Thursday, 25 May 2017

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 ~

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Fun Holiday Camps

Our kids need more than just academic knowledge to thrive in a fast-changing world. They have to learn to work together as a team, be able to communicate their ideas confidently, think out of the box and come up with novel solutions.

At The Little Executive, we create exciting holiday camps to give them real world learning and lots of opportunities to develop these crucial skills.

Mummy blogger Selena, mum of Asher says, "The kids have so much fun they probably didn't realize how much they were learning." Read her full review here.

This June, the kids (3-10 years old) are spoilt for choice! From going on a Global Adventure, donning Little Chef aprons and whipping up gourmet meals, being cadets on an Astronaut Training mission to going on a Dino Discovery, they will find something to suit their interests.

Globe Trekker Camp

The kids will go on an Amazing Race, discover interesting facts about different countries and prepare for a global adventure. They will make simple maps and learn to read them, have a treasure hunt and solve puzzles using the knowledge acquired. They will also learn to be responsible travelers, including packing their own bags!

Date: 29 May - 2 June 2017 (Mon-Fri)
Time: 9am - 5pm
Ages: 3 - 8 years old
Cost: $480

Little Chefs Camp

This is no ordinary cooking class, as we open their minds to what it entails to be part of a team of chefs. From the process of proper food storage (do you know why bananas are not kept in the fridge?) to getting them to understand how Math and Science are applicable in everyday life, to empowering them with a sense of purpose as a crucial part of a team where their contribution is important. The kids whipped up gourmet snacks each day such as strawberry cream cheese rolls, Mexican quesadillas and cinnamon rolls and the best part was, they polished everything up. On presentation day, parents were delighted to be served by their lil' chefs!

Date: 5-9 June 2017 (Mon-Fri)
Time: 2 - 5pm
Ages: 4 - 7 years old
Cost: $480

Practical P1 Prep

To get them ready for the big transition is not to pre-teach them content. Primary one teachers hope kids came to them prepared in areas such as:
  • Being able to copy accurately from the blackboard
  • Being able to read the timetable
  • Knowing how to pack their school bag properly and bring the right books
  • Being able to manage their emotions
  • Being able to handle money and buy food
  • Having a growth mindset so they are not afraid to take on challenges
We use role-play and hands-on activities to get the kids prepared in these essential skills and by learning these skills now they have ample time to practice them before going on to Primary 1.

Date: 5 - 9 June 2017 (Monday-Friday)
Time: 9am - 5pm
Ages: K2 only
Cost: $480

Astronaut Training Camp

The kids will have a great time unleashing their creativity while building their own space shuttle, designing jet packs, making space slime and dehydrating space food on a mission to Outer Space! They will learn to work with precision as they repair space equipment and walk the constellation grid, like how mission control guides a team remotely. Lovely to see our cadets proud of their own achievements!

Date: 12-14 June (Mon - Wed)
Time: 9am - 5.30pm
Ages: 5-10 years
Cost: $580 (15% early bird discount before 31 May)

Dino Discovery Camp

Your mini paleontologist will embark on a dino-dig, unearthing ancient dinosaur fossils and working together as a team to reconstruct a dinosaur skeleton. They will make their own dinosaur bones, discover how a real archaeologist site is organised and learn grid work; strategising in teams to develop skills such as spatial orientation, being flexible while working with constraints and learning to think ahead. Lots of action going on!

Date: 19 - 23 June 2017 (Mon-Fri)
Time: 9am - 12pm
Ages: 3 - 7 years old
Cost: $480

Parents are invited for the last 30 minutes on the last day to see what the kids have been up to. There are a few slots left for each camp, and a special 10% discount for my readers - just quote Mummywee.

Videos of the activities carried out during the camps can be found here.

Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia
Tel: 69081889
Website: www.thelittleexecutive.asia
Tea break will be provided for half day camps.
Lunch and 2 tea breaks will be provided for full day camps.

The Little Executive
144 Bukit Timah Road 
Singapore 229844
(Row of shophouses opposite Newton Circus)



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

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Postnatal depression is real

Hearing about the mother jumping to her death with her newborn in her arms was just so heart-breaking. Mental illness is still a hush-hush topic. It shouldn't be, and mindsets need to change.

