Mommy Ruler’s Day Off : 9 Things Mom Gets To Do When the Kids are out of Town (in pics)

For the first time in what feels like forever, I am home alone for two whole days … That’s right… two.whole.days! My darling hunk of a husband took our daughters to see the grandparents, leaving me to venture on my own for a bit.

Since the birth of our second little monkey , I honestly don’t think I’ve had any ‘me-time’ like this for longer than a few hours, so I decided to make the most of it  ….

Things mom gets to do when the kids are out of town: 

  1. Read, Read, Read !!!

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2. Shower… in peace 

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3. Have the time to blow dry your hair … and feel like a celebrity

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4. Take… well…. you know… in peace 

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5. Caricature Mani/Pedi 

Pedi

6. Clean Up … (I mean I know it’s a mini-break .. but I wasn’t raised in a barn !)

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7. Still working though …. Gotta make the big bucks ….. (hahahahaahahaaha… well…. ‘bucks’ 😉 

work

8. Haven’t been fully alone like this for a while … eek!

bed

9. And of course, spending time documenting your time off and turning it into a blog, because even though you’re loving your new-found freedom, you secretly miss those little monkeys and all the time you spend with them… warts and everything 🙂 

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We’ve got to stop this “Parent Shaming”

We have got to stop this parent shaming !!!

By a show of hands, who here has been judged, at some point, on their parenting. Now by the same show of hands, who here has judged other parents (*no… you don’t actually have to raise your ha*….. you see what I’m trying to get at here). Call it assessing competition/compatibility or just being plain bitchy, but we’re all guilty of at least thinking it.

Now back in the good old days, judging was done behind each other’s backs and we could just stick to our little groups of people who handled their kids the same way we did. However, fast forward to the Internet age, and on a daily basis my Facebook feed is flooded with propaganda, health articles and ‘new research’ that seems to show me exactly how bad I am doing at this whole parenting thing.

Not only do we have the ‘facts’ (and I use that term oh so lightly), but with that come the many voices that suggest to the rest of us that we’re doing a crappy job. In the age of oversharing on social media and a false sense of anonymity online, people seem to have taken it upon themselves to judge, criticize and sometimes just plain bully others ,without accounting for the consequences their words might bring.

Of course shaming each other seems to be somewhat of a global issue ranging from our religious/political choices, how we view our body image and what foods we prefer to eat (spoiler alert…. it ALL gives you cancer.. apparently.)  With that, I’d like to focus in particular on parent shaming and some of the issues I’ve stumbled upon in my short 3,5 years as a parent of two children (yes, based on the above criteria, that now makes me an expert  😉

1. ‘Fed is best’ (phrase taken from an existing Facebook page)

Both my girls have been bottle fed (*gasp*). They didn’t get any breast milk from the very start (*double gasp*). With the second one we even gave up within the first month (*exists and slams door*). But did you know that I was never able to produce the milk to begin with…. and yes we tried every tip/suggestion/hint we could find or were given… nothing worked. I had the storage… just not the stock. My girls were frustrated, hungry and missed out on bonding with their mom because each feeding session caused more and more stress for all of us (at one point I had a nurse milking me like a cow while another tried to attach my baby to the boob…. very sexy.. and relaxing) In the end, feeding them formula made them just as happy and healthy and we could focus again on the key issue of getting them fed and enjoying the time to bond and love them.

A number of friends have breastfed their babies in public (*gasp*)… they didn’t use a feeding schedule (*double gasp*) and some are even still breastfeeding their toddler (*the crowd goes wild*). But did you know that it makes them feel so much closer to their little ones.. and yes they know formula could do the trick just as much to give them a break…. but they don’t need nor want it. This is their choice and they are happy about that and I don’t see the kids complaining either.

Everyone has their own prerogative on how they feed their children and damnit.. as long as these babies are fed healthy (meaning breast or formula… not whiskey) then they’ll be just fine!

2. Dad’s don’t babysit, they parent

Ok, the breastfeeding can be more relatable to moms (in account of the whole ‘having boobs’ thing) but for too long have I seen the dads be pushed on the bench when it comes to ‘knowing how hard it is to be a parent’. So with this, I would like to do a little shout-out to all the papas out there. Being parents is about being a team, and like any team, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the field. There is no superhero and the silly side-kick when it comes to parenting (although it’d be fun to start wearing our underwear on the outside).

It bothers me when people refer to daddies ‘babysitting’ to give mom a night out, but I don’t see us paying them at the end of the night and sending them on their jolly way for a good night’s sleep afterwards.

And believe it or not, when mommy’s not there, daddy also knows how not to kill the baby, what lyrics go with ‘Do you want to build a Snowman’ and that ‘snugglebut’ is the only teddy that helps them sleep better.

Just like moms no longer want to be seen as the 1950s housewife who gets excited about the new washing machine, dads no longer want to be seen as the authoritarian parent who couldn’t tell the front or back of a diaper if their life depended on it.

3. What if I told you that our babies slept through the night without using controlled crying nor co-sleeping…

When it comes up that our girls slept through the night from 3/4 months onward, I am often immediately greeted with the “Oh, I could never listen to my baby cry it out”. Often, one style of parenting is joined with a number of assumptions linked to that style and we don’t look at the background of the situation or most importantly…. is the kid happy?

We used somewhat of a schedule when feeding our girls (of course if they were really hungry before their scheduled time… we fed them… duh). But having a bit of a routine for both of them when it came to feeding and bedtime seemed to really work for us and them and of course I also take into account the immense amount of luck we’ve had with good nighttime sleepers… a lot of luck.

In saying that, parents who do decide on controlled crying are not sadists who sit outside their baby’s bedroom door and giggle every time the child cries out … like the rest of us, they are just trying out what works best for everyone involved in finding the right way to get our babies to sleep. We might not always agree on other people’s methods, but everyone is trying to just figure it out as we go..

I also know a number of parents who co-sleep, and even though it’s not something we did ourselves, we seen their kids as happy and healthy mini-humans. Yes, the parents are tired, I can’t think of any parent who isn’t, and no, none of them have gotten squashed just yet.. they’re fine!

