Are we prepared for the teenage years?

We all know about the dreadful teenage years. Of raging hormones and irrational behavior.

But do we really know what to expect? Are we prepared for it?

Just as we start to enjoy the freedom of independent kids who can function without us, the next phase descends without warning.

As I started to navigate my way around unchartered waters, I reached out to those with teenage kids/young adults for advice.

What a vast difference from when the kids were little. We could relate to one another with similar rants of bedtime battles and sibling quarrels. Bonds were formed with fellow mums as we shared tips and supported one another through those long and tiring days. We could rope our other halves in, the helper plus grandparents to ease our load. We were not alone.

But this. This was entirely different.

Nobody talks about the worrying problems facing our teens. No two situations are alike, and there are no easy solutions.

As I spoke to other mums, the conversations were done in hushed tones. The seriousness of the issues poured out gripped me with fear. They were too real. Not something you read about in the newspapers. Some were lucky that their kids did not give them sleepless nights. But many others shared personal tales of a time shrouded in darkness.

There were stories of eating disorders, self-mutilation (sometimes in groups), being the victim of cyber bullying, peer pressure, depression, obsession with their looks and self-perceived inadequacies, inhaling harmful substances to get a high to escape from reality, relationship issues, negative influence from classmates, staying away from home for days, attempted suicide and other sombre tales.

Having to face just one of these issues can wreck havoc in a teen’s (and their family’s) life.

In some cases, it can be to the most heartbreaking extent where as a parent, you have to turn your own child over to the police after discovering something like drug abuse.

The tough decisions parents have to make.

It really is the most difficult job in the world. Nurturing children to walk the right path and being strong enough to face the pressures from so many aspects.

Nothing prepares you for the things you will come face to face with. With a heavy heart, you witness the consequences of the choices they make.

As a mother, their pain is your pain magnified a thousand times.

At this age, they are hard to decipher and you are unsure what to say or what not to say.

I’ve discovered a sad truth from opening up to other mums. Beneath the surface of good grades, affluent lifestyles and superficial answers lie secrets many mothers carry in their hearts.

They are yearning for a confidential ear to listen to their worries. And when the storms have finally passed, they are more than willing to share their experiences and offer advice to others.

Just because they don’t have the visible signs of toddlers hanging off their arms, it doesn’t mean they are not burdened.

Yet more importantly, what about the teenagers?

Beneath their sullen look and curt replies could be a torrent of emotions they cannot handle, the demands of school and life which they cannot live up to.

Be the supportive village they are so in need of. If you do not know what to say, it is better not to say anything. They are very sensitive creatures at this point in their lives.

To mums of teens, hang in there. It is going to be a bumpy ride. It takes a strong heart.

Be ever vigilant. Teens are so good at covering up what they don’t want you to know. Don’t take things lightly. No matter how busy you are, keep an eye on them.

Don’t be afraid to open up and share with other mums of teens. They may not face the same issues but will understand what you are going through and can provide the much needed support in troubling times.

A wise friend with grown-up children shared this:

Never give up on them, never cease praying for them. Keep on loving them especially when it is so hard to do.

Some moments, I wish they were little again. When I could scoop them in my arms and life was so much simpler.

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

2018 – Can I run and hide?

2017 went by like lightning because work picked up momentum. I finally felt the weight of a working mum holding down 2 jobs. A busy work week, followed by an even busier weekend of seeing to the kids’ needs. I was on a bullet train that couldn’t stop.

After a nice, slow December, I am all rested and recharged. I have put Kate in childcare which took a load off my mind. Initially hesitant to move her at K2 as she was happy in her preschool but glad she managed to settle well today, with just a little bit of tears halfway through the afternoon. She missed her mummy, her old friends, and has to adjust to a new routine.

If 2017 was crazy, 2018 will be pure madness. Our student numbers have tripled and it’s going to be an exciting run with my team of teachers this year.

