(Guest Post) Mothers Make It Work: Advice from a Part Time Working Mama

(Editor’s Note: Owls Well is proud to welcome Twinklystarz as our first guest contributor! A Becky C and I grew up with Twinklystarz and she has always been a very organised and hardworking person who seemed to have her life in order at all times. As of now, Twinklystarz is an expert tightrope walker, balancing work life in one hand and home life in the other. She has two boys – her hubby and 3 year old son – who bring her much joy. We are so excited that she agreed to write this post for us, so that we can have a peek into the world of a Part-Time Working Mama! – Debs G)

Hello Owls Well Readers,

I am a 3-year-old Mama.

Yes, it has taken me THAT amount of time to find some semblance of a work-life-kid equilibrium.

Quite often, that delicate balance is less than perfect, and Mommy Guilt gets to me almost every other day. That being said, I thank God every day for many bountiful blessings: the opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my 3-year-old during the work week, a job that keeps me sufficiently challenged – mostly mentally – and above all, The Village (more on this later) that supports me and keeps our little household of three happy, well-fed and thriving.

My Journey to becoming a Part-Time Working Mama
My mum was a Stay At Home Mama to my brother and I, so naturally, I intended to be the same.

Growing up, I liked having someone to come home to and I wanted to be that someone when it was my turn to have a family. I even planned my first career around this, accounting for some flexibility to stay at home but still earn an steady income.

But, Life (God, rather) threw several curveballs at me, around the time The Hubs and I were planning to get married. In the end, I left my supposedly-flexible job for an office job with fixed hours, and we bought our new home at a time when housing prices in Singapore were sky high.

When S was born, I stayed at home for a year. During this time, our finances were starting to become uncomfortably tight, especially since we were repaying our housing loan. I was also gradually turning into a recluse and I was getting very bored of being trapped at home with a non-communicative baby. I struggled significantly at this stage with mommy guilt, believing that I wasn’t making good use of the time God had given me, whilst also wishing that I had the financial luxury to stay at home for the long-term.

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The Hubs and I with S at one year old

On hindsight, if I persevered beyond the early toddler stage, it probably would have gotten quite interesting and challenging. Who knows?

When I first went back to the office, turning over care of S to my parents, I relished learning new material at work and was very happy being busy again in a nine-to-five setting.

However, I was overwhelmed with mommy guilt and my poor parents probably received anxiety-ridden Whatsapp messages every half hour! This mommy guilt never really faded even after a full year.

A little over half a year ago, The Hubs got a new job which came with a sizeable pay increase, so I took the opportunity to negotiate a part-time contract with my company.

And this is where I’ve been since then, working three-and-two-thirds days a week at the office, which leaves me a full day during the working week to spend with little S.

This precious mid-week day off has been great in giving S and I that special one-on-one time to get to know each other better, especially as my toddler transitions to the preschool stage (and is now a lot more communicative).

This journey to find the right work-life balance for me has been long in coming, and I hope you will find the following tips useful in finding your centre of gravity in this crazy mama life:

1) Know yourself

My year as a Stay At Home Mama taught me a lot about some qualities a mom should have in order to remain sane in the house. I decided to take on the role without much forethought, but realised that to make full use of the time at home with a little one, a substantial amount of planning is required.

As the little one grows and begins to explore, meaningful learning activities need to be thought out and planned in advance. Unfortunately, while I can organise big events like parties, I couldn’t seem get together small little details in a fixed daily schedule. Babies and toddlers do benefit from some routine and structure, and that doesn’t work for me – I like to go with the flow. It took me the whole year to admit to myself that unlike my mom, I wasn’t cut out for the Stay At Home Mama life.

2) Don’t sweat the small stuff at home

When you have to outsource your care-giving, you can’t sweat the small stuff – after all, The Village is doing the work of parenting on your behalf! I have learnt to gratefully let go of the controls, and trust the judgment of my son’s caregivers.

Learning to let go has helped me in many ways, especially when my son transitioned to preschool and I have to put my trust my son’s teachers daily. Communication is key to building trust between caregivers – my parents, The Hubs and I have a very active Whatsapp chat group where we decide together what to do with S on a day-to-day basis. Starting this chat group helped keep me calm and reassured when I first went back to work.

