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Happy Family Having Fun at the Beach

When we stopped sharing about our family online, my husband and I didn’t expect a lot would change. After all, we weren’t influencers, we weren’t addicted to social media. We couldn’t have imagined how such a seemingly small decision would really impact our parenting style in a lasting way. We knew people did social media detoxes – usually in an attempt to be more mindful – but for us, the decision to delete our accounts happened because we had a second child.

Going from one to two children had proved infinitely more draining on our emotional health. There was quite simply too much on our plates to handle now. One of the first things we had to do was re-prioritise everything. We had to make time for what mattered most at the moment: our family.

Thankfully my husband I are really good at having important ‘life or death’ type conversations, a direct result of having lost several loved ones to cancer. We reflected on what we wanted our family culture to look like on a daily basis. How we wanted our children to remember us when we were gone. We had already been pretty mindful about raising our children with presence and purpose. Having our second child, however, really pushed us to rethink what worked and what had to change.

Of the many things we decided to restructure, the one that showed the most surprising results was leaving social media. We came to discover how distracted and disconnected we had become with our digital lives. There was a renewed appreciation for privacy and authenticity, and it helped both our children and ourselves thrive in (real) life.

Here are the three things that have had the most positive impact on our lives as parents:

Mother and child watching a smartphone

The Only Opinions that Matter

As a Girl Scout in school, I’d been taught that ‘the chief obstacle to happiness comes from the over eager desire to have people think about you.’ Funnily, I had grown up to do exactly that, especially when I became a mother. I wanted to portray myself in a certain way. I posted pictures of my kids eating healthy food or having fun outdoors, in an effort to seek validation and external praise. David Brooks writes in his book, ‘The Road to Character,’ that social media has bred a ‘broadcasting personality’ where, “the self-cultivator spends more energy trying to display the fact that he is happy, posting highlights, than being truly happy.” Reading that struck a chord with me because even as a new mother who was honestly exhausted, resentful and oftentimes unhappy – there was still a huge part of me that craved the approval of others.

In truth, the only opinion that matters to me is my husband’s. He has a very practical long-game way of looking at life which I have always loved. So in retreating from all public exhibition of our lives, he became my source of judgement and approval. I also sought the sincere counsel of only the closest to me. I could feel myself becoming more secure as a parent, as the circle of people I entrusted became tiny. As I disappeared from friends’ feeds, the external pressure I’d felt to be the ‘perfect’ mom lifted. My mind was no longer occupied with self-glorification, or comparisons and strife. Instead, I was finally able to focus fully on the responsibility that had been placed before me: raising my children the best way I know how.

Model an Authentic Life

My boys are constantly watching me, whether it’s at work, speaking to strangers, or driving in the car. They detect what really matters to me, through my daily interactions and behaviour when we are alone. Being on social media meant my children saw how I took photos, posted them, and then checked for likes, all during our play time together. I had been intentional about putting my phone down as much as possible. But it was extremely distracting to be online around my children. It was only a matter of time before my ‘screen-free’ sons would be constantly connected too. I was not exactly modelling the healthy relationship with technology I hoped they would have in the future.

I wanted to demonstrate life through agency and action. I’d like to give them the wisdom to grow in humility, not the desire to be famous. I hoped to impart a sense of joy that doesn’t necessarily need to be shared with the whole world. As my sons continue to witness how I live without social media, I can only hope it will have a positive influence on what they choose to focus their lives on. If that fails, at least they will have interesting stories about how their mom had no digital life!

Group Of Female Friends Enjoying Dinner Party At Home

Build a Real Community

These days, I only know what’s happening with my friends when they update me directly. I’ve missed birthdays, have no idea when people are traveling, or who is pregnant. It’s been great, largely because I love catching up with people in person. The biggest change in friendships however, is that I’ve unexpectedly made lots of new friends. Actual people-who-live-in-my-neighborhood friends.

It has been more fulfilling to be a part of someone’s life, than it is to receive ‘likes’ and comments on my posts from distant connections. It also takes a lot of effort to construct relationships as a grown up, with people who live and work around you. Being part of a real community has proven to be my favourite thing about being social media free. I’ve come to love being able to walk over to a friend’s house on the way to the park. It could be just to say ‘Hi’ or drop off some food. I’ve learnt that real community is not about Facebook groups, but a vital part of everyday family life. And children, who again watch what we do, can learn kindness, friendship and love on the very street they live on.

