A peek into the after hours of a FTWM

I have mixed identities.

Some acquaintances think that I am not working and is a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) looking after my 2 mischievous boys.

Some ex-colleagues think that I am still in the same industry as them and looked for me to help them out in part-time assignments.

Some present colleagues think that I am a part-timer and don’t actually do serious work.

Some facebook friends think that I worked all weekends and miss family time.

Well… the truth is: they are all correct in some ways!

My true identity: I left a full time job some 5 years back shortly after Xi En was born. Took on a flexible-hours-almost-like-your-own-business type of job and stayed on till now.

This job gave me enough flexibility for some to understand that I am working and yet others; I am not!

In a nut-shell, I see myself as a full-time working mum (FTWM) but with flexible hours and schedules. Having said that, I don’t have “after hours” (!!!) because I am in a sales line which requires me to response at almost any hours (no, my clients don’t think I observe regular sleeping hours).

Make better sense now? Smile

And that’s just the introduction to my post today in support of a fellow mummy blogger’s blog train on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM”.

Now that my FTWM’s (another way to term it suitably in my context be “Flexible Time Working Mum”) identity is established; just to give you a peek into my “after-hours” life which can be any time of the day.

Knock, knock, Is it similar at your house?

Some snippets of what my boys are up to daily:

  • My 2 boys are not always disciplined; they enjoy a good tug-of-war brotherhood.
  • They watch TV a few times in a day (TV is a love-hate relationship with me; you just can’t deny it is an engaging nanny; we try our best to limit it though.)
  • They sleep at unearthly hours at night (they like to play “OUTLAST”; we lost to them often. We snored before we hear their snores.)
  • They eat in front of the TV/piano/play corner (except the dining table!);
  • They often refuse to keep their toys after play (or they simply forgotten; we are still working on it.);
  • They draw on the walls/TV/windows/floor (anywhere is more interesting than paper);
  • They do scream and shout to get attention (I have a loud voice to begin with; but they win me in this);
  • They do bouncy jumps on the bed/sofa (the older boy sometimes practise a few WWF moves: jump high; plunge down and land on near his brother);
  • He need to be coerce to eat his meal (I meant Xi En of course; for Eizac – we need to eat in the dark so he won’t come for the nth helping.);

  • They get to sit out at thinking corners;
  • They get spanks on the hands with a cane (yes; we do cane; constructive caning we choose to think so);

By now, you must be thinking I rear 2 monkeys at home or this Mummy is in bad need of some parenting course.

Honestly, I am no supermom. But please tell me that I am not the only one facing such situations back home while we work in the market place?

Alright, it ain’t always that chaotic at home. We have warm, fuzzy and fun moments too!

No, I never regret having 2 boys if you might be thinking. They can be a handful but when they behaved like proper boys, they are a bunch of giggling cute monkeys!

I don’t have proper tips to share; but I have some little tricks which hopefully comes in handy for you too! Smile

1) Machines

I have 2 time-saving machines in the kitchen: the Philips Airfryer and my mum’s highly recommended 3-tier food steamer.

We try to have home-cooked dinners at least 4 to 5 times a week.

The Airfryer is my guilt-free alternative to deep fried food and it actually turns out decent quality. If you are active on Facebook, do check out some groups which share recipes regularly. The food you can churn out is unimaginably endless!

The humble steamer might not exist in most household but holds a unshakable position in my kitchen after the kids arrived. We use it to steam fish for the kids, warm up food for Eizac, whipped up ladyfingers and tofu for a simple lunch etc and this is the best part: steam enough rice for my 6 pax household every dinner. The rice cooker is in cold storage in the storeroom as it takes up too much space in my small kitchen.

2) Humans

This is undeniably the most important help to a FTWM. Mothers, Fathers, Parents-in-Laws, Aunties, Uncles, Neighbours!

I am very blessed to have my mum who agreed to stay with us. Without her, I won’t be working in the corporate jungle at all. She quit her job so I can have mine. Even though she is not always at home (I have a very sociable mum who has a long list of extra-curriculum activities too); it is always helpful to have that extra pair of eyes and hands.

My parents-in-law don’t stay near to us. But thankfully, they are just a phone call away whenever I need to head out to work. They are our back ups whenever we are running thin at home.

Glad to say that the grandchildren like to spend time with grandparents too! Smile

I know of friends without their loved ones around them. It is not easy at all when you don’t have trusted ones to help out with your kids. Our last resort is to hire external help. We resisted that idea when it was just Xi En. But when Eizac came along, we gave in. It is not the best solution but maybe the best interim plan while the kids are still young. The helper does all the housework and most of the cooking; thus leaving child-minding to us which is what we prefer. As much as we dislike the idea of hiring a helper, we recognised that we are happier when we don’t need to dig through piles of laundry to find a missing sock or feign ignorance to the mountains of dirty dishes.

