Having a baby is one of life’s most wonderful experiences, and indeed for many parents, it is probably also singularly, the most wonderful life changing moment in their lives together as a couple. The traditional confinement month, that is, the first 4 weeks, or 28 days that the parents and baby spend together is indeed an important foundation that allows parents and baby to bond and adjust to their new lives together. Many parents rely on the age-old wisdom of their own parents as well as parenting and baby “experts” like confinement nannies and midwives. We are pleased to share with you today, the stories of two new mummies, Adelin W. and L.C. Yeo on how their confinement journeys. Adelin had her mum help her with her confinement month, and L.C. relied on the services of an experienced confinement nanny.
All About Adelin
Adelin, or Adel to her many friends, is a gregarious in-house lawyer in her 40s, who always has a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and a gorgeous Balenciaga bag on her shoulders. She is married to Henning, a frequent flying executive by day, and a fabulous home baker at night and over weekends. Adel and Henning just had their second child, a beautiful little girl, and their older daughter, aged 8, is thrilled to finally have a princess playmate.
A true blue foodie, Adel is the person you need to speak with if you want to know the best places to eat in town. One of her most favourite places to eat, is over at her mother’s place, as her mum does the meanest renditions of laksa and meesiam in the history of Singapore. It is with this, and the fact that there could be no love greater than the love between a doting grandma and her grandchildren, that it was “hands-down”, “no need to think about it”, that Adel’s mum helped her with her confinement month. In fact, I don't think that Adel even asked her mum for her help for confinement, it was just naturally understood that her mum would be her primary caregiver. And this goes both ways, as with the many understandings and agreements left unsaid between mother and daughter.
The Art of Balance
Still in the midst of her confinement month, Adel’s confinement experience is about balance. It’s about balancing time between baby and her older child; between her rest time and mum’s; between relying on mum and being independent; between what is traditionally “good for you” and what is practical.
- Balancing Mum’s Rest Time and Mummy’s Rest Time
Adel’s mother does not live with her, and comes every morning to Adel’s home and leaves after dinner with Adel and her family every evening. While her mother is super fit, Adel is mindful that her mother does not tire out, as it is no mean feat looking after Adel and her two daughters. Adel makes sure that her mum strictly goes home after dinner, and she handles baby herself in the evening and night. Baby sleeps with her and Henning every night in a cot.
When it comes to cooking, Adel’s mum is an ace cook, and her “ter kah chor” (pig trotters in vinegar) and black chicken soup are Adel’s firm confinement month favourites. Her mum is as fast and experienced hand in the kitchen too, and cooking for Adel and the family, inclusive of daily double boiled soups just takes up 1 to 2 hours. Ever mindful of her mum’s physical state, Adel does ensure that her live in helper, helps mum with food preparation such as the washing and cutting of food.
- Balancing Attention Between Baby and the Other Older Babies
Up to recently, Adel’s eldest daughter was the sole focus of both her parents’ love and she was also the only grandchild on both sides of the family. Having to suddenly “share” the attention with a new addition to the family could be disorientating to a baby’s older sibling(s) . Having been myself, a spoilt only-child for 6 years before my sister came along, I can attest that it took me quite a while to understand that love is not a zero-sum game, and my parents’ love for my sister did not mean they loved me less! However, in the time it took for that reckoning, I think I was quite the 6 year old terror in my attempts to run away from my loveless home with just my blankie in tow, and my temper tantrums during loveless dinner time when my favourite fried fish was not being served.
Keeping that into consideration, Adel knew that her first born would also need a period of adjustment, and she made sure that there were continued stabilities in her elder child’s life even with the arrival of a new baby. As such, Adel continued with the routine that she was the main person who picked her daughter home from primary school everyday. It also helped that Grandma continued to be a familiar constant in her life, as she could turn to ever-reliable grandma for comfort and reassurance.
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- Balancing Traditional Ways with Modern Workarounds
Having mum around was pretty comforting to Adel, as she was used to mum’s cooking and “having her ways” around her own mother. Mum also understood the intimate rhythms that every family has, such as Adel needing to leave home (which would be a big no-no traditionally) to pick up her older child. Adel’s mum helped her maintain a balance between what was to be done traditionally, and what could be worked around. Food, which was firmly in the controls of Adel’s mum, was something that was strictly controlled. No cooling foods, no seafood, lots of ginger, and Adel could only eat what her mum prepared. When it came to bathing, Adel continued to do this everyday, and she even washed her hair, but she made sure that it was blow-dried immediately.
Adel’s Experience In A Nutshell
Adel felt that her confinement month went smoothly without any major hiccups, as she was already an experienced mummy and her mother has always been a strong pillar of support for her and her family. She’s also a reassuring presence to her older daughter. Mum was also very familiar with the family rhythms in her family, and was able to be flexible about confinement month practices. An important factor to things running smoothly as well, was the mum was very knowledgeable in confinement cooking, and was a great cook. It was also very useful that Adel had a live in helper to help with cleaning and helping mum with her cooking and other confinement duties. With her mum’s help, Adel spent about an extra SGD500 on tonics, food and massages during her confinement.
