A supermum of three and now a super grandmum to a pair of twins as well, Mrs Ng Gim Choo Founder of EtonHouse International Education Group and a successful businesswoman shares her inspiring journey of motherhood, overcoming challenges, juggling work and raising her children. She shares how the older generation and her ancestors inspired her pathway to success. Along with her evolved role as a grandmother, she explains the importance of family harmony and ways to instil good values in your children from a young age.
The years she was able to leave employment and be a full-time housewife in London and Hong Kong were critical for the harmony of the family. especially the upbringing of the children. Between her career and family, Mrs Ng chose to put family first. She prioritised her family and as a joint effort with her husband, making it important to have dinner as an entire family as often as possible. Both Mrs Ng and her husband did their best to minimise business entertainments and dinners with friends then. During dinner time, they shared with their children a wide range of topics and engaged them. Her children often mentioned that their friends do not have the same experience with their parents. These conversations had in one way or another instilled good values in her children.
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Question 1 - You are a mother of 3 and a successful entrepreneur? How did you juggle both roles and overcome challenges?
There is no right or wrong answer here. But what I will do is share my experiences and what guided me in my journey.
1. Putting family first.
Many years ago, when my husband received an offer to relocate to London, I decided to give up my job as an auditor in Singapore and follow him and my family to the UK and Hong Kong. I was a housewife during that time. It was the right decision as a mother and I am glad I took it. It may not be easy for women to make that decision as it involves giving up your career and all the years of hard work.
2. Appreciate and value your support system.
I was fortunate to have lived with my mother-in-law. She was a lovely, kind, and understanding lady, a second mother to me. There are many advantages to living with the older generation who have plenty of experience in bringing up children. Chinese have a saying 家有一老，如有一宝 which translates to ‘Having an elder in your home is like having a treasure at home’.
My mother in law and the babysitter helped care for children while I was at work. However, I had to handle conflicts between my mother-in-law and the babysitter. All those years ago, it was hard to get experienced babysitters. I had to remind my babysitter to respect my mother-in-law and concurrently remind my mother-in-law to be compassionate and understanding towards the baby sitter. Being respectful and consistent was important to ensure that we were all working towards the well-being of the children. Speaking from experience, if you have young children, it is good to have parents or parents-in-law at home to supervise the caregivers.
My husband has always been a strong supporter and helped me juggle my work and home commitments. There were many deadlines to be met as I worked in an audit firm. My husband helped me in areas pertaining to my job. Particularly in polishing my audit reports and correcting the grammatical errors. Fortunately, my boss too was understanding as he then had young children too.
Bringing up a child is a lifelong commitment. It requires a lot of patience, understanding, and communication with the family. It does indeed take a village to raise a child.
3. Time is the most valuable gift.
Prioritize spending time with your children. It is important to set up a routine, spend quality time with the children even when they are young. I remember having to work late. When I got home from work, the children were already in their pajamas waiting for me to read them bedtime stories. I usually read an English storybook followed by a Chinese storybook. Whenever time permitted, I would share stories about our family which they thoroughly enjoyed. Looking back, both my husband and I made an effort to have dinner with the whole family as much as possible. We did our best to minimise business entertainments and dinners with friends. At dinner, we shared with children a wide range of topics and engaged them. Our children often tell us that their friends did not have the same experience with their parents. Looking back, during such conversations we had in one way or another shared with them our values. I recall one family where the father told his children how he succeeded in outwitting others and taking advantage of others. That set the tone for his family to emulate.
4. Cultivate roots through shared experiences
I feel that my children should know their family heritage, where our ancestors come from, and what they did that led them to their success. Our ancestors worked very hard. My grandfather came to Singapore from China at the age of 12 and worked as a Coolie. Eventually, he saved up enough to set up a successful business that fed three generations.
I also shared with them how my grandmother helped the less-fortunate and was an advocate for women’s rights as they were very much discriminated especially during those times.
I truly believe that sharing family stories is a great way to instill family values.
5. Let children enjoy their childhood
We are lucky that our children were able to cope up with the rigorous Singapore education process. At the same time, I don’t think we pressurised them to excel beyond their capabilities. The moral of the story is that parents should not aspire to have their children morphing into ‘dragons and phoenixes’. For example, we know of parents ‘force-feeding’ their children with tuition and pressure to get into gifted programmes even though their children were not up to it. The children then had the most miserable time thereafter just to stay alive. What good are A* grades if your child is insecure and unhappy.
Question 2 - You are now a grandma of twins. How do you see your role evolving?
Being a grandmother is like falling in love all over again. The joy is unexplainable.
We live with our son and daughter-in-law and get to see our grandchildren every day. My daughter-in-law is an amazing and mature young lady who is sweet-natured, kind, and understanding. We get along very well.
Remembering how it was with my mother-in-law, I had the freedom to raise my children using my own approach. As such, I did not impose on my daughter-in-law my ideas on raising my grandchildren. Both my son and daughter-in-law make their own decisions.
They are aware that I am supportive of whichever approach they take. With that said, the only ‘issue’ could be my husband as he said that he will pamper the grandchildren. We have discussed respectful parenting and grandparenting as a family and we want our grandchildren to grow up happy, confident, and secure individuals with an inquiring mind. Just as it is indeed the mission of EtonHouse.
Question 3 - What tips would you give to mothers on parenting?
1. Do not neglect your husband
It is common that many men have said: “I lost my wife when she became a mother”. It is important to set aside time on a regular basis, leaving the children with the caregivers and spending quality time with your husband. My husband used to take me out every Friday night for a movie or dinner date. I believe spending time together is important.
2. Be a fair parent
If you have more than one child, be fair to them, and love them equally. If they feel your love is unequal, it will lead to sibling rivalry.
3. Let children enjoy their childhoodDo remember to take it easy and refrain from pressurising your children. Let them enjoy their childhood as you spend time with them and love them. Children who grow up in a happy and secure family and environment tend to be successful and enjoy their lives.
Parents feel the pressure to prepare their children for the future. But a university degree is no more a passport to get a good job. What skill sets must our children have to survive in the future? I have no answer. But my advice is that in order to face up to an unknown future, one must have an analytical mind, be able to access technology effortlessly, be resilient in the face of challenges, and most importantly be kind and respectful.