“I want to allow Evan the opportunity to practice processing his inner thoughts and emotions from a young age because that is a core life skill that I see lacking in a lot of people in Asian societies.”
Our That Mama of the month is Lisa Yap Mei Jun, better known to many on Instagram by her handle @thelisafeed. Lisa is a millennial mum to two-year-old son Evan Benjamin (nicknamed Bongs) and a content creator who posts easy recipe videos to inspire others. Lisa shares with us her views on parenting, recalling how she was raised with different priorities and how that has influenced how she defines success saying “We were always taught to do our best rather than be scrutinized for our results. In a society where academic results and finding a cushy corporate job is the norm, the path of the entrepreneur was actually always encouraged. When I didn’t do well, my mom would ask me whether I felt happy with the effort I gave, and what I wanted for my future. Not for anyone, but for me. My siblings and I were also never caned growing up.” Read on for Lisa’s interview on why she has chosen to focus on conscious parenting and positive discipline, and prioritizes emotional intelligence and communication over academics in her son.
What led you to become a content creator?
I grew up in a warm and loving home where we ate together every day as a family and these home cooked meals set the scene for meaningful conversations that brought the family together. And so when I got married and moved into our own home, I knew that I wanted to steward the role of a wife and mother well – and what that looks like to me is making our warm home the foundation of our daily life, with the kitchen at the heart of it all. I have always loved food but was never an avid cook growing up, in fact I dabbled more in baking. But when I moved into my own home, we had to feed ourselves and I honestly just cooked what I wanted to eat. In this modern generation, I think many young people feel unsure of how to cook, and so I felt like I wanted to help other people going through this same transition to know that cooking didn’t have to be complicated.
I started posting mukbang videos on youtube with my extremely supportive husband behind the camera back in 2019 (still can’t believe we did that haha) and then started filming recipe videos end 2019 just before COVID. I think I saw my first uplift during circuit breaker because everyone was probably cooped up at home and probably felt inspired to start cooking.
How do you define success? Any tips for others who may not have yet found their ‘thing’?
This is something I’m really passionate about because I’ve always been a multi-faceted person, always more a generalist than a specialist growing up. And in the society we live in, that was always somewhat more a bad thing than a good thing. I dabbled in a lot of things – I studied Marketing and Finance in Melbourne, then went on into marketing jobs, dabbled in interior design and subsequently came back to marketing within the interior space. But through it all, I always knew I wanted to build something of my own. However it was only until 2022 that I realized I didn’t quite know my “WHY”. Simon Sinek’s iconic book – “Start with Why” really kickstarted my process of finding out what my “WHY” was. And after much self-inquisition, it was clear that I was drawn to the home and specifically, inspiring the warmth of a home. How does one make a house a home? And the beautiful thing about knowing your “WHY” is that it’s such an integral part of you, it almost ‘bleeds’ into so many different areas of your life. That’s the reason why I’m so intentional about stewarding my role as a wife and mother well. For me, that looks like being a partner to my husband, to help him process his thoughts and emotions, to make sure their bellies are always filled and happy, to consciously create a family culture together with my husband that is wholly ours to own. Sure, in this season it may translate into me being a food content creator and the owner of a kitchenware brand Good Maison. But in another season of my life, it could be to help moms and wives enjoy their lives more.
So my advice would be to find your “WHY”. Read the book. It’s life-changing. And secondly, don’t obsess with your “WHAT” or a specific skillset like what we’re taught in school. We were even streamed into arts and science streams. Instead, be open, dabble and observe your overall strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself: What comes generally easy to you that others might find to be a challenge? Someone once told me, oftentimes we overlook the gift that’s been placed in us because it feels so natural to us. But the truth is, what’s easy and natural to you is not easy and natural to another. And that’s where you bring value. It could be something as seemingly ‘general’ as the way you view the world with such ease and optimism, the way you can use words to empathize and encourage.
You have a significant following on Instagram. Can you share some tips for building an engaged community on the platform?
