Beauty & Shopping, Makeup, Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Time-Saving Beauty Products for Busy Moms – Beverly Burgess

Just because you become a mother doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of how you look. Material Mom Beverly Burgess recommends several tried-and-tested products that get the job in double-quick time.

I have been a beauty junkie ever since I turned 18 and discovered the transformative power of makeup. After over a decade of trying out several thousand beauty products (give or take), I’ve narrowed it down to a few and perfected the art of “putting on my face” in 5 minutes flat. This has proven especially useful after I became a mum because every minute counts – it was the difference between a poo explosion and a REALLY BAD poo explosion (hello, leakage). 

So these are the key products I’m using on a daily basis right now. They get the job done (ie. I don’t make small children scream), are quick and easy to apply (time is of the essence, remember?), and they all travel well (when I have to throw them in my bag to apply on-the-go). Isn’t that what we all need?

Moisturizer/Primer: Etude House Face Conditioning Cream

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An excellent prep product before makeup application, this Face Conditioning Cream comes in a tube (how sanitary!) and is marketed as a makeup boosting cream. In reality, it squeezes out as a thick white cream not dissimilar to sunscreen. Surprisingly, it melts quickly into the skin and leaves behind a soft, smooth base. As a bonus, this includes SPF25, so I can pass on the sunscreen on days when I’m mostly indoors. 

Foundation: Shiseido Sheer and Perfect Foundation

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True to its name, this foundation applies like a dream – it blends well and gives a little coverage. Suitable for normal skin (ie. without major blemishes or skin issues), it helps blur imperfections yet allows skin to breathe. It’s best finished off with some powder to ensure it’s set. 

Blush: Chanel Le Blush Creme

chanel le blush
The powder-to-cream formula has a delightful mousse-like consistency that blends oh-so-easily, leaving no hard edges. The colour is vibrant, so only a little is needed. The staying power is tremendous, lasting from morning to night, even when I’m running around outdoors. It’s very portable too: It comes in a small compact with a mirror inside the lid. 

Concealer: Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place High Cover Concealer

estee lauder
For those afflicted with dark eye circles or blemishes, you simply can’t go wrong with this. Boasting SPF35, this concealer gives fantastic coverage yet easy to apply with a concealer brush. It melts easily into skin – just be sure to set it with loose powder to make it last the whole day. 

Powder: MAC Mineralize Skinfinish

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This pressed powder compact provides a natural matte finish, and sets foundation to ensure it lasts through the day. It can also be used for touch-ups, thanks to the light coverage it provides. Especially beneficial for oily skin, this finishing powder is excellent for Singapore’s humidity.

BevChrisCloseupAbout the author: Having blogged for the past two decades spanning life in Australia, China and Singapore, Beverly Burgess entered an alternate universe at warp speed when she went from career-driven shopaholic and social butterfly … to juggling being a wife and a mother of two kids. All within three years. The career is now replaced with the privilege of being a full-time mum, but the urge to shop and socialize still remains (albeit with two obliging children in tow). And, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She blogs at Beverly’s Adventures.

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] How To Negotiate For Flexi-Work – Sher-Li Torrey

So you are contemplating asking your employer for a flexible work arrangement. Before you do so, you need to ensure you’re well-prepared. Sher-Li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work, clues you in on how and what to prepare.

Increasingly, more women in Singapore are talking about Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA). Driven by a desire to balance work and family, many women consider FWA in order to look after their children or their aged parents. However, asking for FWA without a strategy is akin to running a marathon without any prior training. Here’s a checklist of what you need to prepare before stepping into your boss’s office.

material world_work from home

1. Be very clear about your objective

Know why you are asking for a flexible work-arrangement. Ensure that you have exhausted all other possibilities – and FWA is the best arrangement for your situation. Be honest in sharing with your supervisor why you want/need FWA at this current stage of your life. You will definitely be asked, so have your answer ready.

2. Define (in accurate, detailed terms) what type of Flexible Work Arrangement you want

Flexible Work Arrangements can vary from flexi-place (for example, telecommuting from home) to flexi-time (for example, working part-time). It can be a compressed-work week, job sharing (where two persons share one role) or even project-basis work. When you discuss with your boss the type of work arrangement you are looking at, define clearly what arrangement you would like to consider.

3. ‘Re-design’ your own job

You are the expert at your job, so you have to re-design your role. If you plan to work from home three days a week, segment your job into “what can be done from home”, “what must be done in the office” and “what can be outsourced to the other team mates”. This is a crucial portion of your negotiation. If you were asking for the change, it would be fair that you spend some time trying to re-design your job. That way, your supervisor will not feel like your request is giving him/her extra work.

4. Consider the impact of your new work-arrangement on your boss, co-workers (and your team)

Most jobs have a team element to them. When you choose to do FWA, there will be an impact on everyone around you. Consider the effects of your request (for example, will someone have to cover walk-in clients for you on the days that you are not physically in the office, or perhaps the weekly team meetings may need to be re-scheduled). Bear in mind that your flexible work arrangement may sometimes cause unhappiness (or feelings of unfair treatment) withing your co-workers. Discuss these issues openly with your supervisor from the beginning.

5. Analyse the impact on your career

Depending on your company, your job role and the type of arrangement you are asking for, your new work-arrangement may affect your career path. If you were working shorter hours, the most obvious change would be a decrease in salary. However, this need not always be the case. Flexi-work arrangements like a compressed work week or telecommuting should technically not affect your pay as the amount of hours put in and the amount of work stays the same. In fact, in most flexi-work negotiations, there should be NO decrease in pay if the amount of work and KPI’s have not changed.

In some firms (or specific work arrangements), you may also see a stagnation of career growth. Tough as it is, do discuss these points with your supervisor and your HR team.

6. Research your company – policies, case studies and HR rules

A fairly large group of companies in Singapore have processes for requesting for special work arrangements. In more progressive firms, the HR team may even have templates that can help you and your supervisor to implement the flexi-work change easily. In addition, there may be other employees in your firm who are currently taking up FWA. Try speaking to them about their experience (in a professional context) after taking up flexi-work. These case studies are good to bring up to your supervisor when negotiating. For example, there are many MNC banks, based in Singapore who do have FWA (on a case-by-case basis) for their employees.

7. Know your boss

Many of the successful cases for FWA that we see at Mums@Work are a result of a very professional, positive and trusting relationship between the supervisor and the flexi-worker. You should have an idea of your boss’s opinion about work-life balance, as well his/her view about flexi-work arrangements. If you work for someone who does not believe that FWA will work, then you know you are going to have a much harder time trying to convince him/her. When you have an opportunity, subtly suss out his/her opinions (without mentioning your request) to gauge his/her likely response when you do eventually request.