On the home front, first of all, I have a PSLE child. After going through this 4 times, the PSLE is just another year to me. However, dealing with my boy is a whole different ballgame altogether. His Chinese has been deteriorating year after year and is now at a miserable 20/100. He used to enjoy Science and was scoring 80+ but failed his P5 SA2 exam paper. This was what he wrote:

Yes. The type of answers we laugh about on Facebook. When I questioned him, he explained the whole molting process and exclaimed, “Mum, such a tough life right?!” His imagination is that vivid. I went for a talk recently and the speaker was explaining how children can be categorized by their fingerprints and he called this group of kids Type R. Creative, full of original ideas, our future designers and architects, but constantly getting into trouble with teachers.

Headache.

This requires a different tact from how I guided the girls, as I’m sure if I left him to his own devices, he will go through the week without any homework handed in nor relaying important messages from school.

His teachers said that a big part of his problem is his motivation, and we are scratching our heads on how to get him to buy into the idea of having to conform to the PSLE structure and memorizing appropriate key words for the sake of doing well in the exams so that he can go into a better school. This is something that baffles his immature 11-year old mind.

Thankfully, the older girls do understand the importance of the crucial years as the 3 of them are taking the O and A-level exams as well as Sec 2 streaming. I do worry though, that they don’t get enough sleep and it will doubtlessly be a stressful year even without me putting any pressure on them.

As for #1, she is in a bit of a dilemma trying to decide what her next step should be. After 3 years in poly, she realised this is not where her passion lies, but her interest is veering towards design. She is unsure which aspect of it should she pursue, and several friends in this field have shared their own experiences as we are exploring whether to go for a degree, another diploma, or gain some experience working. Such a tough decision with no clear answers.

Academics aside, these teenage years are the hardest in our parenting journey. The influence of friends and social media is a big concern, along with raging hormones, doubts, self-esteem issues, being critical of everything, and their world view being starkly different from ours.

Sometimes after an exchange with the lot of them, I feel like I’ve come out of a battlefield. Parenting a bunch of teens is not for the faint-hearted.

When I stop and think about this coming year and how I’m going to fit everything in while setting aside enough time to guide this brood properly, it looks extremely overwhelming. You know, the deserted island in The Last Jedi? The notion of escaping is enticing. Being alone. In silence. Where no one can find me.

Ah well, it’s nice to dream for a moment. But this is my reality, these, my responsibilities.

I am so thankful for little Kate.

She’s the ray of light with her sunny disposition as she runs into my arms like a furball greeting me with an exuberant “Mummy!!”

Whether it is after a long day at work, or when a heavy issue is weighing on my mind, I can still smile.

When things seem impossible, I can only put my hand in God’s hand and let go. By faith, I can find hope. I can find peace.

Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
In everything, give thanks

Bring it on, 2018! I am ready ūüôā

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

All that glitters is not gold

I haven’t blogged in a long time. I’ve been busy. So busy that I only had an hour to whip Kate’s birthday party up, just before her little guests arrived.

Maybe my next post should be entitled, “How to prepare an awesome birthday party in under 60 minutes.”

I was going to put up a pretty picture of her birthday party and dedicate the post to her.

Afterall she turned 5. What a sweet little milestone.

Best buddies

But you know, with so much going on in my life right now, it kinda feels like a lie to just shine the spotlight on that one bright moment while brushing everything else aside.

So, plot twist.

Life has been running at a breakneck speed. I’m working a full work week now but I can’t complain because I love what I am doing – I just wish I had more hours in a day. Like triple the amount.

The folks are also getting old and this is the time where things shift from having help in ferrying the kids around to having to ferry them around. We’ve been so lucky to have had their limitless love and support from day 1 and now is where the care is to be reciprocated tenfold.

And when you are running so fast, being pulled in every direction, you wish that everything at home is going just great. That somehow, the kids are behaving beautifully, so that you don’t have to worry and can concentrate on doing what needs to be done.

Unfortunately, having a current houseful of unpredictable and hormonal teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 can make life very blustery.

One moment they are sweet, sensible, helpful young ladies, voicing opinions that I appreciate. Yet the next, they are moody or sensitive or in tears about something someone said.

My days are really long now. Our house seems to be running on two separate time zones. A too early morning start with noisy bickering younger ones while the other half of the house comes alive only when the sun blazes high (the kids in secondary school have already started their holidays. Already?)

