Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Tag: parenting

Maybe Baby? Our Faith Journey Growing into a Family of 7

One Sunday a good few years ago, my husband and I were sitting rather innocently at the backbenches in church, beside one of the hottest new additions to the cradle roll within our modest family-sized congregation. 

Whatever transpired during the half-hour worship segment is still a mystery to me, but apparently, my husband did something  strikingly sweet; he offered to carry a baby…that was not his own! He hugged him, cooed, cradled and rocked the charming little lad gently to sleep.

This, coming from my man, was pretty unusual then. I could understand why. After all, we conceived half a year into marriage and have had kids prancing around us ever since. 

We’ve have not, up till now, graduated from diaper-changing rituals and a good night’s rest visits us at the frequency of an eclipse. 

 

Occasionally, we admit to romancing ourselves with daydreams of idyllic vacations to far-flung destinations where we can sit with none a care in the world and stare vacantly into the vast blue horizon in the pursuit of doing NOTHING. (Trust me when I say that’s a much sought after pursuit after you become a parent!)

But of course, those honeymoon thoughts would quickly evaporate with the sounds of our children bickering over more important earthly affairs – like who should sit at the left, right and centre of me. 

You see, we never thought we would have a larger than usual family. 

Maybe Baby…

I remember years ago, struggling with some resistance in my own heart when I had to come to terms with the practical, economic and social costs of having children. I processed that over a few years where I transitioned gradually from a full-time working mum, to a part-time working mum and finally finding my footing and comfort level as a full-time stay-home mum over the course of a decade or so. These “labels”are really every woman’s necessary sojourn to navigate what she’s comfortable with and what’s best for her family, whatever the final outcome.

Needless to say, my husband struggled too. Whenever I broached the possibility of having another kid, I swear he’d give me the evil eye. When confronted, he’d quickly attribute this to random dust particles invading his line of sight. 

Unfortunately, I had other compelling evidence; like the time he changed the topic totally to something random and inane(distraction), and the time he gave a wearisome look and gazed forlornly at his receding hairline (pity), or the many times when his eyes seemed deliberately glued to the TV news like he was concentrating really, really hard on a slow news night (tuning out). Transitioning from a dual income family to a single income family obviously needed some weighing in.

It appears we were not alone. According to the recent 2015 list by the United Nations, Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) figures have been nothing short of dismal. 

Our tiny state has topped the charts globally in many areas and holds a reputation as a country well-known for running with well-oiled efficiency. 

Ironically, we have been sorely unproductive in replacing ourselves; ranking 197/200 and trailing only ahead of Portugal, Moldova and Bosnia (World Bank,2015). 

So what makes having babies in Singapore such an unappealing and unfascinating idea? 

Consider the recently aired episode on Talking Point which polled an audience on their views on TFR and having kids. Here are some views:

“In his early 20s and recently engaged, Eric Tan thinks Singapore is not a country of family-oriented people.

We saw ourselves growing up as individual people who aspire to a certain level of progress,” he said. And while many may aspire to get married, “I think it would stop there”, he added. “You could have all the childcare centres you want, but (having children is) never going to be a lifestyle choice that’s at the top of the mind for us.”

His fiancee, Cherylyn Wee, finds it difficult to balance career advancement and children in Singapore. If forced to choose between them, she said: “Then it takes me a much longer time to think about whether I could really give my best to the child but also give myself the life that I think I deserve.”

(Source: ChannelNewsAsia)

It’s a familar refrain and the media has played to its tune. Children require heavy commitments of time, resources and sacrifice. Let’s not get started on the naggingly stressful education system and inadequate work life balance. 

 (Source: Time Magazine)

Having Children: A Journey from Head to Heart

Going forward with our story, my husband and I have come a long way since that time and developed a renewed faith-based perspective on having children- we now are happy parents to five children.

