Singaporean mamas are doing amazing things all over the world! Today we speak with Melbourne mama Maddy Wan, who went to Melbourne for work experience and has made a life for herself Down Under!
In this month’s ‘Overseas Mama’ interview, we speak to Singaporean mama Down Under Maddy Wan, who initially moved to Australia to gain overseas working experience. In the process, she was introduced by her friends to a fellow Singaporean already living in Australia. Nearly 10 years (and one child) later, they happily call Melbourne home. Their lives at the moment revolve around a healthy dose of kids’ activities such as heading to the zoo, the aquarium and going on miniature train rides.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a senior finance analyst in my mid-30s living in Melbourne with my Singaporean husband, Kelvin, our two-year-old son, Zachary, and our Japanese Spitz, Snowie. I love cooking and baking, long walks in the park, cafe-hopping and going to the markets on weekends.
What brought you to Melbourne? How long have you been living overseas?
I always wanted to live overseas, expose myself to other cultures and meet new people. What started as a short stint working abroad has turned into settling down and building my life in Melbourne. I have been here for almost 10 years and counting!
Favourite aspect about living in Melbourne?
There are endless things to do here, from going to different musicals and festivals, to venturing out of the city to go skiing or pick strawberries. The possibilities are endless! It’s also a foodie paradise with plenty of cafes and restaurants serving up tasty brunches and authentic cuisines.
And the worst part?
There isn’t much to hate about Melbourne but if there is one thing, it would have to be the extreme changes in temperature. It’s well known among Melbournians that you can have four seasons in a day! The unpredictable weather means I always have to check the weather forecast and plan my outfit the night before.
Your most recent purchase…
…For your child? I recently bought Zachary some pre-loved toys from a neighbour’s moving-out garage sale… big trucks, books and the lot! It’s safe to say that we have enough to last us for a while. It’s a win-win for my neighbour and I as the toys and books have now found a loving new home and Zachary is over the moon with his new toys!
…For yourself? A 3D jelly cake course when I was recently back in Singapore (organised by Geraldine Tan; you can find all the deets on Facebook). I had lots of fun at the class and was impressed by how it is possible to create beautiful – and delicious – floral designs in jelly! I’m hoping to practise more as my next project is to make a 3D jelly cake for Zachary’s next birthday.
How do you think parenting in Melbourne differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
I love that parenting in Australia is focused on plenty of outdoor playtime for children. There are many outdoor play areas for children to get rough-and-tumble play, sunshine and fresh air.
There is also a strong support network for new mums in Melbourne and I appreciate that a lot. During the first weeks after giving birth, there are maternal and child health nurses that would do home visits to see if the new mum is recovering well as well as check for signs of postnatal depression. They verify if the baby is gaining weight properly and answer questions from the new mum. There is also a 24-hour hotline that new mums can call. At my local council, mums can get free advice from a lactation expert during the early breastfeeding weeks.
Local councils also organise mums’ groups coordinated by a nurse who gives lessons on various relevant topics for new mums and help connect the new mums in the area. I definitely made some mum friends from there and we still do monthly meet-ups today whenever we can.
When I returned to work, I had trouble getting Zachary to sleep through the night. In Australia, it is common to seek help and attend sleep school at a specialist hospital so I went to Masada Private Hospital and it changed our lives. I learnt how to create a routine and sleep train my son. He can now go to sleep by himself, sleep in his own room and sleep through most nights (thank goodness!).
Did you give birth to your child in Melbourne? If yes, what was memorable about the experience?
Yes, I gave birth to Zachary at Frances Perry Private Hospital in Melbourne. I had a smooth delivery with an obstetrician and an exceptional midwife supporting me through the birthing process. I also received a lot of education and support on breastfeeding during my five-day stay at the hospital.
