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

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Musings, Parenting, Uncategorized

Fitbit Charge 3: One Month Progress Update

Last month, Casey and I bought Fitbits so that we could begin tracking our daily activity with the goal of leading a less sedentary lifestyle. After one month of daily use, I am happy to report that we have achieved visible results. While we made use of all the tracker’s features, the extent varied according to which features were more helpful to our individual situations. Casey used the heart rate monitor and step counter to help him get effective run sessions and ensure he reached 10,000 daily steps. I made extensive use of the food log and heart rate monitor to aid me in losing weight and ensuring my walks burned a respectable number of calories, which to me is just a modest minimum of 100 calories per session, as I bring Wolf with me on my walks.

Mom and baby exercise

It is quite challenging to get some decent exercise in with a toddler that tires easily and stops to look at every single thing on the road, but I figured out a way to keep my heart rate up during our walks. I jog in place for most of the time. It definitely makes me look silly, but I believe the results are worth it! Haha.

Just for comparison, here is a picture from my boudoir shoot last year, back when I was completely sedentary, placed beside my most recent picture taken the other day.

Before and after one month fitbit use

And this is my most recent front-facing picture. It’s amazing how there is already a noticeable difference in my body just after one month of light daily exercise of 20-30 minutes and food logging.

Mom weight loss one month

After one month of round-the-clock use of the Fitbit Charge 3, Casey lost 1.5 kg, while I lost 1.6 kg.

Dad weight loss
Casey’s weight loss after one month
Mom weight loss
My weight loss after one month

We didn’t do any extreme diets or strenuous gym workouts, just mindful eating and jogging around the village. Baby steps! We are not aiming to lose weight rapidly, because what is more important to us is being able to live a healthier lifestyle for the long term. Here’s to our continuous progress!

Mom weight loss after one month

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!

Money, Musings, Parenting

How We Raised Our Baby on a Single Income Budget

I recently came across a Smart Parenting article that estimated the cost of raising a baby from 0 to 2 years at P1 million. Doing some quick math in my head, I concluded that it couldn’t possibly have cost even close to that much for us, because we got through on just my husband’s salary with no outstanding debt and even some savings set aside. I decided to make my own estimate and compare it with that of the article (whose figures were based on a survey of parents they interviewed).

The disclaimer I wish to make though is that I included only the items in the article’s infographic, so that I could make a direct comparison of costs. There are definitely several more items that we bought that are not included in the article, and so the actual total expenses of both our family and the families interviewed are probably more than these estimates. Still, by comparing our expenses per item listed, I discovered a huge difference. Whereas the interviewed families spent over P1 million, our family spent just over P350k. Here’s the comparison I made, together with notes on how we were able to cut costs.

There were some items that had cost more for us, and these generally were related to health and travel needs, which are both big priorities for us. For example, we chose to avail of vaccinations at a private hospital, even though we could have actually gotten them for free at a health center, because we wanted to minimize the risk of Wolf experiencing side effects. We chose a lightweight yet durable stroller, even though there are many cheaper options, because we wanted to use the stroller for travel abroad with Wolf.

Several people have wondered how we have been able to afford raising Wolf on a single income thus far. I think that while we lost one income stream from my job, we were able to bring down our cost of living, even without sacrificing our quality of life. We still go out to eat at least once a week, we’ve traveled abroad twice with Wolf, and we managed to throw Wolf pretty fun baptismal and birthday parties. I think that me being out of a job challenged us to be more resourceful while still remembering to indulge sometimes. Here are the rules we followed in order to make us happy and comfortable on a single income:

