Posted on March 24 2022
“Nothing will ever trump the place that biological parents have in their children's hearts, and you must be okay with that. It's the hardest part I have to deal with.”
From the glitzy life of a fashion editor to being a floral designer with her own atelier, Yilian reveals, in our third edition of The Motherhood Diaries, why she made the big career leap, how it feels to be a stepmum and her relationship with her husband and stepchildren.
“Ice Cream Sundays” And Mum
I remember my childhood being filled with “Ice Cream Sundays”, the day my siblings and I would always be guaranteed ice cream and weekends were always filled with outdoor activities or road trips to Malaysia. My dad was a man of very few words, but he more than compensated that with being a man of action. There was never a dull weekend. If we were not playing on the rooftop playground at Parkway Parade, at my aunt's home watching "Journey to the West" or visiting my uncles and grandma at the floral nursery, we were at some beach, Little Guilin or some random part of Malaysia for a day or two.
My saddest childhood memory was when I got lost at the busy arcade at Parkway Parade. I must be four or five years old and got separated from my mum through the crowd. I remembered being terrified, but thankfully I had the smarts to stay put on a stationary kiddie ride so I could be easily found.
My mum was my childhood role model, although I didn’t know it until I became an adult. Being a stepmum, I mother the kids like how my mum would. She was strict and firm but loving. She was educated in a Chinese school so she barely understands English. She was a mum who had to hustle and make things work.
When my step kids tested positive for Covid, I had no qualms about hugging them or being physically close to them because I know that’s what they needed the most. This is what I was willing to do for them and I got that from my selfless mum. It was really heart-breaking for me to witness my step kids' biological mother not wanting to care for them when they tested positive. When my stepdaughter cried for her mum, my heart broke, but at the end of the day, I guess there's also only so much a stepmum can emotionally provide.
Hard Work Or Nothing
It was tough and scary moving from a full-time career as a magazine editor to floral designer because being in the publishing industry was all I knew. The decision to leave my job as a fashion editor to my floral business was a practical one - my business pays better. I wanted to stop wishing that I would marry a rich man to provide for me and start being one that is financially stable and able to provide for those I love.
As a small business owner, you have to do EVERYTHING from registering your business to sending out invoices, chasing for payments, pitching for campaigns/projects on top of handling floral arrangements. I literally have to get on all fours, my knees and my hands, on the ground to clean up after setting up for an event. But I have absolutely no qualms about it. In fact, I love that I have no qualms about it. I've met many fellow fashion editors who expect to be placed on a pedestal because of their occupation. I've never liked that about that industry. I've always been a firm believer in meritocracy and I don't expect to be worshipped because of my job title. I believe in humility and that we're all part of a bigger picture to make an event happen. I like teamwork and camaraderie so if that means I have to get dirty, then so be it.
The first thought that went through my mind when I first met my husband was, "Oh no, let's not go there." But things happen and we've made it work so far! It definitely hasn't been a smooth ride. Aside from challenging circumstances, we also are strong-headed characters. At the end of the day, we both know we want to become better individuals who will contribute to a stronger marriage and family.
Rainbows And Butterflies…Not
My husband has opened up my world so much, not in a rainbow and butterflies kind of way, but in a gritty "we have to toughen up and ride this out" way. He was going through an intensely acrimonious divorce while studying for his second PhD, juggling a full-time job, and also being a sole caregiver to his kids at that time. There was no honeymoon period with this man at all! He has changed my perspective in the sense that I am so much stronger and more resilient than I could ever imagine. I'm thankful for the experiences he's brought into my life. He's also a strong feminist and will not let me get away with being the "little woman" so he lifts me up in ways I never knew I needed.
My very first encounters with my stepchildren were pretty cute. Theo saw me in his house and immediately came to me and called me "Teacher Ariel" thinking I was his nursery teacher and wanted me to play with his Iron Man toy. He was four years old then. Clover was one year old at that time and I remembered she was crying through the night in the next room. I had yet to meet her then as she'd just returned from the United States. Her dad was sleeping soundly so I got up to attend to her. Even though she was crying incessantly, the moment I turned on the lights in her room, she stopped crying. With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and smiled. That was definitely a memorable first encounter as I also had to change her diaper that was filled with poop!
Being The Other Mum
Being a step mum isn’t an easy feat. You give and give but you can never expect the same amount of love and connection with your step kids like they have with their biological parents. A lot of people often tell me parenting is a thankless task, but they're also not step-parents who are primary caregivers. I wish there are step-parents out there in a similar situation that I can relate to. I often feel alone in my circumstance. Nothing will trump the place that biological parents have in their children's hearts and you must be okay with that. It's the hardest part I have to deal with.
I used to want to have kids of my own only because I thought that was what I wanted, but after deliberating about it consistently for two years, I realised the idea of me wanting kids was due to social conditioning. I always thought life would only be complete when you give birth to children but wow, there's so, so much more to life than that. I'm so glad I’ve come to that realisation.
A Woman Is…
Men, and women nowadays as well, are too often defined by their careers and families. Yes, they are important but if we do not truly know ourself, our values, and what we are made of, we will never be able to reach our highest potential, be it in our professional or personal life. I hope to be portrayed as someone who is unafraid of being vulnerable when faced with challenges, acknowledging flaws and expressing aspirations because all of us are works in progress and that is okay.
“Get uncomfortable. Because on the other side of that discomfort is the infinite field of growth and possibilities.” This is what I will continue to do and hope that everyone does too because the world will not progress if we don’t.
The Motherhood Diaries is a collection of reflections, sharing and stories by mothers from different walks of life.