The Best Time To...

While her peers are having nights out, Tan Yien, 26, is busy cleaning up after a toddler and a baby – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Star a Family

While her peers are having nights out, Tan Yien, 26, is busy cleaning up after a toddler and a baby – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My husband and I decided to get married at 22 as we had known each other for a long time. We dated for five and a half years before that and first got to know each other some 13 years back, when we were still in secondary school. It was just natural for us to tie the knot since we were committed to each other. It might seem like a big commitment to make at that age, but honestly, I had never thought of it that way. We believe that love is a choice, not a feeling. What this means is that of course there will be times when you feel like throwing in the towel because you don’t agree on certain things; but it helps to remember that you made the choice to be with this person through good times and bad. When you think of it that way, you’ll learn to love and forgive.

We decided to have kids early in our marriage because we felt that there was no reason to postpone it. Some people may value wealth or career progression and delay having children, but I value family and relationships above that. It really depends on what your priorities are. For us, we felt that we could always sort out our career and other things later. After all, having kids is part and parcel of marriage. I’ve definitely matured as a person after having kids, and they’ve helped me learn more about what love is.

I guess being a young mum has its advantages. Already I feel very tired, so I can’t imagine what it would be like if I became a mum later in life! I feel that your 20s is a very good time to start a family because you’d still have the energy to keep up with the physical demands of looking after a child. Plus, it’s such an enriching experience – I would encourage young couples who are considering having kids to go for it.

I had never felt like I was missing out on my 20s. My husband and I travel a lot together even after getting married, and we have a close group of friends. I guess the crazy thing we did was to get married and have kids at such a young age.

That said, motherhood isn’t easy! I had to make a few lifestyle adjustments after my kids. For starters, I had to get used to living very sacrificially, forgoing sleep when I’m already very sleep-deprived and cleaning up stinky vomit at unearthly hours. I now go for fewer movies, have fewer late nights, and don’t travel and shop as much. To a certain extent, I can’t live the life that my peers have. Yes, my husband and I sometimes do think about the kind of life we could have had if we didn’t have kids. But we’ve made the decision, and we’re enjoying a very different kind of life. My babies bring me so much joy – I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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Three Things No One Told You About Motherhood

Sure babies are cute, but they’re backbreaking work, too. Yien gives us the low-down.

It’ll be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done

“Taking care of a kid is both physically and emotionally tiring. You’ll be very attached to your baby, and when he or she starts crying and screaming for no apparent reason, you’ll feel utterly helpless. But you know what? It’s all worth it when you feel extremely loved by your children.”

Something’s got to give

“While my friends are out having fun, I have to stay home for my kids. Ever since we became parents, cafe-hopping and trips to the mall have turned into a oncein- a-blue-moon thing.”

Parenting is a 24/7 gig

“To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for a lot of things: breastfeeding, putting on weight, and having to multitask so much. The biggest shocker to me was having to be up all the time. It feels like I’m awake all day and night. Being a mum is not just a full-time job, it’s a whole different life altogether.”

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Eat Better

Making sure that you’re getting all your vitamins may be the least of your worries now, but Ruiyi, 24, tells us why it pays to start adopting healthy eating habits early.

“I started becoming more conscious about my food choices back in 2012, when I was 21 and still in university. Growing up, I developed an extremely strained relationship with food, one that was primarily caused by my poor body image (damn you, TAF club!). Before this, I had spent years ricocheting between extremes, and I found myself caught in a relentless binge-purge cycle. The notion of perceiving food as nourishment rather than a source of calories was foreign to me, and it was one that I tried very hard to grasp. Ultimately, I think I behaved out of desperation at the time, but it was hard to argue that positive change was necessary.

Being able to take charge of your health feels empowering. Eating well does not necessarily mean going on a diet; it simply means you’re making sure you get enough nourishment from the food you consume. Looking at it this way made me less concerned with the numbers on the scale. Instead, I began to be more appreciative of my body and what it’s capable of. The most significant changes I’ve observed is that I’ve become a more positive person: I appreciate myself a lot more and I no longer think about engaging in unhealthy tendencies to change the way I look. I found myself feeling progressively happier and way more energetic than before.

Eating well at this age is also a powerful way to positively influence those around you. A lot of my friends have yet to start thinking about their health – I guess it’s not the sort of thing you’d normally think about till later, when problems start surfacing. When I started to share my clean eating journey on Instagram (@bunnysquats), it made them think about why I was doing it. That, in turn, got them to be more discerning about what they’re eating. Even my mum has started adopting healthier eating habits, such as substituting white rice for brown rice. It’s reassuring to know your loved ones are taking better care of themselves.

I most definitely struggled at first. Taking the nasty stuff out of the equation was initially a feat. I’d also spend hours in supermarkets, reading ingredient lists in order to become more discerning. Among the challenges I faced, one of the toughest was having the people around me assimilate to the change. My pals were extremely understanding about it, even though meeting up meant frequenting the same places, time and time again (thanks, guys!).

The journey hasn’t always been easy, and what kept me going is the notion that if you take care of your body, your body will take care of everything else. For instance, I’m a lot less sickly now compared to before. Considering that I first embarked on this journey to rid my fear of food and improve my selfesteem, I would say that I’ve come a long way. I started to think less about how food would make me look and discovered a greater sense of selfconfidence. Personally, that feels like freedom.”

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Healthy Eating

How do you start eating clean? Ruiyi shares some beginner tips.

Cut down on the white stuff

“A good starting point would be to avoid white bread, flours, sugars, rice and opt for unrefined or whole-grain alternatives. They’re better for you and keep you sated for longer!”

Try out interesting recipes

“Keep yourself excited. You’ll be surprised to find that there are tons of websites and cookbooks with healthy recipes. There’s some pretty amazing stuff out there. I, for one, have pledged allegiance to TheLuckyPenny’s cauliflower pizza crust."

Plan ahead

“Everything becomes easier when you plan ahead. Deciding the sort of lunch you’ll pack to work the following day, or what you’ll have for breakfast the next morning increases the likelihood of better eating choices.”