Mothers Make It Work: Leaving On A Jet Plane

(Editor’s Note: Owls Well is proud to welcome Cat K as a guest contributor on the Mothers Make It Work blog train! Cat K and I went to school together, and I have always admired her grit and determination, as well as her selflessness towards the people she loves. Cat K is a happy-go-lucky pharmacist who currently lives in Melbourne with her family. Apart from raising her two tween-aged kids and managing territorial disputes between her pet rabbits and cats, she also finds the time for baking delicious cakes. In her post she’ll be talking about the dhifficulties that she faced as a young mum in relocating to another country with young children and in-laws in tow. We are so happy that she agreed to share her story with us! – Debs G)

Hello Owls Well Readers,

Everyone has their own reasons for emigrating. There are many reasons why people choose to leave the safe and efficient country of Singapore.

As young mother with a young family, it seemed ludicrous to others that I would leave the comfort of the “village” (i.e. adoring family members who help to look after the little ones), as well as a successful career as a senior clinical pharmacist in one of Singapore’s largest hospitals. My reason was simple – to ensure that my family stayed together. My husband was already living in Melbourne studying to become an academic and I was determined that the family should be there with him.

Melbourne boasted wide open spaces, a tolerant society, a bustling cultural scene and a wonderful temperate climate but Singapore was where my family and friends were and where my career was. I was torn between the two and it was with much trepidation that I left for Australia.

The questions of whether I could find work, whether the children could fit in and whether they could enter good schools were high on my worry list. More pressing was the fact that children had not seen their father for months. They were disinterested in the daily Skype sessions and the time difference between Singapore and Melbourne did not help matters at all.

Bringing the family back together was my top priority and I knew that as long as we were together, everything would work out.

I often thought of my own paternal grandmother who left Hainan Island and her family behind to follow her heart and be with her love, my grandfather, in Singapore. I liked to think that I was following in her footsteps.

The time that it took to prepare for our move measured a full year and we all had to work together to make it happen.

My husband had to travel around Melbourne to look for a place to settle the family. We had numerous Skype sessions and emails to finalise the location of our new family home. In the meantime, I had to study and pass a qualification exam by the Australian Pharmacy Council in order to apply for permanent residency.

During this one year, I learnt to sleep early when the children went to bed at 9pm and wake up at 3 am to study for the exam. I quickly realised that it was so much easier to complete tasks – study, housework and exercise – in the morning when the children were asleep. I was fortunate to be living with my in-laws, as they helped with cooking and looked after my children during the day while I was at work.

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I still get stuff done early in the morning now…but not all at once anymore

As I had to work on Sundays at the pharmacy once or twice a month, my mother-in-law advised me to stay with my parents on Saturday nights, and take a taxi home on Sundays. This would give my children precious time to bond with my parents and provide some respite for my in-laws. I also worked a half-day on Saturdays, so after the end of my shift, I would run home from work, pack the overnight bag for the children and then get a lift from my father-in-law to my parents’ place.

Life was a blur. I was working full-time, studying for the Australian Pharmacy Council exam, raising two toddlers and keeping house for my family. I managed to squeeze in time to shower my children twice daily and spend time reading with my son. When I took on the responsibility of supervising an intern pharmacist, I had to make time to vet her presentations and project work as well.

At my worst point, I was sleeping only three hours daily for two months in order to juggle work, study, and family. I had lost a great deal of weight as I was just too stressed and busy to eat. When I had to take leave from work to bring my infant daughter for her vaccinations, or attend my son’s parent-teacher meetings at his childcare centre, I often told my colleagues at work that I was living like a single parent.

It was a logistical nightmare trying to plan and pack for everyone according to the baggage restrictions. I had to ensure that my 18-month old daughter had adequate supplies of milk powder and diapers to give me time to find the Australian equivalent of Similac and Mamy Poko. I remember squeezing three body pillows with our clothes into one suitcase! The last step was to arrange for a moving company to ship all our precious books over.

Finally, we left Singapore.

When the plane landed in Melbourne after a 7-hour flight, a wave of relief washed over me. I had been up and about for most of the flight walking my fussy toddler to sleep and was completely exhausted, but I was looking forward to finally getting to see my husband. It was great having the family together again.

Although my in-laws were glad to see my husband again, they were shocked and upset when they saw our new home. Their old apartment was situated across the road from a large shopping mall with all its conveniences, and this new suburban place seemed too quiet and remote in comparison. My husband and I had been so focused on making sure that the transition for our children was as smooth as possible, that we had overlooked how his aged parents would manage. I realised that adjusting to this new environment was going to take a lot of time for everyone.

