Sunday, February 17, 2008

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

from Coffee with Joni Ong, Today, 13 Feb 2008 edition

“Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”

The plan was to have six children. So, you can imagine Joni Ong’s disappointment
when she couldn’t conceive. Later, in-vitro fertilization treatment gave her twin daughters –
now 18 and the first identical twins born under the programme in
Singapore. Two more girls
(17 and 15) and a boy (12) followed naturally. Today, Ms Ong is president of ‘I Love Children’,
a group set up in 2005 to advocate and celebrate parenthood. The vivacious mum,
community member, human resource consultant and “other half” of MP Ong Kian Min,
tells Sheralyn Tay (of Times) about the joys and challenges of parenting, and juggling roles.

A bona fide supermum. How d’you do it?
I’m not a supermum (laughs), just a mother who loves being a mother.
How do I do it? I have “me” time. My husband is very supportive and…
I have a very good bunch of girlfriends with whom I have girls’ nights out.
I’ve known some of them for almost 40 years! We use this time to de-stress
and recharge. I also believe in “compartmentalizing.” When I work, I am
100-percent focused. When I go home, I leave work behind. There’s no point
being at work and worrying about home, and (when) at home, worry about work.
It’s counterproductive.

Many working women feel pressure and guilt. There is the assumption
they are not giving their all to their kids.

Whether one chooses to be a working or stay-at-home mum, it’s personal
and there’s no right or wrong in either option. I was bought up by a working mum
but I don’t think I’m any worse off than friends who had stay-at-home mums.
Mine was always there when I needed her. I feel children tend to be more independent
and resilient when their parents aren’t around at all times. Of course, it’s important
to spend quality time as well as quantity time with your kids.
And mothers should not feel (that) they have not had a life of their own.
Mums should take time for themselves, whether it is (for) a social life, a career or
a hobby… they need to have their own space and not live through their kids.
Our kids now seem to lead such stressful lives, as if they’re living on their parents’ behalf!
What I believe – and what ‘I Love Children’ believes – is to let children “be.”
We want to celebrate them for who they are.

Is there a better way for women to reconcile career with motherhood?
We should look at our career in spurts; we can’t be “climbing” at all time.
We should have anchors at different stages of our lives. When it’s time to start a family,
we should lower our expectations and focus on that. It’s a tremendous experience,
don’t miss out on it. The children will grow up; that’s when you can focus on your
career again. I let my career take a backseat for a while; I don’t aspire to do everything.
Now, I am letting my career have a second spurt, so I feel I have benefited from both worlds.
Women have many roles but it’s still do-able. We must be realistic about what
we can and cannot do. Compartmentalize, prioritise and avoid wasting energy on
negative thoughts. Why stress over things that cannot be changed?

Young couples are putting off having kids. What are your thoughts on this?
I have only this piece of advise for a woman: Try to have your first before you are 30.
It’s a more conducive time, physiologically and anatomically. When your kids are grown-up,
you’re still young, you can be the cool mum! I’m not that young anymore (laughs)
but I feel young. I go for manicures with my daughters or to the movies… it helps me
connect with my children as a friend.

What are some of the important things that help you to relate to your kids
and to build such a close relationship?

Dinner is a very important event for the family. It’s when we all catch up and share
our day. We also have family TV time and watch CSI on Tuesday nights.
Know your children’s friends. Our home is famous for our steamboat dinners
and their friends come over. That way, I know who their friends are. Their dad
also makes sure he is available to fetch them if they are late coming home. So,
we know where they are but they still have their freedom.
When the children are growing up, don’t sweat the small stuff.
You want to do this? Go ahead! You want to have your hair cut? Go ahead; hair grows.
Let them find their own way and have their own space.

To find our more about ‘I Love Children’, visit