Celeb mum Yvonne Chan: My brutal schedule works for me!

The Channel NewsAsia presenter talks about looking after two toddlers and starting work at 4am daily!

Every weekday morning at 4am, Yvonne Chan, 35, pops into the Mediacorp newsroom to get prepped so that she can bring breaking, as well as the latest lifestyle and business news, to Singapore.

Indeed, since Chan co-hosts Channel NewsAsia’s breakfast programme, First Look Asia, non-morning people will find her bubbly personality a great perk-me-up.

The multi-talented lass, who can tuck professional jazz singer under her belt, met her husband, Winston Cheng, 37, a manager with Keppel OffShore Technology Development, during one of her singing gigs.

The Chengs, who tied the knot in 2014, now have two kids, Elspeth, 2, and Ethan, 3. Chan enthuses that she loves “going on adventures with and exploring new places and doing new things” with her son.

“I think I have a knack for coming up with interesting games to play when we are stuck in traffic, or in a waiting area, so they don’t get too cranky in cramped spaces,” she chuckles.

She’s happy to let her hubby be the disciplinarian though ― “I’m probably a little too soft!” she says.

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Cheng, she says, is a hands-on father, who supports her super-early working hours. Even after a long day at work, he’ll come home with big smiles, bathe Ethan, take the kids out for an evening walk or play with them, so that she can get ready for bed. “I couldn’t do what I do without him,” she smiles.

SmartParents cosied up with the chirpy TV personality to find out just how she balances mum- and work-life.

Hi Yvonne, how’s life been for you as a mother of two?
I’m loving it! It’s tiring but everything is twice the fun, twice the love. I certainly feel like I’ve grown into my role as a mother ― I’m definitely a lot more relaxed when parenting two kids. I’m still learning along the way though, how to juggle it all, working, mothering and being a good wife and daughter.

Tell us about your two little ones!
There’s Ethan, who turned 3 in April, and Elspeth ― we call her Ellie for short ― who celebrated her second birthday in July! Ethan’s got a really cheeky sense of humour ― his resemblance to my personality is startlingly uncanny. He loves to sing, he loves being the centre of attention, he loves to talk, he loves to eat…. When my friends meet him, the first thing they say is “Omg, Ethan is a mini-you!”. Ethan is also at the stage where he is testing boundaries and he is quite stubborn, so my husband and I have been setting up naughty corners and talking him through his actions.

I’m still learning along the way though, how to juggle it all, working, mothering and being a good wife and daughter.

What about Ellie?
Ellie has a very sweet disposition, as girls do. She’s super affectionate, she’s got a good pair of lungs (she is so loud when she sings) and I’m still discovering bits of her personality every day. She is also an adventurous eater ― she will try anything, even an Ayurvedic cough syrup! She’s got fire in her, too. If Ethan snatches a toy from her, she retaliates immediately ― by lunging at him and trying to bite him. I shouldn’t be laughing, but when I see her defending herself, I’m like, “You go, girl!”

Do you feel like you need to split your attention? How do you deal with that?
The kids do fight for my attention a lot, and I try to carve out individual time with each of them. I also have to make sure I make time for my number one supporter, my husband, as well as pencil out alone time for myself to recharge and refuel. #mamatimeout is so important!

Was your second pregnancy as easy as your first?
Yes! My pregnancy with Ellie was a breeze, as was my pregnancy with Ethan. I was moving a lot more when pregnant with Ellie, as I spent a lot of time running after Ethan and taking him on excursions. I was also working full time. Delivery wise, I opted for a C-section, and it was a breeze. I had the same gynaecologist from my first pregnancy and the pain management was well under control. I was on my feet the next day after my delivery. And meeting my girl for the very first time was like falling in love all over again. I was on an emotional high ― that moment when I saw Ethan hug Ellie after laying eyes on her for the first time, would forever be etched into my memory.

