Strength of a woman: Read our full interview with Joanne Peh

Singaporean actress, Joanne Peh is our cover star for the latest issue of Parents World. Here, exclusively online, is the full interview 
Award winning actress and local gal, Joanne Peh has been in the public eye for the last 13 years. Now she is a new mum, we couldn’t wait to speak to her for our latest cover story in the January/February 2016 issue (out now!). Here is the interview – check out our full photo shoot in the latest issue!
PW: How old is your child?
Joanne (J): About three and a half months
PW: How did you take the news?
J: Ha! I guess we were both really excited and I think disbelief would be the word. I don’t know, it almost feels unreal at that point.
PW: Have you named the baby?
J: What do you mean? Of course lah! We don’t plan to announce lah. (When talking about the name being leaked to the press) We hope that it wouldn’t. I’m very, I’m kinda very particular about privacy for minors especially.
J: I get very frightened when people know too much about kids. More because they can’t protect themselves yet. And you know, sometimes you hear all these horror stories about China, with kids being kidnapped and all that.
J: Not celebrities—just normal kids, they’re being kidnapped. Like you know there are strangers who know your kid’s name and your name and where they live and all these details. They just say oh hi you know, whatever name, and then you know, kids being kids.
J: That’s the reason why I’m very protective about my kid’s identity. How she looks and also her name and things like that. I try not to reveal too much because I feel very uneasy. I mean when they’re older and they can protect themselves and it’s up to them whether they want to be in the public eye. But otherwise, I mean since we don’t have paparazzi here, I’d rather keep it quiet.
PW: How much weight did you gain during your pregnancy?
J: Not really. I think it was 10 over kg. Yah.
J: The last thing on my mind was putting on weight or losing weight. Even during my confinement I wasn’t too anxious about losing weight because I think I was breastfeeding and I think I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that you be, you need to have enough nutrition, don’t be too concerned about losing weight because your baby needs nutrients. And also because you’re recovering from childbirth, you need a lot of bu. So that was the last thing on my mind, you know, really…
J: In a way I guess I didn’t have major major cravings. I didn’t um, eat extra. In a way. I didn’t eat extra…or indulge… And plus I exercise. I work out. I mean I’ve always led a very active lifestyle before… I was like doing pilates, yoga, swimming.
J: You know I’m very worried right, that fellow mothers would think that you know, think bad about themselves if they cannot go back to the weight. Their whole mind is focused on I want to lose weight and all that.
J: I get worried because actually it’s more important to be strong rather than to be slim. You know what I mean? Because I realised that now with my baby and all that, I need to have a lot of energy to look after her, to carry her. And even though I may have returned to my pre-pregnancy weight. I don’t feel like I’m strong enough, I feel I’m stronger before, like my core and everything else. I’m more concerned with gaining strength, so you also feel better and you don’t feel so tired when you’re looking after your baby.
J: So that’s why the message I really hope to drive across is how you can be stronger rather than how you can be skinny. If you think about ‘I want to be skinny,’ then maybe you start to be on a (crash) diet, which is not healthy! It’s not healthy!
J: So you know, it needs time. It took me some time as well. I was also still bloated after giving birth. I mean I had to go back to shoot the variety show and I also feel bloated, and you know also when you are breastfeeding, you also feel quite vulgar you know, because your boobs are engorged and all that.
J: So it takes time for some of us to get back to our previous size or weight. I think really, don’t be too anxious about that, it’s really about how you can be stronger. And I think maybe if you set your mind on how you can be stronger, the weight loss kinda naturally just comes. And if you look after your own baby, actually you do also.
J: So that’s why rest and actually eating well is very important during that period of time you know, for mothers. Don’t worry lah! I say, don’t worry about the whole, you know, size and all that.
PW: What has changed post birth?
J: Well, we have a lot less time to ourselves. And you end up packing a lot more things when you go out. And you have to be very like organised. Your mind must compartmentalise, like, the things you have to do and the things you have to prepare for? Parenthood has helped me be more organised.
PW: Who changes the baby?
J: Well, it’s not a competition so…but I do it more? Shuneng shengqiao. Cuz when you do it more often, naturally, you’re a little bit more used to it.
(talks about her confinement)
J: My confinement was only for a month. And we were actually pretty hands on during the one month. We were also very hands-on like, in choosing to look after the baby ourselves because we didn’t want to be lost when Aunty leaves. That can happen and we wanted to learn as much as we can from Aunty before she leaves. So we were very hands-on during that period of time, and food-wise, I think because my husband is a very good cook so he actually advised Aunty how to cook.
J: I think that kouwei for locals is very Singaporean/Malaysian, that’s why some of the food is very heavy-handed. The cooking is heavy-handed. But my husband is Cantonese, so Cantonese cuisine is lighter. The taste is a bit cleaner. My husband sort of tweaked the recipes a little bit and I had plenty of soup. I didn’t used to like to drink soup. Because I never grew up with soup right, unlike the Cantonese. But after confinement now, I can’t do without soup, you know, I feel very thirsty. Like… It’s not just that. Even during confinement, I was like oh my goodness it’s so hot, you ask me to drink soup, it’s so hot… But after that, now I really like soup. Even though it’s a hot day, I would like, want to drink soup. So that has changed.