We need to raise awareness and remove the taboo surrounding depression so that new mums have the courage to seek help. I was planning to share my own experience and was heartened to see a fellow mummy blogger Justina from Mum in the Making post on her Instagram account - Depression is NOT a dirty word, where she shared her own battle with PND and encouraged other mums to do so as well.

When #1 was born, we were studying overseas and did not have any help at all. Besides the usual household chores of cooking and cleaning, we were studying full time and had a newborn on our hands. With no experience and no advice from anyone, all I could do was to read books on getting baby into a routine. They were not particularly useful and I did not know at that time that her crying had almost everything to do with her lack of sleep.

She cried all the time and had to be carried. The hubs would try pacifying and rocking her, but when she cried incessantly for hours on end, he gave up. On days when the hubs was at school the whole day, I carried her until my arms ached and in desperation would plonk her on the bed while I went into another room to cry. I didn't know what to do with this baby who was driving me insane. I was waking up every 2 hours to feed her and I went to classes exhausted. Besides all that, I had many other concerns weighing on my mind.

There were these community huts where we took #1 for her regular check-ups. I remember the nurse doing the usual developmental milestone checks for her and she gave me a questionnaire to complete.

I still remember what she said to me, which was very cryptic at that point. "Oh dear, we would like you to come in again in a week, not so much for bubs, but for you."

It was only a year later while working in the mental health community hospital that I understood. I was looking through the different questionnaires for depression and chanced upon the same one that I did. I roughly remembered my score and was stunned to discover that I fell under the moderate to severely depressed category! Every time I went to the cosy little hut, the nurse would have a chat with me about our situation and my concerns, and those were counselling sessions!

Imagine what new mums have to go through. Apart from the rollercoaster of hormones after the birthing process, there may be extreme physical changes and pain to deal with, and external worries such as work and childcare arrangements, added responsibilities, expectations, and even clashes in child-rearing philosophies with the grandparents. The list is endless. Plus round the clock demands of tending to a new baby who doesn't come with a manual.

These unexpected emotions and avalanche of changes may be overwhelming, and mothers need to be reassured that there is nothing wrong with them and they should talk to somebody about it and ask for help. I have heard stories of how some mums had thoughts of harming their baby or even trying to fit their baby into the rubbish chute before suddenly 'waking up' and being shocked at what they were about to do.

Just as motherhood is a beautiful experience, it can also be a lonely and terrifying experience. No one can understand exactly what we are feeling nor going through. And sometimes we need to put on a brave front and soldier on because we want to shelter the other kids from our stress and not give our family members undue worries.

The motherhood journey is not easy. Yet in this journey, we rediscover ourselves. The depth of our love, the layers of our being. If you were to ask me now, after having 6 kids, do I regret it? Despite all the pain and difficulties, the answer is a firm no.

Let us open the conversation on depression and acknowledge that it is real and could happen to any of us.

May we find support in our families and communities and draw strength from other mothers.

May we walk with open eyes and outstretched arms to see another mum's needs and provide support where we can.


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

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Centre Stage School of the Arts - A Review by Mum of 6

I used to send my 5 older kids to drama classes and like any typical parent, the highlight was watching my little tikes perform on stage. However, they did not seem to be progressing much from one performance to the next. Having evolved into an educator myself, I realised that it was superficial to focus on simply memorising the script and adding in suitable expressions and actions. Thus for Kate, I was searching for something more.

When I chanced upon Centre Stage School of the Arts from an enrichment app colloquially named Today Got Class, what caught my attention was the calibre of the teachers.

"The strength of the school is in its staff. All of the full-time teachers trained primarily as performers and completed courses in UK or Australian drama schools and universities, many have worked and continue to work in the theatre and on television."

Interest piqued, I checked out their website and was surprised that they have been around since 1999. They have developed into a full creative and performing arts centre offering regular drama, musical theatre, performance acting and dance (ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary) programmes for children - from toddlers to teenagers and even adults. As well as early years play programmes parents can attend along with their tots.

"Creative Drama is the heart and soul of the Centre Stage ethos. It is process driven, rather than performance based drama - the emphasis and the value is in the journey rather than the outcome."

I was sold. This is the same philosophy we uphold at my enrichment centre, with the focus being the process rather than the product. Skills become internalised and benefits, far-reaching. I could tell that Kate would be in good hands and given a solid foundation in the dramatic arts.