Some people wonder if our family will be ‘back’ on social media, as if it was just an experiment. We usually reply that we see no real reason for being connected that way as parents anymore. Being social media free has been life-changing. I am still an overwhelmed mom most days, struggling to balance work and family, and I am constantly trying to improve. Social media-free parenting did not magically make my life easier, but it personally challenged me to really focus on my family and truly give this whole parenting thing my best shot.

 

By Michelle Chua

Michelle Chua is the author of ‘The Mindful Mom’ and Co-facilitator of the Art Discovery Tours for Kids at the ILHAM Gallery in KL.

Asian family with a laptop

Parenting can sometimes be overwhelming for new and old parents alike.

Some parents choose to prepare as much as they can for their children’s milestones, while some take it easy – they cross the bridge when they get there. Either way, a strong support system and reliable sources for reference are essential for parents.

Fortunately, the digital era has made parenting support and references easily accessible for all. Here is a handy list of our favourite and helpful Malaysian parenting sites:

LEARNING AND EDUCATION WEBSITES

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Sensory play is one of the important elements of a child’s early learning process. Littlest Hands offers classes and workshops for a fun sensory play, as well as ideas and inspirations for parents to create their own sensory play session at home. The messier the playtime, the more fun it is!

 

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Parenting Times is a one-stop centre for information on educational enrichment programs, events and useful resources to help with your child’s school activities.

 

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When it comes to early learning, there are different school of thoughts worth exploring. Dr. Afzan Maria is an expert and advocate of play-based learning, where young children learn through play in a structured and organised learning environment.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT WEBSITES

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Do you have a burning question or need support for your breastfeeding journey? The Breastfeeding Advocates Network FB group, also known as TBAN, is one of the favourite places for mothers to get tips, information and moral support.

 

Some of us face challenges in our parenting journey, including the journey of conceiving a child of our own. This group is the place for TTC parents of Malaysia, where a group of parents-to-be and couples find comfort and support in their TTC journey.

 

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Parenting is Heart Work is an FB page where parents share their experiences and the ups and downs of parenting. It is probably the best place to get virtual hugs from fellow parents once in a while.

 

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This FB group is run by supportive mothers and experts who offer advice, support and references for a healthier and natural pregnancy and labour. The community shares tips, advice, events, expert advice and moral support for pregnant mothers who often have a myriad of concerns during pregnancy and labour.

 

REFERENCES/SERVICES/SHOPPING WEBSITES

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This FB group is the biggest bento-making group in Malaysia. Their members inspire each other with wonderful cooking and bento ideas for parents who love to prepare healthy food for their children and family.

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This group is run by the IBU Family, a non-profit organisation which aims to provide information about anything related to parenting. They also bring together a community of parents through volunteering programs, support groups, free clinics and seminars.

Running out of wholesome meal ideas to cook for the children? Join this FB group and learn wonderful recipes from fellow mothers. Everyone in this group shares their recipes and resources to cook delicious, healthy homemade meals.

 

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Sometimes we don’t need to splurge on baby items when there are plenty of preloved items out there for the taking. This group is where parents sell and buy preloved baby goods ranging from toys, breast pumps, strollers to kids clothing. You’ll probably easily find what you are looking for over here.

 

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This site is run by the Malaysian Paediatric Association, and offers expert advice and guidance by healthcare professionals. Their aim is to provide unbiased, accurate and practical information to help parents make the best decisions for their children.

 

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This brilliant FB page is the page to go to when you need to find support and services regarding parenting. This is where stay-at-home-mums are able to offer their skills and services for a side income. Working mums can also find help when it comes to taking care of their children. It’s a healthy and supportive community where mothers support each other.

 

By Ayuni Ayatillah

Ayuni is a mum of two bubbly bubs, a freelance writer and a stationery hoarder. When not writing, she’s busy running the household, daydreaming about travelling the world or playing with her fancy colourful pens.

 

Photo credits: Littlest Hands, Parenting Times, Dr Afzan Maria, TBAN, Parenting is Heart Work, The Gentle Birthing Group Malaysia, Kelab Bento Malaysia, Ibu Family Resource Group, Preloved Baby Goods, Positive Parenting, JOBS for Caring Moms.

Mummies and Children Activities in Malaysia

Members: 2,716

What it is: Strong bonds are forged when loved ones regularly spend quality time together, and the most direct way to do so is to get involved in activities together. Mummies and Children Activities in Malaysia is where mothers (and fathers) discuss and suggests activities that are fun and beneficial in building a loving family.

Image credit: EverydayFamily