“Having two kids under 2 is already a handful, and work got increasingly busier about a month after I had Emma,” the new mother of two recalls. “But I’ve been managing better now, having worked out a schedule to balance work and the kids.”
For Cheryl, with work and home responsibilities consuming her waking hours these days, this means sacrificing her social life. But she’s grateful for her family’s support, especially her mum’s, hairdressing doyenne Jean Yip, with whom she has a close relationship.
She enthuses, “I really appreciate my mum even more now. She helps with the marketing, going to the wet market a few times weekly to ensure we get fresh fish, vegetables and meat. She has a talent for cooking, too, making all kinds of tasty homemade food for us.”
“Privileged or not, both of us believe in having compassion and humility towards people…my dad always taught me…‘The first will be last, and the last will be first’. It puts things into perspective, and reminds us that we are here to serve others.”
Married to her junior college sweetheart, Roy Fong, an architect turned entrepreneur, Cheryl, lifts the curtain on her parenting style, relationships with her extended family and what she wishes for her kids.
Hi, Cheryl! How have your kids been getting along? Has Marc been welcoming to his baby sister?
Thankfully, Marc has been very loving towards towards Emma since my husband Roy and I brought her home. He’s especially gentle with her and she gets really excited to see him. My mum says maybe it’s because Marc was born in the Year of the Dog, and Emma, the Year of the Pig, so they’re 猪朋狗友 [disreputable companions].
What kind of parents are you and Roy?
Both Roy and I have the same values when it comes to the fundamentals and how we want to raise our family. We’re both strict towards unacceptable behaviours. Marc is at a boundary-pushing age, and we will tell him sternly on things he does wrong. If he still continues misbehaving, we will punish him. So, there’s no good cop or bad cop.
Describe your kids’ personalities and how they are similar or different?
As for Emma, she has been pretty disciplined. We tried bringing her out past her bedtime and she just couldn’t keep her eyes open. She’s like an alarm clock. At 6 months, she was feeding at 6:45pm every night and in bed by 7:15 to 7:30pm.
Have you discussed different approaches for parenting a boy versus a girl?
Whether we are going to parent differently for a boy versus a girl, perhaps, they’re still too young to tell. But for now, we feel it’s more important to see the child as an individual and use an approach that relates to the child, be it girl or boy.
What kind of values do you want your kids to have, especially since they’ll be lucky to grow up in a privileged environment?
Privileged or not, both of us believe in having compassion and humility towards people. At the end of the day, we are all answerable to God, and our priority is to live a life that is God-loving. Once we have that as our centre and our foundation, we believe everything else will fall into place. As my dad always taught me from the Bible, ‘The first will be last, and the last will be first’. It puts things into perspective, and reminds us that we are here to serve others.
Roy and I also grew up in families which taught us that we have to work for things and not just have them handed to us. We very much believe in other values like diligence, respect, prudence and filial piety are all important values in our Asian culture, too.
Are you more relaxed now with regard to your children’s social media exposure?
To be honest, when I first gave birth to Marc and decided not to share about him on social media, I didn’t think that far ahead. It was my maternal instincts kicking in. I come from a family with a very protective mum, and I thought that not sharing was the best.
But with time, I realised it wasn't right of me to say ‘Hey, don’t post this picture of my kids’ in group photos of celebrations. It was a long thought process for me, and I ended up relaxing my attitude towards social media exposure for my kids.
I get people questioning and criticising, whether I share my kids’ pictures or not. At the end of the day, it’s our kids and our social media. We don’t impose on others, and I feel it's important to respect what the parents want.
What do you use social media for and why?
I find social media a useful tool to share and get information, and to form a community of people with the same interest. A part of me still loves acting and media very much, but since I can’t spend a lot of time on acting now, creating videos and content gives me the space to do what I enjoy.
As a kid, I used to play pretend with my own cooking show, travel show and variety show. With social media, it’s now a childhood dream come true!
You’ve spoken about your body-image struggles. With media pressure to look a certain way, how will you communicate the importance of a healthy body image to your daughter?
