The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

And it’s not yet Christmas

I am giving myself two days off to do nothing. NOTHING. Well, not quite nothing when #1, 2 and 3 are now on Christmas holidays. But nothing insofar as not having to remember anything on a school related to do list. Of course the Christmas to do list is still pending and I probably will be up very late on Sunday (hopefully not Monday) getting stuff done.

And I don’t quite know how it has happened. It’s not like I didn’t know Christmas was coming. But there does seem to be quite a common annual theme occurring here when I think about it. How the Christmas to do list is still to do-ing all the way right up until Christmas Eve and sometimes the early hours of Christmas Day itself! But how?

Well I’ve realised that whilst Christmas starts appearing in the shops among the Halloween stuff, it’s too early for me to want to do anything about it. But I do thoroughly love the anticipation of the full on festooning of Christmas all around us. And I think about it and start putting together a list of things I’d like to do or need to buy in my head and let ideas mature like you would your Christmas cake. And then just when I think it’s time to start putting Christmas action plans into place, my days are suddenly full of other stuff!

Way back in September, when children were waved off in shiny new school shoes to start a brand new academic year, you embrace that feeling of joyful relief that comes with knowing you have that bit of FREE TIME again. Used wisely, you can achieve any number of things. I don’t think I’ve used that time wisely. I haven’t done any of my household to do things that have been pending for over a year now. But that’s by the by.

So. We’re now five days to Christmas and I have presents unwrapped and food shopping left precariously at risk of having no sprouts to the side of the turkey. It’s never an intentional situation but quite worthy of repeating in an interview scenario as an example of how one works well to tight deadlines and under pressure.

How often do parents of younger children look at parents of older children and ask ‘does it get any easier?’ and the parents of older children look you straight in the eye and without a twitch of humour reply ‘no.’ But you secretly don’t believe them because how can it possibly not get any easier than right now! Easier maybe not. Different perhaps yes. Any less busy, definitely not.

Last week I had to write out several times the many different places I had to be for various in school and after school events and for which child. Swimming assessments, Victorian Christmas markets, dance shows, gymnastics, Christmas carol show, Christmas jumpers, Christmas parties. The dance show! Last year could be considered what some people may say as a parenting ‘fail.’ When your child has toiled over the course of 10 weeks learning a new skill. Overcoming nerves of performing in front of an audience of watchful parents. Putting their best moves out there to make parents proud. Only for said parent to arrive for the jazz hands finale. Ah, a memory that will stay with me forever. To be fair, it can’t have been a very long routine. Anyways, I’m happy to say that there was no such repeat this year. That would have been a proper fail.

Sometimes, it can feel like you haven’t achieved anything at all in a week. Being here and there for this and that. But I forget how lucky I am that I do have that opportunity to attend all this and remember how important it is to children that you do. But I am looking forward to taking the next two days off just to take a deep breath, slow down a bit so that we can all enjoy Christmas itself.

Leave a comment »

Where did that school year go?

The brand new shine of black patent leather shoes has long since been scuffed away. The pristine white of a school polo shirt has been washed out of shape, mottled with splodges of paint. Cardigans have buttons missing and jumpers are well, just missing.

It’s hard to imagine that we have reached the end of another academic year. Yet here we are about to start six weeks and two days of summer holidays. You could see that for many the 2.30pm bell today couldn’t come soon enough, with Teachers following swiftly on the heels of parents and children out of the school gates.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I waved off #1, 2 and 3 off to their new Big School and wondered about the six hours I would have to while away. (Turns out that six hours isn’t really that long after all when you’re back to doing your own laundry and general keeping of home.)

It is a stressful decision choosing a school and especially when we chose a school without the benefit of paying a visit beforehand. We really were throwing them all into a new unknown. Especially after the gloss of a large international school overseas with all the facilities like an on site swimming pool and full size running track. These things do matter of course and it is a shame that their current primary school lacks the space of a sports field.

I know without doubt that all three have had a happy year at school. I don’t think any parent could ask for anything more at this stage. Sure, academic standing and sporting achievement is important but also is the well being and welfare of each child. Times have changed dramatically since my school days in the 80s. There’s a lot more out there competing for the attention of a child’s time than Maths and English. Indeed, even we as parents offer children a lot more extracurricular activity than just Brownies and Scouts.

But also not much has changed for children going to school. Maths and English is sort of the same but somehow long division is not a thing anymore. The complexities of playground friendships however, remains every child’s golden goal and parental heartache.

“What did you learn today?”

“What did you have for school lunch?”

“Who were your friends?”

These three questions form the basis of our short walk home after school. Most of the time they can’t remember what they’ve learnt but will speak quite enthusiastically about lunch, especially if ice cream or cake pudding is involved. The answers to the third one though, have on many occasion made me want to weep for them. Sometimes there have been minor fall outs and you figure that’s something they’re going to have to navigate themselves.

But sometimes, when you hear that your child went to lunchtime club by themselves without another buddy, your heart wonders why. Because no parent likes to imagine their child has not made a friend and we can not be there to help them. Of course we can’t be there engineering friendships we think our children should be making either. I have found that a lot of a child’s social circle evolves around school, unlike our days in Singapore where they had friends within the condo we lived in and also from the Expat community in general.

Everything is a lot more compact, a lot more local community in the town that we live in. And with that, and within the school, there seems to be a greater holistic approach to nurturing each child’s ability and emotional well being that I really like. I can’t remember with much significance whether my Reception year teacher gave out as many warm hugs and encouraging words. Perhaps she did and I just don’t recall. Perhaps #3 won’t recall how kind, caring and warm her Reception year teacher is. But I do and as a parent wondering whether you’ve made the right decision in sending your child to the right school, this is what you need to see.

