Maidless in Singapore

I chose the title of this post as a play on the Dick Lee song, ‘Single in Singapore’, with a similarly humorous take on the plight of the individual who is feeling plaintive about her situation.

Our most excellent helper (aka maid) has returned home for Christmas break and with two young boys to feed, clean and entertain, we had our work cut out for us. I was on leave and gave up trying to reply to the occasional office email – working from home without a helper was simply not productive.

Murphy’s Law, of course, had to come into play soon after our helper left. First, the baby contracted bronchiolitis and woke up a few times every night. He visited the doctor three days in a row to get his airways cleared. Then I and the older boy contracted what appeared to be stomach flu and diarrhoea. It’s still ongoing. Let’s just say there’s been a lot of cleaning up to do…

Apart from that, things are becoming more efficient. I think the reason for conflict is due to each person having his or her own way of doing things. If you are prepared to be flexible and just want to ensure the job is done (regardless of how it is done by other people), then you should be content.

So the children can be cared for by relatives, as long as they have enough sleep and nourishment (the children, that is :)). Delegation is key.

And when you have a window of opportunity, sleep.

Unlike, unfriend

Many of us have been on social media sites like Facebook for a while, and over time we have probably accumulated a certain number of ‘friends’, ‘liked’ some pages and joined some groups. But have you ever considered that, at some stage, we should put our minds to doing the opposite?

Over time, our preferences may have changed. Maybe we’ve moved on to different social circles or our beliefs have changed. You don’t feel like you belong to a certain social clique anymore. And perhaps you haven’t been to that cafe in a while (or its standard has dropped, so you don’t want to endorse it anymore). Ditto for old pop bands, politicans and other public figures.

And we’ve probably had a few friends who had started their own businesses or groups and invited you to like their pages or join them. Being nice, you wanted to show your support, so you obliged. But you haven’t heard from them since. Similarly, you may have the odd friend who has become … rather odd, or has caused offense by making inconsiderate comments or being strongly associated with a cause that you do not believe in. However, until you do some housekeeping, others may continue to get the impression that you still endorse them.

In that spirit, I decided to start un-liking pages today. How do you do that?

  1. Go to your Facebook profile page (the link with your name and photo on it), and along the horizontal menu, look for a second link that says “More”, which will display a dropdown menu.
  2. Click on “Likes” and that will take you to a page that shows everything you’ve ever liked on Facebook.

(Note: Given how Facebook likes to tweak its layouts every now and then, my description may become out of date soon)

So far, I’ve un-liked several pages, including a footballer who left for a rival club, a few friends’ businesses that I probably won’t patronise, a browser that I don’t use anymore, and a few social pages whose topics no longer interest me. Given how little free time I have these days, I could do with fewer irrelevant updates on my news feed.

Give it a try yourself! A little housekeeping never hurts.

Unfriending may be a tricker process, as it feels more personal. What I do is put such people on a restricted list first and monitor how things go. If their behaviour online still doesn’t improve, then give them the boot.

Reviving a drowned iPhone

Last Thursday, my iPhone 6 fell into the office loo.

Amazingly, it still worked right after I retrieved it, but the screen flickered when I typed on it. I turned it off and tried to dry it out with the toilet hand dryer and later at home, the hair dryer. The screen kept going on and off.  Of course, given that it had fallen into the toilet, I also wiped it with hand sanitiser while taking pains not to let any more liquid get into its ports.

Following conventional wisdom, I put the iPhone in rice, and later read that rice doesn’t help as much as leaving it out in the open to dry – it just reduces the temptation to turn the iPhone back on when it isn’t safe to do so yet. In the meantime, I restored all my data, backed up on iCloud, to my old iPhone 5.

Being a SingTel customer, I called their hotline and was pleasantly surprised to have my call answered politely and helpfully (after having had a terrible experience the last time at SingTel Commcentre where they kept insisting my faulty iPhone cable was not original, when it was). I was asked to hold down both the power and home buttons at the same time and count to 10. Nothing happened.

