Celeb mum Yvonne Lim: I struggle with major mum guilt now that I'm filming again

Four years after Yvonne Lim’s Taiwan move, she’s filmed a comeback TV drama. She discusses motherhood and multitasking with SmartParents.

Yvonne Lim and family

How swiftly the years slip by. Just four years ago, actress Yvonne Lim had given birth to a son, AJ, now 4, then followed her boyband popster-turned-businessman husband Alex Tien to Taiwan where she had a daughter Alexa, 2. 

At the end of January, the mother of two uprooted her family and returned home to film a MediaCorp Channel 8 drama, While You Were Away. In the TV series, which debuts at 9pm on 24 June, Yvonne plays a devoted wife and mother of two who goes into a coma after an accident. On waking up, she’s lost her memory and discovers that her best friend has the hots for her husband!

Yvonne Lim entertainment friends

The youthful-looking 42-year-old bagged several Star Awards Popular Female Artistes trophies as well as a Best Actress award in 2007 (Metamorphosis) enthuses, “I’m looking forward to returning to acting in Singapore!”  

However, she describes this move as a “trial period” as she has yet to decide if she and her family transfer back to Singapore permanently.

To accommodate her filming schedule, the Singaporean actress, a former 1997 Star Search contestant, swapped duties with Alex. So, he took care of the kids, who attended preschool in Singapore, while a helper handled household chores.

Alex and I take every opportunity to bring the kids out to places such as Sentosa. Alex loves taking photos of the family, which I’ve been sharing on Instagram.

From Yvonne’s Instagram account, which is peppered liberally with pictures of her kids having fun ― anyone can see that she takes her mothering job seriously. She talks to SmartParents about marriage, motherhood…and mum guilt.

It’s good to have you back in town. Any plans to return home for good?

My husband Alex feels Singapore is a better place to raise our kids because of our education system. So, AJ and Alexa got to stay here for two months, which was longer than previous trips. But we haven’t decided if we are moving here permanently. 

In what ways do you think parents have it better in Singapore than in Taiwan?

In Taiwan, I always found it difficult to bring the kids out because the roads are often bumpy, so strollers are hard to manage there. In Singapore, much effort has been taken to create a better infrastructure for families. For example, there are many public spaces and parks where parents and kids can spend time together. So, Alex and I take every opportunity to bring the kids out to places such as Sentosa. Alex loves taking photos of the family, which I’ve been sharing on Instagram.   

Yvonne Lim and kids

When we last spoke, you were expecting Alexa. How has AJ been coping as the older brother?

We tried to prepare AJ for Alexa’s arrival by constantly telling him about her. Still, when Alexa was born, he felt neglected and became jealous. Now that they are both older, he’s gotten past it, and he is getting better at being the older brother. The kids are very close to each other; Alexa is always hugging and talking to her brother. Of course, like other siblings, they sometimes fight. When that happens, he tries to behave like the responsible sibling ― by keeping quiet and not sabo-ing his sister!

So, how did the hashtags #happyAJ and #happyAlexa come about?

When AJ was a baby, he was always smiling and rarely threw temper tantrums. That’s why I started using #happyAJ. As a mother, my greatest wish is for my kids to grow up happy

Every night, I read both of them a story. I enjoy reading with the kids because it’s a good way to inculcate important values.”   

What’s Alexa like?

Alexa is my mini-me, haha. She’s quite tomboyish and loves cars. She also enjoys singing and dancing. She will begin preschool in Taiwan in September. I think she’s a tough cookie, so I can worry less about her. 

How do you divide your time and attention between your kids?

I try to spend equal one-on-one time with each child. My favourite thing to do with AJ is to visit the bookstore. Sometimes, we go to the toy store but I don’t always buy them new toys. Every night, I read both of them a story. I enjoy reading with the kids because it’s a good way to inculcate important values.   

 

Yvonne Lim with family

What rules must the kids follow at home?  

Empathy. I want them to learn to be kind and humble. I’m also very strict about their not hitting others because that’s not right. I try my best to role-model the values I want to teach them. There have been times I’ve had to hold myself back from smacking the kids because they were mischievous. For example, AJ once threw a tantrum and hit me, so I smacked his palm. After that, I asked him if it hurt. When he said yes, I highlighted that it hurt, too, when he hit me. I think he understood what I was trying to teach him.

How important is your child’s education to you?

Within a month of his stay, AJ learnt to converse in proper sentences in English. He became more self-confident. Alex and I have colleagues and friends who keep reminding us that it’s important to get the kids into a good school. I appreciate the advice but I also don’t want to deprive the kids of fun ― I want them to enjoy their childhood. We are fine as long as the kids aren’t the last in class!   

I don’t want to deprive the kids of fun ― I want them to enjoy their childhood. We are fine as long as the kids aren’t the last in class!”

You juggled filming and family ― did you struggle with mummy’s guilt?

Yes, I have major mummy’s guilt! Alexa was very attached to me when we were back in Taiwan because we spent every day together. In Singapore, because I went to work, she spent more time with Alex, so they have become closer! I try to spend every free moment with the kids. Even when I must be at work, I call them as often as I can. That makes me feel more tired on some days but I won’t have it any other way.

The best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

Darren Lim. He once shared with me that he guides his kids towards fulfilling their potential, instead of trying to mould them to fulfil his expectations. His kids are homeschooled, which he said allowed him to get to know them better. 

Yvonne Lim close-up

How do you stay in such great shape after having 2 kids?

My colleagues insist I “still look the same”. I don’t have a secret, unless you’re referring to chasing after the kids, going to the market, and doing household chores. I think it’s more to do with staying busy and being on the move. Keeping a positive attitude and being happy also help.

What’s a typical day like when you’re at home?

Alex and I are very hands-on as parents. We don’t have a helper in Taiwan. So, when I’m not working, my day revolves around the kids. I send them off to preschool, go to the market, cook their meals, fetch them home from school, feed them, bathe them…  

How do you find time for yourself?

We get the kids in bed by 9.30pm every day. After that, I log on to the Internet and start shopping [laughs]. 

Yvonne Lim and husband

Do you miss anything from your life before marriage/motherhood?

I miss being able to drop everything and go on a holiday with my friends. Now I need to be responsible and around for my family.

How has marriage and motherhood changed you?

I’ve matured ― I feel I am more patient now.

Finally, is there anything you want to do better as a mother?   

Many friends tell me I’ve done well as a mother, which surprises me! I want my kids to know it’s necessary to work for what he or she wants in life. It’s also important as a parent to avoid showing favouritism and treat each child fairly

Yvonne Lim solo

Please fill in the blanks:

As a working mum, I… Have come to respect other working mums. There’s so little time to spend with our kids, but we are all trying our best!

My kids must… Learn to sleep on their own. They must be independent because I cannot be with them 24/7.  

My kids must not… Become selfish. Good character is more important than good grades.    

My husband and I make time to… Catch up over supper, although that’s hardly happened since the kids came along.   

If I had a bumper sticker on my car, it’ll read…Supermum”!

Photos: Instagram/Yvonne Lim 928  

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