5 Survival Tips of a Mum Boss

I was running on adrenaline last year which I documented in “A week in the life of a blogging mum”. I started The Little Executive with my partner and as with any new start-up, there is a never-ending list of things to look into.

I worked in the mornings when Kate was at school and was home by 1 pm to see to the kids as they streamed home. Although there is flexibility as your own boss, it is in a sense worse, because with no clear demarcation, I ended up working round the clock. Many a night, I crashed at 9 pm only to wake at 2 am to start the day.

It came to a point where Kate hid my phone because she had to fight with it for my attention on a daily basis. It is worse to be physically present but mentally absent as it sends the message that whatever I’m doing on the phone is more important than her.

I also fell sick a couple of times and I knew I couldn’t sustain that level of energy. I needed a better strategy.

This year, I changed my routine. After dropping Kate off at school, I work until about 4 or 5 pm, depending on which kid I need to pick on the way home. I take one day a week off to go for yoga and spend the day catching up on household admin, fixing a good lunch for the kids and taking Kate for class. Of course, I end up doing sporadic work on the computer as emails or texts come in requiring my attention.

With this new arrangement, my working hours are more structured but it is physically exhausting. When I was a SAHM, it felt like running a marathon with no finishing line. Now, as a full-time working mum, it feels like I am walking in quick sand. I wish I had a remote control where I could press the PAUSE button.

To be honest, I do enjoy the part where I drop Kate off at school and head in to work. I can do my thing in peace, have adult conversations and dream up ideas to implement.

But when I get home, I can’t kick off my shoes and lounge on the sofa as my second shift begins! Kate will be running to me with open arms exclaiming “Mummy you are home!” and starts regaling me with her day’s escapades. She could go on and on, if not for #5 who would be dragging me to see yet another of his creations. Soon enough, our helper sets dinner and it’s full on action until bedtime.

The thing with 6 school-going kids is that the clock doesn’t stop. I was a FTWM yonks ago when the 3 of them were below the age of 6 and it was different. There was no agenda and no urgency. Now, I have #1 coming to me to discuss her Poly assignments (which I actually enjoy), #5 to nag at when he realises at 7 pm that homework is still not completed, and the rest of them to sort out issues arising from school.

The weekend rolls around and as we all know, it’s not like we can lie in bed and rest our weary bodies and minds.

I wondered how working mums do it. By the second week of January, I was so exhausted I wrote a post “Are we killing ourselves?”

I have since put in place these 5 simple strategies to keep things in balance before I lose my sanity or end up neglecting the kids.

Rooftop picnic

1. Simple Bonding Time

When Kate sees me at home, she will look at me expectantly with a bright smile and say, “Mum, shall we have a picnic?”

Thoughts of where to take her zip through my mind – Botanic Gardens? Chinese Garden? “No, another day ok. I have too much to do.” She doesn’t give up. “Don’t worry mummy, I will prepare the food. We can have a picnic at home!

Dawned on me that we don’t need to come up with grand plans or constantly take them to new places. To us, it may seem simple, but these moments are special in their eyes. And because it became doable for me, the bonding time happened. I just had to follow her up to the rooftop patio and give her my full attention for 20 minutes, and she was pleased as punch.

The hubs used to ride her to market on the weekends and I’m sure that would remain a precious memory to her.

These moments of connection are important for their emotional growth as they feel they are important to us and because it fulfils their need, they don’t play up so much just to get our attention.

Family Command Centre

2. Stay organised

I have a Family Command Centre right smack between our kitchen and dining room which I blogged about 4 years ago, and had to make changes since starting work. I had a mountain of paperwork piled on my desk which put me in a frenzy because I couldn’t find things I needed, and I didn’t have time to waste digging through the mess.

The 1st tray is Urgent, so nothing important is missed, and I look at it every morning. Things I’m working on currently at work go into TLE and I slot accounting receipts separately so it’s easy when I pull it all out once a fortnight to get that filed.

I teach the little kids at church once a week, and notes for that go into the CGS slot. I also handle the GST filing for the hubs’ company, so that goes there. These are the areas I have to tackle on a regular basis and the rest of the documents will get moved upstairs to our home office. The black tray on top is for the kids to put papers they need me to sign so nothing gets misplaced.

3. Schedule in breaks


Since working 2 jobs (as I call it now) I have felt my stress levels rising. I’m running non-stop and there’s no breather. The only way is to factor in de-stressing activities into the week.

