Mama of three, Jia En Teo shares why her hubby is upset about being the ‘bad cop’ in parenting and why she doesn’t waste time forcing her three kids to eat or put them to bed at a specific time.
This month’s That Mama is Jia En Teo, co-founder of Crane, a member’s social space at Robertson Quay, Arab St and Joo Chiat. Singaporean Jia is married to Italian Federico Folcia (they met 17 years ago and have been married for 10 of those years). They have three girls – Ella is 8, Ines is 6, and Eva is 3. We are a little awestruck with how Jia manages to do all the things (although she modestly says “I don’t juggle everything – I drop balls all the time”). Jia manages her family’s investment company, is in charge of the retail arm Crane Living (all that gorgeous homeware), and of course, is a mama to three. Here she shares about her youngest child who has hemiplegia, how her middle child navigates dyslexia and how she chooses to pick her battles when it comes to parenting.
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Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m born and bred Singaporean. I met my husband Federico when we were both living and working in New York in our early 20s. We just realized last week we’ve been together 17 years – I guess we’re getting old haha.
I’m 40, he’s 44 this year. I have three kids, Ella is 8, Ines is 6, and Eva is 3.
Anything quirky about yourself that you’d like to share?
I hate showering, so I plan my showers around my activities to optimise the number of showers I take a week.
You work at your family’s financial investment company, run Crane alongside your husband and are a mother to three kids – how do you juggle everything?
I work two jobs – my full-time job is managing my family’s investments, and Crane/Crane Living are my side hustles. It is a lot of work, so I don’t get much sleep. All I can say is that I love what I do, so while it does get overwhelming at times, I enjoy most of the work!
I don’t juggle everything – I drop balls all the time. I forget to buy presents for parties; my kids show up to school when there’s a holiday; I don’t ever remember my wedding anniversary; I double-book appointments constantly (I use a calendar but also don’t check it enough).
Thankfully my family is super supportive with the kids – the kids spend every day at my parents’ place and my sisters step in whenever we need help. We are also so fortunate that our helpers are like second mothers to my kids, and help to keep the household running.
Any organisational tricks and tips to save time?
I am the worst at organization. I am so disorganized and absent-minded, I often wonder how I get through life to be honest. That said, here are my tips and tricks to save time, for what it’s worth:
– Empower and entrust others to do things for you.
– Pick your battles – I don’t waste my time forcing kids to eat or put them to bed at a specific time. They’ll eat when they’re hungry and sleep when they’re tired.
– Don’t be so hard on yourself – it’s ok to not be perfect. You’ll not only save the energy from all the effort it takes to be perfect, you’ll spare yourself the mental anguish too.
How do you and Federico divide up the roles in parenting?
Federico is a super hands-on dad. We don’t split chores and roles specifically, but I guess we kind of gravitate towards things that come more naturally to each of us. He loves to cook and swim, so he does that with the kids.
I like watching TV, reading and doing yoga, so I do that with the kids (reading happens the least, of course). I am also terrible at putting the kids to sleep (remember, I pick my battles), so that duty falls on Federico.
Do you find one parent is ‘the fun one’ and one ‘the rule-enforcer?’
Yeah, I’m definitely the good cop in the family. Federico gets really upset that he’s always the bad cop, but it’s just because I pick my battles so I rarely get upset or angry with the kids!
What is your parenting philosophy?
I believe in instilling in the kids good values and guiding their ability to make sound decisions. They need to know that every decision they make has consequences, so I try to let them figure things out for themselves, rather than do things for them (this is also helped by the fact that I am fairly lazy, so if they want anything, they actually really just have to do it themselves).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Learn to let go.
Your youngest child has hemiplegia – when did you realise she had this and is it something she can overcome with therapy?
Hemiplegia is a condition in which one side of the body is much weaker than the other. In Eva’s case, it was because I contracted CMV while pregnant with her, which caused some minor damage to the brain, and her hemiplegia is a result of that. Eva also has mild-moderate hearing loss because of this, and wears hearing aids.
Despite her condition though, Eva is the most cheerful and confident little kid. She goes for physical therapy at Wings Therapy a few times a week to help strengthen her left side, and even out her bilateral movements. She also attends a pre-school (Imagine If) with a bespoke program to help with her special needs.
Your second daughter has dyslexia – how has this impacted her and are you doing anything to help her prepare for primary school?
Ines has dyslexia and we found out a few months before she was due to start in Primary 1. She was not reading at all, and I was getting concerned because we were just 3 months away from her starting school. We sent her for a reading class and that’s when we were alerted to her condition. We quickly made an appeal to hold her back from Primary school for a year, so that we could use the extra time to catch her up. She’s a year-end baby too, so she wouldn’t be that far behind by starting the next year anyway.