Show her what Photoshop is and what it does! Okay, on a more serious note, educating my kids about a healthy lifestyle is so important, and to be examples of what we preach. If I were to constantly tell my kids that I’m fat and on a diet, I may be communicating to them unhealthy values.
I would rather focus on the positive like eating healthily and in moderation, as well as keeping active. Other than the vocabulary we use at home, it’s also important to keep an open communication channel with our kids. This way, we are aware of what’s up with them and can be a positive guide in their lives.
What are some of your working mum struggles?
But I'm grateful that I have a village of help at home and a good team at work, hence, lightening my load. If we are talking in the current context of working from home though, I’m still trying to figure that out!
“We have a finite amount of time, but there’s just so much I want to do! I also want to spend time with the kids ― they are only young once and I want to grow up with them.”
It sounded really great to me at first, but now that I’m trying to work more from home, I see the beauty of productivity in the office. And my line of work does require me to meet our team and people on a regular basis.
Has running your own business and being able to work from home made it easier to juggle work and family?
Definitely! I'm so privileged to be able to schedule my time, but it also requires discipline. Even with flexi-hours, I make it a point to start working by 9:30am and finish off at around 4:30 to 5pm. And I'm usually really productive, with a quick lunch and doing things more ‘chop chop’, so that I can spend time with the kids afterward.
You have been out of acting for a while now. Any plans to return to entertainment in any capacity?
I really do miss it! I do hope when things settle down more, I can return to it.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Yes! We are working on building our ecommerce and retail platform for Cheryl W [which offers wellness and weight management services] ― it’s something I’m really excited about.
What do you and Roy like to do as a family?
Roy loves sports, so we do outdoor activities like kite-flying, going for walks and, sometimes, he’ll take Marc to the tennis courts. We spend a lot of time with the extended family and the kids’ godparents, too, eating and catching up with them.
Other than that, we just like to watch Netflix and chill. But we do look forward to when the kids are a little older and we can travel together!
You live in an extended household with your parents and aunt. How important is family to you?
They are our village of support, hence, we can both go out and work with the assurance that our kids are in safe hands. Our family members bring different dynamics, too, and teach the kids different skills.
What’s your relationship like with your in-laws?
My in-laws are really easy-going and active. My father-in-law loves so many things, from building Lego to video games and photography. And my mother-in-law loves food so much that Roy started an IG account for her! So, we’ve got an interesting combination there.
What are your wishes for your own relationship with your kids?
Firstly, I want my kids to know that they’ll always be enough in my eyes. Secondly, as much as parents say we want to be their friends, I think it's hard because we are their parents after all. We must start at a young age to build a good relationship based on communication, trust and love, and take things as they come.
“I want my kids to know that they’ll always be enough in my eyes… You, too, are enough. Every mum goes through her own battles, journey and growth. There is no right or wrong, better or worse.”
What advice would you give to mothers who are struggling to be the best mum they can, but feel they are falling short?
It’s easy to pinpoint and say ‘Wah, I won’t do that!’ or ‘My way is better, see, my kid is better’. But don’t forget we too have our blind spots. Just follow your gut and do what you think is best ― you’re probably right!
Please complete these sentences:
My favourite hobbies are… Dancing, baking, Netflixing.
My one guilty pleasure is… Desserts, chocolates and brownies.
When I am overwhelmed, I… Call Roy for help.
The one cuisine I could eat for the rest of my life is… Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese! Haha, okay, I’m being greedy.
My favourite song to sing to my kids is… It changes from time to time, now is “Three monkeys jumping on the bed”.
My favourite screen-mum (from a movie or TV-show) is … Aileen Tan! She played my mum in Mata Mata and she has a heart of gold.
The most memorable Mother’s Day I had with my own mum was… Everyone of them was memorable!
One activity I can’t wait to do with my daughter is… Travel.
I can’t go a day without… Roy, he’s my rock.
Photos: Cheryl Wee, Pixioo, Acapella Photography
Check out these stories…