Life Motherhood Parenting

The Anxieties of Motherhood

Motherhood. It’s something that I truly adore and equally abhor at the same time. Not really for the reasons you may think. I enjoy my role as a mother. To me, being present for my two boys is a priority and yes it does give my life more flavour and meaning. 

But what I find hard to swallow is the impossible and unattainable social construct of motherhood that is constantly shoved down my throat; whether consciously or sub-consciously. 

I’m entering my fourth year into my life-long ‘employment’ as Mum, and it has been quite a ride. The funny thing is – what started out as theoretical ideals in my head (formed from my own understanding of what it means to be a mother from my own upbringing) started dissipating as quickly as you can say ’super-mama’. More often than not, I really do feel like I’m a fail-mama. 

Anxieties are a norm, especially when you care deeply about something or someone. You fear that your actions will jeopardise the progress and final outcome. Naturally, when it’s a human life you’re responsible for, the stakes are really quite high! And that’s where it gets really tangly, and it has definitely given me much to think about over the past year.

Precious time out to the playground. My favourite way to just be with my kids.

2020 kicked off with me returning to work after the birth of my second child. It was also a year where I invested a lot in my own growth – mental and physical. Pushing myself to look at challenges, opportunities, hopes and dreams from all angles.

One overarching theme was ‘How can I be a better mother’. I have faced this question with several lenses. As a result – I undertook many mini-missions to make sure I was progressing to that goal-post. They include (among others):

  • Engaging my children with open-ended toys/play
  • Connecting with them emotionally, being empathetic
  • Potty train the elder one 
  • Bake/cook with them
  • Speak more Mandarin to my children
  • Feed them well
Little tyke, my soon-to-be 2 yo.

They are all small steps and with the fierce support of my husband, I think I have done okay. In spite of a raging pandemic, and the working from home situation, I believed I had levelled up. 

2021 has just begun and I think I am making good strides in my mum job. I was however thrown for a little loop-de-loop when last weekend, I was told I needed to work at being a better mother. 

It came from family, so I know it was well meaning. But that comment spiralled into my negative self-thoughts like an asteroid. I took it quite hard. My mind became a report card and I started grading myself with each action I took. Washed the dishes = +1. Fed the kids = +2. Didn’t manage to put the child down for a nap = -2. 

Oh what a catastrophe that was. My mind was bubbling and stewing with so much negative self-talk that even Daryl noticed and probed to find out more. A meltdown ensued. Even I did not realise what was coming. I got sucked into a ridiculous expectation. I allowed guilt to fester and overflow because of my over-reaction to a simple comment that I hung onto and filled in the blanks. 

My family certainly meant well. But what wasn’t constructive was a sweeping statement that made it easy to misunderstand. And then I realised why I was feeling the way I felt.That’s because the existing social construct of motherhood (a.k.a. what it means to be a good mother) is this:

Excel in your career. Be with your kids 24/7. Continue to be happy and grateful even if you never have time for yourselfBe a good wife. Keep the house clean. Do it all on your own and don’t complain.

Now that’s quite impossible to achieve and honestly rather absurd. I do believe that as a society, we’re getting better at being more empathetic but I think we can do more. Us mothers could do with more support and definitely more affirmation. 

After some reflection, I put pen to paper (and now here) to remind myself that I am a mother to my children and therefore should be focussing on excelling at motherhood on my terms and via goals I decide on (instead of trying to prove something to others): 

  • Raise, kind, caring and resilient children with values and morals
  • Equip my children with the tools to be emotional literate/intelligent
  • Encourage my children to do their best in whatever they do (thus focussing on effort and not primarily A* grades/outcome), to build grit
  • Be consistent (this is useful when disciplining)

There is no textbook to motherhood and there shouldn’t be. Every child is unique and we are not here to prove our mettle but rather act as guides as they navigate through life. 

