‘Mummy Wee’ turns 1!

It’s been exactly 1 year since I wrote my first post “You have 6 kids?” Everything happened so quickly, and I must say that the past year has been phenomenal. I met many wonderful and inspiring people, did fun things with the kids we would otherwise not have experienced, wrote my bucket list and managed to get some ticked off, and received many emails from readers thanking me for helping them in some way. And the strange thing about writing is that you gain clarity in your thoughts while writing to share with others. Before I go on to thank everyone who has helped me create this blog, let me briefly explain how this blog got started.

I left Prudential after a decade of working as a financial adviser and was trying to discern what my next path should be. Within a week, many different friends told me about blogging. Prior to that, I didn’t even know what the term blogging meant. Ok, please pardon my ignorance. With so many kids, I really didn’t have time to surf the web.

So here I was, with a new baby after a break of 6 years. Friends were laughing and saying I might as well write a book about my experiences raising 6 kids. Precisely! I was busy answering texts from friends needing advice about their kids. They suggested why not start a blog and write it all down so people can just refer to it. Another group of friends were remarking how expensive it must be just paying for diapers and milk powder. Then someone went on to suggest why not be a blogger? You might get free diapers and milk powder! Wait a minute. Seriously? I was all ears. But I had one huge hurdle. I’m a total nerd when it comes to the computer. I only know how to open emails and use Word.

Subsequently, we had dinner with another bunch of friends and the topic of blogging came up again. They even threw up names for me: “Half a dozen”, “Mum of 6”, and simply, “Mummy Wee”. Well, the 1st two domain names were already taken, so I went with the last one. After dinner, the fellas decided to adjourn for a round of drinks at someone’s house. The wives had nothing much to do, and began setting up the blog for me. And viola! Mummy Wee was up and running.

So on this first birthday of what feels like my 7th baby (also needs tending to), I would like to say a very sincere and big THANK YOU to all of you who have helped me on this blogging journey.

To Amber, for setting up the blog template for me. To my eldest, for putting all the information into the template and teaching me how to use it. To Elaine, for doing the beautiful graphics even though you are in Australia. I know I can always count on you. To Gloria, a new but great friend, who supported me from day 1 and got your friends to read my blog too. (She was the one who read my very first draft. She put it down, gave me a blank look, then said very gently. Er, blogging is not writing an essay. You can break this up into 5 posts. And add more pictures). Oh. I see. To Mer & Chang, my 2 oldest friends of 30 years – for giving me constructive criticism and enlightening me on why people read blogs – “for info, honest opinions  and if there’s humour, all the better.” To my dearest friend Sandra, for teaching me the nitty gritty tech stuff and for confirming that #1 was right all along, that the Facebook account should be a page, where we add fans not friends. To my brother-in-law who read my first few posts and said encouragingly, “Very good! But you need to work on your photos. You know they are blur, right?” Well actually, I didn’t know. Prior to this whole blogging thing, I have hardly taken a photo in my life. That was the hub’s arena. I only knew that I had to get the object into the square. So please pardon my photos. I have come a long way. And yes, I do know that there is still much room for improvement. To all the mummy blogger friends whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know (thanks to Pamela) thank you for your advice, encouragement and inspiration. And last but definitely not least, to you, my dear readers. For without readers what’s a blog right?

Last week, #4 asked me, “Mummy, what is your job?” #3 quickly replied, “Blogger lah” (sounds way cooler than telling their friends I’m a SAHM). #4 continued, “But if my teacher ask what does a blogger do, what do I say?” #3 replied even more impatiently, “Get free things and write about it lah.”

Just as my kids think a stay-at-home-mum does nothing the whole day, they also think a blogger does nothing besides getting freebies for their kids. Why does my work seem ‘invisible’ to everyone else? Ah, the sad story of my life ūüėČ Oh, and just for the record, we still have not been offered free diapers nor milk powder.

Yay! (Kate still doesn’t know what we’re all excited about)

So join us in celebrating this happy day! Jump off your chair, fling your arms wide (be careful not to smack your colleague/child in the face) and yell
Happy 1st Anniversary to Mummy Wee! 

Or, um, you could just quietly type on your computer or phone some nice wishes with smiley faces and send it off to us. Feel free to tell me what you’d like to see (or read) more of in the coming months. Have an awesome, awesome day, everyone!