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S with his security blanket, heading off to preschool

3) Also, don’t sweat the small stuff at work

Unfortunately, the current mentality of Singaporean employers is that part-time work is a privilege, not a right. While this is a topic for another day, I’m very thankful (eternally grateful, to be exact) that the bosses at my workplace are supportive and understanding, even though The Village can support me working full-time.

In my case, this also means understanding work exigencies and being willing to step up on occasion, regardless of the extra hours. I often work from home on my off-days, or stay back later than expected when work is urgent. I think my bosses appreciate my commitment to the job and this has probably helped me to convince them to let me work part-time for a longer period.

4) Grandparents are Gold 

I am also immensely thankful for The Village.

Having a ‘childcare centre’ at the Grandparents’ place has facilitated my part-time work arrangements, especially when I need to swop my off days due to urgent work demands. My colleagues often remind me that others rarely have such flexibility luxury. So, it’s difficult to express the full depth of gratitude that I have for my parents who are sacrificing their golden retirement years in order to care for little S.

Our Village also includes the Grandparents Set 2 (my in-laws), who give us a lift home every weeknight and keep us well-fed and healthy with hot, delicious meals all through the weekend – sometimes even right to our doorstep.

The greatest blessing of all with Village Care is to see the joy on the grandparents’ faces when they spend an extended amount of time with their grandchildren.

5) Above all, wait for God’s timing

It can take a long time to find out what works best for you and your family. Many times, I wanted to take things into my own hands whenever I was at my emotional limit. Like decide not to return to work. At all. Ever. Or request to go part-time much earlier than I eventually did.

In the end, God always intervened at exactly the right time – for example, when my boss offered me a new role to part-time on a long-term basis just when I was worried my temporary part-time arrangement would not continue. God has also blessed me with unexpected promotions so that although I started working part-time, the overall income flow would remain steady. I learnt we could always trust God to provide, in His perfect timing.

Oh, one last thing:

Fathers are important partners in your motherhood journey. The Hubs is the rock of our family and keeps me steady with practical advice and wise words.

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The Hubs with S at the Singapore Art Museum

To The Hubs and all the dads out there, here’s wishing you a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

by Twinklystarz

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

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If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Candice’s thoughtfully written post over at MissusTay.com.

A part-time-working-mum to two preschoolers, Candice shares about parenting, activities with kids, marriage and travel in her journal at MissusTay.com.

Next week on the “Mothers Make It Work!” blog train, we’ll be heading over to A Pancake Princess to hear from Dorothea.

19179345_10158786845860585_1318408897_oDorothea is mum to two feisty and exuberant boys and spends most days playing in their pretend dinosaur world, dabbling in paints and bringing them on adventures. Of course, there’s also the never-ending breaking up of fights, meal time wars and messy rooms to deal with every day. She shares her parenting journey and faith lessons at A Pancake Princess.

Mothers Make It Work: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

When I was born, the Aged Ps had been married for a few years, and my dad worked very long hours and was often sent out of the country for weeks at a time. So, when I was very small, my mum’s biggest challenge was to manage the household by herself and care for a small (and loud) child at the same time.

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The Aged P with Debs G (4 months old): Mealtime is playtime

In order to keep the house clean and tidy, mum would make the best of baby morning and afternoon naptimes to mop the floors, wipe down the surfaces and do the laundry. She felt that it was most important to keep the floor and beds clean and tidy, as these were the places that would be most in contact with the baby.

As I grew older and more mobile, she bought a soft rug for me to play on, and trained me to stay on that rug during playtime so that she could complete her daily chores without worrying if I would be up to mischief.

If my dad was travelling, she would make sure that we were home every evening at the same time, as my dad would ring the house at 6pm without fail to talk to us. This was a very important daily ritual for the whole family, and even now, when my dad travels for work or if mum travels to visit my sister, they will FaceTime or Skype with each other at least once a day.

I will always appreciate the lengths that my mum went through to make sure that I acknowledged and remembered my dad, and understood where he was. She would bring out his photograph and point to it. She would point to the map and teach me to say the names of the places where he was working. She would make up songs about how much we loved each other. So, although he wasn’t physically present, I knew how important he was and our relationship was never diluted.

Although mum really loves to cook, going to the market daily with an infant in tow was pretty tiring for her, so she would only purchase enough to make breakfast and dinner every day. Additionally, as a child, I would always be full of beans in the morning, so she wouldn’t really be able to take the time out to prepare her own lunch if she wanted to spend that time meaningfully with me.

