How We Handle Two Careers and a Toddler

I have been a Full Time Working Mom (FTWM) since J was about 4 months old, immediately after my 4 month maternity leave. It was difficult initially because for 2 months I was working from home full time while watching Baby J by myself, or usually with my mom’s help in the afternoons. This was because the infant that we had registered Baby J for did not have an opening until he was about 6 months old.

For those unfamiliar with how Infant cares work in Singapore:

`Infants can be enrolled from 2 – 18 months;

`FTWM and Part time working moms are entitled to subsidies of either 600/300 SGD, with low income families getting more subsidies;

`School Fees can be paid with the Child Development Account;

`Demand for most Infant Cares seem to be super high. Make sure to register months in advance if not you might not get your desired one;

`Quality of infant cares differ as does cost. I’ve heard it range anywhere from 1000 – 2200 SGD before subsidy.

What I’ve learnt about Infant care centres, after talking to other FTWM who send their kids in as well, is that standard of care and facilities can differ greatly. Make sure to check out the school before hand. And the Infant Care Teachers usually encourage parents to stay at least for some time on the first few days till the babies become more used to the unfamiliar environment.

I think we were very lucky to find an Infant Care Centre very near my work (less than 5 mins walk) that we felt suitable and with a manageable wait list. For the first 2 months or so, we would leave Baby J in for the afternoon half of the day while either H or I worked from home in the morning. Once he became more used to the place, we placed him in full time.

While it is definitely difficult to place your baby in someone elses care for the best part of the day, I think we were very assured by the teachers in J’s Infant Care Centre because they seemed to genuinely like what they do, and the children under their care. Also the facility while not big is well cartered to the needs of the little ones.

Another important lesson is that while it is important to communicate with the teachers and clearly indicate if you prefer things to be done in a certain (and they will try their best to cater to each child), the teachers are not infallible. They look after close to 3 or 4 babies per adult. Just imagine the crying and mess sometimes. They will make mistakes. It is inevitable, just like you and I. Its about learning, communicating and accepting when mistakes happen and move on. For example, Baby J was bitten not once but twice in school. While it is not the teachers fault for this, I do wish they were paying closer attention and stopped it from happening the second time. At the same time I acknowledge that babies bite, its just what they do, and sometimes it happens without you being able to stop it. Its not totally the teacher’s fault. Let go and move on.

Also. They are going to fall sick. 12 babies in close proximity, what did you think was going to happen. He’s suffered everything from a mild cough/flu to HFMD. Its no ones fault, and its going to happen. Just think of it as immunity building.

I hope that people especially the older generation will become more accepting of Infant Care in general. I’ve encountered many a case where people would ask “huh, so young so poor thing.” They question the decision and recommend either a helper (which comes with its own set of challenges) or grandparents, or a combination, which was what my MIL initially wanted.

As parents, we made the ultimate decision that and Infant Care near my office would be the best option for us as a family, and our families will just have to learn to accept it, esp my MIL. I think in time she has, particularly because he clearly enjoys school. He’s happy, loves to dance and sing (because they do all these things in school) and is fairly independent.

At the end of the day there is no one size fits all for parents. Each situation is different and I just wish people will accept that before judging.

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Its been a while.

Hi. So baby J is now almost 16 months old. A true blue toddler. Toddling around. He can walk, correction, he can run. He’s been on the move since about 11 months. And nothing in the house has been safe since. He can babble and enjoys babbling. Has learnt to how to demand things. Throw tantrums. All things standard for a toddler I guess.

How has life been? Hectic. Between family tragedies and a growing toddler, its been tough. On the bright side we took another holiday to Hong Kong recently. It was quite chill. We really just travel around Baby J’s schedule. We eat breakfast once he’s up, get back before he needs to sleep at nights.

It was an interesting experience travelling with a toddler. He basically doesn’t want to sit still and will only do so on planes and cars only when he has entertainment ie a video playing. And while I usually don’t approve of him watching too much. It was really the only way to keep him entertained (and quiet). It was quite an adjustment for him coming back when he couldn’t demand for the phone or the ipad whenever he wished. But its been about a month and I think he’s finally adjusted again. He likes books and will randomly go choose books from his stash to be read. Loves music and will dance along to anything being played.

We’ve also been through several bouts of teething. I’ve come to recognise the signs. The incessant drooling. Sticking his fingers in his mouth. Waking up and screaming in the middle of the night. I’ve found that there really isn’t much that can be done about it aside from riding it out. He doesn’t take to teethers. Does use a paci but doesn’t like it if his gums hurt. So, we grin, cry, scream and everything in between till it’s over.

This was really just a quick update for myself really. Just to be reminded of the milestones Baby J is flying past.

The dreaded HFMD.

