Unpacking Leadership: Mothers are our First Leaders

In lieu of Mothers’ Day, we interviewed Jasmine Goh and Mdm Veejaya to tell us more about their journeys through becoming mothers, balancing work with family, and the lessons they have gleaned from these experiences. Together, we unpacked leadership through the lens of motherhood.

Jasmine Goh started her running career in 2011 and very quickly became hooked on marathons and ultra-marathons. She is an accomplished athlete – To date, she has won Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016, Great Eastern Women’s Run 2016 Singapore, Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2017, TransLantau 100km 2018, among many other races. She represented Singapore in the recent SEA Games and in her free time, she loves to read and upgrade herself. She is a single mother of two beautiful daughters, Cherish and Faith.

Mdm Veejaya is an early education principal with over two decades of experience. She specializes in early childhood development and pedagogy, and has a Diploma in Leadership for Preschool Education. She is a proud mother of two daughters, aged 34 and 31.

1. Tell us more about your career and motherhood journey – mid-career switch, failures, achievements?

Jasmine: Coming back to the workforce was challenging after being a stay-at-home mum for years. What helped was a great support network of family members, childcare services and understanding bosses. In fact, my co-workers were very helpful and even encouraged me to start a new hobby: running.


Jasmine winning 1st Runner Up at the 2019 Standard Chartered Marathon in Kuala Lumpur


Mdm Veejaya: Before I got married, I was working in an aerospace company. I had an arranged marriage, and I knew my husband for three months before we tied the knot. I was a young girl who was trying to adapt to a new environment. A year later, I had my first daughter and left my job to take care of her. I had my second daughter three years later.


When my children went to kindergarten, I started working as a session teacher. It was tough for me, juggling my time between family and work. I always wanted to further my education and my late husband was very supportive. With his support, I retook my O-levels and did well to enrol for a Diploma in Leadership for Preschool Education.


My elder daughter followed my late husband’s footsteps into the Science and Technology field while my younger daughter showed interest in early childhood education. We ended up enrolling for the same Diploma course where we studied in the same class and graduated together. In 2008, I won the outstanding teacher award. Today, I am a principal in a pre-school. I am very thankful to everyone who helped me on this journey.


Mdm Veejaya (left) and her daughter (right) at graduation, after both had enrolled and studied in the same Diploma course together


2. What are your biggest challenges balancing career and family, and how did you overcome them?

Jasmine: My greatest challenge has been overcoming "work-mummy guilt", which is the guilt that arises when work interferes with family life. Basically, it is the feeling of not doing enough as a parent – not doing things right, not spending enough time with my kids, and not raising them properly.


Many times, I have learnt to let go and have self-compassion. I am aware that I am not perfect, and should not expect myself to be like those “perfect mothers” portrayed on social media. As long as I am doing my best, I will have empathy for myself and will not let the feelings of "inadequacy" affect me for too long.


Mdm Veejaya: I felt that the days were too short. I woke up very early in the morning to cook and do housework, attend to my children, complete my assignments in the morning, go to work, and spend time with my family. I played multiple roles at once – a wife, daughter-in-law, mother, teacher, and student. It was exhausting.


My late husband saw my hectic schedule. He stepped in and taught my daughters to be independent, handle their own housework, finish schoolwork, and be emotionally strong. This was very helpful for me.


Mdm Veejaya (left) and her family

3. In what ways do you think mothers are also leaders, whether at home or at work? Jasmine: Motherhood develops important skills that leaders need. For example, communication, organisational skills, responsibilities, resilience, empathy, and many more.


Mdm Veejaya: Mothers mould the future of their children. They lead by example as a role model for them to follow. Mothers teach boldness, love, care for others, and respect.


4. Do you have any stories of leadership lessons from a mother figure in your life?

Jasmine: I am lucky to have strong role models in my family. My paternal grandmother, who became a widow at age 29, single-handedly raised three kids on her own. She was fiercely independent and was absolutely capable of running the household. My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, raised 8 kids while helping her husband with his business. She was extremely hard-working and resilient.


My own mother is a pillar of strength for us. She held a full-time job, contributed to the bulk of our household’s income, and still managed to find time to spend with the kids every day.


It is a shame that not all people equate motherhood with effective leadership. Because these women, in my opinion, excelled in it.

Mdm Veejaya: Yes! I learnt about the art of giving from my mother. She worked as a healthcare attendant in the 60s. She loved to help others. Being a single mother, she raised my siblings and I (there are 7 of us). She taught me to never give up. No matter what the circumstances, be brave and find solutions to every problem. She always provided a listening ear before advising us. No matter how hard the times were or how busy she was working overtime, she always took the best care of us. She was a firm, yet approachable leader.


5. What are some pieces of advice you would like to share with the young ladies at YWLC (regardless of whether they are mothers)?

Jasmine: Never put your needs, plans and goals on the back burner for anyone, not even your kids. Bravely pursue your dreams and always attend to your needs, and in doing so, you will inspire the people around you to do so.them And for mothers, by living your best life, you are already the leader your children need!


Jasmine (middle) and her two children


Mdm Veejaya: Be brave to face challenges! Don’t run away from them. Have someone as a role model or inspiration and seek help when needed. Have goals set for yourself and go for them. Lastly, learn to nourish and take care of yourself.


 

This article is the first edition of our Thought Leadership series, Unpacking Leadership. We aim to support and spotlight the voices of our members through original content relating to women or women in leadership. Want to contribute your idea? Click here to send us your suggested proposals.


 

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Author: Keshmarathy Sacadevan Editors: Jenn Hu, Joey Ong



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