Staying home – is clearly not the easiest thing to do. It can be difficult and the feeling of being confined is at times miserable. We hear from Jules Ong, a Singaporean mum, who has been living down under in Perth as a stay-home mum of three with little caregiving help. She has great tips to share about home life and engaging her three little ones. So don’t feel disappointed because the Circuit Breaker has been extended and it’ll be a stay-home school holiday break in May. It can be a joy staying home too!
What are three things we should know about you?
Hi! My name is Jules, the mama behind Stories of Play, a preschool teacher turned Stay-at-Home Mum (SAHM) to three beautiful girls – a four-year-old, a three-year-old and an 18-month-old. We are on our way towards a homeschooling journey and creating a childhood filled with connection and play. I’m a Singaporean based in Perth, Australia, and part of our homeschooling plan/dream involves travelling all around Australia in a campervan some years down the road with our little tribe.
I’m also a Play Parenting Coach. Through my signature online programmes, Playful Parent Academy and Authentic Learning, I help parents to understand the value of play, connect with their children through play, help them engage in self-directed play and learning effortlessly without the need for setting up endless activities to entertain them.
I’m passionate about all the benefits that play brings and as a teacher. I see it as my mission to bring awareness to the power and importance of play in the early years. But above all, as a mother, I’m passionate about helping parents experience abundant, full and purposeful lives in their journey of parenthood.
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Playful childhood, abundant motherhood! That’s my tagline here at Stories of Play.
Tell us how Stories to Play came to life?
Back in 2016 when my firstborn was about six months old, on those long and overwhelming days of being in the trenches of new motherhood, I was feeling lonely and isolated as a SAHM, like I lost a little bit of who I am before becoming a mum.
It was my personal choice to stay home, and whilst I absolutely love being home and having the privilege of watching my girls grow up every single day, it was definitely not an easy decision to make. I loved my job as a preschool teacher and I really missed doing what I did.
In a bid to keep my mind engaged apart from the everyday mundane that is nappy changing, feeding and sleep settling, to get connected with other teachers and mamas on the same journey as I was, and to be an advocate for the importance of play of which I’m extremely passionate about, I bit the bullet and started Stories of Play, sharing the hows and whys of activities I did with my child (now children).
But as I shared the play activities we got up to, I became aware of a recurring theme in my inbox that was appearing over and over again. Mamas, who attempt the activities I share, as well as the many other wonderful activities shared by other inspiring accounts, reached out wondering “Why is my child not more engaged in play?“, “Why is my child always bored?“, “Why does my child have such a short attention span?” They are confused and frustrated, thinking that there must be something they are doing wrong or that they are not doing enough of.
That’s when I realised mamas didn’t need more play or activity ideas from me. What they needed was someone who could show them how every child is different, and how to tap into each child’s interests, abilities, inclinations and maximum potential in order to help their children engage in self-directed play and learning.
How is life in Perth with three kids? How do you overcome the challenges you face?
Busy, entertaining and chaotic. I never know what to expect from day to day.
I remember being at a play centre once when I was an overwhelmed mum of just one. I saw a mum of three girls under three there and thought she was absolutely crazy and that thought was quickly followed by “I could never do what she did”.
But here I am, having been a mum of three for over 18 months now. For me, being a mum of three now is as easy and as challenging as it was being a mum of one back then, both seasons having good days and bad days (though it’s like I’m on holiday with just one kid these days).
On challenging days, I tell myself that it’s simply that – a bad day. A bad day or a bad moment does not make bad mums, just as it does not make bad kids. It does not define me as a mum, my parenting (or lack thereof) or the kind of children that I’m raising. I also tell myself that my children are a work in progress, and so am I. It’s really about giving grace to yourself because motherhood is hard!
Being without help from grandparents or other caregivers can be tough, how do you manage?
Two things immediately come to mind.
The first is having routines in our day. This is not about having a structured hour-by-hour schedule. It’s more about developing a natural flow and rhythm across the day so that children know what to expect and you know what are your non-negotiables and must-dos in a day and the best time for scheduling each of those tasks or activities. For instance, it’s knowing when to slot in time with your children, time for household chores, time to do work if you work from home like I do and time for self-care.
The other thing is instilling in my children the ability to engage in self-directed independent play and the benefits for this are many. Children learn so many valuable skills from being able to engage in self-directed play. But more importantly, it enables me to have down-time and not feel like I’m constantly needed and pulled in a million directions every second of every day. Because I’m not overwhelmed and burned out by having clingy children, I’m able to show up and be present for them as my best self, a mum who truly enjoys motherhood and enjoys spending time playing with her children.
Quick tip here! The secret to encouraging engaged independent play… is having a prepared space. It’s not about stocking it with the latest hype or expensive toys or making it look pretty for social media. It’s about creating a space for children to be inspired and enticed to be engaged in play.
Share with us your self-care methods.
Because my children are with me 24/7, self-care to me looks like not doing any household chores during kid-free time. So when my children are napping or have gone to bed at the end of the night, it is very important to me that I intentionally prioritise that time for doing things that I enjoy, so either working on my business, which I really enjoy, doing personal development, hanging out with my husband if he’s home or catching up with my friends.
Indulging in ice-cream, chocolate and a long hot shower are also some of my favourite self-care activities.
Stories of Play Inspires with Tales at Home
It is inspiring to hear from Jules sharing her words of wisdom especially for all parents who have taken on stay-home roles for now. For more Stories of Play, check out Jules’s Instagram page. Stay tuned for part two with more details of how Jules encourages independent play in her children.