Mum’s The World: What Motherhood Is Like In Different Countries

Similarities and differences

How we grew up to be the people we are today is due to our parents’ parenting styles. From the way they addressed our foibles to the rules enforced in our homes, it all shaped who we are as adults. But is the parenting experience the same in different countries? We asked three mums to share parenting tips they practice and what it’s like to be a mum in this day and age. Read on to find out what they have to say.

On keeping daily routines

For Feijing Ong, a mum of two from Singapore, making sure to spend time personally cooking meals and spending loads of time with her sons throughout the day is a must. In between preparing them for school and accompanying them to enrichment lessons, she commits to having some “me time” — spin classes and face masks definitely included.

A mum of one from Malaysia, Zuliana Eusoff’s morning routine with her four-year-old is currently centred around early development. “First thing in the morning, I get my happy four-year-old bathed and fed and then we play a few rounds of building blocks. In the afternoon, after his lunchtime, we focus on drawing and colouring, along with some sensory play. There are days where we focus on maths and science,” she shared.

A collage showing mum and son spending time together

Shine and her son Harvey during their afternoon breaks.

For Philippine-resident Shine De Castro, each day involves striking a balance between school, play, and rest, especially now that her son is homeschooled in the middle of the pandemic. “While he’s in class, I’ll make sure that his lunch is being prepared. Then once he finished his food, we usually watch his favourite shows and at 1PM he needs to go inside his room and take a nap,” she shared.

“When he wakes up, we have to prepare his snack, then we always do activities that he enjoys or we go to the garden area of our condominium. We usually play hide and seek or just wander around and get some fresh air. After having dinner, we either watch television or play or read some books and I usually tell him bedtime stories before he sleeps at around 9:30 to 10PM.”

How they nurture the bond

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s to cherish the time we get to spend with our loved ones. Zuliana has a love for singing that she passed on to her son. “I’m a singer and I’m thankfully blessed with a tiny singing boy version of myself. He absolutely loves singing with me,” she enthused.  

“No matter how busy I am, I really find time to play with my son,” Shine shared. “He’s a very active kid and has a wild imagination so I make sure to really engage with the activities that he enjoys doing. Having quality time with him is a must.”

Feijing’s bonding sessions with her kiddos are part of their nighttime routine. “A short bonding time after showering is very important for us; be it card games, board games, chess or even just listening to music together, it’s really precious to us,” she shared.

My mum was right and other realisations

All three ladies agreed that they adopted some of their mum’s parenting tips in raising their children but have adjusted it to suit their situations too. 

“In Filipino parenting tradition, spanking is a part of how you discipline your child,” Shine explained. “My husband and I both agreed as parents that, if necessary, we will have to give our child physical punishment. But also, we have to make sure to communicate and explain to him why so that our child will understand that it is for his own good.” She also credits her mum for highlighting the importance of quality time, teaching good manners, and enforcing play and study times.

Feijing schedules some pool time every 5PM before dinner.

It’s the same for Feijing, whose mum’s parenting style of enforcing routines and schedules work well in giving structure to her and her sons’ days. “I believe kids need to have a routine in their life.”

“My family’s heavy when it comes to hygiene, so a lot of parenting tips I follow from my mum relates to personal hygiene,” Zuliana explained. “We make sure to wash our hands very often and keep our bed clean from clothes we’ve worn outside.”

First bites

When it comes to giving their kiddos nourishment, Shine, Feijing, and Zuliana all chose to breastfeed their kids in the first few months and years. 

“I breastfed my boys for about three months but due to work, I turned to feeding them formula,” Feijing recalled. “I grew up with formula milk too and I’m totally cool about it!” Once it was time to introduce more solid food, she took the traditional Chinese approach of starting with cereal and then porridge for her kids. “Now my boys eat almost everything.”

Shine was in the same boat, having to wean off her son from breastfeeding at six months when she had to go back to working full-time in the office. She also shared another common experience new mums may encounter: “My milk supply wasn’t enough anymore so I had to give him formula milk. If I had a choice, I would’ve chosen to breastfeed him for one year or more because I was happy to see him really healthy during our whole breastfeeding journey.”

Zuliana, who breastfed her son until the age of two, shared that there's “nothing wrong with how any mother prefers to feed their child” and it “depends on each person’s situation and contributing factors”. What’s important is that both mum and child are happy and healthy.

She also admitted that she was quite “picky” for his first several dishes. “I fed him saltless and sugarless food, mostly fruits and vegetables, right up until he hit one-and-a-half years old,” she reminisced. However, she thinks that this had little to no impact on his eating habits now as he “grew up still wanting to eat basically everything we adults eat”.

