On Working, Prioritising, & It’s Ok To Ask For Help with Suhana from Maison Q @maisonqofficial
"It helps to remind yourself that it is all part of the process, and our kids have to learn on their own too. Most importantly, know that to your young kids, you are central in their world." - Suhana Ab
Wow, mum of 3! I don't know how you do that and run a full-fledged business... I have so much respect for you Su! So how that's journey been like so far?
Being a mum pulls you in all directions. Part of me wants to give the kids everything I’ve got to give. But the reality is, it’s not possible because we are only human.
We’re mums, but we’ve also got our own goals and pursuits. But it's also true that some sacrifices have to be made as a mum. So we need to ask ourselves, ‘What am I ok with letting go?’ Perhaps, something that does not make you secretly resentful to your kids? If we start with that, our priorities will fall into place. Once they do, we can channel our energy into making that set of priorities work.
How did it feel to grow your family from 1, to 2, and now 3?
Insane! I thought I would stop at two, but then I felt like I wanted three kids. A good friend kept telling me #threeisperfect so, maybe I was subconsciously convinced? I would like to rephrase that #threeisenough though. (laughs)
When did Maison Q start?
2015! Actually, we didn't start as a kids brand. My husband started a small workshop and said, "Ey, leave your job la. Don't you want to try something new?' So he con me - convince or con, I like to say - into leaving my job of 10 years.
I eventually chanced upon this idea of reversible kidswear. I mean, it's not a new idea, but I think we were the first to start a full-on reversible kids brand.
From one business owner to another, juggling motherhood with our career is crazy business! When you own a business, it's also a baby. How do you juggle all your babies?
It's not easy, I must say. I have a good support network and an amazing helper. I have so much appreciation for her. She is family to me. She runs my household and manages my kids. When I have late nights or when I travel for work, she fills in for me and does exactly as I request of her. My parents stay over at my home when I am away and my in-laws help us pick up and drop off the kids for their extra classes. My husband’s siblings take them out for playdates so we can have some quiet time. It really does take a village [to raise children].
But like I said, having children really pulls you in all directions. You want to do everything for them. For example, my kid comes back and tells me that she doesn't know how to do mathematics. I get angry, not at her, but at myself, because I'm like, 'See la, I don't spend enough time with her. I don't have the time to sit down with her.' It just gets at you.
Another example is when she didn't like her Chinese tutor at one point in time, and she was being so difficult about it. I was like, 'Oh, why can't I find a new tutor yet?' I mean, it's normal, a part of growing up, but...
You're hard on yourself.
Yeah. I feel like if they can't manage, it's my fault. I didn't set [the foundation] right. But [I recognise] that mums shouldn't do that. We're all trying our best, right?
So we shouldn't beat ourselves up too much la.
Are there any words of wisdom you would like to share with other women in the same position as you?
There is no shame in asking for help. Ignore stereotypes and dismiss unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Your mental health comes first.
I'm sure that with kids, me-time becomes somewhat a luxury. Do you make time for yourself, and how?
I’m a stickler about bedtimes. This dates back all the way to my first child, 9 years ago. When she was born and for some months after, we had no routine, no scheduling, and everything in my life then, was topsy turvy. I didn't get enough sleep and I was tired all the time. And we know tired mums do not function well.
So I sought the help of a sleep therapist. They enforced a daily routine by giving me insights into a baby’s sleep pattern. This led to a formation of a very solid bedtime routine and my baby slept throughout the night shortly after. I was sold. I have implemented this sleep training method with the rest of my younger kids. They go to sleep at 8:30pm now and I have a good 3 hours of me-time daily before I go to sleep.
How important is it for you personally to have alone time, or maybe even time with your husband without the kids?
Extremely! Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I always travel without the kids for maybe 1 to 2 weeks at a time. This is a good chance for us to reconnect and really spend time together without someone asking me for a cracker or a glass of milk. As a couple, I think it is important to remember how it was like before kids. My husband and I go for quick date nights after work maybe 1-2 times a month just to reconnect and that doubles up as our quiet time.
How do you spend alone time with each of your kids?
To be honest, with the youngest one, I haven't gone out with him alone. And because I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat, I've not gone out with the three alone. No way, I don't think I can do it, I'd probably scream or lose one of them in the mall or something. (laughs)
We spend a lot of time with the two oldest ones together, but sometimes we take them out alone. For Omar (the second-born), he comes home in the afternoon when his sister's still at school. So sometimes, we bring him out for lunch.
Arissa (the eldest) always comes out with us, she comes to the office with me because she's older and can behave better. So she comes to the office; she's got a corner, and then she folds boxes for me. (laughs) She'll do her assessment work, and then she can watch a movie. We'll go out with my team for lunch so she feels like she's one of the girls.
Aw, that's nice.
Yeah. For Eissa (the youngest), not yet. He's very attached to my helper, which I'm fine with. Other people ask, 'Oh, aren't you jealous?' But I think I learned to regulate myself. If I want to work and do all these other things, then something's got to give.
I mean, I don't think he'll forget that I'm his mum, right?
Yeah, he still comes to you. There's a nice balance there.
He's closer to my helper now. So be it. I'm fine. That's something I have to give.
Say you don't run Maison Q, and you're a full-time stay-at-home mum...
Oh, I cannot do it. No, absolutely not. I think it's important for mums and dads to have their own identities. I really respect stay-at-home mums because it takes a lot. Really, really, a lot. Not everybody can do it.
What is something you think every person needs to know before they become a parent?
It is one heck of a rollercoaster. So many ups and so many downs. Some days you feel like you are a champion and other days you feel like you are the worst mum. Don’t be too hard on yourself, though I know this is easier said than done. I always get frustrated when my kids cry about homework/ friends/ anything else under the sun and I feel like, ‘Ergh why didn’t I do a better job at helping/preparing them?’ It helps to remind yourself that it is all part of the process and our kids have to learn on their own too. Most importantly, know that to your young kids, you are central in their world.
What's one thing you learnt from your mum, then?
You should not break someone's trust.
When I was a kid we went back [to Malacca] to visit my Grandma. She gave us something delicious, cookies or something, She said, 'Okay this is for you, this is for your cousin. When you go back to Singapore, please give them.'
So when I was on the bus, I told my mum, 'Oh, it's so nice. Why can't we just keep them all? We don't give them la.' I must've been about 6 years old. My mum said, 'Cannot. This is the trust that Grandma put in us, trust that we will give it to your aunties and uncles. So you cannot break that trust, because they believe you. They value you as a family member, so you should never break someone's trust.'
If there is one thing you would like to teach your kids, what would it be?
To give their very best at whatever they do and leave the rest to God. Practice humility and be kind because you never know what another person is going through.