My teens are such darlings. They’ve been noticing how hard I’m working “hey mum, you actually go to work!” and surprised me on Mother’s Day by drawing up a nice warm bath and making a lovely moisturising bath bomb. They asked me to “relax and take your time, dad is fixing dinner.” It was the first time soaking in my own bathtub after so many years.


Instead of taking Kate to busy places, we go to quiet parks. She roams around on her bicycle while I get to clear my mind and refresh my soul.

#2 and I started drum classes on Sundays for some mummy-daughter bonding time and found it quite relaxing. More than that, by taking an hour out to do something for myself, it changes my overall frame of mind from scarcity to abundance and by allowing myself permission to do something fun, I feel better overall. The last time I took any classes was before I had kids!

I used to turn friends down for tea or lunch as it takes up too much time, but now allocate 1 day a week to allow myself to chill, talk about things of leisure, have a heart to heart chat with close friends.

4. Cut myself some slack

As though I don’t have enough on my plate, I have an added duty of preparing 4 lunchboxes every night after dinner. It started because of #2. Her JC releases the whole cohort for recess at the same time, so it is a 30-40 minute queue for food. She would rather not waste time queueing and buys a cookie or pie from the cafe.

I offered to pack her a salad (thinking she might say, “No thanks mum, who brings a lunchbox to school at 16?) But she loved it, and so did her friends! Since I started doing that, the other 2 teens reasoned that I might as well pack them healthy salads as well.

Near the end of the week, I was really tired and instead of pushing myself to do it, declared “Kitchen Closed – due to mum fatigue”. Glad the kids took it in their stride, and now they don’t take my lunch box for granted!
5. Enjoy the little things

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life with kids and end up feeling frustrated and defeated a lot of the time. I have learnt to be present in the moment and to savour the little things.

After a challenging Thursday night where I scolded the 2 younger ones, I went to work and didn’t see them on Friday. I had dinner out with the hubs and when we returned, I saw a note stuck to the bedroom door, which read: 

Dear Mummy, Kate and I are sleeping happily. Love, #5 & Kate. 

And to see them fast asleep, arms wrapped around each other, was just the best thing.

Being a mum, however way you spin it, is tough. I’m grateful to Debs for initiating this very meaningful series, to give us mothers a chance to learn from one another and know that we are not alone.

I’m finally getting into the rhythm of this FTWM gig and finding my balance.

No matter the demands, mothers make it work.

Somehow.

This post is part of the “Mothers Make it Work! Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories, please click here.

If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can start with this one here by Debs G over at Owls Well as she considers the challenges that her Aged P faced as a stay-at-home-parent. Debs is a Sunda Scoops Owl who married a nice British Barn owl and is raising a trio of hungry young owlets in a highrise tree in Singapore. Debs is a trained medical professional who is currently training to be A Parent.

At next week’s stop, we will be visiting June at MamaWearPapaShirt. June is a work-at-home mum to 3 kids. She is a writer and trainee educational therapist who is passionate about helping kids with learning needs. Her idea of self-care is drinking a good cuppa and enjoying a good book. She is constantly exploring calm and positive ways to parent her children.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

6 ways to squeeze time for the kids as a working mum

This is the first time I am working during the school holidays! I took Kate along with me to our enrichment centre for Dino camp, but she stayed home last week while we ran our P1 Prep camp.

So how do I squeeze in time for her and the other kids during the week? It helps tremendously that I don’t have to stick to a 9-5 work week, and depending on the demands of the day, I either get in an hour or two later or leave earlier and resume working at home after they have gone to bed.

1. Start the day early

Even though it is the holidays, Kate and #5 are up by 7.15am. Resisting the urge to sleep in, I think of the hours I’ll be away from them and that never fails to get me out of bed. There is nowhere much to take them that early in the morning, hence it’s always some park or other.

This little monkey shimmied to the top of the pyramid by herself and called down, “Mum, take a picture of me!” She sure is catching up with the older siblings.

Chilling

2. Kill two (or three) birds with one stone

Instead of rushing to finish breakfast before heading out, we hastily pack a picnic basket with breakfast staples and hop into the car. In that relaxing hour, we get to spend time together, have a proper breakfast and enjoy the benefits of nature.

Xiao Guiling

3. Mobilize the kampung

It really helps that the hubs works from home and instead of rushing back to pick the kids and getting stuck in peak hour traffic, we arrange to meet at the destination and have time to enjoy the outdoors before heading home for dinner.

Sometimes we ask the grandparents to join us, or if the kids end up with friends or aunts, we find somewhere convenient for the kids to play or for a quick dinner together.

Southern ridges

We were trekking through MacRitchie reservoir and Kate was convinced that she found a Dinosaur foot!

