Discover the secret of childhood from 0-3 year old:

All Ages

Live Music is Better

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 12:41 pm | By Stephanie Woo

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I host live music concerts for the neighborhood kids in my home. So far, we’ve had several violinists, violist, guitarist and pianist come to play for us. It’s an hour of live music, where children can play and listen. I ask the musicians to play 1-2 children’s song, but mostly, they play real music, classical, jazz, rock whatever they’re best at. And if we’re lucky, the musician will allow the kids to touch their instrument. They get a kick out of it! If you are a musician or know of a musician who may be interested in playing for us, please email me directly at stephanie@stephaniewoo.com. Cellist, drummers, flutist, harmonica-player or any other instruments are welcomed!

Here are some pictures from our last couple concerts.

Luella (18 months) finds a chair next to the musician Erik as he plays

Rock musician, Erik, lets Brooke touch his guitar

Jette (17 months) is captivated by the music

Beth, from Janus Trio, lets Vivienne (18 months) touch the strings on her viola

The kids loved SunYoung, an amazing violinist

Brooke and Patrick, the keyboardist, exchange looks

“Really? I can touch this?” says M.

Tougher Being a Mother in America

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 1:34 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Part of my Montessori training involves spending 250 hours observing children under 3. In the past four months, I’ve spent 100+ hours observing several children in New York. When we traveled to Taiwan in January to spend Chinese New Year with my family, I decided to observe my niece, Renee, who is 2 years and 5 months old.

During my observation, what I noticed were stark differences in the way children are raised in New York versus Taiwan.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in Taiwan, that’s what Renee had.

Mackenzie with her six cousins in Taiwan, including Renee (on right in stroller)

Chinese people are very big on family. We take pride in having three, four or five generations living under one roof. My brother’s family lives with my parents, and until two years ago, they lived with my 85-year old grandmother, who passed away last January. With so many people under one roof, it’s easy to pool resources and hire nannies to help take care of the house and children. It also makes sense to hire a cook to cook for the 10 people who live under one household.

Of the 100+ hours I spent observing New York families, every child had contact with just these people: Mom, Dad (if at home), babysitter (sometimes), sibling (if any) and me.

I observed Renee in Taiwan for 10.75 hours. In those hours alone, I observed her having contact with her parents, grandparents, two sisters, aunt and uncle (me and my husband), an older cousin, two younger cousins, her nanny, our cook, an electrician who came to fix the lights (her mother asked her to show him where the lights were broken), two teachers, 6 classmates, 2 of parents’ friends we had dinner with. Those are the people she came in contact with while I was counting my observation hours. During the two weeks I was visiting, I know she regularly saw her maternal grandmother, paternal great-grandmother and great-aunt, maternal great-grandmother, maternal aunt and uncle, 3 other older cousins, administrators at school, school bus driver, at least 10 of parents’ friends and their children who came over for dinner, etc.

Imagine what it’s like for a two-year old to grow up in an environment with that many people. Each person requires a different kind of social interaction: how you are with the electrician is different from how you are with your parents’ friends. Navigating your relationship with seven cousins alone takes a set of good social skills if you want to get along with them, not to mention all the maternal and paternal grandparents and great-grandparents! Just remembering what to call each of these people is a skill set that most Chinese children have developed.

In America, it’s literally just Mommy and me

For me, the starkest difference is the mother’s experience of child-rearing. For a mom, all these people are like free babysitters. The child spends 3 minutes with great grandma, 5 minutes with grandma, 45 minutes with the cousins, 20 minutes in the kitchen with the cook, 7 minutes talking to the electrician, etc. There’s a different kind of pressure on mothers there. On the other hand, New York mothers have to play so many roles. They have to think how they will entertain and manage their children from morning to night, praying for naptime and bedtime. I often see tired, exasperated mothers at the park or at the café with their stroller. Of course they’re tired! Children require so much attention and they have endless amount of energy, I personally think it’s too much for one adult person to take care of them 24/7.  It doesn’t matter how young, energetic, well-intentioned and loving a mother is, you are sure to become exhausted and depleted. That’s why there are so many studies done in America that say mothers who go to work are much happier, well, it’s no wonder. But imagine what it’s like for the nanny you’ve hired to be with your child 40-50 hours a week, having to entertain them. That’s why I see nannies who get together to hang out, watch TV together in the common room of the Condo. Though I don’t approve of their behavior, I understand why they do it. Sometimes I wish I had a bunch of mommy friends that I meet up everyday to get together to watch TV too!

In my own experience, my kids were less clingy to me when I was in Taiwan. Usually, their uncle was holding them and reading them a book, grandpa was showing them a cool trick, the cook is feeding them a snack or they were playing with cousin 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Here, they have just me or the nanny. Frankly, as a mother, it’s much more exhausting.

So what happens and what does it all mean for your child? Well, children absorb their environment, so they will become what the environment offers them. A socially-rich environment will produce a certain kind of child and a less socially-rich environment will produce a different kind of child. I will not make gross generalizations. However, as a mother raising children in New York, I try my best to give my children a variety of experiences by scheduling as many play dates as possible and go outdoors as often as the weather permits. Overall, since our trip, we’ve settled into a much quieter life.

Today I was out at a café with my friend. A toddler was crying. Everyone was looking for the mother. Then a woman comes out of the bathroom with a baby, doesn’t say a word, puts the baby in the stroller, picks up the toddler, puts him in while he cries and wheels them home. And I thought to myself, everyone tries to make American mothers feel badly about themselves by comparing them to French parents or Asian Tiger Moms. I look around and see the moms around me. These moms are doing their best, so give them a freaking break already.

Confession of a twin mother

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 4:29 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Last week, as I picked up Brooke out of the stroller after our morning walk, I had a breakdown. A wave of desperation washed over me. I simply cannot go on taking care of these two kids today.

Just so you know, I’m not the type who “can’t” do anything. I can do anything, I’ve always thought. And yet there I was, I just couldn’t do it anymore. And it wasn’t the first time this happened.

That night, I called my coach, Kim Ann Curtin of The Coach Shoppe. She’s the best personal development coach in the world. And we worked through it all.

I was reading in Brain Rules for Babies by John Medina that children are wired for safety, not learning. They need safety first before they will learn. And if the environment is not safe, then they will not learn. Safe environment actually produce smarter kids. What kind of environment is not safe: emotional, stressed out, angry environments. The kind of space I was in when I broke down.

Luckily my coach set me straight. I clearly had not asked for the help I needed in the last three days when the kids were sick. As a result, I didn’t sleep for three nights. My nanny asked for the day off suddenly which I agreed to and I was left in a bind. Physically and emotionally I was already at the end. Rather than prevent this from happening, I let it get to my absolute limit before I reached out for help.

My coach made this all so clear for me. Who suffers the most in all of this? My kids. They saw mommy break down in tears. During the hour I waited for my husband to come home, I felt so paralyzed I couldn’t do anything for them (after Daddy came home, we were able to work together and cook lunch for them, bathe them, and put them down for a nap, before I went down for a long nap myself. Daddy took over for the rest of the day, while I rested). This isn’t what I want for my kids.

The next two days, I took my coach’s coaching and handed the kids over to the nanny.  I went for a massage, had dinner till 11pm with friends and took care of myself. It was a wonderful two days and I was myself again, happy and grateful for my beautiful children.

That’s why a coach is absolutely essential for every single mother. Husbands, mothers, mother-in-laws, friend, even fellow mothers can only do so much for you. Those relationships are generally multi-layered. But a coach is there for one thing and one thing only: your well-being.  And for a mother, that means also the well-being of her children. A coach is essential. If you need a coach, read more here.