Actress Joanne Peh tells DAVELLE LEE how she’s striving to be the best mum she can be.
Today’s children are an entitled lot, proclaims actress Joanne Peh, who is pregnant with her second child. “At one time or another, we’ve all had to endure the antics of a screaming child in a restaurant, demanding an ice cream dessert until the parents are so embarrassed and flustered that they order it just to keep the child quiet.” And that’s not just a Singaporean phenomenon.
When Joanne spent about a month in Beijing, China, with her husband – actor Qi Yuwu – and daughter after giving birth to her in 2015, she found herself surrounded by kids from singlechild families behaving with the same level of disrespect. Horrified by such protective parenting, it made her even more determined to raise her own daughter, aged 16 months in October, properly because she did not
want her to feel entitled or privileged. Now back in Singapore, and fresh from rounding up four months of extensive travelling for Unique Towns – a TV series that explores interesting places around the world – at the time of this interview, Joanne shares how she has embraced parenthood, and her strategies for child-raising.
KEEPING BABY QI OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT
Joanne has never revealed her daughter’s name to the public. On her Instagram page, she affectionately refers to her as Baby Qi. Hiding their little one’s identity was a conscious decision between Joanne and Yuwu. “She was born with both of us in the limelight,” explains Joanne. “We want to give her the freedom to decide if she wants that kind of life.”
PUTTING HER INTERESTS FIRST
Baby Qi’s personality is starting to develop and her preferences and personality are emerging. Joanne isn’t keen to impose any activity or toy on her. In fact, remembering how much she herself enjoyed creating objects out of her imagination as a child, she recently bought Lego blocks for Baby Qi to play with, but her daughter wasn’t interested at all.
Although disappointed, Joanne says, “It’s her choice. I’d rather my daughter choose her own interests, so she’d be more motivated to learn about it.” In fact, this first-time mum can see herself using this approach when the time to introduce her to enrichment activities approaches.
UNDERSTANDING HER CHANGING NEEDS
The key to successful parenting is to be responsive to your child’s needs, Joanne says. “Parents need to be aware that their children are constantly growing, so their capacity to learn increases and their interests may change or evolve. Joanne shares how Baby Qi was already starting to assert her independence before her first birthday: “She used to sit patiently and eat whatever we fed her. Now, she wants to feed herself and is a lot pickier. She flings food she doesn’t like all over the place.”
Such behaviour was initially frustrating, but Joanne was keen for her to find her own way around stuff. “She has to learn how to do things on her own, and she must also learn that there are rules she must abide by.” Meeting a child’s needs while not giving in to her wants is what she learned from The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-By-Step Guide To Raising Capable, Grateful Kids In An Over-Entitled World by Amy McCready, which teaches parents how to unentitle their children. When Baby Qi cries now, Joanne says she’s learned to figure out whether it’s due to distress or a tantrum.
The latter signals a different need, and is mostly a cry for attention. Joanne has started making “mind, body and soul time” for her daughter. That means 30 minutes of uninterrupted time devoted to doing things the little girl enjoys, like playing outdoors. “You don’t have to take your child to Disneyland. Sometimes, she just wants you around her.” And this is obvious when Baby Qi crawls over to Joanne and rests her little head on her lap, or hugs Yuwu from the back like a koala.
SETTING CLEAR RULES FROM DAY ONE
Joanne is no softie, and isn’t afraid to discipline her daughter. For instance, Baby Qi, who can feed herself, isn’t allowed to leave the table until she finishes her food. And she doesn’t have access to electronic devices because Joanne believes that kids need human interaction to develop proper social skills. “My baby has never seen an iPad or watched television,” she says. When the time for an introduction to the digital world comes, Joanne wants to ensure her child benefits intellectually from it, and is already researching coding classes that can help develop perseverance, imagination and problem-solving skills.
PREPARING HER FOR THE FUTURE
While filming Unique Towns, Joanne and Baby Qi spent as many as 10 days apart in one go. It was hard for both mother and child, who was looked after by a nanny when she was away, but Joanne says, “It helps her to learn that Mummy is not always going to be around.” If that’s not enough, the young parents are already thinking about playschool. Joanne feels it would be a good opportunity for Baby Qi to interact with her peers and develop social skills, but she isn’t ready for others to set the rules for her daughter just yet.
Needless to say, she’s still thinking about it, especially since she’s back at work for the Channel 8 drama Dream Coder, which explores the fastpaced lives of people working in a tech start-up. “It’s been two years since I’ve done something like this, so I honestly don’t know what to expect. I will just take things as they come. We try not to plan too much because things change.”
SAVE SOME LOVE FOR HUBBY
Children demand a lot of time and attention, so it’s common to end up neglecting your spouse. Joanne makes sure she has time alone with husband Yuwu. This interview coincided with their second wedding anniversary and they had planned a quiet dinner together. “The best thing we can do for our daughter is to have a strong and loving relationship she can emulate.”