Life Lessons From Singaporean Mothers

*Names were changed to protect identities

Mothers can be naggy. They will nag at you about all kinds of things, like being wary of boys and putting on sunblock before you go out.

But our mums aren’t overprotective for no reason; they’ve lived longer than us, eaten more salt than we have eaten rice, and have been through more heartbreak than we have.

So to help us live our best life, they often share the wisdom and lessons they’ve learnt to prevent us from making the same mistakes they made.

And in return, we decided to take a moment to appreciate them by sharing the best advice Singaporean mums have given us this Mother’s Day.

On dating and marriage

1. Focus on your partner, even when you have kids

Like most Asian mothers, I focused all my love and energy on my kids. This caused my husband and I to drift apart and get a divorce.

When I started dating again, I realised you should never neglect your partner for your kids. When you focus on your husband, you learn to work as a team and create an emotionally stable home environment together.

So when my daughters give me grandchildren, I’ll tell them this: While your kids are important, never neglect your marriage, because that relationship has implications on the whole family.
Mabel, 53, mother of two

2. Move on if your boyfriend doesn’t have a five-year plan

In my early twenties, I wasted years with a man who had no plans of settling down, although he knew I wanted to start a family. But I loved him enough to wait, hoping he’d change his mind.

But he continued to live off his parents and didn’t bother starting a serious career. Following the three-year anniversary of a relationship going nowhere, I left him.

Ultimately, you should have shared goals for a better future because love won’t be enough in the long run. To put it bluntly, don’t waste time on losers.
Natalie, 52, mother of one

On appearances

3. Never tattoo on your eyeliner

Getting eyeliner embroidery remains my biggest regret. Not only did the process hurt terribly, but also after 20 years, the eyeliner has faded into green and looks ridiculous with my crows feet.

The permanent changes we make for beauty rarely stand the test of time. It’s best to age gracefully and think twice before following fashion fads.
Shannon, 52, mother of one

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On dealing with your parents

4. Tell your loved ones you love them every day

When I was 26 years old, I got into an argument with my mother over a boyfriend she didn’t approve of. I remember screaming, “I hate you!” before storming off.

The next morning, I discovered she had a stroke and had passed away in the night. I was devastated, even more so because my final words to her had been so spiteful.

Now, I make it a habit to tell my kids I love them every day and have them do the same; they should never go to bed thinking they’re uncared for or unloved.
Margaret, 43, mother of three

5. Make an effort to understand your parents

Growing up, my parents were adamant I’d become a doctor. They forced me to give up my passions and sent me overseas to study medicine. Countless times, I’d yell at them for “ruining my life” and even stopped talking to them for a period.

Now I’m a parent myself, I understand they simply wanted me to excel and achieve my fullest potential. Being a low-income family, they didn’t want me to let go of the opportunities they missed out on and suffer like they did.

Sometimes, we parents are stubborn, but our intentions are always good. Instead of severing ties when you don’t see eye-to-eye, try your best to see where they’re coming from.
Natasha, 51, mother of one

On handling money matters

6. Don’t be financially dependent on your partner

My husband is the sole breadwinner. Since the start of our marriage, I’d use his money from our joint bank account, and enjoy his gifts of handbags and jewellery.

While this financial arrangement works out for some, it created an unhealthy power imbalance in mine. Every time we had a disagreement, he’d say he has “given (me) everything and therefore is right”.

While I can’t do much about my unhappy marriage, I can offer my daughters this advice: Have your own job and savings account, so your life remains your own. Marriage should be about equal partnership, not one person in charge of the other.
Betty, 53, mother of three

7. Develop financial literacy

During my divorce, my ex-husband and I had many disagreements on how the money should be allocated. It made me realise how messy the issue of money can be, and how important it is to manage my own finances.

Now, even though I make a comfortable living, I don’t indulge my daughter in luxurious things. It’s caused conflicts in the past, but I’d rather be strict so she learns to be smart about money, and not become entitled or dependent on me.
Diana, 53, mother of three

8. Never gamble, not even recreationally

Our family has suffered the consequences of my husband’s gambling addiction. What started as casual poker games led to him losing thousands on bets and having to sell our house.

I wouldn’t expose my children to gambling, even on Chinese New Year. I’ve taught them: If it doesn’t bring any value to your life, just stay away from it.
Sarah, 52, mother of two

On taking care of yourself

9. Take personal days off work, even if you’re not sick

Kids these days work so hard. From attending tuition classes till late at night, to forcing themselves to go to school when sick, all in the name of good exam results. But after 14 years in a 9-to-5 job, I’ve learnt the importance of taking personal days off.

The continuous rigour of work can be bad for our mental, emotional, and physical health. Personally, I’ve experienced mental breakdowns from working too hard.

So I’d rather be the ‘fun mum’ and let my kids skip school sometimes, than leave their mental health to suffer for the sake of getting into a good school.
Janet, 43, mother of three

10. Don’t fall for emotional blackmail

When I was in University, I was sexually abused by two of my closest friends. Them being my best friends, I felt obliged to agree when they insisted I kept quiet about the incident.

While I’m no longer in contact with these ‘friends’, I’ll always regret not reporting my harassers to the police. I hope my daughters can be braver than I was and will never be manipulated by anyone.
Rebecca, 55, mother of two

On raising children

11. Don’t spoil your children

We shouldn’t give our children everything they ask for, because it encourages the production of more ‘strawberries’ with entitled mindsets. My own children rarely ask me how I’m feeling, but are quick to get mad about petty issues like when I tell them not to stay out too late.

Instead of doting on them from young, parents should maintain raise their children by example. By being a role model and teaching them love is about giving, not demanding, we raise kind, considerate adults instead of big babies with tantrums.
Joyce, 51, mother of three

12. Be prepared for your children growing up

I used to think my girls would always stay close to me. But as they became young adults, they naturally wanted more independence and drifted away from their mother.

I was hurt by their excitement over leaving home to study abroad, even though it was normal to look forward to new experiences. Or when my eldest daughter cancelled her plan to take me to a concert to go with a friend instead.

If I didn’t live in denial, I would have taken their leaving the nest more easily. When their own children grow up one day, they should know it isn’t that their children love them any less. The nature of their relationship simply evolves into a less dependent one.
Hanna, 49, mother of three

Being A Mother In Singapore

While we may not always agree with our mothers, they usually have our best interests at heart. So this Mother’s Day, take your mum out for lunch and sit down for a heart-to-heart talk and not just an Instagram selfie.

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