8. Analyse your own job history in the company and the team

Most employers want their employees to be contented and dedicated. In most cases, an employee who is perceived to value-add significantly to her team is likely to be cherished by her supervisor. Employees who have been with the company for a long time (and proven her capabilities to deliver results) will also stand in better stead than someone who has just joined the firm for three months. Your job history – including the amount of achievements and contribution to your company – is your bargaining chip. Remember: Employers want to retain talent. So ask yourself, are you really a talent?

9. Draw up your plan. (Yes, on paper, please!)

Too often, mothers who walk in without a proper plan and ask for flexible work get turned down. Putting down a proper ‘proposal’ is important. It not only shows that you are serious about your request, but it also shows your dedication (and effort) to make it work. If you can demonstrate how you can continue to be a good team player and produce results despite the change in work-arrangement, you are likely to have a better chance of getting approved.

10. Make an appointment

You’re encouraged to set up a dedicated appointment to discuss your proposal in person, as it shows your determination to make this work. Refrain from just emailing your boss and hoping he/she reads it. Remember: If you want this, show him/her that you mean business.

11. Negotiate – what can you compromise? What will you not compromise?

Like all negotiations, you have to be prepared that you may have to compromise. Sometimes, in certain situations, it is just impossible to come up with the exact arrangement you are asking for. A legal counsel (and a Mums@Work member) tried asking for a compressed-work week. She wanted to work four days, but with longer hours. However, her company was worried that her absence on Fridays would be felt as they had a very lean team. Eventually, she settled for five working days, of which two half-days she worked from home. Think though what you can and cannot compromise. But bear in mind, you want to create win-win: for you and your supervisor.

12. Don’t give up!

There are many cases where mothers ask for FWA and get turned down initially. But they re-strategised and created a new proposal. So if you don’t succeed the first time, do not rule it out as “Impossible”. Occasionally, it can also be about timing. For example, if you are the only experienced team-member working with a group of new-hires, it may not be the best time. So, just try again a few months down the road.

Flexible work arrangements are increasing in Singapore as more employers realise how effective it can be to retain talent like yourself. However, it does take a major cultural shift of perspectives for it to work. Have patience, strategise well, and give it a shot. You never know!

pic 1About 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] Clearing More Than The Skeletons In Your Closet – Cherie Tseng

A cluttered space is a cluttered mind, a cluttered mind is a cluttered heart, and a cluttered heart is a cluttered life – that’s the mantra Material Mom Cherie Tseng lives by. Here, she gives 7 useful tips on how you can get started.

Toys. Toys everywhere.

Toys. Toys everywhere.

Baggage. Clutter. Junk. Stuff. We all have them. Some of us have them in moderate, manageable quantities; others find themselves constantly swimming in physical and/or proverbial chaos. Confucius wisely espoused, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” And he wasn’t just talking about the stuff we have lying about the house.

The average person in a developed world generates some 1.2kg worth of trash a day; the average woman’s handbag weighs close to 3kg; the average kid receives about 70 new toys a year; and the average three-bedroom home (living + two bedrooms only) has over 2,000 visible items. And here is the rub: research has illustrated that, contrary to what the retail industry will have you believe, accumulating bigger piles of stuff may in fact decrease happiness and stress. We already know that stress often causes us to buy things. It fills that emotional void, offers stress relief – the whole psychological shebang. And with all that excess stuff we buy, we are setting ourselves up for a vicious cycle of hoard-rible stress.

Most of us fluctuate between periods where we descend into chaos then we get gripped by the need to pack, find order and sort things out. My university essay writing days were characteristic of that cycle: the whole floor would be a mess of paper, the walls would have countless Post-It notes on them, and half-opened books littered ever available space. I would live, work and sleep in that chaos only to emerge days later. My parents would know I was done with my fervent writing because a deep and intense episode of cleaning, packing, sorting would occur.

The clutter about us are indicative of our emotional, mental and psychological state and space. Aunty M was a friend’s mum who was the queen of order and neatness; her house was always spotless and meticulously kept – a state she reflected in her personal life. She was a mentor and coach to troubled peers and she managed to run a household sans help while raising three kids and pursuing her masters. After she passed away, the family house pretty much hit a standstill even though they hired a maid to keep the house (the kids were already in their early 20s). New things stacked alongside the old, boxes heaped upon boxes and packages, bags and any kind of stuff rule any free space. Over a decade later, they are still grieving; time has stood still for them, emotionally and in their physical space.

In author Peter Walsh’s hilarious but oh-so useful book titled “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?”, he makes a compelling case that it is simply impossible to be your healthiest self in a disorganised space. From self-esteem to weight issues, from depression and anxiety to digestion issues; a cluttered physical space leads to a cluttered mind and emotional state, which impacts one’s health. And a vicious cycle ensues.

toys declutter 3Often, our external clutter is an expression of an inner clutter and confusion. One time, a friend called in an SOS to help her declutter her massive craft room because she planned on giving that space to her rapidly growing kids. Her personal craft inventory could rival that of a craft store. Four brutal declutterer friends, 28 huge trash bags and five hours later, we were nowhere near the end since she blocked us from junking or donating most of her things just in case she needed it in her next craft project, or because it had a little/a lot of sentimental value. Her massive stash of things was really a physical expression of her inner state: she had emotional issues she did not want to deal with; she hated confrontations to a fault and found herself constantly in some state of emotional flux.

So, why is it that so many of us have issues decluttering? Here, we consider seven clutter-related obstacles and what we can do about them.

1. “OMG, there is SO MUCH STUFF! I need to get organised! Argh!”

This is going to sound nuts, but don’t get organised. You heard me right. A lot of us tend to get overly fixated on clever storage solutions once we get our brain into “I need to sort stuff” mode. Before you buy that cool-ass desktop organiser that spins, swivels and lights up, declutter – throw out, recycle, donate, prioritise. After which you can organise. Moving things from one cupboard to another is not decluttering.

toys declutter 22. “I need a system to all these madness!”

It is often said that there is a place for everything, but that actually is rather limiting. One way to help young kids learn to pack their toys better is to paste a photo of what’s within the container on the container itself, so they know what goes where.

3. “I need to keep this; it has sentimental value to me!”

Things that help you remember happy times are great to have around! But ask yourself, do you really need to keep the massive dressing table your grandmother left behind or would a photograph of you and her in happy times suffice? Do you need all the little craft pieces your kid’s made? One way to keep everything is to curate a photo book. I like to craft with my kids rather than keep everything, I take photos of the ones I particularly like and make them into a photobook. Makes for a fun family project too.

4. “I can’t get rid of this; I might need it next time!”