I planned to take two weeks to look around where we were and figure out how things worked in Melbourne, but I completely underestimated how long it would take for everyone to settle in. There were a lot of new things to get used to!

Going from a tropical climate to a temperate climate took some adjustment. Bath time routines were initially incredibly stressful for me, as I worried about finding the same skincare products as we had in Singapore and whether children would fall ill from the cold autumn air. Fortunately for me, their skin loved the dry climate and improved with each passing day. In the end, my children adapted well to the cold weather – they just loved it.

Living in a wooden frame bungalow made of plasterboards was a new experience too. Like most Singaporeans, I had lived all my life in a high-rise apartment and was used to hearing noises from our neighbours, but now, I had to make myself investigate every single sound. Every creak and scratch could be a burglar making rounds, or a mouse – or worse – creeping around the house. Even cleaning the house presented a challenge. The bathroom floor did not have a drain hole so I could not wash the bathroom floor in the way I was used to. The bedroom floors in the rental house were carpeted -something I really hated – and made cleaning horrible, especially with toilet-training children.

After being trained as a clinical pharmacist in major hospitals in Singapore for 7 years, I was not going to let my pharmacy training go to waste. After I passed my Australian Pharmacy Council exam – I got the results the day after we landed in Melbourne – I immediately started to look for an internship position. My lucky stars must have been shining on me as a close friend introduced her preceptor to me and I got the internship spot! It was a good start on my way to obtaining an Australian Pharmacist license.

I had been a senior position in Singapore for five years before going to Australia, and had been in charge of not only the wards and services, but was also responsible for training pharmacy students. Now, I had to start from scratch as a retail pharmacist, which required a change of mindset. Retail pharmacy was so different, and I had never had to work a cash register before! It was a humbling experience, but seeing my husband and my children playing together in the living room made it all worthwhile.

One of the joys of living in Australia was finally having my own oven. Having an oven is so expensive in Singapore especially with the high electricity tariffs. I was so happy to make my son’s birthday cake a few days after we arrived in Melbourne. Finally, we were able to celebrate his birthday together as a complete family.

Going to the shops, I was aghast at how expensive things were in Australia. A box of Kleenex 100’s was AUD$3! Gosh, that was daylight robbery! (Fortunately, the price of tissues has dropped since then.) At the checkout, customers were the ones who handled the EFTPOS or NETS machines and bagged groceries. Self-service, indeed. We could not flag down taxis in the suburbs, we had to book them in advance. The level of convenience of public transport was not the same; buses and trains followed a strict and infrequent timetable.

Thankfully, cars were five times cheaper than in Singapore and parking was free in the suburbs, if you parked for the allotted number of hours. I had a driver’s licence but had not driven much in Singapore but I had to learn to drive a large MPV around on unfamiliar Australian roads. It was nerve-wrecking trying to park the car! I soon found that driving in Melbourne was easy with its wide roads and friendly driving culture, although the traffic in the city centre can be as bad as traffic in Singapore.

Within a month of arriving, we had to settle the children’s childcare arrangements, and enrol my son into school. It was another stressful period looking for a suitable school. Fortunately, he got into the school of our choice or we might have had to move house again.

Putting the children in childcare was an opportunity for us to make friends. This was where I found another Singaporean mother whose child was good friends with my son. It was comforting to find someone who could teach me tips on living in Australia. We would arrange playdates and the children would play together. We soon became close family friends.

It has been eight long years since I moved to Australia with my little pigeon pair (that is a boy and a girl in Aussie speak!) and we are all very well-settled in our new home!

So, Owls Well Readers, here are my:

Top 10 tips for a smooth transition to a new country

  1. Own your home

It would be hard to purchase or build a home the moment you move over, unless you have family living in that region who can help inspect properties for you. The logical way is to rent for short term whilst looking for a good home, a nice neighbourhood, and a good school for your children.

Having a safe and secure home is really important whilst having a young family. Renting may work for some but having the Sword of Eviction constantly hanging over one’s head can be stressful for the long term. Children need a nice environment to live in, and living out of boxes can take a psychological toll on them.

The best part of having one’s own home is pet ownership. Many rental properties do not allow pets. I have found that children grow up well with pets as it helps teach them responsibility and empathy. We started out by keeping fish, then rabbits, and now we also have cats.

