If you’re set on having children, you might as well do it sooner than later. That’s what 46-year-old mum-of-two, Tan Hui Soon, would advise her younger self. “Start early and get it over and done with by the time you’re 30, when both you and your husband are young and energetic,” she’d say. “And most importantly, that way you can retire early.”

When her daughter turned four, Hui Soon switched from a full-time job to a part-time job to achieve better work-life balance. Of course, many would concede that being a mother is a full-time job in itself. And that may ring especially true for Hui Soon, whose son has dyslexia and requires more help with studying.

Being a mother in your 40s - Tan Hui Soon & Family
Photo courtesy of Tan Hui Soon

Hui Soon shares how her parenting style has changed over the years, the sibling bond between her daughter and son, and some parenting wisdom.

Any advice for first-time parents who are considering trying for a second kid?

If possible, have at least two children. I know, because I am the only child in my family. I always envy my cousins with many siblings as when there is always someone who can share the family problems with you. No matter how close you are with your best friend, it will never be the same.

You have a girl and a boy. Having “one of each” is often perceived as the golden standard. After you had your first child, a daughter, did you feel pressure to have a boy next? 

Not at all. I told me husband that if my first child was a boy, I would definitely want to try to have a daughter for my next child. I always believe that ultimately, daughters are still closer to the family even after they are married. My mum stays with us even after I am married. I know that my mother-in-law is secretly pleased that my youngest one is a son but thankfully, no one in the family gave me any pressure.

What’s your parenting philosophy, and how has your parenting style changed as you aged?

I am quite close to my children and want to be not just their mum but also their friend. My kids sometimes greet me with, “Hi dude!” rather than, “Hi Mum.” As my children and I grow older, I try to be much more relaxed and I always tell myself, “Hey, it’s not the end of the world. Try to be positive. They will grow up to be fine anyway.” However, one thing that hasn’t changed, even now that they’re 19 and 13 years old, is that I still make sure they eat well and healthily and get enough sleep.

Your son has dyslexia. Can you describe what it’s like to be the parent of a dyslexic kid?

It can be very emotionally and physically tiring for a parent of a dyslexic kid as these children normally have very poor short-term memory. Despite having an above average IQ, he has problems reading, spelling and copying. I later found out that my son also has visual perception disorder (VPD), a subset of dyslexia, where he sees letters and numbers moving when he’s staring at a book. Hence since young, he has never enjoyed reading. It is an understatement to say that the bi-annual Teacher-Parent meeting day is not my favourite event of the year.

Related post: How Parents Can Support Children with Dyslexia

How do you remain positive despite those circumstances?

Despite his learning disability, my son is blessed with a good temperament and excellent social skills. He is well loved by his classmates, teachers and friends. He is talented in other areas such as drama and musical instruments. I have no doubt that he will be better as he grows older. Things turned better after we found the Irlen Method, a solution for his VPD. His learning has since improved and so has his confidence level. For parents of kids with VPD, www.irlen.com.sg is a helpful resource.

How does your relationship with your son differ from your relationship with your daughter? Is there a difference in closeness, or the type of closeness? 

As my children’s age gap is quite big (six years), my relationship with each is different. There are more heart-to-heart chats with my daughter. We watch Korean series, go shopping or even gossip together. With my son, I still hug and kiss him a lot even though he is already in Secondary One. Every night, I still tuck him to sleep and make sure that his blanket stays on.

What is their sibling relationship like? 

My son is the caring one who will ask, “Where is Jie Jie?” when she is late to come home. Overall, perhaps due to the age difference, they don’t really fight although my daughter used to find her brother annoying when he was much younger. Now that they’re older, they’ve started to share their opinions on movies, music, and other stuff. I’d often catch them laughing hysterically at some “lame” jokes, and they’d comment that I lacked the sense of humor to appreciate their humour.

Related post: 6 Effective Activities To Build Sibling Bonds

Any tips for parents on how NOT to spoil their kids?

Teach children the value of money. When they ask for something, they should justify it: Do they need it or do they just want to have it? Also, good manners is something that I insist my children to practice, so I make sure that they don’t forget saying “please” and “thank you.”

Many working mothers experience mum guilt. How would you encourage them? 

It is always about quality and not quantity.

By Jenny Tai