Thankful Tuesdays:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

Thankful‚Ķ for the hub’s cooking
Thankful‚Ķ for #5’s cooking and caring of Kate
Thankful‚Ķ for #3 in so many ways
Thankful‚Ķ for sister-in-law #1

Thankful‚Ķ for our helper
Thankful‚Ķ for my family
Thankful‚Ķ for the beauty of nature
Thankful‚Ķ for my mum-in-law

Linking up with:

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

Life Lesson #9: What have we done to our children

Last week I attended Brahm Centre’s charity dinner and I’m glad I went. It was immensely inspiring to witness the many men and women who contribute their time, money and effort for such a good cause. This voluntary organisation’s mission is to offer educational programs and activities to promote happier and healthier living. It was at this centre where I shared my personal experiences during¬†my¬†talk on Parenting 6 kids¬†without going mad or broke in April.

Group MD of American International Industries & Board Member of Brahm Centre, Brahm Centre’s yoga instructor, International speaker & author of ‘Search inside yourself’, CEO of Tan Chin Tuan Foundation

There were so many prominent business leaders and luminaries yet they selflessly give of their time in voluntary work. See the photo above? So many cool people. Coincidentally, one is my ex-classmate, one an ex-neighbour, and one a cousin-in-law. And me? Maybe I should give myself a title РCEO of the Wee kids (after all, we are almost a SME). Then at least it would seem like I have achieved something.

Brahm Centre published a book The day the ball didn’t bounce written by Dr Peter Mack, with a forward by our 6th President, S.R. Nathan. I read it in one sitting and it really¬†tore at my heart. It tells the true story of a 16-year old boy who¬†committed suicide last year. It troubles me that a child or teen would even contemplate wanting to end his or her life. According to statistics, 20% of primary school children in Singapore have harboured suicidal thoughts. That is simply alarming.

A secondary 4 girl in #2’s school committed suicide last year. The principal gave instructions that the students are not to talk about it at all. Will hushing it up and hiding from it help? Perhaps it was out of respect for the family. But as a society don’t we need to talk about it? We need to have our kids know that they can turn to someone for support, that problems can be worked through. In many cases, such as the one highlighted in the book, the cause of suicide is unknown. Could it be due to the academic stress of the ‘O’ levels? Could it be relationship problems? Could it have anything to do with the family?

Sadly, many parents these days are overly concerned about one thing. That is, the achievement of stellar results. But at what cost? Are we literally driving our kids to their graves? I heard¬†with disbelief about a primary 5 boy who committed suicide over his spelling marks. I know of parents who give their kids a tight slap in front of their friends if the grades fall below a certain expected mark. I have even heard one story where the parents told their son not to come home if he doesn’t score above 90 for his exams. In the end, a police report had to be made because the child was afraid to come home and¬†couldn’t be found. Strangely, or perhaps it is not so strange¬†after all, these stories come mostly from top schools.

Are we taking the easy way out by¬†blaming the competitive system? Are our hands really tied? As parents, we do have more control than we think. If our child came back with 60 marks, we can choose one of two responses: “Why so bad? Your cousin always gets above 80. You are such a disappointment. So useless!” or “That’s an improvement over your last exam. I can see that your effort has paid off. Well done!”

If we choose the former, what are we inadvertently telling our kids? That their self-worth is linked to a grade on a piece of paper? That we love them only based on their achievements? It is no wonder many children grow up with such hurt, bitterness, and a sense of worthlessness. And many become adults who are searching for ways to fill that emotional void as they never had a sense of security for being good enough just as they are. There is such a delicate line between wanting to motivate them by pushing them harder, and breaking their spirit with harsh words.

My heart aches for the children of this generation. Many may look rich with materialism but are poor and broken inside. For every child who unfortunately succeeds in committing suicide, there are more who attempted suicide but did not succeed. Something has gone wrong. What can we do? How can we stop their pain?

Invisible sufferings
It was heartwarming to hear from Tan Chade-Meng, the keynote speaker at this event, who is a Singaporean working in Google. I love his self-depreciating humour. It takes an incredibly self-assured person not to take himself seriously. You won’t believe it, but his official title on his name card says “Jolly Good Fellow”. And his job description is ‘Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace’. His story is truly inspiring. He started out as a software engineer at Google and spent his leisure hours studying meditation and¬†mindfulness. He managed to create such an impact that he headed GoogleEDU’s head of personal growth and went on to deliver a TED talk at the United Nations and even gave a speech at the White House! You can learn how to transform your life with his book Search Inside Yourself – The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace).