So, for lunch, mum first tried a local ‘tingkat’ or food delivery service, but soon tired of the repetitive menu. In the end, she made an agreement with one of our neighbours who had a large family and would set aside a portion of food for her. (Although the neighbour would often reserve the worst parts of whatever she happened to be cooking for my mum to eat – bony pieces like the chicken neck and the ends of vegetables – it at least saved her the trouble of meal planning and cooking!)

Mum often volunteered as the church organist and she sang in the church choir, so she would bring me along with her to attend rehearsals during the week. As an infant, I slept quietly in my moses basket during these times, and as I grew, I learned to sing along with her.

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Breakfast before play school (Debs G at 2 years old)

The year that I turned 2 years old, one of mum’s friends persuaded her to send me to playschool.

Although she felt that I was too tiny for schooling, it was around this time that my elderly maternal grandfather started to require regular medical checkups. As the only daughter who didn’t hold a paying full-time job, it was left to her to accompany my maternal grandfather to his various appointments. Sending me to playschool would allow her a few hours in the morning with which to manage this.

However, one day, the medical appointment ran overly long and she was late in picking me up from playschool. By the time she arrived, she found to her utmost horror that all the teachers and the school principal had gone home, leaving me alone outside the darkened building with nobody but the school caretaker to watch over me.

You can imagine how traumatised we both were from that experience.

From that day onwards, as soon as we drove past the trees leading up the driveway to the playschool, mum said that I would start crying uncontrollably. She arranged to send me to a different school and I seemed perfectly happy with that – but she was much more careful to pick me up on time. This of course meant that she had to do much more shuttling back and forth if the medical appointments ran long, as she would pick me up from school and then drop me off at my maternal grandmother’s house, then return to the hospital to accompany my grandfather.

In Mobile, Alabama (Debs G at 3 years old): Before a ballet recital

Midway through my third year, my dad was posted to the US for further studies. He couldn’t bear to leave his family behind, so we all moved with him to a small town of Mobile in Alabama, which was near the university where my dad was studying sports medicine.

We were the only chinese family there in the Deep South of America.

It could have been dreadfully lonely, but my parents saw this as a great adventure.

The community in that small town was very welcoming, and they were very respectful of my parents, who were not only english-speaking, but polite and well-educated. It took my parents a while to understand the sleepy southern drawl but eventually they got used to it.

Instead of shyly keeping to herself, like most people would in a new environment, Mum made an concerted effort to be actively became involved in the community, bringing me to the local play school and dance studio and taking part in town events. She joined a quilting class and a cake decorating class in the mornings when I was at play school. Some afternoons, if my dad was at class, she would meet with the other housewives in the backyard of the rental complex where we lived. They would sit on the grass and chat whilst the kids played together.

She was always smiling and gracious to everyone. She would exchange recipes with her neighbours and very often, people would come round to our house carrying an empty bowl to enjoy some authentic chinese cooking or bring some delicious meals to share. At the first neighbourhood potluck party, all of our neighbours had never seen or eaten chinese food before, and the whole dish of stir-fried vegetables and fried beehoon noodles disappeared in a blink of an eye. Our neighbour was so impressed with the delicate pieces of thinly sliced meat amongst the crunchy julienned vegetables that he remarked that my mum “can take one piece of meat and feed an army”!

Until now, Mum still keeps in touch with her friends from Alabama – in fact our neighbour’s grandson has recently come to Singapore to work!

Of course, it was the constant travelling and their commitment to their elderly parents that probably made the Aged Ps decide put off having a second child until I was five years old and much more independent…but that’s a story for another post.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mummy!

This post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.

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If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this very thoughtfully written one here, penned by Angie over at Life’s Tiny Miracles.

18261241_120300003540885353_2103005318_o-768x512 Angie is the Mommy behind the Life’s Tiny Miracles blog. The journey to Motherhood has been a bittersweet experience for her. As a mom of 5 kids (3 in Heaven), Angie embraces every bit of this season: the tears, the insanity, the sacrifices and the joy that comes from knowing she’s loved as a wife, a friend, a daughter and a Mom. In her post, she talks about the importance of a strong and supportive community in a mother’s journey.