As I look through all the school books that have come back with #1 and 2, I can also see how hard they’ve worked and how each piece of homework (a source of much weekend angst to be honest) is a reinforcement of what they’ve been learning in class. And I have been so impressed and grateful for how quickly it was noticed where a child has lacked strength in an area and how a support plan was put into place.

The children’s school was recently inspected by Ofsted and achieved Outstanding in every category. A well deserved recognition. And it’s also a school where the happiness and well being of the children who attend is at the heart of it.

At the end of this school year in a brand new school for all of us, I’m so glad and relieved over how well each child has thrived and the lovely friends they’ve made.

And I will be so glad to wave them off again back in September but first we’ve got a summer holiday to see to.

Leave a comment »

Mother’s Day with three

Last year, I wrote about what a lazy Mother’s Day I was having. Pah. I should have kept my mouth shut because this year the word lazy has not been part of it. It’s amazing to think how different my parenting role is now, compared to a year ago.

A mere 12 months ago, I was a working parent where I saw my children half an hour in the morning and sometimes as little as half an hour just before they went to bed. Hardly any time at all and I had live in home help taking care of the daily household chores. Whilst I always knew, I can confirm with myself now just how relatively easy I had it back then. Even though I was juggling many things at once, there was a big chunk of home life that was taken care of. Having home help always made me feel slightly fraudulent as a parent even though in Singapore it was the accepted. Support systems work differently in an economy where home help is affordable and it’s all relative to the environment you are living in. Most new Expats struggle with the concept of home help, especially when they’re not working but from my own experience, I would say take it. Even though it comes with challenges of its own, having the time it enables is a positive to put to good use. The present I’m in now is not infinitely much harder, the balance is just different.

To make up for lost time, I am with my children by myself Every Single Day. Bar the hours they spend at school. At weekends that’s a straight 42 hours. And I wonder why I feel like I need a nap come Monday morning.

When it became apparent that this move back to the UK would be led by myself for some time, it was definitely a daunting prospect. Not just because I was out of practice with all things UK but because, if I am honest, I was basically not used to having my own children to myself all the time.  No matter how involved you are, whether a working or non working parent, you always have that extra pair of hands so that you don’t have to do everything yourself. And sometimes, that extra pair of hands means that when things are going tantrum, whether from you or them, you always have that option of taking yourself or them out of the situation so that even though things may reach simmering, it never reaches boiling point.

And another luxury of home help, is Time. Whether that be for yourself and partner or for your children. When you don’t have to do the daily chores, you have so much more time for all the lovely stuff and homework. In my new parenting life, I miss the lull between finishing dinner to getting ready for bedtime. There is no lull now. From the moment the children finish school to until they’re asleep, it’s like I work through a checklist of Things That Must Be Done to conquer bedtime on time. I’ve never moved so fast and think I would be highly efficient on a factory production line. But with trying to be efficient, I’m constantly verbalising instructions because as is the want of young children they seem to take in one word of a sentence each time it’s repeated. Sometimes I can feel myself losing the will to be heard and just stop talking much to the relief of them and myself.

I’ve been various types of Mums. The Stay at Home Mum with home help, the Working Mum and now the Solo Parenting Mum. The Solo Parenting at times Shouty Harassed Mum for full disclosure. When I’m that Mum, it feels like my head is going to explode and expletives are going to shoot out like rainbows and stardust. Sometimes it also makes me want to crumple into a heap sobbing at how feral my three children appear to be. And it’s only by my own self imposed rule of not drinking alone that I’m not downing a case of wine each week. However, I have been known to offer parents who cross the threshold a glass around 3.30pm and it also counts if you’re having a chat with someone on the phone.

And whilst I can’t say which I preferred, I can say that in each reincarnation, there is always a degree of guilt. Guilty that I’m not contributing financially and having a lovely time going on play dates and having coffee. Guilty that I’m contributing financially but not going on play dates and having coffee. Guilty that I’m not contributing financially and not going on play dates and having coffee because I have laundry and cooking to do and everything becomes ‘Just one minute’.

At the very start, I was told that guilt will follow every parent wherever they go. The degree to which I feel that guilt varies day to day and can be about anything. With my newfound Solo Parenting experience, I miss the opportunity of spending time with each child on their own. I can see how important it is for each child to have their own time with a parent. They all want to be heard and because there is no other parent to go to, I often have all three talking to me at once. I have only recently started a ticket queuing system with them and putting them on hold so that at least only one conversation is going on at a time. #1, 2 and 3 are at an age where each has their own individual interests and the world is an exciting place that they’re exploring and each new discovery is so amazing that it has to be shared immediately.

But there is only one of me and whilst being able to multi task is one thing, I find it impossible to function with three conversations going on at once whilst trying to focus on the checklist of things that need to be done. It’s an absolute necessity to have to tell a child to wait and for them not be annoyed about it. But I often forget this as I react and respond immediately to what’s happening and then my brain gets frazzled and then it does not end very well. Then Guilt pays a visit. And there are days where I am the only one who seems interested in getting through the checklist of things that need to be done and #1, 2 and 3 don’t really seem to care at all. And I try and not care but I really want the checklist to bedtime to be done and feel upset that no one younger than me in this household seems to care and then it does not end very well.

It has not been all volcanic eruptions and chaos. On our own we have had some amazing times. Full of fun, smiles, wonder as we explore new places together. And being the only parent around, you get to have all the hugs, kisses and cuddles. I would not want to give that up for anything.

Of course, whilst Solo Parenting and being the rock to support three young children adapt to a new home, country, school life with no friends, I wasn’t expecting to lose a parent myself and that has had a profound effect on things. How have we all functioned during this time? I wish they didn’t have to experience this with me and I will always feel guilty that to have gone through such and upheaval they had this emotional maelstrom dumped on them too.