Again, as long as the kids are happy it’s ok to find a schedule or a method that works for both the parents and the children. Sleep deprivation is just part of the game… find your own way to make it manageable.

4. If you have found the solution, share, don’t shame

I applaud those parents who have found the light and the only true way to parent their babies effectively. I even more so enjoy their regular social media blasts where they share their newfound enlightenment with the clear assumption that the rest of us are all still in the dark and know nothing or are ignorant and resistant to change.

If you find some interesting articles out there, or new research that could interest others, by all means, do share the love! But don’t shame the rest of us for not knowing this obvious valuable piece of information (even though you just read about it only 2 weeks ago yourself).  I’m glad people have found the light and maybe it is indeed the best way to go… if so, give the rest of us a chance to get their on our own … because your smug attitude will just make we want to rebel even more.

(*side note: not everyone sharing an article on parenting is considered a douche, we’ve got the right to speak our minds (this blog post being case in point)

5.  Don’t make up statistics or facts to prove a point

This is where fictional information on the Internet comes to play, or as our buddy D. Trump calls it ‘fake news’. Some people out there are good at relaying their personal opinions as hard facts. An example, chocking and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a big worry for all parents, so please don’t tell a parent that their way to put their child to bed can lead to SIDS unless you have the scientific facts to back you up. We have been told that our use of ‘sleep positioners’ (to stop baby from rolling) could lead to SIDS… bullshit. Some of my co-sleeping friends have been told they could squash and choke their baby while they sleep…. bullshit. We’ll always find that one case where a baby did die etc, but don’t use someone’s horrible (and most likely rare) experience as a statistic to support your opinion on.

6. If you feel very strong about something, that’s fine, but does it need to be said?

In saying that, I feel strongly about this, but vaccines do not cause autism (I’m sorry that is just a scientific fact, we really can’t dispute that one can we?). That doesn’t mean I’ll go hunt down the parents that choose not to vaccinate, nor will I ever confront them about it (however hard it can be). The same goes for people who choose not to have medical, life-saving, interventions for their children because of their religion… I admire doctors who have to deal with this on a regular basis because I know I would struggle at keeping my mouth shut. Again though, this is the parents choice and it sucks big time to see this happen no matter how strongly we disagree with it (I know I do… just write a blog about it instead :p )

As usual, these are all just a compilation of my own personal opinions and suggestions (this being a personal blog and all). If I’ve offended some people with what I wrote please know this was not my intention, but it can be seen as such a ‘taboo’ topic these days that it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t write. I guess the main objective I’m trying to get at here is to try and live in a community where we support each other, not to make each other feel bad because we do things differently.

We can’t stop from judging… it’s in our nature.. but think before you speak … is it necessary to say out loud or could we just think it to ourselves?

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*(yep, these our kids watching TV… whaaaaaa?! 😉

7 Life-Related New Year Resolutions to strive for

(posted in bonjourfrance.eu, Dec 2016)

It’s that time of the year, when we note down our New Year resolutions with the best intentions of keeping them. But what if we had a look at some resolutions we could all strive for a little more these days, which could have a direct impact on our life and perhaps on the life of those around us?

This is most certainly not an article where I tell people what to do, even though the title indicates a strong suggestion… If anything, these are resolutions I would like to apply more myself and what better way to get motivated than to drag the rest of you along with me!

  1. Be simple

Life is already complicated enough without us adding an extra topping of trouble. Look up anything around ‘simplifying life’ and you’ll read the same rules over and over again: when you miss someone, just call them. Want to see someone again? Invite them over. When you feel you’re not being understood, explain yourself. If you have questions, ask them and if you don’t agree or dislike something, state it..constructively. Just like when you love something or someone… tell it. When you want something… it’s an automatic ‘no’ until you ask. It’s often really just that simple.

Unnecessary mind-games, in my opinion, were reserved for the wonderful world of dating (but that’s another article to write later). It seems like such pretenses have worked their way into our professional and personal lives. Is it because we’re too sensitive and afraid to offend or do we play along because we’re becoming more and more dishonest?

  1. Complain Less

We’ve all been a culprit and it would almost be unrealistic to ask someone to stop complaining. Life is an adventure and will sometimes throw us some doozies, where we can’t not complain. There is nothing wrong with venting our frustrations from time to time, and like the above point suggests, stating something we’re unhappy about can help in simplifying our lives. But let’s keep it at just that. Let’s blow off steam, and then move on. Why complain about the petty things we cannot change? Do we really need to spend more than 20 seconds of resentment when the RER is late… I know, again, or when some idiot cuts us off in traffic (the latter being one I need to practice a bit more myself… I mean is it really that much of a challenge for them to use their indicator when turning?! ugh)

  1. Eat well and move

Ahhh, the all too common ‘I-wont-eat-junk-for-the-entire-year-but-I-secretly-went-to-Macdo-a-month-in-when-no one-was-looking-and-cried-about-it-after’ resolution.  With this I don’t mean to go on a diet of any kind or to starve ourselves from life’s goodies. After all, we live in France and are surrounded by gastronomic treats everywhere we look.

Explore new cuisines and discover herbs and spices or bring a twist to an old favorite. Eating well isn’t limited to only the food, but also focuses on how we eat it. Turn off the TV and have dinner as a family, eat something fresh every day and pour yourself that glass of wine even though it’s a school night.

It’s a scientific fact that physical exercise makes us feel better. We don’t need to hit a gym or run a marathon to experience the extra energy endorphins give us. Take the stairs, avoid the elevator, walk when you get the chance and heck… go jump on the bed (just don’t let your kids catch you)

  1. Hate less, tolerate more

I don’t want to get into a political debate nor dive into the Pandora’s Box that is ‘religion’. Rather, I want to focus on criticizing each other less just because we do things differently. Let’s focus on tolerating each other more rather than jumping to conclusions and spreading even more animosity in an already prejudiced world. There’s enough bad people out there lighting up hate, why add fuel to the fire?