To all my dear fellow mamas, I hope you know that you’re not alone. As mothers, we are the lighthouse for our children, but let not others affect how you shine that light. As long as you’re guiding and lighting the path, that’s good enough. Everyday is a brand new day to do our best and let not others dictate what ‘best’ looks like. 

Childhood Life Parenting

Manners and Tantrums

Babies are manageable but when they become toddlers, that easy math equation of obedience minus tantrums = compliance does not compute. I am not good at playing ‘bad-cop’. It stems from my own childhood – I was brought up by typical South East Asian standards, you get whacked if you don’t comply. End of story, no bargaining. 

Soft parenting was my go-to technique. A whimper and thick hot tears got me in a fix and I would rush to carry Ciaran and comfort him. When he turned 2, and as all toddlers do – he discovered that he could say No. A shake of the head, stomping of feet, running to a corner, curled up in a bowl and cries that could rival a banshee. Wooopfh. I dreaded that. Daryl is the firm one and he would not stand for any tantrums. I started deferring to Daryl whenever Ciaran got into his Oscar the grouch mood swings/tantrums. Deep down, I knew this was not sustainable. Parenting is a two-person (or a village) work.

Ready to Go! is a brilliant resource for parents.

Thankfully I caught on, and I started to seek out techniques to help me be a more responsible parent. Of these, a one great resources is a series of books my sister bought me under the ‘Ready to Go!’ set. Bless her heart, she got it  in hopes of helping me deal with a headstrong toddler. The one I found most useful and have applied with great success is the on Manners. Written by a clinical psychologist, it fames out 4 key factors that influence the way children learn and choose their behaviours:

Key Influences on Children’s Behaviour

  1. Copying: parents need to model best behaviour for children to imitate
  2. Cues: signals, reminders, arrangements , rules and routines
  3. Consequences: reward and punishment 
  4. Compassion: being understood and listened to = caring communication 

The book goes in-depth into each point and provides practical tools to aid parents like me in our attempts to ensure we bring up children who respect and are considerate of others’ feelings. 

This was the turning point for me as I flipped through the book (which has a separate book for your kid too) and as Ciaran turned 3 and I started to make a concerted effort to help my son chart out what it means to have manners. 

This book recommends using Time-outs to navigate toddlers into understanding what is acceptable.Two other techniques we’re using now are also Option 1 or 2 and a good ‘ol analog Responsibility Chart . If there’s anything I’ve learnt on managing toddlers it’s these three things and I’m using them to the best of my ability. Here’s how:

1. Time-Out

  • Children need firm discipline and the assurance that they are loved. 
  • When your child starts acting out – i.e. a tantrum or being rude, put them in a place (we use the stairs) where you can see them (don’t shut them in a room) and set a timer. 2 mins for a 2 year old, 3 mins for a 3 year old and so forth. 
  • After the timer beeps, take them out and hug them tight and spend some quiet time together.
  •  Once your child has calmed down, explain what they did ‘wrong’ – misbehaving, screaming, being unkind, kicking etc. 
  • Emphasise how they can be kinder, better behaved then move on. You don’t need to dwell too much on that incident. 

2. Option 1 Or 2

  • If your child is not listening to reason or just doesn’t want to do what he’s told, pause and give him 2 options. 
  • Both options need to be something you can deliver on. They should not be what your child is demanding from you.
  • For example – your child wants to watch Youtube but he’s already had his 1 hour limit and is screaming your ears off.
  • You can offer him Option 1: Playing with his robot toy (pick a fav toy of his) and then he can get say 30 mins of cartoons later in the evening OR Option 2: Continue crying and get NO screen time for the rest of the day. 
  • Put it to him that he needs to pick only 1 Option.

