Musings, Parenting

Mommy Brains are Not Dull Brains

Recently, a relative asked me when I plan on returning to work. I said that Casey and I haven’t really discussed a timeline, especially since we have not had a helper stay long enough for me to consider working full-time again. He then said that I haven’t worked for so long, and I might go stale. A few days later, a friend asked me if I experienced mommy brain. I asked her to clarify what that meant, and she said it’s when new moms become so overwhelmed with taking care of their babies that they lose touch with the world, and their brain deteriorates somewhat. I just looked at her and said, no, I’ve never experienced that, but deep inside I felt offended. Both instances revealed to me a condescension toward stay-at-home parents.

Child care has been undervalued for centuries, and sadly, it remains so to this day. I know a lot of people would still say that taking care of a child is not as mentally stimulating as being part of the work force. This notion is deeply ingrained yet sadly misinformed. It continues to be perpetuated by people who may not have had enough experience on both sides of the fence. Speaking as someone who has experienced both, I have several rebuttals to the idea that child-rearing is a mental walk in the park compared with corporate life.

  1. Many full-time jobs entail long hours of being idle. In the eight hours of work at the office, a good chunk is not actually spent being productive. I know that this is true for many in the corporate world. Now you may be thinking that staying at home with a child involves a lot of idle time as well. It could be so, but that would depend on the stay-at-home parent. At home, you don’t have a boss hovering over your shoulder to check that you’re doing office-related things, and so free time can be truly productive. When my baby is asleep, I often use the time to read, write, or trade stocks. Or sometimes I nap beside my baby, which is very productive as well.
  2. Many full-time jobs are unavoidably routinary. Daily tasks remain essentially the same, to the point that people merely go through the motions at work, and most actions become almost automatic. When you’re so used to doing certain tasks, your brain does not get that effective a workout. The same can be said for housework, but like I mentioned earlier, the amount of mental stimulation one can get varies depending on how much one actively seeks it. This actually holds true whether you have full-time office work or stay at home. The difference is that arguably, you have more leeway to plan your day at home, and so if you wish, staying at home can open up more opportunities to sharpen your mind.
  3. Raising a child involves a lot of brain activity. Meal planning, creative storytelling, singing and dancing, exploring—these sound fun and easy, but they require resourcefulness, innovation, patience, and discipline, which are high-level mental and emotional exercises. “Mommy brains” are not dull brains. They are brains that are challenged every day by their boss babies. Can’t take my word for it? Science is on my side.

Mommy and baby at Kidzooona

To be clear, I’m not saying that being a stay-at-home parent is more mentally challenging than having a full-time office job. I’m just saying that both roles can be mentally challenging, and that assuming that staying at home with the kids equals rotting brain cells is wrong. For those who think being a mommy doesn’t exercise the brain, well, just imagine taking care of a human other than yourself, and on top of that, realize that the human cannot even make his needs known directly.

Feeding a toddler

Take meal time, for example. You’re not a mom. You’re hungry, and so you eat a Subway sandwich, which is what you felt like eating. The end. Meal time is simple and requires minimal mental effort. Compare this to if you are a mom. You’re hungry. Your baby is hungry. You make him a sandwich. He eats a bit then starts spitting it out. You ask him if he wants a banana. He says “nana” and so you peel a banana. He takes a bite, spits it out, spreads mush on the table and smiles at his work of art. He then bounces up and down, grunting, and you realize he needs to poop. So you wait for him to poop, clean him up, then offer chicken and rice, which is what he wanted after all, but how would you know? Chicken is hard to say! Finally, an hour later, you get to eat his leftovers, which are not what you wanted but are all you have time and energy left to eat. On the bright side, at least you got to eat. Haha.

Also, take note that my experience is just the tip of the iceberg. I can only imagine how my brain will be tested once Wolf learns how to answer back!

I hope this post can help others better appreciate the value and challenge of parenthood. I don’t know if I will ever return to a regular office job, but even if I don’t, please realize that my mommy brain will remain in tip-top shape, thank you very much!

Mommy and baby at Kidzooona

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Parenting

Beating the Heat with a Vornado Air Circulator!

Many people love to be around babies, but if you’re taking care of one night and day, it can get boring, especially in the early months. At first, they really aren’t capable of doing much. Sleep, eat, poo, pee, drool, burp, repeat. But as they get older, they begin to pick up more skills, and observing their development is fascinating.