Together with my husband, we’ve often heard comments from friends and strangers that gush that we are very brave, patriotic and must love children very, very much. Otherwise, and for any other reasons, we might have completely lost our common cents (pardon the pun). Truth be told, we are none of the above but would like to think we still have a good head on our shoulders. What had changed? 

Simply put, our convictions. It was a journey from our head to our hearts.   

Rev Henson Lim, a pastor, founder of Archippus Awakening and father of seven children writes about why couples might think twice about having children or having more children for that matter. I quote: 

“They may be worded differently but the bottomline is the same … children are an intrusion and a burden. They are not worth having at all because they disrupt our lives and careers. Not to mention financial resources and personal freedom. “

Rev Henson, who was also featured some years back in the Straits Times (article below), goes on in his blogpost “Large Families A Calling?”:

 
(Image: The Straits Times)

He continues, [“(My wife) Serene and I never started out wanting many children. Like every other well-trained Singaporean, we were happy just to have two. And interestingly, it was after having two that we were convicted by the Lord. 
If we said we trusted Him, would we trust Him with our family size? If we said we believed in His provision, would we believe Him to provide for all of us? If we agreed that children were blessings, would we allow the Lord to give us more of these blessings? I want you to know that we struggled to say “yes” to the above questions! And the biggest barrier was not whether we were called to have a big family or not, but pure selfishness! Yes, plain ol’ selfishness on our part! 

Like many others, Serene and I also wanted control over our freedom, time and money. We wanted to do what we wanted when we wanted. We wanted to have enough to spend on ourselves, to live comfortably and luxuriously. Any person knows that once he or she becomes a parent, their time is no longer their own! And if that is true for one child, can you imagine if that is multiplied many times over?! No thanks, Lord. Here I am, bless them!

…”But did God call us to have many children? No, He didn’t. He merely challenged us if we would stand on and live according to His Word.”

***

Trust me, this blessed couple has my utmost respect because they speak the truth in love. If you start calculating and doing a cost-benefit analysis of having children, you might have completely missed the point. 

Having children is not an issue of the head. It is an issue of the heart. 

It doesn’t have to all make sense and you don’t necessarily start out having the means to cope nor having all the answers. Rather, it takes simply Faith and Obedience. 

Undoubtedly, the popular two-parent, two-children family model is neat, reasonable and practical but anything more than that seems to upset the balance and rock the boat. The common, often-fearful conception is a picture of toil; of mother and father, shouldering a life of hard work, trying their best to provide for a big household of little ones amidst the inflating demands of work and life.

As Christians, we often talk about surrendering every aspect of our life to Him; our time, our money, our possessions, our space but what about our families, our family size or even our desire to have or even not to have children? 

It’s easy to close up to the idea of having more children when we live in a society where time and the pursuit of self is revered and material costs of living are rising by the day.  

How startlingly contrary this image is to God’s reassurances about children in Psalms 127:3: 

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.”

A reward! Not a burden! A blessing, not a liability! 

Parenting can be, for some, a journey of choosing to put love in action regardless of the obstacles and challenges, knowing full well that God will be faithful despite and in spite of our inadequecies. It may mean choosing to say, “As long as there’s room in our hearts, we’ll find a way.”

Indeed, our children are a blessing and a wonderful gift. We are honoured to be entrusted with these precious ones for our time here. 

Having children prunes us from deep within, and causes us to derive a greater meaning and pleasure in all that we do

We do not count on an early retirement but we look forward to walking hand in hand with them towards the eternal plans and purposes of God- a lasting inheritance of God’s redeeming work through all generations. 

Enroute to Happiness: How we are coping with PSLE

We’re merely two months away from PSLE, the major high stakes national exam  in this country for primary schoolers. Concerned ones have been asking how we are coping and it seems like a concern: It’s a first for both of us: first time candidate, first time mother-of-candidate. It all seems like a big deal with quake-sized trepidations but… we’re glad that we’re managing.

  

We’re managing to shrug off the stress and the pressure cooker environment.

We’re managing to prioritize our relationships above the results.

