The Back Seat
Lessons on motherhood from someone who’s been there, done that. By Loke Poh Lin
Heed this grandmother’s sage advice and enjoy parenting
Ican’t imagine how challenging it is to be a mother now. There are such big changes from the ’80s when I first became a mother. These days you can absorb an encyclopaedia of knowledge from the gadget you hold in your hand. You can order confinement meals online and use an app to secure a babysitter. There are so many things to help new mothers, but at the same time there is also too much information and just as many distractions. It seemed much simpler 26 years ago when I was a clueless first-time mother with a baby girl struggling with the rhythms of feeds and sleeps.
The good and the bad
By all means use technology when it’s applicable, from apps to searching for information you can download to help you handle the first years. Shop for baby supplies, scout for medical services, information to help you find which confinement home fits your expectations, recipes to cook your own confinement dishes, places to share baby photos safely online. The only downside I can possibly see is that there is just so much information out there; it’s difficult to shut off and zoom in on the relevant and accurate bits.
I must put out a plea to parents everywhere: While I’m in favour of using technology to help with the demands of motherhood, the tablet gets the thumbs down when compared to a human being. You’re much better off engaging with your child than letting him or her be entertained by an electronic nanny. It’s sad to see parents ignoring each other and their children when everyone is on their phones and electronic devices.
There are baby shops online and off, ranging from the big budget establishments deserving of Mike Zuckerberg’s offspring, to modest ones prudent mums will aim for knowing that baby will grow out of toys, clothes and accessories in a few short months. When it comes to toys, read up and buy only the ones you will use. Cloth books are always good and playmats that double as teaching aids also get our vote. Share with other mothers and don’t hesitate to accept good condition hand-me-downs.
Recycling old wives’ tales
You will receive a lot of wellmeaning advice from friends, colleagues and family. Let common sense prevail is all I can say... and stand your ground! For example, when our weather is so darn hot and humid, is there a need to wear socks and a sweater at home during confinement? Unless you’re in Cameron Highlands and it has been raining for the last two days.
Feed them right
Entire revolutions have happened in the world of nutrition in the last two decades. Debates on organic food, the toppling of the food pyramid, the slow cooking movement, raw food, vegetarianism, veganism... A lot of the things we considered sound practice has been replaced by new findings and almost every day there’s new information surfacing to displace the old.
Knowing what to believe takes intelligence and a lot of reading. And the little one will let you know what they will eat and what they will not soon enough. The general guideline is to keep food as natural and unprocessed as possible, go organic if you can afford it and if it’s available. The principle of minimal seasoning still applies as baby’s little liver and kidneys should not have to do hard labour at this early stage of life.
Steaming is still the best method of cooking as it’s the gentlest. Keeping accurate records is good as you can see what baby likes and doesn’t like, as well as knowing when to rotate their diet so that they’re exposed to a variety of tastes and textures.
Bringing up baby
When it comes to discipline and deciding what’s right for your child, do what you feel is right. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I know this is easier said than done especially if you live with family. Get your partner on your side early and get him to swear undying loyalty and have your back no matter what. That’s half the battle won; the rest is just standing your ground. There is no need to be combative though, just say that this is the way you want to do it and ask everyone to respect your wishes. Ultimately, it’s your child and as primary caretaker, you spend the most time with baby – hence the main person responsible for their wellbeing is you.
Decide with your partner what baby’s mother tongue(s) is going to be. Who says it has to be just one? You’ll be surprised how many dialects baby will be able to absorb. Decide later on whether it’s going to be Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Malay or Tamil.
There’s still a long way to go before deciding where to enrol baby, but know the options out there. There’s a wealth of regular school or private or home school choices. And before that, there’s nursery and kindy. Do your research and talk to other like-minded parents and establish a flexi-plan of action.
Relish time out
Remember to leave some time for you. There is no rush to ‘finish’ everything on time. In other words, nobody is going to be hurt if you let things slide a little. Think of your own sanity and wellbeing. Savour the moment. Babies will be toddlers and then before you know it, they will be going to school. Take time to be with them, and not just cleaning and fussing. Check what absolutely needs to be done and remind yourself it’s all right to step back occasionally. The chores will always be there. More importantly, baby needs to be cuddled now.
The brighter side
Let common sense prevail is all I can say
Most of all, know this: Learning to look at the funny side of things will see you through the day, every day, no matter how tough it gets. Really. After all, baby is fine, you are fine. So take it easy on yourself and others around you and have a good giggle, be silly and trust that the sky will still hold up for another day. Enjoy!