I was really impressed at his rise to fame, so during the Q & A, I asked him what was the 1 thing which contributed to his success. I’m sure there are a lot of other mindfulness speakers out there, so how did he get to be where he is today?

His answer was “Luck”. I was taken aback, but he went on to explain. Behind his “luck” are 3 important factors.

1) Being at the right place at the right time, and always being prepared.
2) Giving his best effort in everything he does. Thus when an opportunity arises and the people above are looking for someone, they will say “How about Meng? He’s very dependable”.

3) Being surrounded by good people. He believes in treating every single person with kindness, no matter who they are. As it turned out, there¬†were many people he met who were prominent people. I experienced this firsthand during the Q & A, as when I started with a “Hi”, he immediately replied, “You’re Michelle, right?” Wow. Talk about treating everyone with compassion and respect.
I’m taking his advice and ‘surrounding’ myself with good people!
Sane tip: I left the dinner with a renewed sense of wanting to reach out more to those around us, and was reminded of the notion that nothing is impossible. No matter what our age, we can still dream big dreams, believe in ourselves and perservere. I have been trying to instil in my kids the importance of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves, and we attempt to do some charity work together every school holiday. I guess we need to look into ways to do more. Dr Peter Mack puts it so eloquently:

Charity Begins at Home:
Many other little actions go a long way towards establishing the child’s resilience, including developing the habit of expressing gratitude. The ability to¬†express gratitude is a strong asset in life. Let the child learn to be charitable because it is the antidote to selfishness and¬†self-centredness. Donating money for a good cause is fine but it is the charitable work that makes the greatest impression in¬†developing the child’s identity. This is because charity work allows the child to see himself as part of a greater whole in society.
Being involved in voluntary causes also gives the child circumspection Рa perspective of how fortunate he is compared to many others. Through charitable activities done with friends or family, the adolescent can see first-hand for himself that it is possible to survive tough times by reaching out to others in times of need. By giving back to society, the adolescent comprehends that it is possible to survive with much less, and that it is possible to smile through turbulent periods by learning to rely not only on his own abilities, but also on other people in times of need.

Dr Peter Mack in The day the ball didn’t bounce

Save ¬†tip: We were each given a copy of The day the ball didn’t bounce at the charity dinner. As President Nathan wrote in the forward,

“It should be evident to the reader that the main tool, in our hands, to prevent a suicide would be to recognise the early signs of stress¬†that appear from¬†behaviour and¬†make the person aware that you care enough to want to listen to his or her troubles and want to work together to resolve them‚Ķ I believe this book will be an easy and yet valuable read for all parents and teachers.”

I have 3 copies with me which I am happy to give away. Just leave a comment here or on my FB page¬†with your email so that I can contact you if the book is yours. If there are more than 3 readers, I’ll get Kate to pick 3 names randomly. The book can also be purchased from Brahm Centre (free with a $10 donation).

This August, the talks lined up at Brahm Centre includes topics such as ‘Laughter and Happy Living’, ‘Back pain – When is it serious?’, and ‘”Pa and Ma, I love you!” How to Engage our elderly loved ones meaningfully’. Hop over to their website for the dates and times. Admission is free.

If you are looking to do some meaningful volunteer work, why not consider their Youth Program (coaching, skills training, leading activities), Virtual Hospital Program (befriending, cooking, coordinating) or if you have expertise in such areas, you could give a talk on various happiness or health topics. Just fill in their online form.

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 – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Discipline #6: Ban books? What are you gonna do about phones?

I was reading about the saga following the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of 3 seemingly ‘unacceptable’ books regarding homosexuality. Apparently it has been confirmed that at least 6 books have recently been pulled off the shelves.

While this issue of censorship has been debated furiously on social media, I have also been facing the same issue of censorship with my teens. And the more I think about it, the more worried I’m getting.