What was memorable was that they got dads involved, too – to help bathe their newborn babies and change their nappies – as well as introduce ways dads can provide support for their partners during this critical time.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
There hasn’t been a big change in my career pre- baby and post-baby. It wasn’t easy at first adjusting back to working life post-baby but I’m glad that I’ve overcome the hurdles and am now more resilient than before. I am lucky to work in a company that embraces diversity and has a supportive culture for mums, such as flexible working arrangements where I can work one day a week from home.
There are also mother/baby room facilities at work and other initiatives that help empower women at the workplace.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Melbourne?
There are so many! But if I have to name a favourite, it would have to be Piggery Cafe just outside of Melbourne. It is a bit of a drive but the food is amazing, there are lots of open spaces and even some farm animals for kids to see after your meal.
Top five places in Melbourne you would recommend to parents traveling with kids?
- Diamond Valley Railway and the other miniature railways in Melbourne because I haven’t met a kid who isn’t crazy about trains.
- Weribee Open Range Zoo: I love their safari bus and it’s quite an experience to see rhinos and giraffes up close.
- National Gallery of Victoria: They have an area for children to explore art and lots of fun and free activities for kids!
- Phillip Island makes for a great day trip from Melbourne. You can go see little penguins, visit a chocolate factory, go to the A Maze’N Things theme park, or the Koala Conservation Centre. Don’t miss the Nobbies boardwalk for scenic views!
- Melbourne Museum: The new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery boasts lots of interactive play and also a dinosaur dig which kids will love.
Any advice for surviving a flight with young children?
I probably need some myself! If you have a toddler, it’s very important to prepare some activity kits to keep them occupied and stock up on their favourite snacks. Yoghurt melts have been a lifesaver so far to relieve Zachary’s ear pressure during takeoffs and landings. For screen time, bring your own baby headphones, which fit little heads for in-flight entertainment.
Is there something that you do to keep your child in touch with his Singaporean roots?
We have weekly FaceTime sessions with the family to get Zachary acquainted with the Singlish “lah” as well as Singaporean festivals and events like Chinese New Year, the National Day Parade and the Chingay Parade.
Best souvenir one could bring back from Melbourne…
-For a child? Koala or kangaroo soft toy, bag or puppet.
-For a mama friend? Lucas’ Papaw Ointment! It’s my miracle ointment for a lot of things including rashes, mosquito bites and cuts.
What do you find is the hardest part of being a mother living in a foreign country?
Not having family and close friends around us. We don’t have family support and it’s harder for Zachary to build strong bonds with family back home. My close friends whom I’ve grown up with are not here and it takes time to build friendships and fully integrate into the community here.
On raising a multilingual child …
I would like to introduce him to Mandarin and Cantonese but as we are both not strong in these languages, it means Zachary probably won’t grow up to be proficient in them. At the moment, I try to practise speaking Mandarin and Cantonese with Zachary during mealtimes.
What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your child?
For me, I’ve been craving Singaporean snacks of late so it has to be the deep-fried salted egg yolk salmon skin!
For Zachary, I always bring back Chinese and Cantonese books for toddlers. My favourite ready-to-cook chicken rice and bak kut teh kits are also a must so that I can introduce him to Singaporean food.
Your top makeup tip for a busy mama?
I like Laneige’s BB Cushion. It is light and has nourishing properties for my skin, great for busy mamas.
Tell us about your go-to recipe for your family.
Char siu pork! It’s important to choose the right cut of meat; personally I like to use pork neck.
We eat it with thin egg noodles or rice, with the leftovers used for fried rice or fried noodles the next day. It’s great as a pizza topping or a sandwich filling too.
What’s the one thing you would miss about Melbourne if you moved away?
The open spaces and the friends we have made here… it’s the whole Melbourne experience, there’s no place quite like it!
Thank you, Maddy! If you think you or someone you know would make for an interesting Overseas Mama, please let us know!
Image #4 and image #7 (left) courtesy of Kelvin Cheong Photography. All other images courtesy of Maddy Wan.