How mummies make it work

I used to think that my children will be fine, because I did all the right things. But when they became teenagers, I started to doubt. There were many days and nights when my emotions overwhelmed me. I can’t blog about them because it is nothing encouraging or inspiring. However, since walking out on them, or kicking them out of the house was not an option, I could only dig deep into God.

From purplepear.

I realised that while my children are presenting new challenges because they are in a new phase of their lives, I have not upped my game. My children are forced to grow up because of the hormonal changes in their physical bodies and the increase in the society’s expectations of them (peers, school, culture). On the other hand, I have preferred to continue to think of them as my little pets – sweet, compliant and easy to control.

I needed new revelation and skills.

This is my blog’s newly minted logo.
A dear friend Ling designed it for me.
I like it because the “flying” part is so prominent.
It is time for me to focus on the flight.

I had previously blogged about riding through the rapids of the teenage years. I concluded by saying that “We’d go along with the flow, paddle as needed, pick up whoever falls off the raft, get off whatever rocks we get stuck on, and enjoy the ride.”

What do you know? Those were excellent advice, but you might have asked – what does it all mean, in reality? How do you live it out?  So today I will share some practical things which we do, to stay on the raft together as we battle the storms of life. I have put them under three broad categories:-

Stay Strong in purpose; Keep creating Beautiful memories; Become an Inspiration

Stay Strong in purpose

Do you have a vision/goal/destination (whatever metaphor you like) for your family? We do, and that is what keeps us focused and united. Otherwise, it is easy to get side-tracked or discouraged.

Our Wedding verse.
Joshua 24:15 – As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord

In addition to that long-term vision, we need regular (perhaps daily) practices that keep the family machinary running in that direction. In our family, we do things to keep us connected with each other and God on a daily basis (Dinner check-in, Meal-time prayers, Daily prayers), and to keep the children invested in the family and God (FAT/FC, Housework, Sabbaths).

Dinner check-in

We have dinner together nearly every night. There was a period of time when we had a “check-in” system, where each person is to share four items.

We do not do the four-items check-in anymore, although we still have the cards.
Nowadays we get them to share something interesting,
and we tell jokes and stories.

There were times when the relationships were so strained that people would threaten to leave the dinner table, or be at risk of being kicked out of the dinner table. Even then, the daily dinner (and at times, lunch) routines were so strong that things eventually settle down – despite the frequent squabbles, before, during and after the meal.

Meal-time prayers

We have the Christian habit of saying grace. We also follow a prayer schedule, where we pray for different people every day. For example, on Mondays we pray for grandparents, on Wednesdays we pray for our extended family, on Fridays we pray for the Church, and on Sundays we pray for God’s Kingdom.

The children sometimes misbehave during these prayers, although in a bid to prevent this, they are all supposed to close their eyes. Nonetheless, they will at times make funny faces and hope someone spots them and reacts to them. They might do it for fun, for attention, or to intentionally disrupt the prayer (passive aggressive). Nonetheless, we keep this up, asking them to close their eyes and keep quiet.

Daily prayer for and with the children.

We try to pray for the children before they sleep and when they get out of the house. There was a period of time when I stopped praying for my son. Our relationship was so strained and I was so discouraged that I could not, in sincerity, speak the words of hope and blessing upon him, and neither could he bear listening to me. As soon as things got better, I picked it up again. I say my prayers despite what I see with my physical eyes, because I believe that God’s word has power and will change the lives of our children.

FAT (Family Altar Time) and FC (Family Council)

This is a time when we spend time with God as a family. Part of it consists of thanksgiving. The sharing from the children can be a bit discouraging because it can be rather superficial, e.g. the exams are over, or the holidays are here, or they had a fun day. But Edmund and I take the opportunity to share the goodness of God in our lives and there are often very powerful testimonies which we pray will sow seeds of faith into the children.

It is getting more difficult for us to maintain our FAT due to busyness and unwillingness. However, because we started this when the children were very young, they generally accept it as part of the family culture. We are keeping at this for as much as we can.

During our FC, we discuss family issues – the children’s privileges and housework responsibilities, and what we would like to do as a family during the holidays, etc. The children like this part.

Housework routine/chart (including supervisor system)

We started our housework routine a few years back. It is still running although I had envisioned that the children will be fully automatic by now, with no need for any reminder from us. However, it was not the case. Most of them still need to be reminded most of the time, which is why I am so glad that we have a system in place. The encouragement is that despite it being “work” for the children, they diligently do the duties although they have to be reminded.

