Career, Character & Soul, Family, Material Moms, Relationships, Self-Improvement, The Mothership

Don’t Try To Be A Super-Mum – Deborah Tan

Being able to “do it all” – that is something women of our generation seem to think we HAVE to do. And I think this is especially true for working mums. On one hand, they take pride in having a great career, on the other, they often frustrate themselves over trying to get their homes in order the same way they have done in the corporate world. Kids are, unfortunately, not as easy to file and sort like paperwork. Often, they throw curveballs that test our patience and make us throw our arms up in the air helplessly. So how do working mums do it without losing their sanity?

And, guess what? Their secret is actually in not trying to be a super-mum.

jule&kids“My husband had to talk me out of doing everything on my own”

How have you changed in your professional life now that you’re also a mother?
In the past, I attended more after-work events and would bring work home to do. Now, I don’t bring work home because I’m up earlier (thanks to kids who are up at 6am) and I’m at the office earlier too. I’m also more selective with the after-work events I go to.

I’ve also become more motivated. During office hours, I power through my tasks so I can knock off on time to get home to spend time with my kids. As a boss, I think I’m now a lot more calmer and patience with my staff – though I’m still demanding! Being a mum has made me a better team leader.

What are your tips for women who have to balance work and motherhood?
1. Accept help. Whether it’s from your husband, your mum, your mother-in-law, or your helper. When they offer to bathe the kids or feed them, let go and allow them to do it for you. There’s no need to be a “do it all”. I’m lucky to have a husband who’s a hands-on dad.

2. Take five. No matter what, spend some time on yourself. Whether it’s a quick manicure or drinks with friends. You’ll be a happier mum and a better colleague/wife/friend/daughter too.

3. Don’t get upset when they “reject” you. Always remember that you are their mummy. Spend time with them – even if it’s just something like taking them out for a stroll in the park. Don’t get upset if they grow close to the helper or when they “reject” you. Kids have their moods too.

image“I do not feel bad taking time off to attend to my family”

Does having kids affect the way you view your role as a team leader?
Being a mother tend to make you look at things from a different point of view. We handle disputes more calmly and are able to listen to all parties, ensuring everyone comes to an agreement and learn to play nicely in the adult sandbox called work. I also find myself more nurturing as a team leader and try my best to cultivate skills and talents, giving people the opportunity to grow when I can. I try not to stay in the office late unless absolutely necessary, instead, I get in earlier to finish my work on time. I do not feel bad taking time off to attend to my family.

What are your tips for women who have to balance work and motherhood?
1. Accept that you’ll always feel guilty as a working mum. Understand the reasons why you have chosen to remain in the workforce – financial independence, personal choice, etc. – and come to terms with the reason. Focus on being the best you can be at work and at home.

2. Switch off from work. No emails, no work calls. It’s easier said than done and I’m terribly guilty of this. But this said, don’t fall into the trap of “making up to your children”. When they misbehave, you still have to discipline them, whether you’re halfway across the world or exhausted from work.

3. Be part of a pro-family organisation. If you can, choose to be with an organisation that supports your role as a mum. Nothing is harder than having a boss and colleagues who think you are not contributing to the team when you have a child-related matter to attend to.

SONY DSC“I’m perpetually exhausted – it is quite a normal state for me”

How have you changed in your professional life now that you’re also a mother?
I’m perpetually exhausted – it is quite a normal state for me. I wake up early to send the kids to school and I go to bed late so I can finish my work. But being a working mother has helped me understand my customer better [Shu Ming is a director at Mothercare]. I’m constantly shopping in the name of “research”! As a mother myself, I am constantly thinking how to make the company relevant to other mothers so we can remain relevant to them in the long term.

What are your tips for women who have to balance work and motherhood?
First off, I admit I’m in a unique position as I only have one person to report to at work – my dad. But I’m constantly rushing and I don’t think I’m balancing … more like JUGGLING!
1. Have God in my life. Personally, having God in my life and a good domestic help you can rely on have helped me cope with my perpetually busy life. I wish I had better time management skills!

2. Know that life is unpredictable. I have learnt to accommodate the ups and downs. I try to tell myself to take things one day at a time, take time out and learn to relax. It is okay to watch trashy TV dramas and go for a long (boozy) lunch with friends.

3. Coffee. I drink 4 cups a day. Thank you very much.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and has a great amount of respect for working mums. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.




