This Mother’s Day, City News pays tribute to three mothers who buck the trend with their big broods.
By Annie Wong
Children Over Career
Sharon Seow was working in the banking industry for about seven years before she made the decision to quit her job and focus on bringing up her children. Seow, 50, has five children aged 14, 16, 17, and a pair of 18-year-old twins. In Singapore, each family usually has one to two children.
Why made you and your husband want to have a bigger family?
My oldest two are twins. After we had the third child, I became a stay-home mother. And since I was staying at home, my hubby suggested that we have another child. The fifth one was a welcome surprise.
The people around us are usually amazed at how many children we have. As for our children, they always boast about how many siblings they have—they enjoy the look of surprise on their friends’ face when they tell them
So what made you decide to quit your job?
My husband and I made the decision when I was pregnant for the second time. I didn’t think that it was right to have somebody else teach and impart values to my kids, especially at that young age.
How was it like adjusting to a new life as a stay-home mum? Did you miss work?
At first it was a bit uncomfortable, there was a bit of identity crisis but I was able to adjust quite fast. While the biggest change was knowing the fish prices at the market instead of the Forex prices, I didn’t feel like I was inferior because it was a choice I made. I also kept in touch with my ex-colleagues so I was not deprived of my own social connections.
So which is more challenging, working or taking care of the kids?
At work, because you’re always under somebody, you get scolded, but at home, I get to be the one scolding everybody else!
I think it’s more challenging to stay home because I have to input the right values into the children. When they were between ages 1 and 5, it was physically stressful taking care of them, making sure that they don’t fall or hurt themselves. After that, it became mentally stressful because they will push boundaries. Their education was a big source of stress for me.
How did you resolve the problem?
Thankfully my husband suggested we engage a tutor and that helped. We were quite blessed. One of the tutors was a Christian and prayed with my son every Monday morning. I think that helped. And one of my neighbors was from CHC, who invited my girl to church. After a while, I decided to join her so that my neighbor doesn’t have to bring her to church all the time. Since then, I became a Christian too, and learned to seek God in all my struggles. If I can’t turn things around, I will get to my knees and commit it into God’s hands.
What is one lesson you’ve learned through the years that you would like to share with other mothers?
Patience. Sometimes we mothers expect things to happen a certain way so much so that we do not know how to let go. The most important thing I learned is to just be there, let them know you love them, giving them the room to grow as you guide them along. A lot of it is trial and error!
I became a Christian when my twin boys were about 10 or 11. Sometimes I wish I knew Christ earlier because I was quite hard on my older children; I didn’t really know how to let go, and there was a point when things got pretty tense around the house. But then I’m reminded that God can restore all things, and that He is our hope, and He has good plans for us, so we should be anxious about nothing.
Another lesson: take time to exercise.
Claire Seetoh, 42, was a secretary before giving up her career to take care of her first child, now 14. A choir ministry member in church, her hands are full with another three children aged 11, 9 and 3, and no domestic help at home. But Seetoh has no regrets.
What motivated you to have more children than the average Singaporean family?
My husband and I initially planned to have two but God blessed us with four. Sometimes, the shocked response from our friends and acquaintances can be discouraging but I constantly remind myself that it’s a natural response in Singapore.
With four children, how do you make sure you have time for all of them?
I keep telling myself to do my best. The youngest is still very clingy and requires my attention, so I tend to spend more time with her. Sometimes the other children get jealous but I will try to give them my attention, like give them a hug or talk to them.
How about time for yourself?
Honestly, I don’t get much. The lack of sleep and me-time sometimes gets to me. But I constantly remind myself that no matter what, I have to hang on, that my family needs me. Thankfully such struggles usually last for a short time, so once I’m over it, I’m fine.
What about your additional commitments? How do you ensure you have time for them?
It’s all about being prepared. I serve in the church choir ministry, and when I’m unable to attend the practices, the members will e-mail me the songs and I’ll practice on my own. But I always bring all my children to the pre-service meetings. As my older kids like to help out in Children’s Church, I leave them there to help the teachers set up the rooms. For my little girl, she will attend the practice with me until it’s time to put her at the nursery. Then I come back, prepared to sing for the service.
What is one difficulty you encounter as a mother?
When I have disagreements with my children. I have to remain calm and focus on the problem instead of the person, and reason with them. If I can, I will compromise. Peace is important at home.
How has the journey been so far?
Handling four at one time is difficult, but I thank God that I have learned to handle the challenges one after another. Whenever I struggle, I will constantly look to God for strength, constantly believing that He will give me strength daily. I always look forward to each new day and find joy in the little things that I do.
The Mother Who Wears Many Hats
Joyce Chan, 33, is the executive director of Teen Challenge, a voluntary welfare organization. She has four children, aged between 10 months and 8 years old, and believes in giving back everything that life has given to her, as an example to her children.
What motivated you to have more children than the average Singaporean family?
Both my husband and I were from families of three but we decided that four is a good number. Our families and friends were generally surprised but supportive.
What are the challenges that you face as a young mother of four and what do you do to overcome them?
My journey as a full-time working mother has not been easy, but God has been very clear to me for what He wants me to do. And He has never failed. I have a lot of juggling to do, but I learn to pace myself. I know my limits, how far I can be stretched, and how much to manage, so I just work within the boundaries.
I thank God that my elder son is able to help up at home, so when my husband travels overseas, he will help me watch the others, to make sure they don’t fall or do anything dangerous. I also have my parents, my in-laws, my sister and friends who will help should we need them. The support is always there.
How do you make sure you have time for all of them?
I make sure that I spend at least one to two hours of quality time for everyone individually, be it out for lunch, or at home during the night. As for Perez, my eldest, I will always talk to him when I drive him to and from school. We make it a point to spend the weekends together. As such, I get to keep in touch with my children even though I’m busy with work or my other commitments.
What are your additional commitments?
As a cell group leader and a grassroots leader as well, I’ve learned to prioritize my time. I’ll go for whatever is necessary. For example, I’ll try not to miss the cell group meetings. If I do, I’ll arrange for combined cell group. As for my members, I’ll always try to catch up with them here and there, like meet up for lunch. As for being a grassroots leader, I’ll usually be there for the planning and the meetings. If I’m not needed during the event, I’ll just not go.
How do you manage without a maid at home?
Many times I wonder as well! Frankly, I can only say it must be the grace of God. All my children go to childcare and infant care. But definitely, having a super-duper supportive and loving husband helps—we make a great team! Sometimes, when we need help, people around us are always supportive. Coupled with God’s strength and grace, all things become possible.
What compels you to take on so many roles?
Mainly, it’s my desire to make a difference in life. I believe that there is still so much I can contribute and I’m just giving what I can. I also believe that being a parent, nothing beats being an example myself. As I serve the Lord in the different roles, I hope that my children will grow up desiring to serve God in their lives.