People often say that a mother's love is beyond comprehension. Unconditional and deep, it carries her children through the best and worst of times. That is why on every second Sunday of May, families set aside time to celebrate and honour the most important woman in their lives. Ahead of Mother's Day on May 14, The Straits Times executive photojournalist Jamie Koh pays tribute to six different mothers.
She once held two jobs to pay for daughter's therapy costs
Kathleen Saw, 32, customer service officer, and Faith Teo, 11
Madam Kathleen Saw could see that her then two-year-old toddler was not like other children. While others played happily together, Faith was uncommunicative, kept to herself, and was often teased and bullied by others.
Relatives would avoid her, unnerved by her strange behaviour, and she was even shut out of some family events. Her worried mother took Faith to several doctors and she was eventually diagnosed with autism at the age of three.
Getting help for Faith was a struggle. While both she and her husband worked, she once had to hold down two jobs - a cashier and accounts clerk - for six months, putting in 17-hour work days to pay for the high costs of therapy.
When Faith's main caregiver, Madam Saw's mother, was hospitalised in 2009, Madam Saw had no choice but to stop work. "No one else wanted to take care of Faith because it was difficult to understand her," she said.
With therapy and the right environment, things have improved. Faith now attends Pathlight School, an autism-focused institution. She has grown into a sociable and confident teenager with a penchant for performing, and sings in the school choir.
The bond between mother and daughter is apparent: They banter easily with each other, often breaking into boisterous laughter.
"Faith is a kind and compassionate girl. I'm lucky I chose to enrol her in Pathlight School despite objections from my husband and family," says Madam Saw.
Five kids in 3 years, but 'sacrifices all worth it'
Sabrina Goh, 40, property agent, and her five children, ages nine, 10 and 11
People are often fascinated when they meet Madam Sabrina Goh and her brood, with some even asking jokingly if she runs a nursery.
She has five children - her eldest daughter was followed by twin daughters, then twin sons - all born one year apart and conceived naturally. Things can get rowdy at home, so she has worked out a "queue system" for each child during family conversations.
Madam Goh also has a calendar for each of the separate elements of her life - the children, their grandparents, who are also their caregivers, and her work and personal matters.
Thankfully, she has strong family support. "I am lucky to have my mother and parents-in-law take turns to plan meals, look after them and ferry the children around when I have to work," says Madam Goh, who is married to Mr Chew Chin Wee, 44, a finance controller in the medical industry.
Mornings can be a bit of a madhouse while she, her mum and helper ready the children for school. "It's like herding sheep," she says, jokingly.
Despite the challenges of running a big household, she relishes the warmth her children's laughter and chatter have brought to her life.
"Watching them play happily, run, laugh, fight and grow healthily every day brings indescribable joy. It makes the sacrifices all worth it."
Raising her daughters across two continents
Uniz Manda-Liu, 39, dog walker, and Leto Manda-Liu, 10, and Zima Manda-Liu, four
Wanting her two daughters to get to know their maternal grandparents and learn more about Singapore culture, Mrs Uniz Manda-Liu uprooted her family and moved them nearly 10,000km from the Czech Republic back to Singapore in September last year.
She was bitten by the wanderlust bug early.
The Singaporean started travelling when she was 21 years old, settling in Oxford, England, in 2004 when she obtained a working visa to be a tattoo artist. There, she met her future husband, Mr Rene Manda, now 37, a Czech.
The couple came back to Singapore briefly for the birth of their first child in 2006. When Leto was four months old, they moved back to Britain, and again in 2014 to the Czech Republic to be closer to Mr Manda's family.
With such young children, it was relatively easy to move the family without much disruption to education. Leto started Primary 5 in January and her younger sister, Zima, is in pre-school.
The couple managed to secure jobs in Singapore before they made the move. Mrs Manda-Liu helps with her sister's dog daycare business and Mr Manda works in the construction industry.
"We have to look beyond ourselves and put the children above our careers," said Ms Liu.
Not just any mummy... but Supermum!
Jaya Chitra Ramakrishnan, 37, make-up artist, and Sanchala, 11
It is not often that a parent has a child who is busier than her, but that is the case for Ms Jaya Chitra Ramakrishnan.
She and her husband have to plan their activities around their elder child Sanchala, a budding actress on Vasantham channel.
Sanchala, who began acting at five, has a tight acting schedule, especially during school holidays. This means the family cannot go for long vacations.
Still, Ms Chitra tries to fit in time to bond with Sanchala every weekend. They go to the library, shop or have ice cream. She also practises new make-up techniques on Sanchala, much to the chagrin of the girl, who has to hold still until her mother gets it right.
While naysayers might point out that acting takes up too much of Sanchala's time, Ms Chitra says that it has helped Sanchala become more confident. "I believe her passion for acting is an added advantage and does not affect her studies," she says.
For Sanchala, whose brother Raghav is six years younger, it is clear who the heroine is.
"When I needed to talk, she listened. When I was ill, she looked after me. She is there 24/7 just for me," says the child star, who drew her mother as Supermum.
'The rose among thorns' takes after dancing mum
Helena Lee, 47, dentist and Stephen Seow, five
Being the only boy among 20 girls may sound daunting for a young boy, but Stephen is not shy about it at all, says his mother.
He goes for ballet sessions once a week, for an hour each time. "I like to dance because I like to move to music," says Stephen, who is also in the Chinese dance club at Newton Kindergarten.
Dr Helena Lee wanted her younger son to take up ballet to boost his sense of rhythm and coordination, while having fun with music. She also wanted him to develop discipline and learn to listen to instructions through learning dance routines. In addition to ballet, Stephen is also learning to play the violin and piano.
"Exposure to the arts enhances a person's creativity, curiosity and willingness to push boundaries," says the former ballet dancer, who started ballet lessons when she was about Stephen's age.
Dr Lee, who has an older son Paul, aged 14, works part-time so that she has the afternoon free for Stephen. "We play, sing and read together a lot."
Mum is just a call away when Mika is down
Hyu Abd Rahman, 38, image and branding consultant and creative producer, and Mika Anugerah, 10
Mika calls the shots in his family - he's allowed to decide on holiday destinations, meals and even enrichment courses. But lest anyone thinks he is bossy, it's because of him that mother and son have learnt to skateboard, bake pizza and even rock climb.
Ms Hyu said she is proud her son is an independent and insightful child who can express himself well.
"Sometimes when he needs attention or feels sad about something and we are not around, he will call and share his feelings with me. And if he wants attention, he is direct about letting me know."
As Ms Hyu and her husband travel frequently for work, she has to learn to balance the demands of work and her child.
She focuses on one thing at a time. "If I am out with Mika, I focus on him and do the activities that make him happy."
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.