PW: How long are you planning on breastfeeding your child?
J: As long as I can I think. Ideally everyone says six months, that’s the WHO guideline. At least six months. If not, up to a year probably? The reason being… In our line of work it’s quite hard to keep up with breastfeeding. Sometimes if you’re out, and you’re filming and you’re outdoors, finding a place to pump…and then you need to actually sanitise which can be very troublesome…and keeping the milk cold, especially outdoors, is tough. There’s no place to wash, there’s no place to sanitise.
J: I think Singapore can really, probably soon enough lah, slowly, kind of move towards like, Japan. I just came back from Japan, with the family, and you see the nursing rooms they are very well-equipped. Very, very well-equipped. I wish we could have microwaves in our nursing rooms. But they (Japan) do, which is good for sterilising your breast pump parts. You use microwave bags and you just kind of sterilise. But now if you’re outdoors and you’re pumping for the whole day, there’s no way you can sterilise. In a way it can be quite inconvenient for mothers who don’t work in the office.
J: Ideally, I think six months if possible. If I can… It’s convenient isn’t it? You don’t have to pack milk powder and it saves costs also.
J: But then it also means that it’s very difficult for say, like, my husband to bring my daughter out on his own, because he has to bring the cooler bag and then the warmer you know.
PW: How does your child amaze you?
J: Well. Babbling and laughing, I think, and chuckling. Chuckling. I guess now she’s able to go on her tummy. She didn’t use to like it but now she’s on her tummy, she’ll just like start babbling and laughing… She lifts her head and she’s like WARGH~! Like she’s having a conversation with you. That part is really nice to see.
J: She’s learning how to flip right, but not quite there yet. So every time she flips her legs, I’d just kind of help her along and then her hand always gets stuck right so cannot come out… And it just amazes me how things that are so natural to us now, they are still you know, still learning how to… how to take your hand out from under your belly? And we’re like cheering her on, you know?
J: Something as simple as like ‘Are you going to get your arm out from under the belly so you can like do this, and then hold your head up?’ It’s a struggle! And, and then you see her struggling, and when she finally does it, you’re like AHHH!! *claps* Which is like…my goodness, these so simple things… I guess having a baby, it has really made us learn how to appreciate the simple things in life. The simplest things now catches us by wonder you know?
PW: What attributes would you like your child to possess?
J: I guess, endless creativity? Which is something that all kids are blessed with, but slowly as you get older, you kind of lose it because of social norms and all that… So… I hope she stays creative and just forever out of box?
J: I know right… Let’s try…
(Talking about returning to work after the birth of her child)
J: I was lucky because I was doing a variety show, which is pregnancy and parenthood related. The team understands very much that I need to have a place to pump and all that, and also because the places that we go to, the nature of the programme being so, it’s very friendly to mums and ‘mum-to-be’s. So it’s very comfortable now.
J: What’s going to happen next, actually I have no idea. There are dramas coming up, but I, I can’t, I sort of have to reconsider because of my daughter. So… yah… I don’t know how its going to be you know honestly.
J: I mean, but I’m still going to be the main carer even if we get help. Even if you get a nanny, I still want to be. A lot of things I think, I’m very hands-on, I think we both are very hands-on parents so in a way, we want to be there for our kid you know, we want to be responsible for her growth rather than give that responsibility to someone else. So yah that’s why I guess you just have to give up some things.
PW: Are you planning to have another kid?
J: Well, I think it’s always good to have more. In fact, being the only child, I encourage it as well. I don’t want my daughter to think the whole world revolves around her? At which point, we’d let nature take its course? But should have more than one
PW: Why?
J: Because otherwise first of all I think it’s stressful for the kid next time, when he or she gets older, the responsibility of looking after the parents falls on just one person? So it’s hard on him or her as well. And when you have another sibling, someone for you to discuss things with, I think it’s also more comfortable.
J: And then the other thing is of course, you know when you have one kid, sometimes like you know in China, one-child policy, they just focus on their energy on that one kid, and they can turn out to be quite self-centred.
J: And I don’t want that for my daughter, I want her to understand that there’s a bigger world out there and it’s not just about you all the time, and you need to learn how to share and giving in and sharing and all these kind of values, I think it helps when they have a sibling, so that’s why I think it’s important to have at least two kids and they can look out for one another. Being the only child I’ve heard, I mean, can be very stressful when they look after their parents, when they get older.
J: Yah, really! Are you the only child yourself? (to interviewer) You have someone to discuss and you don’t feel so alone. In a way and then, you know, there’s some kind of help that I think that you can get when you get older.
J: I know it’s tough, especially some parents I’ve spoken to doing this variety show, that looking after lil ones ah, my goodness, it’s a big headache you know, especially when it’s like one or two, that age you know, when they’re running, you just have to look out for them and they’re so active and you’re like so tired keeping up with them and you think like, ‘I’ve to go through that all over again with another one??’
J: But it actually gets easier with another one, that’s what I hear some tell me. And then when you start to train your kid to look out for the younger one, sometimes it helps to relieve some of your own duties as well? It probably isn’t as daunting as some parents think. PW
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