Since Wolf turned a year old, he has been hitting new and more exciting milestones. One of my favorites is how he has learned to recognize songs by just their tune. Previously, I would always sing “I’m a Little Teapot” and he would do the actions, but one day, as I was merely humming the tune, he recognized it and did the actions. I then tested him by humming other songs, and he recognized them as well, doing the corresponding actions for every song. I found this particularly amazing, because I never actively sought to make him recognize and differentiate tunes. He is absorbing so much more than I realize!

At this stage, Wolf is also beginning to show snippets of his personality. So far, he has been quite a sociable baby, deriving pleasure from entertaining both familiar people and strangers. However, he is particularly averse to boisterous behavior, and has often cried when people near him laugh too loudly. He is always quick to recover from crying, and he is generally very mild-mannered. He loves to explore and test limits by purposefully going where he knows he’s not allowed. That naughty streak is all part and parcel of toddler life, and so I would usually take it in stride. However, recently, he took interest in constantly attempting to stick his fingers in between the grills of our stand fan! We could not be lax about this. We covered the fan with a net, but that was not the end of our fan woes. The other day, he managed to tip the whole fan over, and thank God no one but the fan was harmed! I was just a meter away from him when it happened. I never took my eyes off him, but he did it so fast that I had no time to react. And he was only going to get faster at doing it. So we took the stand fan out and brainstormed possible solutions.

We came up with three options: a bladeless fan, a ceiling/wall fan, or a desk fan. The bladeless fan I decided was too expensive (around P20,000 for the entry level ones at True Value). I didn’t want to get the cheap ones being sold online as they probably are not powerful enough and won’t last long. On the other hand, a fan to be mounted on the wall or ceiling would pose a hazard in case of an earthquake. That left us with the option of getting a desk fan. Casey’s concern with a desk fan was that they are usually not that powerful. Is there such a thing as a desk fan powerful enough to keep my sweaty baby comfortable in this summer heat? Apparently, there is!

We decided to get the Vornado 633 Air Circulator. At around P4,000 for the mid-size model, it’s not cheap, but it’s definitely cheaper than a dreaded trip to the emergency room! So what makes the Vornado fans so special? Unlike regular fans with airflow limited to the direction they’re facing, Vornado circulators create powerful and constant airflow in all areas of the room. The Vornado 633 was the ideal fan for us, because:

  1. It could fit on our desk in the corner, away from our curious toddler’s path of destruction.
  2. The grill design is safer than that of regular fans, because there are less areas for little fingers to fall through.
  3. Whole room circulation meant that Wolf could walk around the room as he pleased, and air would still reach him.

Vornado 633 Air Circulator Vornado 633 Air Circulator

I find that our Vornado works best circulating cooled air. I turn on the air conditioner together with the Vornado, and then after half an hour, I switch off the air conditioner, and the Vornado does a good job keeping the room cool for several hours after. As I type this, it’s nearing lunch time. It has been three hours since I switched off the air conditioner. Wolf is on one side while I am on the opposite side of the room, and we are both feeling a constant breeze from the Vornado. It’s May 2, right smack in the middle of summer in this tropical country, we have just a fan on, and yet neither of us are sweating. Now, how cool is that? 😎

Vornado 633 Air Circulator Vornado 633 Air Circulator Vornado 633 Air Circulator Vornado 633 Air Circulator

Parenting

Babywearing is Love!

I would say that one of the baby products I have found most useful thus far is the baby carrier. Especially when Wolf was less than a year old, I brought him around in a carrier more often than in a stroller. Parents love baby carriers because it allows them to carry babies hands-free (aka “wear their babies”) for long periods of time. Babies love baby carriers because it gives them lots of cuddle time with their parents. In fact, Wolf often falls asleep very easily when he’s in a carrier.

We have two baby carriers — the Ergobaby Adapt (Casey’s choice), which we scored at a sale, and the K’tan Breeze (my choice), which was part of our baby registry and was gifted to us by our Ninang Gina. ❤️

Ergobaby Adapt baby carrierBaby K’tan Breeze baby carrier

The K’tan is a wrap-type carrier that is quite simple to use due to its innovative double-loop design. Unlike other wrap carriers that have lots of extra unnecessary cloth trailing about, the K’tan has just the right amount of cloth to fulfill its function. There are two parts — the double-loop sling, which forms the base of the carrier, and the sash, which provides added support and also turns into a convenient pouch so the carrier can be easily stored when not in use. The K’tan Breeze model features mesh cotton for added airflow, which is quite important given our tropical weather.