I know that #1, 2 and 3 have kept me moving through the day. No matter what I may have felt like doing or not doing in the days following our loss, there was no time to dwell on things or imagine a day spent in bed or in my pyjamas watching day time tv. Children need to be cared for and be places. This is where the routine of their day, helped to shape mine. I was also trying to comfort them and provide an understanding of an unfamiliar world whilst I myself was feeling such deep pain and sadness. I don’t know how they will remember this period and I wonder what memory they will have thinking back when Mummy was an incredibly sad and teary mess with no other grown up around them to make it better. But again, children are amazing and so resilient and accepting. I think they have a better understanding and empathy and that grief and sadness is how we express the loss of someone so important to us.  But I feel guilty that for ones so young, they felt it was their responsibility to try and ease some of my pain. As hard as I  have tried, there have been many moments in days where I haven’t been able to hide it from them.

I know that it’s ok to let them see Mummy or any grown up, being upset over something but some days I just didn’t want it to be seen as an unhappy day. There came a moment, where I felt incredibly sad that they were sad and I knew without doubt that this is not what my Dad would have wanted for any of us. And so I told them so. I told them that I know in our hearts we are sad but we are also allowed to feel happy about the good in each day and to feel this way would not mean that we missed the person we have lost any less. This was a relief for me too to realise that much of their day was like normal and they were having the same squabbles and getting angry over the same injustices like before and it was my reaction through grief and weariness that made it feel like it was so much bigger and hopeless than it actually was.

Thankfully, I hope we will soon be back to being a family of five living in the same country. I am looking forward to that in so many ways. Solo Parenting these past eight months has been tough and tiring but we’re also in a good rhythm now even if there are days I have a mini laundry mountain going on or every surface anywhere is occupied by bits of Lego or anything. Every situation is a matter of getting used to it, even if it’s not ideal. In this time, I have learnt a lot about myself as a parent and some parts I haven’t particularly liked and agree could certainly do better. More patience for a start. And whilst there are many times I miss working and getting involved with interesting conversations about anything outside of parenting, I do feel lucky to have had this time because I know it is so fleeting. And being so closely involved with #1, 2 and 3 has enabled me to see them deal with the challenges and flourish.

#1, 2 and 3 will never understand how much they have helped me through these recent months. The chaos can come from three different directions but so does the love. Children are great healers without even knowing it with their ability to talk unconsciously about things that make many adults shy away, children confront things head on. And the outpouring of love they have for you as their parent, well we all know what love can do. Their keenness to try and make you smile, the empathy they have that surpasses many adults. And their lovely, warm hugs and kisses. Without which, every day would feel that little bit less lovely.

#1, 2 and 3 have already done more than enough to make today happy and I was so touched when #3 was adamant that she was to buy me a beautiful card and Lindt chocolate bunny out of her own money instead of spending it on herself. I know you know this, but #1, 2 and 3, you are all amazing.

This Mother’s Day I got to spend the day with my Mum and my wonderful cousin and that’s what I really needed. I realised as I headed back home that these two women have done this before me. Not just being parents but parenting through challenges far greater than this. No matter how much responsibility I have or how well I am handling it, I feel instantly much more able to cope when among those who have been parents far longer than I have. Their support and sense of calm anchors me during times of great upheaval as they know what it’s all about and things will pass.

Happy Mother’s Day and much love to my three children.

Leave a comment »

Finally, we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas

Finally we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas. Though at a ‘mild’ 11 degrees celsius, I’m told it’s warm outside…I don’t think you know the meaning of a warm Christmas!

For how many years whilst living in the Tropics have I longed for a cold Christmas! This will be my first in ten years and the first ever for the children. That in itself is exciting enough. Even after all these years, Christmas only feels much more like Christmas when it’s dark and cold with twinkly lights shining out from people’s homes and on the streets.

Singapore knows how to dazzle at Christmas but our first UK Christmas has brought us back to a more traditional tone. The story of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, Jesus born in a stable, the Three Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels and a wandering star. My three children have been enchanted by it all and I have to admit that there were key parts of the Nativity story that I simply hadn’t known about. It’s amazing what I am learning at School.

This week we attended the school’s Carol Concert at the local church and today Husband and I took the children to our first Christingle concert. Previously I had only been to church for weddings and funerals but for the children to discover their own path, I’d like them to know and later decide for themselves. Though for my own part, I have found on both occasions a certain calm and opportunity for reflection.

This year for the first time ever I have found myself with no social engagements at all! Not one Christmas lunch! Can you imagine! No rolling home inebriated in the early hours. No fancy cocktails in some exclusive bar. Bah humbug indeed. Until I realised it’s about who you want your Christmas celebrations to be with and so we did have a Christmas do after all and it was exactly just right.

I hope I have managed to create a good enough Christmas experience for my three children this year. There is guilt in my heart that due to my own sadness and even their own that Christmas preparations for my three children has been missing a bit of its usual shine. I have really tried my best but it has been hard to think about presents when this year it is people who matter the most.

We have a lovely tree all lit up brightly, we’ve baked batches of gingerbread people, we’ve sung countless Christmas carols and songs, we been to visit Father Christmas and gone on winter walks. I’ve circled all the tv programmes in the Radio Times and already missed a few shows.

I really don’t know what I imagined this Christmas to look like but I do feel the warmth of goodwill, family and celebration all around me.

And if anything, hearing of how others are celebrating this year has buoyed me along too. I love Christmas. That will never change. And what has been most exciting is sharing with friends the chit chat on what they’re cooking over the festive season. I bought all the cooking magazines and have barely deviated from my usual! But who doesn’t love looking at a good festive feast and oohing at the many variations on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings that you can get!

I really hope the children wake up yelling with excitement that Father Christmas has been! That they come running upstairs with full stockings and have raced downstairs to check he’s left something on their list for them too. If anyone deserves a bit of magic tonight, it is them.