I had a chance to sit in on a session for the purpose of this review and boy, was I impressed. I don't know how Ms Sophie does this day in day out, but her energy was infectious. I felt like jumping in and being part of the fun! The kids were engaged from the get go, and in that hour, not once did she miss a beat as she moved through the different activities seamlessly. She was firm and had full control of her class, managing to corral even the distracted ones, all while keeping it exciting.

Kate is in Creative Drama Stage 1, and the session opened with the segment News. Ms Sophie asked one by one in a sing-song voice, "Do you have any news for me today?" It sure sounded very grown up. Each of them had something to share, and some brought along an item to show. They waited patiently for their turn, respecting others while they were speaking.

This was quickly followed by Warm up, where they ran through a series of exercises warming up different parts of their bodies.

They launched into an Action song with lots of movement. Clapping of hands, jumping, turning around and Stop! In super speed, no less. This kept the kids on their toes, attentive and listening carefully to the changing instructions.

Next up was the classic childhood game What's the time Mr Wolf. Ms Sophie reminded the kids to make a scary wolf face and they took turns being the Wolf.

In the Magic segment, the kids used their imagination to act out different scenarios as Ms Sophie magically turned them into various animals. They were pigs rolling around in the mud, cows heading to the water trough, birds flying around and jumping off branches. And BINK! Just as quickly, they were turned back into children in the blink of an eye.

After all that movement, the kids settled down for Story time. Today's book was Spot goes to the farm. Ms Sophie elaborated on the storyline and asked them open-ended questions such as "What do you think he found?"

She dimmed the lights and they had to imagine what it was like being in a farm. The lesson culminated in Creative Drama, where they acted out what they had read. 

"The children learn through improvised drama, music, mime and movement drawn from favourite books, poems and stories. They start within the safety net of the group and as self-confidence develops, begin to take on individual roles. The students start to acquire the basic skills of drama, the need for clear speech and an expressive voice and body."

It was a whirlwind of movements as Ms Sophie talked them through their farm adventure. From getting dressed and hopping into the car to finally reaching the farm.

The kids had a chance to meet Farmer Sophie (aka Ms Sophie) and busied themselves with chores around the farm. Collecting eggs from the hen house, cleaning the smelly pigsty, feeding the horses and stroking baby chicks.

Before I knew it, the helpful farm hands were back home, changed into their PJs  and nicely tucked in bed. Phew. I was exhausted just moving around taking pictures of the action.

I can see why Kate loves Ms Sophie's lessons and look forward to them every week. She has been attending this class since the beginning of the year and feedback from Ms Sophie is that Kate is very participative and contributes good ideas to the group. She is expressive and creative and notices the finer details. For example, when they pretend to get into a car, the rest might just go "zoom zoom!" but she will turn on the engine and put on the seat belt before moving off. Great to hear that she is meticulous in that way.

Indeed, Centre Stage is a top-notch performing arts centre delivering quality programmes for babies right through to adults. Here's how you can join in the fun!

Today Got Class Exclusive Deals
A package of 5 trial classes from $210 onwards (for new students) - only available when you book with TGC! Classes cover Drama, Dance, Singing and Play groups.

I had a go at using the app to book Kate's Creative Drama class and it was a breeze. Best of all, you can access it anytime, anywhere.

Centre Stage Portsdown Road: 5 trial classes
Centre Stage marine Parade: 5 trial classes


Out of the Box
If you have a 2 or 3 year old toddler, why not check out Out of the Box, a 90-minute drop-off play based learning environment that aims to bridge the gap between home and full-time school. Sessions include Drama, Dance and Music. Contact them directly for a trial class.

OOTB @ Portsdown: Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 9am-12pm
OOTB @ Marine Parade: Tuesdays & Thursdays 9am-12pm

Trial Classes
There are still 2 slots left in Kate's Wednesday Creative Drama class, do contact them at 67327211 or drop Renee an email: info@centre-stage.com. Other Creative Drama classes will be open for trials in June.

Centre Stage School of the Arts - Portsdown Road
Block 15 Woking Road
Singapore 138694
Tel: 67327211
Email: info@centre-stage.com

Centre Stage School of the Arts - East

5000G Marine Parade Road
#01-32 Laguna Park
Singapore 449290
Tel: 64496211
Email: east@centre-stage.com


Disclaimer: We were sponsored Kate's drama lessons. All opinions are my own.

