We’re profiling one mother from every country on the planet. (Current tally: 9 down, 183 countries to go!)
Meet Alison Lee. She’s the blogger behind Mama Wants This! A former public relations and marketing professional turned stay-at-home mother to her 2-year-old son “Monkey” and another baby on the way (she’s due in May), Alison rediscovered her love of writing earlier this year and started a blog. She is also a contributing writer to World Moms Blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband and son.
Life before baby …
I was focused on my career in marketing for an international sports company. I was ambitious and wanted to see how far I could go with them. Life was filled with work, going out with friends, traveling (for work and with my husband for leisure), and a lot of shopping — I love my clothes and my shoes!
My ideas about motherhood …
Before I got married, I didn’t really want kids. I may have even told a few people that I just couldn’t imagine myself as a mother. I had no thoughts about how many children I’d like or if I’d ever have them.
Then a year after we got married, we started talking about the possibility of having children. I’m not sure what changed my perspective — it could have been because I’d become an aunt in 2007, and fell right in love with my niece. It could have been because I was 32 then and the maternal instinct kicked in. Whatever it was, I am glad I changed my mind about not having kids.
Then came baby …
I’d quit my job just before I got pregnant with my first child, and basically spent my whole pregnancy being stress-free and carefree. I started making jewelry at a friend’s shop to pass time. I slept in whenever I liked. I had monthly facials and fortnightly manicures and pedicures. Life was simple, and frankly, self-absorbed.
When my son was born, I was plunged into the deep end of motherhood, as all new mothers are. I was neck-deep in breastfeeding almost around the clock, changing endless diapers, and extreme sleep deprivation. I more or less lived in the same tatty T-shirts and yoga pants for months on end.
It was also a rather lonely time for me. I did not have many friends in the same situation — they were either long married with children grown or single with no inkling of what I was going through. Unfortunately, I hadn’t started blogging then, so I didn’t have online friends to reach out to either. Only when my son was about 5 months old, did I find a fellow stay-at-home mom whose son was a month younger than mine. We started meeting up weekly just to have someone to talk to, to commiserate with, to ask advice of, to just be with another adult, another mom.
The biggest change for me was probably the drastic turnaround my life took: from busy working marketing executive to stay-at-home mother. From pretty clothes and high heels to T-shirts, yoga pants and flip flops. From flying around the world for work to going down the road for groceries. From focusing on just me to having a little human being dependent on me for everything. From living life to giving life. From having a void in my heart to overfilling with love for this person we created.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
The most challenging part of motherhood …
In the early days, it was simply summoning the energy to get through the day and still giving my son my all. As he moved into toddlerhood, there were the various challenges with weaning, meal time battles, and tantrums. Right now, it’s discipline and teaching him right from wrong.
On balancing work and life …
I’m very fortunate that I can stay at home with my son full-time, and I have no plans to go back to work anytime soon. I did consider working from home, maybe doing some freelance writing, but I haven’t really applied myself there. And I think that’s because right now I can’t commit to anything but the caring of my child (soon-to-be children).
I do blog three to four times a week and keep my social media calendar pretty full. I balance that and family life just like any other mother would — stealing time here and there during nap times and after the little one goes to bed. My husband is really understanding and does not begrudge my few hours online a week. I need my blog. It’s my outlet, my own little space, something that’s really mine. Writing and connecting with other mothers help keep me sane.
The best part about raising a child in Malaysia …
That we have family close by. My husband is Australian, but his parents moved to Malaysia about eight years ago, and they live five minutes away. Having them close by is a blessing. Not only do they get to watch their grandchildren grow up, but they’re also helping me with childcare. My son goes over to his grandparents for a couple of hours a day, which gives me some time to do housework, rest and, really, center myself. I believe that taking “me” time makes me a better mother.
I delivered my son in Australia in a private hospital and had a wonderful experience. The midwives were lovely and overall, I had at my fingertips all the support a new mother could possibly need. For my second child, we are planning to have him in Malaysia, and I’m hoping the experience will be just as good. By all accounts, I’ve not heard any complaints from my fellow mom friends! However, home births and doulas are not the norm here, which is a pity as I would have loved to try having a doula this time round.
The parts I wish were different …
I am pleased to note that the hospitals here do encourage breastfeeding, BUT because we are a conservative Asian country: it’s not exactly encouraged to openly breastfeed in public. There are nursing rooms available in most of the newer shopping malls, so that’s where us moms go. I have breastdfed in public, but under a nursing cover, discreetly where possible. It’s not like anyone would say something to me, but people do stare. It’s not the norm. It is what it is.
Also, in the long term, I do worry about the standard of education currently available in Malaysia. My husband and I have plans to move back to Australia or New Zealand in the near future when our kids are of school-going age. We believe in the education system there. So in the short-term, raising our small family here works, but we do have plans to move away so we can provide the best available education to our children.
Best piece of advice I ever heard …
You know your child best. If you are doing something that feels right by you and your child, then do it. Do not be deterred by what other people tell you. Listen to yourself.
If we could jump into the DeLorean and race back in time …
I would tell myself: “However hard it is now, it is all worth it. Just remember that this too shall pass.”
I would also say: “Stop worrying about what other people think, and do what she feels is right for you and your child. Accept more help from your husband.
“And you are much, much stronger than you think.”
If you’d like to nominate a first-time mother living outside of the United States to be featured here, please send an e-mail to: get[dot]msmack [at] gmail [dot] com.