It all began with¬†giving them their¬†iPhones and¬†iPads (which by the way, was both the hub’s idea).
The 2 oldest kids got their first phones when they were 12, as a reward for doing well in their PSLE. If I had my way, I would hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, the hubs is a huge fan of gadgets, and he enjoys buying them for the kids. His rationale? “You can’t shield them forever”. So his job was to make that 1 awesome purchase, with the kids hailing him as hero, thereafter, the onerous job of instilling limits and rules on gadget use fell on me.

As with most parents, my top 2 concerns were duration of use (not too long and not too late), and usage (the apps they were downloading).

When #1 was first given her phone, my concerns and rules were relatively straightforward.

1) Phones out in the living room at 8.30pm every night (I didn’t want them to be using their phones instead of sleeping)

2) Limit amount of talking on the phone (exorbitant phone bills)

3) Monitor their Facebook use (concerned about internet safety)

4) Limit amount of YouTube use (content and too tiny screen)

How naive I was. Fast forward 4 years later, and I have totally lost control. #1 and #2 are now 15 and 13¬†years old respectively, and their phones are almost like an¬†extension of their hands. Not only are they constantly on it, but talking on their phone has now become the least of my concerns. In fact, I am happy to see them talking on the phone (the house phone, that is). These days, kids hardly even communicate verbally. They spend a¬†large part of their time communicating digitally. Facebook is also not much of an issue, because as any ‘cool’ teen will tell you, “Who even uses¬†Facebook? Get with the times, mum.”

So now, what is worrying me? One main thing is Twitter. Firstly, they can ‘Follow’ anyone they want to ‘Follow’, and that is¬†where they get a lot of their information. Believe me, your hair will stand if you read some of the tweets. Your teens will be exposed to the opinions and ideology of literally any other teen or celebrity in the world. Secondly, the tweets happen every other second, so before they know it, your teens will be addicted to these tweets. Remember how in our time, we went crazy over pop stars or movie stars? Well, they have certainly taken crazy to new heights. I can accept the posters all over¬†their bedroom walls, and their ears constantly plugged in to music. But now they also have ‘fandoms’ on Twitter, where a community of people who admire the same idol come together to discuss and rave about that celebrity. They end up getting addicted and spend a whole lot of time on Twitter sharing information about their idol. They then become friends with a whole array of teens hailing from different countries as they feel a connection with them, and move on to communicate one-to-one via Whatsapp.

Then there is Snapchat. I have been watching my teens using Snapchat for some time now. They will take fun shots of where they are or what they are doing (eating, shopping, playing) and it will be sent to their circle of friends. It is however not quite like normal photo sharing. You can allocate a certain time for your recipient to view it (1-10 seconds) and the photo will vanish after that. However, the party you have sent the image to can save it if they quickly screenshot it or use another device to take a picture of it before it disappears. It did seem relatively harmless to me, but when I was reading an article on this issue, it describes Snapchat as dangerous. Yes, now that they mention it, I can see how this can get dangerous if they start to snap indiscriminate photos of themselves, and of their locations. And what if their friends turn against them one day and start to disseminate their photos.

Needless to say, the phone is seriously one potentially dangerous piece of gadget you will be giving to your child. And the scary thing is, you will not be able to see the dangers until it is much too late. By that time, the amount of uncensored information that has entered your teen’s head is astronomical, and it is insidious. One day, you will be having a conversation with your teen and you will¬†suddenly think to yourself “Is this my kid? The kid that I raised under my roof?” And that will be a sad, sad day for you. I just experienced that, and was disconcerted and depressed for a whole week. I couldn’t place my finger on the reason I was feeling down, but now I think I know why. You give of your best and try to bring them up well, but all comes to naught as their minds are gradually brainwashed by social media and the friends they make online.

I understand the sentiments of those parents who are fighting for the books to be kept away. That was my first response when I realised my teens were getting access to so much unregulated information on the internet via their phones and iPads. Yes, we can fight to take away 3, 6 or even 60 books. But how are you going to fight to take away all the information on the internet and on social media that goes against your values?

As I was mulling over this, not only¬†with my mind but with my heart, and wondering how I was going to re-address the issue with my teens, yesterday’s article in The Straits Times provided me with my answer.

Dr Lim Sun Sun (associate professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS) says that a ‘Cot bumper approach’ to raising kids won’t work.¬†

“You hold the key to building your child’s defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with‚Ķ. It is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider¬†deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it. Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting. Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment.”