I know of mums who store or hoard tons of extras to the point that their “emergency” cupboard could make a squirrel weep. It’s one thing to have enough table settings to host a small group of friends, but quite another to keep a drawer full of fast food sauce packets, extra boxes of crayons and a pantry stocked to ride out an apocalypse. Most friends I know really don’t mind being hosted on disposables; many of which can get rather fancy these days anyway.

5. “If I’m clearing out stuff, I want it to go to the perfect person!”

In an ideal world, we would find a great recipient to all our excess stuff. Before I embark on a declutter, I do a social media shoutout and arrange for places like orphanages, goodwill stores and charities to take receipt of the things I (have yet to) declutter. I am more willing to part with the items when I have made a commitment for a donation. Now that my decluttering is time- and date-sensitive, I am more motivated to cull and clear.

6. “I spent so much money on this; I can’t just give it up!”

Keeping the object is not going to bring the money back. Like many other things we own, administer the one-year rule: if it hasn’t been used or worn in the last year, move it along.

7. “Decluttering is so overwhelming, so maybe I won’t start.”

More than a physical exercise, decluttering improves your mental and emotional states. A good friend of mine with four kids and a full-time power career keeps a council of mummies from whom she bounces ideas and gets emotional support and help. Another upside to a group like that? They have a toy-sharing circle; each buys one toy that gets rotated in the group. Saves money, saves space and kids get new stuff to play with all the time!

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] It Takes A Village – Delphine Tan

As a mother of three young children, Material Mom Delphine Tan gets all sorts of unsolicited parenting advice from strangers. While she understands their good intentions, here’s what she really wants to tell them.

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I was recently on the bus with my 2½-month-old and minding my own business when the tubby fellow decided to see if he could stuff his entire fist into his mouth. He could not. He gagged and spat up all over the front of my shirt. The lady sitting beside us clucked her tongue at me, “He’s too cold; he can’t digest his milk properly! He should be wearing a hat and something with long sleeves!” I sighed inwardly, gave a polite smile and made some non-committal noises of acknowledgement. But she wouldn’t leave it at that and suggested that I should cradle the baby in my arms instead of having him upright in the baby carrier. She tried to get me to cover his head with the sleeping hood and that just annoyed him to no end because the little busybody (my baby, not the lady) wanted to look around.

Olaf, from the movie "Frozen"

Olaf, from the movie “Frozen”

This is something I face on a daily basis – complete strangers telling me how I should take care of my baby. He’s almost always in a onesie with his thunder thighs on display, so I get a few people (mainly little old ladies) pointing out that he’s underdressed and feeling cold. This happens even when it’s a scorching hot day! Then there are those who are convinced that he’s suffocating in the carrier, making it necessary for me to lift up a corner of the sleeping hood to prove he’s merely sound asleep and facing no greater threat than the pillowy softness of my bosom. What irritates me the most is when the baby starts crying and some random stranger tells me the baby is hungry, then stares at me expectantly all Olaf-like as if to say, “Feed him. Just feed him. Why isn’t she feeding him? Do you think she knows how to feed him?”

This sort of behaviour is not unique to Singapore, of course. In Ho Chi Minh City, we were practically hunted down by concerned night-market vendors who demanded to know how old our baby was, just so they could inform us that babies cannot leave the house before they are three months old. In Taipei, plenty of people told us we should dress the baby more warmly.

Whatever “advice” we receive, I know it all stems from good intentions. Therefore I nod and smile politely, and then I continue to do whatever I want, like dress the baby in skimpy onesies and bring him out in the baby carrier. But sometimes I’m so exhausted from a night of waking up repeatedly to feed the baby and/or soothe my middle child back to sleep that I really don’t feel like smiling and I just want to scream, “I have three children! I know what I’m doing! He’s not hungry; he just needs to sleep! Leave me alooooone!”

If random strangers (or friends, or relatives) truly want to help me with my baby, I wish they would stop dishing out unsolicited advice and do the following instead – let me go ahead of them in any queue (especially at the taxi stand), give me their seat on the bus or train, refrain from gawking at me when the baby is screaming his little bald head off, offer to carry the baby for a bit so I can have two hands to eat with, hold the door for me, or anything that makes my life a bit easier for a few minutes or so.

Remember, as Plato sagely said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

Delphine and familyAbout 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] Own Time, Own Target – Deborah Giam

As a parent, you tend to think you know what’s best for your child. From the moment you find out you’re going to have a kid, out comes the books and websites and support groups that will tell you everything and anything you need to know … or so you think.

Mother-Daughter-Picture

I may be stating the obvious, and a lot of parents discover this little fact for themselves after their child arrives, but each and every child is different in their own way. I say this because I’m going to talk about how the Little Miss does things in her own time. I don’t mean those hurry-up-get-changed-we’re-late-for-school type of mornings, but the fact that when it comes to major milestones, she’ll only go at her own pace and do it when she’s well and ready.

Little Miss was a late walker. She started cruising and toddling around from about the age of 11 months, but it wasn’t until she was almost 16 months old that she well and truly started walking on her own. Before that, she always needed the safety of someone’s hand holding hers (usually in a death grip). We knew earlier on that she could probably walk by herself, but she wouldn’t hear of it and wouldn’t give it a try. Then one day, off she went! In the beginning it was a little shaky – she walked like a drunk zombie – but she did it, and she did it when she was ready.

Then came potty training. I tried in the beginning to see if I could get her started, or at least used to the idea, but it was pretty hard. We had a couple of accidents here and there, and she just kept asking for her diaper instead. Eventually, I thought, “I’m not going to push it. She’ll get upset and frustrated, and I’ll get upset and frustrated. What’s the point?” It wasn’t worth the negative energy. Lo and behold, one day she declared, “Mummy, I don’t want to wear a diaper anymore.” I was slightly skeptical, since she was right about to go to school, but I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. If she’s telling me that she doesn’t want to, then she probably knows what it’s going to entail. So I packed her school bag with extra underwear and a diaper, just in case, and told her teachers of the new development. Since then, she’s been diaper-free (except at nights), and we’ve had very few accidents.

The pacifiers that Little Miss threw away!

The pacifiers that Little Miss threw away!

