Money, Musings, Parenting, pregnancy

On Motherhood and Success

Mom and baby swimming

Last weekend, we went swimming. I enjoyed looking at our pictures, because it was evident that I am already close to losing all the baby weight, which is one of my personal goals. One of my big fears when I was pregnant was that I wouldn’t be able to lose the extra pounds after giving birth. When I was younger, I used to be so naive, thinking that the best way to solve problems was to play it safe and try to avoid encountering those problems in the first place. Thus, I thought that to avoid getting fat, I would just never get pregnant.

I thought I would never get married or have kids. I wanted to climb the corporate ladder, earn a lot, and never get frumpy. Studying in an all-girls high school, I was taught that girls could be trailblazers in their careers. It was also implied that getting married and having kids were not goals worthy of an educated woman. Of course, they remained desirable aims, but it was not enough to be a housewife or mother. You had to work as well, because… women should be able to do it all!

At school, you learn that most in middle-class society expect mothers to work and take care of the household. No one ever tells you that managing a household is a full-time job in itself. There are no promotions, hefty bonuses, or awards for years of service. There are no fancy titles or corner offices. And without any extra help, it will take up all of your time and make having a corporate position impossible. Two years ago, I was forced to resign from a job I liked, trading foreign exchange at a bank. I had no one who could help me take care of my newborn son. And so from full-time banker, I became a full-time mother.

With my new position, I was on call round-the-clock. Bonuses were frequent but in kind—hugs and kisses throughout the day—honestly, the best kind of bonus ever. Automatic tenure made this position very secure. However, the only chance of promotion involved constant power struggles between the real boss (me) and the boss baby. Two years in, I don’t know if my superiority will ever be fully acknowledged.

Ever since I became a mom, I have begun to base my life choices on what I believe is best for my family. I refuse to equate staying home with a child with less income. On the contrary, I believe having a child should inspire us to find multiple income sources and opportunities for passive income. I was a banker, but it was actually when I assumed the job title of mother that I became more motivated to grow our wealth. I am happy to say that in that aspect, we have taken concrete steps that I perhaps wouldn’t have taken this early on without the pressure of having a dependent.

If back in high school, I used to define success as climbing the corporate ladder, now, becoming a mother has changed that. Success for me now is having the free time to do the things you truly want to do. Success is being able to work smart instead of work hard. Success is spending a quarter of your day on work, and the rest on quality time with loved ones. Success is having your money work for you and not the other way around.

Swimming

Raising a human being is truly a difficult job, and I am incredibly lucky to be able to do it full-time. Every day, my baby boy looks up to me. Every day, I hope I am doing right by him, helping him become a good person.

Children are incredibly perceptive. They learn from what we say, but even more from what we do. If there is one trait I want my son to admire in me, it’s ambition. It was difficult for me to shed all the baby weight, but I set a goal, and I am almost there. I want my son to look at me and see a person comfortable and confident in her own skin. It was heartbreaking for me to give up corporate life, but I found other sources of income, and I will find more down the road. I want my son to understand that his parents will always seek ways and means for the family to live life to the fullest.

Postpartum mom weight loss

At one of my lowest points last year, I broke down alone, feeling cheated by fate and utterly worthless. Then I thought of my son, fought against the hopelessness, and took action. I was extremely vulnerable, but I would willingly expose myself to that productive pain over and over again, for our future. I want my son to look at how our family stares down defeat, ala Arya Stark, and says, “Not today.”

Life’s setbacks make the ambitious even more resourceful. I hope that I can set a good example, so that my son finds fulfillment in constantly growing and learning. Becoming a mother taught me that while life will throw so many obstacles our way, facing them head on is what will make us stronger and wiser. I hope that my son becomes successful, and by this, I mean fulfilled with anything he sets his heart on—whether it be advanced degrees, fatherhood, business, and/or advocacy work. I hope he grows up realizing that success comes in many forms—some are bright and flashy, whereas others are unassuming and steadfast. I hope he sees and celebrates those many forms achieved by himself and others. And I hope he can look at his mom one day and say, “I learned so much from her. She inspires me to grow constantly.” That, for me, would be the ultimate success.

Mom and baby swimming

Happy Mom’s Day, super moms! 🤱🏻 How has motherhood changed your idea of success? ❤️

#motherhood #success #work #grind #money #passion #business #momlife #mommy #parenting #family #postpartum #weightloss #stretchmarks #mombod

Musings, Parenting, Uncategorized

Fitbit Charge 3: First Impressions

If you’ve read my previous post about losing baby weight, you’d know that I am a total stranger to exercise. Thus far, I have maintained a normal weight through diet. I lost the baby weight mainly through breastfeeding and moderating my food intake. This year though, I want to start some form of regular exercise, and the main reason is my husband. Last year, we found out that his cholesterol and blood pressure levels are not ideal. The best way to fix these issues is through diet and exercise. I am really sedentary by nature, and I know this does nothing to inspire my husband to get fit. On his own, he tries to get some exercise in, but I know that if I could accompany him sometimes while he bikes or runs around the village, he would be more motivated. And so when he decided to buy a Fitbit Charge 3 to help him track his daily activity, I decided to buy one as well. The money we used was from our Christmas cash gifts from my parents. So thank you, Mama and Papa, for the gift of health! Haha.

