Splitting up is not only hard on the individual, it is that much more tough when you have to consider the well-being of your children. Former actress Wong Li Lin, 44, knows this only too well. She states, “Divorce has profoundly and emphatically changed me.”
In the four years since she parted ways with her TV host ex-husband Allan Wu, 44, Li Lin says that she helped her kids get through the divorce by “mindfully” putting their needs before her own.
Indeed, as her offspring’s main caregiver ― Allan travels extensively for work ― Li Lin is juggling mummy duties with a full-time job to provide stability for her adolescent kids, son Jonas, 11, and daughter Sage, 13.
“Time and energy are real issues every working mum faces. For single mums, you can add money to the list.”
It was the need for stability that motivated Li Lin to look for a 9-to-5 job. Explains the former Triple Nine actress and judge on The Dance Floor, “Stability [for the kids] meant keeping as much [of the] reassuring routines children can count on to thrive. It would be difficult to design such a life around the schedule of a media personality.”
Notes Li Lin, who is executive director of the Public Hygiene Council, “I love soaking in new information, processing it to grow the business. [On the other hand,] I have a hard time with politics — this exists in all organisations, of course, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.”
The fit and fab mum gives SmartParents the lowdown on how she balances parenting duties with her ex-husband, caring for her kids…and the status of her dating life.
As a single parent, do you feel like you bear the brunt of parenting Jonas and Sage
That would be a fact. But it’s also a choice, so, no complaints.
How do you share parenting responsibilities with Allan?
Allan is unable to provide a set schedule when it comes to his time, so the parenting responsibility sits squarely with me. However, when he’s in Singapore, he will spend time with the kids such as taking them for the weekend to their activities and exercising with them.
What are your challenges as a single working mum?
Time and energy are real issues every working mum faces. For single mums, you can add money to the list.
What kind of mum are you — strict or cool?
I try to be a discerning mum. I’m strict when it is needed and relaxed when not. And always coming from a place of love. But I don’t know about cool… haha.
Any house rules regarding your kids’ use of gadgets and social media activities?
Jonas has three hours a week on his electronics as a base which he can use at his discretion. He also gets extra time for certain chores. It’s harder to manage Sage’s time on the phone ― you can’t tell when it’s research, checking in with friends on homework, Instagram or games. She’s generally a very accountable individual, who manages her time okay but like most parents, I do see an increasing reliance on their gadgets.
“I’ve always felt that a parent’s job is to love, guide and provide life skills. I would be satisfied as a parent knowing that my child is confident about his and her place in the world.”
Your thoughts on corporal punishment as a form of discipline?
My definition of corporal punishment is a smack on the hand, for instance. Nothing that relates to physically overcoming another being. I did try it out when I was a new parent and I’ve decided that it is not a go-to as a form of discipline. By and large, I try to have the children understand action and consequence through dialogue and reason.
That said, I think corporal punishment could have its place. I feel, the key factor in disciplinary measures is that they must always be considered and not be meted out during the heat of the moment. They cannot be unfairly imposed, either. I think there is value in the clarity that action A will result in consequence B.
What is your goal as a parent?
I’ve always felt that a parent’s job is to love, guide and provide life skills. I would be satisfied as a parent knowing that my child is confident about his and her place in the world, so they are able to identify the outcomes of their needs and map the paths towards achieving them. I would like them to be able to navigate what comes their way — whether emotions or complex tax systems — with agility and savvy, and be able to help others because they have been competent with managing themselves.
Have you any advice for our single-parent readers?
Provide stability for yourself and your children by getting your existing needs sorted. Speak to people who are good with money to help you, if need be. For everything else, just one foot in front of the other. Find the beauty and gifts in your life, then the world would seem a lot less frightening.
Do you miss show business?
If you mean being an actress or host, generally no. But there are aspects of showbiz I miss. What it takes to build showbiz for instance. It requires a fluid blend of business acumen and creativity. I miss that sort of regular left and right brain engagement. I also miss the camaraderie that is forged over long hours to achieve the same goal of a single take that works. Having said that, I would be interested to go back on the business and administrative side of things. Less as a front-of-camera face.
On the flipside, what don’t you miss about it?
Oh, my gosh! Makeup and hair. Wait. Maybe it’s all that waiting. An actor’s job is 80 per cent waiting.
“I wish them health and for them to become self-possessed individuals with clear minds, big hearts and indomitable joy!”
Now that you’re no longer in showbiz, how do you deal with the pressure of looking good?
I keep a minimal workout schedule at the moment ― I would be lucky to have two half-hour runs a week. I try to do one or two conditioning moves a day and that’s about it.
With your hectic work schedule, how do you find time for yourself?
I plan it such that 50 per cent of the evenings in my week affords ‘me’ time in some form or another. ‘Me’ time these days take the forms of: 1. A glass of wine, 2. Early nights with either book or video or 3. Dinner with friends.
Allan told us in a recent interview that he is open to the idea of dating and is open to being a father again. What about you?
I don’t really have the luxury of thinking about or making space for someone else at the moment, to tell you the truth. My children and work already take up all my time. If a relationship happens, it happens. And when it does, it must be with someone worthy of my time and attention.
What are some of the positive things Allan brings out in both Sage and Jonas?
The kids are both very athletic, thanks largely to Allan. They’re outgoing and confident.
Have you any parenting “gurus” you look up to?
All happy parents of happy kids are my gurus!
Finally, what is your biggest wish for your kids?
I wish them wealth in coffers and being. I wish them health and for them to become self-possessed individuals with clear minds, big hearts and indomitable joy!
Photos: Wong Li Lin
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