  1. Forgive

I’m not saying to forgive and forget.’ Not forgetting’ teaches us our life lessons and helps us not to make the same mistakes again (even though sometimes we need to make them a few times over before we truly get it). But forgiving is important… not because people always deserve our forgiveness, but because we deserve our own inner peace. Wasn’t it our buddy Buddha who said that anger is like holding onto a hot stone with the intention of throwing it at someone else… we’re the only ones to get burnt. For the sake of our own peace of mind, and no one else’s… let’s learn to let go.

  1. Investigate

Dr. Wayne Dyer states that the ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about, yet refuse to investigate. With all the fake information that seems to be published these days, isn’t it better we get our information from various sources before we make up our own minds?

Based on the random articles that seem to flood our Facebook newsfeed and certain sites these days, we are lead to believe that Paris has ‘no-go, danger zones’, vaccines cause autism, you haven’t’ lived until you’ve cooked with coconut oil and pretty much anything you say, do, or eat gives you cancer (which can all be cured by drinking apple cider vinegar by the by).

Let’s educate ourselves more and not accept everything we hear as immediate fact. We are being spoon fed information every day and it’s up to us to consider which stories are truthful, important and worth sharing with others.

  1. Laugh a little

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Farts are still funny (prrt). Liking a video of a cat stuck in a bathtub while an Australian guy narrates, does not make you any less of an intellectual, and remember that a smile is contagious and could brighten up someone’s day. (Perhaps not so much if you’re staring at them with a huge grin on your face for an extended period of time… in that case you might just freak them out a little bit).

I hope this article got some of you motivated to join me in making our world just a little bit more bearable.

With this I wish everyone a happy Silly Season and a great start to the New Year… see you in 2017!

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“Tongue tied”: When you think you’re fluent in a foreign language and 7 setbacks that show you’re not quite there yet…

As a Flemish-speaking Belgian; who lived half her life speaking English in Australia; and subsequently married a Frenchman and moved to Paris; it’s safe to say that my linguistic skills range from being a fluent smooth talker to stumbling around like a 4 year old (sometimes even changing levels within the same conversation).

When I first met my husband, my high-school French had to suffice, while I took on extra language courses in my quest to become a bona fide ‘française’ (or at the least, sound like one….) Being a native Flemish speaker as well (which is essentially just Dutch, but with a cooler accent, teehee 😉  I honestly thought I was doing a good job.  However, often I’m met with a few setbacks which take me down a peg and remind me that, no matter how fluent I might become, there will always be these hick-ups. This, in turn, damages my confidence at times and makes me feel like I’ll always be the eternal ‘outsider’.

The following setbacks do not necessarily block the communication, but tend to derail the messages I’m trying to get across. These obstacles are not only limited to my time in France but are based on various experiences my family and I have had over the years, all over the world.

1. Vocal cultural contrast 

I don’t know if this is specific to English-speakers, or if I’m just a talker, but I always tend to add a little backstory or example to ‘further explain’ my messages. Even writing this now, I know I’m not making a lot of sense.. so let me add a backstory to clear it up 🙂  For example, when needing to change an appointment; the French simply call… change the date….say goodbye (they are direct, but still have manners).. and hang up. Me, on the other hand, I feel the need to explain why I am changing the appointment. Doing this in my native language, takes a matter of two seconds: “Hi, I need to change the appointment, I have to pick up my child from school earlier than I thought“. However, throw in a second or third language, and that simple explanation turns into a mumble of excuses! “Hi… I need to change my appointment.. the family… my kid is at school… but they can’t be for long.. I have to pick them up..*fumbles with phone’s translation app* ..*groan*”.  Frankly, no one has time for that; and some lose patience;  which gets you even more tongue tied when you hear someone’s annoyed sighing on the other end. Keep it simple… if you stay simple, chances are you’ll be understood better.

2. The ‘direct translation’ catch 

This one has gotten me on numerous occasions… I know that the basic message is usually received when we translate directly from our native language.. however certain misuses of words can often lead to either comical or awkward situations. I once told my mother-in-law I was excited to see my husband again after 3 months… sounds innocent enough right.. but the word ‘excité‘ in French is more commonly used when someone is excited in the .. let’s say.. more ‘romantic’ sense (yes, I mean horny).  I also once told them I lost my mind which, using direct translation, lead them to believe that I had misplaced my brains. My Belgian friends have had a chuckle or two where I’ve thrown in some expressions directly translated from English. My girlfriend was very confused when I randomly started blabbing about pastries when her partner ‘wanted to have it all‘.. in Belgium, it seems, people don’t “have their cake and eat it too“.

3. You’re not funny in another language

There’s nothing worse than trying to fit in with a joke and being the only one left laughing to an awkward silence or the sound of crickets chirping. Unless the joke is a primary school leveled wisecrack, I’d stay away from using witty humor in another language until you’ve mastered it. Like the above two points, a lot of the underlying wit is often misinterpreted or the message is lost in translation. A direct translation can lead to an entirely different joke and don’t forget the cultural differences in what we perceive as ‘funny’. What may be seen as dirty in one language, can be construed as completely vulgar in another. Also, some things are just funnier in one language and not the other (looking at a play of words, colloquial meanings etc) …. well at least you cracked yourself up right?

4. Some people just switch off as soon as they hear an accent

It’s unfortunately true that some people switch off and stop listening as soon as they hear an accent. This does not mean they are completely ignoring you, nor that they are discriminating (calm down), but they only end up hearing what they want to hear and they no longer put in the effort. For me, this happens most frequently when on the phone. At least in person you could charm them with a smile or sad ‘please-I’m-not-fluent-but-I’m-trying’ puppy eyes. In certain cultures, it is also common that someone refuses to tell you they don’t understand you…. a Chinese person will rather send you clear across town before admitting he did not understand your request for directions (then again, by being sent all over the city is how I got to explore the majority of Hong Kong.. brownie points).