Regular Sabbaths

Sabbath is something which we do as a family, and I do it at a personal level too.

For the family, we allow the children to sleep in on Saturday/Sunday. We have a slow, lazy breakfast. Daddy would clean up the hamster cage or do repairs around the house while I prepare lunch. We might go out in the afternoon to shop for household items, visit their grandparents or pick litter. We might stay home and play games; or the kids might play on their own/read while Daddy and I catch up on errands, housework or office work. This will also be when we would do our FAT/FC.

We take a yearly Sabbath as a family. (I wrote about our yearly Sabbaths here – Cameron Highlands and Fraser’s Hill).


I cannot over-emphasise the importance of these simple routines, discouraging and difficult as it can be at times, to carry on. There were many times when things threaten to fall apart at home, but because we easily fall back into the routines, the storm passes and everything returns back to normal.

Keep creating Beautiful memories

There was a time in our family life when things were at an all-time low. We stopped creating beautiful memories because we felt that the children did not “deserve” them and by continually giving them “good stuff” we are sending the wrong messages. So there were times when we cancelled planned outings or even home-based privileges like sleeping together in the master bedroom with us.

Later we realised that it was a foolish thing to do, and it was wrong for us to tie the children’s behaviour to their identity as members of the family. There are innate privileges for being in a family – things like love, care and security are features which can reasonably be expected in a normal, functioning family. While it is my responsibility as a mother to correct my child, my effectiveness is contingent on my authority and influence over them. If I do not have a relationship with them, I lose my authority and influence. Relationships need constant maintenance through time spent together, and positive shared experiences.

So nowadays we create beautiful memories regardless of how the “weather” is. There were many times when it was stormy and cloudy when we set off, and we returned home sunny.

These are some things we did in the past few months.


This is not the solution to conflicts. We still need to go through the whole cycle of repentance, forgiveness, restitution and restoration, but these positive experiences serve to put everyone in a good mood and we would then be more receptive towards any correction or counsel.

Become an inspiration

Children often lose respect for their parents when they grow up. Firstly, the children gain more knowledge and become smarter. Consequently, parents look stupider.

Image result for minion these are the people who taught you

Secondly, children start to notice character flaws and weaknesses in their parents. They realise that their parents are not as kind, noble and honest as they thought they were.

Well, parents must fight and win back their respect.

Firstly, on our supposed inferior intellectual capacity, we can prove them wrong. We have an edge when it comes to life experience and we can continue to stay ahead by having depth in our areas of expertise. It is not possible for anyone to be an expert in everything, not even the genius-kids that we have. No one knows as much as my mum about cooking and tailoring; and I always enjoy listening to my dad’s opinions on property and politics.

My teenagers are wonderfully impressed with what their daddy does at work and the knowledge/insight he has from reading about politics, business, science and sports, and revel in all the stories he tells. So half of our problem is solved.

As for me, firstly the kids don’t think I do much with my life (“Daddy goes out to work, what do you do?”) Secondly, I am not as good a story-teller as my husband is – I like to inspire, not entertain, and teenagers prefer to be entertained (Yes, the boys find me boring). It is not that they are shallow, but I think that there is only so much inspiration you can take a day. So I got to learn how to tell good life stories.

Just yesterday Samuel asked me : “Do you rest when I go to school?”
It was not the first time he expressed something like that.
Apparently he thinks that after he goes to school, I go onto the bed and sleep or something.
So I told him what I did for that day.
Then he wanted to know what I did on Tuesday, and on Monday, and also last Friday.
It is a good thing that I, out of my personal compulsion, record my days in some details.
So he is now satisfied that I am not bumming around while he works hard at school.

I am driven to live a rich life – so I do not atrophy and I do not become as nothing in the eyes of my beloved children. I have a part-time job, I volunteer, I am taking a night class, I meet with friends, I read and study into issues which interest me. Everyday I spend some time to pray, reflect and plan (and record my day). Once a month, I would review the month – what did I do, what was the overall theme and what lessons I learnt. I call these my Sabbaths. They keep me encouraged about how I am growing and keeps me motivated to set goals and work towards them.

But actually I think I am quite inspiring.
The “A litter at a time” which I started made its way into the Secondary school social studies textbook.
My teenager was apparently proud enough of it to tell his teacher that it was his mum.

