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#MumStory: “My Daughter And I Have Frequent, Intense Conflicts”

Note: #MumStory is a series by The Singapore Women’s Weekly to uncover the underrated and underreported moments in motherhood and parenting - because (we believe) every mum has a story worth telling. This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly on November 14, 2022, with the introduction and questions written by Terri Kue.

“I feel like she hams it up with me more so than with my husband,

for the same things we say or do.”

As a mother, the last thing you would want is to argue with your child. It can be draining when it feels like your little one is rebelling even before their teenage years. But for co-founder of Pilates BodyTree, Kris Ng, conflict with her five-year-old daughter, Jade, is a frequent occurrence.

Her husband often finds her in a stand-off with Jade. Kris laments that she sometimes “feel[s] resigned that [Jade] will always have a bone to pick with [her].”. However, the situation with Jade doesn’t make Kris love her any less. According to her, communication is key to working on their relationship.

To find out more about Kris’ circumstance, continue reading to find out her #MumStory.

Terri: What's your biggest reason for having kids?

Kris: This may sound really romantic, but it wasn't until I met my husband that I wanted to have a kid. It was the next step in our relationship and we both really wanted it.

Terri: How did you feel about having kids, before you became a mum?

Kris: I had never experienced the “ticking biological clock” as some women have described. I think I would have been totally fine not being a mum had I not met my husband. Before that, I was getting a lot of satisfaction from my work and enjoying my life.

Terri: What has been the most stressful period of motherhood for you?

Kris: Hands down, Jade’s first two years.

Shortly after I became pregnant, my father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. My dad passed away when Jade was only six months old. Before he died, I would visit him daily with Jade in tow.

Caring for a newborn child and a dying parent was not much different, even though both were at two extreme points in their lives.

Terri: You shared that you feel a loss of identity since you became a mother. Could you explain more?

Kris: Work, especially teaching pilates, was and still is a huge part of my identity. When I chose to stop teaching to spend more time with my dying father and in anticipation of Jade’s birth, I did not expect getting back to teaching would be such an arduous journey.

I was already a wife and a business owner, but adding on the new role of a mother made me feel pulled in many different directions. I struggled to understand where my perspectives came from and often tried to rationalise which role should take precedence.

Terri: What would you say is the hardest thing about being a mum?

Kris: Managing my energy levels. Jade is go-go-go from the moment she wakes up until she falls asleep. Before she started going to school at three years old, she also didn’t need much sleep. Being an introvert myself, Jade’s exuberance, though endearing, drains me quickly. As much as I love her and like to spend time with her, I find myself needing to decompress frequently.

Terri: How has becoming a mother allowed you to say "no" to things you would have previously given in to?

Kris: My priorities have definitely shifted and I am more protective of my time. Right now, they are family, my relationship with my husband, my mental wellbeing, and my teaching work.

While I would love to teach more classes, I currently don’t work regularly on weekends and only teach one evening during the week. I have had to say no to some opportunities, but I don’t think this has been at the expense of anything important to me right now.

Terri: What's the most ridiculous thing about motherhood/parenting you've heard?

Kris: It would be people suggesting to have a second child so it will be easier to managed Jade. Apparently, if Jade has a playmate in a sibling, she will become less demanding of our attention.

Terri: What’s a recent #mumguilt moment?

Kris: It would be when I left Jade before she fell asleep to go meet my husband for dinner at a restaurant. I was running late and she was still wide awake past her regular bedtime. She didn’t want me to go and at first, she got angry and said “husbands and wives don’t love their children”. Then, she started crying in earnest, eventually saying “just go, mummy, just go.” And… I left. My helper was at home with her.

Terri: How do you usually discipline your kid?

Kris: I wait for Jade (and sometimes myself) to calm down first before we talk about what happened. The best way for Jade to move past things is to let her have a good cry and/or offer a hug.

When she is ready to talk, I let her say her piece first before sharing with her what the episode meant to me, and why her behaviours or words might have been hurtful or inappropriate. If I still have her attention, we talk about how she might respond differently next time.

Terri: Have you ever had conflicts with Jade?

Kris: I am tempted to say “all the time” but of course it is not true. It is just that Jade and I have conflicts more frequently and intensely compared with her dad. I feel like she hams it up with me more so than with my husband, for the same things we say or do, like insisting it is time to get into the bath or leave for school.

Terri: How do you feel about these conflicts with Jade? How do you handle it?

Kris: But I choose my battles. Most of the time, I let her stew for a bit before asking her what she needs. Often, she calms down with physical affection and then we talk about what happened. Again, these conversations with her about her behaviour and my expectations are crucial.

I hope she always feels she can tell my husband and me anything, no matter what.

Terri: What are your biggest concerns about parenting?

Kris: I am terrified of social media and the influence it will have on Jade. I worry about the decisions she might make in order to fit in, and secretly wish social media and mobile phones will be banned or become extinct before she comes of age.

Terri: How has your relationship with your other half changed after having kids? How do you keep it strong?

Kris: After Jade was born, our relationship got more volatile before it became stronger. The first 18 months were extremely testing – the exhaustion, the unspoken expectations over childcare and chores, and feeling resentful that he got to go to work while I was stuck at home with our child.

Things only started improving after we hired a live-in domestic helper. We remember the elation of going out for dinner for the first time after Jade went to bed – just the two of us!

Terri: Have you and your partner had different parenting approaches? How did you deal with that?

Kris: So far, we have been pretty aligned in our core values and approaches. Having said that, one date night before I was expecting Jade, we got to talking about corporal punishment.

I said the practice was “normal”, having grown up with it myself. My husband was dead set against it and thought I was actually advocating it. We had a huge argument over this.

Since Jade was born, he has definitely been the stricter parent. If we disagree on something regarding Jade, we never discuss it in front of her. It is important she knows we are on the same page when it comes to her.


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