5. An attempt to master the accent ends up in a drunken slur

Sometimes we try to master an accent in order to sound more fluent, however we focus less on the grammar and start making mistakes. We often pick up on these mistakes straight away, but instead of changing our accents mid sentence (because we don’t want to sound like an idiot), we end up slurring or mumbling our way out of it. I think it’s better to speak the language correctly, even if our accents are lousy, rather than sound like a fluent, but moronic, native.

As a side note, I would like to include the actual slurring incidents (usually  as a result of one too many beers) where we think we’re a lot more fluent than what we are (we also think we’re better dancers, philosophers and peacekeepers).

6. The nonexistence of certain words

Anyone who speaks more than one language is familiar with the scenario where you know the perfect word or expression to describe your situation, just not in the language you need at the time. A direct translation of such a saying only results in confusing the person even more. Just like having ‘chickenskin’ (‘kippenvel’ in Dutch) is not the right way to describe goosebumps, neither is ‘becoming a goat’ (devenir chêvre’ in French ) to tell people you’re being driven mad by all the language jumbles. We,multilingual speakers, would kick ass at scrabble if we could just mix and match the languages we know.

7. Language fusion 

Any multilingual family can relate with the vast mixing pot of languages we deal with on a daily basis. Because we all speak the different languages together, often our sentences can start in one language and finish in the other (heck, let’s add a third one in the middle, just for shits and giggles – another expression badly translated by the way). We do it with such speed and accuracy that we don’t even notice the difference.

Fast forward to when you’re speaking with someone who is not part of that same family and you’ve got yourself a very confused listener. Just like our 3 year old, who is currently speaking in three languages… often in the same sentence (seriously, the teachers at her kindergarten have no idea what she’s talking about), I’m often throwing in a word in English hoping no one will notice and think I’m super fluent and oh so funny hahahaaa.. Nevertheless, unlike my 3 year old who will grow out of it soon and master her linguistics, I’ll need some more practice…..

The idea that the world of each language is divided into two groups: “fluent” and “non-fluent” is not realistic . Language is a living thing; it always happens within a certain context and every scenario is different for everyone. Fluency is not purely linguistic but involves non-verbal communication as well . Written fluency won’t help you to understand the meaning of a nod or a gesture. I think that’s why children (well.. children and drunk people) can communicate so well… they focus on what the person is trying to relay rather than how they are saying it.

I know, with time, I’ll hopefully master the French language and walk around like I own the place, but in the meantime I’ll just row my boat on the ‘fluent enough’ plateau and go from there..

I hope some of you could relate, and you’re welcome to share your funny ‘lost in translation’ moments in the comments below for us to have a shared chuckle..

In the meantime I bid you ‘adieu’ with ‘nog een prettige dag verder’ or ‘une bonne journée’

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Parenting Wars: Bringing Balance to the Force..

Episode II

“It is a period of subliminal unrest. Online forums, striking from a hidden base, have won their first battle in spreading insecurity within the Parenting Galaxy. During the clashes, parenting styles were dissected and misinformation lead to judgement and ridicule .The Internet, an armored entity with enough power to destroy an entire mindset, left parents confused and turning against each other. 

Joining the battle in keeping the peace, Stef attempts to write a blog, with the help of Yoda, to try and aid her people and restore freedom of choice to the galaxy…” 

I always sensed it.. I had heard stories.. but I was never confronted with the force until I became a parent myself. I’m most certainly not the first, and definitely will not the last, to write a post on the ongoing tension between parents and the different parenting styles out there, but I wanted to throw my perception on the topic in the mix as well… trying to channel the great Master Yoda.. yoda-photo-drawing

(Note: before you have me committed to the psych ward, I am fully aware Yoda is a fictional character created by George Lucas in the Star Wars Space Opera franchise and therefore not real..)

1. No true parenting style, there is ..

There is no such thing as the one and only, perfect parenting style. There’s already enough conflict around the religions people practice and the political parties they vote for, and don’t even get me started on the ‘tight are not pants’ or ‘is the dress blue or yellow debate’! Why should we add more stress and fight over the best way to raise our child? “There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one” – (S. Atkins.)

2. “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with a particular parenting style. But before you go and condemn someone and call them a ‘hippie’ for practicing attachment parenting or mumbling ‘nazi’ as an authoritarian parent disciplines their child, educate yourself on what is out there. I believe there is not one true solution to each problem. Every parent and every child is different and what may work wonders for one, does nothing for the other. When you don’t understand someone’s reasoning, try and see it from their point of view (that does not mean you have to agree or understand it.. but just to respect it..)

3. To only one style, limit yourself, you should not..

I’m a very indecisive person at best, picking a restaurant with me can be an absolute nightmare! I’ll be craving pizza with just a side of sushi but really that Indian place has the best Naan… So it was no surprise that when it came to parenting, I could not make up my mind on which style to follow and implement. I like the idea of giving my children choices and trying to negotiate with them on certain topics, but then again I am also a very firm believer in having boundaries and routines to guide them. I don’t believe in physical punishment, but have no problem putting my 3 year old in the corner as she calms down from what I can only describe as a satanic episode. I want my child to explore the world around them, but often I also have to say the word ‘no’ (quite often actually). I don’t believe the child needs to adjust to the parents’ schedule or vice versa for that matter. I think both parties need to compromise and the family works together as a unit to try and have a happy, balanced life for everyone. Children need affection, love and attention.. no doubt.. but sometimes mommy also needs 20 minutes and that glass of wine..

4. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering” 

(yes, I’m channeling Star Wars in case we hadn’t picked up on that yet). 😉   In today’s society where the internet bombards us with factual and fictional information, we are torn between what we truly believe works for us and what we fear others will think of that (and I’m not only talking about parenting here).  Rather than being proud of the way we parent, we often feel as if we have to justify why we do things a certain way. This underlying defensiveness blocks us from sharing experiences with each other and learning from others. Rather than passing on what we have learned, we hold back out of fear of sounding judgmental and minding our own business. There is nothing wrong in sharing what we know.. as long as we do it with respect and not through judgement.

