Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] This Crazy Lil’ Thing Called Love – Elisa Woodward

One moment you are going, “I wish I were still single!”, the next you are going, “I love my kids to death!”. Don’t worry. You are not crazy. As Material Mom Elisa Woodward explains, these conflicting feelings are totally natural. 

elisa1Kids – one minute they are driving you up the wall with their antics, the next, they fill your heart with such intense love. Only a mother can understand that it is perfectly normal to oscillate from one to the next in the same hour.

Hands up if you have friends who openly lament the loss of freedom and personal time, and yet still continue to post up pictures of their kids coupled with public declarations of their love and adoration. Or, what about the colleague who complains how little she’s slept the previous night and proceeds to light up with joy when her kid calls her at lunch? We grumble about the mess our kids create, the toys that never get put away, and yet, the sight of them asleep in their beds makes our heart melt and all resolve to discipline them just vanish into thin air. All you want to do is hug and kiss them.

I think the love a parent has towards his/her child is indeed one of the truest loves of all, and it’s a love even my staunchest non-kids friends cannot deny.

A friend – who has made it more than clear that she doesn’t ever want kids – recently admitted that a child does give you a sense of purpose. “The child creates a purpose in life that goes beyond your career, marriage, and lifestyle. This is someone you are prepared to love unconditionally, someone you are prepared to take care of and nurture throughout his/her entire life. Even after you are gone from this world, you want to make sure they are well taken care of.”

I have no regrets about about having my kids at a young age. They bring to my life joy and completeness – although some days I need to be reminded. No matter how old they are, no matter if they are in university or are married with their own kids, your children will always be children to you.

As parents, we have such huge responsibilities because we bring children into this world not by their choice but our own. How we bring them up, how we teach them about life … everything depends on us. The years between 7 and 12 are particularly important because these years are when they formulate their thoughts and impression on love and human nature. Someone once told me that the only thing he remembers of his childhood was how it was particularly dark and unhappy, and that has somewhat coloured his views of the world and how he sees people. This is why it is crucial to make sure your kids end their day and go to bed knowing they are loved and protected.

Even when I’m miles away from my children, the thought of them brings a smile to my face. Just the thought that I have people to live for and that they are also dependent on me gives my life purpose.

And love is simply just this amazing.

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About The Author: Elisa Woodward, a career-focused wife and a mom of two active boys, is a Jack of all trades, who enjoys flummoxing people. She likes getting her hands dirty (figuratively and literally), yet enjoys dressing up just enough to “look acceptable”. She embraces wholeheartedly the concept of getting older.

 

 

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Child's Play, Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] What Is Your LEGO Parenting Style? – Cherie Tseng

Everyone’s favourite childhood toy can actually reveal a lot about your personality, says Material Mom Cherie Tseng. Read more about it and find out the interesting link between how you treat LEGO and your parenting style.

For our anniversary this year, my husband bought me a VW camper van.

Well, not the real thing (I wish!), but the LEGO version of one of my favourite vehicles. That sort of opened the floodgates to my resurgent love (read: mild obsession) of my favourite childhood toy. A single piece of LEGO could be part of my pretend pasta dish, a clutch for my Barbie dolls, a collar tag for my pound puppy, or the flag to my Castle Grayskull. Oh, the versatility!

So, since our anniversary, we have expanded our LEGO stash to some 500%. My two-and-a-half year-old son no longer attempts to eat or stuff small bits up his nose so I had no qualms indulging in my pent-up LEGO cravings at home. Of course, some of that has spilled over to my work since, well, we preach work-life balance. We expanded our LEGO-based training games at my training consultancy, and now I get to actually justify some of my LEGO buying as “work”.

Part of our stable of offerings is profiling programs. Besides the usual ones, we have some less serious but still very illuminating profiling experiences, like our art-jamming based one. More recently, I’ve begun using LEGO as a tool in my pre-hiring process. After all, LEGO, in all its versatility, can reveal more than you think – including your parenting style.

The “read the LEGO instruction book prior to embarking and following steps 1-2-3!” Parent

LEGO style: This is the person who thrives on method and protocol; when she gets a new LEGO set, she has to at least skim through the instruction book, sort out the pieces by colour, type and size, and find a designated space within which to work.

Parenting style: I call this the Disciplined Parent. My homeschooling friend S, an uber mum of four kids, is a classic example. Sure, she has her slack days and it’s not like she is a stickler in the mud, but she is the queen of order and is generally always on top of things. She is the parent who would do research on whatever she needs to know to death and, while kids can sometimes throw her a curve ball, she never stops figuring out new ways to become a better mum. She believes that parenting is a journey and that there has to a system to the inevitable madness, even if she has to invent a new way of doing things by simply learning more and becoming better equipped.

Happy family playing with blocksThe “must sort out all the pieces right from the start … deep breath … let’s start!” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person whose first act after opening a LEGO set – whether it’s a themed set or a creative one – is to separate the pieces at least by colour. Sometimes she would find herself surrounded my many trays to better contain the varied pieces, and she often needs a prescribed (read: kid-free) zone to work through her LEGO because heaven forbid if she loses a piece. She is usually only concerned with the journey and less so with the finished product, often happy to dismantle and store away even a complex build.

Parenting style: This parent has a strong sense of occasion, believing that everything has its place and time. I am fairly familiar with this parent type since, well, my husband is a prime example. He adores our kids and holds them to a fairly high standard. He expects kids to sit still at dinners, stay quiet on flights, and take adult care of the things they own. Clearly, he faces a lot of, ahem, frustration but he is constant in his own behaviour, steady in his interactions with his kids and is often a steadying force for his kids. And more often than not, because he treats his kids with a lot of respect, preferring, for example, talking to rather than talking at; his kids are better for it.

The “let’s free play with the LEGO creative builder box” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person who loves making things up as she goes. Even if she starts on a LEGO set, her building process is probably marred with many starts and stops and zero planning. And if there is a missing piece? She’d just make it up as she goes along.

Parenting style: Society probably calls this the hipster parent, and my friend A is a classic example. She has some, but not many, parenting rules. She is adventurous with the kids and often does things that are not the norm, like taking her kids lindy hopping, visiting weird places, or eating at off-the-beaten-path places. She may often seem out-of-sync with modern parenting – from maybe being an anti-vaxxer to letting her kids wear androgynous clothes. She is always fun, quirky, and takes life and parenting as it comes.

legoThe “I hate LEGO” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person who simply doesn’t quite get the hoopla about LEGO and would often rather buy less fiddly toys for her kids and herself. Minimal assembly required, thanks.

Parenting style: I call this the Get to the Chase Parent. My friend H is just like that and while she had a great time at the recent LEGO exhibition, The Art of the Brick, she treated it more like a visit to a museum. You could say there is a slight inclination to some measure of Tiger Mummying with this type. Her kids would boast a pretty tight schedule and everything in their lives gleams and sheens and are often the object of some mummy envy. Birthday parties might boast a pretty fancy cake with just the right decorations, at just the right location with always-glamorous people.

The “I am not really much of a LEGO fan but I think LEGO is an awesome educational toy” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person is kind of impassive about LEGO. She finds LEGO a nice-to-have kind of toy and is most glad to buy LEGO sets for others and her own kids since she is mainly sold on the educational value of the toy.