So. Baby J got suspected Hand Foot Mouth disease. Why suspected ? He has what the doctor said was herpangina. Which is a strain of the coronovirus which leads to HFMD. But he only has ulcers in his mouth. None on his hands and feets. Which means it is not full blown HFMD. The doctor also said that once his fever breaks, the blisters on his hands and feet will either come out. Or no. If it doesn’t, it means that his body fought of the virus, and it didn’t become full blown HFMD. In baby J’s case, it has been 4 days or so, and there still aren’t any blisters. And his fever has broken. So, I THINK we should be safe. Fingers crossed.

So how did this happen? Well, last week he had a classmate who was sent home from school for HFMD. with little kids who basically all eat their toys. You know that this is going to spread like crazy. Which it did. I think the final count for his infant care class was 7 students who got it. Which is about half his class. I know many people blame the infant care and go on and on about how they are so young etc etc. But honestly, he could have got it anywhere. And at any age. I still feel that the teachers reacted very well, they sent patient zero back and quarantined him the moment they saw ulcers in his mouth. But the incubation period for HFMD is like 3-5 days. Which means that it could have already spread by the time they caught it. I did notice that they sanitised all the toys and the play area.

Anyways. So he got a mild fever on Saturday. Was very cranky and needy. So we immediately started paracetamol and ibruprofen to keep the fever down. Honestly, the fever was very mild. No higher than 38 degrees. But he was very lethargic and needy. It all came to pass on Sunday. He refused all food. Milk. Water. Solids. Everything. I was beginning to worry that it was HFMD, but there was nothing on his hands and feet. However, when I finally got a chance to open his mouth (when he was sleeping because he really didn’t want anyone touching his mouth) you could immediately see A LOT of ulcers. So we brought him to see our family doctor (they are great. If you’re staying in the East and need a good, not too pricey doctors who run night clinics!, Drop me a comment) who confirmed our suspicions. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it except treat the fever and painrelief. So more paracetamol and ibruprofen.

Baby J was in so much pain. He refused to open his mouth. Refused every food/drink (and we tried everything. Ice cream, cold drinks, anything he could possibly want but normally not get). It is a challenge getting him to take his medicine. Honestly, it’s been like 5 days and he still is refusing milk. But I think we might finally be on the mend because he is at least eating biscuits and other nonsense. He’s also voluntarily drinking water. We were forcing him to have some hydralite the past 2 days just to make sure he didn’t get too dehydrated.

It has all been a big challenge. Honestly, it’s something I hope never happens again. But the thing is, kids fall sick, and it’s not all bad. But baby J is just a terrible patient (according to my mom, just like me, so. Karma). It’s been 3 days off work. But it has been so tiring, getting almost no sleep the first few days. But we’re getting better. We’ll be fine. So to anyone who might be suffering the same thing. Or suspect something, it’ll get worse before it gets better. But it will get better.

Portable car seats?

So. I’m having a problem. I sometimes bring baby J on private hire cars if I have to bring him into infant care by myself. Or if I sometimes have to bring him home myself. I can’t really take public transport because there isn’t any near my place and it isn’t convenient.

Unlike taxis, by law, any child below 1.35m have to be in car seats, this includes in private hire cars. I like using private hire cars because they tend to be cheaper and easier to book. Generally will cost me about 20-30% savings. And honestly I don’t think taxis are any safer without a car seat.

We do not have a capsule car seat for baby J. And honestly. It’s too heavy for me to carry around and install on my own and with baby J. Anyway he’s getting a bit big for it.

Problem is, he’s also too small for traditional portable boosters like the mifold.

The only option I can find only now seems to be the urban kanga. Which is a portable car seat. About 3kg extra to lug around. But the thought of having to carry this. And the baby. And all our stuff around on my own is quite scary.

Any ideas?

Separation Anxiety.

We’re now parents of a lovely, cheeky, naughty, whiny, annoying almost 13 months old.

And what are we experience recently? Crazy separation anxiety coupled with extremely neediness. To me. It’s insane. He refuses to go to sleep if it isn’t me. Refuses to eat if I’m not right there. Constantly needs to be near me.

Fathers out there who might be experiencing the same kind of rejection/feeling of being left out. Don’t worry. You’re not really missing out. And I mean. They are supposed to grow out of it right? RIGHT!??!?!

Having 10mins alone in the toilet has never felt so amazing.

The strange yet awesome thing is that he doesnt actually get much anxiety when we drop him off at daycare. I attribute it to him actually being quite happy there and that it’s a familiar routine for him now. Thank goodness. It makes going to work so much easier.

Okay sorry for a super random post. My brain is a bit jumbled from work and stuff.

Okay bye.

Experiences of traveling in the snow. Part 1.

So. We brought our handy dandy travel stroller (the Joie Pact Lite which is a cabin sized stroller) along with us to Japan. Thinking it’ll be a great way to show baby J the world without breaking my back.

Well. Thankfully we had brought along our carrier as well. Because strollers do not mix with snow/slush and icy conditions. Basically. Living in sunny (or rainy) Singapore, we have no experience with pushing strollers in cold weather.