Make A Bald Statement – Vanessa Tai

Two words that should never go together – “children” and “cancer” – but the sad fact is, there is a group of very young children struggling with this dreaded disease. In Singapore, the number of children diagnosed with childhood cancer in 2012 hit 143. It’s a staggering number, especially when you consider that cancer doesn’t just affect the sick child … it’s an insidious disease that upturns the lives of the child’s family as well.

material-world-singapore-hair for hope

In the midst of the gloom though, there is a tiny ray of positivity in the form of Hair for Hope. Started in 2003 by a small group of volunteers, the idea behind Hair for Hope was to raise awareness and funds for children living with cancer. In case you’re not familiar with the event, how it works is volunteers donate a sum of money to have their heads shaved – the money is channelled to the Children’s Cancer Foundation and the shorn heads are a show of solidarity to children who have lost hair due to chemotherapy.

This annual event has grown steadily over the past decade, attracting over 10,000 volunteers in 2012. Several corporations have also jumped in to create their own satellite events. One such company is DHL, who has been supporting the cause since 2010. Material World speaks to one of their employees, who has shaved her head seven times to date. 44-year-old Glenda Lim, who works for DHL Supply Chain, lets us in on what motivates her to lose her locks every year.

Glenda getting her hair shorn

Glenda getting her hair shorn

How did you get started with Hair for Hope?
After missing out on a few charity events in the past, I decided to stop making excuses for myself and just do it. The first time was an exciting and heartwarming experience for me. When I saw thousands of participants at the event, I felt proud to be a part of this meaningful experience.

What was the reaction like from your family and friends?
Fortunately, I have heaps of support from friends and my family is very proud of me. Over the past few years, Children’s Cancer Foundation has done a brilliant job in raising awareness and educating the public on the issue, so strangers’ stares have transformed into looks of admiration for all the “shavees.”

When talking about Hair for Hope, a lot of women ask, “Can I just donate? I don’t think I can live with a shaved head!” Any comments?
It is all about your mindset. I’m doing it because I know by sacrificing a small part of my vanity, a cancer-stricken child and his/her family will receive medical treatment and support through the donations. More importantly, my actions give them hope to continue fighting the disease and that losing their hair because of the effects of chemotherapy is nothing to be afraid of. Additionally, we want to let the children and their families know they have a community supporting them.

Hair for Hope 2013 will take place on 27 and 28 July at VivoCity Central Court. For more information, visit

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Guest Writers

[Guest Star] My Child, a Citizen of the World – Aimee Chan

Material World4Aimee Chan is a writer and magazine editor who has been published in international mastheads such as CNN, Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, Cosmopolitan and The Weekend Australian. Her work has taken her all over the world from Bhutan to Vietnam, Cambodia to Hong Kong. 
suitcases&strollers is an online family travel magazine designed to inspire parents with kids under 12 to travel. It offers ideas for the perfect chillax holiday to intrepid and far away destinations that parents may never have thought (or heard) of. suitcases&strollers aims to encourage parents to conquer their fears and see the world, one destination at a time. 

Our family Christmases are a little unconventional – last year we took our 2-year-old son to South Africa. Some of my friends gave me a hard time. They said I gave myself a safari holiday while my son was too young to protest instead of giving him a tree and a stocking.

For his third birthday, instead of a big birthday party, we took my son to Malaysia on a road trip. We split the weekend visiting a real life submarine outside Malacca and then at a theme park in JB. He talked about it for weeks. (And despite my cynical misgivings, his favourite part was actually the sub, not the Thomas The Tank Engine-themed rides.)

These trips were such a success that I think this has become our family tradition: a holiday somewhere interesting and unique. I think, despite the peer pressure, that my son will remember that far beyond the candy canes and opened presents.

Yes, my husband and I enjoyed sampling the wines of Stellanbosch and the amazing all-inclusive babysitting service while we were on safari. But more pleasurable (and surprising) was to see my son recognise so many animals and learn about different environments. Half a world away from Singapore he saw and appreciated mountains for the first time. On our way to Malaysia he not only (again, to my surprise) sat uncomplainingly at the queue of cars at Woodlands, he began to understand the concept of “countries” at the border crossing.

Material World5When I first decided to start suitcases&strollers, it was mainly because I knew that there was an opportunity to address other like-minded parents who grew up with Lonely Planets, moved on to Luxe City Guides but then, somehow, found ourselves with young kids but without a guidebook. I wish there had been a trusted travel publication who could have told me whether it’s worth risking the malaria for children to see Victoria Falls or if Johannesburg is really that dangerous for families.

So I had nothing more in mind for suitcases&strollers than to provide the information, stories and ideas I so sorely wanted myself. But along the way, by researching and writing about so many fascinating and interesting people, my focus has broadened considerably. I have interviewed a single mother who is a permanent traveller and has taken her son to 12 countries. I talked to a family who backpacked with two kids under 6 for an entire year. I learnt about a brave boy with cerebral palsy who raised money for the poverty-stricken children of Cambodia.

