Ad
Author

Farah Bashir

Browsing

When Kirsi Salonen moved to Kuala Lumpur from Finland 7 years ago with her husband and two toddlers, she realised there wasn’t much information online about raising kids in KL. Noticing this gap, Kirsi and her two other friends (who have now left Malaysia) later decided to start Happy Go KL – a website for KL parents.

We chat with HappygoKL’s Kirsi, Jilly Resink and Jay Desan to learn more about their journey, aspirations and their experience raising kids in KL.

L-R: Resink, Desan and Salonen from HappygoKL

Happy Go KL’s Journey

The website started as a blog back in 2014, initially targeting expat mums who needed to connect with other mums in KL. Kirsi’s main objectives for Happy Go KL is for it to be a central place where parents can get information about where to take the kids in KL and go for holidays.

It was clear that Happy Go KL was serving that purpose, as that was how Jay Desan stumbled upon the website. A working mum who frequently searched for ideas and reviews from other parents, Desan was reading an article on Happy Go KL when she realised that Salonen was the writer behind it. “Hey I know her!” thought Jay. Their kids went to the same school. Desan then came on-board as a contributor, sharing her experiences to benefit other mums.

They started with a team of 3 writers, and their contributors have come and gone over the years. Now, they have a team of 10 writers, a mix of expat and local mums living in KL.

Advocating Active Lifestyles

The three mums are obviously passionate advocates for the things they write about. Resink, for instance, who does marketing for Happy Go KL, is a true nature-lover. Her family moved to Malaysia 6 years ago from New Zealand, and  she and her two daughters love the outdoors. She praises Malaysia for being blessed with wonderful waterfalls, jungle walks, and beaches.

Another common theme one gets talking to these three women is their love for travel, which is also reflected in Happy Go KL’s travel section. It offers ideas and reviews of family-friendly destinations across the South East Asia region.

“We review both types of travel – be it budget holidays or luxury ones. But we make sure to set the expectations upfront, so readers know what to expect. For example, a review about a ‘glamping’ holiday won’t suit you if you’re looking for ‘strawberries and champagne’. Also, we usually share about the destination rather than the accomodations – things like what activities you can do there, and what you need to bring for your kids,” said Salonen.

Asked what their favourite things to do in KL were, Salonen said: “It changes every so often depending on the kids’ age. Currently, we like playing bowling, and going for jungle walk in FRIM.”

“Chilling waterfalls is great! Recently my kid had a birthday party in the jungle near Ampang, and she claimed it was the best birthday party in her life!” chimed Resink.

Desan said: “My kids play a lot of futsal now, and they like adventurous activities like Skytrex.”

The site reviews places to go for families in Malaysia and South East Asia.

Support Network

The group talked about preferring to support mumpreneurs online, rather than focus on reviews which may be negative. “We don’t want to bash anyone online. There are other websites that cater to that, such as TripAdvisor or other restaurant online-review spaces. For us, if we go somewhere and we don’t like it, we won’t write about it,” said Salonen.

The three mums also shared their experience raising kids away from their family, and how living in Malaysia with kids compared to their home country. Being away from their support group, they had to quickly create a new ‘village’ here, and that is what they hope Happy Go KL would be for other mums – a community to get support.

Desan also said: “We travel quite extensively too, and I realise that KL is a very nice place to raise a family. It’s very affordable here, and there are nice outdoor places to go to.”

“When you grow up here, and your family are all here, you always go to your neighbourhood mall, and you have a lot of family commitments – perhaps you don’t really venture out to other places,” Salonen said. “Some local mums tell me that they didn’t even know about some of the places until it came up on Happy Go KL. We just love to share our appreciation of KL with others.”

Our second baby came as a surprise. I got pregnant just when our first born turned 15 months old. I told myself that I was a pro at this whole baby thing already- what could be so hard about adding another one? Well, there was also the fact that I was already pregnant, so ready or not, there was no turning back.

Boy, was I surprised with the changes that happened when the second baby arrived! Now, in retrospect, I could see that my experience would have been much more pleasant had I prepared myself and my toddler better before the baby came.

Here are some helpful things that you can do to ensure a smoother transition when going from 1 child to 2 children.

Preparing to become parents of 2 kids

Figure out sleeping arrangements for the baby and toddler

This was what caught us off-guard the most. We did prepare by getting our toddler a new bed and getting her to sleep on her own bed early on. But our mistake was placing her bed in our room too, where the baby crib was going to be.

We had to endure having both kids wake up at night – the baby’s cries would instantly wake up the sleeping toddler and my husband and I had to divide and conquer and put both kids back to sleep – 3 times a night!

When I lamented about this to my friends, I found that most of them had a better strategy. They had their toddler sleep in separate room, and trained them to fall asleep with daddy. That way, they would also get used to not having mummy around for sleep time. They also wouldn’t be bothered by a newborn crying every 2 hours at night.

Set a time to just talk to your partner

When we had the baby, my husband’s role was mostly to entertain our firstborn and prevent her from disturbing the sleeping baby. My baby was such a light-sleeper – a creak in the door could wake her up instantly. In the first 2-3 weeks, I felt extremely lonely. I was always alone in the room, breastfeeding the baby all day and night long. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I was not very mobile while recovering from a C-section, and I was also feeling all kinds of emotions from postpartum hormonal madness.

If I could do it again, I would be mindful to set aside some time every day to just talk to my husband and have some adult conversation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day.

Preparing your little toddler to have a new sibling

Get your toddler a ‘baby’ too – This was the best preparation that I did for my toddler. We bought her a new baby doll and gifted it to her when we brought her new sibling back home from the hospital. Whenever I had to attend to the baby, I would tell her to grab her ‘baby’ too and we would change diapers together. We would even breastfeed together (she would pretend to nurse her doll too). That way, she wouldn’t feel left out whenever I had to stop an activity with her to care for her sister.

Getting Your Child to Relate to Familiar Examples

You could use examples that are familiar to your child. For example, my toddler’s favourite cartoon show at the time was ‘Peppa Pig’, and she seemed to be able to grasp a lot of new concepts from watching the show. It was very convenient that they had an episode where Mummy Rabbit had a bump in her tummy and then delivered twin babies. Rebecca Rabbit now had a baby brother and a baby sister! A lot of other cartoon shows also have episodes where they show the characters having a new sibling, so your child can better visualise what it means to have a new baby. They also get to relate to how their favourite characters behave around the new baby.

 

Hopefully, with these tips, both the parents and the firstborn will be better equipped to face the new adventures that will come with a new bundle of joy. All the best!