Parenting style: My friend S is one such parent. She has a great sense of responsibility to her kids and has a tendency to always find the best array of programs for them. Her kids attend an array of classes and workshops not because she is a traditional tiger mum but simply because it’s a learning tool that would enrich her kids’ lives. New pedagogies, new water filter, new school, new holiday program, new health thing … she would have her hands in that pie – often at the expense of her own schedule.

The “whatever you make should at least make some sense” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person who is happy to free play when the occasion arises, even if she likes following LEGO instruction books better. She has a healthy mix of creative sets and instructional sets, and will usually have many how-to LEGO books to better use her free play LEGO pieces.

Parenting style: I like to call this parent the progressive parent. My BFF and fellow Material Mom Joan is a classic example. She tends to have fewer rules than the norm and is fairly liberal and open in her parenting methods. Having said that, she is a real stickler for the few rules she has and can get disproportionately upset when those rules are flouted. She treats her kids like her friends and sometimes forgets that her child needs top-down parenting but is quick to catch herself and rectify when that happens.

lego 3The “must buy all the LEGO sets in a series type but have starting and finishing issues” Parent

LEGO style: This is a person who loves collecting all the LEGO sets in a given series and might spend copious amounts of time trawling the net searching for hard-to-find sets. She is highly excited to buy or receive a LEGO gift but might find it hard to start a LEGO project or even finish one. Sometimes, when in the mood, she finds herself in a blitz LEGO-making mood. But that burns out after a while.

Parenting style: This is classically me and, as I write this, I have three hard-sourced Harry Potter LEGO sets sitting in the corner waiting for me to find time to get to them. Parents like me find themselves constantly pulled in a million and one directions at any given time and it shows in how they raise their kids. There is a schedule but it’s always fluid. There is a plan but it might and usually change. They are most definitely parents who do not have a carved-in-stone bedtime or a real parenting plan, preferring to learn and adapt as they go. After all, change is the only constant. Right?

Cherie Tseng is mum to two little boys: Quentin, four, and Evan, two. They love superheroes, pizza and going on pretend adventures with mummy and daddy to save the world. She runs a regional training consultancy, co-owns a Singapore-Myanmar business brokerage outfit and is an essential oil enthusiast. In her spare time, she crafts, makes diaper cakes and practices aerial circus arts. Cherie occasionally blogs at The Growing Tree Project

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] All It Takes Is One Mistake … – Joan Leong

Some lessons are learned the hard, painful way. And sometimes, one misstep could alter your life forever. Joan Leong explains, in this week’s Material Moms. 

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I recently found myself in a secret service-like operation that involved ex-FBI and special ops personnel, to locate and bring to safety a friend who was caught up in substance and physical abuse, whilst they were on holiday.

Donna (name changed to protect privacy) was having an affair with a much younger married man. They abused drugs and he abused her for putting up pictures of them on Facebook – they were supposed to be there for “work”, was their excuse. Her situation came to light after she continued posting pictures of her bashed up face on Facebook, all part of the drug-induced haze. This caused a worldwide frenzy amongst relatives, friends and colleagues.

The extraction was successful; we separated the pair and got her out on the next flight. When we received her at the airport, we were speechless at the condition she was in, even though we were very well aware of what had happened. Looking at her being pushed out in a wheelchair, swollen face, eyes circled by very angry and dark purple bruises, defensive bruises on her forearms, cuts on her knees that can only be caused by being dragged on broken glass on the floor… we were hit (excuse the pun) with the cold realisation that had we not done what we did, she would have died. Possibly from abuse, overdose, dehydration or even being mugged and left in a ditch for dead.

Did I also mention that Donna is in her forties and has two teenaged daughters?

And here’s the kicker: When she was about to be discharged from the hospital, she tried to put the bill on our company account despite us already fronting the cost of the extraction.

Fact or fiction? You decide for yourself. The point of the above account is a very important message that all parents should instill in their child while young.

Disciplining your child may not be fun, but it is so, so necessary.

Disciplining your child may not be fun, but it is so, so necessary.

When I was growing up, my father disciplined me with an iron fist. He told me that my main goal in life was to get a good education. He did not encourage play; watching television was a treat I savoured for an hour over the weekend.

“All it takes is one mistake to ruin your life forever”, he often said.

That being said, I was never one who was particularly fond of authority and rules I did not understand. Ironically, it was a trait I inherited from him too.

During my dad’s younger days, he decided when he wanted to go to school and when he did not want to anymore. He made up his own rules in life, and decided on the various levels of punishment towards the people whom he deemed miscreants (which included setting fire to the front of someone’s house once). Underneath all that, though, was a softie who often brought home strays, much to his mum’s chagrin – especially when she discovered a snake hanging off the windows.

It is with that same blend of personality traits that my dad ruled the family. He was tough as nails on discipline and education. He cultivated my type A personality (although I am nowhere near as perfect as him). He had (and still has) a way of doing things that he feels is the right way and we should just follow suit, so that we save time on trying to figure it out. We even had a dress code.

But he also loved us fiercely. Everything he did, was to make sure that we were comfortably provided for. Despite his crazy youth, he became a successful businessman. He never indulged us with luxury goods, but anything I wanted or needed in life that he felt would be a useful tool in our pursuit for education and self-fulfilment, he provided. He still does, even to this day.

Most importantly, he brought us up with an in-built ethic and moral code. We were not angels; we definitely toed the line and pushed boundaries. But ultimately, we also knew where our limits were. My sisters and I just knew when enough was enough, when taking one step further would make a mistake big enough that would change our lives forever.

I have made various mistakes in life, big or small, and I am lucky that I have been able to recover from them. He taught me to believe that I am the master of my own fate – I am never a victim of circumstance and whatever path I take in life, is my choice. Therefore getting out of trouble was also my own choice.

For that, I am eternally grateful because his discipline, however much I hated it while growing up, has kept me safe thus far.

And it is with this discipline (with some adjustments) that I will bring my daughter up to keep her safe while she trundles through the various adventures along the way.

material-mum-joan-leongJoan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Abundance Parenting VS Scarcity Parenting – Cherie Tseng

When a friend asks for parenting tips – tips only you and a handful others are privy to – do you share the love or keep mum about it? In this week’s Material Moms, Cherie Tseng gives her take on this tricky subject.

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It started innocently enough when I was looking for a mandarin enrichment playgroup for my second son. My elder son used to go to a fairly popular program but we left because I felt the standard of the class was systematically falling. And while I heard they had since cleaned up their act, I was more than open to checking out another program. So I did what most mums would do – I asked the brood of mummies around me for their opinions, thoughts and recommendations. Some were superlatively forthcoming with recommendations, offering to help me arrange trial classes and giving me the inside scoop on which program teacher they felt were superior. Most, however, were noticeably silent or, at best, vague and non-committal with their comments.

Things got, well, let’s use the adjective “interesting” (for lack of a better word) after I registered my interest in a fairly popular program based on a fellow mum’s fervent recommendation. While all this which-program-is-good-evaluation was happening, another mummy friend – let’s call her Mummy H – was also making the same considerations and I fully expected to see her in class when the term started. To my surprise, she opted not to sign up.