MacRitchie reservoir

4. Mummy is there in spirit

When I’m not at home, it doesn’t mean that I’m disconnected from them. Kate’s obsession this holiday is rollerblading. She loved watching Elsa ice-skate during Disney on Ice and has been asking to go ice-skating every other day. After taking her there 4 times (I’m the one exhausted!) I told her she needs to practice with her rollerblades before I’ll consider taking her back.

She was so motivated that she spends 1-2 hours per day on her blades and when I get home, she is ever eager to show me how much she’s improved. What a great attitude. Looks like I have to take her ice-skating soon, as promised!

Blade girl
5. Find different ways to be involved

As the kids grow older, they require less and less face-to-face time with you. Any parent of a teenager will tell you that they spend a lot more time in their rooms and communicating with their friends via gadgets. However, this doesn’t mean that we stop being involved in their lives.

#3 was lamenting that besides filling her time with clocking the required CIP hours and meeting up with her old friends from primary school, she was bored at home as I am not able to take them out nor go on holidays as #1 is not on term break.

I simply told her to start thinking, and find something gainful to do, make or sell. She started experimenting with home beauty remedies and came up with products to gift her friends, and that led to some orders as well! I encouraged her and told her I was very proud of her efforts.

These days, with technology, we can still stay connected even while we are at work. For teenagers, to be there for them on a daily basis means being able to reply their Whatsapp messages when they need advice or permission to go out with their friends.

Sometimes, it’s me who needs advice from them about using technology to make videos or helping me to buy presents online for my staff for Christmas, and that’s how we update one another about what is going on in our lives.

Mix n measure

6. Support them daily

Even though I only get to see all my kids during dinner, I keep up-to-date with what they are currently interested in and give them words of encouragement and support.

#2 has just finished her Os and she has the next few months planned out. Last week, she was concentrating on decorating her room as the siblings have just done another round of roommate swopping (yes, it seems to be an annual tradition for them).

She was happily showing me what she has been working on and I was extremely impressed. Instead of spending money on decorations for her room, she decided to make her own. She bought a wooden board ($4 from Art friend), painted it marble, and knocked little nails in it to form the world map.

DIY Wall deco
She painstakingly wound black thread around the nails, ensuring that they were taut, to form the design. Wow. I loved it, and told her so. Sincere words are food for the soul they carry with them through the day, even without the presence of mummy. Sometimes it is encouragement they need, while other times, it may be words of concern and care.
Using nails and thread

To be honest, I was caught off guard at how much easier it was to go to work, be tired, and spend the weekend resting, and not having to deal with the day-to-day demands of the kids at home.

However, I am wary that it is all too easy to let this pattern slip into our norm, as the time we have with our children will never be returned, once lost.


Having these pockets of time to be still, to be present to our surroundings is very grounding for me, no matter how rushed my day is nor how tough things can get sometimes.

Idyllic mornings

Even though these days I’m away between 5-9 hours per day, I’m glad we’ve managed to work things around this new schedule and am able to spend a reasonable amount of time with the younger kids throughout the week.

I am thankful to have flexible working hours and support from the hubs in caring for them, but whatever your situation may be, try to think out of the box and perhaps you might find opportunities to squeeze time out for your kids during their school holidays.

Related post:

Our June holidays earlier this year where everyone was running at breakneck pace.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~ 

A Day in the Life of a Mum with 6 kids

For the past 4 years, I was a stay-at-home-mum, and prior to that, I worked from home for a decade so that I could be around for my kids as they were growing up.

Now that #1 is turning 18 and not-so little Kate is in school for 4 hours a day, I can finally pursue my own work without feeling bad that I have left so many kids at home to be cared for by the helper and a hubs whose eyes are focused on the computer screen most of the day.

The funny thing is, the kids are so used to the hubs and I both being at home that they find it a novelty that mum goes to work!

When they see me coming down all dressed (instead of being in home attire most of the time), the teenagers will ask, “Mum, where are you going?”

“To work.”

“Oh wow, you have work to go to.” They are amused, and I’m sure they are (secretly) proud of me. Well, I hope.

Our Brady bunch

So how do I juggle my days now that I am a working mum?

As my own boss of an enrichment centre, I am fortunate to have the flexibility of time and can choose to work partly from home. The flip side however, is that even when I’m home, I tend to be on the computer (there is always more to do!) and Kate has pleaded with me on several occasions, “Mummy, can you stop your computer and play with me?” I need more self-restraint to block out time meant for the kids!