5. “A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack”

Elaborating on the above point of sharing information with each other… share it to do good, not to judge or attack. If a parent is struggling, positive comments such as “what worked for us was…”, “you’re doing great, have you tried….?”, “We’ve been there..” etc can be useful and comforting. Comments that focus on attacking someone’s parenting only encourages the divide that is already there. An example that comes to mind is when I heard someone tell my attachment-parenting friend that the reason they weren’t sleeping well with their 2 month old was because co-sleeping is not the way to go….*pause* you see, to me the reason they weren’t sleeping well is because… ding ding ding… they have a 2 month old!?! I don’t co-sleep myself because it’s not for my husband and I, but I have many friends who do with perfectly happy kiddos and it works just fine for them.. so no dramas here if you ask me.  Don’t get upset if someone does not take your advise, don’t take it personal if your advise did not work for them and if you have one of those  mythical ‘Oh-my-child-never-does-*insert negative behavior*’ children.. that’s amazing news… keep it to yourself.

 

6. “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is”

I think the most important thing that should be present in every parenting, is the love and respect for our children. At the end of the day, the way we parent directly affects our children.. we’re going to screw them up no matter how we go about it, so we might as well focus on what works best for us and them, as long as they know they are loved and protected and pass on the same courtesy to others.

7. Reckless you be, matters get worse 

As much as I support and preach the need to be open minded and respect other’s decisions, it goes without saying that this too falls within reason!  There is no condoning child abuse or recklessness where a child is placed at direct risk of harm. Everyone has their own rating scale of what they consider to be reckless and harmful, and that unfortunately I cannot change, so I’m basing this on my own experiences as a child psychologist and former child safety officer. From where I stand, if you physically harm your child (I’m not talking a spanking here or a tap on the hands, I’m talking abuse) you are wrong. If you demean your child and emotionally batter them (I’m not talking about raising your voice or getting angry, I’m talking abuse) you are wrong. Then there are the grey areas that are not necessarily illegal… I must admit, if you choose to not vaccinate your child with the basics or let your child die because you do not believe in blood transfusions or modern medicine.. I find it very hard to understand and respect that decision, and for that I’m sorry.

8. A parent, you must not necessarily be, to support 

You don’t have to be a parent in order to help someone or give advice on parenting. There is also no parenting level of who knows it better depending on how many children one has or how old they are. You don’t ‘level up’ every time you have a child… Everyone has their own experiences and many of these can be second hand and just as valuable. It does take a village to raise a child and the more we know, the more we have to work with..

9.” Do or do not, there is no try “

Just dive in… sink or swim. Parenting is all about figuring out what works best and going with the flow (or sometimes being swallowed and dragged down the stream by the flow). Nobody knows it all.. although some may claim they do, and sadly they will never find out that they don’t. Just do the absolute best that you can..

10. Your example, your child follow, it will 

At the end of the day, let’s just focus on raising children that are tolerant of others (even when those others are different), that love one another (even when the others are being a butt) and that have the confidence to live in a society where we all just live our lives the best way we can.. together. In other words.. don’t be a dick and your child will follow by example…

As usual I haven’t written anything new here but I do hope I managed to share some of the love and show other parents out there that we’re not at war.. we’re raising the new generation, with all it’s beautiful variety (warts and everything) as we aim for our children to have a great life.. and there’s many different ways to give that to them

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“Soccer-moms; Hookers and Wall-Flowers, Oh My!!”: Expat Wife Stereotypes

I’ve been an expat most of my life: as the child, as the working partner, as the spouse and now as the new house mommy. One thing that seemed consistent, no matter where we lived, was the dishing out and immediate labeling of various stereotypes. A trade, so ingrained, we are all guilty of doing it more often than we’d like to admit!

Some people do fit the profile dead on, stereotypes after all are based on some truths, but unfortunately many people tend to be ‘mislabeled’ and pushed aside because of someone else’ perceived idea of their story.

I’m blessed to have a bit of a mixing-pot of friends which has led to some fun conversations about what people have said behind our backs (or in some cases straight to our faces). I’d like to share some of the stereotypes that get slapped on some of us ‘expat wives’ here in Hong Kong because of our appearance/situation and perhaps a different truth behind each one.

1.Expat Soccer Mom

The stereotype: People see her pushing her stroller, having a coffee with friends, and browsing the book store. The stereotype pretty much labels her as someone who stays at home, has a frequent flyer card at Starbucks, bosses around local wait staff and has nothing better to do but meet up with friends to complain about her life to kill time until the husbands come home.

A different truth perhaps: This ‘soccer mom’ works from home, wears sneakers because her kid is just too darn fast these days, doesn’t own a single high end piece of clothing, is one big doormat who wouldn’t dream to yell at a server for fear they’ll spit in her food and spends time having a coffee with friends because it’s the only social interaction she’ll get that day because she can’t currently work outside due to a lack of available daycare. She loves her life and knows darn well how blessed she is, but doesn’t mind the occasional vent on a bad day.

2. Exotic Hooker/Cleaner-Turned-Expat-Wife

The stereotype: People see her with her expat husband and immediately think she must have met him out in the bars where she worked as an exotic dancer/cleaner and has now married him for his money just to escape the poverty hit life she probably had before. She speaks in her own language to friends and will hit on your husband the first chance she gets.

A different truth perhaps: They met whilst he was working overseas as they were colleagues at the same firm. She admired his passion for life and decided to follow his career which resulted in her staying at home to raise their children. She speaks her own language with her friends, just like the rest of the expats do when feeling a bit homesick, and although she is darn exotic and sexy, she has better things to do than to spend her time hitting on your fat, balding husband.

3. The Mousy Wall Flower

The stereotype: When she is in a larger group she won’t say much as she prepares the snacks she made for the social gathering and takes care of everyone around her. People might view her as a simple wall flower with not much to say and will avoid striking up a conversation for fear they’ll be stuck talking about pottery classes or having to explain to her where any countries are.

A different truth perhaps: This little ‘wall flower’ will kick your ass if you cross her or anyone she loves. She doesn’t talk much in a big group as she quite enjoys watching people and being in the moment rather than taking to the stage. She loves talking about politics, religion and has never taken a pottery class in her life. She probably knows more about certain topics than you do but doesn’t feel the need to prove that to anyone.