As it turns out, Mummy H had spoken to another mummy friend, Mummy F, and was (supposedly) close to joining the enrichment program fray since Mummy F’s kids were both in the program too. The latter strongly dissuaded her from joining and related all sorts of negative things about the center, teachers and program and that she herself was only there because it was a convenient location for her. Plus, her kids were already fairly comfortable there and she was lazy to move them. It was the classic “I’m in a sinking ship (not!), but I’m too tired to move, you go save yourself!” Mummy F’s comments were completely untrue and driven by some warped notion of parental competitiveness: that you would want the best only for your kids, but not your friends, lest your own child loses out. This is what I call, Zero Sum Parenting.

The same kind of behaviour has been related to me by friends with regards to doctors, OBGYNs and even supplements! Oh, I only see Dr So-and-so because he is my dad’s friend but he is actually not that good. I hear Angel’s doctor is pretty cool, why don’t you try her out? / Oh, the supplements I give Natalie are not that good, my husband bought a whole carton so I feel bad throwing it out. You should try the supplements from Brand ABC; I hear many others are taking it and it supposedly rocks.

abundance parentingI have heard of such behaviour with regards to some of the notable tuition centers, where parents teach their kids to lie to their friends about where they are getting extra curricular help so that they would retain an advantage over their peers. Because, what if second-place Billy comes to the same center as my first-place Alex and learns the trick of the proverbial (academic) trade and displaces my son for top spot? Heaven forbid!

I’d admit: The world we live in is a place of rank and position. Grades are judged on a bell curve, development is pegged to percentiles and we all like to win first place. It is one thing, however, to want what is best for your child, and another to want it at the expense of others. It is the difference between being a mum that feels your child needs to keep up versus a mum that feels your child needs to win every single time. It is parenting to raise competitive kids, as suppose to parenting competitively. Perhaps the Kiasu (afraid to lose) culture is so pervasive that even parenting has its own Me Vs. You score card. Mummies seek to outdo each other vis-à-vis their kids; daddies strive to mold a best-of-class champion to live vicariously through.

The truth is, most of us have many awesome fellow-parent friends. You know, the mummies that are happy to share her new found door-to-door organic supplier, the next great kids bookshop, etc. Peak performance guru Steve Covey wisely promoted the Abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger… Success in others adds to, rather than detracts, from our lives.

It is Win-Win Parenting Vs. Win-Lose parenting. It is Mothering from a place of Abundance Vs. Mothering with fear of Scarcity.

I am an essential oil enthusiast and have been for a while now, before the whole go-natural hoopla that seems to be hip and cool these days. For fun, I sometimes hold essential oil gatherings at my place quite in the vein of Tupperware ladies. With the sudden uptake and media spotlight on these therapeutic grade essential oils and health, the company (Hello Young Living Singapore!) I get my oils from has suffered a real shortage in product. This frustrating situation has led to some mummies to comment that we should stop sharing with other mummies – even if they would really benefit from the essential oils, lest there are not enough for themselves.

Right on the other side of the scarcity-abundance chasm are mummies who dig into their own stash to help other mummies who are joining the go-natural route, some even gifting the (limited in supply) bottles of oils.

So, what kind of parent are you? Are you an Abundance Parent or a Scarcity Parent?

#1. When you discover an awesome kid program, you:
(a) Tell all your close friends and encourage them to go for a trial. Quick! Before class is full!
(b) Keep very mum about it, refraining from posting your usual Facebook updates about it.

#2. When your mummy friends ask for your opinion on a parenting know-how, you:
(a) Think things through and share your own experience and best-known practices.
(b) Keep quiet or say something vague because you worry your child might lose his/her edge.

#3. When your child does well and someone asks how their kid might do the same, you:
(a) Share all that you have done, even if you qualify that you child “got lucky somewhat.”
(b) Say “I don’t know!” … but you actually had a full-on gameplan.

#4. When your child’s school/tuition center gives out a kick-ass piece of study material, you:
(a) Tell your close friends about it, at least, when it comes up in conversation.
(b) Hide all evidence of it if friends are coming over and instruct your child to never speak of it.

#5. You find an excellent tutor/coach/instructor. You:
(a) Share their contact willingly when someone asks for it.
(b) Dodge having to share their contact, sometimes making excuses about their busy schedule.

It goes without saying which category each option goes under.

When I think back to my early days of motherhood – the nights fraught with worry and the days wrecked with exhaustion – I am grateful for mummy friends that shared their own parenting journey best practices. And so often, when I meet a mum that reaches out, I feel deeply compelled to dig as deep as I can to reach back. Not just because karma’s a bitch, but to borrow the words of one Sarah B. Breathnach:

Both abundance and (scarcity) exists simultaneously in our lives as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend. When we choose to be grateful for the abundance that is present – love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us joy – the wasteland of (scarcity) falls away as we experience heaven on earth.”

Cherie Tseng is mum to two little boys: Quentin, four, and Evan, two. They love superheroes, pizza and going on pretend adventures with mummy and daddy to save the world. She runs a regional training consultancy, co-owns a Singapore-Myanmar business brokerage outfit and is an essential oil enthusiast. In her spare time, she crafts, makes diaper cakes and practices aerial circus arts. Cherie occasionally blogs at The Growing Tree Project

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Review: Mums and Bubs at Breathe Pilates – Delphine Tan

For busy working mothers, being able to combine quality time with Junior along with a fitness session sounds like a win-win situation, right? Find out what Material Mom Delphine Tan has to say about Breathe Pilates’ Mums & Bubs class! 

About one or two months after baby is born, the thought that crosses my mind the most often after “I wish I could get more sleep!” is “I really should get back into shape!” It’s easier said than done, however, especially if you are nursing and can’t be away from baby (or a breast pump) for too long. One solution is an exercise class that actually encourages you to bring baby along.

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Yep! That’s a baby right there between my legs …

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Which is more fun to work out with: ball or baby?

Mums & Bubs class at Breathe Pilates is perfect if you want to ease back into exercising after delivery but need to have baby with you all the time. If you want to attend without baby in tow, you are also more than welcome to. Baby should be able to support his own neck well but should not be crawling yet.

Clear instructions that were easy to follow were given throughout the class. It was my first time doing Pilates exercises on a reformer and I appreciated that the equipment provided the support needed by a post-natal body to safely carry out the exercises. The exercises chosen were suitable for regaining core strength and flexibility after delivery and not too strenuous.

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I would have liked it more if the exercises incorporated the baby directly; most of the time, we left baby lying down while we played a sort of peekaboo while doing our Pilates exercises on the reformer. That would be okay for most babies but mine is very restless and just wanted to be carried so he started fussing.

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Overall, it was an enjoyable session as it got me moving and definitely more interested in exercising! Mums & Bubs at Breathe Pilates is conducted on Wednesdays at 11.30am.

Breathe Pilates is located at #09-33 Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive (8 participants); and #13-02 Parkway Centre, 1 Marine Parade Central. For more information or to make an appointment, call 9835 5683, email info@breathepilates.com.sg, or visit www.breathepilates.com.sg.