  1. Asian grocery shops are the BEST

I am lucky to have a husband who is an excellent cook, but he would be nothing without the local Asian grocery shop! This treasure trove will provide you with everything – for a price – that will ease the homesickness.

The suburb that we live in has numerous Asian groceries, and using good recipes from the internet always helped to satisfy our cravings for a taste of Singapore. Of course, there are some things that will never be the same (I’m looking at you, frozen durian).

  1. Keep an open mind, and always make friends with your neighbours

It took us some time, but we have gotten to know our neighbours and are now close friends. Keeping good relations with the next door neighbour is absolutely important. If something happens at home, your neighbour would be the best person to help you.

  1. Integrate yourself into the new community

Isolation is a poison that eats you up from the inside. You are already in a new environment, why not go out and learn about where you live? When I first got to Melbourne, I would strike up conversations with other passengers around me when I was on the train. It is a good way of making friends.

Working helps you to interact with the community and enhances your understanding of the country that you live in. Even if you cannot find a job, volunteering within the community would also let you find your new role and purpose.

  1. Internet and social media are essential

When one is living overseas, homesickness is always there. Needless to say, getting a good data plan is essential. Unlike Singapore, most other countries will have numerous internet providers, and you can explore local forums to find out more about the companies and which one offers the best deals.

Social media allow you to keep in contact with family and friends, and the amazing world of the internet will provide you with good recipes to recreate the food from back home. Even now, I call my family almost daily, and it’s good hearing their voices and knowing how they were doing.

  1. Always check the weather

In Singapore, the weather patterns are predictable all year round, but living in a lovely temperate climate (like Melbourne) generally means that the weather can be temperamental.

Always check the weather before you go out because it can be cold one day and hot the other. You certainly don’t want to be shivering in a short-sleeved top when the temperature drops to the top of 160C, when it was the top of 250C the day before.

  1. Always seek help – you are never alone

Australia, just like many other countries, is all about helping people in need. Even if you do not use the internet, there are people at community centres, city councils, and migration hubs that can provide you with in-depth knowledge of the suburb that you are living in. They can even provide you with reviews of the various childcares in the local area.

  1. Look for schools early – and adjust your expectations accordingly

If you thought Singaporeans were “kiasu” about schooling, the people in Melbourne are worse – and you’ll find the same attitude in most countries outside Singapore. Everyone wants the best for their children. Due to the great teacher to student ratios in Australia (20 to 26 students to one teacher and a helper), the student populations in Australian schools are low, with each level only holding up to 200 students. Hence competition for schools can be fierce. In Melbourne, it would be wise to register for private school as soon as your child turns two.

In suburbs with popular private schools, the waiting list can be miles long and enrolment into any school is based on the time the child is registered. Otherwise, if you want your child to go to a good public school, then remember that home location is key and you will have to be prepared to pay top dollar for a small unit.

  1. Find a good GP (or pharmacist!) and ask them for advice

Common health ailments and medical care differs from country to country. Even the trade names of over-the-counter medications are different. Your local primary healthcare providers are a great resource and would have good local knowledge as well. If you have any issues with a strange new rash, or if you are worried (like we are in Australia) about a spider bite, ask a trusted healthcare professional – don’t try and treat it on your own.

Oh, and don’t forget to get to know your local pharmacist who can give you advice on over-the-counter treatments or help you with your prescriptions!

  1. Get your driver’s licence

The Singaporean driving licence is very well recognised by many international boards, and can be converted directly to a local licence without a need to take additional tests. In many large countries, driving is the way of life – and it certainly is in Australia. Road trips are essential to getting to know the land that you are in.

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Exploring the countryside with my hubby and kids

Every weekend since we arrived in Australia, we have taken the opportunity to travel and explore this big country. It has been great visiting all the famous landmarks in Melbourne. Travelling has helped us to broaden our horizons and increased our love for Australia.

***

Moving to a different country made me realise the essentials of living: Having a roof over our heads, clean clothes on our backs, food in our bellies, school, employment, and friends.

If you have all of this, you can survive anywhere.

by Cat K

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.Mothers Make It Work ButtonIf you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Dorothea’s amazing Work-At-Home-Mum journey over at A Pancake Princess.

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.

IMG_20170629_143144Next week on the “Mothers Make It Work!” blog train, we’ll be heading over to visit Lyn Lee at Lil Blue Bottle. Lyn is a mother of two girls who has a full-time office job, and a lot of support from her village. She is one of the most thoughtful and generous people you could ever hope to meet, and I am privileged to call her a friend.

