International Women’s Day (IWD), which falls on 8th March, honors the achievements of women from all walks of life. We believe that motherhood is one of the more meaningful journeys that a woman can undertake in her lifetime so we’ve caught up with five financially-savvy super mums in Singapore who tread the fine balance between work and family, bringing bread to the family table. They share their tips on parenting and managing family finances, and tell us what they’ll celebrate about women in Singapore this IWD. We’re inspired; you will be too!
Cindy Ng, 39, is a business partner at Wonder Toys LLP, which distributes the award-winning Rainbow Loom and Cloud b toys. Cindy is mum to Sophie, 8, and Hayley, 5.
Parenting tip: To me, being a successful mum means having a meaningful relationship with my children: knowing and understanding them as people, having a lasting and positive impact on them, and shaping their lives as they mature in this world. I’ve learnt to never compare my kids with others. It’s so easy to get caught up with the “spirit of kiasu-ism”. I consciously remind myself that my girls are unique individuals and that each has her own special qualities. At home, we have what we call “love love time” – when the girls get their special one-on-one time for hugs and cuddles, and to chat about everything under the sun.
Financial tip: These days, working mums contribute as much as their husbands financially, while taking care of household expenditure and planning for the future. I am self-employed, so whatever profit I make stays in the company’s bank account for re-investment. I do not pay myself. However I do choose to contribute to Medisave, as I can use part of it for my children’s medical expenses if needed.
Healthcare costs are rising and you can never be sure when you may need that extra bit to tide you over. With young children, it’s even more important to be prepared. Kids do fall ill quite often and you never know if it could be something serious. Currently, my husband’s company pays for the family’s medical expenses so I have not had to touch my Medisave funds. But I like how it is helping me to save for a rainy day. That’s definitely useful!
What would you celebrate about women in Singapore? In Singapore today, women are very much equal contributors in virtually every aspect of society – in the workplace, at home, in sports, and in academics.
Lim Suat Yen, 44, is a director at Oak3 Films, which produced the Ollie & Friends series and A Selfie’s Tale. She is mum to Sonic Lee, 14, and Sonia Lee, 13.
Parenting tip: Enjoy every moment and stage of your child’s growth; You are going through another lifetime with them (childhood, teenage years, adulthood) so imagine, with children, your life is twice as exciting!
Financial tip: I have term insurance plans, an insurance plan for retirement, health insurance plans for the kids and myself, a shield plan for myself, endowment plans for the kids, and a fixed saving plan. This may sound like a lot, but it’s not. I am running my own business and as with any business, there are risks. You never know when a crisis may hit. I want to protect my kids and my family with at least six months of risk-free coverage should anything happen.
I also make an effort to ensure that we live within our means. My husband and I started our business not long before we decided to get married. We did not have much money in our CPF accounts and we were not cash-rich at that time. So instead of buying a new home, we lived in my in-laws’ house and saved up for four years to buy a flat of our own. When the flat was ready, we moved into it, bringing my parents-in-law along with us.
What would you celebrate about women in Singapore? We should celebrate Singapore women as intelligent and independent ladies who are able to manage work-life balance.
Monica Lim, 46, is the founder and director of copywriting agency Hedgehog Communications. She is also the co-author of the Danger Dan book series for children, which she writes with her daughter. Monica is mum to Lesley-Anne, 18, and Andre, 15.
Parenting tip: “Just because a kid has time, doesn’t mean we have to fill it.” That’s the best advice I’ve heard. The value of free time cannot be overstated. That’s when the kid has time to dream, reflect and play – all necessary components of a healthy mind. Singaporean kids are too busy doing; they have no time to think. I think in Singapore, where there’s the constant obsession with doing well academically, many parents are tempted to fill their kids’ time with enrichment activities till their kids are utterly exhausted. Ten years from now, would you care that your son received a less-than-stellar mark on his maths test?