3. Responsibility Chart

  • We love Melissa & Doug’s stuff, they’re well made and well-thought-out. Daryl bought this chart and hung it in our living room.
  • We picked out priority tasks we wanted Ciaran to take responsibility of – clearing his toys, stop whining and saying please and thank you.
  • We told Ciaran what’s expected of him should we want to get a ‘Bravo’ or ‘Good Job’ magnet. It works brilliantly; and he would come to us at the end of the day and we assess how well he had done for the day and award him accordingly. 
  • Affirmation helps children understand what they should do more of. I prefer this to yelling and being militant.
  • The Manners book also comes with really cute posters and stickers you can get your child to paste when he is polite, respectful and well behaved.
Ciaran sticking on a star he got for being polite.

These tools has worked well for us so far. But as with every chapter of the age-old Book of Parenting, every day is a new day. Ciaran is better behaved and knows his boundaries. He communicates better on why he’s frustrated (i.e. hungry, need to use the potty etc) instead of throwing a hissy fit. There are still days when he gets into a scream-fest, but those instances are much reduced.

As tough as parenting is, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Being parents have made us better people because we are relearning so many of the basics. The basics that make us human – and what is truly important; our family, our love for each other which fuels our efforts to make a brighter future.

Useful links to buy tools mentioned in my post:

Life Parenting

On Motherhood

“Motherhood is not a GCSE level examination that I can study for or ace at by following the textbooks or rulebooks. There is no one perfect guidebook and there is no such thing as a perfect mother (or parent)”

Motherhood – it’s a much lauded rite of passage experienced by many (duly blessed) women. Loving, patient and nurturing mothers are celebrated while short-tempered, agitated and anxious mothers are seem to ‘not-have-it-together’.

Can I tell you an honest truth? 80% of the time I belong to the latter. Every day is like a new challenge on Ninja Warriors; I used to start my day by anticipating meltdowns even before they happen so that I can deflect and prepare myself. It was quite a doom and gloom situation. Like dark looming clouds cueing an impending storm.

Dark clouds that reflected my gloomy mind.

When your actions don’t align with what is expected of you as dutiful mother, that grand ‘ol mum-guilt starts to snowball. I had serious cognitive dissonance because I had grandiose ideas about the fantastic mother I’d be. The thought that I could possibly suck at that one role I thought I would excel at made me feel disappointed.

A mother’s disappointment, as I have since learnt is more commonplace than I had realised. Just do a quick google search or look at your fellow mama-friends’ Instagram and lo and behold, a community of mothers’ sharing their grievances and challenges. Thank god for #strengththroughvulnerability.

My one biggest learning in this parenting journey of mine is this – don’t be afraid to lean into your partner. Daryl is a fantastic partner and (in my opinion) a super dad. He can see when the wheels of doubt are doing some double-duty churning and inward dwelling.  “What are you trying to prove and for who?” was a question he posed when I was regaling him about how there’s so much more I could be doing for our sons and I can I do more. 

And that’s when it clicked. Do more, be more, achieve more – that’s great, but by whose standards and to what metrics? Motherhood is not a GCSE level examination that I can study for or ace at by following the textbooks or rulebooks. There is no one perfect guidebook and there is no such thing as a perfect mother (or parent). 
It took me almost 2 years to come to terms with the fact that being present for my children and giving them my time is all there is to it. So simple, so dummy-proof. 

I have since been at peace, knowing that I should confidently parent at the beat of my own drum.  There are 3 main areas of focus right now for us at home, what with the on-going circuit breaker:

In no way am I an expert in any of this but I would like to share the knowledge and wisdom gleaned from articles/books I’ve read and from experience. Hopefully they will be of use to any of you who may be parents. Here’s my post on dealing with Manners and Tantrums.

Life Parenting Relationship

On love and communication

No matter the culture, race or religion, I truly believe food is a universal language of love. 

Now more than ever with varying levels of #lockdown all over the world, relationships of all kinds are put to the test. Parents and children, husband and wife, partners etc living in a bell jar with so much space for tension, and feelings – this can often lead to raised voices and agitated arguments (sometimes over the simplest things). 
I speak from experience.

