I met up with Sue Ann Lee who is a fulltime mom, juggling several gigs while home-schooling her eldest child, Skyler. Together with her husband, Esmond, the couple take a novel approach to parenting, education and family experiences. They spent most of their younger days in rock concerts where Esmond was playing in bands. Now, that they’re older, they run Obey Clothing in Singapore while raising three children- Skyler, Elijah and Ezekiel.
Above: Sue Ann wears Tub Thumping Jacket in Blueberry, Size S and Grandpa's Groove Wide Pants in Blueberry, Size M.
Above: Sue Ann wears No Problemo Jumpsuit in Blue Pea in Size M
What are you busy with now?
I have three kids, a dog, a part-time job where I do communications PR and I have a freelance job writing about parenting and marriage. My full time job is being a mom and I don’t have full time help.
You have three kids and you’ve decided to spend time raising them, while balancing work. Why do you choose to do so?
I thought about this a lot. Obviously opportunities have come up for me to work full time but I think at the end of the day, I really enjoy being with my kids. It can be exasperating and challenging to manage their different personalities but I really like being with them. I like being a mom and seeing them grow. I like to pick them up from school because I get to see them at different stages.
One of my strengths is development so I enjoy thinking of ways to help them grow. It’s not a chore to me. It doesn’t work for everybody but I think it’d be really hard if I worked full time.
Above: Skyler wears Shooting Stars Bowling Shirt in Lavender in Size XS while Sue Ann wears Shooting Stars Bowling Shirt in Blue Pea in Size S.
Is that why you decided to put your daughter, Skyler, on home schooling recently?
Skyler finished her PSLE and decided together to home school her. We are not home schooling all kids but that would be ideal. There are many different curriculums for home schooling so we picked a Christian liberal arts one for her. To register for it, you have to join a community group so she is part of a group that meets once a week for full day of class and interaction.
So I committed time to be with Skyler for home schooling. Esmond and I take turns and thankfully he has flexibility with his time. So when I’m at work, he spends time with her to guide her. I try to use my strength of scheduling to plan their time using time tables and schedules around the house.
So you’re the whip of the house! Is that true, Skyler?
Above: Skyler wears Shooting Stars Bowling Shirt in Lavender in Size XS along with Upgrade U Bucket Hat in Gradient
Why did you decide to have 3 kids?
When we had two, both of us felt incomplete. Long ago when I only had one, I had a picture of three. So when we had two, Esmond said it didn’t feel complete and I agreed.
Were there things you had to sacrifice to have 3 kids?
There are always things I want to do but I try not to look at it that way. Honestly, I still want to study. For me, there’s a part of me that’s like ‘you’re old and you still want to study?’ but then I also want to believe you’re never too old to achieve your dreams or goals. I don’t have career ambitions in a typical way but I enjoy being at home with my kids. I enjoy the mundane things because that’s life and if I’m not here, I’ll miss it.
So I guess, I have less time for myself. And… less date nights I guess? Now that we don’t have full time help, it’s a lot harder. Luckily, Esmond gives me space to meet up with my friends and hang out after work so it’s not so bad.
But I think the most I give up is sleep.
Above: Sue Ann wears Origami Lover Skorts in Lavender in Size M
Do you think your life is now for someone else? When you were single, your life is for yourself and you can do whatever you want but now you have 4 other people’s needs, along with a house to take care of?
I think back but instead of thinking my life is now for someone else, I think ‘why didn’t I treasure the time when my life was just about me?’ I should have treasured it more. Not that I don’t like it now but that was a different phase.
Do you fear that your parenting style might push away your kids?
Yeah, I think it’s always a work in progress. One style never fits every child. It’s like the local schooling system. So it’s the same with parenting style. I think it’s about balancing parenting and understanding our child’s personalities. It’s good to have discipline and structure but I also believe in being flexible so our children can grow to be people they were born to be.
As they grow older, the grey area gets larger and it gets harder to navigate. We have to allow them to make their own decisions but also stop ourselves from controlling it.
We believe in learning through failure and making mistakes. Elijah, the middle child, does skateboarding. If you don’t fall when you do a trick, the next time you’ll never know how to fall and not injure yourself. If you never fell, you’ll never know how to manage that. And because you fall, you know how to do it better next time.
Above: Sue Ann wears No Excuses Wrap Skirt in Cauliflower Florist in Size XS/S
I guess a lot of people are just afraid of falling.
Yeah and I think that’s the Singapore culture. I also fear that. We grew up in this system and we are Singaporeans at the end of the day. But we try to remind ourselves to let go…
And another thing as a mom, I think people are generally very judgemental of each other. Especially unspoken, I feel. Maybe I’m too sensitive or something. But I’m also guilty of doing it.
Judging how other people take care of their kids?
Everything. ‘You’re not working? Then what do you with your time?’ or… ‘You’re working full time? How do you look after your kids?’ There’s always judgement wherever you go, especially with kids.
And you cannot control your children at the end of the day. If they want to behave like monkeys, they know the best time to do it where you have the least control like in a public place.
What do you wish our society could be better in?
Try to have a bit more grace. I think it applies for myself too. Don’t judge people so quickly. I say that but it’s not so easy to do.
If you could back time, would you still choose to have kids again?
Yes. I will never choose not to have them. They are unique individuals and if I say I choose not to have them, or just one, it means I wish the other two didn’t exist and that’s something I wouldn’t even consider.