We’re managing to keep our eyes on long term goals and not invest our all on a short term sprint.

We’re learning it’s important to pace, and enjoy the ride.

We’re managing our expectations of what it means to be successful and that it’s more than a t-score.

We’re managing to find our security in our faith rather than our fight.

The best part?

We’re managing to relate deeper and build into our collective memories as mother and daughter.

Spending a sizable chunk of our time talking and communicating is pivotal. There are crazy homeschooling days when our “home room” breaks out in spontaneous conversations about anything and everything! Sometimes there’s just so much to be done, but we just talk.

It is an absolute delight when the 11year old comes to me when she’s stressed or in need of a break and she goes on and on for 2-3 hours at a time, sharing what’s on her heart.

I confess it’s nerve wrecking at times when I’m in mumzilla-mode and think of how she could otherwise be using time more effectively scribbling on some practice paper or burrowed deep in a book somewhere. I’m thankful though that there’s a glitch in me that ensures I snap out of that faulty thinking.

When our children have that much to say…we should count it an absolute privilege to listen. We learn so much about them when we do: their encounters with friends through the week, their lofty ambitions and nagging anxieties, their perspective of life, their reactions to people and random situations, their hum-tune of the week & admiration of Megan Trainor.

Over the months, I’ve listened to her spiel memorized lines from my Baby Blues comic stash that she’s read from cover to cover, over and over. She artfully throws out choice quotes which so resemble my stay-home mum struggles that we both crack up and laugh our socks off. Laughing at ourselves is so important in times like these.

 

She has time to draw, which is priceless. All her random sketches, I don’t take them at all for granted. Every single one, an expression of who she is, and what she’s like at a single moment in time. She’s expressed her keenness in graphic design. It’s what I aspired towards when I was her age. Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

Whatever the future holds, I have faith she’ll find her way. If I may distill some thoughts on parenting a tween through this:

– Always welcome your children. When they want to talk, listen. Not listen while scrolling on your handphone, listen with your heart.

– Refrain from judging and over-evaluating. Many times they know what their offense is, but they need the moral courage to do what’s right. Knowing you’re on their side goes a long way.

– Pace them in their journey. It’s always a comfort for them to know they have you near. Stretch them with warm-ups. Be a running partner at times. Otherwise, cheer from the sidelines.

With the incessant demands of today’s pressure cooker society, these are happy gifts we can’t buy but can give freely to our children. They are, an open heart, an attentive mind, a willingness to connect. Top that with an ice cream, and we’re en route to happiness and happy children!

The little things matter. Everyday I become more and more mindful of the little things in our lives and how utterly significant they can be.

Face it, we all don’t have it all together and there are no perfect families. But when we begin to accept that it’s all ok and that we grow better and closer each day into togetherness and acceptance of one another, we stop making a big deal of the big things and start to treasure the little ones:

We notice what is present rather than what is absent.

We tune our hearts to leap at little growths and improvements. Efforts don’t need to be staggering before we take notice!

We see every missed step or failure as a potential for growth and impending victory.

Taking time to remember the little things that captured my day teaches my heart to be thankful and contented:

1. A warm cup of fennel tea made thoughtfully by the hubby to ease my indigestion.

2. Enjoying the innocence of the 4yo recounting her wide-eyed introduction to penguins, flamingos and snow owls.

3. Admiring these two cute feet pictured in the photo below and the memories that come with them.

4. A threatening storm and son’s quick offer and dash out to bring in all the clothes! I can nap in peace nowadays because of his watchfulness!

5. Seeing my 12yo find some headway over some geometry sums after an afternoon of hard work

6. Learning to work as a tag team: the 4yo had a pee accident on the carpet. We, the parents, swept the carpet up for a wash and scrub, 12yo swooped in to take the baby off us, 7yo took her wet and crying sister in for a bath, and 10yo rearranged the toys and vacuumed the room. Within 15minutes, everyone was happy and having dinner.

The little things are the big things after all, and help me get through my day with much love!

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