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Maternity and Nursingwear – Top tips for choosing a new wardrobe

When I was expecting J, my first child, I ruined quite a few of my clothes, stretching them out beyond belief in my refusal to buy maternity wear.

Reasons why I did not want to buy maternity wear:

  1. Maternity wear is expensive
  2. Maternity wear is ugly
  3. I’d only be wearing them for 9 months so why bother

I had resorted to sneaking teeshirts from the Barn Owl’s drawers when he decided that Enough Was Enough and insisted that I get some new clothes.

Unfortunately, I was also suffering from terrible all-day-long sickness, and even walking around the house was making me dizzy. I could not bear to bring myself to go down to the high street to buy circus tents to wear.

Which is when I discovered the big bad world of online shopping!

I also discovered that maternity and nursing wear has changed drastically in the last decade or so, and most things are comfortable, chic and reasonably priced. I have since changed my attitude towards buying clothes during pregnancy and I highly recommend that expectant ladies invest in good quality maternity wear.

Now, this is not to say that you have to necessarily go to a specialist shop to purchase purpose-built maternity wear. You just have to know what to look out for when choosing clothes for this stage of your life. I didn’t figure this one out until I was well into my second pregnancy and had a better idea of what sort of clothes would work well in the transition from pregnancy to the postpartum state.

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At the beginning of my third trimester expecting Thumper

Reasons why I recommend expectant ladies to purchase maternity and nursing wear:

  1. Pre-pregnancy clothes will stay nice and not turn into shapeless bags
  2. Husband will stop complaining about missing shirts (and shorts)
  3. The clothes will actually be worn for much, MUCH longer than 9 months, especially if one is breastfeeding and takes a longer time to regain pre-pregnancy shape
  4. The clothes are usually super comfortable and flattering to the figure which makes a big difference to your outlook on life when you’re approaching the size of a whale, hurting all over and feeling miserable about stretch marks
  5. Most maternity clothes also double up as nursing wear which makes life very easy if you decide to breastfeed or use a breast pump.

So here are my top tips to keep in mind when looking for maternity or nursing wear (as well as some hacks for making regular clothes work for you)!

Owls Well Guide to choosing Maternity and Nursingwear

1. For bottoms, look for styles with a fully elasticated panel that extends over the top of your bump. This panel can then be worn over the top of your bump, folded down midway or even scrunched up under the bump, and will stretch and shrink to accommodate the changes in size during and after your pregnancy.

I have found this style to be the most comfortable as it doesn’t slip down when you walk (or run) around or lose elasticity, so it lasts the longest. Additionally, I think looks great for after pregnancy because the elasticated panel smooths over all your wobbly bits!

Regular clothes hack #1: Yoga pants with a high waistband and soft, stretchy and breathable material would work well too – size up if you’re worried about it getting too tight and uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy! Look for maxi or midi-length skirts with elasticated waists, plenty of pleats and gathers for loads of room and to make sure that hemlines stay decent in the front as your belly burgeons.

2. For tops and tees, try to find styles that will last you through those nursing days. This can either be combination maternity-to-nursingwear tops or have any of the following features:

  • Buttons that go all the way up the front (at at least mid way)
  • Wrap tops
  • Loose fitting or flowing tops, or oversized, boxed-shaped tees
  • Trapeze or swing tops that are narrow on top and loose at the hips
  • Styles with pleats, ruching, gathers, shirring and smocking (basically anything that has extra hidden fabric with a little ‘give’) are your friends

Regular clothes hack #2: Look for longer length tops or tunics – these won’t turn into crop tops and will cover your bump neatly well into the last trimester. Long cardigans,  cute serapes or ponchos, as well as loosely draped wrapped tops are great cool weather gear and can also double-up as great nursing covers!

3. Although in general I prefer separates for maternity and nursing wear, it is probably a good idea to get one or two really nice dresses for special occasions. You never know you might have to go to a party, a wedding, or just dress up for date night (I suggest a movie and a fancy restaurant). Take your time and choose something really nice that you might even deign to wear after your pregnancy – you can always cinch in the waist with a belt!

Regular clothes hack #3: Maxi dresses are your friend – especially high waisted or empire line styles!