Delphine and family The Author: Delphine Tan still feels like a kid but is married to Adrian and mother to Anya, Adam, and David. Since she has no artistic talent and does not know how to cook, she spends her free time reading, blogging, and collecting matryoshka. Besides being addicted to caffeine, Delphine also suffers from the compulsive need to Instagram every single plate of food that she eats. 

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material World x Triple Dry] Motherhood: It’s A Sweaty Business! – Deborah Giam

Sweating is not a bad thing – when you’re exercising, that is. But when you’re shuttling between household, parenting and work tasks every day, you’d want it to stay as sweat-free as possible. Would using an antiperspirant solve the problem? Deborah Giam puts Triple Dry to the test.

When you’re a mother, there are always a million and one things – kids, parents, partner, boss, an almost-empty fridge – that require your attention. Forget about the moments that you have to yourself; those are often spent trying to pre-empt the next situation – birthdays to plan, presentation to finish, or online grocery shopping to be done. This is why time-starved mums are always on the lookout for products that not only work but also work well.

One thing that’s harder to find: an effective antiperspirant. I’ve tried several different ones before but none of them truly works to keep me sweat-free. When I was asked to review Triple Dry, an antiperspirant that provides 72 hours of protection against heavy perspiration and odour, I was admittedly sceptical at first. Did they work? Well, let’s have a closer look.

From left: Triple Dry Fresh Anti-Perspirant Spray, $17.90, and Triple Dry Roll-On, $15.90

From left: Triple Dry Fresh Anti-Perspirant Spray, $17.90, and Triple Dry Roll-On, $15.90

The idea behind this antiperspirant is that you apply it at night for three nights, and then only need to use it about three times a week after. I was given the Anti-Perspirant Roll-On and Fresh Anti-Perspirant Spray to try for two weeks. For the former, it’s great that it is unscented (I like my perfume to smell the way it does, thank you very much), and even though the texture feels a bit paste-like, it has a quick drying formula so I didn’t have to spend too much time waiting for the product to dry off.

Personally, I’m not a fan of antiperspirant sprays – no thanks to my terrible coordination, I always fear I’m going to blind myself one day when using a spray. Having said that, the Fresh Anti-Perspirant Spray is more convenient because the formula seems to dry much faster than that of a roll-on. Because I prefer non-scented antiperspirants, I thought the scent of this was a tad overpowering, but thankfully it faded away within half an hour.

It wasn’t until about Day Four that I started to notice a difference. I’m definitely sweating a lot less and, the best thing is, those embarrassing sweat marks around my pits are significantly reduced. So, while Triple Dry won’t keep you bone-dry, it does the trick of reducing your perspiration enough that you won’t be bothered by it. I’d imagine this would be a great product to use before a trip so you wouldn’t need to worry about having to reapply antiperspirant every day – you’d have better things to worry about during a holiday, especially with the kids in tow.

Triple Dry Fresh Anti-Perspirant Spray ($17.90) and Roll-On ($15.90) are available exclusively at Guardian pharmacies. Material World worked with Triple Dry for a review of its products. All opinions are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. You may read our advertising policy here.

We’re giving away 5 Triple Dry sets worth $33.80 each!

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Each set consists of one Unfragranced Spray and one Roll-On. To win a set for yourself, simply follow these steps:

1. Download the Material World app on iTunes or Google Play. On the Contest tab, enter “Triple Dry” as the Contest Name. Then key in your answer to this question: “How many hours of protection does Triple Dry provide?”

2. Like Material World on Facebook.

3. Click on the Facebook Share button below and share this post with your friends. Tag “Material World” on your post and remember to set it on Public.

This contest ends Wednesday, 30 July 2014, and is only open to followers of Material World. Only entries submitted via the Material World app will be accepted. Please read our terms and conditions here.

material-mum-deborah-giamAbout the author: Deborah Giam is a full-time digital native, having worked and played in the online world for most of her life. Her second job is mother to a precocious four-year-old who loves dinosaurs, airplanes and Hello Kitty. Forget designer labels she’s happiest in an old-school world shooting with film, traveling the world and exploring new places. See more of her travels and photographs at www.livinglavidaholga.wordpress.com.

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Learning To Live With Unsolicited Advice – Kelly Ang

Like it or hate it, it’s here to stay, says Kelly Ang.

adviceAs a first-time time mom, unsolicited advice was and is still one of those things that you learn to deal with, but still annoys you every once in a while. Nothing brings it on more quickly than being a relatively young first-time mom, and nothing – not even proper knowledge based on researched facts or medical proof – keeps it completely away.

Before I gave birth on New Year’s Eve, I thought I knew exactly what to expect when my baby arrived. I had gone for a pre-natal class – six hours every Sunday for a month – which had taught me everything I thought I needed to know: giving birth completely naturally with no drugs or painkillers (“The trick is to breathe the baby out, not push!”); how important it was to just keep latching to establish my supply; how to miraculously calm a screaming baby simply by pulling his arms tight to his chest to “make him feel safe and secure”, etc. Armed with all I had learnt, I was sure I did not want or need any additional advice.

Needless to say, it didn’t quite go as planned. I did not have the natural, calm, drug-free birth I had prepared for. I had ended up giving birth via emergency Caesarean section, in fact. Breastfeeding-wise, I had no issues with supply, but latching the baby on successfully seemed to be like reaching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As for baby care, this is where I really began to feel inadequate. Baby did not seem to want me to carry him. I had wanted to room-in with my baby throughout my hospital stay, but when he was crying inconsolably at 3am in the morning the first night I spent in hospital, I was shattered. To add salt to the injury, baby only seemed to cry when I carried him or when my husband and I were alone with him. Pulling his arms to his chest did not work. When my parents, in-laws and even friends came to visit, baby G was on his best behaviour. All it took was a cuddle from them to soothe him.

Coming home from the hospital, everyone suddenly seemed to become baby experts. It probably did not help that I am, firstly, not the maternal sort; and secondly, have never carried or even touched a baby prior to handling my own newborn. All this invited torrents of unsolicited advice from everyone; from my in-laws whom I live with, to waitresses at restaurants and even the owner of the coffee stall at the market.

Baby cries. I have been told to let him just cry it out as picking him up when he cries would only spoil him (nope, I totally do not subscribe to that school of thought – how can you spoil a newborn with cuddles??); that it could be something bad I ate that passed to him through my breast milk (this just made me rack my brains frantically, trying to recollect what the heck it was I ate – to no avail); that it could be colic (for the record, “colic” is uncontrollable crying for more than three hours in a row on three or more days a week for at least three weeks); that I should just let so-and-so carry him instead because she knows better (just three words: what on earth). I carry him out, strapped on to me in the baby carrier. I have been told I should turn him around, Baby Bjorn-style, so that he can see more of the world (this is bad on so many levels – overstimulation, bad for baby’s spine, bad for mommy’s back…); that he hates being strapped down (says who?); that I should push him in his stroller (have you tried going up the bus juggling a wriggling baby, your shopping bags, and having to fold your stroller up, all at once?). You get the picture.

