Celeb mum Joanne Peh: Kids are a reflection of us

A loving family, a welcome second pregnancy, plus, a hit drama serial –life couldn’t get any sweeter for this star.

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After a two-year hiatus, Singapore’s golden girl Joanne Peh, 33, is back on the small screen in Mediacorp’s Channel 8 drama series Dream Coder. Off screen, this hot mama is not only raising her 1-year-old daughter “Baby Qi” single-handedly while hubby Qi Yuwu, 40, works in Beijing, but she’s also six months preggers with baby #2. How does she do it, you ask? Read on and find out!

Congratulations on your second pregnancy! Was it planned and do you know the baby’s gender?

Yes, it was planned. Psychologically, I was told it’s healthier for them [the kids] and I was also physically ready for another one. We’re choosing not to know the gender, since I’m hoping for a girl and my husband is hoping for a boy. I think it’s nice for my firstborn to have a younger sister who is so close in age, then they can share girlie talk, clothes, and do all the sisterly stuff together! I would think my husband prefers a boy to balance out the female hormones at home! [laughs]

How different has this pregnancy been to your first one?

I didn’t have any morning sickness during my first pregnancy. I was having some mild nausea during my first trimester this time round and didn’t have much appetite. Also, I didn’t work during my first pregnancy and this time I spent my first trimester shooting Dream Coders, so I was also a lot more tired as well.

“Before we expect our kids to be a certain way, it’s important to first reflect upon ourselves.”

Tell us about your new project.

I play a tai tai [wealthy woman who doesn’t work] who after losing her husband and wealth overnight, learns how to pick herself up again. With the help of her younger brother she’s introduced to a job as a data analyst in the company he works for. Working again was a wonderful experience. It kept me busy and time passed really quickly!

Can’t be easy juggling work with a toddler and a pregnancy. How has it been?

My hands are always full! I hardly have time to think about the pregnancy and sometimes, I even forget I am pregnant because I would be so engaged with my daughter, or I’d be multitasking like cooking and cleaning, while keeping her occupied. On most days I have help, but on Sundays, I pretty much become super-mum.

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What’s life like with a toddler?

It’s a lot of fun watching her grow, hearing her pick up words, imitate our actions in her own child-like way and express her emotions. So, while it’s exhausting at times because of her boundless energy, it is also very fulfilling. She has inspired me to learn a new language and pick up a new skill because I imagine it must be so hard for her when she took her first step, or as she tries to figure out what we’re saying. That’s why I’m putting my Skills Future Credit to good use this period of time, learning Japanese and sewing. I hope to set an example for my daughter to be fearless when it comes to learning and that you’re never too young or too old to do so.

What are some life lessons you’ve learnt since becoming a mum?

Our kids are always a reflection of us as parents, so, when you see kids behave a certain way, you kind of know how their parents are with them. The atmosphere at home is very important and when you get so caught up with the needs and demands of the daily grind, it’s easy to forget to care and love one another. That’s when you start to lose patience and get easily frustrated and because kids are very sensitive to emotions ― both positive and negative ― they will react naturally to the kind of energy at home. So, before we expect our kids to be a certain way, it’s important to first reflect upon ourselves.

How does the family cope with the long-distance arrangements? Read on!

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Your husband has been working in Beijing for some time now. What’s it like being away from each other?

It is challenging, but the truth is every family has their own challenges, so, we find a way to help ourselves. We have a nanny to look after our daughter and we are exploring playgroup options for her when she turns 18 months.

How often do you see him?

There’s no fixed schedule because with filming, it’s not like you can just take leave and go. It is also physically difficult for me to bring a toddler on a flight now that I am 6 months pregnant because she’s at the stage where she has outgrown the bassinet, but isn’t old enough to sit through a flight by herself. We keep in touch by video calling several times a day and sending photos to each other.

Do you get emotional thinking that your one-on-one time with your firstborn will soon end?

Yes I do, and I am psyching myself up every day for the day she will no longer want her mum around. I get solo time with her on Sundays where we would read and play together and, sometimes, I just watch what she’s doing and come up with activities that would interest her.

“It’s important to respect every child as an individual and not compare, but there will be clear rules about discipline and mutual respect.”

How are you easing her into becoming a big sister?

I don’t think she understands what it means! We received a nice gift pack from Peek-a-boo with a book that talks about her as an older sister and since then, she always picks out that book. For some reason, her favourite page is the one where the baby cries! Other than reading the book to her, we get her to stroke and kiss my belly.

How do you plan to manage the inevitable sibling rivalry?

Whatever I’m about to say is probably theoretical. They may go out the window once the baby arrives! In any case, I intend to get my toddler involved in caring for the baby. Give her simple tasks like fetch the milk bottle, wipe baby’s mouth, and allow her to participate whenever it is possible. As it is, she loves helping us with little favours.

As for sibling rivalry, I’m now more worried about the younger sibling feeling left out, because there will be times when I feel I’m not giving my baby enough attention because my toddler takes up all of it. In any case, it’s important to respect every child as an individual and not compare, but there will be clear rules about discipline and mutual respect, that’s for sure.

Are you guys planning to add to the brood?

I’ve always wanted a big family because I’m confident I can raise children who will love one another even when they grow up. I think it’s wonderful too when you grow older and have a healthy family support network. It’s a lot less taxing on the child, too, when it comes to parental responsibilities. But then again, if I got married 10 years earlier, I’d probably be able to have four or five. Now, I think let’s get this Rooster baby out before we speak!

Dream Coder airs on Channel 8 at 9pm on weekdays. The series is also available on Toggle.

Photos: Hong Chee Yan & Joanne Peh

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