How To Find Joy in Motherhood {Book Review of The Happy Mom}

Think of it this way: Motherhood is like pottery. First, the potter throws a lump of clay on the table several times. This rids the clay of the air bubbles trapped inside. If the potter doesn’t do this, the clay will crack when it’s put into the hot kiln later on.

In the same way, when you start off as a mom, you’re like a lump of clay. You’re raw material that needs to be molded.

Remember your purpose as a mom. It’s not to be popular with your children; it’s to nurture them so they’ll be independent, responsible and resilient. As a mom, what matter is how you go through the fury of the fire. With the right mindset, you’ll become a person of greater patience, wisdom and love.

The happy mom book

I tucked into The Happy Mom book with much anticipation. The author Doreen Wong is a dedicated mom to three grown kids and grandmother, and has deep experience in and passion for parenting. (I have also met her son Daniel Wong, author of The Happy Student, whom I interviewed some years earlier for this post.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The experience was akin to sitting down and enjoying a cup of coffee with a mentor figure, listening attentively as she downloads her years of parenting wisdom into my life.

In her book, she admits that even after 37 years of motherhood, her goal remains the same: To strengthen the bond with her children.

Wow…I have been a mother for eight years. In another 30 years, I hope to be reminded of what she said. Even in different seasons of parenting, the challenge of motherhood remains constant – to love our children as they are.

 

Here are 5 of my favourite aspects of The Happy Mom book.

  1. Doreen asks provocative, hard-hitting questions, like:
  • Do you fill your children’s lives with the things that you missed in your own childhood, whether your children want them or not?
  • What will your children remember you for?
  • Are you driven by self-centred ambitions? Or are you driven by a desire to make a difference in your family and the world?
  1. She also offers many gems of wisdom. This one spoke to me the most:

“As you journey with your children through life, integrate rather than segment the various aspects of their experience. See each child as a complete whole as you identify their personalities, passions and talents. This will help you ensure that your child gets everything they need in a holistic manner.”

And this:

“Don’t be anxious if you’re unclear about the vision you have for your children. There’s no rush to create this vision over the next few days. It will come to you over time. But if you already have such a picture in mind, impart it to your children. Impress upon them their worth and purpose. Believe in them. Know that all things are possible. Don’t lose sight of your vision as you walk beside them and dream with them.”

  1. She offers plenty of actionable steps that we can apply, such as using positive language in the home, declaring powerful words over our children’s lives, and guiding them to embrace timeless values and principles. 

Here are some particularly inspiring snippets:

  • In achievement, be yourself – Encourage your children to be the best versions of themselves.
  • In behaviour, act the same even when no one’s watching – Teach your children the importance of integrity, authenticity and consistency. 
  • In education, love learning – Help them to think through the what, how and why of new ideas. 
  1. She reminds me about the importance of trust, specifically about trusting our kids.

“[My mom] gave me confidence because she often showed that she trusted me…I didn’t hide any secrets from her, and she didn’t have to nag me about anything.”

I think trust is one of the things we often forget we can give our children especially in today’s context where the tendency is to hover and micro-manage life for our kids. We need to give them the practice in exercising their judgment, to trust them to make small decisions, gradually and age-appropriately, but steadily.

  1. She offers helpful dos and don’ts in a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book. Here is an example.

The Happy Mom dos and donts summary

My conclusion: this is a book that will inspire and empower you to find joy in motherhood. It will also equip you with wisdom to help you discern what is really important, and to help you help your children thrive.

Moms, if you want to raise your children to lead purposeful and significant lives, do not miss out on this book. Order your copy now.
Affiliate links are included in this post. Using these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

How this WAHM manages work and family without going insane

At the start of 2015, I took the plunge to quit my job, and become a stay home mum. I chose to leave the work that I enjoyed, but my son had a greater need then and I decided to be home to help him.

About a year later, almost by accident, I found myself knee deep in freelance projects – ranging from branding and PR to content marketing and writing jobs.

I’m very thankful to be able to work from home and be present with the kids, watch them grow, and help them through certain roadblocks or challenges. While I’m not as efficient as I would like to be (at work), the flexibility and freedom I have now are things that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

However, the journey has its ups and downs. Here are some lessons I’ve learnt about making things work.

1. It is hard to find a balance

It’s been a year plus now and I think I’ve only just found a groove that works. Most days the kids are in school so I work the morning shift until pickup/lunch. For the afternoons, I use small pockets here and there for admin /emails. (I realise I need to keep things easy in the arvos as it’s also my best time to play/catch up with the kids.) Then the night shift – after the kids sleep at 9, I’m working again for another 3-4 hours.

But this doesn’t mean I’ve got it all perfectly balanced. First things first, there ain’t such a thing as perfect. Some days are just more balanced than others – we call them “the good days.” Others are simply out of whack. You’ve got to take both in your stride, and keep moving on.

