We are super excited to finally launch our “That Mama” column here on Sassy Mama Singapore. This is one of our most loved features in Hong Kong, where we aim to highlight mamas that we find inspirational for various reasons.
And please do allow us to introduce our very first Singapore Mama, Jani Combrink! Jani is a mama of three young boys, as well as a lactation consultant and creator of the fabulous Facebook support group “Stork’s Nest” for mamas in Singapore. She is a warm, caring and super-knowledgeable person that we turn to for all sorts of child-related questions here at Sassy Mama. In fact, we wish that all first time mamas had a Jani walking into the delivery room as soon as possible after giving birth!
We’ve asked Jani a few questions about her life as a mama, wife and lactation consultant and everything in between. Here is what she has to say about it…
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
I tend to use technology shamelessly and it helps that all my devices (phone, computer and ipad) sync! I keep meticulous track of appointments that way and it helps me to not to loose track of what I’m doing -or when and where for that matter! It also helps me differentiate between work and pro-bono activities.
At work, we also have an exceptional team of admin staff who really helps with organising work-related things, and I only need to inform them of my needs and they help adjust my schedule for me.
At home, I am a little less organized.. But I tend to reserve afternoons and evenings for my family. I only ever do emergency visits after 1 or 2pm, and usually nothing in the evenings.
I wish I had more time for…
Pro-bono work. I love doing support work for parents and young families, but I don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend on this. (Psst.. We actually think that Jani does a ton of this given how active she is in Stork’s Nest, the Facebook support group she started for mamas here in Sing.)
I always feel saner after….
Reading a few good novels. I am a compulsive reader, and often read two books a day!
Favourite activity with the kids in Singapore?
Swimming and water-play, definitely! One of the many reasons I love Singapore so much, is the tropical weather that makes it possible for us all to go swimming and have a good splash around on most days.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
Pepperoni’s Pizza. To be honest, it’s not because it’s terribly kid-friendly but because my boys absolutely love their pizzas! Who can blame them?
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Unfortunately we don’t really travel all that often. Having had three children within four years have tied us down a little.. (Eh, yeah!) We did however recently drive to Malaysia to Le Grandeur Palm Golf Resort and it was absolutely fantastic! We all had a whale of a time!
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I’m going to have to say visiting the zoo. Although I do love seeing the animals, but it is unfortunately always way too hot! But the kids love it, and luckily my husband does too!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Never go to bed still angry with your partner. That is a great piece of advise that I actually got on our wedding day. We always try to sort out our differences before going to sleep. It makes for late nights sometimes, but hasn’t failed us yet!!
Favourite date-night restaurant?
Ristorante Da Valentino in Bukit Timah. Good wholesome Italian food in a cozy and relaxed setting. All the ingredients you need for a good date night.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
Before having children, I was doing general nursing and I worked in the A&E as well as plastic surgery and general clinics.
But then after having my third child, I was offered a position with Mother & Child, and I started working there when Adam was about 4 months old. I soon however realized that I didn’t know nearly enough to do the job well, so I decided to study. (Impressive, we know! Ed. Note)
I completed my IBCLC certification, and haven’t looked back since! Before I had children of my own, I never thought I would like working with babies. And I didn’t really enjoy midwifery during training, and I loved the adrenalin rush of working in the A&E. Today I can’t imagine doing anything else! I was lucky because the opportunity with Mother & Child came along at the right time. I had to work hard to certify as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and to get to a point where I felt I knew what I was doing, but I don’t regret anything! My children have been great about my job and studies, and have adjusted beautifully to it all.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
My priorities and ambitions have changed. I no longer feel like I have to be able to do everything all the time. My kids also helped me prioritize. I now know what is important, and what can wait a day or two.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Find something that you love. Time away from your family has to mean something, and it is such a privilege to do something you feel passionate about. Don’t be afraid to go back to studying either – we are never too old to learn a new skill!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Every child is unique, and every family is different. Don’t compare yourself, your children or your family to others. Equally as profound was when I was told to relax about stuff. Time takes time, and almost everything passes! (Hallelujah! Ed. Note)
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Generic advice only gets you to a certain point. After that, it is essential that it is tailored to suit your family, your child and your needs. Try not to feel guilty if your child doesn’t conform to what ‘the book’ says – find a healthcare professional that you feel comfortable with and who’s advice you trust.
And remember to create your own support system, or to find one as soon as possible. Some of us are far from friends and family and it is essential to have a support network in place to help navigate the path as parents.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Free play. I am good at nurturing, but I have an issue when it comes to “just playing” with my kids. My husband and I balance each other in this thankfully!
My most humbling mama moment was…
Oh, I’ve had a lot of those…
Finding out I was pregnant with my first son after just a single cycle of fertility treatment and then looking into his eyes after he was born. Finding out that I was pregnant with my second son – against all odds! And then finding out I was pregnant with yet another son – again against the odds!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Mornings. Sleepy cuddles are just the best!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
The mama I saw that day. I tend to worry and think a lot about my clients and always try to make plans and come up with strategies for when I see them next.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
The boys have had a really fun-filled and physically exhausting day. If not, they just aren’t tired enough!
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Think of them as my little boys. I know every mom says this, but it’s so true. They can grow up, but in my heart they will always be my babies!
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
The time I spent breastfeeding my third son. I had so many issues with #1 and #2, but finally succeeded with #3. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It also led me to my current career, and it has helped me connect with my clients. I can truly sympathize with a mother when she walks through my door looking for advice- because I’ve been there myself.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When the boys are finally asleep, and things are quiet around the house. My house is a bit of a zoo most days, and I love it. However, there is something to be said for sleeping children!
Ages/Genders of Children:
Harry – 7 and a half, Ben – 6, Adam – 3 and a half
These gorgeous photos of Jani, Harry, Ben and Adam are courtesy of Gunilla Lindgren of Sugarlight Photography.