These people and the bucket list of places they have visited have given me so much personal invigoration. It’s inspiring to think that you actually can take small kids to South America for a low cost. Or that while a cruise ship might be kitsch, but it might also be incredibly fun.

And I want this for other parents too – to know that you don’t need to be conservative in your travel just because you have children. To know that you don’t have to go to an aquarium to see fish; you can teach your kids to dive. To know that villas don’t always have to be the answer; sometimes what might seem like a form of transport (such as a camper van or a sailing boat) might actually be a holiday in itself.

suitcases&strollers has reignited my personal passion for travel and consolidated one of my missions as a parent – to expose my son to as much of the world as possible. I want him to understand where he fits and how lucky he is. I want him to learn about history, cultures, languages and, yes, poverty.

Maybe I will never have to guts to quit my job, take my child out of school for over a year and drive around Australia, like one of my interviewees. But if I can raise a caring, generous and aware human being by taking him to orphanages in Vietnam and museums in Germany, and that’s all suitcases&strollers does for my family (or someone else’s), then that’s a great gift indeed.

Material World

Guest Writers

[Guest Star] Living Life In The Wee Hours – Delphine Tan

Material World’s guest star this week is popular blogger Delphine Tan. As her blog’s tagline says, Delphine blogs regularly about “faith, family, friends and food”. Her posts are often accompanied by beautiful photography and have inspired many to live life simply, yet fully. Do visit her blog Life In The Wee Hours.

Delphine with her husband and kids

Delphine with her husband and kids

I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years. In the beginning, it was mainly inane stuff about what I did that day, nothing particularly interesting to anyone else other than myself and a handful of friends. I moved my blog two years ago and the focus now is my family and what we get up to on weekends and during the holidays. I tend to pack our free time with quite a variety of activities; so many people who read my blog assume that I must be a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) to be able to get so much done.

Now I blog mainly to have a record of where we go and what we do. Along the way, I realised that there were people interested in similar things that would use my blog as a reference and I was happy to share information wherever possible. I like to blog about the food we eat and I’m on a perpetual hunt for the best (according to my personal preferences, of course) Eggs Benedict in Singapore. We try to eat somewhere new every other week just to see what’s out there but we do have a few favourite joints that we find ourselves returning to again and again. We love going on holidays with the kids even though it is usually a logistical nightmare and I blog about our trips. I also blog a lot about the different activities for kids in Singapore, such as the playgrounds and museums.

While I love being a mother to two beautiful children, that’s not my only identity and I do like to have some personal time. Thanks to supportive family members and a wonderful husband, I get to find time for my own activities. People think that Singapore is small and boring but she has so much to offer and there’s a lot waiting to be discovered! I tend to be nostalgic and I like to wander around Singapore learning about the history and significance of various monuments and heritage areas. My recent jaunt was the Tiong Bahru Heritage Tour and the air raid shelter in one of the pre-war blocks there.  I’m also very fond of the green spaces in Singapore and try to explore them regularly.

Not a hands-off mum ... if that's the impression you're getting

Not a hands-off mum … if that’s the impression you’re getting

I think it’s really important to engage in activities without the kids so the husband and I try to have a date night every other week and we also go on holidays without the kids. Our last couple trip was to Yogyakarta and we explored Borobudur and climbed Mt Merapi. We also try to have our own ‘thing’: he has golf and I have… CIRCUS! I went for a trial circus aerial arts class at Circus Swingapore last October and signed up for the Intro course with my cousin’s wife this year. We just cleared the assessment for the intro course last week and we’ll be starting Level 1 next month. It’s the best class I’ve ever attended; it’s so fun and I look forward to it every week. When I first started, I couldn’t even get on the hoop without assistance. Now I feel so much stronger and more confident and that feeling keeps me buoyant the rest of the week.

I like to think that I’m well-rounded and doing a good job of juggling work, family and personal time. I’m happy to be a FTWM (full-time working mom) and I like my job as a teacher because it’s meaningful and benefits others. I try to avoid arguments about whether it’s better to be a SAHM or WAHM or PTWM or FTWM and just spend meaningful quality time with my family when I’m not at work. Of course, there are sacrifices to be made: I hardly watch TV, I don’t get as much sleep as I would like (hence the blogging in the wee hours) and our house is in a constant state of mess. But I think it is possible (and necessary for your sanity) to be a mom and still find time for yourself. It’s all a matter of give-and-take and ultimately, finding balance.


A couple who laughs together …