We switched her to Imagine If (where Eva goes as well), where they’ve made such a concerted effort to help Ines overcome her dyslexia and learn to love reading. I truly believe that confidence and interest are essential to learning, and our priority is always to provide that kind of positive learning environment for her, and all our children.
PSLE is a long way off for your eldest but have you started thinking about prepping for this?
Not at all! Haha. Who knows, by the time my kids are that age, the PSLE may not even be a thing anymore.
Do you manage to have any ‘me time’ and what do you do for this if so?
Yes I do make time for myself. My monthly manicures and haircuts are my precious time alone. I also try to get a massage every few weeks, and I love just falling asleep in peace, in my own bed (at Natureland haha. The kids sleep with us, so we don’t get a lot of restful sleep on a typical night).
How does the cosleeping sitch work?
Oh, the co-sleeping actually is more like parents-not-sleeping. We all used to squeeze into one bed, until the kids grew too big for us all to fit together. Now we split ourselves into two rooms and we all kind of rotate at random between the two bedrooms.
Do you have any tips for other parents for keeping the romance alive?
I am the most unromantic woman you will meet, so I think I need all the advice and tips I can get. That said, I may not actually bother to follow them.
What do you want to achieve with Crane?
Crane is evolving. We don’t have an endpoint to be honest. We just love building things, creating spaces, and exploring ideas. Crane started off as a simple idea to create a place where we could support a community of people who wanted to engage in personal and professional development, and to do meaningful things with their time. We are amazed at how the Crane community has grown organically over the past 2.5 years, and we love that we have been able to play a part and witness people come together and share their experiences. We are just at the beginning of the Crane journey, and we are so excited for more to come.
We have a style crush on Crane’s interiors – where do you get your design inspiration?
Thank you for the compliments! My husband, Federico and I are a pretty good team when it comes to setting up spaces. He’s good with space planning and the big vision. I source the furniture and objects, and take care of the details.
We really take cues from the space itself and the surrounding environment. For Crane Robertson Quay (at Kim Yam Road), it’s an old school, the space was quite industrial with retro touches like the slatted glass windows and the original metal grilles doors. We wanted to counter-balance the space with softer, warmer elements, but keep a bit of that vintage, old school vibe, so we furnished it with comfy sofas, a lot of rattan elements and chose to go with second-hand marble kopitiam tables. We even named the newly opened bar here Old School, as a tribute to the history of the space!
For Joo Chiat, the building is ornate and so beautiful on its own. If you’ve been to the club space, you’ll notice how much natural light streams in from the windows. So for this location, we kept things fairly minimal, using just some floor to ceiling shelving to draw attention to the height of the space, but leaving everything else fairly minimal.
A big thing for us is the reusability and moveability of things, and we always try our best to upcycle. The marble counter top at Sottoscala (the bar at Joo Chiat), was salvaged from a friend’s construction project. The bar stools at Cantina (at our Arab St location) were from another restaurant that was getting rid of them. We saved all the steel and glass and partitions at Crane Robertson Quay and repurposed them throughout the space. We thrift and do pre-loved a lot!
We understand you are keen to teach the kids about sustainability – how do you achieve this within your home and business?
With our business – we try to apply the idea of circularity and upcycling where we can. This sometimes drives the Crane team nuts, because it does take a bit more effort, but I think it’s now become a part of our DNA. For example, we don’t offer plastic straws (we do have wheat straws – that come from hollow wheat stalks); we try to minimise packaging by re-using bubble wrap and donated paper and tote bags (so you may walk out with a Chanel or Ferragamo paper bag when you shop at Crane Living haha).
At home, we upcycle and reuse even more than we do at Crane. Most plastic and glass bottles get second lives as plant holders and pots. My kids make doll houses out of gadget boxes, and we gift a lot of things we don’t need on Carousell (I prefer to re-home our items rather than to dump-donate to places that may not want or need them). To my kids’ chagrin, I also don’t buy them any birthday or Christmas presents (they’ll probably grow up and have some hoarding complex because of this – I pray not though).
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Swimming! The weather here is perfect for swimming, and the kids swim for hours at a time on the weekend.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Mine is getting everyone in bed at the end of the day and watching a movie together.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
There are so many things I am sure I could be better at, but I don’t want to indulge in mom-guilt! I think most moms are superwomen in their own right, and I want to celebrate all the things we are already good at! We’ll never be perfect, and I don’t want to strive for it either.
I wish I had more time for…
I do wish I had the discipline do yoga at least once a day.
I always feel saner after…
I’m a woman of simple needs – if I’m having a hectic day, a cup of bubble tea brings me immense joy hahaha.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
I sleep very well on most nights. I am not the type to worry in my sleep. I do have a recurring nightmare, though, where I’m in high school, and my exam is the next day and I realize I know nothing at all. I always wake up relieved that I have grown up, and grateful for being a working person who doesn’t have to take any exams anymore!
My favourite moment of the day is…
Lying on the bed, goofing around with the kids before they go to bed.