Having battled postpartum depression with both pregnancies, actress Jaymee Ong, 37, reckons that pregnancy is the easier part of motherhood.
“It’s the parenting part that you can’t prepare for. You can read every book, you can get advice from 50 different people and it just never adequately prepares you for what it’s like.”
Mothers also seem the bear the brunt of the stresses of being a parent. Notes Jaymee, mum to Harrison, 15 months, and Juliet, 7, with husband Matthew Heath, 37, “I think mothers like to show that we have it all together. We should do the laundry at 5am in the morning and we should whip up this gourmet meal and we should look good. And we should do it all with just two hours of sleep!”
She points out that mothers can free themselves of their parenting stress, just by being open to asking for and accepting help. “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s totally fine. Of course, being a mother is so incredible and amazing and babies are gorgeous and all of that. But there’s another side to motherhood: You cry, you feel helpless and useless and drained ― and that’s okay!”
“But there’s another side to motherhood: You cry, you feel helpless and useless and drained ― and that’s okay!”
Indeed, Jaymee urges all mothers ― new or not ― to accept help from friends and family when you need it. “[When someone offers you help,] there’s no point in thinking: No, no, no, I’ve got it all under control. Say yes, please take my child for an hour… There is no such thing as a superwoman. There’s no medal for [not getting the help you need]. Accept the help when it’s there!”
Jaymee talks to SmartParents about her philosophy on raising her kids...
As a model and mum, are you concerned about Juliet feeling the pressure to look good?
The pressure [to look good] exists for every young girl now unfortunately. I mean I have always stressed to my daughter that I’m exercising to look healthy and to have energy and I have never ever, ever, placed an emphasis on weight or looking good. It's really not something that’s spoken about in our house ― it’s really to be healthy and to be strong and have energy ― that’s why mummy exercises. Not to fit into skinny jeans. Young women and teenagers everywhere face this unrealistic pressure and I don't think it's ever going away. And I think the only thing [parents] can do is teach [their children] to be strong and not be swayed by images or people. And I don't want to say it’s strictly for girls. It does exist for man and young boys as well.
Has Juliet ever shown an interest in modelling?
No, she says she wants to be an artist ― she's definitely a very creative person. She does all the dressing up and play acting at home like most little kids [do]. I mean she has been with me at work and seen the things that I do but she’s never been like “Mum, this is what I really want to do.” I would never propose it to her, either, I won’t try to get her into it. I mean, if she comes to me later in her life and says this is something she wants to do then yes, I would but I’ll still be wary.
So, what’s your advice to Juliet and Harrison on loving how they look?
When I was younger, I really felt the pressure [to look good]. There were certain times when I was pressured to look a certain way or lose a little bit more weight and you get the compliments like, “You look really great and you look really thin.” Was I happy? Not really. I mean living that way day-to-day is stressful and it’s not fun. You can’t go out to eat with your friends, it’s a lot of undue pressure and it’s exhausting and very meaningless, it's not why we are here. It should not be what drives us. Being happy and healthy, being a good person and being loving is so much more important. Those are the things that matter not whether you’ve ran on the treadmill for an hour or not...
Next, who’s the disciplinarian at home: Jaymee or her hubby?
At home, who’s the disciplinarian?
[My husband and I] We’re equal ― and we're not playing the good-cop-bad-cop thing, either. We back each other up, especially in front of the children. And even when I don’t agree, I'll tell him that. We are very united, I think, when it comes to disciplining and values and all that kind of stuff.
What are your thoughts on spanking?
You know what? I was spanked as a child. I don't think that children should get a beating or a belting but parents should do what they feel is right. I don't disagree with it. I think it’s a personal thing and I don’t think that wrapping them in a cotton wool is okay... I think that children today are growing up way more entitled than ever before and I don’t think it’s healthy. It isn’t necessarily to do with spanking as much as it is about disciplining and giving your kids a reality check. Like hey, guess what, you don’t always get what you want and when you want it because that’s not life. I think spanking is a very individual thing ― I don’t disagree with it, it has more to do with doing what works for you.