Financial tip: I think most mums want the best for their kids. We have put our kids on Medishield Plus, and we buy critical illness insurance for them because you never know when a devastating illness could strike. Should that happen, the policies will allow us to focus on looking after our kids without having to worry about paying for their treatment.
What would you celebrate about women in Singapore? Women in Singapore enjoy a lot more freedom and equality than women in other parts of the world, so in that sense, we don’t really need a special day to celebrate our womanhood. However, the IWD is a good reminder of the battles and sacrifices that women had to make in the past for us to reach this stage – to have the freedom to be independent, to be able to make our own choices, and to expect equal treatment at the workplace.
Sim Ee Waun, 48, is a freelance journalist and a children’s book author. She has had 25 years of experience as a food and travel writer. Her daughter, Mei-Ann, is 16.
Parenting tip: A successful mother is one who has a great relationship with her children, yet in whom her kids find love, comfort, security, guidance, and when they are grown up, a good and understanding friend and parent. As a mother of a daughter, I think it’s also important to be a role model for her as a woman. It’s important that a young girl can see her own potential and what better way than to show her through your own life, behaviour and values?
Keep communications open throughout your child’s growing up years so she will feel comfortable enough to confide in you first if she has a problem. Show her how to laugh at herself by being able to laugh at yourself, for humour is learnt, not always a given trait. Treat your child with love and respect as she will learn more from your actions than any other words you can share.
Financial tip: We try to be smart in planning for the future. We bought our daughter life insurance when she was born, taking advantage of low premiums because of her young age. On top of that, the long horizon will ensure a higher return on investment. I also bought her an endowment fund which would help give her a leg up in life when it matures. For retirement, apart from savings, I have a diversity of investments that should help make life comfortable.
What would you celebrate about women in Singapore? I celebrate the fact that women in Singapore are perhaps more independent and empowered than their sisters in other parts of the world. I am happy to see that many young ones feel empowered to do their part to make a difference in their society, not just in their own lives. I hope that can-do, ‘take the world by its horns’ spirit will inspire and activate more girls as time goes by.
Tan Swee Yen, 42, runs a local engineering company, CoNEX Systems and Services Pte Ltd, which recently obtained a breakthrough in fall prevention for patients in local hospitals. Swee Yen is mum to Ethan Chan, 7.
Parenting tip: The best advice I’ve received on being a mum was from my mum who told me: “There is no need to push yourself to do big things for your kids to prove that you are a super mum. To your children, every small thing that you do with them or just being there for them, will make them feel that you are the best mum they could ever have.”
More often than not, we tend to compare ourselves with fellow mothers, which brings additional (and unnecessary!) stress and unhappiness. If you are new to the job of mothering (or even if you’re not), don’t succumb to self-doubt about your parenting skills because of well-meant criticism.
Financial tip: After I left my full-time job, I started contributing to my CPF. This helps to pay my share of the monthly mortgage, which I chose to continue servicing through my CPF, without depleting my CPF savings. It is secured, safe, and guarantees returns. I think this is a good scheme to instil discipline in saving, and a useful way to save for the future. It is also an investment tool that I can use to set aside funds for Ethan’s future.
What would you celebrate about women in Singapore? IWD is a symbol of the struggles that women around the world have undergone to gain equality and rights, and a reminder of how much more we can achieve. I would celebrate how far we have come in one generation – the opportunities in education, and levelling the playing field for women career-wise. We should also celebrate women’s accomplishments, particularly those of stay-at-home mums (raising children, cleaning, cooking), which are often ignored and overlooked.
One thing is clear, isn’t it? It’s no longer the men who have sole management of family finances. Thanks to education and advancements in women’s rights, women in Singapore have made great strides in society. We have independence, choices, and financial freedom. But as we celebrate our achievements, we remember that there are women in the world who do not enjoy the same social, economic, cultural, and political advancements. Let’s do what we can to accelerate gender equality in line with this year’s theme for IWD — #PledgeForParity. Happy International Women’s Day!