4. Many nursing tops and dresses now have very cleverly hidden openings for easy access to the milk bar. However, do avoid nursing access openings that have a zip or velcro closure. Who wants little zip teethmarks all along the side of your boob? Or start a breastfeeding session with a loud ripping sound that will frighten the birds? Nobody, that’s who.

Regular clothes hack #4: Look for tops and dresses that have a hidden bra shelf and stretchy open neckline – quick and easy pull-down access!

5. For lingerie, stick with your usual bikini style panties (boy shorts if you want more coverage at the back) and wear them under your belly, just be prepared to buy new pants as these will surely be stretched all out of shape. Stick with breathable cotton and seamless styles as keeping cool and comfortable is key to preventing nasty infections.

6. As for bras, your breasts are likely to get tender during pregnancy and will definitely change in shape and size. Ditch all your underwire bras, and find some good quality maternity and nursing bras that are not only soft, breathable, stretchy and easily adjustable to accommodate fluctuations in size (which can be +/- a whole cup or two every few hours), but provide good support so that you don’t get backache. Most nursing bras will come with drop-down cups, so find ones that you can clip and unclip easily with one hand.

Regular clothes hack #5: If you don’t fluctuate in size much, a good sports bra or sports tank, crop top or camisole with an inbuilt bra shelf are a good option. They’ll be comfortable, give good support and wick sweat away from the body to boot. Layer them under your other clothes to use them as nursing bras.

Check out my Top 6 Favourite Online Maternity and Nursingwear Retailers here

Grief, Loss and Small Children (Part 1): Breaking Bad News

Hey Meimei,

Sorry about Clio. It sounds like she was a lovely pet rat and it must have been a tough decision to have her euthanised. I’ll have to tell J and Little E about her – they’ll remember her from when their last visit to Australia.

How could you possibly say no to that cute widdle face?

When we first started this blog, you asked me once about introducing pets to kids. The Barn Owl and I have always thought it important for the kids to be kind to animals so we have always encouraged J and Little E to interact with animals (under supervision, of course) and they have even had the opportunity to keep siamese fighting fish last year.

Well, one of the very important things to remember about keeping pets, is that at some point kids (and parents, too) will have to deal with the eventual loss of their beloved pet.

Two years ago, the Outlaws also had to make the decision to euthanise their cat. Poppy, as she was known, was a wild cat that the Mother Outlaw tamed over the course of several months. Poppy had always been a rather anxious sort of cat, but as she got older she became increasingly more neurotic, often biting her own tail. The tip of the tail became infected, dripping blood and pus everywhere and would only heal after a course of antibiotics and sedatives. The sedatives made Poppy clumsy and she would fall over whilst walking around the house. Without the sedatives, Poppy would start attacking her tail again, reinfecting it.

Eventually, the vet told the Outlaws that Poppy was mentally stressed and that there was no other way to help her other than to amputate her tail and then keep her on sedatives for the rest of her life in order to prevent her from attacking the stump. The Outlaws then made the decision to have Poppy euthanised.

J and Little E had quite a good relationship with Poppy, who was surprisingly tolerant of them despite her skittish nature, allowing them to approach her and stroke her. Whenever we spoke with the Outlaws over Skype, the children would eagerly ask after Poppy who was quite often sitting near the computer on the bed or on the windowsill. Needless to say, when we got the news from the Outlaws, we knew that we had to let J and Little E know that Poppy had died.

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Little E gets up close and personal with Poppy the Cat

Both the Barn Owl and I have had formal training in how to break bad news during our medical undergraduate days, so we employed some of these techniques with J and Little E – with some changes of course.

First, we prep the kids for the bad news by helping them to anticipate what is to come. We put on our most sombre expression and follow it up with a statement like, “Hey, Mummy and Daddy have something serious to tell you so can you come and sit with us in the study once you are done putting away your toys?”. This gives them a little bit of time to steel themselves emotionally.

Next, we choose a quiet, distraction-free place to talk to them. This means that we do not begin our discussion whilst in the car, in the playground or in front of the television. We turn our phones off so that there are no interruptions. We also make sure that the kids are in a safe and secure environment where they will feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings. Usually this means that they are sitting in our lap or cradled in our arms.

When breaking bad news, go straight to the point and avoid using any euphemisms. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to say something as simple as “Poppy is dead.” People sometimes prefer to use terms like, “passed on” or “gone to a better place”. For children, those phrases can be confusing and obtuse, leading to awkward questions such as “Where did they pass on to?” and “Why aren’t we at this ‘better place’ as well?”.

