Gentle Strengths

  • By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

  • Entertainment & Culture /10 April 2018

  • By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

Going through the challenges of pregnancy, finding a balance between family and career, being responsible for the well-being and safety of their children are just a few things mothers everywhere go through. We look at three mothers who have navigate the intricate labyrinth of what it means to be a modern women to come out the other end stronger.

Joel LowOutfit from NET-A-PORTER
Outfit from NET-A-PORTER

Sonya D. Sanchez

The ever-cheerful 27-year-old walked up to me somewhat uncharacteristically and spoke to a hush voice, “I’m sorry but I have to leave at 4 today because I have to go home to take care of my twins.

This simple statement goes a long way in showing Sanchez has prioritised her children above all else. "I can’t express enough how much I wanted this,” she says. "If I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d think about having children, and how that would feel like, and that would put me at ease and put me to sleep.”

When Sanchez entered a beauty pageant at age 19, she proudly proclaimed that all she wanted to be when she grew up was to be a mum. “People were saying they wanted to be astronauts and lawyers. I understand that having career aspirations is the norm in society but I never cared too much about it,” she explains. “Everyone tried to change my mind, even my family members. They said things like, ‘You're too young to get married,’ and ‘You need to live your life first’.”

Advice like that hardly made sense to Sanchez who wanted nothing more than to have children. “Why did I have to live a life I didn’t want to live before having kids?” 

Prior to becoming a mother, Sanchez had been a model for 10 years. “My life was a mess,” she laughs. “I wasn’t focused. My mind just wasn’t in the right place. But when I had kids, my life came together so perfectly.”

Today, Sanchez spends her days taking care of her twins, and speaking directly to a diverse audience of just over 300,000 via her social media account that offers a candid peek into her glamorous life as a mother of two. She’s also in the midst of starting a website, which she will announce by the end of the year. 

“For me, living simply and just focusing on what’s important is the message I want to spread. Health, passion, family, relationships, and contribution to society are what’s most important, and anything that doesn’t fall within those things aren’t worth doing.”

 

“The greatest lesson my kids taught me was to be present. Don’t dwell on the past, and don’t think too much about the future. Kids don’t think about things like that — they’re all about the present. And being with them so much has definitely taught me the value of that."

 

 
Joel LowOutfit from NET-A-PORTER
Outfit from NET-A-PORTER

Bella Koh

Bella Koh didn’t initially want to have children. “It wasn’t a life my husband and I felt we wanted. I think the fact that we had eight cats shows that,” she laughs. “But then we started asking ourselves what we were going to do when we’re 70. Are we just doing to sit down and stare at each other? It was about legacy. We wanted someone to carry on our values, and beliefs.”

What may have started as a desire to pass on knowledge and values became a journey of self-discovery for Koh. “As happy as I was to be having a child, I still found motherhood and being a parent daunting because I didn’t think I had natural maternal instincts,” Koh recalls. “Maybe I was a little selfish but I couldn’t see myself giving up my personal time.” 

All those feelings, however, quickly dissolved two weeks into becoming a mother. “I remember sitting there and breastfeeding my daughter. And it just dawned on me how much she needs me, and how responsible I have to be for her. Everything changed from that moment,” Koh recalls. 

Becoming a mother meant that Koh was able to almost live life all over again through her daughter. “When she goes through certain events or emotions, I think back to when I was her age, and reflect on what I went through. It’s funny now that I’m in the position of a parent because now I understand why my own parents did certain things,” she laughs. 

But more than that, her daughter has given Koh direction in her career as she crafts and conducts cooking workshops and recipes, as well as jewellery designs for S L O W H O U S E — a food, parenting, health, clean beauty, conscious fashion and lifestyle destination that provides consumers and brands a glimpse into their creative process while concocting holistic meals and calm spaces.

“It may not be able finding a balance between family and career,” Koh explains. “I am more purposeful. My daughter is at the centre of everything I do. She has brought everything together. And I feel that, in many ways, she is leading me."

 

"I used to ask my friends why they wanted to have kids. Now, I’m the one telling my friends that they should really have a child. I can’t say exactly why. I feel like it’s just part of life’s journey and that everyone should experience it."

 

 
Joel LowOutfit from NET-A-PORTER
Outfit from NET-A-PORTER

Lynn Yeow-de Vito

It’s difficult not to think of Lynn Yeow-de Vito as a bit of a printing expert and to try to ask her about parenting tips and advice, especially considering the fact that she’s a mother of four boys. But de Vito would simply shake her head and say, “I don’t really have advice to give.”

To her, every child is different. "The minute you start comparing, the more paranoid you get. You may start to overcompensate,” she explains. “I also always discourage people from reading books about parenting. Most books make you feel bad about yourself.”

That independent attitude is something she has applied to every aspect of her life as well. "I really kowtow to full-time mothers. As much as I love my kids, I don’t think I’ll be able to be a full-time mum,” she says. "I don’t think it’s good for them. I don’t think it’s good for me either. They always know I’m there for them but it is good for them to be independent. For me, it’s about having me time. And me time is having a career."

de Vito was one of the founders of Ate Consulting. She now runs a thriving PR consultancy, as well as acts as the co-founder of Sassy Mama Singapore. "As mothers, you only have about four hours between the time you drop your kids off at school to the time you have to be home to take care of them,” de Vito explains. "Mothers can do 50 things in that four hours. I’d be able to go to the market. I tend to do my groceries at Tiong Bahru so that I can also have meetings at the cafes there. Go home to drop my ingredients and change. Get into the office for another couple of meetings. Pick up one of my kids to bring him out for lunch, before going back to the office, and then back home again to prepare them for bedtime.”

To her, it’s about getting priorities straight. And family always comes first. “It may seem like it’s taking a toll on me, but I enjoy it and I love being a mum. I actually want more kids,” she laughs.

 

 

"There is a difference between loving children and actually having your own children. You never knew you’d be able to love more than you can ever love. It’s a very difference type of love to anything you’ve ever felt. And I never knew I was looking for that love until I felt it."

 

 
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Women today aren't caught between family and career but rather embrace and fuse all aspects of life into one beautiful journey. That's what being a modern woman means — strong, and powerful, yet gentle, nuturing and beautiful. 


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Words by Patrick Chew & Guan Tan
Photographs by Joel Low
Styling by Gregory Woo

Assisted by Michelle Kok

Creative Direction by Jack Wang
Produced by Gregory Woo
Makeup by Wee Ming
Hair by Hongling Lim
Videography by Tung Pham
Photographer assisted by Alfie Pan
Wardrobe by NET-A-PORTER