18518925_10155077378855202_1525611593_oAt next week’s stop we will be visiting Michelle over at Mummy Wee.

Michelle is a mum to 6 kids and now that she has packed her last child off to school, she has time to channel her energies to her 7th baby, an enrichment centre she feels passionately about. I for one am very excited to read about how she manages all her kids – from her preschooler to her teenaged daughters – whilst working full-time at The Little Executive!

Choo choo! All aboard the blog train!

Hello Owls Well readers!

18296990_10155043212889845_121891817_oThe Mothers Make It Work blog train is starting up today, starting with a thoughtfully written post by Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration!

Hai Fang is a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys aged 7 and 13. She believes in eating healthy but has a weakness for simple sugar. Cycling and running is her way of keeping sane and writing forces her to think coherently.

This is a wonderful post full of useful advice on how to retain your own sanity amidst the current pressures of high-intensity parenting, whilst teaching kids to remain centred and true to themselves.

Hop on over and check her out!

For more inspiring stories, click on the picture below:

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Mothers Make It Work! – A Blog Train hosted by Owls Well

Mothers Make It Work Button

Being a mother is very challenging, not just in raising children, but in meeting all the expectations that society has for us.

We are expected to raise angelic children, be loving and supportive wives, nurse our aging parents, hold on to successful careers, keep the house spic and span, cook instagram worthy meals and we have to look good whilst doing it. This can result in women feeling guilty or depressed that they don’t have it altogether perfect like everyone else.

Well, I say that nobody has it altogether perfect.

We’ve all worked hard and made sacrifices to get where we are, and we have also had to make compromises so that we can make it work. Sometimes, we try to balance things perfectly and somehow it backfires. Other times, it means arranging flexible working hours, or hiring a cleaner, or buying a car, or finding a childcare/parentcare arrangement that works. It could also mean re-organising our priorities or giving up on a long-cherished dream.

But in the end, one thing remains true – we are always trying to find the best way to make it work for us and our families.

In this blog train series, we’ll be visiting some of my favourite bloggers each week who will be sharing their mothering struggles and successes with us! I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

(Links on this page will be updated as each post goes live)

4 May

Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration: Motherhood

11 May

Angie.S from Life’s Tiny MiraclesMothers Make It Work

18 May

Debs G from Owls Well: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

25 May

Michelle from Mummy Wee: 5 Survival Tips of a Mum Boss

1 June

June from MamaWearPapaShirt: How this WAHM manages work and family without going insane

8 June  

Candice from MissusTay: Mothers Make it Work

15 June

Twinklystarz on Owls Well: Advice from a Part Time Working Mama

22 June

Dot from A Pancake Princess : Just another mum making it work

29 June

Cat K on Owls Well

6 July

Lyn Lee from Lil Blue Bottle

13 July

Elisa from Love Our Children Now 

20 July

Karen from Mum’s Calling

27 July

V from Life Is In The Small Things

3 Aug

Pamela from Tan Family Chronicles

10 Aug

LiYann from Yannisms

17 Aug

A Becky C from Owls Well

A Conversation between Siblings (or, Big Brother is Watching You)

We’re sitting around the table, enjoying an ice-cream treat. J is 9 years old, Little E is 6 years old and Thumper is nearly 2 years old.

J: I wish I lived in a Bungalow. Then I could have extra rooms for all my ornaments. Every time I get a new ornament, I’ll put it in a triple locked cupboard. Every week I’ll take out the ornaments and polish them. I’ll have to buy lots of polish. And the front door will be quadruple locked for extra security!

Debs G: Okay.

J: SECURITY!!!

Debs G: I feel sorry for your wife.

J: Why?

Debs G: Because she’ll have to spend all her time polishing your ornaments.

J: No no no no no. She’s not allowed to touch the ornaments, because they are MY ornaments. She’s only allowed to look at them while I polish them.

Little E: I don’t want to live in a bungalow. I’m going to live in a farmhouse. I’m going to have a cat and a dog to keep me company. And I’m going to marry my friend Ben.

J: WHAT?! Who is this “Ben”? You’ve never talked about him before. Who is he?

Little E: He’s the one who gave me a kiss on the cheek last week.

Thumper: (waving his spoon) NO NO!

J: (enraged) He did WHAT?! Why didn’t you kick him?!