Fitbit Charge 3

I knew that Fitbit would help me make changes to my lifestyle, because the app appeals to my detail-oriented nature. As I am pretty OC when it comes to my body, I knew that I would appreciate how the Fitbit app provides a streamlined way for me to record daily activities. The app combines information that, previously, I would have to access through three different apps! The features that I think I will find particularly useful are the sleep insights, food log, and fertility calendar. For Casey, the heart rate monitor, sleep insights, and water intake log are proving quite beneficial so far.

I purchased my Fitbit Charge 3 just yesterday afternoon. I set it up last night and was able to track my sleep. I have always been a heavy dreamer, and through the insights from last night, I confirmed that I spend more time in REM sleep than the average. Haha. I set a few modest exercise and weight loss goals already, which the app used to calibrate how many calories I need to burn. Today, I tried logging my food intake, and I was pleased with how I could input the exact amount of food and easily change the unit of measurement.

Fitbit sleep log

Fitbit food log

I am a sucker for visual appeal and am usually willing to pay more for things that look better, and that’s why I ended up getting the Charge 3 Special Edition Lavender Woven Band/Rose Gold Aluminum. No regrets here as the band is really pretty. The woven band is slightly thinner compared to the classic elastomer band, thus making the tracker look more at home on my petite wrist. The app itself is also easy on the eyes and easy to navigate.

Fitbit Charge 3 Woven Lavender Special Edition

Wolf and I also went on our first tracked walk today. For my daily step goal, I set it at a very modest 4000, because I have to take Wolf into account. Sure enough, at 3000 steps, Wolf asked to be carried already. On the bright side, that’s some weight training for me! Haha.

Fitbit exercise log

Fitbit weight log

So far, I think the Fitbit Charge 3 is a great tool for anyone who wants to become more aware of their body and set some exercise goals. I’m hoping it will help our family become less lazy. I don’t want to lose my husband early to a heart attack. I don’t want Wolf to grow up thinking that exercise is not important. Till this point I’ve been such a sleep-loving human, but I need to at least try and set a good example, so here goes. Haha. Here’s to our health!

Parenting, Travel

How Travel Benefits My Baby

From the get-go, I did not hesitate to bring Wolf around with me wherever I went. I first took him to a restaurant when he was just two weeks old. I took him to a classical concert on his third week. At three months, he would tag along to my wedding gigs. He had his first road trip and pool experience at six months. He has been to Japan twice—once at ten months, and again at one year, five months.

Baby eating in high chair

Some parents prefer to shelter infants and refrain from bringing them outside often. I am inclined to do the opposite; I believe that the more of the outside world my baby experiences, the better. It was my instinct to allow Wolf to explore new places and meet new faces early on. Now that Wolf’s an older baby, his personality and constitution are becoming more evident. I can really appreciate now the benefits that Wolf has gained from his explorations. Travelling often has aided in Wolf’s development of the following traits:

  1. Wolf is sociable. He never went through the “nangingilala” stage of babies (stranger anxiety), wherein babies become fussy or inconsolable around strangers. He eases up to new faces quickly, and he often finds pleasure in entertaining others with his antics.
  2. Wolf is well-behaved. He can endure long trips in his car seat, and he doesn’t complain as long as he is full and rested. He is also used to eating out with us at restaurants, where he is comfortable sitting in a high chair and eating alongside us. I do not allow him any screen time while eating, and he knows how to be content enjoying the meal with us and interacting with the other diners.
  3. Wolf is healthy. He is always quick to recover from a cough or cold, and being sick does not dampen his pleasant disposition. He has never needed to be hospitalized for any illness. I believe that his regular exposure outside, combined with my willingness to breastfeed anywhere, have both played a part in toughening up his immune system.
  4. Wolf is talkative. At one year and seven months, he knows more than 60 words. Many of these are words that he was able to say when travelling. I noticed that although I introduced several of these words early on through reading to him, it was often when he would see the actual objects outside that he would learn to say the words. He learned to say “tree” when he saw trees in Tagaytay. He learned to say “meow” and “butterfly” when he saw cats and butterflies in Baguio. He learned to say “train” after riding numerous trains in Japan.
  5. Wolf is confident. Much of the time, I bring Wolf outside so that he can be where I am. At such a young age, Wolf is happiest and most reassured when he is with me and his dad. When we go out and I let Wolf lead the way, he is always excited to walk ahead, but he also looks back to make sure I’m still there. Then he smiles and toddles on boldly. He is empowered to explore, because he knows his parents are at his side, happily watching him find his stride in the world.Baby in butterfly sanctuary

I realize now that my baby’s name, Wolfgang, is so apt. His name means “travelling wolf.” Indeed, he has gone on many excursions with us, and he will definitely go on many more. Here’s to our wolf pack’s next adventure!

