Celeb dad Shaun Chen: It’s OK if my kids aren’t good in their studies!

The actor shares the challenges of life with another newborn. Plus, he reveals when we can expect baby no. 3…

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You could say that Mediacorp actor Shaun Chen is a shining example of how, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

When the Malaysian actor was retrenched in 2005 following the merger between Singapore Press Holdings’ MediaWorks and Mediacorp, Shaun didn’t shy away from returning to his old job in Malaysia ― he sold spectacles to optical stores ― even though he was already a familiar face.

Needless to say, he not only struggled financially, he even went without meals at times because he simply could not afford it. As a father now, he hopes to pass his gumption and never-say-die spirit to his two daughters — Neia, 2½ months, and Nellie, almost 2.

“Now, I’ll need to provide for the family and provide for our kids’ future like their education and even insurance. So, there’s definitely quite a bit of stuff I’ll need to look into.”

Indeed, the 38-year-old artiste says while he understands the importance of studies, he’s mindful about not forcing his kids to meet his expectations of them.

“If they can study, that’s good. If they aren’t good in their studies, that’s okay, too. Because I believe that there’s always a way for them to forge their own paths to success in any industry they choose.”

Shaun adds, “I always believe our kid’s generation will always be better and stronger than ours. So, we don’t have to worry too much about them — about how good their qualifications are.”

The Channel 8 actor and his wife, beautician Celine Chin, 28, welcomed daughter, Neia, on 25 July. Shaun, who is currently on leave to help with the kids, states that he’s definitely starting to feel the pressures of fatherhood and raising a family.

“Now, I’ll need to provide for the family and provide for our kids’ future like their education and even insurance. So, there’s definitely quite a bit of stuff I’ll need to look into.”

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SmartParents catches up with the doting dad for the lowdown on he’s handling life with a newborn and a toddler…

Congrats on Neia’s birth! What was the pregnancy like for Celine?

We found it easier to handle this time around. I think it’s because it’s our second time as parents. We’re also well prepared in terms of all the equipment and baby care necessities, we needed. It’s just easier to handle.

How about caring for little Neia — did you face any problems?

We didn’t really face any major problems especially since she’s still a newborn, so she spends the majority of the time sleeping. Perhaps the most challenging part is having to wake up in the middle of the night to feed Neia, so sleepless nights can be quite challenging. She needs to be fed every two to three hours. Sometimes, after just over an hour and she’s back for another feed. She’s got quite an appetite! (Laughs)

So, when it comes to feeding duties, we do take turns. Sometimes, I’ll feed her, other times, Celine will wake up and feed her. On the whole, I think it’s more tiring for Celine because she has to pump every three hours.

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What’s your best memory of the day Neia arrived?

The credit goes to my wife for giving birth to Neia in a little over an hour. I’m very proud of her — she’s definitely a very strong woman! I’m also very happy that Neia was an easy child to deliver. Celine didn’t have to suffer too much pain during labour. Because I’ve heard horror stories that some people take up to almost half a day and it can be very painful! That’s why Neia was nicknamed as a very “乖” (guai, Chinese for well-behaved) baby. She didn’t let mummy suffer.

Do you feel more relaxed now that it’s your second time as a dad?

Nope, I don’t feel relaxed, I don’t think anyone will, especially since we’re handling two kids now. It’s easier to handle the baby because she’s pretty much just chilling and lying down on her own. But Nellie gets jealous because she’s still trying to get used to the new family dynamics. There’ll be instances when she’ll want us to carry her whenever we carry her sister. I think it’ll take a while for her to get used to it.

That’s why Neia was nicknamed a very “乖” (guai, Chinese for well-behaved) baby. She didn’t let mummy suffer.”

Do the kids get along?

Yup, they are getting along fine most of the time. But I’ll need to explain to Nellie a bit more about her role as an older sister. She’s a very loving big sis. She’ll sometimes kiss her sister and also copy the way we speak to Neia ― she’ll call Neia “妹妹”(mei mei, Chinese for little sister) in the same tone of voice we use. It’s very cute and annoying.

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Nellie’s almost 2. Any signs of the Terrible Twos yet?

Nowadays, she will want to eat on her own without our help. She wants do lots of things on her own. So sometimes, we’ll explain to her why she can’t do it. I’ll remind her that she has to hold her food properly, so that it doesn’t fall to the ground, because if it does, it’ll be a big mess. And if it’s hot food, I’ll tell her that she’ll burn herself. We have to be very careful not to get angry because then, she’ll get angry. I think it’s most important to remain calm.

Any tips on juggling a baby and a toddler?

The most important thing is for the husband and wife to work together — team effort is so important. We recently got a helper, so that helps, too. Although the helper’s job is really to do the housework and let Celine focus on caring for the baby.

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Who’s the disciplinarian at home?

I’ll say their mother is stricter. [Laughs]

What’s your take on caning?

I think if it’s used to scare the kid, that’s fine. But the actual act of caning, I don’t think it’s going to do any good. I think explaining will work better with my kids.

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How are you going to handle when your daughters start dating?

I think very difficult to say lah! [Laughs] Perhaps by that time, their attitude and personality will have changed somewhat. I think it’ll be difficult to control them. But I’ll encourage her to see more of the world, to meet more people before settling down. Of course, we will be concerned, but there’s nothing much we can do. We can’t force things.

Any wish that your kids take up acting like you?

I’ll leave it up to them. I think they would have seen what my working environment is like, so I won’t be surprised if it seems interesting to them. She might want to give it a try? I don’t know. But then again, it may even pan out the other way where she’s totally not interested? It’s hard to say. [Laughs]

“But I’ll encourage her to see more of the world, to meet more people before choosing to settle down.”

Any tips for new dads?

In terms of equipment, always get the necessities and basics first. Emotionally speaking, you must get your head in the game — I feel it’s important to not be nervous. You need to be emotionally ready now that you are going to be a dad. Also, don’t overlook your wife’s feelings. There will be times when your wife will be in a foul mood or feel moody because of the baby. So it’s important that you have a little more consideration for her feelings and help her during the pregnancy and labour.

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What’s your secret to looking fit?

I set aside at least three days a week for the gym, and another one or two days for badminton. This way, I get to do both cardio and resistance exercises. No matter how busy I am, I’ll still try to make time to exercise. Now, of course I’m busier because of my two kids, so I’ll go for a jog at about 10 or 11pm. I’ll run for about 30 minutes, so that I'll sweat, then I’ll stop.

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What’s your biggest wish for your family?

I hope that my children and wife will always be happy and healthy. I hope that I’ll be able to continue to prosper in my career, so that I can provide for my family! And I also hope that my parents will always be happy and healthy, too!

Any plans to add to the brood?

[Laughs] For now… no. But in the future, maybe? When we are more settled with the kids than we’ll consider this again — when things are a little more stable at home.

Photos: Shaun Chen’s and Celine Chin’s Instagram.

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