Then I was told to go to the nearest Apple authorised service centre, so I did. There, they found that there was still water in my iPhone, but I could buy a new replacement for S$550, with no further warranty. As I thought my current iPhone still had a chance of being revived, I decided to try my luck with a tried and tested repair store at Sim Lim Square called Atom.

Yes, mention the name “Sim Lim” and Singaporeans will immediately think of the notorious Jover Chew, the former shop owner who made a Vietnamese tourist cry after fleecing him out of his savings. But Sim Lim Square has been trying very hard to improve its image. The repair store I went to had fixed an iPod of my husband’s which experienced similar water damage, and it was a Star Retailer – which means that they don’t try to cheat their customers. (How we wish all stores were honest in the first place and didn’t need to be labelled as such!)

My iPhone was swiftly unscrewed and dismantled. Its insides had dried out by then, but there was some corrosion. So they put it in a chemical wash and let it dry. They told me that minimally I would be charged $20, even if the phone was irreparable. The cost of replacing the corroded parts may cost up to $200+. I was OK with that as it was still much less than $550.

The next day, they called me and told me it was fixed, after replacing a few parts. I paid $140 – a fraction of the $550 that I would have otherwise paid if I had just decided to get a new phone. And even better – they gave me a one month warranty on the repair!

Let’s see how things pan out over the next month. But at least for now, I am one happy customer!

To my son’s new preschool teacher

I appreciate how, over the past few days, you’ve been giving me feedback about my son’s behaviour – how he’s become more emotional lately and mentioning his Mummy.

As I explained to you, this was likely because my younger son (who is just 2 months old) has been waking up in the night more frequently than usual over the past week. And I’ve been doing the night shift. When my shift is over, I’ve been going straight back to bed – because I really am so tired. Unfortunately this means I haven’t seen my older son before he leaves for school in the morning. This may have made him feel that I was ignoring him, even though I spend more time with him in the afternoons and evenings.

And yes, he has generally become more clingy since his baby sibling arrived. This behaviour is completely expected, as frequently documented and told to me by friends with multiple children. He is, in fact, not behaving out of the ordinary, given his situation.

Thus, your parting comment that I should “spend more time” with my older son, is rather naive and uncalled for. You are not aware of the “alone time” I do spend with him, nor the effort that I and my husband regularly make to take him out for dinner or visit one of his favourite places, while the baby stays at home. I don’t see the need to tell you the details of our private lives, nor do I think you should form your own conclusions based on a few pieces of information about a boy whom you’ve only been in charge of for a few weeks.

And given your youthful age and idealistic demeanour, you probably do not have children of your own yet (I will ask you about this the next time I see you). Thus you may not be able to fully appreciate the challenges of managing two or more young children simultaneously – like being woken up almost every hour by a fussing baby, no matter how badly your body is craving sleep.

You may not even have leisure to rest in the afternoons as both children may demand attention at the same time. Or, you may be out running errands. That is what SAHMs are expected to do, because we’re perceived to have more ‘free time’ than parents who go to work. That doesn’t mean we have it easier. In fact, every day I spend hours breastfeeding the baby and expressing the remaining milk, so that I don’t end up with painful, blocked ducts again. I can’t even leave the house for more than a few hours to do anything for myself.

So, please keep your parenting advice to yourself unless you’ve actually been a parent – preferably, to more than one young child.

I wish you the best in your (presumably) future married life. May you be blessed immediately with triplets.

Singapore confinement food – a few caterers reviewed

As promised to my Facebook friends, here is my review of confinement food from different caterers, based on suggestions given to me. [For non-Asians wondering what on earth ‘confinement’ means in this context, here’s more info on what we mums go through soon after giving birth. I don’t entirely believe in all the practices for scientific reasons, but it keeps the peace…]

Chilli Padi / Chilli Api

For my first confinement in late 2012, I had chosen Chilli Padi, the caterer known for its tasty Peranakan food, based on a recommendation from my friend Karen.

