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2018, My Top 10 Gains and Fails as a "3-in-1" Mum (Part I)

It's just hard to wrap up my 2018. So many things have happened. And the biggest one just started from last year October when I became a MUM. People say the excitement of giving birth to a new life will make mothers forget all the pains from contractions, labor and recovery. Baby becomes center of the world.

Well, I feel so grateful and happy that I surely don't mind paying for a challenging 10-month to have my son. It's just that at this time of the year, I feel it's necessary to give a retrospect to what has happened and my lessons learnt, for me to become a better mother in the coming years.

My Top Gains in 2018

In a nutshell...

1. Completed the Joint Master Degree in Science Communications with NUS and ANU

2. Lost 20kg within 1 year after giving birth

3. Landed a new job after being a working-from-home-mum for 10 months

4. Founded and maintained my not-for-profit community Mama on Palette

5. Published my first picture book "The Vegetables' Kingdom"

1. I have finally completed my Master Degree after three years

Started reading the master since Jan 2016, I applied for Leave of Absence early 2017 after knowing I was pregnant. Luckily, I have finished all the on campus modules before my first trimester. When I got heavier and my contraction became more frequent, it was quite hard for me to concentrate on research. After giving birth, I was still left with a final thesis to complete. I has been thinking if I shall appeal for another year of LOA...

I have to say my special "Thank You" to my supervisor Dr Linda, who has encouraged me to take on the challenge. And of course to Jim and my baby, who has stayed with me for hundreds of reckless nights and weekends. I finally made it! The moment I have submitted the 80-page dissertation, I stared into the clock and sat in silence. It took more than one's effort. Personally, it pushed me to become a "3-in-1" mum to juggle school, work and family. I am glad that I upheld my dream.

2. I have stick onto my weight loss battle and reduced over 20kg

My weight wasn't ideal even before I got pregnant. There were many times that I called for a weight loss campaign, but usually I gave up within a month.

During pregnancy, I have puffed up to 80+kg. My weight before deliver was as high as 85kg!!! My hubby has been trying to erase my anxiety by saying "it's just water weight". Sadly, I measured myself the 2nd day after labor - I was still 79kg. My baby and the so-called "water" has only taken away 6kg. Some more I had a C-section, which means I could only start some light exercises after 100 days.

I was so sad and depressed, especially when I realised that all my prenatal clothes could no longer fit. One of my colleagues even told me, "of course they won't fit lah! I have never seen a mother who did it." When I looked into the mirror every day morning, I felt my face was like a big, swollen bread. Sometimes I cried a bit secretly.

My weight loss journey officially started near the end of my maternity leave. This time I was very hard core. I started with Ballet Beautiful series through online forum recommendations. At the beginning, I couldn't even lift my arms for more than 10 times! Practice indeed makes perfect. I exercised for around 30min every evening after work. My persistence got better and better. As my body strength improved, I have combined ballet with some core exercises from HASfit. It was tiring. But it worked.

Now, after a year of my longest ever weight loss plan, I managed to return to my prenatal weight; I can fit into all of my previous clothes (The "Aha" moment to my discouraging former colleague :P). Still, the doctor advised "losing few more kilos will be ideal". It doesn't prevent me from being proud of myself!

3. Jumping from a working-from-home-mum to an office lady

I have always been grateful to my previous company for allowing me to working from home after my maternity leave.

My husband and I have decided at the very beginning to take care of Bobo on ourselves, even if our families in China were willing to come over. The reasons were complicated: generation/cultural gap and our own parenting belief. We have neither hired a helper due to the similar reasons.

We knew we have chosen a tough road. Therefore, I was mentally prepared to resign and became a stay-at-home-mum if my manager that time did not agree with the working-from-home proposal. I was fortunate. That lady, who's a young start-up founder and actually not much older than me, considered for few days and told me she'd like to give it a try. I burst into tears when I heard her words from the phone. Thank you, Cherry. I would never forgot the kindness that you have shared with me and my family.

* The same kind lady eventually chose to leave the company she herself has created. This is also a part of the reasons that I decided to leave.

A typical day of me as a fresh working-from-home-mum usually consisted of three stations: my laptop table, my pumping corner, my baby's crib. And all three stations are all within one "office" - my bedroom. Many times people ask me about this story and how I managed, I usually say "I squeeze lemonade": whenever my baby fell into sleep, I rushed to my computer and continued with my work. In between, when it's time to pump, I pumped. Initially I tried breastfeeding, but Bobo and I didn't latch very well and it was very time-consuming. Therefore, I have developed the model to "work-feed-pump-work". The cycle performed smoothly until Bobo could climb out of his crib and required more attention.

Why do I chose to work? I couldn't escape from addressing "money". However a more important factor to me is keeping my professionalism and competency in the market. Thanks to it, when I decided to move onto something new, I managed to secure a job efficiently. Of course I experienced lots of failures along the adventure. I will share more during the Part II of my writing.

4. Make Arts Happen in Mamas' Lives - Mama on Palette & Art Lover Mamas

Another gift 2018 has given to me is Mama on Palette, Singapore's first community for mothers who love arts. My goal of founding the society is just simple - to amplify mothers' lives through arts. Because I myself has benefited from artistic creation to fight against postpartum depression. I also firmly believe that every mother is a natural-born artist. More can be found from my interview here.

This self-claimed "start up" journey allows me to make many new friends, too. Every time when I think about that I have a lot of talented, beautiful mothers around me, I couldn't feel happier. It was a great pleasure to have worked with Joyce, Priyanka and Amanda to produce wonderful events. I am very grateful to all the partners, Home Play Singapore, Faber-Castell Singapore, Class Living, Science Bus, ByKidO..., who have co-hosted with us or supported us by spreading the words as well.

Although now with my new job, I could barely spare time for this community. But I wouldn't stop. Recently I started meeting with new potential partners, NGOs and arts foundations. 2019, the palette will just get more colorful!

5. A prenatal dream turned into true: "The Story of the Vegetables' Kingdom"

It was four months' before my EDD, I had a dream in the night about a kingdom made of vegetables and fruits. My husband, my baby and I were invited as guests to take a tour around. We have spoken to tomatoes, strawberries, eggplants and finally met with the king, a giant potato.

When I woke up, I decided to draw this story and made it as a gift to my newborn. I started from planning the "project timeline", writing the script on my laptop, designing the outlook of my characters, and sketching on a A4 booklet. I painted with water color and copic markers. Sometimes I felt my baby was painting with me (there were several outliers and pop up dots!). Just nice, I managed to finish the production few weeks before my delivery. I have published the book before Bobo turned into 5 months.

The only disappointing part is that I didn't win favor from any publishers. Some was kind enough to call me back and shared with me some reasons of rejection, "the content did not imply local culture", "it did not deliver a clear message", "what can children learn from reading the book?" Yet, my initial goal was not teaching a lesson. Same to my wish upon my baby's future education - no force, but grow freely and happily.

I shouldn't ask for too much as a "3-in-1" mum. You see, I am not usually keen on "X-in-1" goods, such as "3-in-1 coffee" or "2-in-1 lotion". I always think having too many flavors/effects equals to no good flavor/effect. Ironically, I made myself multi-functional during the past year. I couldn't judge if this is healthy or not. I am just here knotting down my memories because time flies so fast - fast enough that I may forget what used to make me feel happy, exciting, sad or confused. I hope you enjoy reading and sharing my memories, and I look forward to telling my top fails in 2018 in the next chapter.

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