Secondly, on the disappointments children feel about parents’ character flaws, we have to help our children find a new equilibrium of awe they want to feel about us. Personally, I resented the fact that my parents were imperfect. I wanted them to be perfect, because I wanted to be able to adore them unreservedly. It was only after many years, and with much reluctance that I accepted that impossibility. After I did that, I began to find things which allowed me to respect them at a different level, and enjoy their company.

With my own children now, I am learning to apologise often, for my imperfections and for failing, hurting and disappointing them. I tell them that I am trying. I show them that I am working at becoming better. I try to speak only what will build up. I try to bid my time and measure my tone when I need to correct their behaviour. If I can remain unflinching in the face of their curtness and insults, season my words with salt, and consistently act with grace and truth, maybe I will awe them once again. Strong, beautiful and inspiring, I must become.

Image result for i can do it

Isn’t this such a beautiful picture?
I want to be that yellow smile.

In conclusion

What I shared with you, is a realistic picture of our family – not the ideal picture of a family. I hope it will encourage you to press on despite your weaknesses, because we are pressing on despite ours.

This is our “Family memorial” wall.
It is not as “deep” as I would like it to be, but it represents some special moments in our family.
The latest addition is the disposable chopsticks at the side.

The disposable chopsticks are unusual because there are three sticks in one packet.
It represents our family in many ways.
First, it represents the many meals which we “da bao” instead of eat home-cooked food.
(It represents my mummy guilt and also the choices I have to make about where to invest my time and energy).
Secondly, it represents our three sons,
who are squeezed into the same family environment to learn and grow up together,
kept together by the flimsy plastic.
Hopefully even after they all burst forth into their own adult lives,
they will remember where they started from
and would be happy to squeeze into the same flimsy plastic again
when the opportunity or need arises.
Thirdly, it represents an imperfection, a mistake, a waste of resources,
which we seized upon because it represents our family and our individual lives.
We are so imperfect, but we are happy nonetheless,
and we share the silliness of appreciating this three-stick chopsticks
and that resonance of sharing in this silly secret
(not a secret anymore, among my readers) makes us feel secure.

Our lives are a lot simpler now, than it was years ago. I think that when I was a younger mum with younger children, I had many hopes and dreams for them and I had the energy to chase them all. Now that they are older, the range of options for them have become narrower, and my hopes and dreams have also become more realistic. I realised that more is not better, and all is not best. You do not need to do everything to be successful; you do not need to be successful to be happy; and you do not need to be happy to live a meaningful life.

My original quote! (I think)
Picture taken by my talented husband

I pray a lot more now, because I have realised the limitations of what I can do for myself, my family and my children. The forces of this world threaten to pull my family apart, and my children away into darkness, despair and a wasted life. I struggle keep them in the light and the power of an eternal destiny. Many times, there is nothing left for me to do, except to pray earnestly, straining to hold heaven and earth together.

But having said that, there are many practical things a mother can do to make it work. I do not live secluded, in my prayer closet, because my faith is an active faith which is Word made flesh – through my life and my family and children’s lives. I pray as I plan, I pray as I execute my plans, I pray as I evaluate and review my execution and plans. So yes, I plan, I execute, I evaluate and review.

As mothers/parents, we must keep thinking, seeking, and exploring. I am blessed to be in a group of mothers who freely share their journey and creative ideas – many of which I had tried in my own journey. In fact… this post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.

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If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read about how other mothers make it work, you can start with this one here about motherhood challenges then and now, by Lyn Lee over at Lil Blue Bottle. Lyn is a mother of two girls who has a full-time office job, and a lot of support from her village. She casts her letters to the universe over at

At next week’s stop we will be visiting Karen Chen at Mum’s Calling. Karen is a Mum to 3 wonderful children. She believes it is almost every woman’s calling to be a Mum. While fulfilling hers, she finds the journey truly rewarding and enjoyable. She is convinced that Motherhood is life changing with full of surprises.


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4 Responses to “How mummies make it work

  • Thank you so much for your honest reflections and all your practical advice! I have so much to learn as my eldest one heads into his tweens.

    • Thanks Deb, for hosting this train. Let’s keep pressing on!

  • I think you are totally an awesome inspiration. Your children are really blessed to have such a reflective and intentional mum.

    Also, it’s so WOW that you are in the secondary social studies textbook!! Great that they are profiling such Good in our society.

    Thanks for sharing. We are also trying to deal with ‘attitude’ during our family devotionals. We hope to role model and press on. Let’s keep on keeping on!

    • Lyn, you’re so encouraging. Thanks. Yeah, God is good, He will help us.

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