If you are a FTWM and not keen to hire a stay-in helper, there should be alternatives such as a part-time helper, tingkat (catered dinners), nannies, full day childcare. Anything that help to maintain family harmony goes a long way in my opinion.

Last and very much not the least, a supportive spouse is key!! My single friends: Marry the man who is willing to cook, do the dishes, clean the bathrooms, change the bedsheets, fold the clothes, feed the baby, shower the toddler and after doing all the chores he still have the energy to play/read with the children and sing lullabies till they sleep! hahhaahha! We need a Super Daddy huh? I have a closely-matched one at home and I can only say I am glad he doesn’t need to watch nor play soccer with his buddies! (yea! sorry… football-fans…).

As evidenced above, I relied a lot on help (machines or humans) to get the daily nifty gritty matters sorted out. If enlisting help freed up my time for my children and myself/hubby, I will gladly do so.

I enjoy an independent working life but it is not in my dreams to be a supermom because I know I cannot do everything.

I only wish my children will remember that Mummy was around to kiss their boos boos when they fell; Mummy cooked healthy meals for them; Mummy wasn’t too busy to shower and feed them; Mummy was there to read a story book and say a little prayer with them during bedtime. And even that Mummy was there to discipline, teach and punish!

And… of course, remember that Mummy also put in solid work hours so that they can lead a quality life too!

There are some easier and some tougher days. I live by this old Chinese adage :

水来土掩, 兵来将挡 [shuǐ lái tǔ yǎn bīng lái jiàng dǎng]

It simply means this in English: When the water rises, use earth to keep it back; when the soldiers approach, use a general to keep them off.

i.e. my interpretation: DEAL with it when it happens! Open-mouthed smile

Xcuse’ me as I go back to the reality of bringing up my 2 irresistibly-adorable and rambunctious boys (plus earn some loose change for the milk powder!).

Are you a working mummy/daddy too? How do you make it work for your family? Share some tricks with us too! Smile

This is a blog train hosted by Kids R Simple on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM. Read about how the other 21 FTWMs handle their kids and household everyday from 1 June to 21 June. The aim is to give other working mums motivation, ideas and support to deal with the everyday demands of juggling work and family while keeping sane. We will be happy to hear your story, tips and even an encouraging word will make our day! Share your thoughts in the comments!

A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM

Coming up tomorrow on the blog train is Jolin:

Jolin is a full-time working mother to two active boys, aged 3 years old and 1 year old. She captures and documents memories of her motherhood and parenting journey on The Js Arena. Her free time after work evolves mostly around her kids – feeding, playing, bonding and sleeping with them. She doesn’t want to miss any of these moments. Join her tomorrow as she shares her tips on how to tackle her two boys when the hubby is not around.

DSC07100a (2)

What brothers do….

I have 2 brothers – one older and one younger. I am the middle child. Being the only girl sandwiched between 2 boys, I turned out more boyish than most girls.  That’s another story to tell.

Key thing I recalled is that we don’t really squabble much in our younger days. My mum confirmed it; saying that she never really need to break us up from any fights. You won’t see my brother pulling my hair or me giving my brother a slap on the face.

What’s with kids these days!??

Yes – that scene I just portrayed was enacted in my very own household between my 2 boys every other day. Hair pulling, elbows jerks, (attempt to) slaps on the head or face, hits on the fingers : all these became common episodes between Xi En and Eizac.

I started from being depressed to sad to frustrated to annoyed to “ZEN” or rather my mind just goes “Hummmmmm……”. Let me explain the progression.

When I knew I was pregnant with no.2 Eizac, we take effort to prepare Xi En for baby brother. From hugging him (in my womb) to buying him a present from Di Di; we did all the textbook stuff. When Eizac was born, he came to the hospital to visit; tried holding Di Di and hug him. Everything seemed “on track”.

The real test came when relatives/friends came baby visiting at home. Everyone’s first attention was on Eizac; everyone was going goo goo ga ga over little baby brother.

And then I saw it: It was my first time witnessing the disappointment and sadness in Xi En’s eyes and face. He ran into the room to hide from the visitors. I walked in and hugged him and told him that it’s alright. He didn’t say much; but I knew how he felt. From the only child to sharing the limelight, he needed time to adjust. I felt sorry for my big boy.

Fast forward 1 year on, Xi En got used to having Eizac around. He knew Di Di is here to stay; he can’t get rid of him; he can’t gift him to someone else or send him to another house (yes, he tried asking). We continued to educate him about having siblings; about sharing and caring and loving each other. I read many books to him about having a little brother. But we slowly became a broken record….

Eizac started modelling after from his older brother.