At the beginning of the year, I had a conversation about LGBT relationships with #2. I was¬†surprised that she had such strong¬†opinions on the issue and she felt that it doesn’t matter¬†whether it was¬†between heterosexuals or homosexuals, but if they loved each other, what was wrong? And why must you judge them? I went on to explain to her our values and our religious stance and finally I said that what her friends are doing or what¬†their orientations are are not of my concern, but because all of you are my children, I expect you to get married to a person of the opposite sex and have children. Then she replied, “Oh, then what are we¬†arguing about? I thought you were against other people being gays and lesbians.”

Times have definitely changed. For every standpoint you make, they would have heard a hundred other counter opinions of it. And trust me, they would not be as subtle as 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin. It will be direct, passionate, in-your-face statements.

I’m going to need to take a deep breath and psych myself up to face this new wave of¬†challenges I can see heading my way. And we all thought it was tough dealing with the terrible twos.

Sane tip: Before you even hand them their very first phone, find out all the current apps that teens are using. Sit down with them and set limits on which apps you allow and explain to them why you do not allow them certain apps. Also set basic rules on time limits such as no phone use after 9pm, during mealtimes and homework time. I wish someone had enlightened me about all this before I gave #1 her phone. It is so much harder both for me and for them to re-negotiate their gadget use after they have been on those apps for so long.

The good news is that there is an app called TimeAway which was created by an American working at Google. She is now living in Singapore and noticed that the kids were glued to their gadgets. She spoke to many parents and realised that while they wanted to give their kids phones for various reasons, they also wanted to prevent addiction and social isolation. TimeAway was created to solve the problem as it allows the parents to monitor and control device usage and app downloads. It is able to pause devices, set time limits and even block apps that cause concern like Snap chat (gulp!)

Save tip: If I had my way, I’ll be giving them flip phones! Although as #1 informed me, “they are obsolete mum”.

I would love to hear from parents who have some good ideas on how you work this out with your children.

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline¬†#9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

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

Let’s just say it: Parenting can be depressing

I was reading this article in yesterday’s Straits Times, which was taken from the New York Times. It was basically saying that many parents experience distress, even 5 years after the birth of the child. However, it seems only socially acceptable to acknowledge that everything is ok, because after all we love our kids dearly so how can it be depressing right? 

When we read about other people’s lives via their blogs or on social media, we see images of adorable kids and happy families. But what actually goes on behind closed doors? Not only are there the sleepless nights, endless crying and financial worries, but as they grow up, you wonder if you have done a good job parenting. And if your teens start to stray or pick up ideology far different from yours, it can be heartbreaking.

We tend to keep it to ourselves, and face it alone. Because we think we might be seen as failures or bad parents if we admit that sometimes we feel depressed with the overwhelming challenges we face or when some days we look at our kids and don’t like what we see.

So let’s give ourselves a break, and not look at the impossible standards around us and feel we have to live up to it. For they are just the nice bits. The reality is that all parents will sooner or later face set backs, disappointments, even despair somewhere along their parenting journey. Some more so, some less. I used to think that once the kids grow up and enter school, my job will be much easier. Yes, definitely physically easier. But it is replaced by other challenges. I think the only way is to expect that it may happen, and be ready to face it. And to have good friends to share their experiences or even a listening ear.

When I had so many questions swirling in my mind, I found my answer in something a friend shared on Facebook. It read: No matter how the craziness of this whole parenting thing turns out, the reward of loving is in the loving. I was lamenting how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. Finally I get it.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem in 1850,

Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” 

I reckon the same can be said for parenting. No matter how rocky the road has been and will continue to be, I am honoured to have the opportunity to take on the role of everything a mummy stands for, to 6 persons brought into this world, and even if I had known that the path will be fraught with challenges, I wouldn’t have chosen any other way.

I chanced upon this quote last week when I was feeling miserable. Don’t you find it comforting? I would love for someone to say that to me and I hope I’ve been doing some of that to those around me. I’m going to keep that in mind, and remember to give a hand to my kids, friends in need, new mums I meet.