These nocturnal animals who communicate in their own lingo are cheeriest between the hours of 8pm to midnight, and there’s a mini party going on in the kitchen or their bathrooms most nights.

Then, they wake up grouchy. I asked a perfectly normal question with a smile, “Would you like to tell me your holiday plans now that school has ended?” Only to be answered with “Nope” and the offender casually resumed eating her breakfast.

And that was it! No explanation, no elaboration.

Breathe.

I need to keep calm and mother on, and re-present that question after 8pm.

No, actually, I gave it to her, telling her that it was an unacceptable answer and I expect a proper response.

It is tiring. Tiring to come home to little kids who need to be nurtured and watered, and big kids who look like they don’t need you, pretend that they don’t need you, but still need you as much as the little ones.

Maybe someone can tell me that it will all pass soon enough.

The truth is… this gig called parenting? It doesn’t end. And it doesn’t get easier. It gets – different.

So all I can do is to take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for the long haul.

It’s funny how people look at us bloggers with our shiny happy pictures and imagine that we live in a perfect world with model kids.

Honestly, how is that even possible?

Perhaps we should stop showing happy pictures of wannabe princesses and fake castles. But then again, we can’t be snapping pictures of grouchy teens or quarreling siblings while in the midst of disciplining them.

So that in a nutshell, is our life at the moment.

Happy birthday my little one.

Life is magical when you are 5, isn’t it?

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

What would I do if I had an 18-month old again?

I gave a talk to 80 families whose babies turned 18-months old. That stage feels like so long ago. My eldest is 18 years old! Gosh, did 18 years just evaporate like that? I asked myself: What would I have done differently?

I would have enjoyed them more.

I was hung up on certain things and was too engrossed in wanting to bring them up ‘properly’. I was chatting with the hubs, and he has a whole different outlook of their early years.

He really enjoyed their company, and if he could turn back time, he would love to have a bunch of 5 little kids again. Initially when I heard that, I was going to jump at him with the “That’s because I did all the work while all you did was play with them” line. However, as I mulled over it, it dawned on me that it was up to me how I chose to see the ‘job’.

I saw the tantrums, the mess, the challenges. He saw their joyful responses, the spontaneous cuddles, the happy laughter. That’s not to say he did not discipline them – he is the disciplinarian in the house. Rather, he never let one part affect another, nor his mood, which I tended to do.

Baby Kate

I would make time for myself.

A short walk around the block, a phone call to a good friend, a book in the park. I lived with a “not enough time” mentality for many years. I didn’t even have time for a decent shower, let alone coffee with a friend.

Finally, I took a 2-week pilgrimage with my mum as she’s getting old, and turns out, they could survive without me! I should have given myself permission to take an hour or so every fortnight, or even 15 minutes every day to care for myself. It would have helped my sanity tremendously in those trying days. A happy, recharged mum would definitely make a better mum, don’t you think?

And most importantly, this is what I would do differently.

I would discipline them with love.

To discipline is to teach, and because guiding them was a huge part of raising these little people, I swung from a patient, loving mum to a yelling monster, sometimes in the span of minutes and sometimes it became a daily occurrence. With 5 kids under the age of 10, you can imagine how often my patience got tested.

With Kate, I have finally learnt that you can still love your child while in the midst of disciplining them. It was such a radical experience for me, to come from a place of peace and love, standing firm with her boundaries, without feeling my anger or frustration rising with each passing second! It starts with awareness and gets better with practice.

Since I can’t turn back time, I can only share these hindsight notes with you ūüôā Happy parenting your little ones!

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Tip #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers
Tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?
Tip #12: What a day out with #1 taught me

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



And the hubs went away too

Our helper was away, and although it was tough managing the household, everything was still under control. The hubs works from home and held the fort, cooking lunch and dinner for the kids on days I had to work.

Then one evening, he said that he needed to go away. The next morning. For 2 days.

OH. Right.

