Mum's illness spurs champion of filial piety

Mr Tan Chin Hock and his mother, Madam Foo Lian, holding the book Father, Mother that Mr Tan authored.
Mr Tan Chin Hock and his mother, Madam Foo Lian, holding the book Father, Mother that Mr Tan authored.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Mr Tan Chin Hock is on a one-man mission to promote filial piety.

The assistant manager in a university decided to spread the word about cherishing one's elderly parents, setting up a website advising people how to do so and even publishing a book on the subject.

He was inspired to do this after his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia 10 years ago. Madam Foo Lian, 63, was suicidal at one point and her mental illness kept her family on the edge. With medication and her family's care, Mr Tan said his mother's condition has improved tremendously.

He added: "I blamed myself for neglecting her. In the past, I chose to party and spend time with my friends, rather than be with her."

The second of three children decided to make his family his top priority. He would head home after work, instead of hanging out with friends, to take his parents to dinner or take his mum out for a walk. His father, 69, is a retired cleaner and his mother, a housewife.

After he tied the knot, he and his wife decided to live with his parents to take care of them. The couple have two girls, aged two and four, and another baby is on the way.

In 2009, Mr Tan started a website (holdinghands.sg) to remind Singaporeans not to neglect their ageing parents.

"Many people are spending all their time on their careers and personal aspirations and their parents may be left behind," he said. "I hope to remind others that our parents are ageing and we should not regret it (after our parents die)."

He recently wrote the book Father, Mother to share tips on cherishing and spending time with one's parents. He approached over a dozen publishers, but no one would publish his maiden effort. "Maybe I'm a nobody," he said.

So he decided to publish the book himself. It went on sale at $19.90 at Kinokuniya earlier this month. Mr Tan, who said he earns less than $5,000 a month, would incur a loss of about $3 per book even if he manages to sell all the copies.

But he went ahead, though money is tight, in the hope of getting more Singaporeans to think about and spend time with their parents.

"I don't really know how to promote filial piety, but I see this as part of my little effort to make our society a better place to live in," the 37-year-old said. "To me, being filial means to show our love and concern for our parents and be there for them at all times."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 29, 2015, with the headline 'Mum's illness spurs champion of filial piety'. Print Edition | Subscribe