My weekday schedule hasn’t changed all that much as I try to fit my work schedule around the kids’ school day. In the mornings while the kids are in school, I go to my centre for training, brainstorming sessions or to touch base with my staff. I leave at 12noon to pick Kate up and spend the afternoons with the kids as they return home from school. After the younger kids have gone to bed, I get some work done before calling it a night at 12 or 1am, although some nights I’m exhausted and fall asleep while putting Kate to bed.

My weekend. The day which has changed the most for me is Saturday. I documented our Saturday a year ago, where it was a balance between seeing to the younger and older kids’ different needs while making time for simple activities as a family.

Now, I work almost every Saturday, to personally run our weekly trial classes as our concept is new to parents and many do not understand what we do even after browsing our website. I have come to enjoy these sessions as we are on this parenting journey together, and it is always nice to get to know the parents of the kids whom we are working with.

Our Little Executives

Saturday mornings: I take Kate along with me, and she attends her class while I speak to the parents. Some days she stays the whole day with me, and keeps herself entertained by playing with the other kids at our centre, or simply playing by herself.

Meanwhile at home, the 4 older kids sleep in on weekends to make up for the sore lack of sleep on school days. My dad has learnt to Whatsapp them directly to see who is at home, and my parents will detour to the market to buy brunch over so that our helper doesn’t have to cook.

My mum will see to the needs of the kids and ensure everything is ok. She usually spends time chatting with the teens and takes an afternoon nap in their rooms. My parents have been such a life saver for the past 18 years, and even though they are in their 70s, they enjoy their role and the company of the kids.

Afternoons: Some days, the hubs might come by to my centre with #4 and #5  to pick Kate up. He has stepped up to the plate knowing that I am busy with work. Wish I had done this earlier!

There are times when I can’t figure out what they get up to when he sends across such pictures, but I’m glad he is spending more time bonding with them. Now that I’m at home much less to supervise him, #5 spends too much time watching TV and playing on the computer, so the more time in nature, the better.

Dad.. we are exhausted

This Saturday arrangement has been working well and occasionally, I get time in between my sessions to meet up with old friends for lunch to celebrate birthdays.

Initially, when I started to work on Saturdays, I was apprehensive about being away on a weekend when everyone else was at home, but it has turned out really well and Kate has been enjoying her Saturdays tremendously. Time alone with mummy. Fun times with daddy and siblings. Friends to play with or going out for nice meals. What more can she ask for?!

Evenings: I return home in the late afternoon or evening, depending on how many sessions I run, and the hubs would be fixing a nice dinner for the kids. We sit with them for an early dinner (around 6pm) and have a few small bites while seeing that they are all fed.

Once everything is settled, we prepare to head out to meet with friends for dinner, leaving the older girls in charge.

Although we have been going out much less as a family these past 2 months due to me working on Saturdays and preferring to stay in on Sundays to rest and recharge, the timing couldn’t be better as #4 has been busy with PSLE preparations and #2 has been spending the weekends catching up on sleep and studying for her O level exams which commences next week.

Occasionally, the hubs will cook up a storm or start a little BBQ and roast some nice meats, and my parents and brother’s family will join us for dinner or we might head out nearby to have dinner together.

Slow roasted BBQ ribs

Night out: It’s nice to relax and unwind from a long week over a nice dinner with 1 or 2 other couples, and there’s usually some interesting event going on somewhere.

Late night: After a heavy meal, I find it hard to sleep so what’s the best thing to do when the kids are asleep and the house is dead quiet? Besides the hottest topic everyone is heated up over these past few days..

I work. My work is akin to a hobby. I turn to it every spare moment I have, and it brings me great joy and satisfaction.

If my brain cells are buzzing, I’ll put in some heavy work like reading research papers, writing up rationales of our curriculum or doing some bookkeeping. But if I’m brain-fried, I’ll do relaxing work like blogging or sorting the kids/family admin, which is another never-ending task!

Wine pairing dinner

It may be unimaginable, but I’m happiest now than I have ever been since having kids.

I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but there was a period of more than 5 years when I did not have time to meet with friends nor go out with the hubs. It was routine, routine, routine. So much so that now as I make time to re-connect with old friends, my kids are surprised. “Mum, we didn’t know you had so many friends!” Yup, I’m accustomed to such bluntness. Is it just my teens?

Getting the 5 young kids to eat, sleep, and bathe took up my entire day and every ounce of energy. The focus was more like 95% kids, 5% work (to hang on to my sanity), 0% me, 0% fun. I didn’t know any better, but oh well, I survived and emerged stronger.

After 18 years, I finally have balance.

Family time with the children, yet ample time away from them which is just as important.

