This International Women’s Day, we meet the woman behind the Awesome Women series, a collection of board books depicting strong female role models from different industries and fields.
Priscilla Tan talks to theAsianparent about her journey as a new mum, wife, author, and as someone who switched industries to follow her passion!
Priscilla Tan, pictured with her husband and daughter, is the co-author of the Awesome Women series. Photo: Priscilla Tan
Interview with the co-author of the Awesome Women series
Tell us about your experience as a first time mum
Becoming a first-time mum was life-changing. The parenting journey has been challenging, but enormously fulfilling. My life and priorities changed significantly once I knew Andrea was on the way.
Things were challenging because the pregnancy was tough with a few health scares along the way. Andrea was whisked to the neonatal ICU when she was born and spent almost 10 days in the special care nursery before she was discharged.
It has been extremely fulfilling watching Andrea grow up embodying the values my husband and I have wanted to inculcate in her. We sometimes watch Andrea as she sleeps and just marvel at the little miracle that we created. She looks angelic whilst she sleeps, but things are quite different when she is awake!
Describe the parenting style you grew up with
My parents are regular, traditional Asian parents who believed that sparing the rod would spoil the child and the Chinese adage: 打是疼 骂是爱. Loosely translated, this means that physical punishment and scolding the child is an expression of love!
How has the parenting style you grew up with influence the parenting style you apply towards your daughter?
I adopt a heart-led, science-based parenting style, and try to keep up with the latest science around child-rearing and implementing them where possible. I believe in respectful parenting which is based on unconditionally loving our children and parenting in ways that make them feel respected, supported, loved, heard and valued as individuals.
Furthermore, I also believe in the concept of mindful parenting which is about paying attention and being conscious of what’s happening, instead of getting hijacked by your emotions. In particular, I seek to explain my decisions to Andrea and get her to explain hers.
However, in addition, to the general guidelines provided by scientific material, I still believe that parents should trust their instincts. I listen to my heart to decide what is the right thing to do in a specific situation, and tell her that I love her a lot!
The Awesome Women series was conceived because of a lack of positive female role models for the author’s daughter. Photo: Priscilla Tan.
Describe a typical bonding time for you and your daughter?
For me, reading is the best form of bonding with Andrea. I love taking the opportunity to go beyond the text and ask her questions about the images and the story when possible. This allows me to suss out her thoughts and interests, which helps guide future decisions.
As a family, we try to have our meals together and take evening walks along the Punggol Waterway.
What inspired the creation of the Awesome Women Series?
I understood very early on the importance of giving Andrea the right female role models to inculcate strong moral values (such as a growth mentality, love for reading) from as young an age as possible. Upon hunting for such material, my husband and I didn’t find books with the approach we outlined above and found that other parents faced similar problems.
We also realized that if we wanted Andrea to have the confidence to create a positive impact we had to embody that confidence ourselves. We decided to take the plunge to write books ourselves even though we had zero prior experience!
Andrea reading one of the books from the Awesome Women series. Photo: Priscilla Tan
How has your husband supported you in your journey so far?
My husband has been supportive in every way possible. He supported my decision to transition out of my accounting career to become a momtrepreneur when I was becoming disillusioned with work. He also encouraged me to believe in myself and to go for courses to pick up the necessary skills to make this project and turn my dreams into reality.
We’ve heard it so many times to never do business with your spouse or family, what do you have to say about that?
Anything is possible with respect and communication! Working together on a project dedicated to our daughter has made our personal relationship stronger and deepened our understanding of each other.
As they say “familiarity breeds contempt,” it doesn’t help that we have been together for almost 17 years now —we started dating when we were 15 years old!—but we made it work by taking conscious steps to be respectful of each other’s views and opinions.
We also had to avoid assuming what the other party is going to say and that the other party understands what you are saying. It’s one thing to know what each other wants for lunch based on past experience, but a completely different thing when trying to determine publicity strategy, for example.
I think it has helped immensely that both of us are passionate about raising Andrea to be an independent confident woman and our project is dedicated to her. Things may be quite different if we were doing something profit-oriented.
What are the key learnings so far, when it comes to the process so far, working with your spouse, and parenting in building this project?
Working together with my spouse has taught me the importance of not taking things for granted and communicating clearly.
With regard to parenting, it has taught me the importance of letting go and being kind to yourself (and your kid). I am a perfectionist by nature and it used to bother me a lot when things do not turn out exactly the way I want or exactly as planned. Now, I can accept a greater degree of variance and just be grateful that things are not worse than they currently are.
Overall, I have come to realize the importance of never giving up and the importance of being willing to put yourself out there and ask for the help you need and to firmly believe that the universe will give you what you need when you need it.
What are your hopes and dreams for your child?
I want Andrea to be Kind, Happy, Contributing and Financially Free (in that order!). I hope she finds her “superpower” at a young age and enjoys nurturing it as she grows older.
Who would you say is your role model?
My mom is my most important role model – the way she loves unconditionally as a filial daughter, supportive wife, loving mother and grandmother.
My maternal grandparents lived with us until their last days and she was their primary caregiver. As a supportive wife, I saw first-hand how she helped my dad when he decided to start his own business.
As a mother, she continues to show her love through her actions. A good example would be her giving me lifts to NTU during my university days when I had very early morning lessons, even though her workplace was at the other side of the island, in Bedok!
Andrea is also very close to my mother who helps ferry her around when I’m unavailable. Through it all, she keeps her unwavering faith in our religion, which is the centre of her life and what drives her actions and love for us.
I also look up to all the greats – Kwa Geok Choo, Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, as well as our featured female role models in our books!
The Awesome Women series features strong female role models from a variety of industries and fields. Photo: Priscilla Tan.
But I think the people who impacted me the most are the people that I know. As Sadiq Kahn put it: “It’s good to take cues from the history books, but if you want to learn how to live your life, I hope there’s someone close to you who can be a good model.” That is why it is so important for me to walk the talk for Andrea, so she will have strong role models as well!
13. What is your message to all mums out there who share the same dreams as you have for your daughter?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (especially with your spouse). Be kind to yourself – mom guilt is real! – the most important thing is to do the best you can and avoid negative emotions that are ultimately counterproductive. Lastly, consistently set high standards for your daughter – this is obviously more easily said than done – but remind yourself that it is all going to be worth it at the end of the day!
Awesome Women Series
The Awesome Women Series is a series of children’s board books to inspire young girls (and boys!) to be anything they want to be. It is the first children’s board book that:
is dedicated to inspiring young girls (between zero to four years old) – one of the most crucial development periods – to be anything they want to be;
will allow young girls to truly connect with the life stories of the featured Female Role Models – with each board book paying tribute to her early life, her challenges, how she overcame them, her achievements and her most impactful quotes;
will donate part of the proceeds to charity; and
will feature a call to action for young girls in each board book – “Are you ready to be Awesome?”
The Awesome Women Series will consist of at least six box sets with each paying tribute to one category of awesome women: Activists; Artists; Entrepreneurs; Leaders; Sportswomen; and STEM-ists. We may add more categories (or start a new series with different categories) based on feedback (e.g. Adventurers, Lawyers & Judges, Mothers).
The first box set of the Awesome Women Series will feature six female Leaders: Angela Merkel (German Chancellor); Condoleezza Rice (former U.S. Secretary of State); Halimah Yacob (Singapore President); Hillary Clinton (former U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate); Margaret Chan (former Director-General of the World Health Organization); and (6) Margaret Thatcher (former British Prime Minister).