Springing into action I looked at my work schedule. If there was nothing urgent I could work from home. However, I had a few meetings with outside partners scheduled and it wasn’t so nice to cancel at the last minute.

Next, I went to the kids and wrote down all the different timings they would be back, and if they needed lunch.

The meetings were in the afternoon so I had the morning to prepare. I would be back around 8 pm which meant that one of the girls had to fix dinner. I peered into our freezer and pulled out meat that could easily be popped into the grill.

Breakfast, lunch and tea

A hearty breakfast. The next morning, I jumped out of bed at 5.30 knowing I had a long day ahead. I was so tempted to give them bread and butter, but seeing that they have been polishing everything up (my teens can eat a full meal at 6 am!), I wanted to give them nutritious food at home as they don’t eat well at school and outside.

#4 was going to be in school for 10 hours, so I made her grilled salmon with quinoa for breakfast, packed her a double portion of pasta for lunch, and included 2 slices of banana cake.

One down, 5 more to go.

Pre-cooked lunch

Kids home alone. I told #5 that he would be all alone when he gets home after school. It’s possibly the first time ever in his life! In a big household, with siblings, our helper and both sets of grandparents always around it is rare that anyone is home alone. I checked if he was going to be alright and he said, “Woah, ok!” He might have been thinking: I have the whole house to myself!

He listened attentively as I gave him instructions for lunch. All he had to do was heat up the sauce on the stove, microwave the pasta, and pour the sauce over it. Done.

He can fry an egg and boil pasta and I knew that he would be safe using the stove. I didn’t want him to be doing something new with no one at home to supervise. One portion was his, and the other was for #3, who would be back 2 hours later.

#2 had night study and would be back late. So thankful that the mums and dads from the parent support group helped to provide dinner for the students.

4 settled, 2 left.

Dinner in a foil

After dropping Kate off at school, I rushed home to marinate the char siew and boil a pot of soup. I wrapped the parcels individually and all #3 had to do was to unwrap the parcels and put the whole tray in the oven.

She often bakes cupcakes and would have no problems removing the hot tray from the oven. I set my alarm to go off during my meeting so I could send her a text reminder to make dinner. (I had a fleeting image of my famished kids trooping home for dinner, facing an empty dining table.)

#1’s lunch

#1 would be in school from 12 – 6 pm and as she normally doesn’t get to have lunch at home, I made her a huge meal, plus soup. That should last her till she got home for dinner!

Somehow, I think I went into this sink or swim mode, feeling the need to keep them well-fed.

Crab Pomodoro

And finally, Kate. I left the house at 12 pm to pick Kate from school and she was the lucky one. We went to Antoinette for lunch, en route to my meeting. I totally deserve a good break after all that hard work and she’s been my helpful little elf too.

I’m one of those who can’t eat after cooking (so stressful whipping up meals within a time limit to get them fed and out the door) and coupled with my insufficient sleep and running around non-stop from 5 am to 12 midnight every day, I lost 2kg! Haha, best weight-lost plan ever.

A little executive

Bring your kid to work. Kate was such an angel and kept herself occupied through our 4-hour meeting without grumbling or badgering me to go home. 

She came to sit on my lap after 2 hours of doing her own drawing and writing, and after 20 minutes of listening to our boring adult talk, went back to her table. She spent the rest of the time having a tea break, chatting with the other adults and playing with her little toy puppy.

They were so impressed that a 4-year old could sit through a long meeting without constantly interrupting us. Proud of her!

By the time we reached home it was close to 8 pm and I was glad that the older girls had things under control. Kate and I had a quick dinner and it was off to shower and prepare for bedtime.

After school

Fun work meetings. The next day, Kate had to follow me to work again, but this time she was in for a surprise. My meetings were at indoor playgrounds and she had a whale of a time playing by herself.


We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafe, and I was stoked that we could get a decent meal for $6.50 in an aircon place, with 2 small sides, unlimited ice-cream, soft drinks or hot chocolate/cappuccino.

Now Kate wants to follow me to work all the time.
Thai dinner

The hubs is back. By Friday, we’ve had enough of cooking and washing and decided to eat out. Now that #1 has her driving license, it made things so much more convenient. We did not have to go all the way home in peak hour traffic to pick the kids, but she could drive them to meet us, which saved a lot of time.

