“Bye, woman.” On wellness and self-care

I told the kids “bye, guys” one morning as they headed off to class. Vera promptly turned and said “bye, woman.”

She thought she was cheeky, and I must admit I laughed. (I only hope I remember this incident years down the road if and when the kids use this reference not so innocently.)

As I spent the last week or so reflecting on my journey and reviewing my goals and plans, I realise that I often forget about my own needs as a woman.

A woman needs love and affection. She is cheered on by words of encouragement and affirmation from the people close to her heart. She loves to be pampered, desires to dream and to realise those dreams, seeks time to rejuvenate herself, time to rest and feed her soul.

She needs to know that she is worth fighting for and protecting, that her thoughts, feelings and ideas are worthy of a listening ear. She dreams big, gives of herself to worthy causes, fights for the things and people she believes in and loves. She nurtures her clan ferociously.

As “mum”, I often neglect the other aspects of womanhood. I don’t dedicate time to care for myself. Exercise and grooming gets relegated to “when I have a minute.”

Many needs vy for my attention, and it can get pretty overwhelming on some days. (Now and then, I feel like locking myself in a quiet room and sitting alone in the stillness for five minutes. And occasionally, I actually do.)

This is where I collect myself; the million pieces of me that have been spread thin like butter on toast.

There, when the sky feels like it’s falling and when my heart is so noisy and worry-filled, I’m able to focus on the promises of God. He often reminds me that He is the one holding it up for us.

I feel lately I’ve been buzzing around without a clear purpose. It’s time to re-focus on the things that matter to me, not just as Mum, but as Woman.

When I became a mum in 2009, I launched into motherhood – mad, glorious motherhood. Now, ironically, being a mum has taught me that I cannot simply mother all day long and neglect my own needs as a woman. This quote says it well:

The quality of a person’s inner being – the body, mind and spirit – affect the quality of his/her outward expressions – the ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, produce quality work, etc. One’s inner wellness is, hence, not an option, but a necessity. Every individual, especially women who tend to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones, must unwind and pamper his/herself to achieve that inner balance and well-being. – Esther Lee

As much as my children mean to me, being a better person for them means stepping away from them, to re-fuel my tank.

Ways to re-fuel

  • Keep fit and healthy (through good food and exercise).
  • Regular me-time (coffee dates work well for me, and the occasional coffee retreat).
  • Catch up with good friends.
  • Invest in personal development, give voice to your dreams.
  • Creative pursuits and fun relaxing activities, like picking up a new hobby or catching a play (not a kiddy one)
  • Nourish your soul by feeding on God’s word daily.
  • Date your spouse. Find new ways to show your love.
  • Create mental white space or thinking space (this should involve stealing away from the noisy world of technology and social media) to reflect on the past, learn lessons, and plan for the future. (This often helps me to gain new energy and perspective. When I take a step back, I often catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.)

In a way, this blog is my way of investing in myself; an expression of my desires to write and create, and to encourage other parents who are going through similar struggles.

It is also a small step towards achieving my dream to be a writer.

Yes, it’s hard to peel away. Yes, it’s hard to find the time. But if it’s something important and close to your heart, you will choose to do it, even if it means saying “no” to other things. This is for you, and for the family too.

Parenthood isn’t an excuse for you to shelf your dreams and needs for personal fulfilment away. Instead, allow parenthood to inspire and motivate you to go beyond what you ever imagined, and to invest in those needs in a different, perhaps more creative, way.

From now on, I’m committing myself to not run on empty, and to re-fuel on love, God’s word, and good company. For the month of July, I’ll be focusing on the theme of self-care. (If you have an idea to share with me, do drop me a note!)

“Hello, woman.”

self-care quote

Do you struggle to meet your own needs and desires too?

How do you find ways to recharge and refuel?

The daddy dance

Dear daddy,

I watched as you whirled with Vera tonight,

in a gentle and precious dance.

She had wanted to dance

and you were the obvious partner.

Round and round the room you went,

lost in the rhythm

of joy and delight.

Vera too, moving in sync.

Some comical moments,

but I felt your heartbeat for her there and then,

the depth and breath of your love

like the waves of your hands.

I felt a warm glow of pride,

seeing you so close to her side.

Her face, lit with glee

as she leapt and jiggled and turned.

With your hands, you guide her

Swirl, twirl and glide her.

With your eyes, you delight in her,

and she thrives in your embrace.

We may never know

the significant of this little impromptu dance,

but the memories that you create

with every word of affection,

act of attention,

will dance forever

in her growing heart.

 

This poem is dedicated to all daddies this Father’s Day. You have a special place in your children’s lives.
May you always take time to dance, delight and sprinkle love all over your children.
Happy Father’s Day!

A date with Date with Dad Singapore 2013

It was a privilege to be able to volunteer with Focus on the Family last weekend, and to serve the dads and daughters who went for the Date with Dad brunch event at Meritus Mandarin Orchard.

The place was beautiful and welcoming. Attention had been paid to the smallest of details.

Date with Dad Singapore

Just suited for the occasion – a day for dads to romance their daughters, express his love, tune in to her heart, and affirm her true worth.

Date with Dad Singapore

The Grand Mandarin Ballroom was decked and ready to receive its guests.

Date with Dad Singapore

Date with Dad Singapore

Everything had been planned to a tee. Dads and daughters first had to answer quizzes to test how much they knew about each other.

Date with Dad Singapore

Daughters received teddy bears upon getting seated, and were also presented a stalk of rose. From daddy dearest of course.

Date with Dad Singapore

Then the emcees began warm-up games, and laughter and bustling activity filled the grand ballroom.

