The Different Types of Love: Winnie Chan & Vera Quan
In this series, we explore the different forms and facets of love that exist in this world. Some may be more straightforward, while others can’t be easily defined. But love holds no boundaries and the celebration of the human heart should be captured with richness, colour and dimension.
Winnie Chan, mid-40s, Entrepreneur & Vera Quan, 20, Student
How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
VERA: I can tell her anything and she is someone whom I really trust. Although I do see her as more like a sister or a best friend, she still takes care of me and does all the motherly stuff.
What advice would you give Winnie in terms of being a better mum?
VERA: I would tell her to relax more and take some “me time” for herself. I hope that she also stops nagging too much about my room [laughs].
Does she nag a lot?
VERA: Only the state of cleanliness of my room.
WINNIE: [interjects] Well, that’s because I was asking you to clean your room just moments before this interview!
VERA: The difference between me and my mother is that I’m the messy and disorganised one while she is very neat and tidy.
Do you look up to Winnie as a role model?
VERA: Yes. I don’t aspire to be like her because I would like to be my own person, but I really admire how successful she is. She is also incredibly focused on her goals and what it takes to achieve them.
What do you think is Winnie’s greatest strength?
VERA: She cares a lot for the people around her and she puts everyone’s needs before hers.
Do you sometimes feel misunderstood by your mum?
VERA: Yeah, probably in the past when I was going through my teenage-angst phase. I was a bit rebellious and felt that my mum didn’t quite understand me. Looking back, I guess I was immature on my part as well. But nowadays, we rarely have any disagreements and we have a great relationship.
What’s the most rebellious thing that you have done?
VERA: When I was 14, I ran away from home because I had a very big fight with my parents—that’s something I still regret to this day.
WINNIE: She walked out without her wallet and phone.
When did you return home?
VERA: 6 months later.
WINNIE: She went to Grandma’s and refused to come home even though we tried to persuade her.
Were there any moments where you felt that your mum had let you down?
VERA: Regarding that big fight that we had, I was more angry at my dad than my mum. My mum was trying to calm the both of us down.
WINNIE: Actually, what was the argument about?
VERA: It was because I didn’t clean my room and do my homework.
WINNIE: [laughs] Are you serious?
I understand that you have a younger brother. Was there any point in time when you felt neglected growing up?
VERA: Not at all. My parents really treated us equally—even with our rewards or punishments. And I respect my parents for being fair to us. I’ve had friends who complained about having a brother and the special treatment that he gets from family members. Males are the favoured sex in Asian cultures.
WINNIE: We took special care when Josh was born so that Vera wouldn’t feel alienated. We bought a gift in advance and when she came to the hospital after I’d given birth…
VERA: Oh, the Polaroid camera?
WINNIE: Wow, you still remember! So I presented the gift to Vera and said that it was from her baby brother. Daddy bought McDonald’s French Fries and you were happily eating while playing with your camera.
Whenever you encounter any problems, is your mum the first person you go to?
VERA: Yeah. I feel closer to my mum than my dad.
Why is that so?
VERA: In our family, the dynamic is such that I’m closer to my mum while my brother is closer to my dad. And I guess a large part of that is because my mum and I both share the same interests like shopping.
What was the most important moral lesson your mother has ever taught you?
VERA: To keep trying. She always uses the example of how my brother and I got accepted into Nanyang Primary School—and she really wanted us to go that school because of their strong Chinese curriculum. At that time, my dad didn’t even want to try applying because he felt that it was impossible to become a volunteer. But my mum said: “Just try and call them.” So he did, and managed to get a position as a traffic warden. Even till today, sometimes whenever me or my dad feel like we can’t do something, she will always encourage us to try.
Who do you love the most in life?
VERA: My mum, my dad and my boyfriend.
How about your brother?
WINNIE: It’s okay, Josh doesn’t care [laughs].
What is your very first memory of Vera?
WINNIE: I still remember the very first moment when she was born and me failing at breastfeeding. I was in my mid-twenties and I gave birth to Vera, a year after I got married. When I went on my honeymoon with James, my skin started to break out, so I thought that it was the pill and decided to stop taking it. Shortly after, I got pregnant. To be honest, I wasn’t ready to be a mother because it happened so quickly. I did not want to keep her, and sometimes Vera gets a bit sad when she hears that. But I’m glad that I have a lovely daughter now.
What is the funniest thing Vera has ever said or did as a kid?