We ended our meal with a delightful coconut ice-cream treat just the right size for our family!

Coconut ice-cream

It was a tiring 2 weeks, but we pulled through, and I have much to be thankful for.

For the hubs who did most of the household chores, my sis-in-law’s helper who took care of the kids’ uniforms, my dad-in-law who filled the freezers to the brim afraid that the kids would starve, friends who had Kate over for playdates, and my mum who came over to make Saturday night dinners.

The house was in a constant state of disarray, we switched to survival mode (what didn’t need to be washed, swept, ironed could wait) and at times, tempers flared.

But it was a good 2 weeks.

The kids know how much goes into running a household and all the “unseen” work that mummy does on a daily basis, and they learnt to rely on each another as many hands make light work.

All of them missed their auntie, and I’m sure that they will appreciate her so much more.


More stories of our first week: Two weeks without our helper. Help!


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

2 weeks without our helper. Help!

We were help-less for 16 days with our helper on home leave. I preferred that she went home during the school holidays – no routines, no early morning starts. However, she wanted to be there for her kids’ year-end celebrations in school.

Previously, she went back during the June holidays and we drew up a chore list from ironing to throwing out the garbage. This time, her absence coincided with common test week and I moderated my expectations of the 4 older girls. As it is, #1 and #2 return home about 9 or 10 pm on most school nights after CCA or night study, and struggle to stay on top of their assignments and revisions.

What I didn’t want though, was 6 kids hurling their demands at me. As kids who have grown up with a helper, it wasn’t uncommon to hear them call, “Auntie Jane, where’s my lunch?”

I get asked a lot, “How many helpers do you have? We only have one and she manages to take an afternoon nap on most days. The hubs and I believe that the kids should do most things on their own, and Kate was able to shower and get ready for school by herself before the age of 3.

My little elf

Setting expectations right. A few days before she left, I sent a text to the older girls. *Reminder: Auntie will be going home from xx to xx. Please wake yourselves up, make your own breakfast and wash your clothes. If you yell for me, I’ll pretend not to hear you.” I added some cute emojis to lighten the mood.

After making clear that everything was their own responsibility and that things do not happen magically around here, I went around to their rooms and checked what their plans were.

Kids being kids, they came up with creative solutions to do the chores faster. They organised their own laundry system and roped Kate in to be their distribution channel.

#3 asked pleadingly, “But mum, can you prepare breakfast for us? We have a lot of homework and revision and there’s no time to make breakfast.”

“Ok, but whatever I make, even if it’s just bread and butter, I don’t want to hear anything else besides “Thanks mum.”

“Yay!!”

I’m no gourmet chef and some meals tend to turn out poorly so I had to pre-warn them if not I’ll get upset with their attitude after putting a lot of effort into cooking.

Homemade wonton

Motivated Monday: 5.30 am. I was all psyched up, ready to take charge. I don’t work on Mondays and dedicated the day to seeing to their meals, doing chores and planning the crazy week ahead. I stuck the daily schedule on the fridge so no kid gets missed out.


5.30 Wake #5, Make Breakfast
5.45 Check if #3 is awake via text
6.00 Prepare lunch box
6.15 Check if #4 is awake via text
7.00 Send #4 to school
7.20 Back home
7.30 Make Kate’s Breakfast and lunch box
7.45 Send #2 to bus stop
8.10 Put #1’s breakfast on the table
8.15 Send Kate to school

Salad box
Feeling energetic, I whipped up a hearty breakfast for the girls to last them through their exams.

After Kate was nicely tucked in school, I made a huge batch of banana cake with the ripe bananas my mum brought over from her garden. The washing up after was no fun, but the smell of freshly baked banana cake and knowing that the kids look forward to it made it all worthwhile.

Fresh bakes

It turned out to be a fulfilling domestic sort of day and if given a choice, I like life without a helper. Perhaps when Kate grows older.

