On the ceaseless journey that we call parenthood, it’s sometimes easy to find ourselves in need of a little inspiration. At times we wonder if we’re making the right decisions in raising our kids—were we too harsh, or were we not assertive enough? While other times we make a chore figuring out ways to make things more manageable and fun at home.
This month, we speak to Sarah Lee—a mommy from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia now residing in Sydney, Australia, and a co-founder of a men’s bespoke fashion brand (@suitmisura)—about her parenting journey and her approach to taking care of her 3-year-old girl Zara, including their favorite activities together, discipline, and making life just a little bit more fun.
You can follow Sarah on her Instagram profile (@lala_lee) and keep up to date with her journey as a mommy to little Zara.
Making the most of every day
As a working mother, Sarah’s day begins bright and early. Before having to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, she would wake at 6AM to shower, do the laundry, and prepare breakfast for all three of them before walking Zara to day-care and then catching a train to work.
“My husband and I take turns dropping and picking Zara up from day-care, so we have slightly different schedules and don’t have to stress about rushing to and from the office,” she explains. “We also take turns preparing dinner, giving Zara her bath, and putting her to bed.”
Daily planning and coordination makes life much easier for Sarah and her partner.
But during the current social distancing period where both she and her partner work from home, Sarah says the level of coordination between her and her husband plays an equally important role in keeping things settled around the house.
“My partner and I always share our work schedules at the start of each morning, so we know when to keep Zara occupied and away from either parent during their conference calls.”
She adds that to keep everyone feeling mentally fresh, they make sure to go for daily walks outside.
“There’s nothing like getting fresh air and having space to roam about after being cooped inside all day,” Sarah explains. “This really helps us reset our minds and keeps us healthy both mentally and physically.”
An occupied child makes a happy home
Like any good mother, Sarah places plenty of importance on what her daughter experiences throughout the day, knowing full well how the things around her during these formative years can shape her as a person.
At the top of the list, there are three essential values that Sarah hopes she can inculcate in Zara.
“The first is that sharing is caring—we’ve taught her how to say this from an early age, the second is that it’s very important to respect others, especially her elders,” she explains. “And the third is that she should always listen carefully and never talk over others, that she’ll get a chance to talk when the other person is finished.
One of Sarah’s priorities is finding time to be present for her daughter.
To facilitate this, Sarah also takes the time to simply hang out with Zara and be as present as possible. Activities will often include things like going out for walks, blowing bubbles in the park, doing arts and crafts at home, and spending a good amount of time in front of books.
“Zara is obsessed with Disney’s Frozen storybook—that’s her go-to book every single night, while my favorite is reading and singing from baba baa’s Rasa Sayang book,” she mentions. “Because of this, I now like singing traditional songs to her such as Rasa Sayang and Burung Kakak Tua!”
And not only does Zara enjoy the music from the book, Sarah loves the childhood nostalgia that she experiences while listening to and singing the songs.
“The Rasa Sayang book takes me back to music class in primary school, learning how to play the tunes on the recorder!” she quips. “It also reminds me of my own mom singing these traditional songs to me when I was younger.”
As for TV time? Sarah allows it, but only in controlled amounts when there’s a need to keep Zara occupied while the parents are busy.
“We always try to make sure that she watches something educational like Blippi or Cosmic Kids, and we use Apple TV so we can stream YouTube over the TV,” she says while explaining screen-time management at home.
“We’ve also only just introduced her to the iPad since we started working from home—we’ve purchased an educational app just for it and she’s usually over it in 20 minutes.”
Discipline through logic and empathy
Of course, being a working parent isn’t always smooth sailing as anyone in the same boat will readily admit. This is where Sarah practices treating her daughter as someone capable of logical thinking first before resorting to anything else.
“We always reason with her and remind her why she shouldn’t be doing certain things, and this really works for us,” she says. “While there are times where she does receive a smack, it’s very rare.”
Elaborating further, Sarah also reveals her technique of empathizing with her little girl and trying to see things from her view during exceptionally problematic moments.
Sarah says empathy, reason, and chocolate are her best tools when Zara starts misbehaving.
“I remind myself to breathe and keep calm, then I put myself in her shoes and understand why she might be feeling the way she is—especially during a meltdown,” she says. “Whether she’s tired, hangry, or having a belly ache, I sympathize and ask her questions about why she might be feeling the way she is before raising my voice.”
“A cuddle and an explanation about why she shouldn’t behave the way she is usually solves everything.”
But if at wit’s end, Sarah still has one more secret weapon up her sleeve to diffuse any tantrum or meltdown—a food item she thinks almost every parent can use to great effect on their kids.
“Chocolate!” she jokes. “Anything and everything can literally be done if you just say that there will be chocolate at the end of it, haha!”
It’s all worth it in the end
But in the end, Sarah says that the pride she gets from seeing her daughter develop day by day, both physically and mentally, is worth everything that the both of them go through.
“I love watching Zara grow and acquire new skills every single day,” she quips. “Right now, her vocabulary is expanding so quickly, she’s always shocking us by using new words out of the blue—and in the right situations and contexts, too!”
“She’s also becoming braver and more adventurous—always wanting to try new things out herself such as climbing on the spider net at the playground or trying to get to the top of a really tall slide.”
Watching little Zara grow up the right way means everything to Sarah.
And best of all? Sarah also knows that all the extra effort she puts into her mothering duties gets acknowledged and reciprocated by Zara, even if unconsciously.
“The best part about being a mom is feeling the love that I give to my daughter Zara being returned to me in the form of cuddles and kisses,” she says. “These days, she even tells me how much she loves me and even tells me how proud she is of me.”
“Another huge part is getting to see Zara develop into her own unique character and personality, and it’s also funny to see bits of your own traits in your child!”
If you liked this little peek into Sarah’s life as a mommy, we hope you’ll continue checking out our blogs for more of the same content in the future. We’ll be featuring more parents along with their views on parenthood so that you—our mommy and daddy readers—can get inspired with new ideas to help yourselves along your own parenting journey!