Chilli Padi’s confinement food is kept warm in thermos containers, which they collect when they make their next delivery. Presentation and taste-wise, it was good:

Chilli Padi confinement catering

Chilli Padi confinement food catering - 2012
[Note: Photos were taken in 2012]

Just that after a while, I started to feel ‘jelat’ (jaded). Don’t get me wrong – I love Chinese herbal soups – but try having the same type of food 28 days in a row!

They once made a late delivery and I was starving, although for the other 27 days things were more or less on schedule. Administratively, I recalled it was a bit troublesome having to mail them a cheque, although they responded well to phone calls. In short, I felt they were still a bit ‘old school’ in terms of transacting with customers. I would have chosen them again for my second confinement, but given that their menu seemed to be the same as before, I was game to try something new…

Richfood Catering

I read about Richfood’s confinement catering and it was also recommended by another friend, Chew Hwee, who found the food tasty and the proportions generous enough to share with her husband. Their trial lunch was $29, payable by internet banking, although it was troublesome having to show them a screen shot to prove that payment had been made, as we had to blot out our bank balance first.

Apart from that, they were the quickest to reply. The guy in charge, Nigel, seems to be perpetually checking his emails. The trial lunch was duly delivered and the food was tasty enough, by confinement standards.

RichFoods confinement catering sample

All food is delivered in disposable plastic containers, with a time stamp indicating when the food was cooked and when it has to be consumed.

Natal Essentials

Natal Essentials were pretty good at marketing themselves – to the extent that my aunt (who has three kids in their 20s and obviously is not in need of confinement food herself) heard about them. Their trial lunch was slightly more expensive, at $32, and so was their full menu – although small price differences weren’t the main concern for me. The bigger question was, is the food ‘sedap‘?

The food was tasty enough – similar to Richfood:
RichFoods confinement catering sample - full picture

What I did not like was their administrative policies and procedures.

i) They needed 2 working days to verify that I had made payment – although with internet banking, this could’ve been done immediately (which was what Richfood did). I tried informing them – by replying to their automated email – that my transaction had been completed, but realised that the reply-to email field was set to my own email address. They did not list their own email address in the automated email, so I had to search for it on their website.

ii) Also, I had asked for the trial lunch to be sent to me on 20 April but they replied, acknowledging delivery for 21 April instead with no reason given for the change. So I asked them again and they apologised for the error. Small point, but overall it added to my impression of them not being very sharp.

iii) Last, but not least, they require proof of your EDD (estimated delivery date) to qualify for their early bird discount as stated on their order form. They’re so serious about it that they even attached a sample doctor’s letter from Thomson Medical Centre, with the patient’s name blotted out!

They must have been cheated by customers who wanted to qualify for the early bird discount. But they shouldn’t presume all  customers are like that, and make everyone go through so much trouble. I would have had to ask my doctor to issue such a letter – just for my confinement caterer?!

Given the extra red tape, plus a slightly higher price and no noticeable superiority in terms of taste or quality in their food,  I decided to give this caterer a miss.

YeYeah Delights

Lastly, another friend, Sherlyn, recommended YeYeah Delights. She had not tried it but met the account manager who came across as very enthusiastic.

However, they did not seem to offer a single-meal trial on their website. I wrote to them about it, and they confirmed that they could only send me three days’ worth of lunches and dinners! Now, who would want to eat confinement food for three days in a row when they haven’t even given birth yet?? :) And all that food would fill up my fridge.

I guess it’s their modus operandi and they cannot vary it – but as a prospective customer I would’ve had to shell out $108 for six trial meals, when other catering companies offered a single-meal trial for around $30.

So, it was a “no no” for YeYeah, simply for being a bit too rigid. They did however reply to me within the day, so at least their administrative staff were on the ball.

My decision

So, given my limited time and sample size, and given that the food quality and taste seemed pretty much the same (from 2012 to 2015), I decided to go with the caterer with the least hassle and hiccups – Richfood. So far, they have not disappointed in terms of quality or delivery. And yes, they gave me an early bird discount without having to view proof of my EDD!


These are two of the tastiest dishes so far:

Richfood catering - 28 day lunch menu
I am quite sure this was cod fish or something similar in texture and oiliness. Ate it all up!