2. It’s even harder to keep priorities straight
There was a period of time when things got busy and my husband sat me down and reminded me of my focus this year. It wasn’t to earn as much money as I could; it was to serve my family and nurture the kids. Sure I could take on projects if I wished to do so, but it was to be minimal (read: manageable) and not eat up all my time and strength for the family.

It’s easy to get tempted when the work comes along, so this is an area that I’m still learning to manage. If my cranky-meter goes into the red multiple times in a day, then it’s a sure sign that things have gone off-course.

3. Knowing the ‘why’ is extremely important

Having a very clear reason why you’re in this makes all the difference. It will help you through the bad days. For us, we’ve decided that it is good to have one parent stay home, to be the main carer for the kids.  I also see myself growing in my ability to help JJ with his emotional stability and control – it’s a work-in-progress!

Whenever I take a step back, I do see it as a very awesome privilege. The time we have with our children is really quite limited, so being able to spend their early years with them is a blessing.

cafe idyllic

4. You get to stretch and put your management skills to the test
WAHMs have to manage space – Initially I found this difficult. You know the kids see me physically around and my desk is in the living room, so there’s no real way to separate work /family. Now I’ve carved a simple work-space in the bedroom, and it’s made all the difference.

And time… I need to manage my own deadlines and keep my schedule organised. (If you look into my google calendar, you’d find I have personal / work meetings, deadlines, projects, date-nights, kids’ activities all scheduled in one place.)

I also found I needed a good degree of flexibility. That simply means not being greedy and accepting too much work at any one time; it also means being willing to put my kids’ needs first when they really need it.

Joy can keep us afloat. Whether you’re a FTWM, SAHM, or WAHM, hold joy, hide it in your heart, and don’t let the day’s momentary troubles steal it away.

park and clouds

5. The most challenging part is keeping joy in the midst of it all
I believe the key that can keep us afloat or make us drown is joy.

Whether you’re a FTWM, SAHM, or WAHM, hold joy, hide it in your heart, and don’t let the day’s momentary troubles steal it away. That’s something I remind myself often too. Whatever situation we are in, it’s a choice that we’ve made and we just need to give it our best.

Remember the earlier point about knowing WHY? Know what you’re working and living for, and joy will help you stay the course.

breakfast with poached eggs

If you’re thinking about becoming a WAHM, here are some tips for you.

#1 Choose work you enJOY
I love my work and consider it a privilege to put my writing skills to good use. I also love coming up with new content ideas that can add value to my client’s digital marketing efforts.

At the same time, I’ve also completed a professional course on educational therapy. It began as a small bubble in my heart, and as it rose, I just had to take action. It was partly driven out of my desire to help my child cope with his emotions. Later on, I also found a deep sense of purpose working with kids with special needs.

A friend once told me this: “Follow your joy, and it’ll lead you to your calling.” I thought that is so true and helpful.

#2 Know your most productive times
We call it the power-hour. Whether it’s 6am before dawn, or working after the kids sleep till midnight, choose the hours when you can concentrate the best and get the maximum output from it.

#3 Carve out time for play-breaks 
I try to leave my afternoons empty because that’s when the kids are home, and eager to talk / ask questions, or play games. It’s a sanity check for me too, as some days we head out to the playground or pool and being outdoors helps me to relax and reset my mind.

scooting into sunset

#4 Encourage children to help one another

One of the things I’m always encouraged to see is the kids helping each other out. Whenever I witness moments of kindness, I feel like all of the work that we do as mums is worth it. In order for you to have a sane life working from home, it’s good to share with your kids your struggles too and get the elder ones to help pitch in and guide the younger ones when they need help.

brothers playing

#5 Simplify, simplify, simplify 
I recently decided to let Vera have violin lessons at home so that we save travel time. JJ only has some additional Chinese lessons and that’s part of the school’s additional enrichment offerings. When you’ve got many balls to juggle, you have to allocate time wisely and resourcefully. It has also forced me to examine our children’s needs carefully, and plan with their needs in mind.

#6 Plan for a single income lifestyle 
Before making the leap, make sure your husband is on board. Make sure you’ve done the sums together and know what aspects of your lifestyle needs to be changed. I can tell you, it’s hard. Maintaining a family of 5 isn’t easy on a single income. So it’s important to be clear on your financial goals, and to honestly see if you are able to sacrifice some material comforts for a couple of years until the children are older.

Take whatever income that you earn in the first year as a bonus, to be used as either additional savings or travel budget. This will remove unnecessary stress on finances (and your marriage!) as you work on growing your business during the first 1-2 years.

#7 Involve your children wherever you can

Instead of viewing kids as obstacles to your business, see them as little partners / helpers. I’m glad that the kids have a chance to see me at work every day. Now that the June holidays are here, when I head off to my “room-office” in the morning, I make sure to report to them too. “Mama’s going to work now, so I’ll see you in a bit okay?”