I hated it. I resented all the advice I was getting. I thought it was an insult to me as a mother, and I took it very personally. I saw it all from the perspective of “So you think I don’t know what I’m doing??” and got really pissed off. I ranted to my husband about how slighted I felt, how all this “help” was making me question my adequacy as a new mom and feeling like I was coming up short, too short.

I wish I could say that the advice stopped coming when I decided to quit my full-time job to spend more time at home taking care of baby G. But although I couldn’t stop the deluge of advice (which still, to be honest, irritates me to this day sometimes), what changed was my perspective. In the days and weeks to come since I became a mom, I began to appreciate how much I really did not know. And although I am loathe to admit it, there are times when I probably could be a better mom. For example, I did not know how to bathe the baby. Yes, even though I had learnt this in pre-natal class. But, when the baby came home, my mother-in-law’s advice and help in bathing the baby in the initial days was a God-sent even though, yes, it was unsolicited. My baby also loves to be hugged tight to sleep (which baby doesn’t, really?) and I initially did not want to admit that my mother-in-law was right about that. But really, what is there to be gained by insisting on doing things my way when it is not to the baby’s benefit? Insisting on not listening to such advice would be to prove a point to somebody – but when you think about it, to whom, really?

I have come to see unsolicited advice as a necessary irritation. You may not agree with me and, in fact, many will probably not. “Just ignore it all!” or “Tell those people to shut it, thank you very much” may even be your (rather unsolicited) advice to me. I will always do what I believe is best for my baby, yes. But my baby is a person too, and as people, we never live in isolation. As much as I want to bring my baby up in a world where nothing else matters except mommy and daddy’s love and baby’s happiness – there is no such thing. We need to negotiate the web of human relationships, learn (albeit selectively in my perspective) from others who have gone before us, and come out from it all with no regrets about how we have behaved in the face of what we do not agree with. My baby needs to understand all this one day too, that it is never always as simple as “my way or the highway” or that “I know better than everyone else” is never true. Learning to accept and deflect unsolicited advice graciously is a necessity that being a mom has taught me and something my baby will need to learn as he grows up. I am pretty sure there will still be plenty of people eager to dispense nuggets of advice ten, twenty, thirty years down the road. I sure hope that by then, I also learn how to keep unwanted advice to myself.

KellyAbout the author: Kelly is a first-time mom who has found her life completely changed by motherhood. Although never the maternal sort, she left her full-time job in corporate communications to bring up her baby. She is now a full-time mom and part-time writer, working whenever her son is sleeping or being cooed at by his doting grandparents. When she still has any time left over, she enjoys reading, experimenting in the kitchen and shopping. She occasionally blogs here.

 

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[Material Moms] Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Mumpreneur? – Sher-Li Torrey

It seems ideal to have a business of your own (where you can work online) as your young children play at your feet. But is that the reality of Mumpreneurship? Sher-Li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work gives a detailed breakdown on the fundamentals needed to get a Mumpreneur business going. 

material world_working from home

Motivation – All business owners start a venture because they are motivated by an idea, a desire to succeed, or the drive to earn more money. But in the case of most Mumpreneurs, there is the added motivation of wanting to ‘have time for my kids’. It is not unusual to find Mumpreneurs who schedule their work time around the children’s schedules. That explains why many of them are up earlier than others (or sleep later) as they work on their business during the children’s sleeping hours. This motivation is important, as it helps remind the mother why she started the business in the first place.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – Marketers talk about this all the time: the point of difference that can make your business stand out in a crowd. For Mumpreneurs who run small businesses, having a USP is even more essential as they try to fight competition against the ‘big boys’. Competing via price alone can only be an effective strategy for some time. As a Mumpreneur business, the USP could be the factor that determines whether your business succeeds or not.

Money – Before embarking on your business venture, make sure you have money set aside for a rainy day. Unless your business is merely a hobby, you are likely to want a business that generates income. The earlier stages of starting up will require monetary investment. Even an online store will incur basic set-up costs. Besides the start-up capital, the decision to start a business is going to put a temporary dent on the family income arrangement. It is advisable to put aside an amount of approximately 6 months of your last-drawn income (if you were previously working) for family-related emergencies. Realistically, your business will need at least half a year or more before it starts generating a healthy income stream.

One of the main reasons women choose to take up mumpreneurship is to spend more time with their children.

One of the main reasons women choose to take up Mumpreneurship is to spend more time with their children.

Prioritisation – Unlike an entrepreneur who wants to rule the world, a Mumpreneur may turn down business opportunities that have a negative impact on her other life priorities. Many Mumpreneurs will share that their journey consists of ‘constantly shifting priorities by being aware of the important people (big and little) in your life who need you.’ Your business, though important, is sometimes not the top priority, unlike a regular entrepreneur. As your priorities in life shift, the amount of time and effort your spend on your business is likely to be affected as well.

Responsibility – Most (though not all) Mumpreneur businesses start as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. Whatever the management model, one thing is certain – manpower is limited in the earlier stages of setting up. As a new business owner, you find yourself responsible for all errands, big or small. If you cannot afford to hire someone initially, you may be the only person who can reply to customers’ emails and other business matters. Running a Mumpreneur business requires a great deal of commitment. You (and sometimes only you) are responsible for the success and failure of the business.

Enthusiasm – Being a Mumpreneur means being your own cheerleader. That big, enthusiastic smile you see in the mirror will be the best lifesaver during the more challenging times of business management. When things get rough (as they often do in the business cycle), you really need to have belief in yourself and your business in order to keep going.  Besides, customers tend to gravitate towards a business manned by an owner who believes in his own products or services. The more enthusiastic you are, the easier it will be to reach out to potential customers.

Networking – A business network is obviously a must for any entrepreneur. The saying “It’s about who you know” has some truth to it. Having a strong professional network allows you to tap on expertise that may save time and money. However, as a Mumpreneur, do not underestimate the importance of a social network. Finding like-minded mothers or female entrepreneurs can often act as a support system to bounce off ideas, share frustrations or even collaborate. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for networking opportunities. You never know where it might lead you.

Education – As a small business owner, you will quickly realise the extensive amount of learning you need to do. Whether it is because of a lack of funds or a personal choice to have more control, you will find yourself picking up new skills. Not every area of your business can be outsourced. In many situations, you will also discover that having some basic knowledge (for example, website design) of various aspects is advantageous. Have a mindset of being ready to learn, unlearn and relearn. The business world is constantly evolving and those that can adapt quickly enough will find it easier to survive and thrive. Sign up for courses, read up and ask experts for advice. Keep learning.

Before embarking on your Mumpreneurship journey, be sure to have an honest discussion with your husband.

Before embarking on your Mumpreneurship journey, be sure to have an honest discussion with your husband.

Understanding – Many successful Mumpreneurs credit a supportive spouse and family for their success. The truth is, every woman’s time and energy is limited. Add on the duties of motherhood and suddenly, you are overwhelmed. Before even embarking on the entrepreneur journey, have a discussion with your partner/husband. There will be times when you need his support – physically, emotionally, psychologically and even, financially. Some businesses, including online ones, run 24/7. Emergencies may arise and the support of your family and their understanding can really help to minimise your stress.

