Recently, we attended the National Day Parade Preview and it triggered some thoughts about how fortunate I am to grow up in Singapore and how my life has evolved in this tiny island. So, in conjunction of our nation’s 51st birthday, I thought I would share about how being a mum in Singapore has been like the past 2.5 years in the form of these 8 mum life hacks!
1. How To Sit Through a Wedding Dinner/ Lunch
The next time you see parents bringing kids especially under 3years old to a wedding lunch/ dinner, please do go and salute them because it’s hard work for this one.
Wedding lunch at 2pm. Wake the kid up at 7am that day (find out why later). Feed her lunch before we arrive, splatter the table with lots of her coloring material and small little toys to keep her seated in her baby high chair. After the couple have their first march in, give her milk in her stroller, proceed to push her out of the wedding hall and around the lobby area a few rounds till she KO (which she should because she woke up at 7am!). Go back to the wedding lunch, park the stroller near you but yet somewhere where no one would accidentally kick or hit it to wake her up. She should sleep 2 hours and there you go, enjoy the lunch!
Wedding dinner at 8pm (or nowadays it starts horribly at 9pm) – In all honesty, don’t bring the kid. It’s already way past their bedtime and you risk having a crying kid at dish #2 and by dish #3 you will be out of the dinner. Hack is just go alone and leave the kid with the other spouse at home.
2. How To Do Grocery Shopping Without A Meltdown
Strap the kid into the trolley because you do not want accidents like your kid ripping open a chocolate bar, having the entire canned food falling on her or tray of eggs landing on the floor. Engage the kid and go through the shopping list with her to make her feel involved that she is helping to get the groceries. “Hey next on the list, apples! We need 5, can you count together with mummy?” Most of the time this works. And please go prepared with a shopping list, you have not a single second to google recipes at the supermarket and plan your menu there. Go get the stuff quickly and get out before you get stuck there forever and your basket gets filled with 20% more of things you didn’t intend to get.
3. How To Feed Your Family Well After Work
I find that planning ahead is key to preparing meals for the family. I set aside time to do up a “weekly menu” and list down specifically what dishes I would be cooking for the week. Doing a weekly menu also means you have a fixed shopping list and do not overstock groceries in your fridge. After you are done, don’t throw away the list, keep them and rotate it around so that you don’t have to keep writing a new list or forget a dish that works well for the family. Assign dishes that are easiest to cook on days where you know you would be tight for time. Given the limited time you have to cook, go with dishes that are simple yet healthy like one pot pasta where you basically throw in whatever you want and emit bottled sauce, mixing white potatoes with pumpkin and cauliflower for your shepherd’s pie , stir fry noodles where you can use buckwheat soba noodles or my favorite Simply Natural brand where they have a huge variety of organic noodles like Chia Seed Noodles, Sweet Potato Noodles etc.
Invest in kitchen appliances that can make things convenient for you. My top three favorites are the following: Thermal Cooker where I can cook a pot of tasty soup the night before and leave it there without blowing my electricity bill for “slow cooking” it. Microwave that can double up both as an oven for dishes like shepherd’s pie, cheesy baked pasta, and grilling chicken which I have marinated the night before. A three tier steamer where I can steam all my dishes like steamed egg and a steamed fish all in the same 15-20 minutes time frame.
4. How To Reach Work on Time
This hugely depends on the mood of your kid in the morning. On a good day, they wake up happily and decides that they want to wear their uniform, eat their breakfast and put on their shoes. On a bad day, they wake up like in tears, wants to wear their Princess Elsa dress to school, spill their cereal on the floor and scream bloody murder when you put on their left shoe first instead of the right one. Good days never really happen.
To avoid cranky kids in the morning, make sure they go to bed on time the night before so that they are well rested. If they do not want to change into their uniform, skip that and go to the breakfast first, and after breakfast try to get them to put it on again. If it doesn’t succeed, well just bribe them, because by this time the clock is ticking and the traffic outside must be piling up. If bribery don’t work, the last resort would be threaten and then go ahead to discipline them. I try to avoid that because it would make them cry and then snowball to the rest of the stuff like putting on shoes and then crying their lungs out when you drop them off at school.
Pack the kids bag and your bag the night before and put them near the door. Wake up 1 hour before them to get dressed, which by the way there is no time to try 5 different outfits in the morning, so have your outfit decided and ironed the night before.And if you are lucky, you get to drink a cup of hot coffee in the morning too.
5. How To Leave Work On Time
It frustrates me that people always have the misconception that parents are lazy workers just because they leave work on time. Truth is we have to pick our kids from their school which it closes at 7pm everyday, and if you are late they fine you (I kid you not) for every 6th min onwards. Leaving work promptly at 6pm, beating the traffic, dealing with frequent MRT delays and breakdowns are just stressful episode after working hours. And think about it, the poor kid is already in school for 11 hours since 745am, you honestly want to hurry to fetch her already.