Another thing that we do is that we tell the children the truth, in as much detail as they want to know. This seems a obvious thing to do but it is difficult to resist the urge to make the truth more palatable in order to avoid difficult questions, especially with regards to euthanising pets. Answer your child’s questions as directly as possible, keeping your answers clear and simple and avoiding the use of jargon.

The last thing that we do is to keep the communication channel open so that the kids can ask questions at any time. Kids do not always have an immediate or appropriate reaction to bad news and they take a lot longer to process information, especially emotionally loaded information. This means that your initial conversation may proceed like this:

Debs G: J, you remember Poppy the cat?
J: Yeah.
Debs G: Well, Poppy died.
J: Oh.
(silence)
Debs G: If you want to ask me anything about what happened, go ahead.
J: I have a question.
Debs G: Ok. What do you want to know?
J: Can I go and play with my blocks now?
Debs G: Yes.

This reaction may be surprising to adults, but it is no means an indication that the child is indifferent to the news nor that the conversation is over. If your child reacts in this manner, don’t press them for their thoughts and feelings or continue to repeat yourself in the hopes of eliciting a response (‘DEAD! I said it’s DEAD! Did you hear me?’). It may be necessary to give kids some space, maybe even some time alone while they think about the news. J actually came back to me about an hour later, wanting to talk more about Poppy, and this time he was very sad and tearful, wanting a hug and more information.

Beginner’s Guide to Starting School: Label Your Stuff

Some of you may have figured out that J started Primary School this year, and I have to say that I was woefully underprepared for it. I mean, I figured that it would not be much different from attending preschool. How wrong I was.

First of all, I never realised how important it was to label everything. And I mean, everything. Not just the books and the big items like the water bottle and pencil case, but also every single piece of stationery, down to the last colour pencil and crayon.

Fortunately for me, J’s Godmother is a much wiser person than I am and for Christmas last year, she gave J a whole set of very beautiful, personalised name labels that she had specially ordered all the way from the USA.

Best.

Gift.

Ever.

These name stickers were a real lifesaver, and without them I probably I would have spent a fortune on stationary this year! It is amazing the number of times J has come home with stationary missing from his pencil case or with somebody else’s book that he accidentally stuffed into his schoolbag at the end of the day.

There are quite a few online stores where you can get good quality name stickers, but most of them are quite pricey. I have recently had the opportunity to test out the name labels from Stickerkid which are surprisingly affordable, being the best value that I have seen on the market, while having the greatest flexibility in customisation and the quickest turnaround time, making them a great last minute gift idea!

Owls Well Recommends: Get the ‘My First Classes’ pack which is not only great value but includes a ton of small stickers for all the tiny stationary, big stickers for larger items, shoe stickers as well as clothing labels! Enough to label every single thing for that first year in school.

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Label everything. EVERYTHING. (Picture Credit: Stickerkid.sg)

Like most name labels on the market, Stickerkid labels are washable (in both the washing machine and the dishwasher) and last well through extreme temperatures (being microwave-safe and freezer-safe), and they also adhere to every surface (except Teflon. Nothing is supposed to adhere to Teflon, that’s why it’s called a ‘non-stick surface’). They also come in a range of colours, fonts and there is a huge range of cute clipart designs that you can add to personalise the stickers further.

However, here’s what I particularly like about Stickerkid name labels which makes them different from the rest:

  1. If you can type it in, you can print it. Most of the other name labels that I have tried are limited to a fixed number of characters and can only print letters. However, when customising the Stickerkid labels, I could change the size of the font so that even the smallest name label could accommodate my son’s full name as well as his 3-character chinese name. I even tested the customisation fields, cutting and pasting words in other languages like arabic, hindi and thai, and they all worked too.
  2. Iron-on Clothing labels and Shoe Labels can fit more than one line of text. This means that you can also put important information there like emergency contact details or even allergy alerts. Or you can label the shoes for kids who have not yet learned left from right!
  3. Removable Iron-on Clothing labels. The clothing labels can withstand repeated hot washes yet are removable with a hot iron. So if you need to give the clothing away or hand them to your next child, the labels can be easily removed.
  4. Swiss pride. The Swiss manufacturers of Stickerkid labels are so proud of their high-quality products, that there is a 10 year guarantee on their name labels. So they’ll last all the way through their whole primary (maybe even secondary) school journey! Even the clothing labels are guaranteed to withstand at least 45 machine washes at 60 degrees Celsius.
  5. Superfast turnaround time. Although the stickers ship from Switzerland, they are shipped within 24hours and arrive by priority post within a week. The trial pack that I received from StickerKid actually arrived at my doorstep in FOUR DAYS. This is impressive, considering that other name label companies take around 2-4 weeks. This makes it a great last-minute gift! Trust me, your friends with kids will thank you for it.

