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

The start of a new journey into primary school

Dear Vera,

You’re going to primary school. The other day at P1 orientation, you looked excited and hopeful as you found a spot in your class, and took in the new surroundings and new faces.

It’ll be a big day, for sure, come January next year. I know you’ll be excited, because this is the attitude you hold towards life. Full of promise, fun and hope; full of learning new things and making new friends.

Full of growing up.

I’m so grateful for you, my dear daughter. You’ve been a wonderful help at home, caring for and helping out your younger brothers when they find themselves stuck. Sometimes you take on the mummy role, which is both funny and exasperating to watch. Funny because you’re actually pretty good at bossing them around. Exasperating because you try to exert an authority which you don’t truly own.

I feel I learn so much gentleness from you; the way you console your brothers when they’re in tears sometimes puts me to shame.

I can’t count the ways that you bring joy and grace into our home – grace, that is the meaning of your name. But I know it, because I’ve received these gifts from you often.

It’s amazing to watch you grow. Such a privilege to be the one to guide you and teach you God’s ways. We recently had the opportunity to serve together for the community, and it gave me just a small glimpse into the future. You will have a big heart for people, and help those around you who are in need – perhaps even through creative ways.

Sometimes when things get stressful at home, I tend to get overwhelmed and sometimes lose my cool. During those times, you just try to listen and nod your head, and do your best to help. That often helps me feel better, and I’m grateful.

Yet, I know you’re just a child – still growing, still learning, continually being moulded by His unseen hands. I have to constantly remind myself not to place too-high expectations on you, not to expect you to be the perfect goody big sister. You are a wonderful one no doubt, but your name is Vera (not big sister) – a little girl who loves to learn and try new things, who loves to take on challenges with a hopeful grin, who loves a bit of drama and crazy-good-fun in her life.

Even though you cross a new milestone into primary school, you’ll still have a long way before you, and I hope you’ll run this race slow and steady, like the tortoise rather than the hare. I pray that God will strengthen your faith and character as the days go by, and that you’ll learn to walk in wisdom and grace all through your learning years (which never stops by the way).

Very often when formal schooling starts, we start to focus on performance, results and external achievements. But I pray that I’ll keep my eyes on what matters – that I’ll focus on your inside, your character, your faith in God.

I pray for His favour to be upon you in the area of friendships too, and that you’ll continue to be a blessing even as you are blessed.

I’ll miss you, my little girl, but I look forward to hearing stories from you when you come home from school each day.

Love,
Mummy

Mums need time out too

Some days I feel overwhelmed.

By the things I’ve got to do, by the kids acting up, by the conflicts I’ve got to manage and resolve. Some days it just gets a little too heavy to bear.

And I start to react.

I start to scream. In my head or out loud.

I start to feel like my world is caving in.

That’s when I know I need to call for time-out.

I’d send an SOS message to the hubby. It’d read something like, “I’m feeling damn crappy, I need to get out of here.”

And (during the moments when I don’t feel out of control) I’d try to communicate to the kids too. “Vera, JJ, mummy is feeling mad. I’m going to go downstairs, get a cup of coffee and calm down.”

That’s the better scenario. Often, I would have screamed and let it all go already.

…I’ve learnt that feeling overwhelmed isn’t necessarily an evil thing.

If we listen to our bodies, it’s signaling to us how it’s doing every day.

You’re tired – get some rest.
Your mind is bogged down by work – relax, go for a walk, write down the things you have to do, and prioritise them.
You’re upset at the kids for not listening to your instructions – see if you can do things differently, instead of saying it louder, use a softer voice to make them pay attention, let them feel the consequence of their actions, rather than keep nagging at them.

Often when I feel overwhelmed, I send out SOS-es to my hubby or girlfriends, asking for prayers.

I share with someone who will listen without judging.

I check my schedule and cut down on things that can wait.

By doing these things, I’m telling myself that I care for ME. I need to take care of my needs and sanity, before I can tackle the rest of my responsibilities.

Most of all, overwhelmed is a big sign, telling me to STOP. Reminding me to sit and find rest at His feet.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed today, take time out, seek Him, and He will give you rest.

(PS. Here’s a line from a song that I’ve been listening to.)

foot of the cross

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