(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.

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

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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

Video Game Family Time: Overcooked

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

Here’s another game that is a lot of fun for a rainy afternoon: Overcooked!

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Picture Source: Ghost Town Games

Overcooked is a hilariously chaotic co-operative game by the two person team over at indie game studio, Ghost Town Games. It’s a real fun game that is guaranteed to have the whole family either working together like a well oiled machine or (much more likely) rolling on the floor cackling with glee as everything goes berserk.

In this game, players control cute little chefs who have to work together fulfil as many customer orders as possible (by preparing ingredients, cooking, plating and serving), whilst dodging hazards and obstacles, all within a fixed time limit. Each level is roughly 3-5 minutes long, and it usually takes about 2-3 rounds before everyone figures out how to work together to beat the level, so it’s a good game to play if you’re trying to keep game time really short.

This game has both a co-operative mode for up to four players as well as a competitive multiplayer mode where you can divide up into two teams. The controls are very straightforward so it’s good for beginners who are still working on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and the graphics are crisp and cute.

 

Whilst playing, we’d often find ourselves shouting out orders and instructions to each other, laughing our heads off whilst our little chefs crash into each other, burn the soup or accidentally fall out of the kitchen! I love the way that the game emphasises the importance of close communication between players, encouraging us to work together as a family to improve efficiency in our virtual kitchen!

We also like to take turns to designate a ‘head chef’ for each round, who will assign jobs and call out the orders as they come through!

When we are playing together in Overcooked, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We are kind to each other – no intentionally sabotaging the game or being nasty with our words
  2. We are helpful – we are partners and work together towards a common goal
  3. We remember to maintain our sense of humour – this is a game that involves some yelling and giving orders, but that doesn’t mean we get angry or upset with each other!
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

If there’s a video game that you think is great fun for families – share it with me in the comments!

Science in the kitchen: Eggs and Vinegar

So, J asked if he could perform an experiment at home that he read about in one of his Horrible Science books. I had a look at it and realised that we had all the ingredients in our kitchen and nothing seemed explosive or particularly messy…so why not?

Warning: Science! Also puns. Lots of EGG-ceptional puns. You’re going to crack up. Seriously. Omelettin’ this happen, yo. 

J’s Question: What happens when you soak eggs in vinegar?

What we used to answer J’s Question:

  1. One hard boiled egg
  2. One raw egg
  3. Vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar probably works best)
  4. Glass jars of roughly the same shape and size.

What we did to answer J’s Question:

1. Label the jars and place the respective eggs inside.

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2. Cover each egg with an equal amount of vinegar and watch the science happen.

  • J’s Observation #1: Bubbles appeared on the surface of the eggs
  • EGG-CITING SCIENCE! The acetic acid in the vinegar reacted with the calcium carbonate of the eggshell, releasing carbon dioxide gas as bubbles!

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3. Leave the eggs in the vinegar for three days. Check on the eggs and see if there is more science happening

  • J’s Observation #2:There is a yucky white scum floating on the surface of the vinegar
  • EGG-CELLENT SCIENCE! Calcium acetate is a the other byproduct of the chemical reaction between the vinegar and the eggshell, and is a white solid at room temperature.

4. Remove the eggs from the jars and rinse away the vinegar (and any residual eggshell) under running water. Remember to EGGS-ercise caution whilst doing this.egg-vinegar-experiment-science-membrane-diffusion

5. Place the eggs on a plate and allow them to dry. Compare the two eggs.

  • J’s Observation #3: Both eggs have a smooth and waxy surface. The raw egg is much bigger than the boiled egg (Debs G: It is EGG-ceptionally large) after it has been soaked in vinegar
  • EGG-STREME SCIENCE! The eggshell completely dissolved in the vinegar. Underneath the eggshell is the egg membrane. Some of the water from the vinegar has moved across the membranes to the inside of the raw egg, but the contents of the egg did not leak out. This is because the egg membrane is semi-permeable and allowed only certain sized molecules through. The egg membrane is stretchy, so the egg swelled as the water moved inside it. Water moved inside the egg because the contents of the egg contained less water than the vinegar outside the egg. The process where a solvent (such as water) moves from a lower concentration solution (such as vinegar) to a higher concentration solution (such as egg white) is called osmosis.

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6. Drop both eggs from increasing heights and see what happens.

  • J’s Observation #4: I can see the yolk wobbling about inside the raw egg but not in the boiled egg. When I dropped them, both eggs bounced but when I dropped them from very high up, the raw egg burst like a water balloon (Debs G: It was EGGsplosive). The raw egg is liquid, but the boiled egg is solid.
  • EGG-TRAORDINARY SCIENCE! Eggs are full of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. When the egg is boiled, the heat messes up the amino acid bonds that hold the proteins together and give them a particular shape and form. The egg protein changes in form and appearance, becoming hard and solid. When proteins change from their original form into a new form, this is called denaturation.

So, don’t be a chicken. Get cracking and hatch a plan to make Science happen in your own kitchen!

These are the yolks, kid. These are the yolks.

 

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! 

How to Toddler (A Day in A Life Blog Train)

It has been over a year since I wrote about a typical Wednesday in the Owls Well household here in Singapore as part of the “A Day in A Life” Blog train hosted by Mum in the Making.

My schedule has, of course, changed greatly since the introduction of the littlest owlet #3, Thumper. Most of what I do right now involves supervising Thumper during his wake time, and then making sure that when Thumper is taking his naps, I divide my time between J and Little E so that they each get one-on-one time with me.

It’s very difficult to describe how I organise my day now, so I’m going to let Thumper tell you what we do on a typical Wednesday in this video:

I basically rinse and repeat the above twice more for lunch/afternoon nap and dinner/bedtime.

Getting Thumper into a flexible routine was key to my sanity this past year. As a result, Thumper is a predictable baby, and will take 2 hour nap times without fail. This frees me up to spend time with J and Little E, supervising their homework and free time, as well as complete whatever housework needs to be done, including meal preparation and laundry.

Efficiency is a key feature of my life right now!


14658357_120300000553820036_1005302683_nUp next on the ‘A Day in a Life’ Blog Train is our stationmaster, Jus from Mum in the Making.

She is a stay home mum to four, who relies on crafting and chocolate to keep her sane.

I myself am very curious to see how she manages a typical daily schedule where she has to care for her tiniest infant girl and three rambunctious boys, whilst homeschooling and running a most efficient household!

Get a glimpse into her day over at Mum in the Making!