DPP's Nadine Yap tells us how she balances parenting, work and politics
Working mum, Nadine Yap seems to excel in many areas including parenting to a T and taking on roles in a male-dominated industry. Find out how she finds time to speak up on societal issues.
Nadine Yap has a solid pedigree. Educated at Raffles Girls' School, Raffles Junior College and then Harvard University, she is a technologist who came back to Singapore after a decade of living and working in the United States.
In a candid conversation with theAsianparent, Nadine gave us a peek into her style of parenting her girls, 10-year-old Alexa and seven-year-old Zoe, excelling at her male-dominated work place and her involvement in Singapore's politics as a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How would you describe your parenting style?
I am definitely not a Tiger Mom, but we have a certain structure in place for our kids so we’re not super relaxed.
We have lists and schedules on the wall that the kids follow. So, if they don’t want to be late for school, they make sure they pack their stuff on time.
My younger daughter Zoe, is very scheduled-oriented; she's like my little reminder if we are running late. The girls have to fill their own water bottles, pack their snacks, and make sure their homework is in their bags before school. We have lists, as they are helpful for my older daughter Alexa, who has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
When they come home, it's always homework first, then half an hour of reading on their own followed by screen time for half an hour.
My preference is to kick them out of the house for outdoor play. Hopefully they forget about screen time when they are absorbed in play or in their books. Then at 8:30 pm, they get ready for bed and we have some reading time together.
How do your kids get along with each other? Any sibling rivalry?
They play well together in general, and they miss each other when one of them is away for a period of time.
If there is a conflict, we basically say "you need to work it out yourselves because we can't solve everything for you. You need to be okay with my decision or fight it out on your own."
I'd prefer to let them be independent and capable of working things out for themselves and I'm here to help them develop those skills.
What are your thoughts on child discipline?
We are very clear with our girls about what is expected from them and what is unacceptable behaviour as well as the consequences of going against those expectations.
I use a lot of positive language, but I’m also extremely clear and firm with them. If they cross the line, I’ll very calmly explain the consequences of what happens immediately. Supernanny inspired, for sure!
However, it is important to understand the child and react accordingly.
What is it like parenting two children who are poles apart in character? Find that out and also learn how Nadine Yap juggles her role as a working mum on the next page.
What has been your toughest parenting moment thus far?
So far, the toughest parenting decision we have made is whether to put Alexa in a local school, in a special needs school [because of her ADD], or homeschool with therapists.
As a working mum, how have you managed childcare, both in the States and in Singapore?
We left the States before Alexa was two years old. She was in childcare there for a while, and we shared a nanny with another family for a while.
Since we have returned to Singapore, my parents are very engaged when they’re in the country.
At home, my helper, Leoni, is invaluable. My style and expectations may be different from what she expected but we discussed the approach and watched Supernanny so she could see how I prefer to manage the children. She could see that the children are calm when expectations are set clearly and now she's the bad guy in the household! (laughs)
How did you manage the campaign period while juggling work and family?
Fortunately, work is relatively flexible as I do a lot of work late at night and I can get out during the day when I need to. Party meetings are often at my home and the kids would watch these random uncles and aunties come in and talk about boring stuff and look at maps. However, if the kids are interested, we talk to them and explain to them what we stand for and what we’re trying to do.
When I was walking the grounds, the kids followed their own schedule. Whether or not mum and dad are at home, our helper keeps the clock ticking. This allows me to have this kind of weird busy lifestyle.
What Asian values do you hope to pass on to your children?
The values of respect for parents and elders, discipline, and hard work are common to both our heritages. I want my kids to have a more western sense of “self” and individuality at the same time, a more eastern awareness of group responsibility.
How did living abroad shape Nadine Yap's perspective on living in Singapore? Learn about her shocking experience in the States on the next page.
Why did you come back to Singapore?
We were married in 2000. When I had Alexa, my parents were flying in every few months.
We decided to come back because we want them to grow up with extended family and be able to embrace their cultural heritage and roots while growing up. In Singapore, my parents provide a very different perspective to the kids and my girls have cousins they can play with, people they can call family. We had no family living near us in Seattle.
How has your view about living in Singapore changed since coming back?
It’s safe here, and that is huge, especially for women and girls. In the US, I know my neighbours in Seattle had guns; then there are school, cinema or mall shootings.
The lead singer of Alice in Chains rock band, Layne Staley, lived a level above me. He overdosed on drugs and his body was rotting for over two weeks. It was quite an experience.
While there are lots of cool things out there in the US, we enjoy a safe, cosmopolitan and multicultural experience right here in Singapore.
Now that Nadine Yap is no longer a candidate in the upcoming General Election (GE), what are her plans? Read on to find out more.
What made you decide to go into politics?
It’s all Ben’s fault! (laughs, referring to Mr Benjamin Pwee, Secretary-General of the DPP)
I started getting involved in his foundation work, and he invited me to his party's policy discussion group. The next thing he told me was, “You should run!” Finally, I said okay.
Two articles came out online after I was in, and by the next day I was flooded with emails. Conversely, when I was not in the final line-up, people said they were upset as they were ready to vote for me. But it was back to the drawing board for me.
One of the reasons I said "yes" was because I do believe I have ideas that are different from the status quo, both in terms of specific policies and process of implementing things.
I have friends in Government such as Mr. Tan Chuan Jin. I’m a grassroots leader, so people coming into the fray are from my generation. They know I ask good questions and that I hope to work on constructive solutions. They know that I’m persistent so they can’t blow me off.
Many Singaporeans are scared to stand up. I may not be the “ideal candidate”, at least I can stand up and speak. Apparently the things I say are things people want to say, and in the way that I do.
Other people in technology startups commented that maybe they should stand up too.
We sometimes feel like we’re outliers. But that’s not the case, right? Singaporeans are much less willing to be told what to do now, hope to be listened to and respected. My hope is more people like myself will come in (in or out of the People's Action Party) – we just need to stand up.
When you decided to go into politics, was it to represent these people as a spokesperson or a by-product of what you wanted for yourself?
I had an intention to speak for the people. There are certain issues that are important to me, such as special education.
Denise Phua (from the PAP) has done a lot on special education but you can never have too many voices. If there’s anyone I want to speak for specifically, it would be special needs kids as they’re not taken care of.
They’re taking steps, but they are not coming fast enough and a whole generation of kids is left affected and that is sad.
Two examples of how Alexa’s new school is a much better fit for her: I asked Alexa what’s the biggest difference in her new school and she says, “they don’t scold”. Scolding does not motivate her to do better at all, it kills her confidence and spirit. Show and Tell in her local school was like: pick an animal, write six sentences, memorise and recite.
This method is difficult for Alexa. But now in her new school, Alexa chooses her own topic. She thinks about what will engage her audience. She is now much more confident to speak up in front of her whole school.
What are your plans now that you will not be running for the General Election (GE)?
From a political standpoint, we’ll see how the elections pan out. If we win, I’ll be spending more time helping out at Bishan-Toa Payoh and get to know what they want to do. If not, we’ll figure out what plan B is.
I’m an introvert but I like people, I'm very interested in what’s going on and how I can be helpful. So I talk to all kinds of people, take advantage these social bursts and perhaps I might find myself joining something. There's so much stuff going on in Singapore, so many opportunities to help both local and international communities.
theAsianparent thanks Ms Nadine Yap for her time.