3. The Angry Asian Mom

The stereotype: She lets her children run around and bug people as she quietly sips a cup of green tea without a care in the world. She has her two-year old signed up for calculus, piano lessons, advanced French and floor gymnastics. She is ruthless, pushy and competitive and will see all non-Asian moms as hippies who let their kids run wild.

A different truth perhaps: This ‘Asian mom’ studied in London, and although she has taken up some of the traditional ways of raising her child, she enjoys putting her own spin on things. She sips that cup of tea to give herself five minutes alone to relax and forces herself not intervene when the man who slammed the door in her face a mere five minutes ago gets annoyed that her child is running past his table because she is being ‘inconsiderate’. She would like her child to have the best opportunities in life and may have signed him up for a swimming class, but rest assured he is in bed on time and doesn’t get forced to play the piano as she slaps his hands with a ruler. She needs to be pushy sometimes as she lives in a culture where competition is high in the educational system, but she has a heart of gold.

4. The Faux-local

The stereotype: She has the know on all local restaurants, shops and customs and speaks the language even when it’s not needed. She has completely immersed herself into this new culture and is condescending towards anyone who doesn’t know what the term ‘pu tong hua’ means. She is a know-it-all who will give you her two cents whether you have asked for it or not

A different truth perhaps: This expat enjoys the adventures of a new culture and gets a kick out of learning a new local phrase for the week. Her intentions of sharing her local knowledge merely come from a place to give some of the lovely experiences she has had to others. She doesn’t care less if someone doesn’t have the same enthusiasm over a game of Mahjong and just wants to soak up every second of her life overseas before returning back home.

5. The Trophy-Wife

The stereotype: She always looks well-groomed, carries around her Gucci purse as she spends her time at the salon and spa. She is often seen on the arm of her rich husband and is gawked at my all men who picture her in her Guess bikini as she stupidly sips cocktails with them on the beach.

A different truth perhaps: She likes to take pride in how she looks as it boosts her confidence; and she doesn’t mind getting up 40 minutes earlier to make the effort to do so. Her fancy bag is probably a knock off she found at the markets, but she likes the style and look of it. There are only so many manicures a person can have before your nails get filed off, so you probably just happened to have catch her on her monthly spa visit. She feels immensely proud to be at the arm of her successful husband as he worked his way up from the ground whilst she supported him fully from the sidelines. She can’t help it that other men gawk at her, but that won’t stop her from looking good as she does this for herself. She is beautiful from the inside as well as out and makes a great friend to anyone who can get passed their own low self esteem to talk to her.

The idea of this post is to exaggerate some of the common stereotypes I have witnessed for the sake of taking it all with a grain of salt and humor, but mainly for the rest of us to take a second a look at someone before we pass judgement (or at least to have the decency to keep some of our opinions to ourselves).

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a group of friends and Venti-Chai-Latte-on-Skim waiting for me 😉

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Staying Neutral in the cold war between Parents and Non-Parents

As someone who is one of the last ones in her circle of friends to have a baby, I’d like to think I’ve had a taste of both sides in, what seems like, an underlying battle between parents and non-parents. I’m most certainly not saying that this applies to all groups, but after speaking with a few mommies and non-mommies, it does seem to be happening a bit everywhere as people’s opinion continues to grow on both sides.

Often it hides in the form of silly little comments that none of us want to hear, and I just don’t see why there has to be such a divide on the topic. We have enough issues in the world with people not getting along because of their political stance, religion or sexual preference, so do we really need to add anything on top of that pile? Of course, a transition period is normal when people have major life changes (be it having a kid, changing jobs, moving countries, you name it) and sometimes these changes may affect the closeness you once had, but that does not always need to indicate the end of a close relationship.

Even though I am the proud mommy of an 8 month old poop machine of my own now, I did have 32 blissful years without kids before that, so I’d like to try and write about the ups and downs for both sides and be neutral… like Switzerland.

What Parents need to stop saying to Non-Parents

1) “You think you’re tired? Try having kids!”

Yes, having a child is tiring and you don’t sleep much at all. But I can guarantee you that people know very well what it’s like to be exhausted, stressed, worn out and depleted without the input of little ones. There are other things in life that cause just as much sleep deprivation as kids do and we are not some exclusive club of insomniacs.

2) “Dog are not kids’

As a dog owner and a parent I can say: ‘Yes they bloody well are!!’ Of course, animals are not children, and people who compare their dog with your toddler know that very well. What they are trying to say is that dogs can be like children. Having someone wine at your feet as you try to cook dinner, cleaning up their poop, feeding them (as they chuck a tantrum because they want to eat what you are having instead), jumping in your bed at 5 am and needing constant cuddles…. sounds pretty similar to me.

3) “My life was meaningless before I had kids”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter very much, but I’m pretty happy to say that my life had plenty of meaning before I had her, thank you very much. People who tell non-parents that their life didn’t have meaning before having children, will only make those non-parents feel like worthless pieces of sh*t, all because they didn’t squeeze out a tiny human.

4) “You don’t know unless you have kids”

Yes, certain scenarios do require first hand experience at being a parent in order to fully grasp and understand the situation, however, that does not mean you can dismiss a non-parents’ input by shrugging off their lack of knowledge on the topic just because they haven’t had their nose buried in a shitty diaper. It’s the same as me not knowing what it is like to go Bungee Jumping, unless I have been strapped in and taken a leap of a tall bridge.

5) “Going to the playground would probably be too boring for you’

Why on earth do some parents think, that just because some don’t have children, that they cannot engage in child-related activities. I had a friend once, who had her first child and instantly cut us off from her circle because she didn’t think we could meet up on Sunday mornings or could hang out at the playground as she judged us for having a few drinks during a weekday (even though she was the one dancing on the bar table with her T-shirt pulled over her ears only a mere 10 months before that herself).