Little E: He asked me nicely if he could give me a kiss and I said ok.

Thumper: (pointing his spoon at Little E) NO NO!

J: You can’t just go around letting weirdos give you a kiss! If he tries to pull this stunt again, you should give him a kick! A BIG KICK!

Little E: He’s not a weirdo! He’s my friend!

Thumper: (frowning) NO NO! NO NO!

J: Well, we haven’t met him, so he’s must be a weirdo or you would have introduced him to us first before letting him give you a kiss! This is nonsense! He’s not worthy of marrying my sister! If I see him, I’m going to kick him!

Little E: That’s why I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to freak out!

J: WHY WOULD I FREAK OUT?! I’m not freaking out at all. I am totally normal!

Debs G: Little E, the next time somebody in your class asks to give you a kiss or asks you for a kiss, you should tell them that you need to ask your mummy and daddy first, okay?

Little E: Okay, Mummy.

J: And then I will find him and give him a kick.

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Enjoying ice-cream at Udders Cafe

Introducing your child to a New Baby

Last year, I wrote about how The Barn Owl and I prepare our kids to welcome a new baby into the family. Since then, I’ve had messages from other parents wondering how we prepare our kids to meet their new sibling for the first time.

J and Little E love their little brother Thumper to bits, and they both help me out a lot at home by looking after him and playing with him, which I am very grateful for. When they met him for the first time, they were both so excited and so happy to see him! They absolutely couldn’t get enough of him.

I was so glad that the groundwork we had laid in the months previously really paid off!

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J and Little E meeting Thumper for the first time

I think it is really important for the new baby to make a good impression on his or her older sibling as well. The Barn Owl and I always try our best to make sure that not only our older kid is mentally and emotionally prepared, but that the baby is also ready to meet them too!

So here’s:

Debs G’s Guide to Introducing your Child to a New Sibling

  1. Prepare your child for a special solo adventure. You’ve probably already made arrangements for who will be looking after your older kids when you head off to the labour ward. The kids have to know that they will be spending at least one night away from both Mummy and Daddy, so it’s worthwhile letting them have a taste of this experience at least once beforehand so that they have something to look forward to. This is a no-holds barred opportunity for grandparents or relatives to coddle and spoil the children and otherwise turn their stayover into a junk food fueled paradise of fun. I also took advantage of this opportunity to squeeze in a date night with The Barn Owl (fancy restaurant and a movie) and to have a lavishly indulgent lie-in the next day.
  2. It’s all about Daddy now. In the month or so leading up to the end of your pregnancy, it will be time to let Daddy take the reins with the kids, especially with regards to the baths as well as the evening and bedtime routine. After all, you will need to be able to devote time to the new baby without your kids feeling abandoned – and Daddy will have to practice putting the kids to sleep on his own since he may have to spend a day or two doing that anyway.
  3. Resist the urge to have the children brought to you immediately after labour. If you are anything like me, you are the sort of person who does not want their children in the labour room with you. My reason for excluding the children from the birth is because I knew from previous experience, that I am an emotional and otherwise unpleasant person during labour, and I do not want to traumatise them. After labour, when both I, my husband and the baby are exhausted and messy-looking, I think that seeing the kids immediately would not be a pleasant or reassuring experience for them (even though it would be a reassuring experience for me). I feel that it is better for them to hear my cheerful voice over the phone, then for them to look at my exhausted face and see me with all the tubes and urinary catheter in situ. Even if I reassure them verbally, they will still worry for my well-being after observing me in that condition – and I don’t want them to ever resent the new baby.
  4. Do not hog your husband – the kids need him. After labour is over, and both baby and I are nicely cleaned up and waiting to be transferred to the ward, this is when The Barn Owl leaves and goes home. He does not stay over in the hospital with me and he does not spend every waking moment in the hospital with me in the days to come. Yes, it’s lonely being in hospital on my own, but really, I do not need him with me anymore – I can get on with the breastfeeding and everything on my own or with the help of the nurses – so it would be selfish to keep him in hospital with me when the other children need him much more. Let him go home, reassure the kids, show them pictures of the new baby and sleep comfortably in his own bed.
  5. Timing is everything. First impressions count, so I always make sure that both I and the new baby are looking spiffy when the older sibling(s) arrive. The best time to do this is in the mid-morning after the doctors ward rounds and baby checks, and just after the baby has had a full feed and has had a nappy change. This will mean that the baby is in a good mood, maybe even alert for a few minutes. I always make sure that my hubby gives me a heads up before coming to the hospital with the kids, so that I have time to prepare the baby! I also make sure that the baby is lying happily in the bassinet on the far side of the room when their big brother/sister arrives, and not in my arms or being breastfed. If I’m still breastfeeding or changing the baby when they get to the hospital, I tell my husband to distract the kids until we are both ready. I want the older kids to walk in the room and see me waiting for them with open arms! This allows me to literally show them that the baby has not displaced them in my affections!
  6. Greet and cuddle the new big brother/sister first before doing anything else. The first thing that I do is cuddle the older child, making sure that he or she is happy and contented. They need that reassurance that you are still there for them.
  7. Stay by their side until they are ready to see the baby. Once we’ve finished greeting each other, I wait for my kids to ask permission to see the baby! Usually once the kids have ascertained that I am well, they will start to clamour to see the baby. I don’t get up to bring the baby to them either. I sit right next to them and ask their daddy to push the bassinet to the bed, or I hold their hand and walk with them to the bassinet.
  8. Give them space. Your child is going to be more excited about seeing you again than seeing the new baby – mostly because the baby is still just a small blob that lies there and doesn’t do anything. Do not be surprised if after a few moments frowning at the baby in the bassinet, your child wanders off to go look out the window and otherwise appears to be disinterested in the baby. Use this time to thoroughly spoil your older child with attention, and don’t keep trying to draw them back to the baby or pester them with questions about the baby (“Do you like the baby? Huh? Do you? DO you?”). Be cool. It just takes them a longer time to process this whole event, which is really quite overwhelming! They’ll eventually warm up to their new sibling and want to hold it, and take pictures (which will be your cue to make an almighty fuss of them), but if they don’t feel like doing any of that right now, don’t sweat it or it’ll become forced and unpleasant. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to see that sibling bond forming!

