When mum is in class, the baby sits in too

Ms Yvonne Wan with her daughter, nine-month-old Shan Ning, in class at Kaplan Higher Education Institute. Ms Wan's lecturers and classmates have been very accommodating about this unusual arrangement. Her classmates help her take notes when she needs
Ms Yvonne Wan with her daughter, nine-month-old Shan Ning, in class at Kaplan Higher Education Institute. Ms Wan's lecturers and classmates have been very accommodating about this unusual arrangement. Her classmates help her take notes when she needs to tend to her baby during lectures, which usually last for four hours.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Mother of three juggles motherhood and pursuing a master's by taking her baby to school with her

When Ms Yvonne Wan, 39, applied to pursue a master's degree in human resource management at Kaplan Higher Education Institute, she had no idea she was pregnant with her third child.

Baby Shan Ning came as a surprise to Ms Wan, who had left her job as a human resource executive to take care of her two older children.

Despite having to deal with the stress of caring for a newborn, she chose to soldier on with the two-year course, with her baby in tow. "She is very attached to me, so much so that if I leave her at home, she won't stop crying and will not be able to sleep," she said.

Ms Wan decided to take Shan Ning, now nine months old, with her to school as her husband, Mr Stephen Seow, 42, a senior systems analyst, is busy caring for their two other children, aged 11 and nine.

Ms Wan also does not want to tire out her ageing parents.

While a baby might be disruptive in a classroom, Shan Ning's sleep cycle means she is usually fast asleep when her mother is in class in the evenings.

NOT DISRUPTIVE

Sometimes I don't even notice she's there until halfway through the class and I turn around and see her... It's good to have her around, it calms you down and creates a family kind of atmosphere.

DR AJIT K. PRASAD, Ms Yvonne Wan's research and business ethics lecturer, about baby Shan Ning.

WELCOME ADDITION

She is like an icebreaker for us, and helps to relieve the tension as the class can be quite stressful and tense.

MS CHRISTINE KIM, 27, Ms Wan's classmate and friend, about baby Shan Ning.

MODEL CLASSMATE

Yvonne is always the one collating notes for everybody. She's the one who goes the extra mile.

MS KARTHIGA SIVARAN, 25, one of Ms Wan's classmates.

Shan Ning is also a quiet and well-behaved baby. "Sometimes I don't even notice she's there until halfway through the class and I turn around and see her," said Dr Ajit K. Prasad, 47, Ms Wan's research and business ethics lecturer.

Ms Wan's lecturers and classmates have been more than accommodating about this unusual arrangement. Dr Prasad finds the child's presence a positive one. "It's good to have her (the baby) around, it calms you down and creates a family kind of atmosphere," he said.

Ms Wan's classmates have also been supportive, helping her to take notes when she needs to tend to Shan Ning during the gruelling lectures, which usually last for four hours but can sometimes stretch up to eight hours on weekends.

Like Dr Prasad, they feel Shan Ning is a healthy addition to the classroom.

Ms Christine Kim, 27, Ms Wan's classmate and friend, said Shan Ning "brings a warm atmosphere to the class".

"She (the baby) is like an icebreaker for us, and helps to relieve the tension as the class can be quite stressful and tense."

Ms Wan's classmates added that despite having the extra responsibility of caring for her child, Ms Wan is a model classmate who takes the trouble to help others. "Yvonne is always the one collating notes for everybody. She's the one who goes the extra mile," said Ms Karthiga Sivaran, 25.

Juggling motherhood and school is tough, but Ms Wan said it is worth making the effort to spend as much time as she can with Shan Ning.

"Babies don't care about what you wear or how much money you make. They want you for who you are - as their mummy," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'When mum is in class, the baby sits in too'. Print Edition | Subscribe