What Non-Parents need to stop saying to Parents

1) “Let’s just have a quick coffee/lunch/drink.. you can spare 30 minutes can’t you”

I’m sorry, but there is nothing ‘quick’ about anything anymore. Leaving the house literally takes more than 30 minutes (even if you pre-packed the diaper bag the night before).. there’s always a last minute poop, two runs back upstairs because you first forgot their spare dummy and then you left their fruit snack in the fridge. When we go have a half hour coffee, that takes about 3 hours out of our day.

2) “I wish I could stay home all day today as well”

I understand that your work is very busy and a nice day at home with a book and a glass of wine does sounds dreamy…. the reason we know that is because we have been dreaming of it since the day we brought little rug rat home. Please know that parents who stay at home with their children work just as hard as people in the office. Sure, we don’t deal with angry bosses and aren’t buried up to our elbows in paperwork; but we do deal with angry non-verbal human beings and believe you me, what we are covered up into our elbows in, is not paper… we should be so lucky. (and for those who need me to spell it out.. I’m talking about poop).

3) “You chose to have children, you shouldn’t complain’

Yes, we chose to have our little pooping miracles, and not a day goes by where we’re not grateful to have them in our life. But once in a while we too need to have an outlet and a vent about the joys (and challenges) of parenthood. Just as much as someone needs a glass of wine after a difficult meeting with a client or cuts in the company budget; blowing off steam is something we’re all entitled to.

4) “All you talk about is your children’

I must agree, even as a parent, there are days where if I hear the word ‘diaper’, ‘tummy time’ or ‘milestone’ one more time I’ll crawl up the walls. But please understand, especially as stay at home parents, 13 hours of our day are spent with only the company of our tiny human and little to no contact with other adults. Of course we remember what it’s like to talk about current world events, relationships, sex, and heck, we can even still crack a joke once in a while…. we had a kid, not a lobotomy!  But such topics are pretty hard to discuss as we try and restrain the wriggling toddler on our lap who is shrieking for more juice….. get us aside with a drink in our hand and our baby far away from us.. and we can talk about anything you want to talk about.

5) “But you still have time to write a Blog”

Yes, I do have time for a blog. I also started writing this 3 hours ago when she started her nap.. but in the meantime I have changed a poopy diaper, had a dance party, frantically searched for Bumba the Clown and had to calm down the dog who’s ears got pulled…. and now I am finishing this post as someone is pulling at my shoelaces and gnawing on the desk chair legs (probably not the most hygienic thing I should be allowing).

I would like to conclude on a deep and meaningful note to expresses how we’re all in the same boat and that none of us are better than anyone else… and I would like to leave you inspired and not offended, but my kid just discovered where we keep the guitar so I need to go before she snaps the E string and she looses an eye…

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Seasoned Citizen: sharing some quirks with the Elderly

Whilst staying with my aged and ‘well seasoned’ grandparents during our little Easter holiday, I’ve come to notice a few quirky quirks! Don’t get me wrong, for people late in their 80s they still have amazing stamina and I’ll be damn lucky if I’m running around like they are when I’m that age….

We all grow old and eventually will join them on the sillier side, but here are a few traits I have noticed amongst older citizens, traits that make me adore them even more than I already do (and some I even share at the ripe age of 33 already):

1) The collection of toothbrushes dating back from 1994 piling up in the bathroom cup (unless they secretly have a refugee family living in their attic)

2) In depth, and regular, conversations about bowel movements (often with graphic descriptive feedback) which, for those who know me, is a conversation I’m quite happy to partake in.

3) Within 5 minutes, falling asleep in front of the TV…. but abruptly waking up when someone changes the channel with a stern ‘I am watching that ‘ (even though the movie ended 25 minutes ago)

4) PJ’s before 5pm! (not necessarily a thing just for the elderly as I often find myself in my comfy pajamas well before dinner time)

5) Farting loudly and continuing the conversation as if nothing ever happened, leaving the rest of us struggling to stop our eyes from stinging as we battle the urge to break down in giggles (because no matter how old you are, farts will always be funny)

6) Talking in their sleep (the other night I listened to my grandma ordering a meal and bitching about the waiter while she took a nap)

7) The logic of “you can’t see them, hence, they can’t hear you” when openly discussing someone’s private business whilst the person in question is sitting a mere two seats away.

8) Stopping the conversation abruptly  in order to read the TV guide out loud, in the same manner as if an interesting news story just broke

9) Days of our lives marathons !! (I must say I was quite surprised to find that after missing the last 2 years of the show, Stefano still seemed to be standing in the same hospital lobby explaining his involvement in the kidnapping of Sammy’s baby… I know the scenes can run forever but common!) *slight exaggeration I know, for any soap lovers out there…

10) At times seen as ‘gross’ by some, I find there is nothing cuter than seeing an old couple hug and kiss each other lovingly. Because in this day and age, one must be darn lucky to have someone they love even after 30+ years together.

To all the oldies out there, loving it, and you keep on doing what it is you’re doing!! oldppl

The Illogical Thinking of a Yo-Yo Dieter

There are millions of diets out there, and boy have I tried a few over the years…

You see, up until the age of 20, I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted… until one day I woke up with boobs… (which was an awesome day)…. but unfortunately a few weeks later the hips and butt followed… I don’t believe you necessarily need to be obese or overweight to feel self conscious, as I know many women of different sizes plagued by the little monster hiding in their bathroom scales.

After giving birth to our daughter, I took on the naive attitude that the kilos would just fall off as I board the Express Baby Train, but I was sadly mistaken as I realised I had accidentally jumped on the local train that stops at every station.. I’ll get there eventually.. it’s just taking a bit longer.

With the desire to try a new diet or simply eating healthy and exercising, also come some roadblocks that get in the way of our goal to strut our stuff in those new pair of jeans…

1) You’ve set your goals, and just finished a 45 min workout , and for the life of you, you just don’t understand why on earth it is a cheeseburger that you are craving ?!

2) You’ve lost a kilo or two… hence you feel you have that leeway now to cram in that brownie right?.. I mean,because you have the extra space?