Family in Japan

Parenting

From Full-Time Banker to Full-Time Mother

If you came up to me a year ago and told me that I would some day consider being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I would laugh in your face. In fact, if you told me ten years ago that I would get married at 24 and have a baby at 26, I would never have believed you. I used to imagine myself growing old tied to nothing but a brilliant career. And yet here I am, wife and mother to my first born, and ready to embrace the life of a SAHM.

When I was still pregnant with my son, Wolfgang James, the possibility of resigning from my job never occurred to me. I was a foreign exchange trader in one of the top banks, recently promoted and with solid opportunities for advancement within reach. My husband and I planned to get a helper even before I gave birth so that we could train her adequately in preparation for my return to work. Little did I know, when raising a child, most plans tend to go out the window.

That was one of the first hard lessons I learned as a parent. My baby changed my life from the moment he gave his first loud cry. It was so different from when he was inside me. Suddenly, his total dependence on me for survival was very real. None of the numerous books and articles I had read on parenting could have prepared me for the overwhelming feeling of responsibility for another human being.

Fortunately, my husband, Casey, took an active role in sharing that responsibility. Together, we endured the long nights of the baby crying, and of me crying. Haha. The first few weeks were very frustrating for me, because I was recovering from an emergency CS operation that I never thought I would have to go through. I hated the feeling of helplessness, of loss of control. I was not used to it. But I am beginning to realize that I will encounter such situations more often, now that I am a mother. I planned for a normal unmedicated delivery but ended up delivering through C section. I planned on hiring a helper for my baby, but I ended up tendering my resignation. 

foreign exchange traders in bank dealing room
I will miss working with my teammates!

The story of my labor and delivery, I shall save for another post. This entry is about how we came to decide that I will be a SAHM. In the first two months after I gave birth, we had a helper, who we trained up to the point that we were confident in leaving her alone with Wolf. However, just when I was nearing the end of my maternity leave, the helper decided to go home to her province to attend to her children’s needs. It was a heavy blow to me, because the reason we hired her early on is so that we would have ample time to get to know and train her. We were suddenly left with no helper and very little time to find another one, let alone train that next one properly.

We extended my leave more than a month to buy us time to find a replacement, but to no avail. We had one helper that stayed a week before jumping ship and numerous leads that didn’t pan out. None of our relatives were available to look after Wolf regularly. We even considered daycares, but we found out that most do not accept infants as young as Wolf. 

I came to the bitter realization that the issues I encountered in finding care arrangements for Wolf are actually rooted in the inadequacy of our country’s maternity leave, a problematic policy that forces mothers to make compromises that they should not have to make. One may wonder why in many developed countries, most working mothers get by without nannies for their babies, yet in the Philippines, most dual-income households hire nannies. The difference in those other countries is the parental leave is long enough so that when the parents need to return to work, the child is old enough to enter daycare. Businesses here in the Philippines may see a longer maternity leave as unprofitable for them, but what they don’t realize is that an inadequate maternity leave results in many female employees needing to resign, causing the companies even greater losses.

At first, I felt so anxious about our failed quest for a caregiver for Wolf. I cursed my bad luck, envying my mommy friends who had trustworthy yayas at their disposal and were back at work. But it was my husband who made me see the light, who saw our situation as a blessing in disguise. Casey told me, “Our experience with these maids being unreliable made me realize that I actually do not want Wolf to be raised by a yaya. No one can replicate a mother’s love.” And as Hallmark-level cheesy as it sounded, I knew it was true. No one else will be as patient, caring, and selfless as I am with Wolf. Staying at home to be his primary caregiver ensures the best care for him. 

baby wearing mothercare jungle pattern onesie
My New Boss! 😅

Also, staying at home doesn’t mean I can’t work at least part-time. Gone are the days when money can be earned only in an office. There are many online jobs I can pursue. I also can continue to earn from freelance gigs (I play violin as a member of the awesome Manila String Machine). As for my career fulfillment in finance, who knows what opportunities may open up? I can go back to banking later on, or I can use my acquired skills in other ventures. When one door closes, several others open.

manila string machine string quartet philippines weddings
This is my other job that allows me to be with Wolf often. ☺️
breastfeeding in rustans makati philippines
My First Day of Momemployment ❤️
 

For now, my main focus will be raising Wolf. I will spend the little free time I have on this blog, which I have long wanted to start but didn’t have time for when I was still employed. I am standing at one of the great crossroads of my life. My ambitious younger self always imagined me standing alone. But beside me now, and till the end, are Casey and Wolf. I wouldn’t have it any other way.