Dads had to braid their daughter’s hair. (Fastest fingers get to win prizes.)

Date with Dad Singapore

Daughters had to fulfill the challenge of tying a tie for their dads.

Date with Dad Singapore

Dads got to apply nail polish for their little princesses too!

Date with Dad Singapore

Subsequently, both dads and daughters were encouraged to write a letter sharing to each other, expressing their love and gratefulness. A few were even brave enough to share their letter on stage.

Date with Dad Singapore

I noticed that dads on every table were particularly attentive to their date throughout the brunch. 

Date with Dad Singapore

Towards the end, each dad took The Father’s Pledge and placed a purity ring on his daughter’s finger. It was a symbolic act that said to their daughter, “You are valuable and worth the wait.”

Date with Dad Singapore

I left the ballroom with a warm fuzzy feeling. I’m sure I had a silly grin on my face all the way to the cab stand. There was so much hope in that ballroom, so much love, so much faith…It was hard not to be infected.

All that was in my mind was a picture of all the young girls basking in the love and delight of their dads. Just the way that it should be.

I’m sure the fathers have set high standards for their daughter’s future suitors to achieve. A date with daddy is surely a date to remember for life. 😉

Thank you, Focus on the Family, for organising such a meaningful and worthwhile event!

Muffin break with mummy

My little girl loves muffins. Actually, anything sweet and that resembles cake is a sure-win in her books.

We took a little break that day when I was working from home. I was making good headway into my to-do list, and I thought of rewarding her for being cooperative. Moreover, it has been a while since our last mummy-daughter outing.

So we braved the rain and headed to the nearest Starbucks. I got her a chocolate muffin and a peppermint mocha for myself. While she was happily munching away, I was busy taking photos (while sneaking bites in between).

It was a nice treat for the both of us really…Motherhood really makes me enjoy the simplest pleasures that we manage to squeeze into our schedules somehow. Moments of indulgence. Moments of delight. Amidst the moments of madness.

For some reason, I really enjoy these muffin/munching/coffee sessions with Vera very much. It’s almost like a special thing that we share…just me and my little girl. After all, I think that she got her sweet tooth and eating gene from me. 😉

Is there a special activity that only you and your child share?

A daughter sees her worth through her father’s eyes

She shared her life story in front of a small audience. Drama after drama, heartache after heartache, relationship after relationship. At the age of 17, she went through an abortion. It was not a simple procedure because she was already advanced in her pregnancy.

At one point, she related a story about her final week in Discipleship Training School with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) – an intensive five-month programme focused on Christian discipleship. She had just sat through a guest speaker’s teaching, and it was time for prayer. He started to pray for a classmate seated near her, but each word he uttered felt like it was meant for her. Soon, steeped in tears, she began to release all her years of pain in front of her classmates in the room.

The speaker sat her down in the middle of the room, placed a towel on his shoulder and laid her head on it for her to cry into. He began to speak into her life, words that affirm the Father’s love for her – gentle and loving words.

In other people’s eyes, she was always the strong one, the warrior, but that day, she was vulnerable, like a small and fearful child.

At this point, I started to cry. While my teenage years were not half as dramatic or traumatic as hers, the underlying thread was the same. I remembered growing up wondering why my dad had never expressd his love to me. My primary love language is words of encouragement, and as a young girl, I longed to hear him speak just one kind, affirming word to me, and it never quite came. That longing soon turned into anger when teenagehood arrived.

I spent those years looking for love in the wrong places, and now as a grown, married woman, I finally understand the reason. It was because I was unable to find an anchor in my father’s love.

I am not blaming my dad for the mistakes I’ve made. He’s not caused me harm or hurt in any intentional way. He showed love as best as he knew how, and faithfully provided for the family and served us with his hands and strength. Today, I know that he loves me and my mum, and I know he is proud of his grandkids. Even though he still doesn’t express his love verbally, I can see it in the small ways – how he laughs with the kids, and buys little gifts for them.

On hindsight, I can see his love for me in the small ways too…

A daughter sees her worth through her father’s eyes.

As I listened to Jennifer share her story in her steady, calm voice, I found it hard to imagine that she had to go through all those years of guilt, hurt, and shame. I could no longer see that fearful child in her. All I saw was a lady rescued by the grace and love of the Father.

I bought her book, Walking out of Secret Shame, and am almost halfway through it. Here is a short excerpt:

I’ve always wanted my Dad to be proud of me. He was a high achiever himself, intelligent and astute. I guess he wanted me to be like him. As the firstborn, my parents had high expectations of me and I managed to do pretty well in school. But words of affirmation and encouragement were seldom heard and I wondered if I was still missing the mark.

While I was growing up, my life was filled with classes of every sort – piano, ballet, art and swimming. I excelled in all of them as well as in my studies. I was extroverted and had a strong personality. As a result, I was often picked for various roles in school plays, or was made the class monitor or school prefect…I was innately driven by a need for recognition and applause and worked hard to see the proud looks on my parents’ faces, although those were few and far between.

When Dad left, all that seemed to fall apart. I lost my motivation to excel. I became angry, resentful and stressed by the expectations of both my Mum and myself. I hated that I was not doing as well as I had done when I was younger. Yet I did not know how to manage my growing anxiety and fear when demands were placed on me. It was as though my Dad’s leaving caused me to lose the motivation to excel…

This story could have been mine, or perhaps someone you know. As I’ve been touched by her story, I would like to give away two signed copies of her book to you. If you know someone who will be blessed by the book, feel free to leave a comment here saying you would like a copy, or you can also email me at mamawearpapashirt (AT) gmail.com.

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