This month, on the back of Mother’s Day, we turn our focus to the modern-day hero – mothers. Paying tribute to mothers in all shapes and forms, we celebrate real and raw stories of women who are on their journey of motherhood.
Ex-editor turned florist, Yi Lian Ng has worn many hats. The multi-hyphenate spent over 10 years in fashion journalism before striking it out on her own by launching Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier. Yi Lian strikes us as a candid person who goes against the grain, and that is reflected in both her career as well as personal life. She’s been open about her relationship with her partner and creating a blended family with her partner’s children on social media. In this interview, she speaks honestly about inheriting his children and being a mother-figure to them.
Yi Lian wears the Treble Blazer, Repose Camisole and High Waist Linen Pants with Origami Belt in Mocha.
You’ve made the transition from full-time editor to full-time business owner/ florist – what has that experience been like?
The recent transition was being the Editor of Her World to full-time business owner and 6 years ago, the transition from fashion editor [to business owner/ florist]. The first time was scary as that was new and even though my then-side hustle [Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier] was already out-earning my full-time employment, a stable job was still “a stable job” and that was what I was told, growing up, what we needed. So, to get out of that mentality was difficult but it no longer is. Now I see all the losses of opportunities if we keep to a full-time employment that doesn't fulfill us and let us embark on that big idea that can help us achieve more.
Were your family supportive of this transition?
When the business has already proven itself to be more financially rewarding, I guess that’s tough for the family to not be supportive haha. But that aside, when they see how much lighter and happier I am, they’re definitely supportive.
You’ve been open about your relationship with your husband, Adam, and your children on social media. What was it like in the initial years of meeting Theo and Clover, and how did you build and form the close bond that you have with them today?
Yes I am super open about it! We choose the decisions we make in this life and if we don’t own them and celebrate them, who will?
From the beginning, I had a more challenging relationship with Theo because he was older at 4 years old and understood that his parents were no longer together and like every little kid out there, who doesn’t want their bio parents to stay married? He was always a bit resistant towards me until he turned about 7. Three years felt like a really long time and I would even plan to not be home when he was coming home from school, that’s how bad it was for my state of mind.
Clover was always loving and open since I knew her at 1.5 years old. She couldn’t even walk or talk when I got together with her dad! But interestingly, 9 years on, Theo and I have an unspoken bond and he’s become a lot more sensible and thoughtful and I do treasure our relationship so much. Clover is currently going through some changes in her life as a pre-pubescent girl and can be defiant and challenging. She requires a lot of patience from us–something that doesn’t come naturally to us but I guess that has nothing to do with whether they’re my stepkids or [whether] I’m their stepmom. Kids are kids. They will go through changes and phases.
Consistency is definitely key. When they could feel and experience the stability and reliability from this household, they know which are the parents they go to for certain needs.
There are societal archetypes of how a journey to motherhood looks like, and this is often ingrained in us as women, especially in an Asian society. What has your experience been like with that and how have you addressed these stereotypes?
Great question! This is something I had to think about a lot since getting into a relationship with a single father. On top of being a single dad, he also became the unofficial primary caregiver a few months into our relationship and four years into our relationship when his divorce was finally official, he became the official sole caregiver of his kids. So yes, this question is something I often have to ask myself along this journey, as things keep evolving in ways I did not expect.
When I first got together with Adam, I was aware he was a father who had three kids with two different mothers. Out of insecurity, I made it clear that I wanted to have his kid(s) too. He had always made it clear he didn’t want more but silly insecure me equated him not having kids with me to him not loving me as much as his exes. I dealt with this fundamental disagreement for two years.
During those two years, I made myself go through some deep self-examination. “Is my desire to have children my own?” “Is it societal conditioning? Is it insecurity?” “Will I feel fulfilled with having biological kids or will I feel resentful?” “Why do I want kids? So they can look after me when I’m old? Is it really their responsibility to do that?”
I had to ask myself a lot of questions I never had to ask myself and I think most adults and parents actually never truly asked themselves before. Many of us thought/think it’s a given to get married and have kids as a path to a ‘full’ life but is it really? It was a period of real reckoning and even though I refuse to give Adam full credit for making me go through this deep examination, I’m so grateful I did and that I had the will to go through that.
Adam was the one who taught me our kids should never be considered “mini-me’s” nor should they be birthed to make us feel whole or experience “a kind of love we never knew until we met them”. That’s a lot of pressure and expectations put on a life that didn’t asked to be born. It’s the same as thinking we would only experience true contentment and bliss if we meet our “other halves”.
The lesson of my self-examination from this period was the importance of returning to the self. Any security, contentment or bliss we want to experience in this life will never come from external factors. It’s always from the inside out. Once we truly realise that, we realise a lot of things we used to desire will melt away and that’s why I realised I do not need to be a biological mother.
What are the advantages of being in a blended family?
Candidly? With no holds barred? The fact that we can get our own time without the kids 24/7 when they go to their mum’s on the 3 weekends she gets with them in a month! It’s not a diplomatic answer but it’s a damn honest one haha. If I’m a biological parent with my “own” kid, I will NEVER get that break for the next dozen years at least and I cannot imagine that.
I love Adam’s kids but I love my sanity more and I’m not ashamed to admit that. If I can’t have the time and space to take care of myself, there’s no way I can take care of another person and that’s advice I’ll even give them when they’re older.
Another funny advantage is that my older sister who became a mum at 27 years old was hoping her kids could grow up with mine. I was only 22 years old when I became an aunt to her oldest. How the hell was I supposed to catch up with that! But when I got together with Adam, my sister’s two younger kids were 5 years old and 3 years old; Theo was 4 years old and Clover was one and a half. Their ages were close enough and they have been best friends since then till now. Looks like my sister got her wish!
Clover wears the Cloud Scoop Tank and Cloud Cutaway Tank.
What’s some advice that you’d give on raising children and creating a loving environment for them to live their best lives?
Another undiplomatic but honest advice I have is, “Don’t have kids unless you have the ability to be a single parent.” Nobody deliberately gets married and has kids to eventually divorce and co-parent as single parents so being a single parent is not something many biological parents plan for. But the kids are already born and raised and they didn’t ask to be born and neither did they ask for their parents to part. It’s so unfair on them when their bio parents can’t get their acts together to take care of them as single parents.
So, if your goal is to have children and know that you can raise them with or without their father/mother, do it. If your goal is to get married and have children with the “love of your life” to complete this romance, don’t. Having children is not a lofty, romantic thing. It’s real adulting stuff and the adults involved need to get their acts together.
Who are your modern- day heroes?
People who have the ability to be damn real with themselves. It sounds simple enough but it’s not a common enough trait.
Yi Lian wears the Treble Blazer and High Waist Linen Pants with Origami Belt in Mocha.
Every modern woman needs a wardrobe of staples they can fall back on. What are some of your wardrobe heroes?
White and black tees. Good jeans. Oversized shirts and shirt dresses.
Tell us more about your plans for Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier in 2022.
Not for Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier per se. But another creative endeavour… More to share in a few months!
Photos by Tan Xinning of Alone Together