This Mother’s Day, TNAP spoke to three special mothers, Esther Lim, Eileen Yeo and Julia Gabriel. They share with us on the invaluable lessons their mothers have taught them.

Mummy #1: Esther Lim, CEO and founder of LEAP SchoolHouse

This is the umpteenth time that I have typed, undid, deleted and cut off chunks of things that I initially felt was right. In fact, the harder I try to pinpoint EXACTLY what I wanted to reiterate in words about my relationship with my mother, the harder it is to get started! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a dysfunctional relationship with my mother. Rather, it’s a case of it getting hard to pinpoint where to start. I suppose the best place would be at the beginning.

Esther, with her family

Lesson #1: Aim high, not low

My mother is one of the last few cohorts of people educated through the Chinese-medium educational system in the 50s. She prides herself for being a fluent user of the language, both spoken and written. It’s therefore no surprise that she also believes strongly ‘Oriental values’ of being respectful to elders and of being disciplined in both thought and deed. She held high expectations on her children and as a child; I too had my fair share of being caned by her for falling short of what she would have deemed as her ‘minimal requirements’.

One of those things that really stuck to my head was the time where she made me kneel for a good 2 hours to self-reflect on why I did so badly in my math test.( I scored 80 marks and to her, that’s bad!) Looking back though, these episodes did teach me a thing or two about the value of discipline and tenacity. Setting high standards meant trying to achieve and work hard towards it. Years later, in one of our tea sessions, I asked her why it was that she always expected only excellence . Her reply was simple, “I believed you could do it, and even if you had fallen, you wouldn’t have fallen too far off the mark.”

Lesson #2: What my mother taught me in my teenage years

Growing up, mum grew with me. As I was going through my own ‘teenage-blues’, mum was also going through quite a bit. It was a period of change for my family as my grandparents started to need more care and my dad lost his job for a period of time. Mum ran a household with a front of steel. We never missed a month of school fees and always had a meal on the dinner table. When I started to give tuition to supplement my pocket money, she would be the one to wait up and heat up dinner that she had set aside just to let me go to bed with a filled up tummy. Mum learnt to make things work when it seems that things are not. Those years, I learnt a valuable lesson from her,” When the going gets tough, the tough just gets going.”

Esther and her momLesson #3: Price of Motherhood

Surprisingly, mum whilst traditional, was always open and receptive to me having friends. She would find out about them and even invite them to have meals at home with us! She however never pressured me to get married or have kids, rather she wanted me to experience and see things beyond what’s in front of me. On my wedding day, mum cried and told me that she will miss me. It dawned on me that mum had devoted so much of herself to us that it was equally hard on her to let go too.

Lesson #4: Beyond just being mum

I never appreciated mum more than I do now. When my kids are ill, she helps me understand how to ease their pain. She became my strength and support when I felt lost as a young mother. She calmed me down when the kids were pulling me to my wit’s end. Whilst we are mother and daughter, we are also now women who are all in the duty of loving and caring for our own. Mum’s pride was all over her face as she held my first born years back and shared with me, “Now there is a part of you and a part of me in this little one”. I couldn’t agree more.

Lesson #5: “Money functions for me, I don’t function for money”

Mum taught me the lemon law. If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Mum has made her own sacrifices for the family and I am glad that she is now able to take some time for herself and pick up things she had to forego when she was younger. She is now an avid traveller and teaching a small tai-chi class. Her joy hinges on the times we are home for dinner and sharing the moments with her grandchildren now. Mum never fancied the branded luxuries in life but she never craved for that in the first place. “Money functions for me, I don’t function for money”. Wise words indeed.

Sure, my mum and I will always have our disagreements. We do bicker but we have also learnt to appreciate each other more. The beauty of our relationship is in its imperfections and I am perfectly in bliss with that. Happy Mother’s Day, Mummy!

Esther with her daughterEsther dedicates this article to her mother.

By Esther Lim, CEO and Founder of LEAP SchoolHouse

Born and educated in Singapore, she holds a Master Degree in Education (NTU/NIE), Bachelor Degree in Arts (NTU), Diploma in Marketing – Top student for the year 2000 (Chartered Institute of Marketing). Esther has more than 10 years of teaching experience and has taught widely in both Secondary and Primary schools. She was also involved in curriculum planning and development work for the primary unit at MOE for several years. Esther has also conducted workshops and talks for educators, locally and overseas. Esther is also a mother of three children.

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