The Mère Inspo - Priscilla Tan and Kristen Kiong of Awesome Women Series
Two Mummies Who Worked Together, Talk About Work, Motherhood, and Their Hope for A Better Future.
We arrive at Kristen's home and are greeted by her adorable toddler, Beth. Kristen is quick to make us feel at home with her warmth. She is expecting her second baby. Priscilla arrived next with her two girls, Andrea and Aurelia.
Yes, a double interview today, and double the fun!
Priscilla Tan is a Singaporean author. Her book series Awesome Women Series, about women leaders, aims to inspire and empower young girls and boys. Her book series received a lot of love across the globe in major bookstores. They are launching their second series in September this year and we are very excited for them.
Kristen Kiong is a Singaporean artist and a speech therapist. She also happens to be the illustrator of Priscilla’s wonderful book series. Her brilliant illustrations make the books very interesting for young readers.
Today’s interview is about how the two mummies met and worked together and their individual motherhood journeys.
1. Thank you so much for having us. How are you feeling right now?
Great! Although it’s very tiring to deal with a newborn, it’s also very fulfilling and I am so grateful to be able to do it all over again.
I am still struggling to be a mum to 2 kids though, there is some mum guilt on some days but I learn and manage and strive to do better. Every day is a new beginning!
2. What was your birth experience like (for the second born)?
Much better than the first! My first was an emergency C-section, after 10 hours of labour. It was pretty traumatic for me. With the second, I decided that I don’t want to go through the contractions and the labour pains and opted for an elective C-section. I know the pain and can deal with it accordingly. Recovery was much better and faster this time around.
3. What made you decide on writing the Awesome Women Series?
I was looking for something to do after being a Stay-At-Home-Mum when my firstborn turned one.
We wanted the best for her and we wanted her to grow up believing that she can be anything she wants to be. She was the inspiration and the motivation for the series. And we felt the best way to do it is through reading about what others have done.
Honestly, writing is not my forte as I was an accountant by training.
But through the series, I want to show her that hey mummy also did something out of her comfort zone and she can do the same too!
4. We heard about Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel writing a thank you note to you! How did you feel?
Very very proud and honoured! We sent her a copy of her feature book when it was published and was surprised to receive an autographed picture postcard as a thank you gift. It definitely motivates us to write more and to do more in the space of female empowerment.
As Singaporeans, we would also want to put Singapore on the world map.
5. We know how illustrations are important for young readers. How did you meet Kristen and decide she’s the illustrator for your book?
I have been following Kristen’s works for a long time and I admire all her amazing works. When we met, she also published her own book and we felt that was helpful in our book writing/publishing journey. Our values, goals, and vision for the series were perfectly aligned. We decided that Kristen was the one; we would be partners working and growing the series together.
It was definitely a pleasant surprise when shortly after, she told us that she was also expecting a girl!
6. Will you have a series for young boys?
Our books are definitely for boys too! Boys can and should learn from awesome women too - one of my husband's friend bought the books for his sons!
We definitely considered this (and also had a few customers ask us about it)! We felt that there are already quite a few resources for young boys available in the market. So probably not at the moment.
7. What is the writing process like with your husband, who is also the co-author of the series?
We always tried to represent women from different geographies, ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and purposes to show that awesomeness comes in many forms.
We always feature an awesome woman's background, her struggles, achievements, and a quote.
Using this model, I would research and kickstart the writing process and do the drafts. He would review the drafts and suggest some amendments. We would go through the suggestions together and see what phrasing works better. We usually did a few rounds of editing, sometimes with inputs from the publisher as well.
Working with the husband takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s a pretty smooth process. We’ve known each other for a long, long time so I think that helps with working together.
8. Are you currently breastfeeding?
Yes! I am pretty chill about breastfeeding (I don’t need my baby to be exclusively breastfed) so I supplement with formula when I need some time away from the baby.
But when I am home and especially during the night feeds, I will definitely latch and breastfeed her. I like that special time with her and building that bond.
9. Any advice you have for fellow mummies?
Get all the help you need and don’t be afraid to ask for help! It really takes a village to raise a child and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support from my family.
Also, make sure to take care of your mental well-being and schedule some me-time when it’s possible. It’s so important that we take care of ourselves before we are able to better take care of our family and little ones.
10. What is your one hope for the world and for their children?
My hope for children (and for my own children too) is that they grow up being kind, happy, healthy, and contribute to society. The world we live in now is a crazy one and I hope that the children don’t lose themselves and remain true and steadfast to their true selves and their goals and ambitions.
My hope for the world is for all of us to live in good health, peace, and harmony. Cliche but so true and important in these trying times!
I feel good most days, some days more tired than others but no complaints really.
2. How is this pregnancy different from your first?
This time around the morning sickness was worse, and I do feel that towards the end, this second pregnancy has been more physically challenging, constantly having to lift and bend down with a toddler around.
3. You are a speech therapist, calligraphy artist, illustrator, and a mum. How did you manage them all?
Family support. A lot of family support. I think what takes away most of my time with Beth is my full-time 8-5 job as a Speech Therapist. I manage to show up at work because my mum and mum-in-law help to drive her to school, pick her up, entertain her and send her home after dinner.
It does mean I have a lot less time with her (just about an hour and a half every evening before bed, and on weekends) but for now I'm thankful. I think many full-time working mums will feel me.
The illustrating happens after hours when she sleeps. I would say I work at a pace much slower than I used to, but something's got to give.
4. How did you discover your love for illustrations and how did you start this journey?
I've been a doodler all my life, using church pews as tables and drawing to pass sermon time in church.
But I properly started doing this at the end of my Speech Therapy course during exams. I think it was part of procrastination. Didn't think much of it till people started asking me for commissions, and that's when it really took off.
5. What made you decide to work with Priscilla to illustrate for the Awesome Women Series?
Pris reached out sometime in June 2019 to explain her idea for the Awesome Women Series, and I said yes because I'd just finished illustrating my first book. It sounded fun.
At that point I also just found out that I was expecting my first child, so I thought it was just nice to be illustrating a series that would remind children that girls and women can be whatever they want to be, regardless of whether I was having a boy or girl.
6. How did you tell your daughter she was having a sibling?
Ever since she could talk she'd always ask for mei mei. She's a sociable girl who's always looking for a playmate. So we showed her the ultrasounds and got her to rub stretch mark oil for me.
As the bump grew, she slowly understood more and more that the baby is growing, especially so when she felt her first kick.
7. Any birth plan?
Not really. I'm not very particular in general so I didn't really have one for the first either.
I think the only thing I'm hoping to avoid is an episiotomy if possible, but ultimately as long as baby comes out healthy, I'm happy. Mostly, I trust my obstetrician to do what's best.
8. Any advice you have for fellow mummies?
We don't have to be perfect mums. Don't let what people tell you or what you see on social media affect how you feel about yourself.
As long as you're doing your best, you're the best mum for your child and they know it.
9. What is your one hope for the world and for their children?
This is a tough one. So many. Intentionality maybe. I hope we can all be intentional about raising our children to be good people. Like we give birth to them to want to spend time with them, be with them, bring them to see the world we love, and share our hobbies with them.