He scream; I scream (louder)

He hit; I hit (harder)

He slap; I slap (tighter)

He bite; I bite (with my gums)

Maybe it’s a little exaggerated but it’s possibly a close representation of what these 2 brothers do at home.

Me – I go “hummmmm” and do nothing.

Ermmm… Not quite.

I mediate and tear away fights before they even start. By now, we can recognise a potential storm brewing and try to stop it before it turn into a hair-pulling, fingers-pinching and tears-flowing typhoon.

That is my best strategy – *** prevention is better than cure*** .

But then again I constantly hope and pray that these pair of brothers will get along well and be a pillar of support for each other in years ahead.

I am no parenting-guru but I found these little reminders worked for me (at least in this initial phase of introducing a new sibling). Just to share Smile :

1) Prepare but manage your expectations

It’s good to prep the older one of the siblings’ arrival. All the little works of buying presents for each other is good but even if the older one frown at the younger one’s arrival; that’s fine. They will grow up.

I repeat: They will grow up. And of course hopefully learn to get along after some tugs and knocks.

Day 1 of not getting along; Day 2 of a first fight; Day 3 of a first blue-black “medal” earned. Maybe Day 4 you will get the hand over the shoulder and have them singing “We know we are brothers….”

Manage your own expectations. Stories of friends’ kids getting along perfectly well with hugs and kisses for each other might not work the same way in your house. There is just more “action” in mine. Smile

2) Shower the older one with even more attention when the younger one came along

I was probably a little ill-prepared for this. I was very hands on with No.1 and wanted to do the same for No.2. Only when a good friend told me that she passed most baby duties to caregiver and spend even more time with her No. 1 (reading books, talking, playing, anything basically) during her confinement month; I realised I should do the same too. This will lessen the new-baby-syndrome in No.1 and that mummy/daddy are still there for him. This is the best time to spend with No. 1 since No. 2 is either sleeping or feeding.

3) Stop naysayers (including myself!)

Well-meaning older folks like to make statements such as: “If you don’t listen, I will give it to Di Di and not you” or “Look, Di Di is such a good boy; you must be like him” or “I bring Di Di home, ok?”. We try to stop the comparison and/or well-meaning “reserve psychology”. Every child is unique and to us and comparison between the siblings won’t help the relationship. Maybe due to the environment I was brought up in, I do have to consciously bite my tongue to remind myself not to make comparison statements in front of the boys too.

4) Fights are just part of self defence and growing up process

That’s how I am seeing it these days and telling myself that. With so much testosterone at home, it is not surprising for them to practice self defence and ruffle some feathers when the other gets in the way of his toys. Having said that, we do not condone fights. Depending on who’s in the wrong, they have their “thinking corners” and “time-out” sessions. Eizac is too young for such discipline; but he does understand his Daddy’s “I-mean-it and NO stare”.

5) Breathe in and Breathe out

It’s a mantra I tell myself. To keep my sanity, I think of the positive in each child and remind myself that no matter how bad the fights are, they are brothers.

Blood brothers. For life. Nothing will change that relationship.

Slowly, they will grow accustomed to each other’s quirks and learn how to live in harmony. I pray so.

For now, I breathe in and out while keeping my hair intact. There are good and bad days. On the bad ones – keep some emergency Cadbury stash in the fridge. Open them and eat. It worked for me. Smile

What worked for you? Please do share more tips with me especially if you have at least 2 active boys!

Linking up with Talkative Thursday:

SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays

Why I breastfed for 9 months (and 12 months)

When one of the mummies – Madeline – in my blog community (SMB) mooted the idea of a blog train on breastfeeding, I thought it was a good idea to join the choo choo train to share a little on my breastfeeding journey which I never really document so on this blog.

Xi En – my eldest – was breastfed for 9 months. But his story was a little unique. As most who follow my blog will know his story, Xi En was born almost 10 weeks premature and had a really tough time in my womb due to my water bag bursting way too early (21 weeks of gestation). As a result, I had no baby to latch on directly when he was delivered. During my last few weeks of bed rest in the hospital, I was reluctant to read up on breastfeeding because I wasn’t sure if I will have my baby in hand to hold and feed. And being confined early on bed, I didn’t make any purchases of a breast pump or anything baby for that matter. It was one whirlwind of a mess I remembered. Totally unprepared, I had given birth. Breastfeeding was the last thing on my mind. But the very first thing that nurses and doctors reminded me to concentrate on.

Yes; for mummies with preemies (especially early preemies), the best thing you can do is to concentrate on getting the milk flow. Being a new mother, I was desperate beyond words. No antenatal classes, no research, no clue how to fix the breast pump! Thankfully, most hospital has breast pumps on loan and helpful nurses who can teach you techniques; which is what I learnt and practiced diligently. Milk didn’t flow on the first day, 2nd day and finally 3rd night; some colostrum came along! It was pure joy which I recalled pressing the nurse call light at 5am to get someone to deliver the precious few drops to my baby who was in NICU.