Work which I enjoy; both meaningful and mentally stimulating, and working with passionate, like-minded educators who bring energy to my days.

Time with the hubs, good friends, and adult conversations where we chat and laugh ourselves silly, as I have almost forgotten how it feels to enjoy the company of friends without my thoughts constantly revolving around the kids.

I become more ready to take on the new week.

I am in a good place now.

For that, I am thankful.


For more glimpses into our days, this is how my week looks like. It does get pretty crazy around here! The last time I documented my weekday was 2 years ago when Kate was 2, and looking back, things have changed significantly.

Next up on this blog train is Dorothea, a mum of two boys, aged 6 and 4. She writes about life, love, parenting and faith at A Pancake Princess, and is also a regular contributor to The New Age Parents, an online magazine. These days, she also enjoys crafting customised artwork and holding watercolour / calligraphy workshops, and goes by the name of Dottishop. Meanwhile, most of her time is spent chasing make-believe dinosaurs, making messy art, breaking up fights and picking crumbs off the floor – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you for hopping on board this blog train hosted by the inspirational Justina of Mum in the Making. Click on Day in a Life blog train to take a peek into a day in the life of other mummies!


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

When mummy goes to work…

Now that I work most Saturdays, my mum has happily assumed her weekly grandmotherly role of seeing to their lunch and taking them on errand runs.

She checked with me if it was alright to take #4 to get her ears pierced as it had closed a few years ago and they were discussing it recently.

Apparently, the older girls were having an intimate chat with grandma about the distribution of heirlooms.

After I gave my mum the go ahead, she casually asked if it was ok to let Kate pierce her ears if she wanted the same as her sister, as Kate usually tags along where the action is.

That hasn’t crossed my mind as the rest of the girls had theirs done in primary school when they were more aware and asked for it themselves.

I was hesitant but my mum pressed on. “You had your ears pierced when you were 4 and Kate is almost 4, so I don’t see a problem.”

It was one of those conversations where there wasn’t a definite conclusion, but I remember telling my mum that in the event that Kate really wanted her ears pierced, they had to let her know what it entailed.

I went off to work and didn’t think much about it.

Mid afternoon, I received a text from #2.

Mum! Kate had her ears pierced!!

shiny like a princess

I had the story related to me when I stepped into the house.

Apparently, when they reached the shop, my mum asked Kate if she wanted to have earrings, and being in the phase of wanting to be adorned with sparkly ornaments like a princess, she said yes!!

I would have thought my mum would let the older sibling go first, but obviously, she had an agenda.

Once Kate agreed, she plonked her on the hot seat.

#4 started getting worried and asked her por por, “Are you sure we should be doing this? We need to ask mummy first.”

To which my mum confidently answered, “Your mummy has already agreed.”

Punch. Kate cried. Like really, really, loudly. That grandpa had to walk away as his poor heart couldn’t take her heart wrenching sobs.

And up till that point when I reached home, she did not want anyone to touch any part of her face. Or shoulders. Or even her hair, for fear of it getting entangled with her earrings.

Perfect. Just as I had expected.

After the girls were done relating the whole story, my mum calmly reminded me that I had to clean her ear lobes properly with the antiseptic lotion every morning and night, lest it became affected.

That night, she screamed as I tried to wriggle the cotton bud soaked with stinging antiseptic lotion on her earlobes.

The next morning, she tried in vain to ward me off as I brandished the bottle and cotton bud.

As you can imagine, it became a daily nightmare. Both for her and for me. I really didn’t need this.

On the 4th night, Kate was playing with #3 after dinner and when I told her to get ready to shower and prepare for bedtime, she asked if she could shower and sleep with #3.

I was about to say no, but had a much better idea!

I allowed it, and told #3 to clean her earlobes after she showered.

“Sure mum, I will.”

I braced myself to hear her cries.

Lo and behold, there was none!

The next night, when I brandished the cotton wool, Kate started crying and screaming. I couldn’t make out what she was trying to tell me.

Finally, when she calmed down enough to speak audibly, I heard her desperately yell, “Just drip. Just DRIP!”

“Just drip? Is that what you said?”

“Yes! I said JUST DRIP!”

I tilted her head and dripped the lotion onto her earrings.

“I told you. Just drip!”

“Who taught you that?”

“Jie jie.”

I should just relinquish some of my duties to my teens.

Friday came around quickly enough and #3 reminded me that they had to return to the shop for a follow-up the next day.

I called my mum to pass on the reminder to take them for their earlobe check up, and for the first time, I was happy to escape to work.

I wonder what surprises will await me week after week…

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~