Baby K’tan Breeze baby carrierBaby K’tan Breeze baby carrier

The K’tan carrier can be worn with babies and toddlers up to 35 lbs, and so you can use the carrier for several years. While the K’tan Breeze is a wrap-type carrier, the Ergobaby Adapt is a more structured carrier. I would say that the main advantage of the Ergobaby over the K-tan is better weight distribution. I find I can go longer carrying Wolf without experiencing strain when I’m using the Ergobaby. That’s why when we visited Japan last October, I used the Ergobaby for exploring the country.

Ergobaby Adapt baby carrier

While the Ergobaby performs better in long excursions, the K’tan is superior when you’re travelling alone with your baby, because 1) The K’tan is easier to wear if you have no one to assist you (the Ergobaby has a buckle at the back that is challenging to fasten on your own), and 2) The K’tan is easier to store when not in use, as it has its own pouch and it can easily fit in your bag unlike the structured carriers. Another advantage of the K’tan carrier is how easy it is to nurse while using the carrier.

Baby K’tan Breeze baby carrier

To sum, here are the pros and cons of my Baby K’tan Breeze carrier (when compared with the Ergobaby Adapt).

(+)

  1. The K’tan Breeze is easier to set up if you’re putting it on without any assistance.
  2. The K’tan Breeze is easier to store and bring around when not in use.
  3. The K’tan Breeze allows for better airflow due to its mesh construction.
  4. The K’tan Breeze is easier to adjust for nursing.
  5. The K’tan Breeze is much more affordable than the Ergobaby Adapt (P3,150.00 vs P9,999.75).

(-)

  1. After prolonged use, the K’tan Breeze is not as effective as the Ergobaby Adapt in relieving back strain.
  2. The K’tan Breeze takes a few seconds longer to set up than the Ergobaby Adapt.
  3. The K’tan carriers are sized to the adult wearer, and so two differently sized adults may not share one K’tan, whereas the Ergobaby Adapt can be shared regardless of size of the adult.

After listing the pros and cons, if I had to pick just one carrier, I would go with the K’tan. But if your budget permits, I highly recommend that you buy both the K’tan Breeze and the Ergobaby Adapt. If you have two carriers, then you can alternate between wash cycles. The K’tan Breeze and Ergobaby Adapt are both top of the line, and so while you can’t go wrong with either one, you definitely can’t go wrong with both! 😉 Happy Babywearing!

Baby K’tan Breeze baby carrierBaby K’tan Breeze baby carrierBaby K’tan Breeze baby carrierBaby K’tan Breeze baby carrier

Parenting

My Unpleasant Experience Breastfeeding at Venice Piazza

In the Philippines, most people are quite supportive of mothers who nurse in public. A mother has the right to breastfeed anywhere and in any manner she chooses. Our law safeguards this right. One of the objectives of RA 10028 is “to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the Philippines as the normal, natural and preferred method of feeding infants and young children.” The most natural way to breastfeed a child is actually without any cloth obstructing or covering the breast. For those who have never breastfed, using a cover may not seem like a difficult thing to do, but often, the cloth of nursing blouses inhibits a baby’s access to milk, while nursing covers make babies sweat profusely (actually, even without a cover, they usually tend to sweat more while nursing, and that’s why I need to always have a fan on hand when I’m with Wolf). Older babies usually will not tolerate being covered.

Wolf always takes off the cover, and so I have done away with using one. I bought several nursing blouses and dresses, which ensure that when I breastfeed in public, there is little to no flesh revealed. I use nursing wear not because I’m conservative (I’m actually quite the opposite), but because I want to avoid unwanted attention and possible conflict. The point is, when I breastfeed in public, it’s pretty discreet. And for one whole year, I received zero negative comments. That changed last Friday, when I had my first unpleasant experience breastfeeding in public.

We were having early dinner at Venice Piazza in BGC. It was our first time in this mall, and we went there because it was right across where we had our gig earlier that day. We were with our fellow musician friends at the food court.

Venice Piazza food court

We had just sat down at our table, and I decided to nurse Wolf. I was wearing a maxi nursing dress. The little flesh that was revealed while nursing was mostly blocked by Wolf’s head. Honestly, you’d have to be really looking closely to notice that I was feeding Wolf (most of the time people think he’s just asleep in my arms). So I was surprised when a guard approached me to tell me off for nursing in the food court. He told me that there’s a nursing room in the mall. I said that I’m fine nursing where I am. He told me that I have to go to the nursing room and that “bawal dito” (nursing isn’t allowed in the food court). I said, I am allowed to nurse anywhere. It’s my right. It’s in our law. He refused to back down, and Casey and our other friends stepped in. They said that there’s nothing wrong or indecent with what I’m doing. The guard insisted that I need to leave as it is their policy, and so Casey told the guard to call his supervisor. The guard was hesitant, but the supervisor had already spotted the altercation and approached us. The supervisor apologized to Casey, saying that the guard was new and didn’t know the protocol. However, the supervisor said, “baka pwedeng takpan” (perhaps she can use a cover). Casey then said, “Eh paano kung ayaw niya? Choice niya yun. Okay lang sa’min. Kung hindi okay sa inyo, huwag na lang kayo tumingin” (What if she doesn’t want to use a cover? That’s her choice. It’s fine with us. If it isn’t fine with you, just don’t look). The two men still looked like they wanted to disagree, but at this point, Wolf ended his nursing session. I don’t know if he was really full already, or if he was just annoyed at the nosy guards. Haha. The guards finally left us to order and eat in peace.

