Annie is the founder of AnneeMatthew. In part 1, she shares her story on the personal challenges she faced as a mother, lessons she learnt from her own mom, as well as the joys that motherhood brings!
I had my son in 1997. I had read a lot on breastfeeding prior to giving birth but I didn’t know of another mom who had solely breastfed her child. Everything I’d learnt was through books (Internet was at its infancy still back then). I managed to breastfeed my son for 6 months before I put him on formula. I was afraid of his bite when he started teething at 6 months but looking back, it was more of my anticipation of the pain more than anything else!
Soon after, he developed allergic rhinitis. He would vomit after most meals because he couldn’t handle the mucus that had accumulated in his breathing passage. For some time, the sound of his cough was the most fearsome thing ever! Because the vomit would follow! Once after breakfast, he started coughing in church and vomited all over the church goers in the next seat. Due to his condition, his paediatrician advised me to breastfeed for as long as possible with his sister.
My daughter was born in 2000. I took the paediatrician’s advice and breastfed her for 2 years. It was such a rewarding experience. I was fortunate because I had plenty of milk and never had any complications. My breasts were engorged all the time. I was pumping and at times, force feeding her just to be relieved of the pressure! One thing for sure, she had more than enough of breast milk. I also saved a lot of money on formula!
My mother adopted me so she never had any experience with breastfeeding. Nevertheless, she was very supportive of my decisions with both children. She lives in Malacca but she would travel to Singapore at my call. When both children were very young, she would stay for months in Singapore to help me with the cooking and housework. As a result, both children are very close to their grandmother. My mother doted on them in the way she did on me.
When I was a teen, I had some communication issues with my mom. Blame it on the generation gap. My mom was a 35 year old, single and carefree woman when she adopted me. Nevertheless, she did her best. As a mom to teens, I could relate to the issues they faced because I was in their shoes. It also made me understand my mother better. So the saying, “One day, you would stand in front of the mirror and you will see your mom staring back at you”, is true to a large extent – because as it turns out, my parenting style is somewhat influenced by my mother.
The lessons I learned from my mom were harsh yet they helped me to be independent and resourceful.
Greatest joys and challenges of being a mom:
Ironically, although my mother was a tiger mom, she was also a relaxed parent.
As a child, I had always known that I wanted to be a mom to more than just one child. I was the only child and it was BORING. However, nothing and no one prepared me for the challenges of being a mom! It was tough. Any first time mom would lament the same. When my mom was in town, I would breathe a sigh of relief. When she wasn’t, I would be tearing my hair out. As a young, inexperienced mother, with no support group, I was groping for answers. Everything was trial and error. I was blessed though, because Ryan was a pleasant child. Apart from his constant vomits, which almost drove me crazy, he was relatively easy to handle.
Rayann, his sister, was the challenge. She was feisty (still is) and, would bite everyone when she was angry. This created some funny and painful situations. I now think that it could have been developed from her not being able to bite me during breastfeeding! When she did, she would get a little flick of my finger on her cheeks.
Raising two young children was very tiring. It helped when Ryan was old enough for childcare so, I only had to care for one child for part of the day. This was important for catching up on some much needed rest. I would sleep when the baby slept.
When both started school, I realised I was not a ‘kiasu’ parent. From the beginning, I had accepted that each child is different and that I would celebrate their differences rather than have them conform to society. Ryan was said to be a slow learner in school but I refused to believe it. Instead, I attended Maths tuition classes with him and tutored him in my free time. I encouraged him to participate in sports. As a result, he excelled in school and sports.
I also had my fair share of worry, especially in their PSLE years. But, at the end of the day, all worries are unfounded because they both found their paths.
Being a relaxed parent, my mom showed me that there is an answer to everything. As a mom, I try to show my children that everything happens for a reason. To laugh freely. To try and try again, but never give up. To be yourself. To never try to be perfect. To celebrate imperfections. To believe in yourself. And, to know that the easiest way to learn is sometimes to fall down.
I am the kind of mom who would explain the consequences of an action (especially the negative), but leave the child to make a decision. If the decision results in pain, then at the very least, they learn. I would not run to catch them when they fall off their bikes nor when they burned their little fingers, especially when they were told of the consequences prior to their actions. As a result, they grow up being responsible for their actions and were not “cry-babies”.
As a mom, I think the greatest joy is to be able to be there for your children. To celebrate every accomplishment, to cry together at every setback, to watch them grow and, to be able to participate in their lives.
In part 2 next week, Annie talks about the challenges of running her business as a mother, and her advice to new moms!