  1. We used our credit cards to our advantage. This, I believe, is the key to our success. I am proud to say that ever since we began using credit cards, we have always paid the balances in full. Especially after Wolf was born, we used our cards, not to pay for things we couldn’t afford, but to track our expenses and adjust every month. Most expenses of middle-class consumers can be paid for by credit card. By swiping almost every purchase, we could see exactly where our money was going, feel remorse when our spending on unnecessary things would go a bit overboard, and compensate by dialing down our splurging the next month. We have two credit cards—one is for all the necessities such as groceries and gas, while the other one is for luxuries like eating out. The latter has a much lower credit limit, which we never max out. Bear in mind that if you wish to try doing this, you MUST pay in full and on time always, or else this will backfire big time. Nowadays, it’s easy to track your running balance by viewing your accounts online. Do not swipe for anything unless you have the cash to pay for it!
  2. We saved before spending. We set up our accounts to auto-debit a fixed amount every month. We never touched the money once it was debited. Admittedly, we have not been able to save as much as I would like to, but the fact that we were still able to set aside savings on a single income has helped us feel a bit more at ease. Soon, we will increase this fixed amount once we are able to add to our income streams.
  3. We took projects on the side. Since we are both musicians, we are able to utilize our skills to earn a little extra sometimes, which is a great help whenever there are unexpected expenses. Unless it will compromise our health, we never say no to more money. Haha.
  4. We looked for cheaper yet more effective maintenance products. The boom in online selling has made finding affordable alternatives to consumables such as bath and grooming products such a breeze. More expensive doesn’t always mean better. Thanks to online sites that gave me access to hundreds of user reviews, I have been able to find products that work much better than the previous ones we used and yet cost much less. We never settled for an inferior item just because it was cheaper. In this way, we never felt deprived. On the contrary, we felt like winners every time we got to spend less for better quality!
  5. We invested in lifestyle upgrades that allowed us to save more in the long run. I know that sounds too good to be true, but there are such things! One such investment was our plasma sterilizer. The outright cost was high, but it continues to make my life so convenient. I save so much time and energy popping all Wolf’s toys plus our toothbrushes and my makeup tools in the sterilizer instead of wiping or washing them, and they come out absolutely clean! The amount of money and stress we have saved from avoiding potential hospital confinement is so worth the investment. And I get to spend less time doing chores and more time playing with Wolf. One other such investment is our espresso machine, which we chose to buy using GCs my dad gave us last Christmas. Prior to the purchase, my husband used to drink Starbucks every day. Once he learned to make his own latte, complete with latte art, he realized how he could have superior coffee at home for much less. An added bonus was that we got to spend more quality time at the table. Our daily coffee ritual has become a family tradition that Wolf has dubbed “coffee party.” While we sip our coffee, he sips the extra milk. Haha.
  6. We remained generous with our families. My husband and I have always had this mutual understanding that when it comes to our relatives, especially our parents, we help financially whenever we can. He is free to contribute money to help his family whenever needed, and likewise, I can shell out money for family matters without hearing any complaint from him. This may seem counter-intuitive to financial management, but I believe that as long as your budget can accommodate it, you should help out others, as generosity comes back hundredfold. I grew up seeing my parents share their wealth and feel happier than if they had spent it all on themselves. I believe that if you keep thinking that you do not have enough to give to others, you will place limits on your ability to earn more. But if you give freely because you know that there is so much more to come, you will find ways to make more money reach your hands. Ultimately, sharing your wealth helps you develop a mindset of prosperity.

Although I originally wanted most of my posts to be finance-related, hence my blog domain name, this is officially my first post that talks heavily about money. I tried writing one several months back, but it just didn’t feel right then. It felt fake. The fact of the matter is we are all a work in progress, and perhaps at that time, financially, even though I’ve always been pretty thrifty, I was too raw to come up with any experience worth sharing. But now, Wolf is about to turn two years old, and our family has managed to raise him well on a single income. I am proud of that feat, and while writing about it, the words flowed easily. I hope that this post helps others in a situation similar to ours.

Our family has managed well thus far, but that is not to say that we are complacent. Having just one income stream may sometimes be necessary, but it should not remain a permanent condition. That is why we are embarking soon on our journey to increase our income streams and achieve financial freedom. If you are reading this now, I hope that in ten years, you will learn of our family’s success, and you yourself will have acquired the same prosperity. Here’s to our future!

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