Posted on January 26 2023
“Motherhood does not need to be perfect and there’s a beauty in seeing our flaws through our children.”
Meet Pearlyn Koh, fondly known as Min, a Singaporean mum whose globetrotting experiences have captured the hearts of many through her Instagram photolog, @awaywithmin. She started travelling in her 20s, and now the mum of two resides in Sweden. In this edition of The Motherhood Dairies, Min shares with us about her family, travels, pregnancy and parenting journey of bringing up her kids overseas, surrounded by the great outdoors.
Carefree and Happy Days
I grew up in what I would think is a typical Singaporean family except that I’ve moved over six times! Thus, my childhood memories of our physical home varies, which is why I am not daunted with the idea of moving to new homes and different places. I remembered exploring longkangs and climbing chiku trees, cycling to the neighbourhood playground to play with my neighbours and picking sunflower seeds from their garden. I would very much like my kids to feel carefree and happy growing up.
While I don’t think I have a role model growing up, my parents’ relationship is one that I would like to emulate. They are loving, communicative, and have quite an extensive social life hosting dinners and travelling. I would love to see myself like that when I'm older as well!
My first move was in 2014 when my husband and I had enough of our long distance relationship as he was in Korea at that time. My parents were happy that we decided to settle down! I have always had the wanderlust in me and so I was excited just to be given that opportunity to live abroad for a while. We’ve lived in Seoul, Barcelona and we are currently in Uppsala, Sweden.
When in Spain
Both my kids were born in Barcelona, Spain. Other than a scare incident with my second child, both pregnancies and deliveries were smooth. I think I struggled initially when I was pregnant with my first child as I could not speak any Spanish. Furthermore, my doctor hardly spoke any English as well! Not knowing where to go, what to do, what’s next were my constant struggles. I was a clueless expecting mum in a foreign country with no guidance! I am so thankful for smooth pregnancies.
The most difficult part was when I had my child with me immediately after delivery for the very first time. Unlike in Singapore, there was no nursery with nurses to care for your little newborn so that you can rest in between feeds. There was definitely no one to guide you along on how you’re to nurse your baby! I was mostly left alone for the first three days and so I was clueless and frightened. That fear persisted into the first six months of being completely on my own after my parents and in-laws visited. It was certainly a steep learning curve - not knowing where to seek help or how to care for a baby.
Parenting Here vs There
I don’t think parents are very much different here. The privilege is that we are in an environment where we have the outdoors as our backyard. There’s also less emphasis on academics or “starting them young” to learn all sorts of different things. Here, kids can just be kids.
Living in a slower paced environment has allowed us to breathe a little more. It has also allowed the kids to have more space to explore, fail and fall. I would imagine myself being less patient, trying to keep up with events, trends and things if I were to be parenting in Singapore just because the country is as such.
Home Swede Home
Being in Sweden and having kids has certainly changed the way I think about work. I think it's a conscious effort to not focus on work, status and making money in Singapore. I’m glad that it's easier not to prioritise those here. I would like to learn to live with less so that I can work less and live more.
What I really love about Sweden is that both men and women are encouraged and expected to work. This means that the government infrastructure supports such an initiative. The amount of parental leave or even vacation days allotted here is pure luxury. What’s more, it’s a norm for both genders to take six months paternal or maternal leave and where parents knocking off work at 4 pm to pick up their kids is completely acceptable. Both my husband and I split parenting duties, household chores and other responsibilities equally. Thus, this allows for work life balance even though both my husband and I have full time jobs and no extra help.
My kids go to what they call a “parent cooperative school” where parents help with cleaning the school, washing dishes, fixing things and generally sustaining it. This is so that the school can use their monetary funds to focus on the kids, for example, hire more teachers or organise more events and activities. Additionally, the school curriculum is also set by the kids where they can choose topics and the teachers will plan their lessons around them. One very awesome example is on teaching about poop. The teachers took the kids to the market to learn about the different types of fruits. From there, the lesson progressed to teaching them about how our bodies digest fruits and how they turns to poop. Thereafter, the kids went on a trip to the pump station to see how toilets work and also how waste is processed. I am also so impressed with how they’ve learnt to sort trash and recycle them!
All in a Day’s Work
I work as a product designer in the Fintech industry and my husband is a producer in the video games industry. On a typical weekday, my husband makes breakfast for the kids, dresses them and fetches them to school while I walk our dog, Obi. My husband and I take turns to work from home because of Obi and I bring him to the office once a week.
When we are not running errands, we bring the kids to forest schools or ice-skating classes during the weekends. You can find us exploring the outdoors in the forest, ice-skating on frozen lakes during winter, camping or canoeing in summers which usually involves outdoor cooking or grilling by the fire. One of the things we love is camping by a lake in Summer, where the kids and Obi can run about and explore while the adults relax by the water.
Motherhood and the Future
Motherhood has brought a whole new chapter into my life. It feels like a huge weight of responsibility on some days, yet it brings so much fulfilment, life and happiness on other days. Motherhood does not need to be perfect and there’s a beauty in seeing our flaws through our children.
We try not to plan anything more than two years since our lives never seem to go as planned. That being said, I never imagined myself learning three foreign languages! But I do think we might move back to Singapore one day and we will worry about that when the time comes.
If you ever have the opportunity to live abroad, even just for a while, I would encourage you to do so. Yes, there will be exhausting, daunting days, but it will bring you closer as a family. There will be so many things to experience together for the first time and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.