The next milestone came when she stopped using her pacifier. She loved her pacifier. And by love I mean obsessed. She needed one at night to get to sleep, and would often be around the house with a pacifier in her mouth. From the time she got into the car going home from school she’d be asking for one. If it was up to her, it would be a crime punishable by death not to have one with you at all times. I was starting to get worried that she’d be one of those kids sucking on a pacifier even through primary school. I tried when she was three to get her to stop by offering rewards if she stayed pacifier-free. I think it worked for about two days, and then she went back to it. We constantly told her she was too old to have one, and that it was time to give it up. One day she said to me, “Mummy, next year I’ll be in K1. I’m a big girl. K1 no more pacifier.” I thought, okay, now this is interesting, so a deal was struck. When January 1 came about, and she was going to start with K1, she would throw her pacifiers in the trash. And she did. Every one of them. She gathered them all, took them in her hands and threw them into the bin. It felt like such a momentous day! As a backup, my mother suggested that I kept one or two on standby, but I didn’t because I felt this was a choice Little Miss made, and it was a choice she’d have to stick by. I did ask her what I could do if she was upset and wanted a pacifier. “Make a funny face, mummy”. That’s exactly what I did – all of two times.

So what comes next? Who knows, but I’m sure it will happen in its own way and its own time.

material-mum-deborah-giam

About 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] Children and Technology – Joan Leong

Are parents taking online safety for their kids to the extreme? How can you introduce your children to the Internet while ensuring they don’t fall victim to scams and other threats? Joan Leong shares her views. 

material-world-children-technology

I have seen articles floating on the Internet, expounding the argument about how children should remain anonymous online to protect their privacy. Call me ignorant, but I always crack a wry smile seeing how sensitive people are over others putting up pictures of said people’s kids, or even list their names. To each his own, I do not disagree.

This is not to say I do not understand nor care about how protected my child is on the Internet. I always feel that as long as we have the knowledge and know-how, we can take reasonable steps to being safe online and in real life. Interestingly enough, I do get messages from people, on the occasion, when they have spotted my child out with relatives or friends. If you ask me, that’s pretty good tracking for me!

However, let us talk about the measures we should be taking to ensure that our children are able to stay safe online.

Understand Technology

Cafe mothersMake time to understand the gadgets and apps of the world today. Take the time to learn how to use parental controls on the phone and computer. Keep your ears plugged in to the latest social networking thing and figure out the pros and cons of each one. You should always be in the know – latest developments in technology; the tricks that people get up to these days; and the good things that people can do online that betters the world, not worsen it.

When Foursquare first came about, I was quite obsessed over checking in to places to earn badges and be the Mayor. Each time I was ousted from being Mayor, I became more obsessed over redeeming the position again … until one day, I read an article about the safety of Foursquare – each time I checked in to a location, it was simply confirming to the world that I was not at home at the time. By checking in to Starbucks, it means I would be there for at least a while to enjoy that cup of coffee.

The occasional check-in to places on various apps, I understand. But I was literally allowing Foursquare to track my movements all day, which just serves as a guide to anyone who might be keen to either stalk me or break into my home.

When you understand the usage of these apps, you are in a better position to counsel and work through with your kids on what the acceptable boundaries are in the online world.

Which brings us to the next point.

Guidelines on Do’s and Don’ts

Do a set of guidelines on what your child should or should not be doing online. This starts with the basics of not putting every single detail online such as home addresses, our full names, passwords and other sensitive personal family data. You would not want someone to be able to easily answer that security question, “Which street did your mother grow up on?”

My personal rule is to never put up anything online that you do not want anyone to know about. You may set multiple levels of privacy on your apps, locking it to a particular audience only, always be prepared for it to be accidentally leaked (if not on purpose). If you cannot live with others finding out your deep dark secret, then do not put it online. Go out and meet your bestie for coffee or write it on a piece of paper, burn it and drink it with water after.

Educate Your Child

Discuss the pros and cons of the app du jour that the kids are into, like the ones below.

Facebook: While fantastic to keep in touch with friends, one should be mindful not to add strangers especially those who message to say they have randomly come across your profile and would like to be friends.

Instagram: While great to share cute photos of one’s pets online, one should be careful of what appears in the background of photos like bills or a parent sitting on the “throne” in the bathroom.

FaceTime: While great for video calls, one should be careful that mummy is not running around the bedroom, trying to get ready for the day.

Snapchat: If you think that the photos will disappear and be deleted after a certain time frame, think again. These things have a way to always come back like a boomerang, so even if you think you are in safe hands sending a picture of yourself flashing your small group of friends only, once that photos is out there, it IS out there.

Discuss Current Affairs

Highlight current cases of people actually getting conned on the Internet.

Someone wants to give you a million bucks? Nah, we’ll pass.

Someone tells you have won a free trip? Erm, when did we ever sign up for a lucky draw to win a holiday to Timbuktu in the first place?

Your best friend emailing you to say she is in Bangkok and that she has lost her phone and needs a few hundred bucks to tide her through the next few days? Well, is your best friend really that dense?

Stay Safe

With knowledge and know-how, you are giving your child the greatest gift in the world – in arming her with the appropriate skills to meander around the big world of bits and bytes, while still protecting herself.

Of course, this should also go hand-in-hand with other safety measures like having a system of checks in place, like the “stranger danger” rule; no swimming unsupervised; always getting to know their friends and; more importantly, staying in constant contact with the parent and keeping an open line of communication.

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, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Preparing Your Kids For A New Baby – Selena Quah

Expecting another child and unsure about how your other child(ren) will adapt? Material Mom Selena Quah shares her tips on how to seamlessly introduce the baby into the family. 

The arrival of another kid is usually met with feelings of eager anticipation and some measure of trepidation. The two main questions asked would usually be, “How will I manage?” and “Will the kids get along?”

While the final outcome is really quite out of your control since it depends on the interaction of so many factors like personality, your post-partum state, the home environment, etc., I believe there are steps you can take to pre-empt the problem and ease into the situation better.

material world_pregnant mum 2For me, my main concern was to ensure the kids got along with their soon-to-arrive sibling. If that could be managed, it would go a long way towards making life a lot easier. I was fortunate that my first child formed a relationship with his brother even before the delivery date, and the good feelings continued even after his brother arrived. Though my eldest son is generally of a fairly sweet nature, I do think some of the steps we took did help. When I got pregnant with my third child, I followed some of the things we did previously, and it seems to be working again. Both boys are positive about the prospect of having another sibling, and I do think they genuinely look forward to her arrival. Many parents have said to me how wonderful it is that my boys seem to be very affectionate towards the baby, often hugging and giving her (well, my belly) kisses.

So I thought I’d share some of the steps we’ve taken so that you can see if it works for you too. These are by no means miracle steps, and the results may vary depending on the personality of your child and your unique circumstances. Still, there’s no harm trying. Some of these steps are advocated by many parenting books and websites, but we’ve also discovered some on our own.  A few websites have a long list of do’s and don’ts, but I’ve distilled it to the four main things you need to deal with in the lead up to your baby’s arrival.

First, relationships are the key element to manage prior to baby’s arrival. If this can be handled well, I think chances are you will experience much less sibling jealousy. 

