Exclusive: Kevryn Lim on her son, private life, campaigning and more
Kevryn Lim hopes to champion welfare for single mums and their kids. Find out her story on how she became a single mum herself, and how she hopes to help the community.
Kevryn Lim is no stranger to the limelight. As a new candidate in the field of politics, she has been given a fair share of attention in more ways than one.
She hopes to champion welfare for single mums in Singapore, as she very well understands the challenges of raising a child on her own though she finds solace and support from family and friends.
theAsianparent speaks to this 26-year old single mum to learn about her story and how she has been balancing work commitments and playing the role of both mum and dad to her two-year-old son.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Share with us your labour story.
During the last trimester, I had pretty bad back pains and it was difficult to support my big belly due to my small frame. I had to use a belly support.
I wanted to have a natural birth but my baby still wasn't engaged and was floating back up near my estimated delivery date, though I was already dilated.
In the end, we had to undergo an emergency cesarean section. My then-husband was in the delivery ward with me. I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. I was on epidural and I could feel the baby coming out. Niklas was safely delivered by Dr Ann Tan at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
My mum helped me with my confinement, and she was very strict. I wasn't allowed to bathe for a month!
Did you breastfeed? And, for how long?
I breastfed for about four months. It's good to start with mother's milk and we introduced formula as I wasn't producing enough milk. Thankfully, it was relatively easy to transition to formula.
What has been the toughest parenting moment thus far?
My boy has been quite good to me; I'm very lucky. He has been sleeping throughout the night since he was two-months-old.
Before turning two months, there was a time he would wake in the middle of the night and keep us carrying and singing to him for four to five hours. It lasted about a month and after that episode, he suddenly started to sleep through the night. He sleeps on his own so that he's not dependent on an adult to sleep with him and doesn’t need to be sung to.
As a working mum, how have you managed childcare until now?
When I had just returned to Singapore and started my own business, it wasn't too busy yet so managing childcare was okay. My parents have been helping me, and I'm very grateful.
There are two co-founders in the business, and my off-shore partner is a good friend from university. We share the same beliefs and eventually started this events management and marketing consultancy firm together.
How are you managing the campaign period and being a single parent? Are your parents helping as well?
I try to find pockets of times to spend with my son, especially in the mornings and after work. When I'm at work, my parents care for him. My son and I also have dinner together.
As he's an only child, I do try to meet my friends who have kids so the children can play together. On Saturdays, it's usually myself and him, along with my friends. On Sundays, we usually spend it with my family.
So, how did things take a turn that led her to take the route to be a single mum in Singapore? Read on to find out Kevryn Lim's story.
Can you tell us your story on how you became a single mum?
My former husband, who's also Singaporean, and I got married in Australia and at that time, we were young. When we discovered I was pregnant (my boy was a honeymoon baby), we also discovered our differences in thoughts when it comes to bringing up a child, which often led to arguments.
It was also almost like a long distance relationship for us; he was working at the mine and often, we were apart for long stretches of time.
For myself, I had no family in Australia and it was a rather crazy moment to deal with my son alone when we had him. The lack of support and constant arguments eventually led to our separation. And it's also not good for a child to have unhappy parents, and we thought it might be better to separate and be on our own than to be constantly unhappy.
How did you tell your child about his father?
Niklas' father and I have joint custody of him. My son sees him every two months when he's back in Singapore. They also communicate on WeChat regularly.
What was your parents’ perspective about the situation and how did they respond to it?
As my parents are traditional Chinese, they had hoped that my marriage would not go this way. But when they understood the situation, they accepted it and were very supportive afterwards.
What made you decide to become a mother at a young age?
I love kids, and I used to work at a kindergarten. When my then-husband and I found out I was pregnant, I ended up fighting to keep the baby because my husband wasn't expecting to become a father yet.
I felt though that the baby is innocent, and didn't want to penalise him for existing. Eventually my then-husband agreed to keeping our child.
With the decision made, what were the key challenges as a single mum?
Physically, it was quite challenging, as I had to keep carrying my son. Given my small built, it was tiring. If his father was around, then we could co-share the physical responsibility.
Who were you best supporters during this difficult parenting journey?
My parents were my supporters. The separation started in Australia and I had no help there. Every weekend, my mother would fly to Australia to help me with my new baby.
My cousins and friends were encouraging too, and told me that it's not the end of the world, and that at least I have my son who will be my support forever, and vice versa.
They tried to help me too whenever they can, by looking after him so I can have some time on my own. They would babysit him. My cousins have kids too and I like to foster time together for the children to be together, just like how it was when I was young.
