Singaporean mamas are doing amazing things all over the world! Today we speak with mama of three Vivian Pender in Lisbon, Portugal
Our ongoing series takes us to the westernmost country of mainland Europe this month to meet trailing spouse Vivian Pender, who makes raising three young children in a foreign country seem like a breeze. Read on for what she thinks about parenting in Portugal and her tips on the best places in Lisbon to go with little ones.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 34 years old and a mother of three little girls – six-year-old Poppy, four-year-old Lily and two-year-old Saffron. I grew up in Singapore and also in Malaysia as my mother is Malaysian.
What brought you to Lisbon? How long have you been living overseas?
My husband works for the British Council and his work brought us to Portugal in September 2013. We were in Hong Kong for two years before that and our eldest daughter was born there.
Favourite aspect of living in Lisbon?
We live in São Domingos da Rana in the suburbs of Lisbon, which is lovely and quiet compared to Campolide, where we used to live and is much closer to downtown Lisbon. The air quality is better here and there is more space for little children to play in.
And the worst part?
The Singapore Honorary Consulate Office is located in downtown Lisbon and I’ve had to go there about 10 times over the past five years. Asian supermarkets too are in downtown Lisbon. The lack of cuisine diversity is probably the worst hahaha…
Your most recent purchase
… for your children?
Poppy turned six in August so we bought her a dollhouse. Lily and Saffron weren’t impressed so they got a dollhouse expansion kit, which makes it a group gift.
Wood pallets for a little dog house project.
How do you think parenting in Lisbon differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
I enjoy seeing my children being children and the parenting style in Europe takes a more relaxed approach compared to Singapore. I like the lack of comparison and greatly appreciate the freedom from not having to sign children up for after-school tuition classes.
Did you give birth to your children in Lisbon? If yes, what was memorable about the experience?
I gave birth to Poppy in Hong Kong while Lily and Saffron were both born in Lisbon. They were planned c-sections so there was no drama there. I had a different obstetrician-gynecologist for each pregnancy and the most embarrassing memory I had was that I was told off for gaining too much weight!
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
I was working for the British Council in Singapore up to 2011 as a customer service executive. Moving to Hong Kong and getting pregnant in 2012 made me decide to be a stay-at-home mum. I now volunteer at my daughters’ school, helping families new to Portugal and also doing some translation work from time to time.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Lisbon?
Hard Rock Cafe is my favourite but any restaurant in Portugal will welcome children as they all let you order half portions for kids. It helps that the Portuguese are really lovely and friendly, too.
Top five places in Lisbon you would recommend to parents traveling with kids, and why?
Jardim Zoológico de Lisboa – Founded in 1884, the zoo is beautiful to walk around and there is a dolphin/ seal show.
Oceanário de Lisboa – It is one of the largest aquariums in Europe and it has plenty of sea creatures that never fail to captivate us for hours.
Pavilhão do Conhecimento – A contemporary science museum next door to Oceanário de Lisboa that is great for kids who like asking questions and putting their hands to work.
Planetário Calouste Gulbenkian – A wonderful planetarium experience for both children and adults!
River cruise on the Tagus river – Our family definitely enjoyed the experience and the views.
Any advice for surviving a flight with young children?
Filtered water bottles, lots of snacks, a change of clothes and don’t forget to keep them up before boarding if it’s a red-eye flight.
Is there anything you do to keep your children in touch with their Singaporean roots?
We come back to Singapore every year for Christmas and Chinese New Year. Our family and friends from Singapore also regularly visit us in Portugal.
Best souvenir one could bring back from Lisbon
…for a child:
A wooden sword-and-shield set from Lisboa Story Centre.
…for a mama friend:
A bottle of Port!
What do you find is the hardest part of being a mother living in a foreign country?
Coping with the lack of a support group.
On raising multilingual children …
My children understand Mandarin, Portuguese and English. I believe in exposing them to different languages to help them grow as global citizens.
What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your children?
Instant noodles and Bengawan Solo cookies.
What’s your go-to recipe for your family?
One-pot rice cooker chicken rice!
What’s the one thing you would miss about Lisbon if you moved away?
The people and my friends.
Read about more Singaporean mamas abroad!
World traveler Nellie Huang
Anabel Lim in San Francisco
Stephanie Chai in Hong Kong