Your children and baby

I wanted very much for my children to feel like they have a bond with their baby sibling even before the birth, and I did this by doing this the best way I know how – through play!

After letting your children know you’re having a baby, encourage your children to talk to the baby regularly about anything and everything. And allow yourself to get silly and let your imagination lead the way too. Pretend to be the baby and speak to them. I use a tiny, high-pitched voice when pretending to be the baby, to the point that when I forget and speak to them in my normal voice while acting as the baby I sometimes get told, “No, Mummy, I’m talking to baby, speak in a high voice!”, or “I’m not talking to you, Mummy!” Of course they know it’s all just pretend, but it really helps with relationship building.

material world_pregnant mumSometimes we will be having dinner and one of the boys will ask, “Mei Mei (little sister in Mandarin), do you like the food?”, or if we’re outdoors, “Mei Mei, did you see the aeroplane?” These are excellent times to stretch the conversation to teach your children that babies do not know as much as they do. For example, I’ll reply, “What’s an aeroplane, Gor Gor (big brother in Mandarin)?” The boys take great pleasure in trying to explain things to baby, and it’s something you can encourage them to do after baby comes too.

Let the “baby” initiate conversation sometimes too, and always try to inject a large dose of humour and silliness.  The main thing is to have fun.  Having pretend conversations between my children and baby happens daily, and I think it is the key reason why they are so affectionate towards her.

Of course, temper this with realism as well. Your children must know that babies can’t actually speak when they are born, and will do lots of crying as it’s their only way to communicate in the initial days 

Your children and you

This relationship is very, very important as well. While ensuring that the children form a bond with the baby, you must do everything possible to make sure the bond between you and your children remains strong. This means lots of hugs, kisses, quality time, and affirmation. The children must know that your love for them will not diminish at all with baby’s arrival. You can never say, “I love you” too much.

It is also important to talk to your children about how you will inevitably be tied up caring for baby, but tell them that you did the same for them. Read some books on what life will be like after baby arrives so they know that while it won’t always be easy, at the end of the day Mummy and Daddy loves them a lot.  Make them feel important by teaching them they can contribute in meaningful ways, whether it’s getting baby a fresh diaper or giving Mummy a big loving hug.

Logistics: Before the arrival of the baby

Think ahead to identify any changes that need to be made to accommodate the baby, and implement those changes early.  For example, a change in sleeping arrangements such as having your children vacate the cot, need to be done months in advance so that the link between their shift in sleeping quarters and baby’s arrival is not so stark.  When kids are young, you can quite easily draw a smoke screen over this rather obvious fact. Make a grand affair of the move to a big bed so that your older child feels it’s his own special grown-up thing. Most kids tend to be excited about the move, or at the least can quite easily be convinced. Just be prepared for some nighttime escapes! But once that’s done with, you’re all set.

If you foresee that you’ll need more time with your newborn and need to stretch your older child’s stay in childcare from half to full day, do it early. Do not wait until the month before baby comes. It takes time for your child to adjust. Most certainly, do no wait until after baby comes as that could potentially be one big source of jealousy and anger – that Mummy doesn’t want me around now that baby is here

Any changes because of the baby that could potentially impact your children– from changing of car seats or even changing schools – should be done early!

When baby arrives

material world_siblingsYou have given thought to your birthing plan, but have you given thought to your childcare plan?  Once you’ve settled on a plan, make sure you inform your kids.  They really shouldn’t be the last to know.

Explain why you need to go to the hospital, who will be taking care of them, where they will be staying, when they will come for visits, and roughly when you will be back home again.  If they have never stayed anywhere else before, arrange several sleepovers at the alternate caregiver’s house prior to your due date so that it’s not a new experience that’s suddenly sprung onto the children.

And that’s basically it! Hopefully this will help in your own preparation for the arrival of number two, or three, or …

Even if it doesn’t work for you, just wing it!  After all, I’m sure you would have known from raising your first child, even the best laid plans can get derailed when children are involved.  Just relax, take a deep breath, and soldier on.

Selena Quah with Asher Selena Quah enjoys the little things in life and hopes her children will pick up this trait from her too. She thinks kids are an excellent excuse to indulge in things she likes such as strolling through parks, doing art and craft, and baking. A dancer from young, she hopes to get back to it when the kids are older, though for now she’ll have to make do with dancing around the house while her boys wonder why Mummy is mad. You can find Selena’s blog Unlikely Lady of Leisure here. 

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] The 8 Essential Mummy Friendships We Need To Have – Cherie Tseng

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn and grow as a mother from the type of friends you have.

8 essential mummy friendships

There is a famous adage that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a mum of two fairly young kids, I find that saying to be true. My children have interacted with a parade of people – teachers, godparents, family friends, neighbours – and their lives are richer and better for it.

But just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village – a different type of village – to raise and empower a mother. Having a child automatically inducts a woman into the big, scary, chaotic world of motherhood. You know, that “world” where the rules are completely made up and the points don’t matter. But it takes far more to help a mum transition into the mother she will become and needs to be. She’s going to need her own unique village to help her do that.

The Long-Time BFF

All mummies need her BFF. Your BFF is someone who’s known you before you ascended/descended to the heights/depths of motherhood, and seen you through your academic, career and life triumphs and failures. She’s the one who can help you “keep it real”, telling you, yes, that orange maternity dress is awful and paying $200 for a baby onesie is nuts and completely unnecessary. At the same time, she’s also the one who will cover up for you and pretend she bought that ridiculously priced onesie should your hubby ask.

The Swinging Single Friend

This is the person who will keep you connected to the non-parent parts of the world. It is hard to recall for some of us, but we were single, footloose and fancy free once upon a time. The Swinging Single Friend raises the non-mummy quotients in your life; she tells you where you can find clothes for yourself, she updates you on general non-children related matters and, sometimes, she even takes you out and coaxes you to have something more than orange juice and go home – gasp! – past midnight.

8 essential mummy friendships 2The Mummy Mentor

While most mummies have mummy friends, it is essential to have a mummy mentor – an older been-there-done-that mum you can look up to. Why older? Because it is only in seeing the fruits of her labour (pun unintended) that you can determine if you’d actually want to pick up parenting tips from her. You may not always see eye to eye, but she acts as a guide to how you would want your life to be.

The Tiger Mummy

Most mums would claim they would rather not sing the proverbial hymn of the Tiger Mom. But let’s be frank, being friends with a Tiger Mother can have its perks. You are always kept abreast of the latest developmental technologies and research; you are kept in the loop on the latest classes and enrichment programmes to hit the market even if you don’t send your kids to them. She is the mummy friend who has reviewed and visited all the kindys you might be interested in and probably has an excel sheet to make comparisons. She can make your life a whole lot more efficient if you could just get a grip with your competitive nature.