He's in school now, so he is learning much more in school, has friends and socialises with them. Back in Australia when he was in playgroup, I was worried when teachers were telling me that he was often playing alone and doesn't talk to others.
Does her son face discrimination at school? How did Kevryn Lim end up in politics? Find out more on the next page.
How do you think society can play a part in helping to support single mums?
Society plays a very important role in the lives of single parents. It's a difficult journey. We need to remove the discrimination and to let them enjoy a normal lifestyle. From my chats with single parents, most of them feel inferior too.
Some kids also mock the children from single parent families. For example, when it's Father's Day or Mother's Day, it gets a bit difficult when only one parent is able to come.
Schools can also help to play a part, so kids feel acknowledged too.
Does Niklas experience any discrimination when he goes to school?
He doesn't because we keep this single parent status a secret from other students. Teachers know and do try to find a balance. But he's at a vulnerable age now, where the discrimination from friends may affect his development.
We try to portray a fair and equal environment for him, and tell him about his family background, so he won't feel disadvantaged and grow up as a normal kid.
What made you decide to go into politics?
It was actually an interesting change in life. I come from an Arts background, and I ventured into politics last year when I returned to Singapore.
With a kid in tow, it made me look into policies as a single parent. I feel that this group, especially unwed mums, are the most discriminated. They don't receive anything, and are struggling a lot. This indirectly penalises their children.
Because of my son, I hope to make a change and create a better future for people to live in. I hope to improve and make changes to some policies so everyone can benefit.
There's limited access and resources when it comes to volunteering, and we can't reach all. With policy-making, we can reach more people.
How long have you been volunteering?
I've been volunteering for more than 15 years and my first experience was at a school exchange in China.
And I saw for myself, the two extremes - their condition versus ours in Singapore - and I felt very sad. For us, we don't have to worry a lot, but for them it was different.
My parents taught us that we should help the less fortunate if we have the ability to do so. Their life is not something they could choose, and in other countries, they have to fight very hard. We may not start at the same starting point but they might do better than us one day.
Which schools are you from?
I went to Nan Hua Primary School, and then New Town Secondary School. There is too much stress in top schools, and I prefer a fun and less stressful environment when it comes to studying.
I feel that students should enjoy the learning process. There are so many student suicide cases these days.
What does Kevryn Lim hope to do for the single mums in Singapore? How did she feel about Mr. Cheo's remarks on working mothers? Find out what she says on the next page.
What change would you make if you were elected?
I hope that single parents would get equal rights. Unwed mothers too, and their kids don't enjoy the Baby Bonus, as the children are not on an equal ground yet.
It's not a perfect country, and we are not perfect people to enjoy 100% happy marriages; things do change.
For example, if one is divorced, you are not eligible to apply for Build-to-order (BTO) flats either. I'm still trying to find out more about the welfare for separated mums, and have been talking to more single mums lately too.
What will you be campaigning for?
Besides the welfare of single mums in Singapore, I will also be campaigning for education and transport. These are things that will affect the future generation and my child.
I also hope that the Government can eliminate the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in some schools so that the students (and parents) can choose their desired route.
Admission to university is mostly catered to foreign students these days. For example, my sister did very well in her 'A' level examinations (she scored straights A's), but she could not enter the National University of Singapore (NUS). We are competing with foreigners who are getting the subsidies, scholarships, free education and housing benefits and Singaporean are fighting with them.
We should keep our people in Singapore instead by giving them priority admission to our universities, but they are flying out to study elsewhere.
For me, there was no option to study fashion in Singapore then, and my results were not good enough to enter the local universities. I had to fly to Australia to pursue my studies at Curtin University.
How did you feel about the remarks of your colleague, Mr Cheo, about working mums?
Honestly, I was a little bit shocked and I don't think what he said about working mothers is true. As mums, we can set priorities; and mothers should not be seen as housewives, looking after kids. We have our own aspirations too.
In fact when I just joined the NSP, they welcomed me and were concerned about how I managed my time at work and with my family. They were understanding and hoping I could strike a balance too.
What are your plans if you are not elected?
I will still be on the ground, because there are a lot of things to work and improve on.
This is not a short sprint. It's not just coming in for the General Election (GE) and leaving. We need to understand the people, and find out whether the policies have helped or not.
We thank Ms. Kevryn Lim for the chat with us. It was indeed an interesting sharing session with her to learn about her journey and challenges as a single mum in Singapore, and how she hopes to champion for this group of women.
We wish her all the best in the upcoming Singapore General Elections 2015.