I learnt patience. Even if milk flow doesn’t come in immediately; as long as you keep trying diligently – it’s good enough.

Subsequently when milk actually starts building up, I realised I definitely need a machine at home! That’s when my good friend came to the rescue and bought me a dual electric Ameda pump and delivered it to my house on the day I was discharged. A personal preference and note: dual electric breast pump is the way to go if you want to invest in breast milk. I have never used manual versions before. But for any working mothers, I will strongly recommend a dual electric pump as you achieve result in half the time.

If your baby needs to be warded in the hospital (like mine), a breast pump will be your best friend. For 2 months, I pump consistently and the supportive spouse delivered milk without fail daily to the hospital. The interesting part came when Xi En was ready to be discharged. For premature babies, they have to master bottle feeding before they can be discharged. Being a new mum, I was worried about what nipple vs teat confusion. I was worried that Xi En will not want to latch on thereafter. A thousand worries. All to null I realised thereafter. There was no need to worry too much about what the textbooks say. Take the lead from your baby.  When Xi En was able to maintain his breathing better and not turning blue, we tried a few rounds of direct latching on at the hospital. The nurses were helpful and you can request for a lactation nurse to be around to guide you especially since the baby is still fragile and might have tubes/ wires fixed up.

Xi En went home in the end without a feeding tube which is really great news. By then he and us are comfortable with him being bottle fed. To ease him in back home, I continued with expressing milk and bottle feeding him. When he settled down after a few weeks, we tried latching on at home. It wasn’t smooth sailing as I was really worried that I might just suffocate him! But by trial and error, we found the most comfortable position which is the cradle hold position with a few pillows for support due to a slow recovery for my caesarean wound. It was fuzzy bonding time to be able to breastfeed my baby directly. But even if Xi En didn’t learn how to latch on, I knew that I wasn’t going to cry bucket of tears either. By then, I realised that it is more important that my baby is growing well and healthy. Latch on or off, as long as he gets the nutrients, I am happy.

And for the records, Xi En started out on formula milk since he was in the hospital! He had to be on special fortified milk and thus special formula milk. I started Xi En on regular formula milk at home by 6th to 7th month when I was returning to the workforce then. Though I was expressing enough milk for his daily intake, I decided to stop by the 9th month because of 2 key reasons:

1) Change of job. I decided to quit my 9-6 job to take on a flexible hours sales job which requires me to be on the go mostly. Partly self-induced stress for a job change and partly I wasn’t comfortable to express milk on the go, I decided the best way is to stop.

2) I was tired of watching what I eat and drink which will affect more than me alone. More because I hate to hear these when I reached home “Baby is not drinking your milk today” or “Baby is having diarrhoea today; what did you eat?” For a breastfeeding mother, nutrients are important. Yes I know that. But it does get on one’s nerves when she is already trying her best to continue breastfeeding despite working full time. Breastfeeding mummies can be just that little winny bit sensitive hey. Smile with tongue out

And so that kind of summed up my first breastfeeding journey of 9 months.

For No.2 Kai En, I was more well-informed and knew that milk takes a while to come in for me at least. I was comfortable to allow the nurses to give formula milk right from the start in the hospital since my boobs were taking time. I knew that giving formula milk doesn’t mean that baby will not want breast milk thereafter and I didn’t want baby to go hungry just waiting for breast milk.

Kai En was also separated from me after birth (he was in the special care nursery for observation) and thus we didn’t had a chance to practice latching on till much later. Fast forward the story, I was thankful that Kai En switches between the breast, the bottle, breast milk and formula milk with little fuss. I was a more confident breastfeeding mum 2nd time round and knew that as long as I have done what I could, it is good enough for my boy. Stopping at 12 months this round was a personal choice because of health reasons and I wanted my life back to norm again and not on clock work of 3 to 4 hour milking shifts.

Breastfeeding, it ain’t easy I will admit. It takes patience, sacrifice and determination to continue on. But to me as long as I have given my best, giving my sons a mixture of formula milk doesn’t make me a lousier mother either. 

So to all who are reading this breastfeeding blog train, I hope to have contributed a little insight from my perspective and experience. Happy breastfeeding if you are still at it! Smile

Tomorrow, Zhenzhu who blogs at www.stayathomemumof3.com will be sharing her story. Find out why she stopped breastfeeding her two sons at ten months old, and why she is still breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter!

This post is part of a Blog Train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. Head on over to read the other breastfeeding stories by Singapore Mom Bloggers!