At the first SmartParents Jamboree (May 2016), MP Tin Pei Ling fielded questions on weaning, motherhood and bringing baby — Kee Hau, born on August 5, 2015 — along on “walkabouts”.
What important lessons did you learn from being a mother?
One thing that I realised is that we’re very capable of BIG love. I mean it’s not just me, I’m quite sure it’s the same for all mothers out there. ’Cause it’s so life-changing. I love my family. But somehow this child is just so different… The strength and the love to care for him is almost like a bottomless reserve within myself. And I hadn’t though I was that patient but I realised that I have brought it to another level!
Did you get advice on childrearing from parents, friends or the Internet?
Actually it’s a mix of people…but I look to my mum — I think I turned out okay, so of course, I listen to her! But it’s a mishmash of tips and advice from friends and people and colleagues and people around us.
Is he more like you or more like dad?
Actually he is more like me. For some time he has been very…like, friendly! We call him wai jiao bu zhang [foreign affairs minister in Mandarin]. I make sure to try to find opportunities to spend a bit more time with Kee Hau, bring him to the hawker centre for a walk, sometimes. He makes friends with all the aunties who wanted to “pao pao” (hug) him! He will smile and reach out to people he’s just met. He is not fearful of strangers and he quite likes elderly people, he likes people, lah. When he sees other babies, he will reach out and touch them. I think he is relatively more like me.
Keep clicking to find out which super-veg Pei Ling started her son on…
Breastmilk or formula?
Oh, I tried very hard to exclusively breastfeed him… All the way until 2015 General Elections, in terms of supply, I had enough. But because during campaign the timing was very off — after visiting one or two blocks, I would have to go somewhere and pump! So, that was very disruptive. And occasionally, when my husband did not get to deliver the milk back [home] in time, my baby would have to drink some formula. And after the election campaign, my supply just went down and it was a mix of breastmilk and formula for a while, until very recently. We have started him on semi-solids. He doesn’t like it, he’s a milk baby. Even after we finish feeding him a bowl of porridge or something, shortly after that he will still want milk and he will finish a whole bottle — then he is satisfied.
Do you have a favorite recipe that he always enjoys or something?
I asked some friends who are mothers of SG50 babies. They shared with me that they started with broccoli. So, I started with broccoli as I wanted to give him the not-so-“nice” [tastes first]. Now, he likes strawberries because I think it’s a bit of a citrus, a bit of sour taste to it. So, usually we’ll mix it with cereal powder and some fresh vegetable or fruit to introduce a new flavour to him. We’re graduating to just porridge, with some cod fish or whatever fish we can find, maybe some carrots, so that’s all very soft.
How do you balance MP work and motherhood?
I think the worst days are when I have to leave early in the morning and he is sleeping; if I get to come back home in the daytime he [may be] still sleeping because it’s his naptime…and by the time I come back, it’s really late at night and I’m very tired and he wants to sleep already. It’s like almost no time together... The nature of my work is that engagement with residents will be after their work or after their school, so that’ll be in the evenings and weekends. In the day time I have meetings, with agencies or whatever. But I can still try to manoeuvre around those. So, I can still get a short period [to rush back to be] with him.
But the reality is that parents have to work and they might not have this kind of flexibility. Because I’m a mother now, I’m pushing [flexible work arrangements] even more. I hope that the general public will be more embracing of this. I know some jobs are tough but where we can facilitate it, it will be very, very helpful to the mothers.
So does he have a favourite book or story for bedtime?
Bedtime no. Bathtime, no. We read to him in-between. He likes to flip around the pages. He likes big pictures, lots of colours, different books. There’s this, Baby’s First 100 Words? He quite enjoys it. There’s another [set of] picture cards, like animals, photos of animals in both English and Chinese. So far, he likes it!