A Special for Owls Well Readers: The fine folk behind Stickerkid are offering Owls Well Readers a generous 10% storewide discount!  Just enter the code “SG10STICKERKI9_C7” at checkout! (Code is valid until 31st December 2015.) 

Motherhood Hacks! : The first month

The first few weeks of motherhood can be really tough, even if it’s your second, third or sixth child. This is because everybody in your family is adjusting to this new little addition and the new little addition is adjusting to everybody. Needless to say, everything feels just a little bit topsy-turvy!

Thumper say "Relaaaaax"

Thumper say “Relaaaaax”

Here are some Motherhood Hacks that have help me maintain my sanity and stay positive in the first month of motherhood.

Motherhood Hack #1: Enjoy the feeling of Not Being Pregnant

Stretch luxuriously. Take a deep breath. You are no longer pregnant

Bring your knees to your chest. Touch your toes. You are no longer pregnant.

Sleep prone like a starfish or curl up into a ball like a hedgehog. You are no longer pregnant.

Huzzah!!!

Motherhood Hack #2: The Need For a Feed (ie. When in doubt, feed your baby)

Whether you intend to feed on demand or practice parent-led scheduling, it will still take a few weeks for your milk flow to be fully established, and the baby will not have figured out how to feed efficiently yet. This means, that when the baby cries in the first month, you don’t have to freak out and wonder about what it all means – the most likely reason is that baby is hungry!

(By the way, check out my Breastfeeding Motherhood Hacks here)

Motherhood Hack #3: Channel the Red Hot Chili Peppers

By this I mean that you give it away give it away give it away now and then rehydrate yourself thusly:

What you got you’ve got to give it to your daughter
You do a little dance and then you drink a little water

By the way, the whole song takes on a whole new meaning if you think about it in terms of breastfeeding. Heh heh heh.

Motherhood Hack #4: All Hail the Milk Coma

Babies in their first month are hardly ever awake. They spend most of their short one hour waketime feeding, and at the end of it they are just one big, happy, sleepy bag of milk, exhausted from the effort of feeding, and they go right back to sleep again.

If you think that your baby at this stage is super boring, you are SO wrong. The best part of the Milk Coma in the first month is that hardly anything phases them at this stage, as baby photographers like Anne Geddes know. You can dress them up, pose them in all sorts of positions for your own amusement.

Of course, you could also take advantage of the milk coma to catch up on sleep yourself, but where’s the fun in that?

Motherhood Hack #5: Let the brainwashing begin

This is the time where babies are very susceptible to some brainwashing! Whenever my baby is feeding or sleeping during the daytime, I make sure the room where they are is light and bright and there’s always some noise or music playing. At night time, the room should be kept dark and there should be as little movement as possible – I don’t even talk or hum to the baby at night. This is to reinforce the diurnal rhythms of the day and night. Day = Everyone is awake and playing, Night = Everything is quiet and sleeping.

Pro tip: Play music during their sleep and during feedtime. Choose a specific album of music that you enjoy listening to repeatedly. This album of music will eventually serve as a portable baby whisperer during your infant’s fussiest moments when they are older!

Motherhood Hacks! : Breastfeeding

Here’s the deal about breastfeeding in the first few weeks: It takes practice and patience. And you’re not the only one learning on the job here – the baby is learning how to breastfeed too. It is unsurprising that breastfeeding is a challenge!

Breastfeeding Fist Bump! Booyah!

Breastfeeding Fist Bump! Booyah!

These are the Motherhood Hacks that have helped me stay positive during my breastfeeding journey.

Motherhood Hack #1: Embrace the Fear (or act as helpless as you feel)

I think women always push themselves far too hard trying to prove themselves, and this really shows when women try to take control and assert their independance as soon as the baby is out. I say forget all that bravado and embrace the anxiety and fear that you feel as a new mum! Act helpless as you feel because this is the time when nobody expects you to know how to manage and will be more than happy to jump in to help you out!

This is especially important in the first few days after giving birth. Take advantage of the nurses and breastfeeding consultants in the postnatal ward. Don’t be shy! You will be surprised at what you can learn.