They’ve excitedly and carefully laid out goodies for Father Christmas and the reindeers and placed a ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign on their bedroom window. They’ve sprinkled Santa and Elf magic dust on our doorstep (previously unavailable from the shops in Singapore would you believe.) They handed out good things to eat to our neighbours and strangers on the street. This year, I have asked them to think of not just themselves but others too.

Surprisingly though, I seem to have everything ready and can even enjoy a restful glass of wine. In previous years I am still wrapping gifts until the early hours on this night. I have so little to do I suspect I have forgotten something!

But whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t ruin the day. Tomorrow is a day about family being together. Something my children will value more than anything. They have done amazingly well whilst we have relocated ourselves and their Daddy has remained in Singapore. So whilst there are many gifts under the tree that will be met with great enthusiasm and much joy, the best gift we have is that we have these next nine days of togetherness to share the holidays with.

This year, I have not sent out Christmas cards as is the custom during the first year. Though I wish you more than anything a Happy Christmas to be shared with those who matter the most. May you laugh, love and enjoy each other’s company.

Merry Christmas to all. xx

Leave a comment »

Thank you Singapore, you have been amazing!

Did you think I would leave Singapore on a sad note? That is not my style. I am going out with a happy face emoji like this 😊 and perhaps with a few of these thrown in too 🤗😍🤗😍😮.

I woke up from a good nights sleep 😴 at the Shangri La Rasa on Sentosa and no one could wake up unhappy ☹️ there. #1’s favourite part of any holiday is unlimited, help yourself breakfast buffet 😋. All the places we have travelled to around South East Asia have done this really well. But without thinking I went for the full English fry up instead of roti prata and soup noodles. 🙄

I’m on my way with #1, 2 and 3 to the UK🇬🇧 leaving Husband to fend for himself in Singapore 🇸🇬for a while longer. That’s the hardest part of this move😥. It would be totes different if we were all starting off this new chapter at the same time but you know, we’ll be ok. I will miss Husband and so will #1, 2 and 3 but we’ll take each day as it comes. 

Hence there’s this slight panic 😵 over suddenly parenting three on my own. Especially since we’ve had home help for the last seven years but fear not, I do know how to work the washing machine, I’ll do the ironing whilst watching Netflix and suddenly I’m all for dishwashers even though in my green marital days I told Husband we would never need a dishwasher as that’s just lazy 😒 and when we had kids they would do chores around the house like cleaning and stuff. Except I forgot to factor in that they need to weigh more than the vacuum cleaner before they are of much use 😕. Though I can already see that #3 has a clear talent for cleaning which will come in handy 🤗 and #2 is handy with some carpentry and #1 can do laundry sorting.

Among all the advice I’ve been given about parenting the regular way like the rest of the world, these are my new best friends first and foremost…. 🍷🍷🍷🍺🍺🍺🍻🍻🍻🍻🥂🥂🥂🍸🍸🍸🍹🍹🍹🥃🥃🥃. And in the UK these new friends cost way less than Singapore. Bonus. 🤗.

But that aside, I’m packed up 🎒 and ready to start this next new adventure of our own. Thank you for all your kind words of friendship and support these past few weeks. I’m so grateful for friends who have had #1, 2 and 3 over for all day, and I do mean all day, play dates, when the packers were around. Thank you for making the time to fit in last minute catch ups and dinners. Even at the very last hour for one more glass of bubbles.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s still sad 😫. Like not being in the same time zone as Brilliant New Adventure and having to wait hours for a reply to my photo and ‘what do you think of these?’ messages. But I’m so very glad that nine years ago, fate would put us both together again. ❤️.

Besides some of the more obvious life changing experiences involving travel, parenthood and Gainful Employment in a new country, the biggest and most significant experience I’ve encountered is the network of inspiring women I’ve met. 💪. Having reached that 40 PLUS milestone and starting afresh in your 40s, it could seem a bit daunting. Note I say could. But I’m totally nonplussed about that. I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent women all these years who do nothing but support each other in everyday things, sporting achievements and Gainful Employment advancement to have learnt a thing or two about communication and camaraderie. 👏.
For the past nine years I have had the support of many amazing women to get through all these new challenges. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you. I will miss your sound advice and good shoes 👠. But I know you’re just one whatsapp away.

Even though I have mentioned on other social media platforms that Twin One has a certain knack of encouraging my running 🏃🏼‍♀️prowess, I would not push myself as far without her watchful eye 👀. I’m pretty sure she’ll continue doing so when I’m over there too. And so she should. 👍. But covering four running routes in this last week whilst residing at Windsor Castle has taken a toll on my knees but filled my heart. 

There’s still a lot I’ve not done in Singapore and I keeping hearing of new hidden gems all the time like Mrs Imperturbable’s love of torch ginger and foraging for fresh herbs at Fort Canning.  As I sat there on a sun lounger watching #1, 2 and 3 charge around the poolside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to travel to places I would never imagine I’d make it to and still more that I didn’t get to but feel I must some day.

At this juncture, I have new opportunities ahead and I have additional experiences, expectations and understanding to add to it. That’s quite something to keep in mind. 
Yes, I’ll miss Singapore and Asia. I’ll miss being in a culture that is also partly my own but now I know far better how to integrate that part into the lives of #1, 2 and 3. Lion dancing around the living room. Lantern walking in the garden. Earl grey chiffon cake for afternoon tea 🎂☕️.

This Singapore sojourn has been an amazing experience for Husband and I but it’s time for a new chapter. And almost like fate is guiding us towards it, just as I’m walking into the breakfast room this morning I happen to bump into an old friend who made the move to the UK just two and a half years ago. Hearing first hand of how it has been for their family has been so good to hear and we are already looking forward to catching up in the UK.