For dinner, I pulled out whatever I could find in the fridge and whipped up a simple meal. The kids were impressed as I never cook dinner and usually make one dish meals. (Actually, I used the same seasoning and the same pot for all 3 dishes to save washing!)

Dinner time

After dinner team chores. It was #1’s turn to do the dishes and she was stunned to see the sink filled to the brim with more plates piled at the side. “All this from one meal? That’s so ineffective. We should just buy back.” After she was halfway through she suddenly said, “Don’t we have a dishwasher? Why aren’t we using it?” With our helper around, we hardly used it and have forgotten all about it.

By Day 4, they were all missing Auntie Jane.


They were fortunate enough that our helper had arranged with my sis-in-law’s helper next door to wash and iron their uniforms. All they had to do was wash and refill their own water bottles for school, collect and fold their laundry, clear up after meals and do the dishes. The hubs works from home and did the bulk of the chores.

Add a dose of humour. When the clothes were dry, I made an announcement. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls… The clothes are ready to be collected! And pointed to the direction of the backyard with a grand flourish. That lightened the mood and was more effective than nagging.
Count down

Up at 5, out by 8. I began the week too enthusiastically and soon ran out of steam. My priority changed from wholesome meals to fast-to-cook-and-easy-to-wash meals.

Time was precious in the morning, getting 6 kids fed and out the door. Every minute counted.

Breakfast became kaya toast and the kids were quick to chope dinner leftovers. Kate’s lunch box was pared down to biscuits and tomatoes, and she packed her own box on busy mornings.

I was pleased that they kept to their word and were appreciative of anything I put on the breakfast counter.

Easy meals

Kate to the rescue. She had the most spare time and willingly helped around the house. Some mornings she was woken up by my alarm clock at 5.30 and since she was already up, she helped to prepare breakfast.

When I came down after showering, I found her in the garden watering the plants, as she had seen our helper doing.

Junior chef

In the evening while I was cooking, she asked me to play. I told her I was busy and asked her to look around and see how she could help out. She spent an hour sweeping the car porch and had the initiative to put the shoes aside before sweeping away all the leaves. She’s very meticulous and placed them back neatly in a row.

When her cousin popped by and asked her to play, she said, “Later ok? Auntie Jane is away so I am sweeping up the leaves.” Glad she didn’t throw the broom on the floor and run off to play!

I praised her and told her what a great little helper she was. She saw me bringing out the dishes and set the table without me asking.

Mini gardener
I was surprised by #5 too. He heard me delegating chores to the older girls and asked if he could help wash the dishes. I must admit that I don’t expect much from him compared to the girls. If he can get his school bag and work sorted and filed without his teacher calling me, I’m already a happy mum.

Upon reflection, I realised that those are 2 very separate issues which require different skills, and he did want to make himself useful. In fact, he continued to help with the dishes for several nights when he saw that I was busy.
Enthusiastic helper

I woke up LATE! By Friday, I have been surviving on less than 5 hours of sleep per night and didn’t hear the alarm go off. Suddenly I jolted awake!

#5 jumped out of bed, hopped into his uniform, grabbed his bag and ran to the waiting school bus.

I rushed into the kitchen and quickly whipped up banana pancakes for #4 and boiled pasta for her lunchbox. I literally squashed the banana, threw in wheat germ and mixed it vigorously with some milk and plonked them into the pan. They became known as my ugly pancakes but yummy nonetheless! #4 polished them up and said, “Look mum, I used a toothpick to save you washing a fork.”

Kate went to her school bag, pulled out her water bottle and lunch box from the day before (thankfully it was empty and clean-ish) and washed them while singing an upbeat song really loudly. At 6.45am.

It was one of those moments when you feel so drained. But seeing them trying to help cheered me up.

Between planning, executing, disciplining the younger ones and counselling the older ones, I was TOTALLY EXHAUSTED.

It is a herculean task to work, put 3 square meals on the table, take care of the kids and keep the house in order.

Those who have been doing this day in day out, seriously, hats off to you. You need to share your tips!

I can get through one more week. Just one more week…

Other lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society


Life Lesson #23: Why I took 6 kids on holiday by myself

I did something I’ve never done before. I took the 6 kids rock climbing in Krabi without the hubs.