3) You’ve displayed immense will power one day by resisting all temptations that were thrown in front of you, so it’s only (il)logical to rewards yourself with some potato chips today… because.you know..you were so strong yesterday?

4) I once had a phase of ‘I-dont-care-what-I-eat-I’m-working-60-hours-weeks-here’ until the guy at the local McDonald’s asked me if I wanted ‘the usual’… it is NEVER ok to have a ‘usual’ at a fast food place!! You’re pressed for time so take a salad you say? … going to McDonald’s for a salad is about as similar as going to a prostitute for a hug.  Safe to say, I found an alternative option to eat healthy when I didn’t have the time to cook.

5) You start hearing voices saying “hey, have a chocolate” followed by another one screaming “put.down.the.cupcake.fatty!” and you’re not sure if it’s the hunger talking or an early onset of Allzheimer’s.

6) You buy ‘high fibre, only 97 calorie’ biscuits .. and end up eating the entire box in one hit… (but wait, no, but they’re healthy!)

7) You fall victim to ‘secret snacking’ where you find yourself sneaking a handful of grated Parmesan cheese out of the fridge before bed time (this happens a lot when you’re dieting with a friend or partner).  If you ate the cheese, and no one was there see it, did you really eat it?

8) You watch a weight loss show and instead of being motivated, you focus on how much bigger the participants are than you and you think ‘oh, I could be worse I guess’ as you reach for a second helping of pasta. (Not really the shows’ goal here, I’m thinking) In saying that, good job to those people on the show for obviously being far more motivated and willing than us couch potatoes!

9) You spend the last week on the newest syrup diet where your meals consisted of a slimy liquid containing some kind of magical berries grown by weight loss master monks in the Himalayas, with a side of lettuce and have lost 5 kilos! success!! But then reality hits where you eat a normal meal and instantly gain 3 kilos in one sitting.

10) You’ve just pigged out and have the M&Ms bloat, so you go put on some looser pants and a big T-shirt and it all doesn’t seem that bad after all… I’m sure it’s just water build up as you usually feel better in the morning. 😉

Keep up the good work, don’t kick yourself when you’ve fallen off the wagon and just get back on that treadmill  😀

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“Sh*t Your Pants Airlines” : The illogical logic around my fear of flying

Ever since my early teens, I’ve had a strong fear of flying. It could have been caused by the very bad storm we flew through when I was 14 or perhaps it was that impending realisation that we’re being thrown from one place to another in a giant, metal box full of farts. Regardless, it has been there as long as I remember and it seems to be getting worse over the years.

As someone who has family living in both Australia and Europe and a husband who loves to travel, taking an airplane on a regular basis is just part of life, and despite the constant urge to research valid train connections, I need to take that spoon of cement and toughen right up!

I have been given the statistics by many people (even experienced flight staff) and am very well aware that I am more likely to be killed by a cow (random) than when flying.. .but the forte about my fear is… there is absolutely no logic behind it. The flying itself is not what really scares me, but more the whole falling and plunging to your whole death part..

Some of the basic (illogical) rules I live by when flying:

Rule # 1: Concentrate

Takeoff is the worst part and I need to concentrate deeply, as I am convinced that my intense focus is what is keeping the plane up in the air. I will relax a bit more when the seat belt sign is turned off, but not a second before that. Same rule applies when we experience turbulence.

Recently, I tend to also cry silently when taking off (a new development there, I’m yet to figure out where that one came from)

Rule # 2: “You’ll be fine”

The phrase “you’ll be fine” is somewhat of a mantra I chant pretty much during the entire flight, and the more people who say that to me before take-off, the more secure I feel about the flight. I may have bothered a few fellow passengers along the way when they saw me clutching my lucky necklace and mumbling ‘you’ll be fine; you’ll be fine; you’ll be fine” like a lunatic in a trance.

Rule # 3: Read the chart, fool!

When traveling with me, you absolutely must read the safety chart (even a quick glance will suffice). If you don’t do so (even when teasing), I will freak the f*k out until you do. Much to the delight of my husband I can tell you.. .he has memorized that thing by now PS: I will also squeeze your hand to within an inch of its life during takeoff and heavy turbulence.

Rule # 4: Baby on Board

I wouldn’t call myself a super religious person, but the more infants on the flight, the better (cause surely, what kind of Higher Being would harm all these babies, right?)

Rule # 5: Be careful with alcohol and pill mixers

Before flying with my daughter, I used to self medicate with wine and a sleeping pill. Of course, one must be very careful not to mix these guys up. A lesson I learned when I was 19 and had myself a little wine/Valium cocktail… We experienced a ‘touch and go’ in London and after 5 minutes in the air again the Captain assured us we’d just circle around a bit and land shortly…. to which a very intoxicated me slurred (loud enough) “That’s what they said in ‘Die Hard’ and they crashed” (much to the amusement of fellow passengers, I apologized to the friendly flight steward and explained I was a nervous flyer, to which he said ‘I can see that darling’.. *how embarrassed*

Rule # 6: Flight Information

I appreciate the Captain wants to say hello and introduce himself,  but is it absolutely vital he  reminds us mid-flight exactly how high up we are and how fast we are going? Because all I hear is “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We are now traveling at kilometers so high that you will not survive should the doors fall off, and at a speed so fast where surely an emergency landing would not slow us down enough. Thanks for flying with us and I will touch base again soon, granted we’re still in the air”

Rule # 7: Wing please

If I can sit on the left hand side of the plane, on the wing or in front of it, I will be a much more pleasant passenger. I solidly believe that turbulence is felt stronger at the back of the plane. A little rule that was developed when I experienced heavy turbulence in a toilet once, where I had to hold on to the basin.. I was terrified… luckily I was already seated on a toilet because .. well… you know.

There’s a chance there are more illogical logics to my fear of flying, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already promoted myself as a complete crazy person enough today. So to my fellow ‘aerophobics’ ; “You’ll be fine” and to the ones sitting next to them holding their hand: “Please be kind .. we will be a much more pleasant person again as soon as this giant death tube is back on the ground”.

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