Have your parents’ parenting styles influenced your own?
My parents really instilled in me the values of respect and being compassionate towards other people and I like to think that I instil that in my own children. I see children today and they don’t say please and they don’t say thank you or they don’t stand up when an elderly person walks in. And that’s really important in my family ― listening to people and looking people in the eye.
“I think that children today are growing up way more entitled than ever before and I don’t think it’s healthy... it is about disciplining and giving your kids a reality check.”
You mean like connecting with each other?
Yes. And you know today with iPads and iPhones, people are so checked out. Not just children, I mean adults, too. And when we go out to eat, every single person is on their phone.
Your thoughts on social media?
Social media is really kind of an element that I don’t like about my job now. People are like make sure you post about that, make sure you... I was like... good God! And you are editing photos to make yourself look good I mean, what for?! That’s just going to be a part of [our kids’] lives inevitably but I try to minimise it as much as possible. I don’t need to be checking on my phone when I am talking to my kids. I’m not having a conversation with one eye on my child and one eye on my phone ― I think that's terrible.
There’s also the issue of privacy with social media?
Privacy is an issue but I think that it’s just really unhealthy when you see things and you're thinking: Oh, their life is so much better than mine... They are doing something more exciting than me. And it’s not real anyway. I mean it’s so falsified and it’s so blown out of proportion and no matter how emotionally sound you are, you can’t help but get sucked into this. It’s just not healthy.
What is your husband Matthew’s take on social media?
He's not on Instagram, he's not on Twitter. He has Facebook. He has no part in [social media] at all. Could not be less interested. I mean it’s just not his thing. He’s an oil and gas engineer, [so] I don’t know what he would Instagram there (laughs). It’s just not his thing. He’s on his phone to check football scores or cricket scores…
Does Jaymee still have a buzzy social life? Read on…
Any parenting moments you’d like to share with us?
After Juliet went to a playdate at my friend’s place, my friend shared that Juliet just said to her friend, who was being bullied, that it is okay and not everyone is going to like you. And you just need to ignore them and that if somebody doesn’t like you, it’s fine because there is always somebody out there who will and you don’t need to worry about what other people would think. And my friend asked, “Oh... What made you say that?” and she said, “That’s what my mum said”. These are little things that made me realise that she is taking in what I say!
How has becoming a mother changed your attitude towards work and career?
[It has not changed] that much I think. I don’t do the social thing as much as I used to. Before, I could go to every event and be out five nights a week and schmoozing and doing all that but that doesn't really happen anymore because it’s really like do I want to spend so much time putting on makeup and going out? So, that’s tapered down a lot. I choose which jobs that require me to travel. But I think for the most part, I have been blessed in [being able to be] doing what I love as much as I am and that I really enjoy it.
“You know, when you have children, you have something else that adds so much more to your life.”
Are you more picky now when you take on work projects?
I wouldn’t say that I am particular, it’s just that I prioritise. Rather than going out for drinks… I prefer to be at home, read books with my children and put them to bed ― I want to be the one to put them to bed and I enjoy doing that. It’s about what’s most important and it does affect your job in a certain way but that’s what happens. You know, when you have children, you have something else that adds so much more to your life.
So, where and when can we see you next?
I’m filming a new drama for Channel 5, at the moment, which finishes around mid-February, so that will be coming out this year. I play a university professor, which is both exciting and sad because I’m no longer playing a student (laughs). It’s about a university in Singapore and student life and the sort of the corruption almost that goes on within the university faculty, as well and the relationship between professors and students. I'm really enjoying it ― it’s got a really great cast and I’m having lots of fun. I haven't done something like this since Point of Entry [which was shown from 2010 to 2014].
Photos: Courtesy of Jaymee Ong
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