You may wonder, why didn’t I just go to the nursing room? Well, that would have been highly inconvenient and stressful. I was already hungry. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day and it was already 5 pm. It would have taken longer for me to be able to eat if I left the food court. If I forced Wolf to unlatch so we could transfer, he would have cried. Also, I wanted to be with my friends. Nursing takes up a lot of time, and if I were to always nurse in isolation, I would miss a lot of the rare opportunities I have these days to interact with fellow adults. Given this line of thought, you can see how forcing mothers to nurse away from the community can trigger postpartum depression and other negative emotions.

The guards had no right to tell me where and how I should feed my child. It’s truly deplorable how the sexualization of women’s breasts has made breastfeeding in public seem unnatural, when it is actually one of the most natural and instinctive human behaviors. I hope never to experience such closed-mindedness again. And if you are a nursing mom who nurses in public and you find yourself in the area of BGC, I suggest that you steer clear of Venice Piazza to avoid possible unnecessary stress!

Food, Parenting, Travel

Our Family Staycation at Hotel Jen

Last Sunday, we kicked off the new year with a staycation at Hotel Jen. My dad and his wife, Tita Josie, gave us a gift certificate for an overnight stay at a Deluxe Room. The funny thing is Hotel Jen is right across Casey’s work place, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). So as we drove to the hotel, he felt like he was on the way to work. Haha.

Although Hotel Jen is under the Shangri-la group, it is just a four-star hotel, unlike the Shangri-la hotels in Edsa, Makati, and BGC, which are five-star establishments. The branding of Hotel Jen is hip and urban. They seem to be targeting yuppies. Given the four-star rating, we were not expecting Hotel Jen to be faultless. We had, for example, to take into account that the building was quite old, as it was formerly Traders Hotel. I hoped that we would not be assigned to one of the refurbished rooms, but alas, that is what we got.

The corridor of our floor smelled musty and was dimly lit. The room itself seemed a bit worn down, but it was clean and spacious. The bed was comfortable and had pristine sheets. Wolf highly enjoyed the crib that they provided, as it was just the right height for him to peep over at us. The bathroom was a bit small but well equipped with basic toiletries, a tub and shower, and hot water. Funnily enough, the toilet was exactly the same model as our toilet at home. The view outside was terrible, in Casey’s opinion, at least. It was a view of CCP. He didn’t look out the window even once. Haha.

hotel jen deluxe roomHotel Jen deluxe roomHotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room

The food at the breakfast buffet of Hotel Jen was, unfortunately, several notches below the food at Shangri-la group’s five star hotels. The bread was dry, and the bacon was not crispy. The spread of dishes was limited and unremarkable. The only part of breakfast that I enjoyed was my omelette, which was prepared fresh at the egg station. The eggs were perfectly fluffy and creamy.

Hotel Jen has an outdoor pool, and so Wolf was able to swim for the second time in his life. Unfortunately, the water was quite chilly, and so we didn’t stay long.

Hotel Jen outdoor pool

What Hotel Jen lacked in accommodations and food, they made up for in service. All the staff members were cheerful and attentive. Booking a room, checking in, and checking out were a breeze, as the receptionists, guards, and cleaning staff all worked efficiently.

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Jen, because Wolf liked the new environment, because the bed was quite comfortable, and because service was excellent. However, I don’t think we will go back unless we are assured of better accommodations. I’m not sure if all their rooms are merely refurbished or if they actually have newly built rooms. This is something you should definitely ask if you plan to stay at this hotel. It’s ironic that Hotel Jen’s branding is youthful and fun, but their building and rooms are old and worn down.

Although we may not return to Hotel Jen, we are excited to try other hotels soon. The staycation was a great way for us to relax and enjoy some family time (aka time away from Casey’s computer and PS4). Haha! Here’s to more staycations this 2018!

Mom and babyMom, dad, and baby