May is the dedicated month for us to thank our mothers for their sacrifices, love and hard work in nurturing us to the person we are today. Hence, in our "Mothers Who Inspire" series, we will be featuring four extraordinary women who are mothers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists in their respective industries – proving to the world that women can truly have it all.
For Low Ngai Yuen, President of Kakiseni, an organisation that champions the awareness of the local performing arts industry, everyday is like a battlefield as she juggles between her job and her maternal responsibilities for four children. We manage to catch up with the busy lady for a quick chat on motherhood from her first experience, playing favourites with her children to the secret to having it all.
All in a day’s work
Every morning, Low wakes up at 4 AM to kickstart her work and prepare herself for the day ahead. At 6.30 AM, she sends her children off to school and head on to tackle a day packed with business meetings and assignments for Kakiseni, which lasts till the wee hours of the night.
Low says, “I always try to be at home by 8 PM to be with the kids – listening to them about their day and preparing them for the next. The I'll finish the night off with a book or whatever I'm keen to do to unwind.”
But even with all that in her plate, she never complains and lives up to her motto of “no complaining, unless I can personally be held accountable”.
Like most women, motherhood is always something in mind and for Low, she has already prepared herself at the tender age of 23.
Low laughs and says, “ When I was 23, I had announced that the ideal age to have my first child is 27 years old and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who was the executive producer to a show that I was hosting, told me that I should first plan on lining up suitors.”
Now in 2014, Low has it all. She is a mother of four beautiful children, a successful entrepreneur in the arts industry and a philanthropist in women empowerment campaigns.
Low has many causes close to her heart, but her main cause goes to empowering the women in society. Apart from her job at Kakiseni, she is also the president of WOMEN:girls, a not-for-profit organisation that is about reminding women to be role models to inspire girls to achieve their dreams. She is also currently working on a project called "A CEO in Every Girl" that promotes assertiveness in girls in aiming and achieving high.
When we asked her on whether women can have it all, she thinks that one should always define ‘all’ in her own way and not in the expectation of others.
Low says, “As long as you are clear and happy to accept it, it’s all good, though it is very unfortunate that some women allow guilt to tip the balance. Every woman’s needs are different, so why should the same standard be applied to all?”
Who’s the favourite child?
The role of a mother is without a doubt the hardest job of all, especially when you have more than one child and when the time comes to favouritism – a subject that never escapes the mind. While many advises to never ever play favourites, Low thinks otherwise.
For her, she is okay in playing favourites with her children, but she manages it in a way that does not affect her other children. Her trick to the matter is to announce her favourite thing of each child.
Low says, “I love my eldest daughter’s kindness and grace. My eldest son is absolutely creative. My second son is all cheeky and mischievous with much zest for life, while my youngest daughter is all about standing firm on her own decisions.”
Taking motherhood to work
It was a milestone in life when Low took over Kakiseni in 2009 where she had to revive the company and push it to its full potential and thankfully she had a great team with her to make things happen.
Managing a workforce is the same as raising children and Low applies her experience in motherhood to excel in work.
“I was a mother first before understanding the idea of leadership and entrepreneurship. With motherhood, I gained more empathy and became a better listener. The key is communication because nothing is ever communicated until it is understood and performed.”
Recalling her first maternal experience, Low agrees that it was the toughest experience ever to leave the baby for work. However, with the support of a loving husband and family, she makes it through the obstacles and finds much joy coming home to her baby every night.
Low says, “No matter what happens at work, I feel very blessed and thankful to have all these. The kids are my pride and joy. They do make me laugh so very often and I am reminded of humility everyday.”
On the last note, her advice to all striving working mothers is to “take it one day at a time, go with the flow and be spontaneous and flexible enough to change”. If you can take this to heart, then having it all is no far from the horizon.
(Photos courtesy of Low Ngai Yuen)
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