WINNIE: She used to be more outgoing as a kid. We have videos of Vera and Josh when they were young and the impression that strikes me the most was how she was always the big bossy sister who was telling people what to do, and Josh would follow her around all the time. It was a very cute and adorable stage… she had pigtails too.
Are you happy with the way Vera has turned out?
WINNIE: Vera’s still in school but I’m happy that she is more independent and is less reliant on us to get things done. For example, she signed up for driving lessons and passed on her first try. Recently, she applied to a few companies for an internship and got a number of offers. Independence is a quality I value very highly and in terms of core values like integrity and honesty, Vera has all of those—which to me, is more important than a paper qualification. So yes, I’m definitely very happy with her progress right now.
When you were Vera’s age, what scared you the most?
WINNIE: Ummm… nothing? I don’t think I have ever been fazed by anything. What goes through my mind is: Urgh, I have to do it.
How about the hardest part of being a mother?
WINNIE: If you think that an ‘ideal’ mother should be domesticated and all, that would be the hardest part for me. I’m not sure if I’m nurturing or motherly enough as compared to the other mums that I have met at school.
VERA: From my perspective, I like that you’re easygoing.
WINNIE: I’m more bo chap [laughs].
Do you think Vera has more of your good qualities or bad qualities?
WINNIE: I think Vera has a very balanced mix of qualities that both James and I have. I’m not sure if they are good or bad. For example, I tend to speak my mind and to someone else, it may seem impulsive, but we really stand up for the people we believe in and care for. Even if it puts other things at stake, we would still stick out necks for our friends and family members.
What were some of the sacrifices that you had to make for Vera?
VERA: Being a young mum?
WINNIE: In hindsight, it wasn’t a sacrifice because you and Josh have grown up now. In comparison to some of my peers, I don’t have to run after little toddlers. You know, some people say that when you get married and have kids at an early stage, when they become older, you will have more quality time with your husband. So, there are always two sides to a coin. I would say that my mum has also been a wonderful grandmother to my children—she took care of them after school and when they were infants, they lived with her during the weekdays and on weekends, I would bring them home.
Do you see parallels between your relationship with your mum and your relationship with your daughter?
WINNIE: I don’t think my mum was very strict with me. I’ve always wondered why she allowed me to marry James after only knowing him for a month. I guess she wanted me to follow my heart. There are parallels in terms of letting our kids chart their own destiny and to make decisions on their own.
What is the greatest heartache that Vera has caused you?
WINNIE: The period when Vera ran away from home was very difficult. It made me reassess how I was as a parent. [looks to Vera] Did I become more easygoing after that incident?
VERA: Yeah, I think you guys loosened up after I left home.
WINNIE: I thought so too.
What was your biggest parenting mistake?
WINNIE: The biggest mistake was making Vera go into pure science when she was in Secondary 3. I wanted her to do pure science because her results were good—and as a typical mum, I wanted her to be a doctor or a lawyer. Although I knew that she was more interested in humanities, I thought that she should try science first since she could always switch to humanities in junior college. So I pushed her to go into pure science and she absolutely hated it. Vera didn’t do well and she started to blame me because she was really struggling. From that experience, I realised that I shouldn’t have forced my daughter to go down the typical route. Sometimes as parents, you don’t know the kind of impact that you can cause on your children, just by you thinking that you’re making the ‘right’ decision for them. The funny thing is that when she went to JC and did humanities, she got better A-level grades than I did. Now, all I want for her is to be happy.
10 years down the road, what do you hope for your daughter?
WINNIE: Happiness in terms of marriage and finding a career path that aligns with her interests.
When did you last cry in front of each other?
VERA: Probably a very long time ago, when I was in secondary 3 or 4 and I was struggling with schoolwork.
WINNIE: Not since I started Bynd Artisan.
What’s something you have never told each other?
WINNIE: As an Asian parent, I don’t think I hug my children enough or tell them “I love you”. Somehow with friends, it’s so easy to hug them. Maybe we should do more hugs?
VERA: It’s weird.
WINNIE: Why is it weird? It’s not an Asian thing?
VERA: Yeah. Anyway, even if I try to hide something, eventually my mum will find out because I’m an open book. I can’t lie and my face is a dead giveaway.
What’s your version of “I love you” then?
WINNIE: Vera, do you need more shampoo? [laughs] Just kidding.
VERA: When I am overseas, my mum would tell me that she misses me and to come home soon. That’s her way of telling me that she loves me. My version of “I love you” is spending quality time together because we are so busy with our lives. When we get together for a meal, that’s important to me.