SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

March 2013

Large Singaporean Families (Part 1)

Many couples in Singapore feel conflicted about having more than one or two children. Concerns about family expenditure, balancing work and family, and issues about the children’s education loom large. In this first of a two-part series on larger Singaporean families, we speak to two mothers who have been blessed with more than the usual number of children to gain an insight into life in a large family in Singapore.

A Homeschooling Family of 8!

ong family
Ong Suwei is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother to six children between the ages of eight months and 13 years.

Suwei and her husband are Christians. They believe that children are a blessing. Says Suwei, “Each child we have has brought a special dimension to our lives. Our lives are fuller and richer because of our many children.”

The Ongs are a single-income family. Suwei is the children’s main caregiver, while her husband is a civil servant. On meeting their family’s financial needs, Suwei affirms, “We have not suffered lack in anything even though we have been living on a single income since the birth of my eldest child. We do not go on expensive holidays to exotic places or buy branded clothes. I also think we are quite resourceful in finding the best places to shop and play.”

The Ong family has never had a domestic helper. The children are grow up learning about household responsibilities and helping to take care of the family’s needs.

Suwei offers a glimpse into daily life: “These days, the children handle all the laundry, no mean feat seeing that we produce one laundry basketful of clothes everyday! They also take care of cleaning the floor, and my eldest cooks dinner when my husband and I go out for our date night. These life skills are a part of their education.”

Suwei also homeschools her children. In keeping with her desire to nurture the ‘whole child’, their homeschool curriculum is punctuated with field trips, outdoor activities such as camps, and time spent with other homeschooling families, for example, during the annual Homeschooler’s Sports Day.

Past field trips include horse riding at Rider’s Lodge in Johor and an exciting visit on board the Sagres, a 73-year-old Portuguese mast ship modelled after European ships that sailed 500 years ago. “Homeschooling has proven to be a wonderful journey together as a family!” reflects Suwei.

Although Suwei strives to ensure that each child gets her individual attention, she shares that she does have doubts: “I do catch myself wondering if I can juggle all the children’s needs. However, I know I am equipped to fulfil the needs of the children entrusted to me.”

Suwei’s recipe for keeping the passion alive in her marriage: communication, couple-time in the form of weekly date nights and effective conflict resolution. Suwei and her husband leave all the kids, except the youngest, at home and go out to dinner on date nights. She says, “Date night with hubby ‘replenishes’ my spirit. We have nights when we just lay out a mat, sit under the stars and share our thoughts on anything and everything.”

Looking to the future, Suwei’s dream is for her whole family to go on a big cross-continent adventure to America. “It would be like an extended field trip! We have not been able to fulfil that dream yet but we are indeed thankful to be living in Singapore where our children have so many affordable learning opportunities!”

Suwei’s advice for parents: “Look for the attitudes and motivations behind the actions. When we get to the heart of the matter, we are one step closer to tackling the problem.”

She adds, “A goal of parenting is to win and keep the heart of your child. Keep the love relationship strong with each of your children, loving them as unique individuals who have different abilities and weaknesses. Do not fall into the trap of measuring everyone by the same yardstick. Oh, and hugs and kisses go a very long way!”

You can read about the Ongs’ homeschooling journey at The ONG Family Homeschool

Juggling Work & Family Life With 5 Kids

Singaporemotherhood-Large Singaporean Families I picture of Musrin family (sofa)
Initially, Azidah and her husband had decided to stop at three. Their fourth was a miracle baby and the pregnancy was only discovered at five months. And now there are five: Hanisah, 12, Hilman, 11, Hisyam, 9, Hazwani, 8, and Hazwan, 2. However, as the Musrins say, “The joy of having a large family means that the number of kids doesn’t really matter!”

Azidah, 35, is a full-time adjunct teacher. Over the years, she has relied on various childcare arrangements while at work. Early on, her parents and in-laws took care of the kids. This arrangement resulted in a longer travelling time in the morning and wear on the older generation.

“When my oldest was three, she attended childcare while the (then) two-year-old was cared for by a neighbour. A year later, with a full-time job and three young kids, my husband and I decided that it was financially more feasible to employ a domestic helper and send the children to kindergarten, instead of placing three in childcare. Having a helper also eases the housework load!” Azidah shares.

On family budgeting, Azidah found, “When the children were toddlers or in kindergarten, expenses included diapers, milk, transport costs, school fees and having a maid. I believe that total development is an important aspect of child-upbringing, so finances were apportioned to include enrichment lessons, swimming, piano, taekwondo and holiday classes.”

Azidah sees the family’s car as a need, rather than a want. “Public transport is sometimes cumbersome, especially when it rains. I drive around a lot, to get to work, send and fetch the kids to and from school and tuition classes, pick my husband up from work, to doctor visits… The car is 101 per cent utilised. We are pressed for time, and having a car helps a great deal.”

The challenge of parenting many children can be daunting. Azidah has relied purely on her mothering instincts. “We make it a point to spend personal time with each child. Many times, each child wants his individual voice heard and acknowledged. On the whole, my kids are a team, they are growing up to be resilient and independent.”

Azidah recalls a particularly challenging snapshot moment in the Musrin household: when she had to teach Hanisah and Hilman and play referee to Hisyam’s and Hazwani’s bitter quarrel, all while breastfeeding baby Hazwan.

Azidah nurtures herself by reading books and websites on self-management and child development. “I also like to hang out at bookshops. I hope to further my studies but am managing the household while my husband works on his second Masters degree.”

What super powers does Azidah wish she had? Referring to Pixar Animation Studios’ superhero action-comedy The Incredibles, Azidah says laughingly, “I would like to have the powers of the members of the Incredible family. All combined, this would mean being able to stretch my arms into extra long hands like Elastigirl, move at lightning speed like Dash, and disappear into thin air away from prying eyes like Violet. I leave Mr Incredible’s superstrength to my husband.”

Read about another two large Singaporean families in our part 2.

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Large Singaporean Families (Part 1)