Shine, who shares mouth-watering foodie photos on her Instagram, also has a strongly held belief when it comes to the first food she gave her son. “For me, my belief is that a child’s first food should be something healthy. I’m not so much into processed baby food that you can buy in the supermarket. I always believe that natural is always best.” Some of the food she started out with were bananas (the very first), sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli that she mixed with a bit of her breastmilk.

Disciplining, for the better

Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects of parenting is getting the perfect balance between strictness and leniency. It’s an ongoing process that Feijing can attest to. “I’m still learning everyday,” she said. “My dad used to be very strict with us, so I’m still being strict with my boys yet trying to balance it with being a friend to them too.”

Zuliana tries to make chores more fun, so her son won’t “resent doing them himself in the future”. She also sets time limits for things he enjoys doing so he doesn’t “get too carried away” and “stray from his routine” as it greatly affects his mood. If he does need help refocusing his attention, Zuliana has this hack: “I learned from a child therapist friend of mine that it’s best to redirect him to something he’s interested in until he calms down, and then try to ask him to do the task once again. There are, of course, times when he goes overboard and that’s when we put him in time out in one corner.”

Sharing the load of parenting

Times have changed. Mums are no longer the sole caretakers of their children and dads are also more engaged in the daily upbringing of their tots outside of the traditional disciplinarian and breadwinner roles. Parenting is a shared responsibility between couples. Truly, teamwork makes the dream work, as cliché as it might sound.

For instance, Shine and her husband don’t adopt the good cop-bad cop approach. “We both agreed that there shouldn’t be a good cop or bad cop between us. Both of us should be firm with how we discipline our kid. I wouldn’t say both of us are extremely strict, but we have to set the same rules for our child.”

Meanwhile Feijing, who has a similar parenting style, shared: “We both share the parenting responsibilities, especially when the boys can get a bit crazy at times. At the end of the day, we know we are working towards bringing up gentlemen and well-mannered kids.” 

Zuliana, her husband, and her son. 

Some couples have work that allow them to both be with their kids 24/7. Zuliana and her husband both do freelance work full-time, so they juggle being parents and working everyday. “We work around the clock but we do try our best to both take turns taking care and playing with our son whilst balancing household and marriage responsibilities.” 

Parenting myths and hard boundaries

Of course, you don’t have to use every piece of parenting advice given to you. And there are some ways we were disciplined that don’t fit in the current times as well.

Feijing says she doesn’t believe in corporal punishments like canning and spanking. “I believe in talking nicely to your kids before taking action.”

On the other hand, Zuliana was told the opposite. “‘Don’t discipline them, they’re just kids just let them be’,” she quoted. “In my opinion, parents must make it a point to find a good balance between discipline and being lenient with their children,” she added, saying that “kids absorb the best at this young age”.

A collage of photos showing mum and son

Part of parenting is discovering what works for your family, despite well-meaning advice from others.

It’s inevitable that some folks would pass on old women’s tales to young parents. Shine cited a time when she was told not to bathe her child on Fridays — “I really don’t understand why,” she said — and was even advised not to apply sunscreen on her son during a beach trip. “At this age, it’s well-known how harmful UV rays are so I believe it’s just proper to provide our kids with the utmost protection.”

Final advice

That said, there are also a lot of nuggets of wisdom that can be picked up from others walking the same path as you do. “Motherhood is tiring but at the end of the day, everything is worth it. As a mum of boys, I believe in balancing their time between studies, sports and playtime! But don’t forget to love yourself, mummies, as much as you love your kids,” Feijing reminded.

“It’s very important to be in the moment whenever you are with your child. It’s really true what they say that time flies so make sure to cherish every second that you have with your little one,” Shine shared.

“Take things slowly and prioritise your happiness,” Zuliana added. “Yes, it’s important for us to, of course, prioritise our children’s needs so that they grow up into happy adults. However, in order for them to be happy, they must have a happy mother who takes good care of herself inside-out. We must be happy mothers first.”

Motherhood may look different from woman to woman, but it can’t be denied that majority of mums would say it’s a very fulfilling full-time job. Truly, there’s nothing like a mother’s love. We’re tipping our metaphorical hats off to all the mums and mother figures reading this — congratulations on a job well done.

(Cover photos from: @shineeedee, @fj.mama, and @zulianaeusoff)

Want to treat mum to a special gift? Here’s our list of gift ideas for you to consider.

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].

Related Articles