Revamp – The beauty of running a business is the ever-changing environment –new competitors, new consumer behaviors, new product lines, and new markets. At various points in your entrepreneur journey, you are going to see a need to revamp or make adjustments. Even your role as wife, mother, and daughter will revamp from time to time.

Ultimately, not every mother who chooses to start a Mumpreneur business will succeed. But a mother who decides to take on the challenge, is bound to learn new skills, experience unique opportunities, overcome unprecedented obstacles and become better for it. Best of all, many Mumpreneurs talk about having control. You dictate your schedule, you dictate how you allocate your priorities and you choose the path you want to go down.

Mums@Work is organising the country’s very first Singapore Mumpreneur of the Year Award. It will recognise up to 6 inspiring women who have successfully started a small business and continue to be amazing mothers. Nomination for the award starts now and ends on 2 August (nomination is free). This award is for the ordinary woman, doing extraordinary things! To find out more, visit: www.singaporemumpreneur.com

sher-liAbout The Author: It is no secret that Sher-li wishes there were more than 24 hours in a day. Besides climbing Mt Fuji and publishing a book, she thinks her biggest achievements are giving birth to two kids who keep her busy with their energetic pursuits (which include ruling their mummy’s world). 

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[Material Moms] 7 Ways To Regain Your Sanity – Cherie Tseng

You’d be hardpressed to find a modern-day working mum who doesn’t lead an overscheduled life. This week’s Material Mum Cherie Tseng shares seven tried-and-tested tips on how mothers can regain their sanity. 

Feel like you're losing your mind?

Feel like you’re losing your mind?

Hi, my name is Cherie, and I used to be an overschedule-holic.

As a full-time work-from-home mum who runs two-and-a-half businesses with two active kids in tow, I was a classic specimen of an overscheduled woman. My workday would start before the kids woke, then when they did, mummy duties kicked in and I would fit work (meetings, emails, conference calls, sometimes overseas work trips) in between. In between – yes, I still managed to squeeze out in-between time – I attended aerial circus arts class, met up with friends and generally attempted to have some modicum of a life.

We live in a time of hyper-connectivity where the lines between work and home have been blurred with instant messaging platforms like Whatsapp. Business can be done from anywhere, at any time – even if you are thousands of feet in the air, flying over the Atlantic Ocean. And if the usually all-pervasive WiFi cannot be detected where you are, there is still a myriad of things to do: play games, edit photos, type an email for sending out later.

Some of that mad rush to always be connected could be attributed to what mental professionals call smartphone addiction, the need to constantly be and stay connected. A 2012 Norton Symantec survey found that the average person spent 15 hours a week browsing and surfing, and about 12 hours a week socialising online. And those are figures from two years ago.

Others credit our obsession with “Life Hacks”, the blind pursuit to live your superlative life at almost all cost. There are tons of sites and ready resources for anyone with half an internet connectivity to find ways to improve themselves, be more effective/efficient/good-looking. Recently, a new “hack” was born: “Sleep Hack”, a mental and physical training technique that is supposed to help you function longer and more effectively on far less sleep (three to five hours) than medically recommended (seven to eight hours).

In short, there seems to be a mad rush to cram more in each day. We see that quite evidently in the many overscheduled kids of today who get shuttled from one class to another. Likewise, there are many overscheduled adults, with mums topping the list of crazy overachievers. Most of us pack an alarming amount into a teeny day in the guise of maximising our time; we run multiple errands, keep an insatiable to-do list, actively maintain both a real and virtual life and push ourselves to achieve a myriad of personal, physical and corporate goals. I know many friends who are stressed out, sleep deprived, and exhausted from their overwhelming schedule. My therapist friends will tell you that chronic overscheduling can lead to exhaustion, depression and anxiety.

Last December, after I pretty much fell asleep at a red light while sending my kids to class, I decided enough was enough. I needed to rid myself of this almost sadistic streak to live a superlative life. My mantra this year is to “Pare Down, Shape Up, Keep Pace, Live with Grace”. Six months into my new way of life, I have learnt seven invaluable lessons on how to better manage the overscheduled life and regain your sanity:

man-woman-talking1. Acknowledge you have a problem

After I fell asleep at the wheel – thankfully I was stationary at the traffic light – I fessed up to my husband who was clearly none too pleased. He had been, after all, complaining I did far too much and that I needed to harness my inner Elsa and let it go. We sat down and looked at my daily schedule, helped me figure out what I could/needed to rework and we designed a game plan. So, find someone you trust, hold their hands and tell them you have a problem.

2. Ask for and accept help

I will be honest and admit that accepting help and delegating work does not come easy to me but I am pretty lucky to have help at home and an awesome team at work who are more than happy to pull more duty so I do not feel like I needed to micromanage. One simple thing we did was to remove me from all the email threads that were going about; instead, my heads of department wrote me a summary email at critical junctures and only looped me in if it was necessary.

3. Hard landscape me-time

I have loved productivity guru David Allen’s notion of a hard landscape in your schedule – something you have to get done, rather than something you would like to spend time on. So, I decided to hard landscape workout time and commit to joining an aerial (circus) class on Friday mornings with three other mummy friends. This class needed a quorum so we all needed each other to commit to class time. It meant re-routing pickup duty for me, but I’ve always managed to find someone who would be more than happy to help me out. I only had to ask.

4. Throttle your own bandwidth

Like many people, I was a slave to the multiple chat groups, deluge of emails and online connections. So I went with what I learnt from FastCompany on their article on successful people: I stopped checking my emails/chats first thing in the morning, or, for that matter, incessantly throughout the day. The logic was simple – when you do so, you risk being sucked into someone else’s to-do list rather than strive to accomplish your own.

5. Embrace the Beta life

The Beta life – like beta software that still has bugs and many flaws – is about being willing to accept that our lives are always going to have pockets of imperfections. This teaches us to be kind to ourselves and not get obsessed with the idea of perfection.

drink water6. Take time to drink more water

I know this sounds crazy but take time to (re)hydrate – with water, of course. Health pundits speculate that more than 75 percent of us are chronically dehydrated and, thus, our body functions less effectively. A well-hydrated body is simply healthier and more effective and efficient. For starters, it actually gives you more energy and mental stamina. Since I started what some friends call my “crazy water boarding self-torture”, I’ve actually gained a whole lot more energy, which translates to higher productivity!

7. Embrace your whimsy. And frivolity

My sisters will tell you that if frivolity were a class in school, I’d flunk it. My busy life simply did not include time for such stuff, after all, there were things that needed to get done. And after thirty odd years of being a to-do list goddess, I embraced my whimsy. From dress-up circus graduation showcases to riotous karaoke sessions; from over-the-table food fights with friends to playing pretend guitar … I am now full-on whimsy – and lovin’ it.

Cherie Tseng is mum to two little boys: Quentin, four, and Evan, two. They love superheroes, pizza and going on pretend adventures with mummy and daddy to save the world. She runs a regional training consultancy, co-owns a Singapore-Myanmar business brokerage outfit and is an essential oil enthusiast. In her spare time, she crafts, makes diaper cakes and practices aerial circus arts. Cherie occasionally blogs at The Growing Tree Project

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[Material Moms] The Single Child – Deborah Giam

Does choosing to have only one child make the parent a selfish person? In this week’s Material Moms, mother-of-one Deborah Giam shares why she doesn’t regret her decision one bit.