Developing A Growth Mindset in Kids or, Astronaut Training Camp – A foundational skills workshop by The Little Executive (A Review)

Back in 1995 when I was in Smartypants Class in secondary school, I did a school research project on highly intelligent “gifted and talented” children – partly because I could and partly because it pleased me to think that I was experimenting on my classmates.

My project was an independent study on children who were identified via the use of standardised testing to have IQs within the top 0.5 percentile of their peers. I wanted to compare the emotional and social development of “gifted and talented” children to that of their peers to find out if there was any real or perceived difference.

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Case in point: Debs G going to Smartypants Class (Picture Credit: The Far Side of Gary Larson)

One of the things that I discovered whilst working on this project is that there are a great number of “gifted and talented” children who are also seen to be underachievers by their teachers and that this in fact a rather common phenomenon. I also realised that in my particular cohort of students, these underachievers were from the group of girls who entered the Smartypants Class at 10 years old during Primary School, and were known to be the “Black Sheep” of the class. These black sheep did comparatively poorly on standardised tests as compared to their peers. It was a mystery as to why this should happen, when they had so much potential so as to be identified as “gifted” at a younger age!

Through surveys of my classmates and their parents, I found out that many of my friends believed (as I also did) that success is based on personal aptitude. Amongst ourselves, we would go through great lengths to prove our God-given cleverness to each other, claiming not to have studied for tests or exams as well as making sport of classmates who did work hard in order to score well, calling them “muggertoads”. In fact, so much of our personal identity was wrapped up in being in the Smartypants Class that one of the biggest fears that we had was that of failure – especially if we had bothered to put in effort – because it would prove that we weren’t special at all.

Sad, right?

As part of my project research, I found a book called “Learning and Motivation in Children” at the Smartypants Centre library, and there was an article about how children’s perceptions of their own intelligence affected their ability to learn. In a nutshell, it showed me exactly what I already knew from observation – that kids who were told early that they were smart and talented also became perfectionists who stopped trying when they couldn’t be perfect straightaway. This was called having a ‘fixed mindset’. This article affected me profoundly, as I realised that putting too much stock in my own innate intelligence and abilities instead of valuing persistence and hard work could hold me back from achieving my personal goals.