Even friends who knew that I used to take the 5 little kids out everywhere by myself, to places like East Coast beach and Sentosa said, “Sounds crazy. Good luck, and tell us how it went!”

I was on a mission. It was going to be a family OBS. Kids these days take things for granted and don’t appreciate how good they have it.

We cushion our kids too much and then wonder why they have an entitled mentality. On family trips, they are constantly asking, “Daddy, can you turn on your hotspot?” After which they would busy themselves snapping Snapchat or Instagram pictures.

Railay Bay

It was easy choosing the destination. Every school holiday, I take them rock climbing and they have been to all, including Yishun SAFRA, with the tallest wall in Singapore. Since they managed to make it to the top, the next step was to let them experience the real thing. And the best place to go? Railay, Krabi Рwhere climbing enthusiasts from around the world flock to scale the magnificent limestone cliffs.

With that decided, the fun began!

25m wall in Yishun SAFRA

I had another purpose for this trip. #1 was talking about going traveling with friends in her gap year. It’s time she picked up life skills and I’d rather she made mistakes under my watchful eye.

I took our adventure one notch up by handing over the reigns to the teens.

The first thing I tasked them with was to Plan and Budget. Usually,¬†the hubs will be in charge; booking the hotels, arranging for a rental car, checking out restaurant reviews while I’ll be googling suitable activities.

This time, I gave them a budget for the entire trip and they were free to choose the¬†accommodation and plan the itinerary. #3’s reaction was “Wow! We get to plan everything? Oh great. Dad can’t make us go to Chinatown while on holiday.”

They spent days searching the internet for the best hotels which still kept under budget. They read reviews on everything before booking, including finding a reputable rock climbing school.

We had plenty of dinner discussions to consider details such as location, where the airport was in relation to the beach/town, how to get around, how long it would take to travel from one place to another, and they realised how much goes into planning a trip.

Unforeseen circumstance. Everything was booked, packed and we were ready to go. The night before, #1 came home from a hockey game and said, “Er Mum, I busted my ankle at hockey. I think it’s swollen. But don’t worry, I can probably still go rock climbing.”

With 6 kids, I was prepared for the probability of something popping up and took the news in my stride.¬†I looked at her ankle and asked if she wanted to stay home. She assured me that it wasn’t too bad and she was fine to go ahead. I advised her to minimise putting weight on that foot and alleviate it when possible.¬†The younger siblings assisted her and helped with luggage.

Briefing. At the airport, I gathered them and did a briefing before we left. I stressed that safety was paramount, and they had to stick together at all times. I assigned them in pairs, and they were accountable for one another at all times. The last thing the hubs said to me when he dropped us at the airport was Make sure no one gets lost ok!

I also told them to be careful with what they ate and drank, especially roadside food, salads and exposed drinks with ice. I gave the 2 older ones the added responsibility of holding on to a small portion of the cash and to be mindful of our daily expenditure and they took their role seriously.

Low tide

The first hurdle came when we had to take the longtail boat from Ao Nang beach over to Railay. We bought our tickets from the booth and the lady pointed to the boats. As we made our way across the sand, we stopped in our tracks as it dawned upon us that the boat wasn’t able to come near enough to shore.

We had to wade out. With our luggage! In shoes and dry clothes!

Longtail boat

We stood there for a few seconds and finally one spoke the obvious. “We need to take our shoes off.” The boatman carried #5 while I carried Kate. When a big wave washed up, the water reached our waist!

 
It was a lovely 15-minute journey, with the magnificent limestone cliffs in full view. Kate was the only one apprehensive about the whole wading-out-to-sea episode and probably wondering what else was in store!

Sand Sea Resort

We stayed at Sand Sea Resort and ordinarily, they would have made comments about how run down the rooms and bathrooms were, but because they had a say in choosing it, there were no complaints. Anyhow, we spent most of the time out of the rooms, either by the beach or in the swimming pool.