But now I know. It’s pretty damn impossible to push a stroller through slush. We ended up using the stroller once. In Sapporo city itself where much of the walking was below ground. And pretty much didn’t use it again. We relying almost entirely on the carrier.

Moral of the story. Find out more about the weather conditions before decoded how to move around with a baby.

Traveling with a cranky almost 1 year old.

So. We just got back from a week long holiday in cold Hokkaido with my family. And boy was it an experience.

So baby J has been cranky for a while now, largely I think cos he’s top two teeth are growing in. He’s drooling endlessly and biting just about everything. My finger and shoulder included. So. I guess I should have know, from the get go, that this trip was not going to be as easy as our last trip when he was 6 months old, to Korea.

And boy was it difficult. Baby J hates wearing clothes. All clothes. So imagine having to put several layers of clothes onto a baby that won’t lie down much less stay still. Sometimes I watch shows where people change diapers or clothes on babies and really wonder if Baby J is just a strange anomaly.

Furthermore. He’s just mastered walking. Try keeping him in the stroller or baby carrier for most part of the day. Oh good lord he was mad.

That and for some reason he decided that he really needed to be carried all the time. By me. While walking. Regardless of whether or not we were on a plane, a train, a bus, a van. I could go on and on. It was not fun times and I’m immensely sorry to the people around us.

This trip has thought me that it really does take a village. My parents were grand (geddit geddit) and baby J adores my sister. So quick lesson learnt having support is important if possible. If not. Grit your teeth, ignores the angry stares. I promise things will get better. Eventually.

More on our travels soon!

Bringing up Bebe.

TLDR: interesting book for parents.

So, I’ve been reading the fairly humorously, light-hearted book Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. And if i were to summarise the main difference she highlights between American parenting and French parenting, it would be the emphasis or lack thereof of structure and the over-babying (does this word make sense) of the baby.

What struck me as interesting was the fact that before buying the book, I was reading through quite a bit of criticism of the author’s take on parenting, how the French rigidity could be the reason why the French aren’t famous for entrepreneurs and how her take was a bourgeois take on French parenting, the lower-middle and lower income don’t live like this.

I found this interesting because I feel like in Singapore, back in my day (late 80s early 90s), we were all brought up with similar structure and discipline. There was (and still isn’t) any interrupting of parents, no throwing of tantrums, sitting at the dinner, eating what you were given. All this was a given. Behave or you would be scolded, worse, you could be smacked (I refuse to delve into the whole debate surrounding smacking. We were smacked as kids, and till this day, I don’t see it as child abuse, I greatly love my parents and I understand that they love me to. Thats all I will say). To say that this stifles creativity or self-expression, I don’t know if its true, given that creativity and self-expression is also limited by cultural and national norms. But to say that it limits entrepreneurship? Probably not. Singapore is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs or people with business plans.

Interestingly though, I find that Singaporeans appear to be moving toward a more “helicopter” type of parenting where parents are constantly hovering, or anxious about their child, what he or she is doing etc. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Perhaps it’s simply because we are having less children and therefore each child is more precious. What does this mean for such children? I guess only time will tell.

Semi-Pro #4

Feeding baby medicine.

I had a friend recently ask me how I give my (almost 10 month old) very hyper baby medicine. And I realized that was a really good question. Baby J hates medicine. He hates being force-fed medicines, and it makes life just a little more difficult especially when him being sick is already making things tough.

So how do we do it? Well obviously we force him. If someone else is free to help me hold him, they have to cradle him and make sure both hands are secured so that he cannot whack the medicine away. And I will hold his cheeks so that he will open his mouth and make sure he swallows not spit out the medicines. Sounds evil. Sounds bad. But you know what. Him getting fed the medicines makes him feel better in the long run. It’s for his own good. 

So whats the tip? Don’t feel too bad about it. Remember it’s what’s good for him. And. Good luck. 

Semi-Pro Tip #3

So. We got an additional baby carrier as a spare. We sold off the Chimparoo Trek Air-O. It was a great carrier. But what I realized is that with baby carrier is that you really have to try it. With a baby. For a while. Before you can tell if it’s the right one for you.

I say this largely cos we are all so different in size, it’s very hard to say what is comfortable on someone else will be comfortable on you. 

We ended up getting a (more cost effective) spare carrier from Aprica. The Aprica Belt Colan. And we now use the Lillebaby Complete Airflow.

The Aprica is small (fits me, and I’m pretty much am average sized Asian) and extremely light. It’s even lighter than the fully cotton carriers like Tula that I’ve tried.

The Lillebaby isn’t as light. But it isn’t too big for me. 

What I’m trying to say is. Don’t buy a carrier purely based on what you read online. What might work for someone else might not work for you. See if you can borrow one to try, or rent a carrier (there are several places to do that in Singapore) and make your decision from there. 

Once you find the right one, happy carrying. But, regardless of how well it fits, if you’re anything like me. Say hello to shoulder aches.