I didn’t know this at the time, but one of the authors of that article, Carol Dweck, went on to publish many more articles and books about an individual’s implicit theory of intelligence and the importance of children developing and thinking with a growth mindset. She is currently one of the world’s leading psychologists in the field of development and motivation. In her research on learning and motivation, she found that having a growth mindset is a key feature of people who are internally motivated and who are also more likely to succeed when faced with challenges both in school, in work and in life.

Now, as a parent, I have been trying to teach J and Little E  to work hard and persevere, to be self-aware and learn from criticism or setbacks. These are important foundational skills that I feel are important for them to develop at a young age.  Now, I realise that determination, persistence and perceptiveness are considered to be traits which most people will develop on their own through personal life experience, however, it is becoming quite clear that not everybody has the opportunity to figure these things out before they enter the workforce. This is why even our National University of Singapore has set aside a special department, The Centre of Future Ready Graduates, in order to equip all their tertiary level students with these skills!

However, I’m not an expert in education and pedagogy, and all I am doing is trying to muddle through and guide my kids in the best way that I can. When Michelle, co-founder of The Little Executive, contacted me to ask if I would be interested in sending J and Little E to an Astronaut Training Camp during the December holls last year, I was more than happy to oblige!

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J and Little E having fun at Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive

The Little Executive actually came into being when one of the founders of Leapfrogs Children’s Therapy Centre, which supports children with learning disabilities, realised that there were more and more parents attempting to enrol their mainstream schoolchildren into her occupational or educational therapy classes.

She realised that all these children, even though they had no learning disabilities at all, seemed to struggle in school on a daily basis as they not only lacked resilience but also had certain learning gaps and a fixed mindset about their innate capabilities. The Little Executive aims to help children develop those essential executive functioning skills needed in order to develop a healthy growth mindset towards lifelong learning.

In my opinion, courses aimed teaching study skills tend to be quite dry and boring as they are often quite abstract in nature – and yes, I have attended my share of such courses as a kid attending the Smartypants Class. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Little Executive has found ways to help kids develop these skills in a really fun, hands-on way! I don’t think that the kids even realise that they are learning how to learn – but I have seen the results on my kids and I can tell you that it works. I wish I’d attended these classes myself as a kid, because it really would have saved me a lot of angst.

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J with Jim, one of the educators at The Little Executive

The Astronaut Training Camp, which was held over 4 mornings, was a real treat for J and Little E. Through games, sensory experiments and brainstorming sessions, the kids used their problem solving, communication and observational skills to learn about various aspects of preparing for space travel – even preparing their own dehydrated snacks from bananas, troubleshooting potential issues that might happen during space missions and working together to construct their own shuttle!

Parents were invited to attend a short presentation on the last day of the camp, and I got to tinker with all their craft projects and find out more about what went on during the camp. I was most impressed with the incredible rapport that the educators were able to build with the kids in such a short space of time. Additionally, they were able to engage not only the youngest preschooler (Little E), but also the oldest primary school kid (J) and cater to their different learning abilities.

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After exploring the space shuttle, Thumper is waiting for his turn!

The educators also gave me great verbal feedback on the strengths and shortcomings of both J and Little E, which showed me how experienced they were in assessing children and working on supporting their weaknesses. I would also have appreciated some written feedback on the kids that I could peruse and mull over at my own leisure!

Thumper was really excited to see all the things that his brother and sister made during the camp (especially the really cool jetpacks), and I can tell that he is waiting for his turn to attend Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive one day.

I think the greatest reward for me was to see how the course affected J and Little E. I’ve been observing the two of them since school reopened and I have noticed two things:

  1. J’s handwriting has improved dramatically as he has become more conscientious in class, taking more pride in his work.
  2. Little E has started revising her Chinese language readers on a daily basis, asking her brother for help with words that she doesn’t know.

Needless to say, I am more than pleased!

For more information about The Little Executive click here.

Trial classes for The Little Executive’s regular programme are held every Saturday (SGD$48 for a 1.5 hour parent-accompanied class). For more information on trial classes click here.

The Little Executive has got two very exciting camps lined up for the 2017 March school holidays:

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A Special for Owls Well Readers: Congratulations for getting to the end of the post! The Little Executive has kindly offered a very generous discount code just for Owls Well Readers! If you would like to sign your kids up for any of classes at The Little Executive, just quote  OWLSWELLBLOG15 for 15% off the total fee!