Every time I wanted to feed the baby during the day or night, I asked one of the nurses on the ward to come and help. They helped me with everything from positioning to latching on and off, and I would ask them to come again if I wanted to switch sides. Each nurse I came across had a slightly different technique for getting the job done and different advice as well. This helped me figure out what worked best for me and for each baby.

By the time I left the hospital I knew how to do the following:

  • prepare my breasts for feeding via breast massage
  • hand express breastmilk
  • encourage my baby to latch or nurse
  • visually check a baby’s latch
  • gently break the baby’s latch
  • visually check my nipples after feeding to identify a suboptimal latch that might lead to unnecessary nipple soreness or pain
  • check my breast for blocked milk ducts
  • self-massage during feeding to relieve blocked milk ducts
  • feed the baby using different positions (cradle hold, football hold, reclining)

I doubt I would have been able to learn as much if I’d put up a brave front and tried to do everything independently from day one.

Motherhood Hack #2: Fight boredom breastfeeding fatigue with portable entertainment devices

Okay, I know that breastfeeding is supposed to be the time when you bond with your baby, but when baby is really really tiny, especially in the first few weeks before your milk flow really kicks in, chances are that he or she takes a really long time to feed. Maybe 40 minutes, maybe even a whole hour. And they’ll have their eyes closed most of the time as well so it’s not like you can stare deeply into their eyes and attempt to communicate telepathically with them.

You are going to be bored and tired, especially during the night when all the world is asleep except you and the baby. I had to resist the urge to unceremoniously call an end to feed time after 20 minutes of crushing boredom.

Portable entertainment devices like a portable DVD player (with headphones) or an e-reader will be your path to maintaining sanity. With J, I watched the whole series of Battlestar Galactica and with Little E, I watched The West Wing!

With Thumper, I decided to Expand My Mind Through Reading. I’ve installed a free e-reader app on my phone which allows me to borrow e-books from the library. The National Library Board in Singapore has a great range of reads in their electronic catalogue, including newspapers and magazines. This way, I have already read over a dozen books in the last couple of months since Thumper was born! Yay, me!

Motherhood Hack #3: Let your husband sleep at night.

Seriously, if you’re breastfeeding, what do you need him awake for? You have your e-reader to keep you company, and the less activity there is at night, the better. There’s no sense in the both of you being awake, especially if you have other kids who will need attention during the day.

Let the husband sleep at night and during the day, he will be the one who has that spare energy to look after the kids and manage the household chores when you are exhausted from lack of nighttime sleep and need a nap. (And, he will have no excuse to complain about being tired!)

Motherhood Hack #4: Cleopatra say Relaaaaax

Learn to nurse in a reclining or semi-reclining position, or what I like to call, Cleopatra-style (extra points if you can do it whilst looking like this). This really helps me if I need to power nap during the day or risk turning into a Giant Squid of Anger at the slightest provocation.

The only danger about doing this at night is that you’ll probably fall asleep with baby still latched on. Not necessarily a bad thing, as baby will eventually latch off, but if you’re anything like me, you might forget to change sides. Never forget to change sides.

Motherhood Hack #5: Built-in bra shelves are your breastfeeding friends

As much as I love my nursing bras, I always found the clips and drop down cups a total pain…and nursing bras can be so expensive as well! I used to hate fiddling about with clips on straps and the fact that my breast pads kept falling out from the drop-down cups. Additionally, readjusting everything back to the way it was is nigh impossible to do one-handed, in public, with a squalling infant. It was all so inelegant.

So, I have done away with nursing bras altogether, instead I am currently using tank tops or camisoles that come with built-in bra shelves with cups and are not necessarily sold as ‘nursingwear’. Instead of fiddling around with clips and drop down cups, I just pull the neckline of the tank top or camisole down on the side that I’m planning to feed on – quick and simple.

The best tops I found for this purpose are the Airism Bratop range from Uniqlo. They are comfortable, look good, support the girls, maintain their shape well and are great for layering under clothes. Best of all, they are designed to wick moisture away from the body, so you can keep cool and dry whilst breastfeeding, which is a sweaty business. I have a whole bunch of these that I bought when they went on sale (they cost under SGD$30 at full price but when they go on sale you can get them for SGD$15-20), and I can see myself continuing to love them even after I’ve stopped nursing!

Have you got a great breastfeeding Motherhood Hack? Share it with me in the comments!