What's wrong with choosing to have just one child?

What’s wrong with choosing to have just one child?

Ever since I had Little Miss, one question I constantly get from people is this: “So, when are you going to have another one?”

I’m fairly certain I’m not the only mother-of-one who dreads hearing that.

At a friend’s wedding lunch recently, an old school mate was at the same table. She herself has one child, but obviously wants to have a few more. She asked me casually if I wanted the same. When she heard my reply in the negative, she was flabbergasted. “But why don’t you want to have another one?”; “Little Miss would be so lonely without another sibling.”; “C’mon, you have to have another one.”; “You already have a kid. What’s another one?”; “Really? Are you sure you don’t want to have more kids?”

It was like that throughout the entire lunch. By the end of it, I was more than ready to down a bottle of wine by myself and go straight home.

Here’s the thing: I work full-time and we survive on my income. Every cent I earn goes either to paying for Little Miss’ things, or towards the household. My friend doesn’t. She runs her own business and has a fairly robust trust fund. It’s easier for someone who can pay to get as much help as possible, to have as many kids as she wants.

Unfortunately, that isn’t my situation. It wasn’t that I’d planned to only have one child. In the past, I had always thought that maybe I’d have two or three kids. Life, though, has other plans for me.

But do I think Little Miss suffers because of it? I don’t think so.

No one will ever fight with her for snacks. I’m not kidding. She’s usually more than willing to share the snacks with me, but only because there isn’t anyone else there trying to steal them from her. She’s possessive that way.

She’s comfortable talking to people older than her. Little Miss loves having conversations with not only me, but almost anyone who cares to listen to her (if she’s not in a shy mood, that is). She loves showing the books and toys she has to people, and can come up with really interesting theories about them. Come to think of it, I kinda love having conversations with her too.

She gets my undivided attention. On weekends, I love finding out what she wants to do and then making it happen with her. Whether it’s spending a day at the beach or simply hanging out at home to cook, the time we spend together is truly precious to me because she is the centre of my world.

So, no, I do not plan to have another child. It’s my choice and mine alone – and I make damned sure I give my all to my only daughter.

material-mum-deborah-giamAbout the author: Deborah Giam is a full-time digital native, having worked and played in the online world for most of her life. Her second job is mother to a precocious four-year-old who loves dinosaurs, airplanes and Hello Kitty. Forget designer labels she’s happiest in an old-school world shooting with film, traveling the world and exploring new places. See more of her travels and photographs at www.livinglavidaholga.wordpress.com.

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[Material Moms] Balancing Act – Joan Leong

Motherhood – it is always such a balancing act with constantly shifting goal posts. And for Material Mom Joan Leong, it can feel like growing up for her all over again.

Lately, I have been thinking much more of what it means to be a mother. Maybe it is a spillover from Mother’s Day just past; maybe it is because my little girl is about to turn eight in a few months and it has suddenly struck me that the gears of motherhood are shifting for me.

No longer is it about basic abilities like her first word, first step or learning to say “please” and “thank you”. It extends to a much deeper level than that – guiding your child from the early childhood phase to the more independent primary-schooler. Not a toddler, not quite yet a teen. But rather, stuck right in the middle, possessing a curious mix of intrepid independence and childlike innocence.

It is at this stage that I, too, find myself juggling quite a few balancing acts.

holding child handTo Mollycoddle or To Drop Kick

Whenever my child is being picked up, someone would escort her up and down the lift, door-to-door. I find myself sometimes asking her to make her own way up, or to come down to the carpark on her own after tuition while I am waiting downstairs. It must be an odd transition for all, because her tuition teacher would walk her down when I tried implementing Clare’s state of independence; or her grandpa would ride the lift up with her instead of dropping her off at the driveway. We actually still implement the rule of ringing the dropping off party to let them know that Clare has arrived home safe and sound on the occasion that she does take the lift on her own.

Yes, I have to remind myself that independence is a good thing – and that it is needed in order for her to grow up.

Tiger Mum vs Relax Jack

When Clare was younger, we signed her up for various classes – violin, soccer, ballet, piano – to see which one would stick. She got bored at having to maintain the pose when playing the violin; she deemed running around in a field too hot. So she kept on with ballet and now, picked up piano.

When exam time rolled along for ballet, she wanted to quit. She said it was too hard and the teacher too strict. I struggled with the notion of having passion versus just sticking through it (like how I was raised). We did not want her to be a quitter but at the same time, wondered the value at making her stick it out if she did not enjoy it very much. We later realised that we have given her the run at different courses, and that perhaps teaching her the value of accomplishing something was equally as important as nurturing a prodigy. She was quite pleased that she got her certification in the end, and that itself was a lesson to be learnt for us.

ipadBooks or Play

The new millennium came along with a slew of technology that has brought much variety and entertainment to our lives. Used properly, they can be learning tools (e-books, online classrooms, learning apps). Used for leisure, they are an entertainment centre in your hands (a million gaming apps, movies, music).

My daughter inherited my old iPad. Being a dutiful mummy, I put in it educational games which she played with when younger. But with a deeper understanding of the Internet and technology (of course, she learnt some in school), she discovered web surfing, YouTube and and more sophisticated games like building worlds in Minecraft. She even takes it a step further and finds tutorials online and has built magnificent structures that I would never imagine my little girl creating.

I applaud her ingenuity and resourcefulness – pretty darn smart, I tell you. But I worry too that she does not read enough. It is always a battle getting her to open a book and let her imagination run free while absorbing the words. She has such a short attention span that if it does not animate, make some noise and has colour, she is not interested.

I have confiscated her iPad on many occasions. And to support that, I have had to stay off mine too – which was very hard.

To Curb One’s Tongue or To Speak Freely

I grew up in the generation where children are often seen, not heard. I never wanted that for my child; I wanted her to have a mind of her own and to speak up whenever she feels the need to; teaching her the balancing act of knowing when to speak up and when you are better off holding your tongue.

Clare has a strong opinion of her own. But because she is pitted against me, the blueprint of her genetic make-up, I often see right through her reasoning and can easily pick up when she is trying to pull wool over my eyes. I admit, sometimes I run out of patience pretty fast, especially when it comes to doing homework (which happens a lot), and I cut her off to reason with her to let her know that she is heading down the wrong track. Sometimes I know I have to let her speak up, just so she can develop her power of reasoning and have a mind of her own. Sometimes, I wish she would quietly do her homework without having to put up a battle.

To Rule with a Ruler or Honey

Clare was invited to go to the Night Safari with her out-of-town cousins last weekend. It was something she was looking forward to. I was equally supportive – I got to take the night off from a massive week of work and travelling. However, we had one of our showdowns over homework again (as she was showing much more interest in her Barbie dolls), so I had to punish her by grounding her for the night.

Needless to say, I felt rotten, like the Grinch who stole Night Safari. I felt sorry for her cousins, grandma, aunt and dad who were looking forward to her joining them. Part of me felt that I should have made an exception and allowed her to go out on that special outing, but I also felt that if I did that, my word would lose value in her eyes and it would make it even harder to implement discipline in the future (thankfully, I got the support of her dad too).

material-mum-joan-leongJoan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.