Just when I was feeling wobbly about this whole new phase of parenting teens and wondering what on earth am I doing as a blogger when I myself haven’t got the answers, it cheered me up to learn that I made it to the Top 10 finalist for the Best New Blog Category of the Singapore Blog Awards 2014. Yay. If you have enjoyed reading my blog, do spare a minute each day (one vote allowed per day until the end of July) and vote for me ūüôā

I would also like to say a big thank you to you, my dear readers, for your support these past 11 months for reading, leaving your comments, and most of all for your encouragement. For we all have our down days, don’t we?

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

Happy birthday… to me

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, right? For many years, my birthday was just another ordinary day. There would still be babies to be fed, crying toddlers to be carried, squabbles to be settled. And a dinner celebration would still entail lots of work taking care of them. But I didn’t mind, because that’s how it is with young kids. After about a decade of such non-existent birthdays, when they were finally older, I decided to go out for lunch with my friends and give myself a break. Then it extended to lunch followed by a peaceful day of shopping all by myself. Strangely, after a few years of that, I started to wonder what on earth was I doing by myself on my birthday. When I saw families together, I wanted to go back and be with my kids. But after half an hour of being with them, I wanted to be alone.

The hubs also told me that the kids were asking how come mummy spends the most part of her birthday with her friends instead of us. So this year, I figured I should be able to spend an enjoyable day with them as the oldest is already 15. The weekend before my birthday, the hubs prepared a lovely BBQ and we had a nice little party.

Our fave salmon dish

On my birthday itself, the kids and I decided that we would watch a movie and take some fun photos at the photo booth. The day started well, with homemade breakfast, wishes and very thoughtful presents from my girls.

Earl grey cupcake baked by #1

When I asked #5 if he had made a card for me, he said, “Oh, it’s your birthday?”  and ran off to make me a Lego card. It was really cute and could even be opened and closed!

#5’s special birthday card to me

We went for lunch, then watched Malificent, and we laughed ourselves silly fooling around before the movie started. After the show, we hopped over to the photo booth and that’s when I got upset with the 3 older girls. One of them doesn’t like taking pictures, so after 1 shot, she refused to take anymore even though I asked her to. Then when it was time to decorate the photos, one of them wanted to draw ridiculous things on the photos which I didn’t allow her to. And then the other quarrelled with another about decorating the photos. That was it. I yelled at them, that just for 1 day in a year, couldn’t they get along without quarrelling and accede to my simple requests when I do so much for them the whole year round.

Popcorn buckets

I did some soul-searching. Was I being unrealistic to expect that from the 4 older ones? And why was I so angry? This little incident must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Was my anger fuelled by other issues? Perhaps that I had spent 15 years of my life taking care of them and I expected gratitude in return? Or that my every thought is always for the good of them, yet they mostly see it as mummy nagging or being mean.

The next few days, I was angry at them no more. But the anger was replaced by a heavy heart, though I couldn’t put my finger on the reason. At lunch, the younger ones asked me to play ‘I-spy’ but I didn’t feel like it. When we got home, they asked me to play Monopoly with them, but I couldn’t bring myself to oblige them. At dinner, they kept rambling and expected me to reply, but I just wasn’t in the mood to entertain them. I was very quiet the entire day, and sat around them but had no energy to respond to them. And looking at their disappointed faces, I felt miserable.

Being a mum, it is natural to give them your attention when they ask you so earnestly to. To play Lego with them even when you would rather not, to fold origami when you struggle with the intricate steps (and end up with a headache), to force yourself to get up and read to them when you almost fell asleep putting another child to sleep. And it is draining. I looked at the younger ones, then at the older ones. I shudder to see the cycle happening to the rest of them. You keep giving and giving, but sometimes the well runs dry. Every decision I make, both big and small, are always made after considering their needs. But when they morph into teenagers, they suddenly become separate entities from you and sometimes say hurtful things and are stubborn with their own ideas. When the kids are young, even how hard things were, when your little one puts her chubby little arms around you and smile at you with all her heart and soul, all the tiredness is forgotten. But now that the kids are teenagers, there is no cute face or chubby arms to remind you that all your sacrifices are worth it. In it’s place, there are faces buried in digital gadgets, closed doors, and unspoken words.

The scary thing is that it’s not that I need a break from them to re-charge. That is easy to fix. I just had a long and lovely holiday away from them and I was re-charged. And everyday I take time out from the kids, be it a walk, quiet time alone, or having coffee with a friend. This time, it is something more that is bugging me. Was I completely drained from taking care of so many of them for so many years? And yet the outcome is not what I envisioned? It felt like I had run a long and gruelling race yet the finishing line was murky. Was I feeling sorry for myself for this thankless job? 