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

Monday, 8 May 2017

Why I do not coach my kids anymore

I have been asked this many times - Do I coach my kids? The answer is no. Not at all. I don't look at their daily homework nor test them spelling. In fact, I tell them not to come to me when they get stuck because I probably won't be able to answer their questions.

I'm not kidding. The way they do Math is different from our time, and don't get me started on Science structured questions. "Mum, you need to answer with key words." When I guided them on their Chinese composition, they came back with a fail grade. It is still a running family joke.

They know my standard answer - go look for an older sibling as they'll have better luck in getting the concepts explained properly to them, with the appropriate key-words thrown in.

It wasn't that I didn't try. When #1 was in P2 & P3, she would come to me when stuck while doing homework and I was able to help her. The turning point came in P4. Every few days, she would need help to finish her Math, Science or Chinese homework and truth be told, I was annoyed that she couldn't independently handle homework doled out to her.

Having 4 other kids on my tail left me scarcely any time to deal with #1's academic demands, and being in a constantly sleep-deprived state must have made me prone to going berserk.

I remember one particular incident when I was trying to help her with her Math homework, and she could not comprehend it. I became angrier and angrier and started yelling at her. I can't remember exactly what I said, but they were unnecessarily hurtful words along the lines of "I've explained to you so many times! What can't you understand? What is wrong with you? Why are you so stupid?" My blood was boiling and I felt like smacking her. 

I was shocked at my own extreme reaction. I am by nature a calm and patient person, and here I was, getting agitated by my own child, over MathI saw the fear in her eyes as she recoiled from my wrath, and there and then, I decided that it was not worth it. I could not let this ruin our mother-daughter relationship. My first and foremost responsibility is to be her mum, and this tutoring job can be outsourced.

I did feel like some kind of failure, but found out that many of my friends were in the same boat. Some have flung school bags out of the house, while others have raised their hands at their children. It is never the right thing to do, and we have no excuse. But the reality is that it is not easy teaching our own children. Some parents are cut out for it, and some are not. I am glad I recognized it early enough before saying or doing things I might have regretted.

When she moved on to P5, it became an almost daily struggle to complete her homework. Being our eldest, it did not occur to us that she might need tuition as she was fairly bright and in a top school so we had the impression that the teachers would prepare them adequately for tests and exams.

Since I had thrown in the coaching hat, the hubs volunteered to do it. The first time #1 went to him with her Math problem sums, he eagerly took on the challenge. 3 hours later, she finally emerged from the room. She revealed that daddy took so long to finish 2 pages of her Math homework and she still has other homework to do. Worst of all, he used the wrong method. His coaching stint ended as soon as it began.

Since then, we have stopped coaching them. Even if they come home with entire worksheets covered in red or if they fail their tests, I seldom nag or scold them. I ask if they had prepared well for it, and what are they going to do about it. I don't want the focus when they get test marks back to be on what mum is going to say, but on how they think they can improve in future.

I keep an eye on the big picture and monitor their grades for their CAs and SAs throughout the year. It is better to find out their percentile instead of looking at the raw score. In her P5 year, #1 barely passed her English mid-year exams. I was concerned, but when I spoke to her teacher she said, "Oh, don't worry, it was a very tough paper and almost the entire class failed. She was one of the top scorers."

They get one-to-one tuition in the P6 year because I find that an effective way to plug the content gaps in topics which they might have missed over the years. The tutors also know how to guide them to phrase their answers to suit the examiners. 

While writing this post, I was chatting with my girls to get their perspective now that they are already in secondary school. I asked them how did they manage without coming to me for help.

"We know that you will tell us to figure it out ourselves or ask our teacher, so we have to pay attention in class. There is a lot of wasted time between lessons, so we quickly get our homework done and if there is anything we don't understand, we ask our friends. Most of them have tuition."

I burst out laughing. They had found their own strategy and outsourced the coaching to their classmates! It's good for their friends too, as the best way to understand something well is to explain it to others. Brilliant win-win situation.


School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 - First day mix up!
#16 - The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 - No more T-score. Now what?
#18 - Tackling the new school year
#19 - She did it, without tuition.
#20 - So who's smarter?


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