Daryl and I have had more friction than usual and having 2 kids vying for our attention does not help the essential communication channel we usually have (no more running away from the kids on a Saturday afternoon for a nice 2-hour brunch😕). 

We decided to nip this ‘barrier’ in the bud by implementing a 6 min catch up everyday. All you need is some down time in between your kid(s) naps. Each of you gets 1 min (use your phone timer) of air-time to talk about your day or what you’re feeling and when the time is up, it’s the other person’s turn to share. Do this 3 times each. 
In theory, 6 mins is short but when we did it, that quality time felt longer! It has helped us feel more connected and less testy with each other and I wanted to share this since it may help anyone in a similar situation. 

Also, don’t wait for a once-a-year public declaration day to shower your partner with love. Cook something for him/her whenever you feel like it. One of the best ways anyone can express love to their special someone is through food. As food is sustenance, a homemade meal is telling your partner, “I appreciate your existence in my life and I want to feed your body (and soul)”. No matter the culture, race or religion, I truly believe food is a universal language of love. 

Breakfast plate Daryl made this morning.

Assembled from the brioche and gratin dauphinois he made earlier in the week, this plate here is the perfect ‘thank you and I love you’. I had another hairy night soothing our 7mo baby (he’s teething and having sleep regression) and was feeling crappy and this made me feel appreciated. 

If you think you need special ingredients to celebrate, think again. Just think about what comfort food your partner enjoys the most and if you can’t make it, buy and  assemble it nicely on a plate. It’s really the thought that counts. Husbands, wives, partners, lovers – your time is what matters most! Have a lovely Sunday and keep safe 💗🌟
#relationship #love #celebrate #thesimplelife 

Parenting recipe

Choco-Avo Spread

A crucial ninja skill all parents master at some point is the ability to disguise wholesome foods as something super droolsome. This skill takes plenty of practice and requires copious amounts of patience, and trial and error.

Ciaran slathering on some my super choc avo spread onto Daryl’s homemade sourdough bread.

My husband Daryl and I are pretty enthused food-lovers. We enjoy cooking as much as we love eating and when I first got pregnant, we were super excited to having ‘mini-gourmands’ who would appreciate food. Boy were we in for a sweet surprise (parents, are you nodding along with me?).

As it turns out, toddlers have pretty weird food preferences. Ciaran has gone through several phases now. He had a rice & egg stage, a noodle-phase and now he’s really into mangoes. We are truly tickled at his food requests. We now have plenty of “want chocolate” pleas. I claim responsibility for this – as a chocolate fanatic myself, I have my own chocolate snack stash and toddlers never say no to chocolate. Most of my chocolate treats has way too much sugar for a 3yo so I’ve been diligently seeking out ways to make kid-friendly chocolate snacks that are enticing enough but also healthy at the same time.

This concoction is one of them. I’ve been making this super easy blender-friendly tasty chocolate spread for a while now but usually just for myself. I made it again this week and decided to share it with Ciaran. And it seems like we have another winner.

Super easy and quick to make!



  • 2 large, ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or agave)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I’m partial to Green & Black’s, as the chocolate is more intense)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce (don’t worry, you won’t taste it, this is to neutralise the avo taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor (or a blender).
  2. Chill in the refrigerator and enjoy as is or keep in a jar to use as a scrummy chocolate spread like I do. Freeze some, if you don’t forsee finishing it within 3-4 days.
Decadently thick, but also super healthy at the same time – double win.

This can be served as a chocolate mousse substitute if you’ve got vegan family members or friends coming over (well after the pandemic eases up) for dinner. Sometimes, I just dip apple slices in it for a quick afternoon snack.

Quick note about the avocados – make sure they are duly ripe because it’s important to have it creamy and buttery. Semi or unripe avocados will result in stronger ‘grassy’ tasting spread. I learnt from experience. Sharing with you this helpful colour guide I spotted at the supermarket to determine the best time to use your avocados.