One warm afternoon, I stopped by the Bernard Chandran’s boutique at Fahrenheit 88 to meet Datin Sri Mary Lourdes-Chandran

Dressed in an all-black ensemble, the towering beauty opened the door and greeted me with a big smile. The charismatic lady always has a way with making people around her feel at ease.

In between sips of ice-cold juice and a platter of dried fruits and nuts, the former model – who happily gave up her career to start a family with Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran – opened up about motherhood and how she’s finding herself again in the empty nest, now that all her children are studying abroad.

Flip through the gallery below to see rare photos of Datin Sri Mary Lourdes-Chandran from her modelling days.

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“I married Bernard in 1990 at the age of 24, two years after we met. I was 30 when I had my first baby,” recalled the doting mother of Terimunite Lournard Chandran (23), Trunan Lournard Chandran (21), Tanzanite Lournard Chandran (19), Tanestrran Lournard Chandran (16) and Thanyakumari Chandran (15).

SEE ALL THE PHOTOS: Thanyakumari's Coming Of Age Ceremony

For the first time in many years, she’s “free” from her children’s whims and demands. “My children were a big part of my life for the longest time. I was totally immersed in their lives and I catered to their every whim 24/7, at every waking moment. Now, I come home to an empty house; and my husband and I also celebrated our first Deepavali last year without the children.” 

Datin Mary is embracing this new-found freedom by busying herself at her husband’s office, overseeing production and ensuring the clients’ needs are fulfilled. She considers herself lucky to be married to a man who provides for the family. She never had to worry about making extra income to manage the expenses at home.

“I take care of the children and household; and I never let Bernard worry about anything. It’s important for him to be focused in his job.” And Datin Sri Mary certainly deserves a pat on her back for doing a great job raising her children. We tip our hat to her, it’s no walk in the park bringing up four sons and one daughter with good values. 

mary and family.jpg (original size)The Chandrans show us why a big family is the best family.

GOOD START

When they were young, she encouraged them to play with toys as much as they liked. “I have been critised for not forcing my children to bury their faces in books. Until they were six, I had a timetable of fun things to do everyday. We spent time at the park, mall, children’s gym, you name it. I also had teachers coming in to teach them arts & craft and music.”

She advocates stimulating young minds with fun activities, fairy tales and magical imagination. “I believe in fairy tales, they teach you to expand your imagination and they all have good moral values. I also bought so many costumes and what fun we used to have playing dress up.” 

It’s not easy to understand a child but with patience, teach them she says. Learning should be fun, not something that’s done under heavy influences of fear and threat. “When a child is happy, that’s when they learn best. And we musn’t use children for personal gain and satisfaction in our little race and game in life.” She added matter-of-factly.

mary and her boys.jpg (original size)Trunan Chandran, Datin Sri Mary-Lourdes Chandran, Dato' Sri Bernard Chandran and Terimunite Chandran at the Louis Vuitton x Unicef #MakeAPromise Day event.

GETTING AROUND DYSLEXIA

Her second son Trunan had an interesting journey growing up. Whenever Datin took him to a relative’s house, the homeowners will be very cautious because of his bad history of wrecking havoc. “Something will break or somebody will lose it,” she laughed.

Trunan was a very active child but he was also very smart and observant but until the age of nine, he had trouble reading. He was diagnosed with brain dyslexia and doctors told her to forget about sending him to school. 

That’s when she took it upon herself to teach him how to read. She bought the entire Peter & Jane series, and patiently taught him to read one page at a time. He started reading within a year and his confidence level shot up.

“Today, I can proudly say that Trunan is the smartest in the family. From a dyslexic to Dean’s list, who would’ve thought,” she said, her eyes welled up.

As a mother who was with her children at all times, she saw the signs and acted on it. “Can you imagine what would’ve happened to him if I didn’t realise his condition? Every child can be helped, you just need to put in the hours. Parents are the best people to help a child. And please stop with the labelling – naughty, stupid. It’s cruel.”

mary and bernard.jpg (original size)Here's to the happy couple. Cheers!

FAMILY IS FOREVER

The Chandran squad are often spotted together, photographed at airports if any one of them returns from overseas and their holiday photos causes major envy. “I come from a big family. I’m the youngest of seven siblings. I like the noise of a big household.”

When Datin Sri Mary had her first child, she realised her love for babies is so immense that it was a boon for her to expand her brood. She also shares with us 5 tips to raising a big family.

1. Make sure you are financially able to look into all the children’s needs, especially good education.

2. Keeping your patience is absolutely important.

3. Remain focused on your duty as mother. There are bound to be some sacrifices to be made.

4. If you’re a full-time mum, be prepared to look into every need of the child and also the household chores. Leave little for your husband to worry about.

5. Give your children the freedom of choice and teach them to enjoy life to the fullest.

Lastly, don’t have a big family if you can’t comply with all of the above.

Fashion designer Melinda Looi has the fashion world at her feet, but nothing  is more important than family.

Tags: Fashion Designer, Motherhood, Bernard Chandran, Dato' Sri Bernard Chandran, Datin Sri Mary Lourdes-Chandran, Mother's Day Special