The Mummy in Distress

I run a training consultancy and I specialised in leadership development for a good part of my career. One of the simplest but most effective leadership philosophies is Learn-Do-Teach-Lead. Having a Mummy in Distress Friend means you get to flex your mothering skills and knowledge while not really having the drama right in your house. It means you get to give solicited advice (everyone likes to play Aunt Agony); you get an added avenue to test out parenting tips you have come across and you gain a whole lot of perspective on how great your life actually is. Invaluable.

8 essential mummy friendships 3The Social Media Mummy Friend

Bill Gates once called the Internet as the town square for the global village of tomorrow. Social media has redefined how we communicate and the definition of friendships. We are able to keep pace and keep up with friends living on the other side of the globe and interact with them as though they lived mere minutes down the street. The Social Media Mummy Friend, especially if she lives halfway across the globe, is a great friend to have in your corner for she offers a glimpse into a life different from yours. But, through interacting with her, you’ll realise you both are not that different after all. Because of her, your world is oddly bigger and smaller at the same time.

The Much Younger Friend

Maybe this is a person you mentor at work, or someone you met at the gym. The Much Younger Friend will keep you from devolving into what I jokingly call the Matron-Slob Mummy Abyss. This person keeps you recent, current and fresh by taking you (and maybe even your kids) out to do crazy “young people” stuff. She is essential because she breathes a newness of fresh possibilities into your life.

The Husband Friend

The most balanced mums I know have a relationship with their husbands outside of their joint roles as parents. And I’m not talking taking weekly date nights here – though that’s definitely important too. I am referring to the friendship you shared even before you got together – when you would crack silly jokes and do random things together. When you have that level of friendship with your fellow parent-in-crime, it makes the mummy journey so much more fun.

Friends are the family we choose. Our friends sometimes frustrate, annoy and baffle us; but they also teach, enrich and love us. Katy Perry is wise to declare: “I am every woman and it takes a village to make me who I am.”

Cherie Tseng, mother of two boys – Quentin, 4, and Evan, 2 – runs a regional training consultancy and works primarily out of her home office. In her spare time, she practices aerial circus art and craft like there’s no tomorrow. 

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Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Do Men Really Believe In Gender Equality? – Elisa Woodward

Our Material Mom Elisa Woodward says although many men don’t say it, their behavior indicates that they’d really rather women just stick to playing wives and mothers. Her piece, below.

My husband and I got into a mini-debate a couple of weeks ago – while watching Troy on TV – about whether women should just stick to looking pretty and playing supportive wives and mothers to men. Before you think I’m married to an MCP (male chauvinist pig), let me explain that my husband is anything but one. This is a man who has utmost respect for women in the workforce.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it: Do men still think the best place for a woman is at home, playing wife and mother? Even in this age where many women are offered the same opportunity at school and at work, do our men subconsciously believe the world would be a less complicated place if women didn’t go out to work?

So I started asking the men I knew – friends, colleagues, family – if they thought women are best only as mothers and wives. And you know what? So many of them tried to get out of giving me a straight answer! Many of them simply did not want to answer my question at all.

There’s Always Something Else
I’ve also noticed something many men do. Even if they begrudgingly admit that you are good at your job, that you are talented, they always have to add a caveat like, ” … but women and their PMS” or ” … women should still not be allowed on the road”. No matter how good or how successful we may be, men always think our “womenly” qualities work against us.

A Woman = ???
Of all the identities we women struggle to assert, those of “mother” and “wife” are the ones men are least likely to contest. If we said, “I’m a good driver”, a man would definitely go, “Yeah right! You don’t check your blind spots.” But if we said, “I’m a good mother”, more often than not, men are happy to let us take that honor. No man would go, “Yeah right! Your fridge is empty!”

Bear with me here, but I’m going to make this assumption: Is it because men feel that women have the monopoly in the roles “Mother” and “Wife”?

Women are Emotional Creatures?
Another argument that has been used to death by men to disprove our capabilities is that we are “emotional”. Recently, the Japanese forerunner was criticized by women voters for saying, in an interview with a men’s magazine, that women should not be allowed to lead the country because our menstrual cycles make us irrational. “Women are not normal when they are having their period … you can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their period],” he said.

One of the most stereotypical ways of viewing women bosses

One of the most stereotypical ways of viewing women bosses

It goes back to the tired, oft-used misconception that when we women flip out, we are being “crazy bitches”, but when a man loses his temper, he’s showing his aggression and showing who’s the boss.

Such gender stereotypes held by the men I have spoken to disappointed me because in Singapore, boys and girls are offered the same opportunity from very early on in their lives.

It’s No Point We Keep Insisting That We Are Not Inferior To Men
I think it’s time we pay more than just lip service to the issue of gender roles in today’s society. It’s no use if women keep saying we are as good, if not better, than men. It’s no use if men just silently, begrudgingly accept that they are going to have to deal with women as their bosses. People have got to want to see it happen. First, women can be good bosses, good with money, good at driving etc. Second, men can be mothers, men can be wives, men can play the role of a nurturer when it comes to bringing up the kids.

We should continue to blur the lines between what a man should do and what a woman should do. There are no fixed roles anymore. A woman can be the breadwinner while the man, a househusband. And if we want to bring up well-balanced children, it is time we accept these as the norm and not go, “Wow! That’s unheard of!” when things like this come to our attention.

Just as we women refuse to let men tell us where our business should be at, we as mothers should also try our best to not set down the boundaries of what is a “girl thing” and what is a “boy thing” on our children. If your daughter wants to be a construction worker when she grows up, don’t say, “It’s a job for the men!” If your son wants to be a ballet dancer, don’t say things like, “Real men don’t wear tights.”

And maybe, just maybe, our kids will grow up to be more enlightened than their parents are now.

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. In this post, Elisa candidly shares the fears she faces as a mother.

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1. [Material Moms] My Untold Fears As A Mother

2. [Material Moms] What You Need To Know About Flexi-Work

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] What You Need To Know About Flexi-Work – Sher-Li Torrey

There’s a constant struggle that comes with being a working mother. On one hand, you really want to be with your children, but on the other, you want a fulfilling career as well. Is it possible to have it all? Sher-Li Torrey is the founder of Mums@Work, a social enterprise that supports flexi-work arrangements for mothers in Singapore. In this article, she shares the things you need to know about working on flexible time.  

It's a fine balance.

It’s a fine balance.

Like many first-time mothers, I was in for a shock when I gave birth to my first child. She was a quiet and well-behaved baby, and slept like a log through the night. However, her arrival meant my dream to rule the world was dashed.