All About L.C.
Would it surprise you if I told you that L.C. is a daddy and not a mummy? Most of the time, when it comes to writing about pregnancy and baby matters, we often hear the mummy’s side of the story, and I think that it would be very interesting to hear from the daddy’s side for once! This is particularly, since L.C. and his wife chose having a confinement nanny as their confinement month option. So here goes, this is L.C.’s journey. L.C. and his wife are in their 30s and are first time parents to a super cute 6 weeks old little boy. After extensive research, both online and speaking with friends who are parents, they decided to hire a Malaysian live-in nanny through a Singapore nanny agency. L.C. is a programmer that has a flexible work arrangement with his company and his lovely wife is an educator. L.C. and his wife live at the moment (during confinement) with her parents, and they have a full time helper.
As first time parents, they felt that they needed all the help that they could get, and they were mindful that they would likely be exhausted looking after baby, and probably at a loss of what to do as a “clueless young couple”. They wanted a professional nanny with experience so to be able to have a peace of mind, and to absorb as much as they could from a pair of experienced hands!
It’s All About Setting You Up Well For The Journey of Parenting
Having just finished confinement month, to L.C. and his wife, confinement month was all about learning to take care of baby, to recover from delivery and to rest up as they prepare for the rest of parenthood after the confinement month. As they said goodbye to their nanny, L.C. and his wife both felt that having the nanny was a decision well made for the whole expanded family, and L.C. thought, with a satisfying grin, that the smiles you see in the lovely picture above (which is also his computer’s wallpaper), was “all made possible only because they had a good nanny”.
- Setting Up The Right Expectations Before Nanny Arrives
Letting in an “outsider” into your family for a very intimate and intensive 28 days isn't something that comes naturally to most couples, and L.C. had some very sound advice for parents wanting to choose the confinement nanny route. He thought that it was important that couple discuss and agree on the ground rules of resolving conflicts before the nanny arrives. Another important thing to do, was to speak with mums and mums-in-law to clearly demarcate duties. To him, it would be good that everyone was on the same page, to ensure a smooth, stress-free and conflict-free confinement period. The nanny is here, after all, to give you a peace of mind, and not a piece of her mind!
- Setting Up an Environment Where Mummy Gets to Rest Up and Recover from Delivery
As a doting and loving husband, one of L.C.’s first prerogative was to ensure that his wife had enough rest as she recovers from delivery. Having a steady pair of hands in the form of an experienced nanny definitely help in that aspect. Both parents were confident enough with the nanny, that they had baby sleep with nanny at night. Mummy had to wake up to feed baby every 3 hours, and as such, maximizing sleep was of utmost importance so that the couple could go the distance after the nanny leaves. In L.C.’s own words, “trust me, if mummy sleeps with baby from day one, she might end up going mad”!
The nanny also made sure that mummy was well taken care of in terms of, and she kept her to a strict diet of confinement food and red date tea. She also prepared for mummy, a boiled lemongrass herb water for her showers! Now, that’s what I call, having a on demand spa at home! For those of you who don’t have a nanny to prepare the lemongrass herb water, you can try these ready-made shower gels!
- Setting up a Much Needed Social Support Structure for Mummy
One very interesting, and probably not frequently recognized observation that L.C. made, was that it looked like it was important for new mums to have a “social support structure” outside of their own families. This was something that especially became obvious to him when his wife’s colleagues came to visit with them, in that they shared common experiences and trusted tips they had learnt along the way. In a way, having the support of a nanny in addition to the family, was important emotionally for L.C.’s wife. The nanny not only shared with them tips on looking after baby, but she also gave advice on what brands of baby items to buy based on her extensive experience with other mummies. When they were not talking about baby matters, the nanny also shared on her personal life, and the couple was pretty intrigued by her recent “work holiday” trip to Australia to pick grapes! What a cool nanny indeed!
While we were on this topic, I checked in with L.C. on whether he felt having a nanny around was something that he found intrusive. L.C. shared that he actually values his family’s personal space very much, and this was partly the reason why he had not wanted too many people visiting them at the hospital. However, having the nanny around in the house was not awkward to him, he ironically found her presence to be quite comforting!
L.C.’s Experience In A Nutshell
L.C. summed it up having a nanny in a really great way:
“Having a professional nanny with experience will really take a load off your mind. Especially since mummy will be very tired, and daddy will honestly be at a loss until he sees someone handle baby often enough.”
When asked about the top 5 best things about having a nanny around, L.C. listed it as:
- Baby’s health is monitored all the time
- Baby needs a sure hand in the first few days, because while being a parent is hectic, it is probably terrifying experience for a new baby!
L.C.’s family paid about S$5,000 during their confinement month. About S$4,500 went to the nanny and the agency and S$500 into tonics. The couple loved the nanny experience so much that they had extended her service for another 2 weeks.
And this gentle readers, takes me to the end of our tale of two families. It worked out well for both families their confinement month choices. In the end, it’s about discussing as a family what suits your family situation best, and making your choices based on your priorities. For more about your confinement month style, be sure to read our companion piece, What Type of Confinement Month Mummy Are You? We Analyse the Options!
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