And don’t think I’m not thinking about all you people in the UK who I can’t wait to see! I just need to find a car 🚙 and house🏘 to live in before I’ll be making our first British summer road trip. 

And you know what? I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. 🤗😊

Thank you Singapore. I’ll miss all that is good about you. I’ll miss all these faces and so many more. Let me hug you all again right now. 🤗😘

But for now it is time to say Hello again UK! See you tomorrow 😍.

Leave a comment »

A very lazy Mother’s Day 

Usually Sundays start early with rugby training for #1 and 2, followed by homework, grocery shopping and other households jobs. 

Today there was none of that. Just as it nicely coincides with Mother’s Day. A morning of lazy starts and breakfast in bed. Followed by high tea with fairly impeccable behaviour from #1, 2 and 3.  

I received three more thoughtfully decorated cards. #1 has continued with the Tie Fighter theme this year. #2 worked hard on hers for two days. #3 could barely contain her excitement yesterday as she informed me she was doing something secret that she wasn’t go to tell me about for Mother’s Day…

This was exactly about as much as I could cope with today. I am so tired right now I should be in bed. In fact I already gave myself another gift of an afternoon nap. No, I’m not hungover. That was last weekend. 

Last night I was doing something wholly virtuous. I was in fact running a 10km race. Which flagged off at 9.35pm. I know! It’s only since running in Singapore that I have come across these running events that take place at all hours. Literally all hours. Think 9.35pm is late, the full marathon flagged off at midnight! 

So anyways, I thought 10km would be ok. It would take about an hour or just over. I can that distance fairly comfortably if I practice and I’ve often ran that far in the early evening so how different could this be? It’s been a long while since I’ve ran in an organised event and I’ve missed it. The sight of seeing other runners heading to the event, soaking up the atmosphere and waiting at the start line. Then of course seeing the Finish line. 

What I hadn’t accounted for is all that adrenaline takes quite a few hours to wear off. Like a good five hours or so after the race. I should have organised the spare room instead of trying to sleep. Hence today felt like a non starter, I wonder how all those marathon runners have spent the day.

So today’s very lazy Mother’s Day has been just the ideal way to spend it and now I need to go to bed. 

Leave a comment »

The return to Gainful Employment

For over a year I have been meaning to write this post.


At first I thought I would write about the excitement and fear at the thought of returning to Gainful Employment after six and a half years away. I thought I would chart the slow journey to finding Gainful Employment again. The dusting down of a CV with a big gaping hole in it. Wondering about the creative ways I could explain how my new found experience in parenting, adapting to a new culture and building a support group from nothing would make me  a suitable candidate for consideration for this job.


But as luck would have it, the return to Gainful Employment happened rather sooner than I expected.


So then I thought I would write about those first few days being back in an office. Having conversations that I hadn’t had in six and half years. Seeking out vocabulary from the recesses of my brain that had been left dormant. Strategy planning. Objectives. Capacity building. Finding myself in a familiar and yet unfamiliar environment. So then I thought perhaps I better wait until I had passed the three month probation mark, just in case it didn’t quite work out.


Then somehow, before I knew it, it’s now been a year since I returned to Gainful Employment. An eventful year. With highs and lows. At home and in the office. Challenges and new experiences. It has taken this whole year to transition myself into this new role. There have been times a plenty when I have felt the need to explain my six year absence from Gainful Employment. Feeling almost apologetic that I had the opportunity to take time out and be with #1, 2 and 3. I will feel eternally grateful that I had that time.


I realise the feeling apologetic part is entirely my own doing. It is me that worried about whether my skills and contribution to my job was relevant. The only person who saw the gaping six and a half year gap was me. If I didn’t have the required skills, experience, relevancy, I wouldn’t have gotten the job otherwise. I can see now that I was out of practice more than anything.


I wondered whether having taken this time out that I would re-evaluate what kind of Gainful Employment I would seek. A career break is as good a time as any to assess what other options are available. I’ve seen other people take this opportunity to try something new. Build a new business venture with skills that were once thought of as just a hobby but with the click of a mouse you can have your own on-line store.


But as it turns out, at the core of what I want to do, the Not For Profit sector is still very much for me. The way I see it, the voluntary sector is full of great people doing great stuff for all those causes that need your help. And we are a giving and caring society who want to help those causes. Matching the two up together is what I want to do. Helping people and organisations do good and to do it well.


It feels good to be back in that space. At once familiar and unfamiliar. I’m in a completely different sector and on a huge learning curve absorbing all that I can about conservation, the environment, climate change and the cause and effect of how we currently live our lives and the impact it will have on resources available for tomorrow. With education comes more consideration. I am so enjoying this part of what I do. I get to share it with #1, 2 and 3 who all are learning about wildlife conservation and climate change. Being able to talk to them about my work is one of the great things.


At the same time, my return to Gainful Employment was a juggle for them too at the start. So used to having you at home and then suddenly not so much. The one to drop them off at school and pick them up afterwards. Sometimes even having time to do fun stuff instead of cramming it all into the weekends. But what softened the blow, is the fact that #1 and 2 started Big School last August and so with the longer school days, I wasn’t really missing out on that many hours. Well that’s what I tell myself. Truth is, you think that when they start Big School is when you will have more time to do your own thing. Except it doesn’t work out that way. There’s packed lunches to think of, packing the right school stuff for the right day’s activities. There’s homework, project work, reading, writing, maths practice to fit in. Where does all this fit in?


In the short space of time that you really want to spend asking them how was their day and not much else. Least of all rushing from one place to another and hurriedly start a piece of work that would take you or me about ten minutes to do but a whole lot longer for a 7 year old at a time when it should be unwinding for everyone instead of winding everyone up.