Suddenly, 24 hours was not enough for me to play the roles of mother, employee, employer, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, sister and friend. I had a great boss that allowed me to try out a flexible work arrangement. Despite that, I found that I needed even more flexibility.

Feeling stretched and helpless, I started looking for a job that allowed me to work from home or part-time. I soon discovered that the number of flexible roles for professionals and executives were limited. I also realised that there were many talented mothers like myself who wanted to work, but on their own terms. At the same time, there were also employers who were on the hunt for top talent.

material world_working mum

So I decided – why not create a portal for mothers like me? That was how Mums@Work became my second baby in May 2010. Now, two kids later (my son arrived in 2012), I am proud to say that Mums@Work has listed more than 1500 flexi-jobs and held more than 200 events. What started as a hobby developed into an online career portal with more than 11,500 member-mums. We also support Mumpreneurs (mothers who start a business from home), and work with employers on the implementation and managing of flexi-workers.

The greatest misconception about flexible work is that it only comprises of part-time work. Flexibility is actually, in terms of time (flexi-hours or part-time), place (work-from-home) or duration (contractual or freelance project work). While being able to work on your own terms sounds ideal, there are several factors you need to consider before approaching your boss:

PROS: 

1. Able to design your own schedule
Because you now have more opportunity to design your own schedule, you can prioritise accordingly. This generally gives a sense of control, resulting in less stress (and often less guilt) for mothers.

2. Having the best of both worlds
Although it’s not always 50-50, the division of time by a flexi-work mum is likely to be more balanced than a full-time working mother. For some individuals, this may help them to relieve some of the stress they feel trying to meet both family and work commitments.

3.  More confidence
In most cases of flexi-workers I encounter, mothers who were previously staying at home often speak of a new confidence after re-starting work. Although I personally think that all mothers (whatever their career choice) are equally amazing, there are women who prefer to peg their self-worth to both fulfilling maternal roles and establishing a small career.

4. A renewed hope
Many flexi-work mums that have come through Mums@Work’s doors often speak of flexi-work as providing them with a sense of hope. Some of these mothers had chosen to return to the workforce and were not sure if they were ready for a full load after being away for a few years. The flexi-work arrangement allowed them to work at a pace that was comfortable to them, and prepared their engines to take on full-time roles months or years later.

material world_mum working from home

CONS: 

1. Long days, Role creep
One of the greatest challenges that work-from-home employees face is role creep – an inability to distinguish between their duties. Sometimes while “at work”, they have to stop and take on mother duties. Or while watching their kids at a swimming meet, they have to answer work calls. This constant volleying between roles can often lead to long days of trying to meet all demands.

2. Misunderstood availability
Just because you work from home does not mean you have all the time in the world to cook meals, drop off parcels at the post office, run daily errands, wait for the plumber, etc. Sometimes your spouse, friends or family members may assume that your flexible work arrangement allows you all the time to do everything else. They forget that you have deadlines to meet too.

3. Financial stresses
Some flexible work arrangements may result in a decrease in household income, which can be a source of stress on both the mother and father. This is why it’s important to have heart-to-heart discussions with your spouse before you take the plunge, and to assess how your decision would impact the household income.

4. Professional image compromised
When you work from home, you may find it very difficult to take work calls with a baby crying in the background. If you run your own business from home, a home office can also be viewed as being unprofessional.

One thing I often highlight is that a flexible work arrangement is not for everyone. Some of us are Separators, with a need to compartmentalise the different areas of our lives. Separators prefer keeping work and family apart. For such individuals, working from home can be very challenging. It is therefore important to know what you want and what your personal flexi-style is, before asking for a flexible work arrangement.

pic 1About 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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Child's Play, Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Protecting Your Child In This Age Of Social Media

Meet Mindy McKnight, one-half of the couple who founded YouTube Channel “CuteGirlsHairstyles”, which showcases the many ways you can braid and fishtail a girl’s hair. With over 1.8 millions subscribers to their channel, Material Moms asks Mindy about the privacy issues facing parents in this age of Facebook and Instagram.

Meet Mindy McKnight and her adorable family.

Meet Mindy McKnight and her adorable family.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of how social media can betray your child’s whereabouts to criminals, no thanks to the location settings every app seems to ask you to activate whenever you launch it. As parents of 6 beautiful children, Mindy and husband Shaun face similar challenges too. They are not only doing a YouTube channel about young girls, their daughters participate as well as hair-models. So what kind of rules do they institute in order to ensure that the privacy of their children does not get compromised?

For the how-tos, you've gotta check out CuteGirlsHairstyles on YouTube!

For the how-tos, you’ve gotta check out CuteGirlsHairstyles on YouTube!

What inspired CuteGirlsHairstyles?
I wasn’t particularly adept at hairstyling when I was a teenager, but after being married and having our first four children (all daughters), it became something I needed to do every day. Not wanting to do the same hairstyle too many times, I started getting creative with the styles and people began noticing. In the early years, I kept photos of each style in a photo book in my bathroom counter. There are instances, when mums would stop us when we are out shopping, and ask me to explain how I created a specific braid design. Some would even ask that I take the hair out and recreate the style for them, right there at the store! It was then that I knew I had to place the hairstyles online where it would be easier for mums. Plus, it gave the tutorials a digital home that I could use to pass along to my daughters when they get married and have their own children.

How has YouTube changed the way your family now live your lives?
Neither Shaun nor I ever thought YouTube would become our livelihood or part of our family. To give you some perspective, every cent we earned in the first four years on the platform went to two child adoptions and the necessary expenses associated with increasing a family of six to a family of eight. YouTube and the opportunity it has provided has enabled us to essentially “complete” our family. I chuckle when we say that, because we also consider our family size to be currently 1.8 million, with all of the fans who tune in each week and love our family so much! Today, Shaun works with me full-time on our brand and business development while the girls and I continue the hair creative for CuteGirlsHairstyles. If you had told us five years ago that this is what we would be doing today, there was no way we would have believed you!

QUOTEEvery parent these days is concerned about protecting their children’s privacy online. Is that a concern of yours and how do you reconcile that need with what you do on YouTube?
This has always been a concern of ours, and you can see it in our videos. It is also the reason why we have resisted the millions of fan requests for us to start a family vlog channel. If you go back to our earliest hairstyle tutorial uploads, you will see that I did not show faces of myself or my girls. We wouldn’t allow them to speak, either. Our first challenge came after the first year when our fans were upset that we would not show how the hairstyle looked from the front. It became a dilemma—for us to do so, we would have to show their faces in the video and photos. I remember holding a family meeting, and each of us hesitantly agreed to begin showing the models’ faces. From there, the channel grew exponentially not just because viewers liked our hairstyles, but because they fell in love with our family.  We do not share our children’s names online, except for our 14-year-old twins, Brooklyn and Bailey, because their names were already online via IMDb because of a movie they were in when they were nine. Each child has a nickname, and whenever we do press interviews… our home city is never correctly identified.  We also turn off all geo-tagging for photos we submit on our social platforms. We consider ourselves a very private family, but a family with a huge talent to share. It would be a shame to hide it.