Consistency is key. 100% cliche but 100% true. The more you can commit to post, the higher the chance of one piece of content doing better than the others. A very practical handle which worked for me when I was starting out is to niche down. At the start, nobody knows who you are or what you do. I started by posting recipe videos only. And soon, people that were interested in my recipes followed. And with consistency, they knew what to expect next. So when new people landed on my page and saw my past recipe posts, they too knew exactly what I do and were more compelled to follow for more. Imagine if I posted a recipe one week, and then I posted a photo of my bag, and then the sky. It works for bigger influencers now because their followers have already bought into them as a person and are interested in their day-to-day lives. But when you’re not known yet, that’s just confusing to people and you’ll find that you’ll grow slower.
What is your parenting approach?
As mentioned above, I’ve always been very conscious and intentional about wanting to build a family culture with my husband that is ours to own. There are few communities more polarizing than the parenting community and I quickly learned that there’s a ton of noise and opinions by everyone out there, I needed to hone in on what was important to us and make our family our own. Now that I’ve grown up I realized I was raised quite differently from most Singaporean families. My dad is Malaysian and my mom is Singaporean. My dad was quite internationally exposed – his entire side of the family lives in Australia (which is why we lived there for a couple of years during my university days). He was an entrepreneur that dealt with people from all over the world too so that probably gave him a more open mind. As a result, from young, we were always taught to do our best rather than be scrutinized for our results. In a society where academic results and finding a cushy corporate job is the norm, the path of the entrepreneur was actually always encouraged. When I didn’t do well, my mom would spend time giving me pep talks. Asking me whether I personally felt happy with the effort I gave, and what I wanted for my future. Not for anyone, but for me. That really stuck with me. My siblings and I were also never caned growing up. My dad and mom were strict in their own way, in fact one of the things they were very firm on was us siblings reconciling after fights. And when it came to ‘subjective’ fights, they never took sides. And so as a middle child growing up, I had no idea what people meant by ‘middle-child-syndrome’. I never felt it. My dad would make my brother and I stand outside the gate and could only come in after we kissed and hug. Sure there were times when those hugs felt fake and like any other siblings, we had our rough years. But over time, it showed me how important it is when parents use their authority to enforce unity and love.
Now that I’m a mom myself, I know that I would do the same to the best of my ability. I’m thankful for more material on conscious parenting and positive discipline, and on top of my parents’ example, I would want to communicate even more with my children to make them feel heard. The things I greatly prioritize in my parenting is not hitting milestones (like how soon can they string a sentence), and academics. For me, emotional intelligence and communication skills are very important. This builds self-regulation, people skills and resilience. I want to allow Evan and my future kids the opportunity to practice processing their inner thoughts and emotions from a young age, because that is a core life skill that I see lacking in a lot of people in Asian societies, unfortunately.
I like the Montessori way of using “practical life” activities in real life to allow him the freedom of movement and autonomy. I’m not 100% Montessori but I try my best to live by the principles and to include the activities that fit into our lifestyle. I’ve found it to be really rewarding for all of us so far! He has now learnt to feed himself since we started him on a hybrid approach of baby-led weaning and feeding at 6 months. We ask if he’s all done at mealtimes, give him options to say yes or no. He is sleep trained and sleeps through the night (on most days – excludes his crazy sleep regressions) in his own separate room. We sleep trained him using the Taking Cara Babies’ program and tweaked it to fit us. He was recently transitioned to a floor bed where he can get up and play with his toys without us having to come in to take him out immediately when he wakes. I also recently got him a learning tower to expose him to kitchen tasks (when I am more free on weekends).
But I must say, conscious parenting is tiring. It requires choosing to not lose our cool and instead choosing to patiently talk to him through every tantrum and challenge. Even when you’re tired. And we do fail at times but we show ourselves grace knowing we are only human.
I think the one struggle I sometimes face is comparison: seeing how so many other moms do everything they can to let their child ‘achieve their maximum potential’ through various exercises/activities/programs, versus how I don’t put as much weight on academic performance. Thinking about our local primary school system and being ‘forced’ into a mould stresses me out – simply because I had the privilege to attend an international high school and I felt the difference in the education system. But my husband and I are choosing to take things one step at a time, and acknowledging our finite time and capacity, we’ve identified the most important things we want to instil in our kids.