In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be great if you could work part time. Somewhere not far from your home so that you could still do the morning school drop off, be amongst Grown Ups and do Grown Up Things before finishing work in time to do the school pick up. So that for the small people you are there for them at all the right times. Perhaps a couple  of days a week you may even have time to yourself and leisurely do your weekly Big Shop as well as meet up with a friend for a chin wag and coffee.


I was lucky enough to have six months part time to ease myself and the whole family into my new role. I worked three full days and two half days so that I could still pick up #1 and 2 and get round to doing some chores. It helped enormously. By the time I was due to go full time, it felt doable. Even though I missed those two half days with #1, 2 and 3. I know how fortunate I am that I haven’t been juggling like this since #1 was four months old which is the standard maternity leave in Singapore. I marvel at colleagues who have done that. Some even returning a whole lot earlier to eke out their maternity as long as they can. When I think back to those early foggy days of new parenting where I couldn’t even string a thought together to get myself organised let alone look at Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.


And that’s another thing that has changed. Whilst Word, Excel and Powerpoint still exist, I’m still trying to catch up on a whole new world that has sprung up in the workplace. Things like Google Drive and Dropbox. Social media and EDMs. There appears to be no franking machines around because post goes straight to Inboxes. Which is a good thing of course. Saving the Earth’s resources. For want of sounding like the old person who says things like ‘it wasn’t like this is my day’ or ‘back in the day’ or ‘before you were born we used to…’.


It takes time to get yourself reacquainted with Gainful Employment. All these new terms and technology can sometimes shake your confidence a bit. But with anything, once you get back into your stride it’s like you’ve never left before. Thrive on this learning new things. It can seem a bit daunting at first but really it’s just a different way of doing something familiar.


When you’ve taken time out of Gainful Employment and as much time as I did, it can be a challenge to get back into it. Wondering whether you’ve still got it. Whether it’s ok to be thinking about other things like #1, 2 and 3. Whether it would be ok so take half an hour because #1 or 2 have School Assembly you need to attend. There were times I felt guilty about not having enough time with #1, 2 and 3 and there were times I felt I had to prove that I could still put in all the hours needed for Gainful Employment.


Where once it seemed like only certain professions were on call at any time. I’ve realised that office hours don’t really exist anymore. In the same way we engage with mobile phones and have laptops to take home, work is never far away. A quick check of an email here. A ‘team’ WhatsApp chat group there. We are more connected and closer to our work colleagues than ever before. If someone sends you an email at 10pm, do we reply to it there and then or do you wait until the morning. Will they know you have seen the email and what does it say if you don’t respond there and then?


After a year of this, I’m almost fully properly reacquainted with Gainful Employment. I can’t imagine not having this. Both for financial reasons and for fulfilling a sense of self. But do I feel guilty on the days when I’m getting in just before #1, 2 and 3’s bedtime? Of course I do. But I also feel relief that I have something else to occupy my mind and challenge it in different ways that parenting alone does. I like all the new things I’m learning and the people I work with. I like how I’m working for a cause I fully believe in and in some small way must be making a positive contribution to.


It can be riddled with guilt at times with feeling like you’re doing neither job as well as you think you should be doing but in truth you’re doing an amazing job of both. My priorities have definitely changed since the arrival of #1, 2 and 3. They have made me look at the world differently. More than ever, I feel that time spent away from #1, 2 and 3 should be time spent well. It’s not enough just to do a job to pay the bills. Choose something worth doing and do it well. 

Welcome back to Gainful Employment.

Earth Hour 2016





Leave a comment »

#3 is Three

A few days ago #3 turned Three. Though the day before that she would have you believe she was five turning six. As far as she is concerned, #3 has never been two. All through her Twos you could ask her ‘How old are you #3?’ and she would answer you back, ‘3’, ‘4’ or ‘5’. Sometimes even ‘6’.

I can totally understand why she would think that. I think small people suit being two for just a few months and then they ought to move onto the next year. That year between two and three is one of such immense change in their lives that being two just doesn’t seem to do enough justice to their achievements. Or change in temperament. I think it’s more the change in temperament that makes me say this. Ah, she was still so compliant at the turn of two. You could strap her in her car seat with no bother, put her to bed in her cot and walk out of the room safe in the knowledge she’d be asleep in a few minutes and there were no insistent demands that require a will of steel and ear plugs to deflect.

But then somehow the button that triggers a small person’s internal navigation system with destination INDEPENDENCE was hit. And that was the end of that. #3 found her voice and uses it frequently. She discovered volume control and cranked it up high. She learnt quickly from those two old timers #1 and 2 and now she’s like a mini hybrid version of them both when it comes to stubbornness and stamping her ground. And I guess that is the key point. Instead of figuring it out slowly for herself, she’s been given the Cliff Notes version of ‘How to bypass two’ just by absorbing what’s going on all around her. And that is what makes me wonder where did her Two year go because for a long, long time she has been just as vocal, demanding and independent but not quite so capable as #1 and 2.

It is quite true that your parenting outlook becomes more relaxed with each passing child. And whilst I would never describe myself as having thrown away the manual, it is noticeable that she has been granted more leeway than #1 and 2. This extends to what she can do, eat, play with and how much television she has had in comparison to # 1 and 2 by same age comparison figure. #2 had to patiently wait until she herself turned three before she was allowed her first ever pair of Big Girl dress up shoes. You can guess that #3 has been clomping around in them so much to have worn out the heel.

But what I think what really made the difference was her confidence that made you (and her) think she was beyond two. I love how being the #3, she gets to do everything with the security of #1 and 2 around her leading the way. The good and the bad I must say. And how much love there is around her. With older siblings mostly looking out for you. Being the #3 means you already have quite a lot of people who love and protect you right from the get go.

