Family development experts often say that investing in your family is one of the best things you can do. Not only does it create lasting bonds and relationships, it’s also a great way to instill a sense of security in your children and boost their overall development.
But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to invest in your family, as these power mums have come to learn and prove. Here are four ways they’ve given back to their own families:
Female empowerment isn’t just an overused buzzword; it’s a very tangible movement that has seen women break through their own proverbial glass ceilings, be it in the workplace or otherwise. It’s what drove Michelle Hon to invest in a personal and business development course five years ago. Although the course cost a pretty penny, it is an investment that changed her business and her family’s life, says the founder of MomBoss Academy.
“I gave up my career to be a stay-at-home mom for my kids. However, I was struggling internally with not earning an income and depending on my husband financially. I wanted to be able to earn a decent income while staying home with the kids. Having said that, it was an impulse decision. At that stage, I didn’t realise that it’s something I needed until the opportunity presented itself,” says the mum of two young girls.
Her achievements are tremendous, as Michelle grew a burgeoning business into a six-figure one within two years – it continues to grow year on year – and has even published a book.
“I want my daughters to see me and other mumpreneurs as role models. There will come a time when they become mums and they have to choose between their career and their children. I want to show them that there’s a third option; that they can have a fulfilling business from home while being there for their children,” she beams.
Taking the kids on holiday with you often requires a lot of extra planning, but experts say it’s worth it, because travel is a great way to expose your mini-me to new cultures, foods and experiences they won’t find in books, through digital screens or in a classroom. It’s also a great way to build a bond with each child as an individual, opines Tjin Lee. The entrepreneur owns nine businesses, including the Mercury group of companies, which she founded.
The mum of two boys says investing in travel adventures with and for her sons “has increased the level of trust in myself, being able to take care of them alone, and in my own confidence as their mama”.
Although Tjin had previously done a solo trip with her elder son, her belief in travel as a family investment was solidified when she had her second son, Jake.
“I never did get to develop the same kind of relationship with Jake that I had with my firstborn, Tyler. He was always a serious, withdrawn baby, quiet and watchful. Just before his third birthday, I planned a trip where we would go to Iceland with a group of friends, but he would have my one-to-one attention.”
Their nine-day trip to Iceland was a special one, says Tjin, as it gave her the opportunity to watch Jake transform from a serious, even stern, little boy into one who smiled a lot.
“He would follow me unquestioningly into a blue lagoon in the freezing cold, or let me lead him on a trail behind a thundering waterfall. These incredible experiences really grew the trust and bond between us. I was so touched by the love and trust this little boy had for me, to see that he would have let me lead him to the edge of the world and beyond,” she adds.
The trip helped Jake step out of his brother’s shadow, especially since he had never really spent any one-on-one time with Tjin. “As a younger sibling, he rarely gets our full attention. He also constantly emulates or shadows his older brother,” she says, adding that the trip was ultimately the best decision for her small, serious younger one.
“It’s been like lifting a veil on his personality and seeing another side come out. It’s been incredible seeing a different side of Jake blossom. Iceland may be a cold place, but it’s warmed our hearts.”
For Great Women Of Our Time alumna Jaelle Ang, investing in the family is akin to “adding to the bank account; it builds emotional reserves our children can draw from for years to come.” But to Jaelle and her husband, the investment didn’t come in the form of tangible belongings.
Instead, the co-founder and CEO of The Great Room says that they have chosen to invest time and energy into building their children’s emotional reserve and resilience from the day they were born.
The mum of four, whose children are aged between 4 and 7, says that this was, and continues to be, the single most valuable asset that her own parents have given her. “I cannot think of any other investment that comes close to the dividends that this pays. It came naturally to me and my husband that we would do everything we can to build this emotional reserve and strength for our kids,” she explains.
I cannot think of any other investment that comes close to the dividends that this pays.
In fact, it’s an investment that has brought many benefits for the family. Not only does it build resilience, it has helped my children practice optimism with a growth mindset.
“When things don’t go their way or hen they are disappointed from a failed project, they need to want to and know how to get better,” she says.
Passing on this lesson has also given her children confidence in auto-didactism and even successfully resolve conflicts. “Learning to fight fairly, with empathy and constructively is a crucial life skill. Having a big emotional reserve helps with having empathy and avoid defensiveness or shaming the other person.”
Elaine Kim went the extra, extra mile when it came to making the right investment for her family. This tenacious momma felt that education was the most important venture for any child. Her investment began as a desire to create a change she wanted to see in education.
“I have three very different children, and they went to some of the top preschools and schools,” Elaine says, but despite that, she felt that there was still plenty that needed to be done differently. “The world is changing, especially education,” she adds, and it became clear to Elaine that a successful education was about balancing academics while focusing on “things like building character, instilling peer empathy, love for others, resilience, creativity, curiosity, adaptability.”
It is what motivated her to establish Trehaus, which she says is made up of a business club, a family club, preschool and childcare. “I see it as an investment; creating the education that I wanted for my own children and changing the mindset of what early education needed to be and building this school to create the change that I wanted to see.”
In addition to English, Maths and Mandarin, Trehaus also offers six forward-thinking programmes. These include a little CEO programme that teach leadership and confidence-building; the little engineer programme for design thinking; coding, robotics and even entrepreneurial and philanthropist programmes that teach an array of necessary skills and gets kids to think about giving back to society and to the environment.
The school’s programmes and approach have been met with enthusiasm by like-minded parents and even Elaine’s youngest son, she says. “The kids just love learning, and so for us we know that the biggest form of affirmation that we’re doing something right when the kids feel so secure, when they enjoy school so much, when they love learning so much, that’s when the research shows they learn best.”
However, Elaine accepts that rote learning is still the accepted form of education in many local and international institutions – a reality that Trehaus prepares its little learners for. But the mum of three is hopeful that “things will gradually change. At least this is something that we can make actual change for now,” she says.
Each of these investments has cost these mums in one way or another, whether its fighting to get people onboard with your vision or spending the money required to make the investment a reality. But there’s one thing they all agree on: In the end, it is always worth it.
Just do it
The first step is to “Just do it,” says Tjin. “Book that flight, plan the itinerary and just go (once it’s safe to travel again, that is)! You’ll find that the rewards last long after the journey ends, as it could transform your relationships with your child for a lifetime. Being able to see the world with with young children is a privilege, and a reminder not to take their childhood for granted,” she advises.
Don’t run on empty
For Michelle, one of the best things about investing in herself and her family is, arguably, having the ability to lift others as you rise. Her investment has enabled her to help other mums in similar conundrums find purpose and build their own businesses.
But investing in others isn’t possible if you’re pouring from an empty cup, advises Jaelle. “I continue to learn and expand myself, building atomic habits that will become a blueprint and role model for the kids. Kids quite cleverly don’t do what you say; they do what you do.”
It isn’t something to take lightly either, stresses Elaine, but “at the same time don’t be too afraid to take a step forward if you do have that dream, if you do have that passion for the mission,” she suggests.
Ultimately, the most important investment you will ever make for your children and family is to just be present in the moment. “It may seem like the days are long, and we count down the moments to their bedtime but childhood melts away just as fast as thousand-year-old glaciers,” says Tjin, adding, “Love them while you can. Be present today, if you want them to love you tomorrow.”
Text: Hazel Vincent De Paul