The hubs took me out for a very lovely dinner but still I was troubled. Oh, how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. It’s been a long while since I felt down like this. Maybe I should just embrace the sadness. For I know it will soon pass. Maybe I’m on the cusp of the next phase of the motherhood journey. Of dealing with teenagers. Of raising young adults. Of sleepless nights. Of heartbreak.

I have deep respect for mothers who have emerged from this journey unscathed and who have kids who are unscarred.

Perhaps next year, I should go on a holiday on my birthday. Because if I hear them bickering, it will make me angry, and lead to another round of rumination. What is it about birthdays? Is it just me?

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

Discipline #5: How to talk to boys vs girls

My first 4 kids¬†were girls. Being a mother, I had no problems communicating with them. Then along came my son. I would be nagging him constantly to tidy up his room to no avail. Finally one day, I was having a conversation with some friends who only had boys. They told me their house sounds like a military base, where orders are given straight and curt. I was telling them how my¬†nagging seems to be falling on deaf ears. I would be standing at the doorway to his room saying, “Look how messy your room is! How many times must I tell you to clear up the mess? Why don’t you ever listen to me?” With my girls, they understand these implicit instructions and immediately they will start to tidy up their room. However, my friends laughed and told me that with boys, I had to be direct. And explicit. With my earlier instructions, #5 must have been thinking, “Ok, I’m looking. I’m not sure how many times. I am listening.”

They said that with their boys, getting them to tidy their room sounds more like this: “Ben, pack all the Lego into the blue box now.” Clear, precise instructions.

For¬†showering, I would tell my girls, “Why haven’t you showered?” And into the bathroom they would go. For the boys? They taught me that I should be saying: “Ben, take off your clothes and go and shower now.”¬†

When I was sharing this with some other friends over breakfast (who also had girls first), one of them told me that her son was the same. He would¬†constantly forget to close the¬†cupboard doors and she decided to nag him incessantly until he remembers to do so. Obviously, that isn’t working, and he has probably learnt how to tune out her voice.

On the other hand, for those of you who had boys first and are used to the command driven method of communication, take more care when you speak to your girl. My friend who had 2 boys followed by a girl was so used to ‘commanding’ her boys that she¬†automatically did that with her¬†girl. And the poor 2 year old used to break down in tears when her mum forgot and said to her in a¬†stern voice, “Girl, go and bathe now.” Her hubby chided her gently and told her not to speak to their daughter so firmly, and when she spoke to her girl in a nice and gentle tone, her girl smiled, said “Ok mummy” and happily went in to shower.

We also realised that boys are generally not able to multi-task. If they were¬†thoroughly absorbed in playing their Lego, they can’t hear you speaking to them even if you were right¬†next to them. Once, when Kate was just a few months old, she was crying in the room next to where #5 was engrossed with his Lego. I was showering upstairs and heard her cries. When I¬†went down and asked him why didn’t he go to her when she was crying so hard, he replied: “Oh really? She was crying?” Sigh. But at least now I know why the hubs doesn’t reply me when he is engrossed in his movie. And all along I thought he was pretending not to hear me‚Ķ

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline¬†#9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

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

Mother’s Day. Hmmm.

It’s another one of those occasions. Where everything gets hyped up. I get lots of text messages with lovely sayings and videos to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. And you know what? It gets me thinking. The messages are always about how great we mums are, holding the family together, loving unconditionally, always being there for everyone, shaping lives, being such wonderful, almost perfect beings. If I had been all of those things to all of my children, I’ll probably be grinning from ear to ear and giving myself a pat on the back. However, I’m only human, and there were definitely times when I was none of those, and when some days wore on too thinly, I was probably closer to a monster mum than a loving mum. Oh well, all we can do is to try our best to be the best mum we know how to be, right?

Cake baked with love (reads: love mum)

I am again blessed to be lavished with so much love from my kids. I guess the slate is wiped clean and I can start again on this day to try even harder to be a better mummy to them in this next one year. Children are so sweet and forgiving. I hope I never inadvertently cause them to grow up hurt or broken in any way. My own friends have shared that they still carry with them a lot of the hurt caused by their parents when they were growing up. It’s really not easy being a parent.