What are your organisational tricks and tips on juggling all the things since you have no helper?
Honestly, this is hard. I had a traumatic experience with two helpers over COVID, and because of that I’ve been adamant against getting a helper. Yet I’m the kind of girl that wants to do it all. Create content, build my business, be there for Evan, cook, clean – it’s a lot. And I wouldn’t be able to have this life if not for my super supportive husband who’s really hands on.
My biggest tip would be to have a system. We are very conscious of identifying what’s not working, and why. And we take reiterative steps to hack our lives so that we can function more systematically and happily. I cook and do the dishes, he does the laundry. I prepare Evan’s food, he showers him, I put him to sleep, he cleans up Evan’s feeding tray.
I’ve also found food prep to be very helpful – this was actually highlighted by my very systematic husband! I used to get so much anxiety regarding groceries and meal planning as I not only have to think about our food, and when Evan was younger, his food, and the dishes I had to film for work. I have a list of go-to dishes that I rotate around every 2-3 weeks. Even though we can literally walk to our grocery store, I now do a weekly round of groceries on Amazon and I have a recurring list of things I always add every week. I only go to the grocery store when I need to top up certain items not available online or I need to inspect before buying. This saves so much time, energy and headspace. We wash, dry and cut up all our vegetables at one go. Having prepped vegetables saves you so much time and makes it quicker to whip up a meal too.
You recently went to Korea for your first holiday as a family of three – any tips for others on travelling with a baby?
Our trip to Korea was our first long trip on a longer flight as parents. Needless to say, it was so tiring. I was also struggling with the FOMO of not being able to travel the way we used to pre-kids and see Korea the way I had been dreaming of for so long. But one of the best tips I learnt from a friend was not to make the first time you visit that bucket-list destination, the trip with your kid. She went to Korea as well but went last year with her husband and did all the things she wanted to do, then went again this year with her two kids and the trip was really catered to be all for the kids. I think that would help manage the expectations better.
Also I know this is counter-intuitive but new parents can try traveling with their baby at that 3-month age. It’s a sweet period where all you need to do is breastfeed/feed them milk and wear/push them around. It’s easier to manage than an active toddler wanting to run around everywhere.
Another tip would be to save some new never-seen-before toys to introduce progressively through the trip. We reserved our heavy ammo- a vehicle sound book especially for our return flight back to Singapore.
Is Bongs a foodie? How have you encouraged him to be adventurous with food?
We started him on a hybrid approach of baby-led weaning and feeding purees at 6 months. I personally found it impractical to stick to 100% BLW as I was concerned about the amount of nutrients he was getting. My priority was independence in eating rather than BLW types of food per se. We ask if he’s all done at mealtimes and give him options to say yes or no. I tried my best exposing him to a wide variety of food from the beginning and focused on foods packed with nutrients like broccoli, mushrooms, chicken and fish. He loves noodles just like his mom and I go with the approach of flowing with him. Some days he just doesn’t like carrots for some reason then I won’t force him to eat it but I’ll reintroduce it another time and he’ll take to it. With regards to veggies my main goal is to let him have a happy relationship with veggies – so right now if he loves broccoli, broccoli becomes a staple. I won’t intentionally remove it and try other veggies to make him more ‘balanced’.
What is your self-care routine?
Being a foodie, being able to eat well is how I feel loved. So instead of treating myself to a bag or clothes, I love myself with a good meal once in a while – we love Esquina at Keong Saik Street and I’m always up for a good coffee and a sweet treat!
I wish I had more time for… experimenting with different food for the sheer joy of it and not for content.
I always feel saner after…. reading my bible and an iced latte.
As a mama I wish I were better at… nurturing him with educational activities and enjoying toddler-play in general.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…. cool new content ideas or how to grow my business.
My favourite moment of the day is…when I put Evan to bed, finish cleaning up and any outstanding work and we lie in our cool sheets.
Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and parenting journey with us Lisa – we can’t wait to see how Bongs develops with your conscious parenting approach and we will be watching all your delicious foodie videos for inspiration!