What are some ground-rules you set down for your children when it comes to the Internet?
My children can recite the rules by heart. All computers are protected by passwords set by us so that there is zero access to the Internet without our knowledge. There are also absolutely no computers allowed in any bedroom, and all Internet surfing has to be done in the main kitchen/dining area. Also, any Netflix movie has to have a G or a PG rating. They also understand that they are never to engage in any online chat, with any individual, via email or other software, without our approval. A good Internet filter helps screen offensive sites and chat rooms.

Mindy's family sans Halloween getup!

Mindy’s family sans Halloween getup!

Many parents share their children’s photos on Facebook and Instagram. What advice do you have for them to have fun without compromising on their children’s safety?  
This is a tough one, because every parent is a proud parent. Receiving positive feedback on the most recent family photos, or the addition of a child, or cute Halloween costumes, etc, helps validate us as parents among our peers. There is nothing wrong with that. My top suggestion would be to keep your social platform profiles “Private”, for only close friends or family, and definitely turn off geotagging on your photos, which tells viewers where the photo was taken. Make up a nickname to reference a child, and never take photos of them with location-identifying clothing, such as the name of an elementary school, or community football club, etc.

Do you think your children have tasted fame on the Internet too early? Why?
I don’t believe so, as that is not something we seek. There are far too many cases of child stars having major problems as they enter adulthood due to fame. I believe a child can only taste fame if they know that they are famous. We do not talk about it, and all our children recognize is that we film hairstyle videos from time to time. In fact, my twins answered this very question from a fan in 2011 in a Q&A video by stating that they do not consider themselves famous… that they are just “known people”. In the five years we have been doing this, we have only had three sponsored fan meet-ups… only one involved our four oldest children. We are not celebrities in any sense of the word… we are just a family, making family first, sharing a hairstyle talent with the world.

For parents who have attracted a following on their blogs and social media feeds because of the adorable pictures they take of their children, what is the next step they should take if they want to work with advertisers or sponsors?
I am not a professional at answering this, because we’ve never actually sought out a brand integration deal on our own. In fact, our first sponsorship did not happen until after four years, and that company approached us. What I will say is… be super careful, be very selective, and have [a lawyer] review any agreement. Also, not every paid deal is a deal you should do.  We currently turn down 90% of all brand integrations that come our way, and that is perfectly OK. These companies have a global brand, but your brand is important, too. I would also recommend building up your resume by finding press opportunities first, via your local media outlets. Doing so helps show brands that you are relevant and newsworthy. Then for sponsorships, I would say a good start would be to create an organic post or video around your content that highlights the brand/product you are interested in. Then tweet that link to the company on Twitter.

Mindy and Shaun McKnight’s YouTube Channel CuteGirlsHairStyles can be found here.

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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] What Having Kids Does To You – Joan Leong

Does the thought of raising a child make you shudder in abject horror? This heartfelt post about what it means to be a parent might change your perspective.

It’s pretty easy to tell a first-time mum apart from the others. Usually, she’d sport a disheveled, sleep-deprived look that screams, “GIVE ME MY COFFEE, NOW!”

But when all is said and done, having kids, however challenging, is not as frightening or dreary as it appears. In fact, it can be magical at times (and I’m not talking about the sleep-deprived haze).

material moms joan leong

The true meaning of love

I have often witnessed friends who once claimed they did not have the natural instinct to want to be parents go through this cycle. They’d first go through the reluctance of wanting to have kids. Then, they fall pregnant, but display a cool ambivalence to the baby prep process. When the baby is born eventually, they become far more engaged as a parent than other parents I know who have been preparing their whole lives.

It is a beautiful transformation to me. Whenever I have friends who express doubt, I always hedge a bet with them that they will change when they see the little cherubic faces of their mini-mes. Which reminds me … I still have not collected my meal prize from a friend who swore he would not put up copious pictures of his baby but, of course, went back on his word the minute his baby was born.

I fell in love with the little sac of blood pumping in my womb at four weeks. I loved the kicking in my belly. I did not love the giving birth process so much, but I just fell head over heels in love with my daughter when I laid eyes on her. Nothing prepared me for the emotions I was feeling all at once – I felt fear of the unknown, that I would never be able to protect her enough, that I would never be able to be a good enough parent, that I would not be able to provide enough. I felt joy and pride that I now have a child, excited about the possibilities to come and about the future.

That is what happens when you have kids. We learn the true meaning of love – unconditional, pure love. We will have bad days, no doubt. But through that all, we never stop loving them with the same ferocity, if not more.

Reflection of ourselves

Another funny thing that happens when you have kids is that, suddenly, you are faced with a constant reflection of yourself. I sometimes catch myself asking my daughter, “Where did you learn to say things like that?” To which she’d respond, “You!” Her words, her actions, her thoughts and even her OCD tendencies are a reflection of my own quirks.

The other day, an inconsiderate driver cut into my lane dangerously. I yelled, “Stupid!” My daughter chimed in with her important voice, “Mum, you said that I cannot call people ‘stupid’. You can’t use the word ‘stupid’, Mum!”

I am often forced to stop and think before I speak/act/react. I want my daughter to learn and follow the best of me. And you soon realize that – even after eight years down the road of having kids – it is no longer just about you. It is about what you want to leave behind: a girl with impeccable manners, or one who curses and swears on the road? In my twenties, I was only concerned at being the latter.

No longer invincible

I was 21 when I bungee-jumped. I had a huge fear of heights but I also had a checklist of things I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime. Amongst dyeing my hair red and getting a tattoo, I had to prove to myself that despite my almost crippling fear of heights, I could do it. It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life but with the adrenalin from success still pumping in my veins, I was ready to take it to the next level – sky diving. I never got to sky diving and I have not thought much about it after I gave birth.

You start examining your own mortality. You realise that you cannot imagine leaving this world without finishing your job as a parent to protect, grow and nurture your child. You now have this responsibility to be there for your child.

That checklist I had, has now morphed to other life goals, such as getting your child enrolled into the best schools, the constant quest to healing from past wounds and growing, reading and learning more so that you will always be the smartest person in the world to your child.

We become better people

Because we chose to populate the earth with our mini-mes – whom we love unconditionally; who reflect our every thought, emotion and action; who make us more responsible in our life choices – we become better people. For that, I am eternally grateful to my daughter for giving me the gift to be her mum.

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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