#3 suits being three. And so far she also agrees she’s three rather than four, five or six. Thank goodness she does because I am the one who laments the speed of these fast flowing months the most (and also Husband too). By now, I know how fleeting these years will be as I echo the sentiments of many parents before me. You never believe it when you have a tiny bundle of baby that you don’t quite know what to do with and someone helpfully tells you ‘Enjoy them whilst they’re little because they won’t stay little for long’ and you’re thinking but I just want to them to feed themselves and let me sleep!

Every stage never last longs. Hang on, did I really just say that? Even the current three siblings having an altercation at least four times a day stage? But I’m getting side tracked here. Every stage really never lasts long and I can feel that tug upon my heart strings thinking about my littlest young one growing up. She’s already getting so heavy that it’s not with one smooth movement I can lift her up. And when she sits on my knee at the table or for a story I need to contort in a way that doesn’t agree with my back to see past her. I have to be patience as she tells me she can do it herself and answer the myriad of questions that start and end with ‘Why?’

But she is still my littlest young one in the way she loves to be near you and hold your hand and sit right by your side. How she loves nothing more than to raid my bag daily and go through my lipsticks at an alarming rate. Casually sauntering out of the bedroom with lipstick smeared across her face and acting like nothing was amiss. How she loves Lellephant and can’t travel far without it. How she’s going to be a Princess when she’s grown up and thinks nothing of wearing fancy dress out for a stroll to the shops. How she loves all things animal and has made me overcome my own fear of approaching new dogs. How she likes to suddenly pretend she’s a cat called Toffee and slinks around miaowing and wanting you to stroke her curls. And those curls! It’s still very odd to see that she has inherited curls. She still hasn’t had her hair cut yet but I think it’s time because when asked what would she like to do for her Birthday treat, she answered with wanting to get her hair cut.

It takes an extra 20 minutes at least to get her to bed now that she’s no longer in a cot. She just barges in on #1 and 2 whilst we’re trying to read them their last story even after spending a good chunk of time getting her all nicely settled in. But I don’t really mind because inevitably without fail she’ll be in the middle of our bed for half the night. I know this is not best practice as advised in all the Generic Parenting Guides. It is perhaps not a great reflection on our parenting ability to admit that we have never been able to keep #1 and 2 in their beds at the same age either. I know what the ‘correct’ parenting technique is to address this and for a short while we tried but I figured it just wasn’t worth the upset when it was better that everyone got some sleep.

Perhaps we just weren’t strong willed enough. Perhaps. But I know this stage will also pass. We are no longer a family of five who could survive in a two bed flat because who needs the extra bedrooms when we all happen to end up in the one room every night anyways. I admit to wondering just before #3 was born whether #1 and 2 would ever sleep the whole night in their own bed ever again. But just as suddenly you find that they do. So now when #3 silently makes an appearance and claims the land in the middle of the bed, I really don’t mind. I like waking up and seeing her there and having her snuggle up to you first thing in the morning to start off your day on a warm and fuzzy note.

#3 is still only three. I guess that’s still very little. Of course it is. I know it is. But there’s something about your littlest young one. When you know you will never see this stage again that makes you want it to drift by very slowly so you can savour the good bits all the more for that bit longer. Collect all the cuddles and kisses and holding of hands. The squishing of cheeks and the feel of their little selves right up close and their demands of your attention and answering of their questions. Make these moments last the longest and their tantrums the shortest please.

Happy Birthday #3. With so much love and laughter.

Leave a comment »

All by myself……..

It is the plight of many people with young children who say, sometimes complain, they never have a quiet moment to themselves. I am one of those people. The amount of times you just want to have a bit of privacy going about your personal hygiene business when all of a sudden a small child just magically appears out of nowhere. It’s an assault on the senses when #1, 2 and 3 compete at the same time for your attention. One starts talking, then the other and then the third joins in for no other reason than to just join in. It results in a mounting crescendo of high level noise like a conductor waving his baton at the orchestra for the grand finale of some complicated symphony.

I really wish I were one of those people who can serenely function with a cacophony of activity going around them. But what I find is that my ears begin to ring, the blood pounds behind my temple, I barely know where to begin to stop the noise and I feel the need to retire to a dark, quiet room.

I’m pretty used to it now during the waking hours of #1, 2 and 3. Their boundless energy and capacity for more noise is quite something. I look forward to that golden moment of quiet as soon as they are all sound asleep. It’s like running on all cylinders firing and then suddenly you can just be still.

But it never feels long enough. This time in the evening which you may need to use to do other jobs left over from the day or preparing as much as you can before the next day starts all over again. 

Time to yourself is rare. 

And how often have we imagined just what we would do if we had time to ourselves. Read a book? An uninterrupted coffee? Get wildly inebriated and wallow in your all day hangover? Meet a friend for lunch and stay out all day?

And how often do we reminisce how much less time it took to get from A to B without organising a multitude of people with a multitude of accessories ‘just in case.’

And then there’s of course sleep. Oh my gosh. Uninterrupted blissful consecutive hours of sleep. With no small person visiting in the early hours. 

Yes, it does all sound rather attractive. 
And of course it is. For a short while that is. 
I rather unexpectedly had to go away for Gainful Employment purposes. Just for a couple of days. All by myself. 
Get up at 5am, just me. Quick shower. Carry on luggage, just for me. Taxi to airport. Already checked in online. Straight through Departures. Through whizzy finger print recognition gate thing. There’s an hour and a half before my flight. I’ve never had so much time to spare before. 

There’s time for an unhurried breakfast, a browse in the bookshop, a stop to buy paracetamol and then a saunter to the gate furthest away from anywhere. It’s the most stress free pre-flight experience I’ve had in ages. I’m almost congratulating myself on this achievement. 