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[Material Moms] The Truth About Breastfeeding – Kelly Ang

With the recent furor about mums breastfeeding in public, we thought it was time that everyone knew what the experience was like so the public would be more sympathetic to the plight of young mums. Material Mom Kelly Ang tells us more. 

I never thought breastfeeding would be such an uphill, constant battle for me. When I pictured breastfeeding, the images that popped into my mind resembled some warm and fuzzy notion of a sleepy baby cosying up to his mother’s comforting bosom, suckling peacefully in the moonlight. Or perhaps some zen, gentle Earth mama from whose bountiful bosom sprung abundant milk for her young who eagerly and gently drinks it all up.

Who knew that so much pain and suffering would be involved in breastfeeding?

Who knew that so much pain and suffering would be involved in breastfeeding?

Now that the baby has come and I’m four months into this whole motherhood thing, probably the only thing about aforementioned image of serene nursing or calm nature goddess that has materialized is… the bosom. (Oh yes, exponential expansion and hello rock hard boobies!)

Some idea of how it was like for me in the earlier days: I had gone through a Cesarean to deliver my baby as he was breech, so first and foremost, I had that pesky wound on my belly to contend with. So, all nursing positions which involved baby draping across my belly were a no-go for me in the first week or so. I was taught from the beginning to use this awkward hold where I grab baby like a football under my armpit and angle my breast towards my baby’s hungry mouth. This hold is (very imaginatively) named The Football Hold. I had initially stacked up a mountain of pillows with which to balance baby, my wrist twisted to support baby’s head and my husband’s hand to help hold baby in this really uncomfortable position. Needless to say, all participants of this rather odd-looking formation were exhausted by the first day and going positively psychotic by the end of the first week.

And on and on, our journey went. From toe-curling bad latches to a yeast infection of both baby and the nipples, to marathon cluster feeding and non-stop guzzling during growth spurts which seemed to happen every week… I’ve seen it all. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars seeing lactation consultants, hoping they would be able to help correct my baby’s constant “bad latch”, only to be told he probably had a tongue tie which I refused to snip until he was 14 weeks old and I was blistered and sore and ready to call it quits on breastfeeding for probably the hundredth time.

No, I am not one of those moms who crusade for the benefits of breastmilk for my child. I breastfeed my baby because I believe in it, and I certainly hope that more mamas do it too, but I don’t frown in disapproval when other moms tell me they couldn’t continue to breastfeed their babies for whatever reason. Surely, every mother wants the best for her child, so who am I to judge? In fact, I faced strong disapproval from friends and lactation consultants when I turned to the bottle to feed my baby with milk I had pumped out, when the nipple pain was too unbearable. “Never introduce the bottle before six weeks or your baby will risk getting nipple confusion!!” they said to my battered, exhausted self. But you know what? I did what I did to survive and not go batshit crazy from pain and sleep deprivation. And my baby, thankfully, did not experience the dreaded nipple confusion that has to be the bane of many a breastfeeding mother’s existence.

So here I am today, still blistered on one side but hoping things will only get better from here. Baby G has started sleeping through the night at about 2.5 months, and for the first time since he was born, I’ve managed to sleep my first six hour-stretch of blessed, uninterrupted sleep. Never underestimate the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.

(Although, I should add that he has begun to wake a couple of times in the night again, but that isn’t the tough part at all right now. At four months old, he has begun to learn to do a lot more with his body, like rolling and spinning around – and for some reason I cannot fathom, he likes to practice intensively in the wee hours of the morning.)

What made me soldier on, in spite of the seemingly never-ending problems I had with breastfeeding? Other than sheer stubbornness on my part to prove to myself and God-knows-who-else that I could do it, I found myself biting my lip and getting on with it for four very real reasons:

1) Breastfeeding has, most practically, been a massive money-saver for me in the expensive task of baby-rearing in Singapore and most of the world today. I’ve spoken with moms who formula-feed their babies, and the oft-repeated chorus of “You have no idea how much money you are saving by breastfeeding your baby!” has convinced me that I am, indeed, saving some decent amounts of money. I am told that on average, babies who drink formula cost their parents an extra $200-$300 a month, depending on the brand of formula. The cost of feeding my baby? Absolutely free! (I did however spend some initial money on a decent double-electric breast pump for days when my nipples were far too sore and cracked to let baby G latch on, or when I had to work. Also, I had to buy a fair number of different brands of bottles – as we all know, babies can be awfully picky about the type of bottle teat they guzzle their milk from.)

2) Remember the initial mental picture I had of a peaceful baby snuggling up to his mother as he suckled? Well, for every 10 times that I have a wriggling, distracted, angsty, ravenous baby trying his hardest to chew off my nipples, there is that one precious, golden time that he drifts off to sleep peacefully on the breast. When he does, I want to remember the feeling of my baby’s warmth snuggled up to me, of his sweet baby smell, of overwhelming love I have for this other little human being, of his blissed out milk-drunk face; I want to keep all these close in my heart for always. To me, all the grouses I have with breastfeeding are worth it, just for every single of these all-too-fleeting moments.

On this note, the act of breastfeeding is supposed to release a whole bunch of the “bonding” hormone, oxytocin. So, the fuzzy feeling of closeness you feel when you nurse the baby isn’t just all in your head – it’s actually a chemical reaction between you and your baby!

3) The purported health benefits of breastfeeding for my baby, of course. I say “purported” not because I doubt that there are, but simply because so much has been said about this already. Breastfed babies are supposed to be smarter, healthier, less prone to being overfed and hence overweight, have the upper-hand in jaw development… While these are important to me and they are not by any stretch my main reason for carrying on breastfeeding, they definitely make me think twice about stopping.

4) There’s even something for myself in this whole breastfeeding journey! When all has been said and done, a small, selfish part of me wants to continue breastfeeding because it makes me feel awesome about myself. I look at Baby G’s oh-so-cute chubby chipmunk cheeks and I think to myself “Oh my, I did all this, no one and nothing else but me!” When he smiles in his milk-drunk stupor and gives out a really contented and loud burp before drifting off to sweet slumber… This really gets me through the days when I look down at my chewed up nipples and rue the day I decided to let my baby suck on them.

So, for all moms out there, I share this with you in the hopes that you continue to breastfeed, in spite of the reality of the whole experience. I’m four months in and I still have days when I am so tempted to just stop for good. The constant fear of blocked ducts, engorgement whenever I am out without my baby and I need to pump, not being able to wear clothes without relatively hassle-free access… And need I say more about breastfeeding a teething baby?

All this being said though, I’ve read and heard that it gets better. And truly it does, as the days go by. Baby will wean before I even realize it, so until that day comes, I’ll just sit tight and let my baby hang out on the boobies.

KellyAbout the author: Kelly is a first-time mom who has found her life completely changed by motherhood. Although never the maternal sort, she left her full-time job in corporate communications to bring up her baby. She is now a full-time mom and part-time writer, working whenever her son is sleeping or being cooed at by his doting grandparents. When she still has any time left over, she enjoys reading, experimenting in the kitchen and shopping. She occasionally blogs here.

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