This hols, I’m planning to rope Vera in to help with simple admin stuff like preparing invoices, or just reading through the articles that I write. (She’s been asking me how she can help me out, so this will be a small step! Wish us luck!)

Mothers always make things work…by God’s grace.

~~~~~

moms work button

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

If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Mummy Wee as she shares her top 5 tips on being a mumpreneur. Michelle is 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 called The Little Executive.

mummy weeNext week, Candice will be sharing her story about how she makes things work. A part-time-working-mum to two preschoolers, Candice shares about parenting, activities with kids, marriage and travel in her journal at MissusTay.com.

candice

Finding joy in parenting (and keeping it)

I found this post-it stuck to my wardrobe door when I woke up on Sunday. It reminded me of the joys of motherhood all over again.

mother's day note

It spoke to me about my child’s heart, simply because he wrote it spontaneously and secretly. (This coming from my highly sensitive kid whom I complain about to friends as he is such a tough strong-willed child.)

I distinctly remember him asking me the day before how to spell “mother” but I didn’t notice what he was scurrying off to do.

Things are difficult at times on the parenting front and our hearts get easily burdened by worries, fears and disappointments.

I do experience my fair share of those, but I realise they weigh us down and prevent us from noticing and enjoying the good.

We can open our eyes to the good things in our lives, however small, and find joy in the midst of struggle and storms. We have the power to choose joy.

whatever is pure quote

Source

The past few months have been busy. My writing business has grown and stabilized which I’m thankful for. I’ve also been learning more in the educational therapy field I ventured into last year.

In the midst of the bustle, I kinda lost track of my goals for the year.

Some days I feel like a failure – not accomplishing much at work and also not keeping everything together on the home front. I constantly feel I’m running on a treadmill that’s been set at a faster pace that I can handle.

I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good staying home.

I wonder if I’d be more successful as a full time worker (well at least I’d be contributing more to my family’s savings?)

I wonder if I’m spread out too thinly.

(Do you ever have such negative thoughts /doubts running through your head?)

Well, here’s the thing…

When we use the world’s standard of success to measure ourselves, we will inevitably fall short.

But if we know what God has called us to do this season, and we respond with joy, trust, and hope, then we are already blessed.

When we embrace the life that God has given, instead of the one we left behind in the dust, we open the doors to greater blessing and grace.

So I consider the good things God has brought into my life.

  1. The encouragement I receive from my eldest – who seems to have a gift of affirming her dear ol’ mum with kind words and physical affection. She’s always hugging me, and saying sweet things. She’s sensitive to my moods and she knows I get stressed out on some days. (Girls are such a blessing like that!)
  2. The work (both writing and special needs teaching gigs) that I get to be involved with and learn from.
  3. The many little joys of the moment that make up motherhood, from watching the kids play well, and witnessing their little growth and milestones, to celebrating small wins after a period of struggle together.
  4. The sharing and support among girlfriends who are daily learning what it means to give our lives for our young ones, and to surrender ourselves to God.
  5. The love and understanding from the husband, who checks in on me, and allows me to vent or air my frustrations from time to time (okay almost every other day!) He’s a great trouble shooter. Just recently, he sat me down and reminded me of my focus for this year – to help and serve my family.

Oh the circumstances may be the same. Tempers will still flare, words spoken, things broken. But the attitude is different. We can choose to be more forgiving, more gracious in our words, more compassionate to ourselves, when (not if) we fail. It’s not easy, in fact…it is a daily battle.

Even though we’re still struggling to overcome certain difficulties in my child’s behaviour, I know God has a purpose for all this, and that all our struggles will not be in vain.

I know it is in our imperfection and weaknesses that His grace and love shows up.

When you know your struggles have a purpose, your days may not get easier or lighter, but you pull through them anyway. With God’s help.

Whether it’s full-time caring for the family, or working, whatever your hands have found to do, I hope you choose joy, and never let it go.

Open your eyes to see what is pure, lovely and kind.

Keep stress in check, in its place.

Find a community and ask for support when you need it. 

Try out ways to sow peace and fun into your home.

May you find joy and strength, as you cling on to the God of hope.

PS. All these thoughts from a simple post-it note from my boy. It’s funny how God chooses to encourage us. He knows all our cares indeed.

finding joy in parenting

Our Fun Outdoor Photoshoot with Natsuki Photography

We spent a fun morning with Natsuki Photography at Bishan Park (near the McDonald’s).

Here are some of our favourite shots of the day.

Enjoying a picnic…(Check out the little prince lying on my lap)  Natsuki family photoshoot

Natsuki family photoshoot

Natsuki family photography

Family shoot by Natsuki Photography

Do-re-mi

Natsuki family photography

Jump shot! We had to re-take this many times obviously. **Pro-tip: remove heels prior to jumping next time!

Jump shot! by Natsuki Photography