And whilst on the flight there is no luxury inflight entertainment system, that’s ok because I’m not busy unpacking half a toy box to keep #1, 2 and 3 occupied. I don’t have to worry about any of them kicking the seat in front or tipping the contents of water/juice/tea over themselves. I can just be still. 

I brought a book with me but I’m not even going to bother opening a page. I’m going to do nothing for the whole 2 hours and 15 minutes. I might even have a nap. I do.
It’s all so civilised, none of this gathering bits and pieces of Lego because #1 insists that’s appropriate inflight entertainment. Not having to gather five pieces of hand luggage because everyone needs to have their own stuff. Not having to gather three small people together and ricochet off the seats because the galley is just not wide enough to herd three small people, five bags and yourself.

It’s the same going through Immigration and straight out to Departures where for the first time ever there’s a person stood with a sign with my name on.

The hotel room is ginormous and far too much for just me. But it’s oh so comfortable. I get more than 7 hours uninterrupted sleep. No waking up and going straight into a non stop routine. Just need to get myself ready and a table for one.

But the truth is, I’m not used to being all by myself anymore. I’m used to having several questions thrown at me at once. To be thinking about what I need to do next. To get things ready for the next day. To be in the company of other people. In the company of Husband and #1, 2 and 3.

It’s all very well jet setting off to some exotic location. It once sounded so appealing. Exciting. But now, as much as I enjoyed sleeping in a massive space for one uninterrupted night, I miss the cacophony of home where Husband, #1, 2 and 3 are.

It’s not like I’ve never been away from them before. It’s the first time it’s been all by myself. 

And as the song goes, I don’t want to be all by myself and so, I can’t wait to get home. And I’ll never complain about not having time to myself ever again.

I bet that lasts all of 30 minutes after walking through the door!

Leave a comment »

Just with an extra helping of cake

There’s about an hour and a half left to celebrate of Husband’s Birthday for this year. I hope he’s had a good Birthday so far and I know he’ll say it’s been good because of #1, 2 and 3.

Equally I know it would also be fair to say that there have been more eventful, Grown Up fun filled Birthdays he’s had than today. 

If you have spent your own Birthday around small people then you will know that it’s actually not your Birthday at all. Sadly though, it’s doesn’t mean the aging process doesn’t happen either. 

The morning started promising enough. #1, 2 and 3 all said ‘Happy Birthday Daddy’ without any prompting. Husband got a rare but well earned ‘lie in’ until 8.40am. Then #2 and 3 were very helpful in the kitchen breaking eggs onto the floor and beating egg shells to make a specially textured scrambled eggs. We had bacon on the go and a chocolate cake in the oven that they all had some form of contribution towards.

For a blissful moment I thought to myself that perhaps this year when presenting Husband with presents and cake from #1, 2 and 3 that it actually would be from them. Because up to now, I think it’s been pretty obvious that they haven’t been pulling their weight and have actually just been taking credit for all my work.

Even when it’s been their own work, Husband has still assumed it’s been my work which sort of makes me feel like I ought to be a bit offended. I mean, have you seen how haphazardly those bags of beer flavoured Jelly Belly beans were wrapped up? A great effort for a six year old but for me? Really? I can do folding along straight lines with a sharp crease very well. 

Actually it has been a lot more fun this year letting #1, 2 and 3 take responsibility for choosing their own presents. But I think Husband already knew what they had got him as #2 was very generous with her hints. Such as ‘These beer Jelly Belly beans are not for you Daddy’. And #1 was busy waving his gift around which was a singing Elvis M&Ms dispenser.  #3 was clutching her gift and declaring ‘Mine, mine,mine’. 

No sooner had they handed over their offerings, or in the case of #3 not at all, they then proceeded to unwrap their gifts for Daddy and exclaim with great surprise what was inside. Almost like this was news to them too. It appears this year is still not the year we will be opening our own presents. Not unless we secretly hoard a couple in the cupboard like you do with your good chocolate and biscuits and eat them clandestinely. 

I think it may feel more like your Birthday when it falls on a week day and small people are safely away in school. At least then you may get the chance to have a Grown Ups lunch instead of sharing your birthday morning with 25 other small people at a Birthday party in a children’s play centre. Followed by your own small people opening your presents and cards and blowing out the Birthday candles on the Birthday cake they have already started tucking into whilst it was still cooling. Then going out for your Birthday tea and sharing your dinner with them and then having to contend with a couple of meltdowns because for #1, 2 and 3 the day has been quite something with the event of two helpings of cake today.

In the company of small people, Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and any special event are on the whole, like any other day. Just with an extra helping of cake. To them they haven’t quite grasped that if it’s not all about them. Even if it’s just for one day. Or if they do get that it’s not all about them, it can be easily forgotten. And that’s perfectly ok. 

Sometimes the excitement of a special day and our expectations of it having to be perfect is often what leads to disappointment. When there are small people involved, you learn to accept that whilst it should be about you, for the moment it’s still mostly about them. And that we need to learn to share too, just like they have to. Whilst once we probably could have had a late lie in with breakfast in bed, followed by a long leisurely lunch and anything that takes your fancy, that will have to be on hold for a while. 

For now, small people need to be told at least a dozen times to get to bed, to stay in bed, to stop their moaning and fighting and high pitched screeching taken in offence against some minor slight real or imagined. Then only once they are in bed sleeping so soundly and looking so sweet can you say, ‘it’s my Birthday and I’m going to drink a large old man whiskey, eat a bag of Hula Hoops, enjoy a slice of chocolate without having to share it and watch a film about two F1 racing drivers’.

As I laughed out loud following the frantic last hour of the day that is bath and bedtime, I felt genuinely apologetic to Husband that his Birthday is like most regular days. Just with an extra helping cake. 

Still, I’m sure he’ll agree all Birthdays are good days. 

Happy Birthday Husband. 


Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: