Stephanie Tan’s boys are a bundle of energy, and she wouldn’t have it any other way…

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“I love having boys. I can’t imagine having girls, because, well, I’ve never had them.

We had our twins Aaron and Andrew 18 years ago, when I was 26. Having twins was a lot of work, especially as first-time parents, since we didn’t know how to take care of babies. But they were cute and since it was rare to see twins, they attracted attention wherever we went.

Along the way, we had Adrian, who was born in China and now 14, Aaric, now 8, and my littlest is Alexander, who is 14 months.

We moved around a lot over the years ― we’ve lived in the US, China and Malaysia. My husband travels a lot for work, and that’s one of the reasons why we had the kids pretty spaced apart.

If we could, I would even love to have another child ― I really do love kids. Each time we found out we were having a boy, we were always very happy. These days, we hear about so many illnesses and conditions like ADHD, we were just happy if they came out healthy.

The age factor
It took us quite a long time to conceive Alexander, probably because of my age. Having kids when you’re younger is much easier because you aren’t so tired. I see the difference with every child that I give birth to ― my body isn’t as strong as before, and I get tired more easily.

For each pregnancy, I realise I have to work harder.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I would do 20 laps in the pool every day. For my youngest, I had borderline diabetes and high blood pressure. As I didn’t want to take medication, I had to work very hard. The doctor recommended that I walk for 20 minutes after my meals, so that my blood sugar level wouldn’t spike. I would also have to test my sugar levels six times a day, once before and after each meal. I knew that if I didn’t do my part to control my sugar levels, my child would be the one to suffer in the future, so I continued to exercise all the way to delivery.

If we could, I would even love to have another child ― I really do love kids. Each time we found out we were having a boy, we were always very happy.”

Division of labour
I don’t have a helper and I never had one ― except for a while when we were in China and there were locals who could come in for a few hours.

I feel that if I had a helper, it would be like having a sixth child! So, my boys help out. Each of them have their own chores ― the oldest is in charge of clearing the rubbish; the second one is in charge of hanging the clothes to dry and washing the items in the sink; and my third keeps the clean clothes and dries the dishes.

If ever a job is not done, I know exactly who is not doing their job. It’s easy to teach them, but it’s not as easy to make sure the system works all the time, especially since the older ones are not home most of the time these days.

They all put their dirty clothes in their own laundry basket, then bring them down to wash. I don’t collect the clothes for them ― they can pile it up as much as they want, but that just means they don’t have clothes to wear. I don’t go around collecting everything ― if it’s not important to them, then don’t let it be important to you. Sure, I do get stressed when the home is messy or dirty, but if I do everything for them, then something’s not working ― we are doing their jobs for them.

Alex is at the stage where he only wants me, so I’ve had to give up facials and massages as I can’t leave him alone for long. But when he naps, one of the older boys can take care of him ― that’s how I get my daily runs in. They understand that I do need the time and so they’ll carry them while I get stuff done. It’s nice to have them around to help.

When we go out, I will call out to them to help me load the car. They will carry all my bags to the car, and they’ll load Alex and buckle him in and I hop in and go. And when we’re out for dinner, I get to walk empty handed ― my boys will carry everything for me!

Find out how Stephanie keeps up with her brood’s energy…next!

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I don’t cook at home, so we eat out. The one rule I impose on all my boys is that we all have dinner together on Friday and Saturday nights. Of course, on occasion, they may have a friend’s birthday or something important to attend ― but they need to ask for permission to be excused from dinner on those days.

We go out together in a 7-seater car. And yes, people do stare because we are such a big group, but they rarely approach us. If they do come up to say hi, it’s because of our littlest, Alex, who loves smiling at people and calling out to them.

Coping with Energizer Bunnies
The boys are always on the go, but I don’t mind because I am very active myself. I like the outdoors and I like sports, so they come along with me when I go running, swimming or if I go to the park.

Lots of mums complain that their boys are very active and they can’t keep up. I tell them that the solution is simple ― take them out to do something fun together and burn the energy! Every evening, when I go for my run at the park, Aaric, for instance, will be playing at the playground. By the time I take him home, he would have conked off.

“I find that in parenting, you need to relax, so you can see things more clearly. When you overthink things, you start to imagine what might happen, and you start to see things at their worst.”

I try to take the younger ones to the zoo every week. I like to go on weekdays when there are fewer people. Recently, we’ve been going early on Saturday mornings to take part in their activities. Aaric and Alex go to the waddle pool. Alex gets tired first, so he showers, eats and naps. Then, I get Aaric out and he showers and has his lunch. By the time he gets home he’s exhausted, too.

Friends “scold” me and ask me why I tire myself out with all this. But when I take them out, I walk and run with them, it’s not that tiring ― I do relax! The things that stress me out are crowds and when I have to queue or rush for things, so we avoid those things.

It’s a boy thing
We always hear that boys are dirtier, or smellier, but I don’t think so. They may come home sweaty or sticky ― but that’s for sure because they do sports. It’s their job, so what can you say? But girls, too, can be messy! As for boys, their hair is short, so it’s neater.

Another thing I like is that they don’t take my clothes and makeup! A couple of years ago, one of the twins went to work part-time and he needed black shoes. He didn’t want to buy them, so he took my husband’s shoes to wear. It was hilarious and I was thinking ― at least he doesn’t take mine!

Girlfriends? The older ones are already dating. NS? I’m not too worried about that as they are quite athletic and I think they’ll be able to manage. We’ll let the future run its course.

I find that in parenting, you need to relax and enjoy the ‘journey’, so you can see things more clearly and take time to appreciate the present. When you overthink things and stress about the “destination”, you start to imagine what might happen, and you start to see things at their worst. But when you’re there, you’ll realise it’s not all that bad.

Stephanie Tan, 44, is married to Chan Kheng Meng, 50, and is a stay-at-home-mum to Alexander, 14 months, Aaric, 8, Adrian, 14, and 18-year-old twins Aaron and Andrew.

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