Being the start of the monsoon season, the tourist numbers were low and Railay Beach was nice and not too crowded. However, the weather forecast for that week was scattered thunderstorms. I prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain or our trip would be dampened.

It rained hard through the night and while we were tucked safely indoors having our meals. Remarkably, every time we were done and wanted to step out, the rain stopped.

Headed for the cliffs

On the day of our rock climbing session, the weather was beautiful. No rain and not too hot. Our guide met¬†us at our hotel and took us to gear up before walking to the climbing site. It was a good 15-minute walk and we took turns calling out, “C’mon Kate. Walk faster!”

 
Finally, we reached the climbing¬†site, and seeing all the tattooed, muscled men and the high cliffs, their jaws dropped. And here I was, with 6 kids, and a picnic mat ūüėČ
Limestone cliff

Amazing experience. The friendly instructor started them off on the beginner route and the older girls progressed to the challenging ones. They really enjoyed the climbing experience and with the encouragement of the instructor, pushed themselves to reach the top. Way to go, girls! I was also proud of #5, who tried his very best.

Kate? She went along with the rest, but when she was buckled to the rope and we lifted her up, she burst into tears! I asked if she wanted to try just a little bit and she wailed, “Noooo!” We all laughed, and her first climbing experience in Railay ended as quickly as it began. Maybe next time, Kate ūüôā

After the 4-hour climb, we relaxed by the beach and watched the spectacular sunset before dinner.

Railay Beach
With daddy not around on this trip, #5 took over his role. He carried Kate around the swimming pool and when she was tired he offered to carry her. I was heartened to see them take responsibility for themselves, their belongings and look out for one another.

The older girls were really good and took care of Kate and #5 while I had a nice hair wash and massage on the last day. They really bonded over this trip, working everything out themselves.

They were careful in ensuring we had enough cash to last us until the end of the trip and started noticing how much everything cost. They even learned to bargain!

Kate had no choice but to be independent. Not only did she pack her own luggage, but she had to lug it around too. It was pretty comical how when an item in a store caught someone’s eye, the whole line had to halt and everyone waited till that person was done before moving off (more often than not, it was #1).
Big bro
On our last night, we bought takeaway¬†from MacDonald’s back to the resort as I didn’t want to travel out again for dinner.¬†We had a leisurely time dipping in the pool while #2 ¬†set about re-heating the food and setting the table.

After dinner, we showered, packed, and prepared for an early pickup. But guess what?

Our adventure took another turn. At 11 pm, I heard someone throwing up. I rushed to the bathroom. #2 was hit by food poisoning!

We had eaten and drank the same food. Fear gripped me. It would be catastrophic if all 7 of us fell sick!

Who was going to carry the younger ones and it would be horrible having to catch a plane with everyone wanting to throw up or needing the toilet urgently.
I prayed so hard.

Thank goodness no one else fell sick.¬†Of course, I couldn’t sleep a wink as #2 came out to throw up every few hours. I had to monitor her condition and remind her to take sips of water. Poor girl. Yet, in her sickness, I saw her strength.

Weak from throwing up and not having any sleep, she still insisted on carrying her own backpack so as not to burden us. She said, “It’s ok Mum, it is not heavy.”¬†I insisted and it¬†was¬†heavy.

Home sweet home. When we stepped foot in Changi airport, one of them blurted out, “It’s soo good to be home!”

I told #5 not to carry Kate but he said, “I can, Mum. I can.” Well, at least it was a nice change from constantly bickering with her.
she ain’t heavy
Yes, it took more effort guiding the kids to plan the trip instead of doing it myself. Yes, I had to be vigilant every step of the way, ensuring the safety of all 6 of them. Yes, I was exhausted by the end of the trip.

But it was well worth it.

We broke a glass in the hotel room, misplaced one room key and lost a charger, but I dare say the kids passed my little ‘challenge’ with flying¬†colours and gained so much from this experience.

Mission¬†accomplished ūüėČ

Related post:
Rock Climbing at Railay, Krabi – Read this post for details if you are planning to go rock climbing.

Other life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family
~ www.mummyweeblog.com Рa blog on parenting 6 kids in Singaproe ~  

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 ~