Richfood catering - 28 day lunch menu
Delicious combination of herbs and chicken. Again, I finished it and even drank the gravy!

Final comments: decent food, but please make it easier for customers to order and pay

Confinement catering is still a niche business in Singapore. While I did not manage to review all available caterers, I approached the more popular ones recommended by friends. As the caterers’ foods were of comparable quality and similar prices,  they had to distinguish themselves based on how well they served the customer.

Confinement food itself may not be very expensive but preparing and packaging it for just person and delivering it within the same time frame to different parts of Singapore for a month, certainly requires extra effort and that is probably why each meal costs $30 on average.

Overall, these caterers could improve their service by allowing the customer to make payments in easier ways, such as Paypal. This generation of expectant mothers is more IT-savvy and would appreciate not having to order by fax, mail cheques or submit screen shots of online banking transactions. This however is an issue with many of our local SMEs, not just caterers – they need to keep up with the times and be more customer-centric.

And, to re-iterate an earlier gripe: When a customer just wants a sample, don’t make her buy six of your products!

More photos will be added every now and then to my confinement food Flickr album, specially created for this occasion.

Breast is best – my journey as a mother of two

[Disclaimer: The views in this article, and in the rest of the blog, are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect any organisations I am associated with.]

When I had my first son, Peter, I was determined to breastfeed him exclusively, having been educated through many books and classes, with the support of friends who were also pro-breastfeeding.

Alas, this dream was not to be. Within my first week, despite getting the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, my nipples continued to bleed and I had to be taken off breastfeeding while Peter received formula. After healing I managed to continue providing breast milk, although Peter grew impatient with the breast for having a slower flow. No matter what I ate, from supplements to the mythical fish soup, I could not get my supply up. However I continued to offer Peter the breast and he did breastfeed for 15 months.

On hindsight, there were a few things I didn’t know then which I know now. Strangely, the books I had read and the classes my husband and I had attended, made no mention of the slight detail of using nipple cream after breastfeeding. I was only told that I should have used it when I had already started to bleed. So, with the birth of my second son Paul two weeks ago, we ensured that there was sufficient nipple cream to keep me going – along with ensuring that he was properly latched.

Secondly, I should have started expressing milk within my first week, as an alternative to breastfeeding directly with sore nipples. I did so with Paul and amazingly my milk supply increased to the point where I was producing over a litre a day, a week after his birth. It has continued to increase, to the extent that I have had to switch to larger bottles to contain my expressed milk.  I later read, happily, that the first week is crucial to establishing milk supply. 

Thirdly, and crucially, depending too much on formula actually decreases your milk supply. While we are eager to ensure that our babies are well-fed, using formula as a supplement is only a short-term fix that does not help you increase your own milk supply. Formula also takes twice as long as breast milk to digest, thus the baby may seem fuller and suckle less often at the breast, which then causes milk supply to decrease.  Formula-fed babies also look fatter, which makes some traditionalists believe that formula is better when this isn’t necessarily the case.

So I have a love-hate relationship with formula, because it takes the pressure off some inexperienced mothers who may otherwise feel guilty and inadequate, but it also causes them to fall back too much on it and further diminishes the role of breastfeeding.

Some are also of the belief that formula is good enough. Yes, many people have been raised on it and turned out fine. But there are also many studies which show that breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity and diabetes, and have fewer allergies. In addition, the antibodies in breast milk (which formula does not have) also give them added immunity. There are various benefits to mothers who breastfeed, too. It is also much safer for mothers in third world countries to breastfeed than to give their babies formula, due to public sanitation problems and other factors.

Given the rising global trends of obesity and diabetes, among other things, I do wonder how many people suffering from such conditions today were formula-fed as babies. Of course, many other factors – genetics, lifestyle and environment – also come into play. But every little bit counts as well.

So, if you know a mum-to-be who is keen on breastfeeding, do respect her wishes and give her your total support. This will contribute to the real ‘formula’ for having a healthy baby.


[ps. This post was written while I was expressing milk at 3am. You may post your comments and any amendments or additional points of importance which I may have missed out ]