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.


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.



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.

[If you like this story, you’ll love]

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

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

Material Moms, Young Minds

[Material Moms] “Why Is School So Bossy?” – Elisa Woodward

About The Author: Elisa Woodward, a career-focused wife and a mom of 2 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 her first story for Material World, she talks about why – after seeing her son’s first year in a local school – it’s so hard for the Singapore education system to evolve.

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

“Mommy, why is school so bossy?”

After his first week at a Singaporean school, my 6-year-old son finally decided that this was the appropriate reply to our daily routine of asking him, “How’s your day at school?”

Whilst trying to hide our laughter, and trying to behave like sensible parents, our subsequent investigation into why he would ask such a question led to an unraveling of rules: “Well…. The school tells us how to stand, how to sit, where to stand, where to play, where not to play……….”.

And, the first thing that popped into my head, “Dear son, welcome to the Singapore education system.”

New Kid In Town
Before going further, let me set the background. My family had been in Victoria, Australia for the past 3 years, before moving back to Singapore. In Victoria, parents can elect for their children to attend kindergarten/preschool before starting primary school, which is approximately 8-12 hours a week.

Coming back to Singapore, my husband and I chose to send our older son to a local school, because we felt that this would be the fastest way for him to immerse into the Singaporean culture and, more importantly, pick up Mandarin.

We met with the teachers and the principal of the school and, when I learnt that Primary 1 and Primary 2 were not subjected to exams, boy was I ecstatic –times have certainly changed since I was in school! I was told the children would be assessed in a holistic manner, which I took to mean minimal written homework and more learning through life and cultural experiences.

Maybe not quite …

First Day
Local school turned out to be a shock for my son. Even I, as the parent, was surprised at the regiment instituted in the children from the very first day.

Once we stepped into the school’s compound, we (parents and children) were ushered into different classes, and the children had to sit/stand in a line (or 2 lines) to prepare for morning assembly. For those who do not know, morning assembly comprises of singing the national anthem, maybe the school song, and announcements.

No time was wasted. The children were taught how to stand for the school assembly (feet shoulder width apart, hands placed on side et cetera). Then they were taught how to sit, with folded knees and hands on lap, and of course, how to keep silent.

Us parents were ushered to another location to LINE UP (behind stands bearing labels stating our child’s class) for briefing and meet parents of children in the same class.

Then we were brought “two by two” (or ones) around the school for a tour; and we were told that our children would be well-taken care of and would go to class. We were also told that if we wanted to meet our children, the kids would be down during the morning recess, and they would be brought to the designated location to meet up with us.

The orderliness was making my head spin. Being the rebel that I am, instead of hanging around for my kid to be released for recess, I left. Many of the other parents hung around waiting for the “Meet-my-child-at-a-designated-corner-for-10-minutes” session.

School life had officially begun.

homeworkfrustrationA Mountain Of Work
Until the end of the first quarter of the school term, and schoolwork was occasional. I thought to myself, “Hmm, not too bad after all”.

THEN, the 2nd half of the year started and the homework quadrupled. Every week, a Chinese test, every other week, spelling. Things hasn’t really changed.

What’s more, my husband and I – both working adults –believe in learning through play, rather than enforcing sit-down “tuition sessions”. It was a good thing our son was self-motivated to get homework done, and his grandmother, a good help when required.

While it’s true changes have been introduced to help expose primary school children in Singapore to a more “holistic learning environment”, one needs to understand that the cultural background and value system of the child’s parents and teachers also contribute to how “holistic” his education actually is.

breakoutbox1Parents complain incessantly about the pressures the Singapore education system exerts on them and their children. But yet, they still cave in and end up sending their kids to tuition classes ON A SUNDAY!

First To Hit The Wall? No Way!
If we, as parents, only have our sights set on making sure our kids come out tops in school, of course the Singapore education system cannot evolve significantly and effectively.

One local teacher, whom I managed to query about the need to drive the young children so hard academically, mentioned that it is not that teachers want to push all their students to be the best (as all of us know that each child has different learning standards in a class), but rather if teachers stick to the curriculum, and students go home with “easy” homework, the teachers get questioned by parents, demanding an explanation why the syllabus is so simple, and why their children are not being pushed harder.

So what do we, parents, want? Currently, the choices are limited – for those of us who choose life experiences over academic performance, as my family has, we choose to take our children overseas. For others who have reasons to remain in Singapore, they join in the race to ensure their child does not lose out, albeit grudgingly.

And when you encourage aforementioned parents to be different, to stand up to the system, the response you get is, “If my child comes in last in class, how?” No one wants their child to be the first one through the wall. So we end up where we started, in a system no one is happy with but are all too afraid to stand up and make a difference. We just want to stand in line and be told how to stand, how to sit, where to go, and where to play.

Are you a mother of a young child studying in a Singapore school? What are your thoughts about Elisa’s view of the local school system? Share your views either in the Comments section below or via the form here. We look forward to hearing from you.