Up-cycled bag

With 6 kids, I was showered with gifts, cards and cake. #2 carefully cut and stitched her t-shirt into a lovely bag for me. I have to say her workmanship is excellent!

The new in thing: rubber-band loom bracelet

As I was surrounded by all these mother’s day happiness, I couldn’t help but think of friends who had lost children, through illness, accidents, miscarriage or suicide. How unimaginable the pain must have been. We can only pray for them, especially on this day where they are reminded of their loss. I have learnt never to take anything for granted and to be grateful for everything that we have.

Thoughtful gifts and notes

The hubs went to the market early in the morning and cooked a really yummy seafood soup before he left to catch a flight. This time we even had Mexican abalone. What a treat.

Nothing like a home-cooked meal
At the end of the day, #4 helped me to shower Kate and dress her for bed while I relaxed and enjoyed their company. This is a far cry from my early days where I didn’t have time nor energy to be fully present to them, and where I insisted on things being done the ‘proper’ way at the ‘proper’ time. Now, I have learnt to strike a balance, loosen up a little, and enjoy the little moments.
Kate trying to run away before #4 can button her PJs

I was very touched and contented to receive all their gestures of love, knowing that they had put in a lot of effort to make me happy. At bedtime, something else happened which really warmed my heart. Kate accidentally scratched #5’s eye while he was getting her ready for bed. It was really painful and he was sobbing quietly. Nothing I said could console him. #3 heard what had happened and came into the room. She went to fetch his favourite book and read to him the funny parts, dramatising it so much that he burst out laughing. To see them care for one another like that was the best thing to end this special day.

Sibling love

I humbly salute all mums out there who have managed to forge close and loving families, where their children have warm smiles and beautiful hearts. And where their adult children can say with all sincerity that they have the best mum on earth. I hope that day will come.


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

An interview after my talk

A big thank you to all of you who came down to attend my ‘Parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke’ talk last weekend. For those who didn’t manage to make it down, I will try to summarise as best I can and break it down into digestible posts. Do give me some time to get that done.

A blogger mum who attended my talk interviewed me to find out more about how I parent my kids. She was also keen on getting my views on being a stay-at-home-mum as many of her readers are faced with the dilemma of choosing to work or being at home for the children. We were lamenting that sadly, Singapore is still far from being a place where permanent part-time positions are available for mums in most industries.

Don’t you just love the graphics

More than 10 years ago, when I requested for a permanent part-time position as an occupational therapist at the end of my work attachment, my supervisor widened her eyes in disbelief and flatly informed me that there were no such positions available. I pressed her for a valid reason, because in the hospitals where I was attached to in Australia, it was a norm for 2 therapists to share 1 person’s workload and the arrangement worked well. She asserted that no, it would not work here, it would be too challenging administratively, and besides, you would be looked down upon as not being ‘serious’ about your job. I was baffled, and further enquired about the marital status of all the OTs there. She told me that 14 out of 15 of the OTs were female and not married. The last one was the director in his 50s, and he was married.

Fast forward a decade, and I do see a minute improvement in the mindset of employers with regards to hiring females on a permanent part-time position (although hearing from friends, the reality is that on paper, you are on a half position, but over time, the workload creeps back to a full workload!) We need to do much better than that. We are losing a lot of valuable contribution from professional women because of this all or nothing employment situation. Studies overseas have shown that over the course of decades, the highest percentage of women who state that they are satisfied and happy with their life and family situation are those who are gainfully employed in a permanent part-time position. I can understand why. I don’t want to work full time so that I can spend time with the kids yet I need to keep my mind occupied and to find satisfaction in my own achievements and passions. I guess that’s also why there are now more and more mumpreuneurs sprouting up.

For the full interview of my thoughts on life, parenting, being a SAHM and even living with in-laws, click here.

Ruth’s blog

As Ruth is a first time mummy to her 8-month old son Noah, her blog: The Pacifier Diaries has great information for first time mums such as choosing a suitable gynae, what to expect from a confinement lady, and reviews of baby carriers and breast pumps.

After chatting with her, I realised how far I’ve come in my parenting journey. The days are long, but the years seem to fly by much too quickly. My best advice? Enjoy your kids while they are young ūüôā

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