 

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What’s it like hosting First Look Asia Channel NewsAsia’s morning show being a mum, and having to be at work so early in the morning?
The hours are brutal but you know what? The timing actually works in my favour right now. I get into the newsroom around 4am and I’m off work at around 1pm. So, that gives me time to have lunch with the kiddos before we nap in the afternoon. Then, it’s a trip to the playground or a nice long walk around the neighbourhood. There’s playtime and dinner, before I’m forced to drag myself to bed. I try to sleep by 9pm every night but that hardly ever happens.

What do you like most about what you do?
I love hosting the morning show. It’s a show that allows your personality to come through and you get to meet some really interesting characters. Plus, it’s nice to have a co-host to bounce off ideas with and has the same energy levels to take you through the morning is a bonus. I also go out on shoots and I’ve met some interesting personalities, like R&B singer Corinne Bailey Rae, piano maestro Adam Gyorgy, to name a few. I also met some circus folks from Cirque du Soleil!

The hours are brutal but you know what? The timing actually works in my favour right now.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews you’ve done?
I would say my interview with award-winning global pianist Adam Gyorgy really stood out for me. Adam is only 36 years old but he achieved so many accolades in the past few years, he got a music school and a foundation to help children in need pursue their love for music. What was more amazing was meeting him in person. He was so easy to talk to, so warm and genuine, and the conversation just flowed. And when two music lovers get together, we just had to jam to an impromptu version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and John Legend’s All of Me. That was so awesome. You can catch the interview here.

We understand you used to perform at jazz gigs do you still sing?
Well, I sing and perform for my kids every day! [laughs] But on a serious note, I really miss performing on stage and doing my thing during my gigs. It’s a wonderful feeling, singing the songs I love and feeling the energy and response from the audience. But motherhood takes precedence now. That said, I sang on national TV recently. It was Hari Raya, so I ended First Look Asia with a short ditty of Selamat Hari Raya. Thankfully, I didn’t butcher the lyrics and Muslims wrote in to say I sang it fluently ― phew! I’m also looking forward to resurrecting that gig life towards the end of the year. Fingers crossed!

 

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What’s the best part of parenting so far?
Being a family of four is a really lovely feeling! The family feels complete. Knowing, too, that the kids are mine to shape and mould is such a privilege. Seeing the kids laugh, seeing them discover new things, seeing their eyes light up with delight and amazement at certain things ― it really makes me happy. Plus, being able to share all that with my husband is the icing on the cake. And I love being smothered by their kisses and hugs. I’ve also gotten used to the fact that I can’t wear very nice clothes when I’m out with the kids because they will inevitably rub their snot into my sleeve, rub their chocolatey faces on my dress, step on my lap with muddy shoes… But I’m used to that now!

And the most challenging parts?
The exhaustion, I guess. There are some days when I’m so tired after work but they refuse to nap or they nap and wake up at different times, and I just don’t get any shuteye.

They will inevitably rub their snot into my sleeve, rub their chocolatey faces on my dress, step on my lap with muddy shoes…

Do you get any free time to yourself then, and how do you wind down?
Yes I still do get some free time to myself, and I have to thank my family and Winston for helping me with that. I would check myself into the spa for a massage, or meet up with my girlfriends for lunch. It’s good to have a support network of other mummy friends going through the same thing. I also love a good workout ― gotta stay fit to keep up with the kids!

So, how do you divvy up parenting roles between you and Winston?
We have pretty equal roles in this parenting partnership. I like to call Winston my “parenting partner in crime”. We can both put either kid to sleep, we can bathe and feed them, and play with them. Winston is just as competent in all the parenting chores as I am. But I have to say he’s the stricter disciplinarian, and that works for me.

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What are some of your favourite ways to spend time as a family?
Given my work schedule, weekends are extremely precious to me. We usually go out to have brunch as a family, visit the zoo or the animal corner at Farmart. Ethan and Ellie love feeding the animals there. Otherwise, we will take them swimming, or to Sentosa for some beach fun and cable-car rides. The kids also love going to the supermarket. In fact, they both love going out ― every “outing” is an adventure to them!

Finally, if you weren’t a TV presenter (or jazz singer!), you’d be…
Probably an ambassador of Singapore to another country!

Photos: Yvonne Chan

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