my preschool level Chinese :).

心想事成 – Last year was quite a fruitful year – getting CRIB off the ground, transitioning B to full-day childcare and the grandparents to help more as I moved from entrepreneur back to corporate life. Yet, there was always this underlying frustration around our failure to conceive #2. With each passing month, I kept burying my emotions under a cover of busyness. This year, I’m focusing on enjoying what we have and not dwelling on what we don’t.

岁岁平安 – When days get busy, inner peace tends to flee, and we fall in a vicious spiral of stress and sleeplessness. This year, I aim to give 100% in areas that matter and not split all my time, focus and energy on everything everyday. No matter how early I wake, weekday mornings are always rushed, so I’ve settled on a new routine: After my son and I end his nighttime routine with his daily devotional, I linger in his room with lights out to reflect and recalibrate for the day ahead. I know once I walk out, I’ll start attacking my to-do list again, so this is precious quiet time for me.  Philippians 4:7 The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ

笑口常开 – A related change I want to make this year, is to be more JOYFUL. When I do pause to take stock of things, I realise there’s so much to be thankful for but why aren’t more of my waking moments “happy?” When I look at my son and see such unadulterated joy in him (most of the time), I find that my happiness is more a function of choice than circumstance. This year, I choose to nurture a more positive, cheerful spirit which can hopefully affect every aspect of my life.  Laughter is the best medicine, right? 😀

事业有成 – Planning is in my DNA. I tend to live by “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.”  I’ve worn the planner hat for so long though that I forget to release control in my personal life – ironically, I’m better at delegating and bending at work than at home.  This year, I’ll go with the flow more in my leisure time, entrust the big dreams to God, and corporate goals to the collective team. Stop filling up my evenings and weekends with work or schedules – take detours like evening walks in Pierce Reservoir and Bishan Park near the office. Less nagging the hubby on his lazy weekend mornings – join him instead!

身体健康 – Those of us whose love language is acts of service, tend to give and give till we run out of gas. This year, I allow myself to be responsibly selfish – to carve out specific ME times, to ask for or outsource help, to not skip meals, to actually complete my Pilates and spa packages, to leave B at home so that hubby and I can dinner date each together.  I believe if I “eat what nourishes my body, do what nourishes my soul, and think what nourishes my mind,” I’ll be a better wife, mom, daughter, colleague and friend…. and stay forever 羊 ;). Who cares for the carers? It starts with us.

恭喜发财,万事如意,金玉满堂,步步高升,青春美丽!

Family CNY 2015

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The next stop is at Meeningfully which is run by Shermeen, a fellow working mom to a 2.5 year old, a day-dreamer and closet romantic. She often tries to do too much in her attempt to juggle her multiple roles, and at the same time hopes time will slow down as she does not want her “cheeky monkey” to grow up so quickly. At 35 this year, read on about what she is going to do differently to acheive some of her goals.

Shermeen

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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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Advent-uring together

Where has the time gone?

As a full time working mom again, I find that I have more focus as my daytime schedule, work and family priorities are very straightforward (sick days and school closure days aside). I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling and am grateful that all the transition and support planning has worked out. When I was away for 10 days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!

Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life.  As B had just turned 2, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s 3, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂

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Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:

1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night.  As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.

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B’s beginners bible and a sample page from the preschooler’s devotional

2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day).  Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add more stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:

Our new Christmas star using foam and paper stickers
Making a star using foam and paper stickers
Sample page - Star
Sample page – Star

3) Advent Calendar:  Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. Although this calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game, we could always just repurpose this once more if I run out of time…

2013 advent prayer calendar
2013 advent prayer calendar

HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too.  Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.

4) Christmas books:  This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore.  B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California – and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂

Unwrapping the gifts from  California :)
Unwrapping the gifts from California 🙂

Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!

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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 led me to decide to stay at home for a while – Plan B.  Sometime after #1 turned 1, I had a miscarriage 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. Weekends will remain family time – church, doing what we enjoy like music, plays, parks, pool, and catching up with others as and when.

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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