Hi Waijia! Happy Mother’s Day! Besides being a humanitarian doctor, you’re also an entrepreneur, an author, an artist, a fitness enthusiast, an international speaker, a wife and a mother! That’s super human! Please share how you juggle all your life’s passion with the same 24 hours we have. What keeps you motivated?
WJ: Over the years, many people have asked how I “do it all,” but I often take every opportunity I can get to dispel that myth. No one can do it all- certainly not me!
What motherhood has taught me is to be highly intentional with what we say yes and no to. Because whenever I say “yes,” I’m also saying “no” to something else, whether I’m conscious of it or not.
Our time and energy are limited, so I’ve learnt, that the key is learning to say a big wholehearted YES to what’s important, and throwing out all our halfhearted “yeses” which can overwhelm our schedules easily.
Before my other “personas,” I remind myself that I am first and foremost a wife and a mother— when those priorities are set in place, everything else can flow after.
To mothers out there, who, like me, often compare yourself to others, remember there is a season for everything. I did not do public speaking for two whole years when I struggled with post-partum depression. I did not pick up triathlon until 6 years after my first pregnancy. I only picked up calligraphy to raise funds for my non-profit after I had come to terms with the broken parts of my past and used it as a means to encourage redemption and healing in others.
Everything has a season. I’m not a superwoman, just a broken person who has allowed God to work in me through different seasons of my life.
We loved what you said, "everything has a season." Could you share what were the first thoughts you had when you found out that you were pregnant?
WJ: Knowing how much my parents had wanted me to be a boy, and desired for me to have a boy, I struggled with feeling a great deal of pressure. When I discovered I carried a girl, and then a second girl, I struggled with feeling rejected.
That began my journey into learning about my family of origin, intergenerational trauma and how to break the negative patterns that I grew up with in my childhood.
How has motherhood changed you in the last 6 years?
WJ: Having two wonderful girls, Sarah-Faith aged 6 and Esther-Praise aged 4, has been one of the most healing events in my life.
It empowered me to revisit the pains of my past in not living up to parental expectations of being a boy, and enabled me to find restoration, hope and forgiveness in my own journey of intergenerational healing.
By revisiting the issues and trauma of my family of origin through counselling, I gained a deeper appreciation of my family history, and learned to give thanks for those chapters of my history.
Today, I feel grateful to be a mother of two girls, to have the privilege of breaking the generational curse of 重男轻女 (valuing boys above girls), to feel genuine love and compassion for my own parents who did their best amidst a broken culture, and to rewrite new chapters for my own girls and others.
That is powerful! What is Cliff’s and your parenting style?
WJ: Having had a joint dream to serve the underprivileged in a developing country setting in the future, we decided to homeschool our children in their early years of life to ensure a strong attachment to us and a stable foundation, in preparation for cross-continental moves in the future. We’re a firm believer of hands-on parenting, and believe play is the best way to learn!
When we returned to Singapore from abroad, many people gave us looks when we shared our pre-school children were neither in infant care nor childcare. We felt a great deal of pressure to conform to Singapore’s culture of outsourcing childcare as early as possible. But I’m grateful we stuck to our values.
Though we made some hard decisions like having Cliff be a stay-at-home-dad, me scaling back to part-time work and not having a domestic helper to be more present for our children… we’ve never regretted our decisions.
While we don’t judge anyone else for making decisions different from ours, we often encourage young couples to take time to examine their values as they set up their own parenting cultures for themselves, instead of simply being swept up by societal standards and expectations.
Looking back, most Singaporean children would wish they had more memories made with their parents. The girls are going to grow up so thankful for how present were! If you could go back in time, what would you say to yourself as a young mom?
WJ: You are a good mom.
You are already, by default, the best mom that God could ever give to your children. No mom is perfect. If you mess up, fess’ up- to both yourself and your child and guess what? God’s abundant grace and your child’s lavish love for you are sufficient to help you start over.
Remember, good moms buy takeout too. Good moms lose their temper at times. Good moms don’t always get it right!
No matter what anyone says, you don’t need to meet anyone’s expectations to be a “good mom.”
This is going to be so encouraging to many first-time moms. "Mom guilt" is such a real thing! Amidst everything, you also run a non-for-profit, could you share more about Kitesong Global and how you developed a heart to champion dreams?
WJ: Kitesong Global is my international non-profit that empowers youth to pursue their dreams to impact vulnerable communities. It was birthed through an incredible opportunity I had as a 17-year old to raise over $100K to build a children’s home for a group of abandoned girls I had lived with in Nepal for 6 weeks through a picture book I illustrated called “Kitesong.”
The power of a little faith in our dreams blew my mind and inspired me to speak faith into the lives of young people- to believe in their dreams to change our world for good.
On the topic of dreams, what are some of your personal hopes and dreams for the girls?
WJ: My dream is for them to pursue their dreams, no matter how audacious or challenging they might be— for the greater good of our world.
Best parenting advice you’ve heard?
WJ: Love your husband more than your children, and make sure all of them know it! It’s easy to focus solely on the kids when they need you, but the best parenting is birthed from the strength of love found between husband and wife.
Please share a fond memory of your daughters
WJ: Sarah-Faith, aged 4 then, encouraging me to be brave before I was deployed for 6 weeks to Eswatini, Africa with the World Health Organization and United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance. While struggling with my own guilt and internal anxieties, she told me, “Mama, be brave. God is with you. I will pray for you every day that you will do good work and be very happy!”
Esther-Praise, aged 4 now, picking up street side flowers whenever we walk outdoors in public, telling me, “Mama, this beautiful flower is for you because you are beautiful. I love you.”
Such is the purity and simplicity of our children’s hearts.
Thank you for sharing your motherhood journey and encouraging other moms out there. Have a blessed mother's day!