So the hack would be besides being efficient in your work, schedule meetings in the early afternoon so that they don’t have the tendency to overrun past 6pm. I find that communicating these needs openly to your boss and colleagues is one major way to leave on time. And when you do leave on time, do it without feeling guilty even when the entire department is still hanging around in the office. Assure yourself that you have cleared enough work for the day and now you are off to an even more important job which is being a responsible parent who needs to fetch her kid. In addition, have your spouse take turns to fetch the kid so that both of you get equal time space to work a little later and be in meetings that overrun past 6pm (though not too late because he or she definitely needs your help at home with the kids, especially during shower time). Have a backup plan like a trusted neighbor or your parents to help fetch the kid if you get stuck in an epic MRT breakdown (remember the one where both East West, North South lines were down?).
6. How To Organize Your Kid’s Birthday Party
It’s no longer just a Mickey Mouse cream cake with a few balloons around. Birthday parties have evolved to be as huge as a fun fair scale with bouncy castle, magicians, face painting, balloon artwork, kids mascots and not forgetting curating the perfect dessert table with tonnes of pretty pastries surrounding a tower size fondant cake.
At the end of the day, a birthday party is only successful if your kid thoroughly enjoys it. Go with their favorite theme (Peppa Pig, Princess Elsa, Princess Sophia, Hello Kitty, Barney). Keep the decorations minimal and simple to create a clean effect. Decide on 2 or maximum 3 colors for the party theme and work around it. For example – dark and light pink for Peppa, light blue and white for Elsa, purple and white for Princess Sophia etc.) You don’t always have to blow your budget for the cake. I find that a plain white cream based cake with your own decorations work all the time, and you can get them at most bakeries like Prima Deli, Bengawan Solo. Place your own toy figurines on top or in my case I added fresh flowers as my kid hasn’t reach that stage of her favorite cartoon character. Sprinkle some edible rainbow dust or decorative toppings from Phoon Huat, get a nice cursive cake topper and top it off with a pretty candle! Viola you are done!
7. How To Take Your Kids’ OOTD
This has become a important skill for mums who are active on social media. Behind every nice photo of a kid, is a mum who is doing all sorts of stuff to get the kid to smile or pose. Choose the time of the day where your kid isn’t cranky like when it’s near their nap time. Naturally lighting works the best, so take the shots before the sun sets. Search for that perfect location for the shoot which can be as simple as any of a wall of an HDB void deck. Arm yourself with bribes like biscuits, a lollipop or food which is just small enough not to cover your kid’s face. By now, you should have the kid standing at that spot which you should start snapping away like crazy. Forget about counting 1,2,3 smile because 80% of the time they wouldn’t. If you want to get that shot of them smiling, you have to do things like waving around like a mad person, doing a ridiculous dance or making funny noises like mimicking how a monkey sound. If it’s a good day you get about maybe 30 photos to choose from, but if it’s a bad day you make tough choices like choosing between the one where your kid is a little blur from attempting to run away from the frame or the one where she gives that blank face no matter how many animals sounds you have made.
8. How To Take Public Transport With Kids
Obviously having a car is convenient with kids but sadly cars are crazily expensive in Singapore. I’ts really not as scary to take a bus or train with a kid. I usually strap her in her stroller and off we go! Each MRT station has a lift, so I don’t get scared pushing her down the escalator worrying that I might tip her over. Once we are in the train, with or without a seat is fine although it would be nice to sit so that you don’t have to keep squatting up and down to be on the same eye level with your kid, and it’s also much easier to take out all her entertainment stuff from your exploding diaper bag.
I keep her seated in there with lots of snacks like biscuits, bite sized apples or grapes – she is not eating her porridge so I don’t think they fine kids on the train right? She finishes them in like 3 stations, so I bring a couple of small books to entertain her for maybe another 3 stations. We alight and change train, I interact with her excitedly “hey look at that korkor, what is he doing?” “oh look, doors closing “titititit”“… I sing some of her favorite songs with her, or I even bring miniature Lego Disney Princesses figurines to do some puppet playing with her. I might look crazy to other commuters but hey that’s how I keep my kid from not crying so that they get a peaceful ride.
And if all of the above don’t work – whipped out the electronic devices. That’s always my very last resort and it works like a charm all the time.
If you are a a mum reading this, I hope this has been helpful in some ways! If you have more “mum hacks”, do share it on your Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and hashtag #ThisIsUs!And if you are a non-parent reading this, I hope this gives you a glimpse of what we go through! You can also share your own version of hacks, quirks, traditions, eccentricities of what makes up your identity! Let’s connect with our experiences!