Defying gravity…This one looks like Josh had fallen from the tree. I don’t know how the dad managed to throw him so high.

Natsuki family photoshoot throw shot

Me and my not-so-little ones.Natsuki family photoshoot me and my boy

Natsuki photography great for kids

My boys…

Natsuki family photography cheeky toddler

dad and josh dad and josh 2

And, finally our couple shots…(He nearly dropped me, or at least pretended to!)

Natsuki photoshoot couple shots

Natsuki family photography

Seriously although we’ve been married for years now, it’s still so awkward taking professional shots together. Thankful that we had a beautiful bouquet from A Better Florist to hold, otherwise we wouldn’t have known what to do with our hands!

Natsuki couple with flowers

flowers by A Better Florist closeup

Natsuki family photography

All in all, a fruitful and fun morning. I’m really thankful that Nat and Francis managed to keep the kids happy and smiling throughout the shoot, with their cute soft toy friends that they sprung up at just the right moments. Thanks for helping us capture such lovely memories. (Thank you for being patient with the kids too!)

PS. I booked Natsuki Photography since November last year, and could only get the slot 4 months down the road, so if you’re planning to book with them, do so early! You won’t regret it! The entire package costs $450 (up to 6 pax), and you’ll received min. 40 edited photos, and the rest of the photos will also be returned to you.

Also special thanks to A Better Florist for sending us the beautifully handcrafted flowers! Check them out for your next special occasion or just because. 🙂

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Why listening is so important in marriage

A good listener is a witness, not a judge of your experience

Why listening is so important in marriage

We took a day off to celebrate our ninth anniversary. We had fun all in all but the part I remember most was when we enjoyed a quiet breakfast together at one of our favourite cafes.

The food and coffee was great, but that wasn’t it either. When I drill it down, it was the moments we spent listening intently to each other share our different perspectives and ideas on the struggles that we’ve had managing one of our kids who has been showing anxiety and manifesting difficult behaviour.

Our hearts have been burdened and we’ve had to rely on God and each other for strength.

Seated on a comfy red cushion seat, side by side, I shared my thoughts and observations with him, and he listened quietly and was not in a rush to speak.

Too often, as Stephen Covey put it, we listen to respond, instead of to understand. The reason why we do this habitually is because we seek first to be understood, rather than to understand others. But when we do so, the other person inevitably feels second-rate, judged, or simply not heard.

He gave me a gift that morning – the gift of empathic listening. I didn’t realise it at first; it was all in the subconscious. But then something remarkable happened. Instead of feeling anxious and worried with what was going on at home, I felt secure and calm. We moved forward in the conversation, sharing anecdotes and stories and laughing over some of them.

When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.

Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart….You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.

Empathic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person psychological air…When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.” – Stephen Covey

Therapeutic and healing? Like psychological air? Wow give me some of that already.

In this day and age, we are all talking simultaneously, on different platforms, with viral messages flying everywhere and devices beeping every so often. It is hard to keep quiet, stay focused, and listen to any one person at a time.

But for the sake of your family and marriage, this is a skill that we all urgently need to cultivate.

Because of that unrushed conversation and heart-to-heart exchange, we were able to strategise and come up with a fairly detailed plan on how to help our child and our family.

Because of those quiet moments, I saw how God had meant for us to come together to trust in Him and to work in partnership for His purposes. I also saw how my husband’s ability to look at things systematically complemented my own slightly more haphazard, but ideas-based thinking.

I know we may not have the luxury to do this kind of retreats often…I know I sometimes complain of being ignored and not heard…but I also know this is something we will have to keep working at – listening in an unjudgmental, kind, truly understanding way.

Feeling heard and understood is perhaps one of the most underestimated and overlooked ways of loving in this digital age. But giving each other that space and time to feel heard and understood and valued in a marriage is worth every single effort. It is truly a gift of love.

So the next time your spouse or partner says “I’ve something important to share…can we talk?” Drop your phone, turn off the distractions, get you both comfortably seated, stay eye-to-eye so you can get the meaning of those words through the gestures and body movements, and seek to understand things from his/her perspective.

I leave you with a quote from The Lost Art of Listening:

The feeling of not being understood is one of the most painful in human experience. Not being appreciated and responded to depletes our vitality and makes us feel less alive. When we’re with someone who doesn’t listen, we shut down. When we’re with someone who’s interested and responsive – a good listener – we perk up and come alive. Being listened to is as vital to our enthusiasm for life as love and work. So is being a good listener. Understanding the dynamics of listening enables us to deepen and enrich our relationships. It involves learning how to suspend our own emotional agenda and then realizing the rewards of genuine empathy.

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